El Huarique Already a Locals Favorite For Peruvian on Venice Beach
If I had to make a list of places in L.A. where I felt least likely to find a delicious lunch, a food court on Venice Beach would probably be top 5. Unless, of course, you like shitty pizza, old hot dogs, or sun chips covered in melted cheese masquerading as nachos. Even the “branch” of Chicago’s famed Mr. Beef was a dud, closing almost as quickly as it opened. So when I read on Grub Street that a new Peruvian spot had opened up in one such food court (on Westminster and the Ocean Front Walk) I got mildly excited. Poke Poke is my goto lunch when I find myself down on Venice Beach, but it’s always good to have a back up. Especially if that backup is lomo saltado and a decent ceviche.
El Huarique didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The owner briefly operated a similar concept out of a floundering Mexican restaurant on Venice Blvd in Mar Vista called Inka Deli, which was just fine but nothing special. The good news is he found a new Peruvian chef and the food at El Huarique is more than nothing special. It’s actually pretty great, and the word is already out. Even though they’ve only been open a few weeks, a number of locals already know the owner by name. And each day you’ll find a number of young “office” workers and professional beach bums gathering in the hallway waiting for their orders to be made to order by the chef- who you can see working the wok diligently behind the counter. Unsurprisingly, when a decent lunch pops up on Venice Beach, word spreads fast.
The menu has all the typical things you’d expect to find, but almost everything is under $10 which is unheard of for good Peruvian food.
They make a solid chaufa, the Peruvian style Chinese fried rice, that’s available with chicken ($8), beef ($9), vegetables ($9), or seafood ($11).
And an ever better tallarin, the Peruvian style Chinese lo mein, which can be made with all the same proteins for the same price as the chaufa.
But the best of the three is the lomo saltado, a soy sauce stir fry of beef, tomatoes, onions, and french fries. Served with rice, and topped with their green aji (hot sauce) it’s one of my favorite lunches in L.A. And the amazing thing is, it’s only $9.
But wait. There’s more. Ever day they offer one of these dishes as a lunch special for just $6.99 from Noon to 3pm. I feel pretty comfortable saying there is probably not a better deal in all of Venice Beach. There’s also a rotisserie behind the counter, but it’s broken this week so I didn’t get a chance to try it. Then again, how can it be bad? It’s rotisserie chicken.
Of course it wouldn’t be a real Peruvian menu without ceviche, and they have an entire menu of options that includes fish, shrimp, oysters and calamari. They also serve leche de tigre, an intensely acidic shot of ceviche marinade in a shot glass that’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac.
The fish ceviche is the most popular, and the safest bet, for only $9.99. It was super flavorful, and surprisingly fresh tasting, plus came with everything you want a good Peruvian ceviche to come with- like popcorn kernels, boiled sweet potato, and white corn. Considering they only have a few stools at a high counter, the martini glass might be a bit of overkill (and tough to eat from when you’re sitting on a low stool) but after one bite it was hard to complain.
The only downside of the place, besides the lack of seating, is how small it is. They have three guys stuffed back there with only one stove top and one prep area to make ceviche. The good news is, everything is made to order. The bad news is, everything is made to order. So during the lunch rush it can take a while to get your food. Despite being in a Venice Beach food court, this is not fast food. Of course that’s a small price to pay for Peruvian food that’s done right. If you’re in a rush, make sure to place your take out order over the phone.
The crazy thing is there’s plenty more on the menu to work through for hardcore Peruvian food fans. There are causas, papa a la huancaina (potatoes in cheese sauce), picarones (peruvian donuts), beef heart aticuchos. Plus deep fried fish, parihuela (seafood soup), and tiradito (Peruvian sashimi). They even claim to have blood clams when in season. Of course with a place this small you never know what they’re going to have and not have the day you go (I’m looking at you broken rotisserie chicken machine!) And they may very well realize that serving up as many plates of fish ceviche and lomo saltado each day is their real key to financial success on Venice Beach. But one thing is for sure… whatever they do decide to do, I’ll be paying attention.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place will say)
- A solid version of lomo saltado for under $10 on the westside? So excited for this.
- Venice Beach has the worst options for lunch. This place is a godsend.
- Mo Chica is too fancy for me… give me Peruvian Chinese food like chaufa and tallarin every day of the week and I’m a happy camper.
- The owner and chef are so friendly. Super excited to have this place in my hood.
- Love that green hot sauce. Could eat it by the bucket-full.
- Not sure how the other seafood is, but the fish ceviche is super tasty and a steal for $10THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place will say)
- Have you been to a good Peruvian restaurant before? This place is no Mo Chica. It’s not even as good as Mario’s Pervuvian
- The fish ceviche is tasty, but impossible to eat at the counter from a martini glass!
- Speaking of ceviche… the fish was good, but the saltado de mariscos wasn’t as good as the lomo saltado.
- I’m all for the Slow Food Movement but this place is ridiculous! They need to develop a system that finds a good balance between making the food fresh, but not having lunch take 30 minutes. This is a food court after all, right?
El Huarique, 1301 Ocean Front Walk #10 Venice; 310-452-1254.