Beef hearts and beyond from the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Peruvian food is one of the most coveted cuisines among culinary trendspotters, the supposedly eagle-eyed eaters who try and find the next big flavors before the apocalyptic onset of global blanding. More than anything else though, Peruvian plates always seem to be on the tips of tastemakers’ tongues—dishes born from a natural fusion of Andean elements and colonial and immigrant influences. So, it should come as no surprise that local favorites like Kotosh and El Rocoto traverse this cross-cultural territory, restaurants famous for their Asian-inspired interpretations of Peruvian cuisine. But Norwalk’s Anticucheria Danessi isn’t so global—Danessi is pure Peruvian.
Anticucheria Danessi initially appears to be but a box, an almost unspottable place lost among the rest of Pioneer Boulevard. It’s tough to find, but Danessi opens up into a welcoming space dominated by a mural of smiling snacking revelers forever frozen midchew. Past the kitchen is a second dining room, a terra cotta-colored expanse focused toward a hulking flat-screen TV.
The restaurant’s truck—a maroon behemoth emblazoned with its name and information on the doors—declares Anticucheria Danessi to be the only restaurant of its kind in California. And this might just be true: Danessi specializes in anticuchos, meaty skewers grilled plainly on Peruvian streets.
Danessi doesn’t dull the anticucho experience, either—the signature anticuchos here are threaded with slices of beef heart. While other restaurants spear only American-approved options like chicken or kinder cuts of beef, Danessi shoots straight to South America. For those fearful of any kind of offal, know that the heart is harmless—off the grill, the charred heart looks like steak and tastes like it, too. Better yet, there’s no fat to be had on it, just lean pink meat best served when spiked by a spoonful of Danessi’s blistering aji sauce. Tamping the heat and accompanying the anticuchos are huge hunks of boiled potato and corn on the cob.
The anticucheria also offers more familiar Peruvian standards. Danessi’s lomo saltado—a classic beef, onion, tomato, french fry and rice stir-fry—is a superb cilantro-heavy rendition. Similarly, the steak tallarín is another well-executed touchstone, the Peruvian permutation of spaghetti. But because you don’t haul all the way up to Danessi to nibble on the basics, consider the pancita con papas instead, a dish of grilled buche (pork belly) marinated with aji panca chilies and served with tender blocks of potato.
Although the menu is full of red meat, seafood doesn’t go unloved at Danessi. Ceviche is a foundational dish in Peruvian cooking, and though it’s good here, there are a few more compelling oceanic options. One is the picante de mariscos, which tosses shrimp, squid, mussels and scallops together in an aji cream sauce. Or, there’s the demanding pescado a lo macho, which is all the aforementioned seafood piled on top of a fried fish filet and smothered in aji amarillo sauce.
Heat won’t hound you at Anticucheria Danessi (most of the spice is served in a diner-controlled manner), but there are fresh juices, as well as Inka Kola and Kola Inglesa—just in case. However, among the eight or so options, Danessi’s preferred beverage is chicha, the famous fermented corn drink that’s usually offered stateside in its milder purple incarnation. Although the plum-colored chicha morada is the dominant drink, it isn’t the most interesting. Witness Danessi’s chicha jora, an opaque, golden chicha more like a hard cider than an agua fresca. In a lot of ways, the chicha jora parrots the restaurant’s very personality—a Peruvian classic that appeals in simple, vivid terms.
ANTICUCHERIA DANESSI 14351 PIONEER BLVD | NORWALK 90650 | 562.929.3398 | OPEN SUN-THURS 10AM-10PM AND FRI-SAT 10AM-11PM | $15-30 FOR TWO