Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bite-Sized: Culantro, Hamilton, Ontario

Pollo empanada
While Hamilton's newest (and only) Peruvian restaurant has already received a ton of well-deserved praise, I would be remiss not to include it as part of my blog on the area's best food, because who are we kidding here? Culantro is doing it right. It has quickly become a popular destination in the James North neighbourhood and though small in size, they are certainly big on flavor. 

My boyfriend is part Peruvian and having been spoiled with places like El Fogon while we were living in Toronto, we were both super anxious for the arrival of Peruvian cuisine here in Hamilton. While I have not yet tried all of their offerings, I can tell you that the empanadas, the yucca and their homemade sauces are delicious*. 

Carne empanada
I have had their carne (beef) and pollo (chicken) empanadas several times and the quality and flavor has been consistently superb. The empanadas are flaky and golden with a generous filling. The carne is stuffed with beef, black olives, raisins, egg and spices. The contrast of the flavors works very nicely and the unique mixture of ingredients is precisely what I love most about Peruvian cuisine. The chicken empanadas are equally delicious, with a light, creamy filling of chicken, sweet corn and spices.  I ordered my empanadas with yucca, a tasty, starchy root vegetable and excellent french fry alternative (note to self: make yucca poutine). They come in cubes and are fried until golden and crispy. Of the two aji sauces provided, I love the red sauce the best. When it first hits your tongue, it is sweet and light. This quickly turns into a deep, spicy flavor and is a perfect compliment to the flaky empanadas. 

Yucca and aji sauces
I look forward to many future visits to Culantro (and I am desperately awaiting for them to add Papa a la Huancaina to their menu! hint hint!)

*It should be noted that their Lomo Saltado is also incredible and will be featured in a future blog on eclectic poutine iterations!