A night out is more than just sitting down and enjoying a meal. It is something we make our own, it is personalized. It’s setting a date, or arriving on a whim. It is a celebration of any kind, or a casual meet up. It is a light meal, or an indulgent spread. We all go out to eat for different reasons, and in our own fashion. But dinner is more than just a plated meal; many of us seek an experience. The meal may be the main attraction, but the ancillary features are what make a night. At Los Andes in historic Smith Hill, a night out is not just dinner, it is an emersion in Bolivian and Peruvian culture.
One of the most sought after reservations in the city is for an evening dining at Los Andes, specializing in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine. The traditional cooking in these South American countries is a fusion between Latin and Asian, and creates unexpected flavors that you don’t come across often. We will get into the mouthwatering stuff in a moment, but first, let’s talk ambiance.
The center of attention inside is 600 cool blue gallons of water, home to colorful exotic fishes and reef life alike. This 11 foot long aquarium (I would say fish tank, but let’s be realistic here) is a self sustaining ecosystem, and provides a dazzling backdrop for bar customers and dining room guests as they enjoy their meal. Who needs a TV during dinner when you can watch a clown fish in an anemone?
As we meander through the enormous, and romantically lit dining room, we find our way to the outdoor patio. Emerging into this lush, tropical oasis makes guests completely forget that they are in fact in the middle of Providence. Knobby trees, full flowering bushes and vining greens surround the patio diners, and at the center of it all is a pond swarming with majestic koi (all hoping a couple of bread crumbs come tumbling their way). Diners truly feel as though they may have been tricked, and somehow ended up in Peru having dinner.
To match the luscious surroundings is the 5 star service. Servers and bar staff at Los Andes know the menu as though each and every one of them wrote it themselves; they recite specials as diners hang on every last word, as though they have just heard that the salmon is 14K gold encrusted (eh, I wouldn’t put it past them). In depth descriptions of dish preparations, and exceptional wine and cocktail recommendations ensure that each bite and sip of your meal will be as glorious as it possibly can be.
As your meal is presented in front of you, you finally take it all in; the stunning surroundings, the charming and professional staff, and the absolutely impeccably prepared cuisine that is just waiting for your fork to sink in. This, is a night out. So let’s start with our apps, the Causa De Limena, and the ceviche. Ceviche is a traditional South American dish that I have seen pop up here and there on menus throughout the city, yet nothing can remotely compare to the depth and truth that is found in Los Andes’ ceviche. If you have never tried it before, ceviche is typically a bounty of the sea’s gems; shrimp, mussels, squid, and tilapia, that has been cured in a tangy lime juice and tossed with leche de tigre (making it a tad spicy), cilantro and choclo (a type of hominy). This fresh and powerfully flavorful dish is a staple for a reason, and has become one of my favorite ways to enjoy seafood.
Our second appetizer is another Bolivian classic, that has become a Los Andes signature. Densely whipped potato filled with an avocado pure is modeled into vessels carrying a shredded chicken salad of sorts, and is topped with huancaina cream (adds a saucy punch). It is okay to find it difficult to process the flavors going on here, because it is something you have likely never tried before (unless you are a seasoned South American diner). The texture here is what first stands out, the tender chicken with the dense potatoes, and then the flavors kick in; smooth and creamy, tangy yet cool. Floor manager/ Sommelier, Ali, gave us a bit of history involving this dish, which was used to feed hungry soldiers fighting in Bolivia for the country's freedom. Loved one’s at home wanted to make a dish that would be best served chilled, using simple ingredients. And so, Causa Limena is born, and Los Andes has added a touch of their own flare to it.
For the main event, (and it really did feel like a fireworks show when they set this massive meal down in front of us) the Churrasco Anticuchero. This 16 ounce ribeye is grilled and basted in anticuchera to be juicy and suckling. Topped with sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, crispy fried onion strings and finished with a sunny side up egg to add that extra layer of flavor with some runny yolk (I am nominating steak and egg yolk as the best couple of 2017). All of this is laid over a bed of vegetable chaufa rice, with a side of fried plantains (these golden babies are some our favorite things in the world, btw). The textures of crunchy onions with tender steak pop with the deeply flavored ingredients. This dish is beauty in its purest form; just as amazing on the outside as it is inside. And by that I mean, tastes just as good as it looks. And it looks like Candice Swanepoel at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show winking at you. *Faints dramatically*. But seriously, find me another ribeye this luscious. I dare you.
Yes, Providence is a foodie’s dream come true. Endless options of eclectic fare and craft cocktails at every turn. Los Andes stands out because of it’s dedication to not only providing customers with an elevated meal, but also an unforgettable dining experience. No detail, no flavor is unintentional.