Monday, February 2, 2009

Natalie Peruvian: Eat Your Greens!

I don’t usually spend my Friday nights in the industrialized part of Hollywood, trekking over the 101 freeway but I found myself doing just that on my way to meet Moeha and Claudia for dinner. I arrived at the restaurant the earliest and, not wanting to fight the biting wind and the scary homeless man in the parking lot, I nipped into the tiny hole-in-the-wall store and waited inside.

Moeha had suggested this place – Natalie Peruvian Seafood Restaurant – and I had a good feeling about the place already. The place was kitschy cozy – the type of place an old Peruvian couple would go to, to linger under the television and watch soccer or read the Peruvian papers they have at the counter. I was in mid-perusal of the extensive menu when Moeha and Claudia arrived and with three brains pooled together, we finally settled on our order (yes, it was a very difficult task).

We ordered the fried calamari and the ceviche mixto as appetizers and the sautéed shrimp dish and the arroz chaufa de mariscos dish (Peruvian seafood fried rice) to split between us. The portions are huge. Really. I could bathe my future baby in the bowl that the fried rice came in! And what about the taste? Absolutely awesome!

I luuuuuurve ceviche. I mean, “raw” fish in a tangy lime sauce…what’s there not to like? Natalie’s also piles on a mountain of raw red onions (ya, our breath stunk afterwards but we weren’t on a date so whatevs) which kicked the ceviche up a notch. It was amazing…the perfect dish to rev up the appetite. Same praise for the calamari. And God Bless Natalie, whoever she is, for her dish of sautéed shrimps. Cooked perfectly and flavored with A LOT O’ garlic. MMmmmm. But even the garlic shrimp had to give way to the seafood fried rice. The fried rice wasn’t good…it was EFFIN’ AMAZING!! It’s somewhat like Chinese fried rice (it even had green onions!) but also distinctly Peruvian (I’m going to venture a guess and say that it’s the sauce that they fry the rice in). And it was loaded with seafood! The rice soaked up all the beautiful flavors of the sauce and of the seafood and I found myself spooning more of the rice onto my plate even though I was way past stuffed.

Having been a fish-etarian for close to four months now, this place was perfect for me. That being said, however, if you’re a straight-up vegetarian, you can forget about Natalie’s. The vegetable component of a typical meal here amounts to about three leaves of lettuce (as a ‘bed’ for the meat) and a sprinkling of red onions (as a garnish for the meat). That’s it. But maybe that won’t matter…because at Natalie’s, “greens” takes on an entirely different meaning:

It’s the aji sauce.

A bright green, creamy and mildly spicy concoction of goodness. It was brought to the table along with the bread and I’ve waited until the end to bring it up because it really deserves special mention. I was tempted to stick a straw into that vat of sauce and consume the whole thing but I managed to retain some small degree of social decorum and resorted instead to scooping spoonfuls of that Godsent sauce over everything that was brought to the table. Even though the garlicy shrimp was awesome, I have to confess that I was more excited about the white rice it was served with because it provided the perfect canvas for me to (very liberally) decorate with aji sauce. Yes, it was that good.

By the end of the meal, I had fallen madly in love with Peruvian food. And on top of that great meal, the waitstaff are super friendly and helpful. We were stuffed but still had about two meals worth of food left over…and all that still came out to only $20 a person! Wow.

Oh, Peru. I Love. YOU.

FOOD: 4.5/5
SERVICE: 4.5/5

Natalie Peruvian Seafood Restaurant ($$)
5759 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 463-8340

No comments: