I’ll be the first to admit that I love BBQ, grilling up some of God’s tastiest creatures slathered in sauce in great company epitomizes summer. I also like the “idea” of BBQ; blue skies, thermostat at 35 with the humidity but we chose to stand outside in the blistering sun to cook next to a box of raging fire emanating 300+ degree heat; this doesn’t make sense, but it does, and we do it. We do it, we love it, we enjoy it and do it in the name of summer. Take the BBQ out of this context, and I’m a raving lunatic bitching about the heat and weather.
Finding a fine medium of heat (weather) friendly foods is as simple as going for hot weather Latin cuisine – more particularly; Peruvian. My girl and I hit up Solymar, this Peruvian spot in Villeray. I’ve never been to Solymr before but there are two typical Peruvian dishes that I came here on a mission for.
I wasn’t messing around with appetizers because we needed to save room for this thing – the aroz con mariscos (rice with seafood). A large plate of Peruvian aji amarillo (yellow chili) rice mixed with fresh seafood. When I say large, I’m talking large… like huge. The platter was the size James Van der Beek’s head, gigantic… like an Elvis Stojko sized gourd.
Hockey puck sized shrimp, caramari, mussels, scallops, fresh clams, mixed in with this incredibly fragrant rice seasoned with aji amarillo paste and peppers, topped with pickled red onions. The seafood was nicely cooked, the scallops were tender but did tighten up after a while – attributed to sitting in the steaming rice. The sharp onions was great to break up the muted fluffiness of the rice to cut through and highlight the brininess of the seafood. About a dozen mussels in the shell, the portion was very generous and is perfect to share amongst a few people.
This. This is the bad boy that we came here for; the cebiche mixto. Served with yucca, sweet potato and Choclo (large kernelled corn the size of marbles) a seafood cebiche gang bang of he tastiest sea dwelling creatures: fresh shrimp, octopus, squid, calamari, fish, scallop, mussels, clams, whelk, tossed with pickled onions, seeded habanero, cilantro and garlic, bathing in a pool of lime juice; the only thing missing from the dish was an actual fisherman to serve it to you.
“Cooking” figuratively, the acid of lime juice seeps into, seasons and tenderizes the seafood carrying the sweetness of the habenero with a detectable heat but not prevalent to make the dish intolerable to sissies. Cebiche is incredibly light and refreshing however it will throw your palate completely off if you eat this dish alone, the dressing, although deliciously flavourful, in the end is still straight lime juice. The tart sting in the back of your throat is quelled a bit with Solymar’s mayo sauce and aji amarillo sauce brought to the table after you order – like trying to put out a forest fire by peeing on a bush. If anything, it added a creamy texture and flavour to each bite… the sauces, not the pee.
I highly suggest ordering the cebiche in accompaniment of another dish (the rice). Peruvian cuisine also encompasses BBQ and rotisserie chicken, but this visit was all about the seafood. Don’t forget to order the Inca Cola as well, radioactive yellow Peruvian soda that’s a mix of citrus and cream soda. The portions are huge and undoubtedly served family style. I’ll be back for the parrilladas, more specifically the antichuchos and the other varitey of grilled offal.