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Peru gave us Macchu Picchu, pisco sours and Paddington Bear, but the real national treasure is its food.  Visually pleasing, texturally rich and colorful, Peruvian food is a real experience.  But can authentic Peruvian fare be found in DC? I sought to find out. With Peruvian friends, we circled La Limeña in Rockville like hungry vultures before descending upon it.

Peruvian cooking features a lot of fish, chicken, beef, pork, corn, rice, and potatoes. Did you know that the Andean region has over 200 types of native potatoes? That’s a lot of ‘taters. They come in all colors — purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow, too.

But I was here for something you can’t find just anywhere—anticuchos.  Anticuchos are brochettes of marinated cow hearts, skewered and grilled. Anticuchos were a popular food during Inca times, but when the Spaniards came, they decided offal was awful, and fit only for slaves. When the snooty-ass conquistadors tried them, they realized offal was pretty damn good. Today, anticuchos are a popular street food in Peru and Bolivia.  Sometimes you’ll find an Americanized version made with non-organ meat. It’s called a shish kebab. La Limeña’s anticuchos are the real thing, and arrive three per skewer, juicy, hot and seared to perfection.  Savory, smoky and bold, they’re tender like veal, gamey like liver.

For dessert, try the lúcuma ice cream.  Lúcuma is a round green-yellow fruit found in Peru, referred to as the Gold of the Incas for its bright yellow flesh.  The ice cream is visually stunning in a bright butternut squash-orange color.  Rich, and creamy, it has a slight starchiness. The flavor is hard to pinpoint, though. I would say it’s a cross between maple and vanilla—very sweet but I like things that way. It’s served with an alfajore, an anise-spiced shortbread cookie with a dark, caramel cream.

La Limeña is a casual family restaurant with generous portions of comfort food, which, according to those who know, are a little slice of Peru in the DC area.

La Limeña
765 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 424-8066

Photos: Bryan Applegate