Calgary got a double dose of delicious this year, as the city’s first two Peruvian restaurants came online, and diners have been debating for months who does a better bird, Pio Peruvian Rotisserie or Inti Restaurant? We’ve also been wondering where the heck has this succulent cuisine been all our lives? Unfortunately, Calgary lacks South American restaurants, but there are a few spots holding it down for the subcontinent. Here, the best of one of Calgary’s most underrepresented cuisines — South American food.
Pio Peruvian Rotisserie
Specializes in serving the culinary pride of Peru: rotisserie chicken coated in a mountain of herbs, chili, garlic and spice. But like Canadian chicken-spinning chain, Swiss Chalet, Pio gets extra pep from the sauce it serves. Mariza Mora’s traditional huacatay recipe, a black mint sauce, slides perfectly over the chicken’s spicy notes.
Inti offers new adventures on return visits, as chef Hans Puccinelli has filled Inti’s menu with the palate of his home country. Try the pan con chicharron, a crispy fried pork belly sandwich served with salsa criolla and avocado mayo or the lomo saltado, a stir-fry of marinated beef, sweet onions, and tomatoes.
Part of the Smuggler’s group of restaurants, offers the Full Rodizio ($50), where each table is given a cue. If the cue is flipped to the green side, the chefs pile Brazilian-style meat — filet mignon, sausage and sirloin — on your plate until you need to tap out to deliciousness.
Chef/owner Edmilson Rodrigues trained in Brazil and worked at restaurants in Japan and China before opening his Brazilian BBQ house in Calgary. In addition to the full Rodizio, Gaucho offers the Sheriff’s Sampler ($17) lunch special, which features seven of the restaurant’s most popular cuts of meat and a selection of sides and salads.
Chile’s take on the empanada — stuffed bread pockets that originated in 14th-century Portugal — fuses olives, onions, raisins and even a slice of egg in spicy chicken, beef, spinach and cheese flavours. The Queen also serves up traditional chorizo sausage, pan-seared sirloin and chorillana, a Chilean poutine platter of homemade fries topped with a sautéed mix of egg, onion, sausage and beef. After sampling the menu, you’d hope a rival empanada joint is in the works.
Image courtesy of josquin2000.