At the point where Wake Forest Road ends and Falls Of The Neuse begins is a little shopping center nestled behind the fake Asian and the fake Irish restaurants.
It wasn't chance that brought me to Machu Picchu. Instead, a couple years ago The Wall Street Journal named Peruvian food the next big thing in the culinary world. That lead me to Greg Cox's four star review of Machu Picchu.
Sara and I both started the night off with a little bubbly, but mine was of the fermented variety. According to Machu Picchu's menu Franca is the only Peruvian beer sold in North Carolina, which is like drinking an unknown foreign band that hipsters rave about. At first taste it was no different to me than Bud Light, but it was a welcome companion to the citrus-heavy food of the evening. Sara ordered an Inca Kola, which has hints of cream soda and bananas.
My old roommate Ryan grew up on the Jersey Shore and never trusted seafood in Raleigh. "We're too far inland!" he would complain whenever someone suggested a seafood place. As one of few of his opinions that made sense, I too became cautious of seafood this far from the coast.
So when Sara and I approached Peru's trademark dish, ceviche, I worried about the quality of the fish. The first bite immediately shattered any pessimism. Taking a bite of the fresh fish, a burst of citrus and heat deliver a shock to the palate. The fish achieved a perfect texture for ceviche, retaining a tenderness while firm. The shrimp was equally as impressive. The surprise star of the plate was the soft sweet potato that counterbalanced the extreme acid and sourness of the dish with a nice mellow sweetness.
Seco de Res
After examining the menu for an entree, Sara found a dish that included a beef stew cooked with cilantro served on top of canario bean stew. Earthy and appetite crushing, this no nonsense plate of meat and beans spoke to Sara's steak-and-potatoes loving soul.
Because she is a such a huge fan of any starch filled vegetable, Sara also ordered a side of yucca fries. Crispy, starchy and delicious.
While deciding on my entree, a ringing bell interrupted my concentration. A trough of fried seafood emerged from the kitchen, lead by a processional of waiters and Head Chef Gloria ringing a bell, alerting the restaurant to the gigantic plate of food. "What is that?!" I questioned the server with intimidation on my face. "Oh that's the Jalea, but don't worry that's the double order."
"Just the double order?" I thought to myself. "I could probably handled the single order..." my famous last words. Although my jalea didn't arrive with the fan fare of the double order, it didn't seem like there was any difference in size. These pictures do not properly convey the massiveness of the jalea. Jalea is a sea of fried fish, squid, shrimp, etc. over a bed of lettuce and fried yucca. Topping this beast of a meal is salsa criolla. The jalea was a collage of different flavors and textures. Savory and spicy, sweet and acid, crunchy and chewy. However, as magical as the jalea was, it is very acidic, especially after eating ceviche. It can become a painful experience when eating with chapped lips, yet a welcome opportunity to order more beer.
As with other booming food trends around the country, whether the mobile food revolution or gourmet cupcakes, Raleigh has answered the call with its own delicious institutions.
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