Walking into Llama Inn, you feel transported to a sunnier place, with verdant plants sitting on shelves high up near the ceilings, and lots of wide windows that let in the sunlight. Chef Erik Ramirez translates the bright flavors of his Peruvian heritage for New Yorkers. It’s “New York cooking with a Peruvian attitude and heartbeat,” as he calls it.
For example, a classic Chinese-Peruvian dish of stir-fried beef with soy sauce ($22), called “lomo saltado,” is given a stronger Chinese accent with the addition of oyster sauce and aromatic scallions. As early as the 19th century, many Chinese migrant workers settled in Peru, leaving behind their culinary traditions.
A stir-fry in the wok imparts the meat with a delicious char, and the sauce—oh the sauce!—is so enticing you’ll want to follow the server’s advice of using your spoon to scoop it all up. The dish is topped with a runny fried egg, french fries, fried banana—creamy and sugary sweet—and a drizzle of crema de rocoto, a creamy Peruvian sauce made of rocoto peppers.
For brunch, Ramirez also serves a version of a classic pork sandwich commonly eaten for lunch, pan con chicharrón ($14). He first salts pork shoulder meat for 24 hours, then confits it for three to four hours, rendering it superbly rich and fatty. The pork is then deep-fried to a golden crisp. A slab of sweet potato, some spicy mayo, and red onion salsa balance out the porky goodness. The red onions are dressed in grapeseed oil, salt, lime, and cilantro, so that they become brilliantly acidic.
Chef Ramirez grew up in New Jersey, but pays homage to his Peruvian heritage at his restaurant. Trips to his parents’ hometown inspire his creations.
Epoch Times: What foods or dishes from Peru do you miss the most?
Erik Ramirez: I miss the local cevicherias [restaurants specializing in ceviche, a citrus-cured seafood dish].
Epoch Times: What’s your breakfast guilty pleasure?
Mr. Ramirez: Pastries—a nice Danish or chocolate croissant.
50 Withers St.
Saturday & Sunday
11 a.m.–3:30 p.m.