For those who don’t know me, I spent the better part of the past year living in Peru. For those who have never seen me, I gained a lot of weight living in Peru. There’s a simple reason for that: Peruvian food is among the best in the world. And my increasingly chunky behind became very discerning about what qualifies as good Peruvian food. Coney Island Taste (2580 Coney Island Avenue) is good Peruvian food.
Don’t let the name fool you. Or the appearance. Coney Island Taste’s humble establishment plasters its windows with photos of greasy sandwiches, burgers, and breakfasts, harking back to its beginnings two years ago when it started slinging such simple fare. And when they began selling true Peruvian cuisine a year ago, the small line on the awning advertising Peruvian-American dishes got lost in the mix.
That’s a shame, because owners Fabiola and Jesus Roa are serving up the best Latin food this side of South Slope. Originally from Piura, a Peruvian city along the northern coast known for its seafood dishes, the Roas have been living in the Sheepshead Bay/Brighton Beach area for more than 12 years and saw a niche that needed to be filled.
“I saw this was an area that doesn’t have many Spanish restaurants, but this is a mixed area,” said Fabiola Roa. And so far the Peruvian dishes have been a hit with clients from all walks. “I have Russian customers, Indian, American, Latino.”
“Russians love the seafood dishes” like arroz con mariscos (a Peruvian seafood paella) and parihuela (seafood soup), she added.
Because of its three regions – the coast, mountains, and rainforest- Peruvian cuisine already enjoyed tremendous diversity before the conquistadores arrived. As it became the center of South American colonization, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Italian influences began to bleed into the food. The country is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for its astounding number and variety of dishes.
One particular favorite of mine that Coney Island Taste serves is aji de gallina, a French-inspired dish of shredded chicken breast in a rich, creamy cheese-based sauce made with the Peruvian aji pepper. Bursting with flavor, the sauce is smothered over rice and potatoes and – like many dishes – topped with a hard-boiled egg.
To get a taste of Peru’s signature dish, order ceviche. A source of national pride and international quarreling, most countries in South America have a version of this dish of seafood “cold-cooked” in a lime-juice marinade, with all claiming the origins. But wherever it comes from, food and travel writers point to Peruvian ceviche as the best. Coney Island Taste’s ceviche is cut into chunks of just the right size, and the acidic bite of lime juice is tempered by a perfect blend of peppers and oil to bring out the flavors and texture of the fish. It’s best saved for a sweaty summer lunch, but don’t let that stop you if the craving hits.
While perusing the menu for the first time, my eyes bulged when I saw papa rellena and causa rellena on the appetizers. The former is seasoned Peruvian mashed potatoes stuffed with chopped meat, olives, raisins, and a boiled egg, and fried to a delicious crisp. The meat was savory and balanced by the sweetness of the raisins. Causa rellena is a cold appetizer. It again features seasoned Peruvian mashed potatoes, this time layered with tuna or chicken salad.
Other things to try include papa a la huancaina, tallarines verdes, tallarin saltado, jalea, and pescado a lo macho.
Peruvian joints around the city are establishing themselves by featuring their uniquely flavored rotisserie chicken (pollo a la brasa). Coney Island Taste serves this up, but it’s not the main attraction. Their typical plates best many of the Peruvian restaurants I’ve gone to in New York and New Jersey, so I’d recommend diving right into the platos tipicos at this unpretentious gem in Sheepshead Bay. Most of the platters range from $12.00 to $17.00 – but worry not: in true Peruvian style, each serving is a massive heap of deliciousness that is suitable for two people.
Coney Island Taste is a slam dunk in our ‘hood. It was just September that we complained our area needed a good Latin joint – and even dared to say we needed a cevicheria. Coney Island Taste delivers on both.
Coney Island Taste
2580 Coney Island Avenue, off of Avenue W
No credit cards accepted
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