When Sazon opened in Santa Rosa in mid-2010, it was a big deal. The restaurant was (and is) tiny, but it drew diners with its big, bold flavors of something we haven’t had in these areas: Peruvian cuisine.
Apparently many of us love the tantalizing fusion of ancient Spanish, Asian, European, African and South American influences. These days, Sonoma County has a neat assortment of Peruvian places, including Peruvian cuisine from Inca to Sevastopol and Ayawaska Restobar, Bistro 201, and Quinua Cocina Peruana, all in Petaluma. For good measure, there is also an Ayawaska in Novato.
Then this summer, we welcomed Warike Restobar to downtown Santa Rosa from the owners of Ayawaska. It follows the format familiar to others, with various ceviches, empanadas, sautéed beef or seafood dishes and stews and linguine in traditional chili or pesto sauces.
So what sets Warike apart from the crowd? In other words, it is the setting. Peruvian-born owner Luigi Dagnino has a knack for sleek designs and upbeat vibes, as seen in the Ayawaska nestled along the Petaluma River and anchored by a bar lined with multicolored bottles and emphasizing culture. cocktails.
The cocktail scene at the Santa Rosa restaurant is even more pronounced. The two-story brick-lined space is centered around a busy bar offering pisco-based drinks like the sweet Vamos Boys made with pisco, elderflower, bianco vermouth, Tio Pepe dry sherry, of cider and blackberries ($ 16).
For added enjoyment, some drinks are served in whimsical mugs such as a painted skull or tiki sculpture, and many adopt a tropical theme like the mighty Santa Rosa de 400 Conejos mezcal, tequila, elderflower, passion fruit. , herbal green and yellow chartreuse, lime juice and a dash of simple syrup ($ 18).
It’s a delicious drink and suggests a party, amplified by spectacular murals of abstract flowers, tigers, and birds (have fun, kids, don’t forget to keep these masks on between sips).
I have always been loyal to Sazon, charmed by its intimate setting, its open kitchen and its chefs who master both classics and more unusual dishes such as pork stew with adobe chancho marinated in chicha de jora ( corn beer) and cusquena (blond beer) on camote frito (sweet potato fries), Peruvian potatoes and rice ($ 17.50).
But Warike, which is a combination of the South American Quechua words “wa” (hidden) and “rique” (stew), ”also does a good job with the standards. Ceviche Clasico, for example, brings the catch of the day bathed in milky-hued leche de tigre (spicy fish juice), alongside Cuzco corn boiled with grains the size and texture of lima beans, aji pepper. limo, cancha (roasted corn with crunchy nuts), minced red onion, pieces of sweet potato and as a bonus a crispy plantain ($ 20).
Or opt for the even more interesting huancaina ceviche, where the catch of the day sparkles with a classic neon yellow huancaina sauce ($ 20). The color comes from the palillo, a very aromatic herb found in the mountainous town of Huancayo. The slow-burning heat comes from the dash of aji Amarillo chili sauce.
Causa Marina is one of my favorite Peruvian recipes, and it’s top notch here. The round of squeezed potatoes is drizzled with sweet chili and lemon yellow cream and topped with soft grated crab, sliced avocado and a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with aioli ($ 20). Also ask for a spoonful of super spicy Rocoto pepper sauce.
Lomo Saltado is also satisfying, as is the comforting Peruvian food of soft, wok-fried beef tenderloin mixed with red onion and tomato in a tangy and salty sauce of cilantro, garlic and soy sauces. and oysters on fries and rice ($ 25). I prefer the “mixto” version, which adds shrimp to the plate ($ 32), for more flavor.
The kitchen makes a nice take on aji de gallina, with the silky smooth chili cream sauce draping generous mounds of pulled chicken topped with hard-boiled eggs, delicate pecans, and tangy Parmesan ($ 22). Flambéed mushrooms, meanwhile, add depth to a lentil stew sprinkled with white onions and peppers over rice – again, ask for a portion of the zippy rocoto to liven things up ($ 16).
It would be easy to finish with another cocktail – I would choose Espresso de la Nonna, a bittersweet blend of dark rum, Madeira, coffee, cherry liqueur, chocolate liqueur and coffee liqueur (16 $). Still, nearly a dozen great desserts try, from Warike’s Caramel Custard ($ 12) to pumpkin-like Andean lucuma fruit ice cream ($ 4) to Alfajor con Helado, an ice cream-style sandwich from yellow d ‘ Peruvian egg, dulce de leche mousse, condensed milk and port whipped cream ($ 12).
This Peruvian evolution is a welcome trend, and Warike is a welcome addition.
Carey Sweet is a food and food writer based in Sevastopol. Read her restaurant reviews every two weeks in Sonoma Life. Contact her at [email protected]