Mazi Merritt, DIP • Updated 5th November 2018
There are few things I enjoy more than an easy afternoon or evening with amazing food and drinks. Bring along a friend or two that appreciate the same and you have the makings of something special. On this particular Saturday evening, we found ourselves walking into Andina in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon. Quaint, posh, and sophisticated yet comfortable and humbly traditional, Andina is an exquisite Peruvian restaurant that uniquely manages to capture the country’s welcoming impression in its staff, its soft festive colors in the décor and plating, its mysterious sites and historic people in the plethora of tastes from carefully constructed beautiful dishes, and its pure fun in the crafted cocktails that all fantastically sum up Peru. Peru is a magical country and Andina seems to capture it perfectly.
Typically, before arriving at Andina or any other well-known restaurant for that matter, one would serve themselves well by making a reservation. But for the purpose of writing this article, I chose not to make it to see how the staff would react and handle the situation. And not to my surprise, they handled it superbly. The host and hostess kindly told me they were booked for seating in the main restaurant area but that their large nice bar section would have seating shortly. I didn’t tell the host, but the bar section is exactly where I wanted to sit. The lighting is a slight dim warmed by the flicker of small bright candles on each table. A relaxing Spanish tune plays in the background by a middle-aged man on a stringed instrument – a solista. And the gentle hum of patrons socializing and sharing the joy of their taste buds with a waiter or waitress. All was savored and appreciated after a small 15-minute wait that allowed for my friend to join.
Taking in the atmosphere we caught up on each other’s lives over drinks as we waited for our appetizer to be served. The drinks at Andina are phenomenal. She started with the Mojito de Pina – white rum shaken with fresh squeezed lime juice, mint and cane sugar, served tall with a sugar cane spear. I excitedly ordered the Sacsayhuaman – habanero pepper vodka shaken with pureed passionfruit and cane sugar, served up with a sugar rim and cilantro leaf garnish. The Sacsayhuaman is the most ordered drink at Andina; and after a taste, I could most certainly see why. The mix of flavors is remarkable. What I like too is that the drink is named after a site in Peru constructed during the reign of Pachacuti. Sacsayhuaman is a testament to the power of the Incas but also the skills of Inca architects and their ability to build monumental structures and blend them into the surrounding landscapes. As these thoughts floated through my mind while enjoying each pleasurable sip and talking to my friend about her day and drink, the appetizer was served – Cebiche. Cebiche De Pescado “5 Elementos” is Andina’s iconic preparation of fresh fish in leche de tigre. Fresh chunked fish, onions, citrus, light garnish of corn and carrots and spinach as well as leche de tigre is a combination you won’t soon forget. As my friend paused for a moment to check on her kids with a phone call, I happily enjoyed a few extra pieces while she wasn’t paying attention (haha 😊) Trust me; you wouldn’t blame me! But don’t worry! There was enough to have her fill.
A little more conversation, a little more sipping of our drinks and before long our entrées were ready. But not before we were happily startled by the singing of “happy birthday” to someone at a cheerful table in the middle of the bar. The plating of the entrees was spectacular. You can literally see and feel the thoughtfulness poured into each dish. My friend had the Humitas De Queso – traditional Peruvian corn tamale stuffed with Aji Amarillo, mozzarella, and cotija cheese. The tamales are carefully wrapped with vegetables on the side – beautiful and tasty. I went with the Lamb Shank – an old family recipe. Lamb shank – slow-cooked in the Northern Peruvian style, in a rich cilantro-black beer sauce, served with a classic guiso de frijoles, garlic rice and salsa criolla. This is a hearty meal plated wonderfully. The Lamb falls off the bone with flavor. The beans and rice nicely compliment the lamb. It goes without saying that conversation died down a bit as we happily filled our faces with food and drink. Just the other day I read on social media the lamenting that there seems to not be much variety in food these days. That food seems to taste the same wherever you go around town. Well I can confidently say that a visit to Andina will be a new experience your taste buds will carry away as a lasting memory.
Dinner was everything I hoped it would be – great food, great drinks, and great conversation. Expect nothing less at Andina. We finished our dinner and set out for a little karaoke but not before thanking the staff for a wonderful meal.
If you want a small taste of Peru, don’t hesitate to visit Andina in Portland Oregon. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. In taste, color, and spirit, Andina embodies this beautiful country. So, plan dinner with the family, date night with the wife, happy hour with colleagues, or a fun meal with friends and be sure to tell them Discover Inca Planet sent you. Enjoy! It’s one of our great recommendations until you can join us in Peru itself for an amazing tour where we’ll show you first hand the food, fun, and sites of this enchanting country.