Last September, Linda Burum alerted LA Times readers to “pure flavor” on a cluttered stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard. My turn finally came last Friday night, and it was clearly long overdue. Puro Sabor delivered my favorite Peruvian meal to date.
The simple space didn’t have much flair, but it did have Peruvian travel posters and glass-topped tables. We started with a basket of warm rolls and a squeeze bottle of aji, which Burum described as a “carefully developed blend of the Peruvian black mint, huacatay, and Peruvian yellow chiles swirled together with milk and fresh cheese — blazing heat and creaminess in well-calibrated balance.” Well put.
The manager (and co-owner?) stressed how important it was to order Pescado a lo Macho ($11.95), and his insistence made sense after the plate hit our table. The flaky Snapper fillet was lightly breaded and piled with tender calamari, sweet shrimp and a single open-face mussel. The seafood was then blanketed in a powerfully flavorful but not cloying yellow cheese sauce.
Peru has a sizable Chinese population and their influence is evident in beloved dishes like Arroz Chaufa – fried rice. Puro Sabor’s eponymous version ($11.95) usually includes beer, chicken and shrimp. We substituted chewy roast pork for chicken because there might not be a single dish that couldn’t benefit from the addition of pig. Puro Sabor’s chaufa is fluffy, lightly flavored with soy sauce and not oily in the least.
Puro Sabor isn’t a one-dish wonder, and the online appreciation for their food extends through dessert. With that in mind, we ordered the picarones, a dish of fresh-fried pumpkin doughnuts. The manager said they only had enough dough for a half-order, but that was plenty. The surprisingly springy doughnuts were made with pumpkin and yucca flour and plated in a pool of hot piloncillo sugar syrup.
Mo-Chica is the Peruvian restaurant getting all the hype in L.A. It will be interesting to see how their dishes compare to Chef Juana Paz’s bold cooking at Puro Sabor.