Peruvian cuisine, for all its versatility and critical acclaim in the world with leading restaurants such as Central in Lima (see my review there when I visited several years ago https://kenscale.com/2015/12/23/central-restaurant/), still somewhat feels underrepresented in New York City’s dining scene, but that does not mean there are no good restaurants to find in the city. For one, I had one of the best meals in 2016 in Lllama Inn in Williamsburg (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2016/02/28/llamainn/) that impressed me with a smartly executed modern take on the country’s culinary heritage. When the same chef behind Llama Inn, Erik Ramirez, opened a sandwich shop in West Village last year, I had been planning to check it out for a quick bite. Recently, though, Llamita evolved even more to become a full service dinner establishment after a renovation. I felt obliged to check out the transformation and took my wife Jun there for a weekday dinner. The food at Llamita offered plenty of pleasant surprises that we had a lot to like about.
Ceviche is one of the classic Peruvian dishes, but I haven’t been to too many places that pull off this raw seafood dish right. Llamita is not one of them, though, and the restaurant’s sea trout ceviche with peanuts, cilantro and crispy wonton was quite delicious, offering very good texture of the fish while the juice wasn’t overly acidic (which I encountered at many other restaurants offering ceviche). The identity of Peruvian cuisine derives in part from Asian influences thanks to a large immigrant population from China and Japan, and that attribute was aptly displayed in a dish of shrimp and egg noodles accompanied by peanuts and pickled chilis, displaying the sweet and sour flavor that was quite addictive. Peru is not as well-known for meat dishes as, say Argentina, but I was quite fond of the hanger steak with asparagus and roasted potato. The steak was expertly cooked to an ideal degree of texture and temperature and the seasoning on the meat itself was moderate just to my liking. For dessert, Jun was very happy with the macerated strawberries accompanied by pastry cream, olive oil and salt, calling it “perfect” for a summer dessert, and I couldn’t agree more for its refreshing and not overly sweet flavor.
We showed up at Llamita without reservations, but getting seated for an early dinner on Thursday didn’t require one (although the dining room quickly became full over time). Sadly, the restaurant didn’t have a full beverage menu on our visit (the menu said the restaurant is working on having local beers and biodynamic wines too) so we had to settle for the only alcoholic option available, a sparkling white wine. I am confident our meal would’ve been significantly enhanced with the right beverage pairings. The cozy and inviting dining room, with a giant map of different types of land zones around the world, was another plus to our dining experience. Llamita turned out to be surprise hit despite not having had as much buzz as other sexy newcomers in West Village (although I should’ve known after my experience at Llama Inn), and I’m happy to visit again when I’m in the neighborhood and in need of a quick meal. I might come back soon to try one of the sandwiches for lunch.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 80 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (646) 590-2771