Does L.A. have a Little Peru? Not officially, but the handful of Peruvian restaurants on and near Vine Street in Hollywood is as close as we get. With meat and seafood figuring heavily on these menus, this not-quite-a-zone has been a no-go zone for the vegan set. At least until now.
Peruvian restaurant Los Balcones, an L.A. fixture for nearly two decades, has partnered with vegan chef Rachel Carr to open Chavela, a plant-based restaurant next door serving up Peruvian cuisine with pan-Latin influences—and no animal products.
That means you can enjoy traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche centered around heirloom tomatoes rather than fish ($9; recipe below) and swap that beefy lomo saltado for a cauliflower steak rubbed with achiote ($16).
What’s Carr’s secret to translating Latin favorites into vegan creations? “The sauces are really the thing that make Latin food,” Carr says. We get what she means. The Mexican-style barbacoa sauce on her portobello tacos ($9) lends the mushrooms a zippy, smoky flavor that rivals spit-roasted meat. And the delicate mole verde sauce enlivens Carr’s version of an enchilada ($16), which is a cabbage leaf stuffed with mushrooms, corn and sweet potatoes.
But the sauces aren’t super spicy, so they let the flavors of the mostly organic and locally sourced vegetables shine through, especially in dishes like tender, pan-seared kabocha squash and chayote topped with cashew aioli and chili oil ($9).
Naturally sweetened desserts are available too. Let’s just say we’re thrilled that the ridiculously good raw chocolate chile ganache ($9), sweetened with dates and agave, isn’t a no-go zone.
1358 Vine St., Los Angeles
- FOR THE BROTH:
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 large heirloom tomato
- 3 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1/2 small habanero chile
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- FOR THE CEVICHE:
- 2 medium heirloom tomatoes, chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 1 large avocado, chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, julienned
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Make the broth: Blend everything (except the cilantro) until smooth and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the ceviche: In a bowl, toss the ceviche ingredients until well coated with the lime juice. To serve, place the dressed tomato and avocado in a bowl and pour some of the broth over the top. Garnish with cilantro and serve.