I’ve enjoyed food from many different countries over the years but funny enough, never from Peru. So with three friends in tow, I decided to try Fiesta Atlantic, a Peruvian restaurant in Stamford. Having eaten Venezuelan and Mexican, I expected a fusion of both. It turns out Peruvian food is indeed a melting pot of different cultures but surprisingly, the food is notable for its Italian and Chinese influences. In the 18th century, Lima was the financial center of a vast Spanish Viceroyalty. Chinese laborers and Italian settlers washed up on its South Pacific shores bringing their own spices and cooking techniques.
The restaurant has a warm unfussy atmosphere with dark red walls, wood floors and hard-to-pinpoint spices wafting through the air. The meal got off to a great start when Italian bread came served with a mysterious yellow/green dip that proved to be irresistible, bordering on addicting. As we perused the affordable lunch menu (many items were priced at $8), we played a guessing game to see what was in the sauce known as aji. Was there avocado? Nope. How about mustard powder? Nope. There was lettuce, cucumbers, onions, garlic powder and, providing the color and the kick, egg yolks and jalapenos. Amazing to think such mild ingredients can pull together and pack a powerfully tasty punch. The egg yolk addition is reminiscent of aioli harkening to those Italian roots.
While my companions played it safe and ordered seltzers, I started my meal off with a Chicha Morrada, a mild, chai-like drink consisting of Peruvian purple corn and a hint of cinnamon. It is true to its description and quite purple but satisfying and not overly sweet.
The meal began with Mixed-Seafood Ceviche, Peru’s signature dish of fish and/or shellfish that is marinated and ultimately cooked by lime juice. We could have ordered mild or spicy but opted for medium. The hefty dish came loaded with generous amounts of seafood including clams, mussels, crab and ringlets of tender calamari. Corn nuts added crunch and yucca a starchy bite reminiscent of boiled potatoes.
We needed to pull over another table to accommodate the generous sized entrees that arrived. Pollo a La Brasa was half a cooked chicken that was mildly spiced and, like the calamari, cooked to perfection. It was juicy and tender. Sides of crisp fries and sweet fried plantains rounded out the dish nicely. Lomo Saltado is a popular choice and we ordered ours with steak which came with sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes and the restaurants ‘secret’ Peruvian seasonings. Chaufas is Peruvian’s answer to fried rice and like its Chinese cousin, tasted of sesame oil and soy sauce.
Seafood Soup, was a special that day and was so large four of us couldn’t even finish it. I’d venture to say that there were equal amounts of seafood to broth and both were delicious with the fish and shellfish cooked to the point where they remained plump, tender and tasty. The tomato broth was lightly spiced and complimented the delicate flavors of the seafood.
All’s well that ends well as we capped off our meal with Alfajores, linzer-type cookies which had a thin layer of caramel sandwiched between buttery, flakey shortbread cookies. Apparently Austrians made it to the shores of Peru as well.
Fiesta Atlantic has two sister restaurants. Fiesta Cove, 323 Shippan Avenue in Stamford and Fiesta Limena 330 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk. All three restaurants offer similar menus. Follow the restaurants on Twitter @fiestaperufood to get daily specials and see their Facebook pages or websites for additional information
Fiesta Atlantic 83 Atlantic Street Stamford, CT 06901 (203) 323-4300
Monday- Sunday noon-10pm