follow the beacon of light: your taste buds will approve!
I discovered one of my favorite food trucks in Austin! In truth, I first tried a little while back (just after sxsw), but I wanted to return at least once more and try some more items before making such a bold statement. (And if you're like me, and you don't find yourself downtowndowntown very often: trust me, Llama's is worth the trip, even if you don't have any other reason for being on 7th and Trinity!) Read on to see what I've tried so far, though I'm certain there couldn't be a bad thing on their menu...
aji de gallina and lomo saltado
On my first trip, I tried aji de gallina (on the left). This dish is a product of Moorish influence in Peru (the executive chef and partner, Julio-Cesar Florez, has an amazing wealth of knowledge when it comes to the food history of Peru! I advise you pick his brain when you visit!) It consists of succulent pulled chicken in a creamy, just-spicy-enough aji amarillo sauce (a Peruvian yellow chile pepper), 9 minute egg, Alfonso olives, slices of Yukon gold potato, and garlic rice. All the flavors-- briny, spicy, earthy, savory-- come together perfectly! This is unlike any other dish you will find around town.
Above, on the right, you see lomo saltado, a Peruvian stir fry of beef, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onion, soy sauce, French fries, green onions, cilantro, and garlic rice. The cuts of steak they use were probably the best I've ever had from a trailer-- I'm sure they not only use high quality meat, but it is clear that they know how to prepare it perfectly too. You won't find anything tough or over-cooked here! Just tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! I loved the way the fries soaked up all the delicious flavors (and it was news to me that fries in a stir-fry are a Peruvian tradition! Can't wait to try that at home...) I also can't wait to return for their lomo saltado sanguche (sandwich).
Julio also brought out a cup of chicha morada for me to try. Almost a cold (non-alcoholic) sangria of sorts, this drink is made from purple corn, apple, cinnamon, clove, sugar and lime. It's sweet, but with herbal layers and spiced undertones. I highly suggest you give this antioxidant-rich tonic a try!
saltado de pollo sanguche
On my second visit, I ordered the saltado de pollo sanguche: aji panca (Peruvian red pepper)-spiced chicken, perfectly sauteed red onions and green peppers, oyster sauce, cilantro, melted Provolone cheese and aji amarillo mayo on a beautifully grilled Chuy's Panaderia bolillo (which, by the way, is some of the best bread in Austin. Foodheads also sources their bread from there.. and Chuy's has no relation to the Tex-Mex chain, mind you!) Again, the chicken was fresh and juicy, the vegetables all super-flavorful, and the entire package just so tasty and satisfying!
Julio's special cebiche!
And last but not least: Julio's special cebiche! He had told me he was making it as a Sunday special, and then I was out of town for several different weekends. Another sad Sunday afternoon, I must have arrived between lunch and dinner, for the truck was closed. I've been dying to try it because, according to Julio,"You haven't tried cebiche until you've had Peruvian cebiche."
Well, just my luck! It is now a daily special-- not just served on Sundays-- so he had it on my last Friday night visit! And it's certainly unlike the standard cebiche you've had elsewhere. Firstly, it's impeccably fresh. He uses well-sized cuts of tilapia and, while it's swimming in fresh lime juice, it's not soaked in it for too long, as I've noticed to be the case at other restaurants. It comes sprinkled with crunchy cancha , a traditional corn snack, with a chunk of choclo on the side, a large-grain Andean corn that looks much like hominy but has a nutty taste to it. There is some heat in the aji lima, and it will hit you suddenly! But the slice of sweet potato nestled against butter lettuce acted as a perfect neutralization to the spice.
Llama's is certainly a welcome addition to Austin, where the only other specifically Peruvian cuisine in town is located in the Highland Mall. (no-- really!!) I look forward to eating-- and learning-- lots more about it!