Latin Chef

    At Pacific Beach’s
    Latin Chef, there’s a little something for everyone, whether they crave simple
    Latin American dishes or a combination of customary Asian, African and European
    cuisine fused with herbs and spices of the ancient Incan dynasty. That’s
    because the unique Peruvian cuisine of Latin Chef unites food from nearly every
    continent, blending each culture’s best dishes with the zest and flair of Peru
    to create exotic yet familiar meals.

    Combining Latin American cuisine with international flavors, Latin Chef in Pacific Beach offers authentic savory dishes like tallarin saltado con vistec. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    Most of the food is imported from Peru,
    a country that boasts 28 of the world’s 32 different climates, making it
    possible to grow nearly every type of fruit or vegetable. And it shows in the
    menu: black olives, roasted corn, red chili and deep-fried yucca root are just
    some of the many ingredients in the dozens of dishes offered; even the simple
    appetizer of roasted and salted corn served in small straw baskets feels
    adventurous. Influences from Japan,
    China, the Mediterranean,
    Italy, France
    and Russia make
    each dish chock full of rich flavor. Try the Tallarin Verde con Bistec,
    Peruvian-style noodles with pesto sauce made with basil and spinach and served
    with a small portion of juicy sirloin steak. For more familiar dishes, the
    Arroz Cahaufa is a sure-fire favorite with Chinese-style fried rice featuring
    scrambled eggs, green onions and soy sauce served with beef, chicken or octopus
    and calamari. Just beware the small portions, which may be typical of Peru
    but are not customary nor expected in the lavish landscape of California.

    The atmosphere is somewhat lacking, but the earth-toned
    walls and warm lantern lights make it hospitably genuine, with a small stage
    set up for bongo performers to play on busier nights and holidays. Small, plain
    wooden tables and golden sun-ray mirrors in assorted shapes, designs and colors
    create a homey feel, while small international flags representing each of the
    countries featured in the cuisine line the window opening into Garnet
    . Traditional Peruvian music — flutes,
    bongos and men singing romantic Latin love songs — drifts lazily through the
    room and mingles with the calm hum of talkative patrons and unhurried waiters.

    There’s no need to make a reservation, as this small
    restaurant appears to be under the radar for both locals and tourists, squashed between several other shops and
    eateries. Latin Chef does not boast a liquor license, but the owner is more
    than willing to let patrons bring their own alcohol — he’ll even crack open the
    first bottle for you. For the under-21 crowd, try tasting outside the box and
    go for the Chicha Morada, a dark purple blend of cinnamon and corn that tastes
    like fresh pomegranates and leaves a sultry aftertaste.

    The breadth of the menu is impressive but the steep prices
    are not, and it’s a good idea to share plates if you’re running low on cash.
    Also, make sure you go early: the restaurant closes by 9 p.m. even on weekends, so a lunch outing is probably the
    best time to discover the ever-evolving cuisine and accommodating services of Peru.

    — Katie Corotto

    Associate Focus Editor

    Latin Chef

    1142 Garnet Ave

    San Diego, CA

    (858) 270-8810

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