Edit ModuleShow Tags

Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria Brings Fusion Flavors to San Diego

An acclaimed Peruvian chef partners with an iconic San Diego restaurateur for this restaurant in Liberty Station and Carlsbad


Published:

Pisco’s Liberty Station location

Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria

5970 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad; 2401 Truxtun Road, Liberty Station 

piscorotisserie

 

BEST DISHES
Grilled octopus causita
Ají de gallina
Plantano

Each time it comes out of the kitchen, heads turn. Most diners stare, confused by the light-green monstrosity. Then they realize what the ridiculousness is. All but who are dead inside release a smile. It’s a huge cloud of green apple cotton candy. It’s not served on a paper cone. It’s on a formal dinner plate. It’s the equivalent of using a Microplane to shave a Jolly Rancher over tiramisu.

Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria is a Peruvian restaurant. Cotton candy is not a Peruvian specialty. But Peru has never met a foreign cuisine it was afraid to play with. When Chinese immigrants arrived in the late 19th century, Peruvians adopted their stir-fry method to create the famed dish lomo saltado. The Spanish brought beef to the country. Japanese migrant workers helped fuel the rise of ceviche and tiraditos.

And now one of the country’s better-known chefs opened his restaurant in the family-packed Liberty Station, and he’s adopted the pastel spun sugar loved by his pint-size clientele. (He also recently debuted a second location in Carlsbad.) Okay, so maybe comparing the effect of imperialism and cultural diaspora on a country’s cuisine to American kids’ love of cotton candy is a stretch. But it shows why Peruvian food became one of the stars of South America: Fusion set them free.

Lengua made of grilled beef tongue, carrots, peas, Peruvian corn, yucca, and huacatay broth

Another thing that made Peru a haven for food is its immense topography. Fifteen hundred miles of coastline means a world-class seafood supply. On land, the country rises and falls dramatically—and the various elevations create an endless supply of microclimates, all of which grow something different. There are three ingredients, especially, that define Peruvian cuisine: raw seafood (ceviches), potatoes (they have nearly 4,000 varieties), and ají peppers (which are to Peru what jalapeños are to Mexico).

Pisco Sour Classico with lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and Chuncho bitters, and Prickly Pear Pisco Sour—the same ingredients plus a prickly pear purée

Pisco is a collaboration between one of San Diego’s veteran restaurateurs, Sami Ladeki (Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza), and chef Emmanuel Piqueras. Piqueras has quite the pedigree. He attended culinary school in Lima before working two years in San Sebastián, Spain, at the iconic restaurant Arzak. He then made the rounds at some of America’s top Peruvian kitchens, including Limon Rotisserie in San Francisco and Andina in Portland. He hosts the Peruvian cooking show Sabor & Fusion on one of Latin America’s biggest cable networks.

Much like Indian food is known for tandoori, the Peruvian specialty that’s made the biggest inroads in American culture is the long-marinated fire-roasted chicken. And so Piqueras has smartly made that a fixture of his menu. Comfort breeds dinner reservations. Pisco’s bird is marinated for 48 hours and roasted until its skin is caramel-crisp with blackened streaks and swaths and stitching. The sauces are the real highlight, especially the ají amarillo mustard. Ají amarillo is Peru’s famous sauce—the spicy yellow pepper blended and sweetened with evaporated milk, enriched with cream, and given a nice acidic jolt from the mustard. Their chimichurri is sharper, thinner, and works best with the fattier, darker cuts of meat.

Grilled octopus causita with potatoes, chimichurri, and piquillo peppers

At the bar is a collection of drinks showing off the other native specialty, pisco—a spirit made of unadulterated grape juice. Essentially, they make wine, then distill it into a spirit. And everything we try with it is well-balanced, from the Pisco Sour (fresh lime, simple syrup, egg white, Chuncho bitters) and sweeter Pisco Punch (pineapple juice and liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup) to the spa-water-esque Lado Este (fresh lime, cucumber, mint, simple syrup, and soda). You can order a flight of pisco to sip straight if you’d like to get really familiar.

