MARY GITHENS of San Borca in Lima, Peru came here as a young girl with big ideas. Miriam Sosa of Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico has made her fascination with Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean cuisine a lifetime study.
Bring these two friends together, throw in a Business and Economics degree, and the strong will to introduce something special to their new home in Savannah, and you have ignition!
Years of hard work and saving every penny has paid off, my friends, because that colorful little nook in the Oglethorpe Mall, with its distinctive burnt orange and black color theme and evocative images of golden chickens roasting over open flames—the one that serves actual Latin cooking—and I don’t mean tacos!—has expanded itself to a full-service restaurant with a complete bar, as well as a big deck out back.
Located on Waters where Salsarita’s formerly resided, catty-corner from Barnes, it’s easy to find and, least you worry, has plenty of parking in back. Just as in the mall store the specialty remains the coal-fired chicken—aka Pollo a la Brasa (Peru’s version of rotisserie chicken—only MUCH better), but the move to the new place has brought plenty of fresh dishes with it.
Don’t be too timid in your selections: sure, the chicken is great, but these ladies have a lot more to offer.
“We have a whole new section of the menu with delicious appetizers,” Mary says. “The recipes are mostly Miriam’s because she’s the one with the broad base of all kinds of Latin cooking—she trains all our cooks and makes sure that everything looks beautiful and tastes good when it comes out.”
Now you can find Brazil’s Bolinhos de Bacalhau, golden fried fritters of salt cod and potatoes, or two Peruvian delights: Papa Rellena, round potato balls stuffed with a juicy, well-seasoned mix of beef and onions, as well as Papa a la Huancaina, slices of potato in a mild, creamy cheese sauce—if you ever go to a Peruvian party, you’ll see at least three dishes of it—it’s popular for good reason!
One of my best buds and I checked out the new place on Wednesday, and the variety of dishes was a bit mind-bending, even for a foodie of gustatory fame like himself. He’s a steak-lover from way back, so he went with the Columbian-style Churrasco Steak, flame-grilled pieces served with chimichurri sauce, which, if you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to do so: finely-chopped parsley or cilantro, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and lime juice makes an excellent dip for bread, steak, or chicken.
I was in hog heaven, literally, over the new Roasted Pork in Mojo sauce. Made of fresh pineapple, orange and lime juices with garlic and seasonings that vary according to country, the sauce tenderizes the meat, which is cooked slow, producing a light, juicy gravy that makes anything it touches divine—even ordinary rice and beans experience an apotheosis under its tender touch!
Fish tacos are famous here and the provocative scent of the Saltado de Pollo—chicken sautéed in a rich wine-based sauce—drew me from across the room to investigate.
For those looking for delicious, yet economical take-out, try the Family Meal: Whole Fire-Roasted Chicken, four full sides and 2 filled churros, all for only $21.99 and worth every penny. They’ve added more sides as well, so if you want to go all health-conscious, choose the green salad or sautéed veggies.
Sweets are few but potent—you may think that two churros are not enough with a family dinner, but you gotta see ‘em first: about a foot long, fried crisp, like a ridged, heavier doughnut, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, stuffed with Dulce de Leche and crowned with strawberry or guava fruit topping, they are rich enough to make the teeth ache. Half will do, even for those with a killer sweet-tooth. The flan here is well-made and may be the preferred dessert for those of us who do not seek a sugar-high.
Last but not least is the full bar, with a very Happy Hour 3-6pm daily. Along with plenty of domestic and imported (usually Latin-based) beers to choose from, I take advantage of the fine Mojitos, made with fresh mint, or the Brazilian caipirinha that will knock your socks off with pure, hard-liquor squeezed from sugar cane.
Though it’s not listed on the menu, ask for the Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, which sounds deceptively girly, being composed of their white wine brandy Pisco, fresh lime juice and a froth of egg white on top, sprinkled with a soupçon of cinnamon.
My Peruvian husband courted me with this superb concoction, so tread lightly at first, unless you want to end up at the altar or under the tattoo needle some midnight.
Don’t miss the Grand Opening Sept. 16, with live Latin music, lots of free appetizers, probably some hot dancers as well—plans are still brewing—and a ribbon cutting.