The outside of the restaurant looks like a plain small restaurant in a plain shopping mall.
Apparently, it is a mom and pop restaurant owned by a couple Peruvian. In my opinion, usually this kind of restaurant serve better home cooked meals than fancy ones. The husband, Juan, helps by talking to customers and waiting tables. He is very friendly and welcoming. His wife, Hilda, is the Chef and she is a very talented one, really. Juan told us that he is a vegetarian and his son was a vegan. His son was the one who told his wife how to cook vegetarian and vegan. Therefore, they have a large vegetarian section in their menu.
The food here is absolutely delicious. I came with my husband and a friend who is moving back to Germany and it was our goodbye dinner for her. It was our friend's first experience of Peruvian food so it was a real adventure for her. Especially, when we ordered a picther of Chicha Morada (traditional Peruvian beverage made of purple corn, pineapple, and hint of citrus) and she tried it for the first time. She never had anything like it and she liked it. The articles in the Internet mentioned that Chicha Morada has a lot of antioxidant and can lower blood pressure. Who would have known when we drank this juice that was so yummy. You can read a blog about Chicha Morada, here.
The starter is always a basket of soft warm bread with Aji (green hot sauce made with garlic, oil, spices, and huacatay , pronounced wah-kah-tye (peruvian mint) instead of cilantro).
The secret of this restaurant really is in the sauce. This green spicy sauce is so good that it's good on everything, I bet. Our friend really loves this green aji sauce. Juan told us that it's huacatay that we like and he brought us to the back of his restaurant where he has huacatay bushes growing. Huacatay is a black mint that is used a lot in Peruvian cooking. Hhhhmmm, I wonder if I can find that in an ethnic market somewhere. If I can, I will be able to make it at home.
Our next course was veggie tamale wrapped in a banana leave.
I thought the tamal was a bit dry and not much filling in it. The pickled onions and radishes on the side was great with it though. We shared this dish since we ordered 3 main courses. Forewarn, this restaurant serves HUGE portions. Since the price is not low, we really could have shared a main course for 2. However, since we wanted to try everything, each of us ordered a main course dinner.
My husband's dinner was Veggie Cau Cau (pronounced cow cow). The fuzziness of this picture came from the steam because it was still really hot when it came. It smelled and tasted absolutely like the picture, real yum. I wish there is a technology to taste and smell blogged pictures.
It's a stew made with soy protein, potato, peas, and carrots in a mild yellow pepper sauce with a hint of huacatay (again, that Peruvian black mint). It came with that refreshing pickled onions and radishes.
I opted out the soy and quinoa stir fry.
This dish had lots of veggies in it. There was really a pile of quinoa underneath it. This was very very good. Here, in this picture, you can see the healthy quinoa underneath the pile of goodness:
Our friend chose Soy Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo): soy chicken drumsticks cooked in vegetables and rice with cilantro spinach and premium dark larger. I thought that there were more rice than the soy chicken. Our friend said that the soy chicken tasted very good.I tasted a bit of the dark green rice and it was really good. The vegan option will probably come with lentils instead of salad and without the cheese sauce.
If you live in SoCal, I highly recommend this restaurant. The other dish that we ordered in the past and didn't mention here was the Lomo Saltado with soy beef or Soy Beef Stir Fry. I thought that it was absolutely delicious. Hilda really did a great job in serving vegetarians and/or vegans with her specialties. I thank her and Juan for providing an ethnic Peruvian vegetarian/vegan in her non-vegetarian restaurants. Sometimes, I am really tired of eating boring American vegan dishes like vegan chili or vegan shepherd pie, you know.
El Misti Picanteria Arequipeña
3070 W Lincoln Ave, Suite D
Anaheim, CA 92801
Telephone: (714) 995-5944
FAX: (714) 995-3254