El Chullo: Peruvian Food (Finally) Comes to Phoenix

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When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: El Chullo Location: 2605 North Seventh Street Open:Over two weeks Eats: Peruvian Price: $11 to $30 per person

For those who live in Phoenix, Peruvian cuisine just got a whole lot closer.

Can I get an amen?

A fusion of the indigenous Inca with influences from its Spanish, Asian, Italian, French, and African immigrants, the food of the South American country has landed in midtown at a new restaurant called El Chullo.

Named after an Andean style of hat, the locally owned spot resides at 2605 North Seventh Street (northeast corner of Seventh Street and Virginia), formerly the home of places like The Phoenix Cheesesteak Co. and Calabria Italian Kitchen.

See also: Tumi Delivers Colorful, Zesty Peruvian Cuisine in Chandler

Along with a manageable menu of Peruvian favorites put together with things like potatoes, chile peppers, and limes, El Chullo also will serve alcohol. On my visit, the restaurant had not yet received its liquor license. So until you're able to wash down the tongue-tingling flavors of the food with a frosty beer, there is dark, sweet, and cinnamon-tinged chicha morada (Peruvian purple corn juice) to enjoy.

You'll want the fish ceviche ($12.95), chopped pieces of white-flesh and mildly sweet swai fish in a sharp and spicy juice of lime and Peruvian chile peppers, topped with slivers of red onion and served with slices of sweet potato, pearly, large-kernel Peruvian corn, and crunchy cancha, the addictively salty and toasted corn nuts.

For those who want to broaden their tamale base on a more global scale, there is the tamal peruano ($5.95), or Peruvian tamale. Made with ground corn and stuffed with pork, olives, peanuts, and chile peppers, it's richer than its Mexican counterpart. You may wish it were spicier.

If you order the very good (and very filling) frijoles con seco a la nortena, know that there is enough of its well-seasoned stew -- redolent with cilantro and put together with hunks of tender beef and vegetables, as well as accompaniments of creamy beans and rice -- for two. Not a bad deal for $14.95.

Swathed in rich colors of maroon and gold and with décor items celebrating its namesake, El Chullo's tiny room is pleasant, and the service complements the restaurant's easygoing nature. You can imagine popping in here for a casual meal -- perhaps at dinner, during lunch when there are specials, or for a Peruvian breakfast on the weekends.

Is El Chullo leading the way for more Peruvian restaurants in Phoenix? I'm crossing my fingers as hard as I can.

El Chullo 2605 North Seventh Street 602-279-8425 www.elchulloperu.com

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday

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