When most people think of Wheaton restaurants, they think of Thai (for quality) and Salvadoran (for volume). I think. And fair enough. But less well known are Wheaton’s Peruvian places — at least five (not even including the chicken-only places like El Pollo Rico), I have eaten at four, and would recommend three. In short, a good selection. We took friends last week to arguably the best of them, as well as the newest, Asi Es Mi Tierra (2559 Ennals, in the strip near Little Caesar’s). I’d been before, not long after it opened in spring 2011, and liked it a lot. And I’m not the only one — for example, the Washingtonian raved about the Asi Es seafood.
So naturally we all mostly skipped the seafood, aside from one (excellent) ceviche (I like the pucker-inducing marinated onions even more than the fish) and another fried fish dish left mostly uneaten for unexplained reasons. I tried to order a beef stew but our server wouldn’t let me — unclear if they were out of it, or if it would have taken too long, or if she didn’t think I would like it. Probably the middle thing, but who knows. She directed me instead to a beef rib dish that turned out to be too chewy and lacking in beef (lots of bone), but otherwise rich and flavorful with plenty of rice and beans. I also got the papas rellenas again, although this time it wasn’t quite as exciting — still excelente, but not muy. The first bite of the apple is always best.
Others ordered the reliably good lomo saltado, and something chickeny…I didn’t take good (mental) notes because the ambience was too overwhelming. Asi Es Mi Tierra is normally a minimally decorated unassuming strip mall cafe, but on this night (and I guess all weekend nights) it transforms into a gleeful party bistro, flouncing from retro to modern and back with aplomb. Within 15 minutes of arriving, we had seen — on the big screen above the main entrance — the original music videos for Nazareth “Love Hurts,” the Village People “YMCA,” and Psy “Gangnam Style”…sublime. And as if that weren’t enough, they soon started in with the karaoke, mostly in Spanish, and the host was surprisingly good — and then a guy from one of the other tables got up to sing, and he was practically operatic. Nobody from our party sang, not with that kind of competition. Okay, we did dance to YMCA, and I said “opa gangnam style” under my breath a few times. But we did enjoy it all, mostly, although it was awfully loud and conversation-inhibiting.
And as if THAT weren’t enough, the restaurant was all decorated for Halloween (btw, happy Halloween, the candy bowl is waiting for the marauding children), with flying Death and Dia de los Muertos paraphernalia all over the walls and ceiling. AND there were disco lights. Disco Dia de los Muertos!! Or to put it in DC terms, Cool “Disco” Dia!!
A unique experience. We had two eight-year-old boys in our party, and they tried some chicha morada (a Peruvian sweet corn beverage, bright purple and a decidedly acquired taste) in lieu of soft drinks. One took a sip and refused to so much as look at the glass again, much less drink more; the other (who had had chicha morada before) said “this drink is both horrible and delicious at the same time.” That sums up the whole night — not the horrible part, it wasn’t horrible at all, just dichotomy and eras/cultures colliding. Disco papas. How lomo can you go?