Peruvian palate pleasers

Low-profile eatery serves up family classics from Lima

Culinary satisfaction is never guaranteed by a restaurant's high profile, celebrity chef, media plaudits, lengthy reservations nor packed venues. It's not until your first bite into the food that you will know, by palate and by heart, that the meal is going to be a memorable one.

Amid the current crop of Japanese and "progressive" cuisines in Bangkok, I unexpectedly found true gastronomic delight at a low-profile restaurant offering authentic food from... uhh... Peru.

Familia Chicken & Grill is a family-style Peruvian joint, and nothing is overclaimed at this 38-seater set in a two-storey house in a residential sub-soi off Rama IX Road. Owned and run by Diego and Martin Velasco, sons of the former Peruvian ambassador to Thailand, the lovely eatery serves up family classics from Peru's capital prepared by Martin, a veteran chef and culinary instructor himself.

As the name suggests, the food offered at Familia is not the exotic cuisine of the Amazon, but typical home-style dishes from Lima, known as the gastronomic capital of South America. Here, the focus is on charcoal-grilled chicken and anticuchos (barbecued meat on skewers) served with a variety of homemade dipping sauces.

The Peruvian rotisserie chicken set is ideal for families.

Though the menu _ consisting mainly of grilled meat (chicken, pork, beef and sausage), potatoes, sandwiches and salads _ sounds simple, it's the taste that confirms the impressive culinary distinction. During our recent dinner visit, every dish proved full of flavour. Poultry and red meat have been subtly seasoned with imported herbs and spices, and were enjoyed with several very tasty dips, so addictive that I wish they were offered for sale.

Fried yuca (159 baht) was the first item to impress. This is the first time I've had man sampalang (yuca, or cassava as it's known in Asia) in the form of french fries. The deep-fried yuca exhibited an awesome texture and naturally sweet taste that went perfectly with the smooth and creamy avocado aioli which came on the side.

Another starter, boneless chicken thigh on a skewer (169 baht), was just as charming. Bite-sized pieces of meat, marinated and grilled to perfection, yielded a very juicy chew with a slightly crispy finish from the skin. Though the very flavourful chicken needed no extra condiment, I still found joy with the accompanying red chilli dip.

Poultry continued to play an impressive role when it came to the main course. Chef Martin's rotisserie chicken (359 baht for a whole chicken, 209 baht for a half and 109 baht for a quarter) was well-marinated in herbs and spices according to an authentic Peruvian recipe before being chargrilled to offer the characteristic smoky fragrance and _ unlike the tender boneless chicken starter _ flavoursome meat that was pleasantly dry and chewy while the skin was a bit gummy yet yummy.

The chicken was served with a trio of sauces _ yellow chilli dip made from fresh chilli, house dressing, which tasted a bit like Ranch, and parsley olive oil dip made with garlic, capsicum and imported fresh parsley from Peru, which was superb!

Double cut pork chop with Peruvian garlic rice.

Diners can have the chicken as an a la carte order or in a set with a choice of french fries or Peruvian-style garlic rice and garden salad. Our whole chicken set meal cost 599 baht and came with a family portion of french fries and an extra large bowl of salad for up to six persons.

We also tried the double cut pork chop (299 baht) and were very gratified by the large serving, extra-thick slice and well-seasoned quality. The pork intermingled nicely with the tasty garlic rice, which is quite similar to local chicken rice.

Another impressive item that I would be remiss not to mention was the sandwich. We passed the likes of pork burger and sausage sandwich for the grilled chicken breast with avocado option (159 baht).

The grilled fillet of chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, came on a subway roll with slices of tomato, avocado and house dressing. Together they created one of the best sandwiches in town.

Even though Familia highlights its barbecue specialties, desserts and drinks aren't regarded as a second priority here. From a decent list of virgin drinks and cocktails (basically mojito, pina colada and Cuba Libre), we had utmost joy with fresh mint-limeade (69 baht), a very flavourful lime juice infused with mint leaves.

For dessert, arroz con leche, or coconut rice with milk, raisins and raspberry puree (79 baht) offered a different but very delectable mouthfeel. The other sweet we could hardly stop ourselves from ordering twice was the chocolate sandwich. Served with vanilla ice cream, this simple treat presenting raisin bread stuffed with chocolate and pan-toasted with butter and milk was indeed a sinful pleasure.

Business at the four-month-old restaurant is still slow due to its off-radar location (though it's only a couple of minute's walk from Rama IX Road) and lack of marketing, but excellent food and friendly service are what keep customers coming back.

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter