My friend C recently moved to the Melrose and Rossmore, right across the street from Mario's. Yes, that Mario's. The Japanese run (Mario Tamashiro) Peruvian restaurant that gets rave reviews and has a regular following of drooling Peruvian food converts. Dropping by C's new place would be a perfect opportunity give this place a go, settle my curiosity and hunger, and at the same time cross another restaurant off my very long and dusty "To Eat" list.
We started off with the ceviche to quell our hunger pains that had grown while waiting outside for about 20 minutes for a table in this super bright, flourescently-lit restaurant. It was pretty blinding in there. This is not a place to come for mood or ambience. Just food, plain and simple. And judging from how packed the restaurant and its sidewalk was, I think we were in the right place. The ceviche was refreshingly citrusy with thin slivers of red onion that I was careful to include with each bite. The ceviche came with one big boiled potato that was hard to tackle. It would have been more eater friendly if cut into a few wedges.
After much perusing of the menu, I settled on #31, fried fish with a mixture of sauteed seafood. The portions at Mario's are huge! The fried fish with its golden crunchy crust was buried under a mountain of seafood medley. I ate about half of my plate and stopped myself before stepping over the food coma line. I still needed some of my consciousness for the movie that was to come after dinner.
I also got to try the Lomo Saltado, which seems to be a popular non-seafood dish there. Uh, it had fries in it! Wow, talk about indulgence. Fried potatoes, beef, and more oil. It was yummy. In a fried potato, beefy way.
Overall, all the dishes were delicious but I wasn't blow away by Mario's as I expected. When I think "seafood" I think fresh, delicate. Not fried. And more fried. And I didn't really get the interplay of sweet and savory that Peruvian food is known for. But I did utilize the bottle of aji liberally. I love that stuff! It's ground chili and garlic. Completely addicting.
A second visit is due soon and hopefully a sampling of less fried dishes is in order. Perhaps some mussels and shrimp ceviche would suit me more. Too bad this place closes at 8pm. The food would be a good midnight snack, or more like a feast if you're at Mario's.
5786 Melrose Ave