Geography is a funny thing when it comes to restaurants. More than a few middling restaurants have earned inflated reputations just for being located in the media zone that stretches from downtown to Santa Monica. It’s the ethnic restaurants on the fringes that get ignored by mass-market publications. Thankfully, a throng of food crazed bloggers spend a lot of time on the fringes, which is how we learn about exemplary places like Anticucheria Danessi, Mario Danessi’s eight-year-old Peruvian restaurant in the outlying city of Norwalk. Bill (Street Gourmet LA), Javier (The Glutster), Matt (Mattatouille) and I recently stormed Norwalk to devour heaping plates of Danessi’s specialty, innards. More specifically, we feasted on beef hearts, intestines, livers and stomachs, and they were all spectacular.
A colorful wall mural depicts a food-filled street scene. Since they’re clearly eating beef hearts at the barbecue, it’s no wonder they were dancing.
Danessi specializes in Anticuchos de Corazon, skewered beef hearts ($7.99 each) that are marinated in a tangy blend of pimiento, garlic, rocoto pepper and vinegar, then thin-sliced and char-grilled. The hearts were cooked medium rare and could easily be mistaken for tenderloin.
Combinado de Pancita & Rachi ($7.99) paired tender grilled slices of double-layer cow stomach with firm strips of honeycomb tripe strips, some with feelers on the end. Both innards were marinated in aji panca and vinegar and served with tender slabs of grilled potato.
Choncholi isn’t on the menu, but it is listed on the board over the counter. The tiny cow intestines were soaked in milk for maximum tenderness and charred until nearly caramelized. The lining came loose in the process, so it almost seemed stuffed. This off-cut of beef is fairly common at L.A. taco trucks. You’ll find a good version of “tripas” at Rambo’s in Eagle Rock, but the intestines aren’t as masterfully prepared as they are at Anticucheria Danessi.
With the heart and intestines, spoon on a vinegar sauce flecked with scallions and Peruvian rocoto chilies.
Bistec de Higado con Papas ($7.99) – cow liver steak – was char-grilled and served with more potatoes. Squeeze on aji to add spice and cut the liver’s richness. This dish was probably kept on the grill for a little too long, but the flavor was still powerful.
At Anticucheria Danessi, each plate is served with a slab of ricotta-like white cheese and starchy hominy-like choclo, a high-altitude corn grown near Cuzco.
To drink, consider Chicha Morada ($2), a cinnamon tinged purple corn drink, or Maracuya ($2), a sweeter yellow passion fruit drink. Anticucheria Danessi also carries a fermented corn drink called Chicha Jora, a, but it was still a week away from being “ripe.”
Anticucheria Danessi’s organ meats were expertly prepared and absolutely addictive. It’s tempting to order more mainstream dishes next time, but that would be at the expense of of those amazing anticuchos and intestines, and that’s just not right.
2/12/14 Update: Anticucheria Danessi now goes by Anticucheria Peruana. The ownership situation is unclear.