Hard on the heels of Uchu in Plymouth, Somos Peru in south Minneapolis is the second Peruvian restaurant to open its doors locally in recent months. The kitchen is helmed by Isabel Custodio, a veteran with more than 25 years of cooking her country's food at several family-owned restaurants in New Jersey. Indeed, the extensive menu is a paean to Peruvian cuisine, running the gamut from the classic paella arroz con mariscos to the unique purple corn pudding called mazamorra morada. When our group visited on a Sunday evening, following a busy weekend that had depleted several menu items, we asked chef Custodio to prepare us a family-style meal of her selection. At first that challenge seemed to perplex her a bit, but it ultimately proved a great way to sample the food here.
If you aren't keen on potatoes, a mainstay of the Incan diet, it's best to state that up front. Every one of the appetizers we sampled featured them. That included the papa a la huancaina, the classic preparation of thickly sliced, parboiled potatoes topped with a yellow pepper and queso fresco sauce; the salchipapas, a notably kid-friendly choice of tasty pan-fried hot dog slices and French fries; and the causa limeña de atun, an interesting, mildly flavorful tian of mashed potatoes layered with tuna fresco and avocado, garnished with hard-boiled egg and black olives.
Potatoes are also incorporated into most of the entrees. The standout was the classic lomo especial—a delicious sauté of tender sliced ribeye, onions, tomatoes, and french fries sauced with soy and served with rice. A more controversial preparation that I quite liked was the aji de gallina, a French-inspired stew of shredded hen meat served with boiled potatoes and a mild cream sauce, seasoned with an indigenous spice mixture and yellow peppers. Having expressed our reluctance to judge the cebiches and fresh shellfish on a Sunday evening, we were served the pescado a la chorrillana filete—clean-tasting pan-fried tilapia fillets topped with sautéed onions, tomatoes, and a cilantro sauce. It was OK but nothing extraordinary. Next was the classic chaufa de pollo—the Peruvian version of fried rice, in this case made with bits of chicken, onions, and eggs. This dish is definitely a crowd pleaser and substantially sized for sharing. The daily special of goat, marinated overnight and fried in a wonderful mixture of herbs and spices to a perfect turn, was a knockout. We finished off our meal with arroz con leche, a refreshing rice pudding enhanced with cinnamon, vanilla, and other essences.
Though Somos double-bills itself as a restaurant and sports bar, it was still in the process of working through its liquor license. Considering the relatively small space, with a tiny bar area and handful of screens framed by a schedule of upcoming South American soccer games and team jerseys, I wouldn't expect the atmosphere to be too boisterous. As for the service, our waitress was outgoing, pleasant, and efficient, but she was relatively new on the job and hadn't sampled much of the food, which led us to defer to the chef. In retrospect, it was a great decision. 4157 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, 612-729-2025