Beef empanadas with red onions, mozzarella, and huancaína sauce

From the ceviche, we try both the Martini de Tigre, which comes in a martini glass with calamari, shrimp, white fish, bay scallops, octopus, and then—the famed marinade—leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), which is usually a base of lime juice with sliced onion, chiles, salt, pepper, and whatever secret ingredients the chef wants to add to personalize it. The lime juice partially cooks the raw fish (or, more correctly, “cures” it), and ours needs a tad more of that electricity to give ceviche its trademark rough, acid-washed exterior and just-past-sashimi interior.

Ají de gallina made of pulled chicken, garlic rice, and yams plus huancaína sauce

Peruvian food without potatoes is like Ireland without them. And Pisco has a whole section dedicated to the causitas—cold mashed potatoes flavored with herbs and spices. For the chicken causita, the potatoes are flavored with chimichurri, so they have that herbal lightning, along with huacatay (black mint) sauce, red onion, lime, and cherry tomatoes. It’s plated cautiously. One element in this corner, another element in that. If you corral all the elements, it’s excellent. But miss one and it falls flat. So, gather. The grilled octopus causita, however, is just about perfect, the octopus rubbed in paprika and other spices it loves, over chimichurri potatoes and piquillo peppers. The octopus is flavorful, tender, inspired.

Green apple cotton candy

From the small plates, I’d stick to the empanadas, the famed pockets of fried dough holding stewed meats and veggies. Again, you have to gather all the elements scattered about on the plate, but when you do—especially the chicken stuffed with raisins, red onions, queso fresco, and huacatay sauce—it’s rewarding and complete.

The spicy corn needs to go to a Mexican restaurant and take a few notes. The butter is present, but the Tajín (spicy salt) is in short supply, as is the Romano cheese. It’s more of “a bit of spicy corn in a sea of buttered corn.”

The stars of the large plates are the ají de gallina—the famed creamy, sweet, spicy dish with pulled chicken over garlic rice with huancaína sauce. For reference, consider it a spicy, creamier corn chowder that’s far more interesting and flavorful. The slow-cooked lengua (beef tongue) is also very good. Peruvians are scared of no part of the cow, as evidenced by their national street food, anticuchos (beef heart on a stick). And the lengua has so many connective tissues that, when done right as it is here, it’s moist and delicious.

Plantano served with caramelized star anise and vanilla ice cream

Surprisingly, we can’t say the same about the lomo saltado, which is a tad tough, possibly overcooked in the wok. The peppers are the opposite, needing more time in marinade and/or the hot, saucy pan.

For dessert, the sliced plantains with caramelized star anise is one of the better desserts I’ve encountered in San Diego. The plantains have been sweetened so that they eat like bananas, with star anise’s trademark licorice, but not too much. It’s like a Peruvian bananas foster. And then, of course, there is that green apple cotton candy—ridiculous, delicious, odd. It’s a must to order for anyone under 10 at your table—or just for anyone.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

First Look: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters Del Mar

Chuck Patton built the Bird Rock coffee name with good ethics and joe. Now he's sold to a Kansas company, but stays on to see its evolution—starting in Del Mar.

The Two-Bite Rule

How a survival technique deepened my love affair with eating

The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now

A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    From burritos to bottomless mimosas, you choose San Diego’s best eats and drinks in 90 categories
  2. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  3. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  4. 31 Best Places to Live in San Diego
    Five local homeowners share their advice, tips, and tricks on how they sealed the deal
  5. Has Anything Really Changed Since Ballast Point Sold to Constellation?
    More than two years after the acquisition, misinformation and misunderstanding still abound
  6. Green Rush: Inside San Diego's Emerging Cannabis Industry
    Marijuana's legal. How did it go from evil death drug to medical miracle and billion-dollar industry?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Win Our Instagram Contest And Get Three Months of Free Orangetheory Fitness Classes

All you have to do is post to Instagram telling us why you want it, or enter below!

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags