Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.Petit Peru on Somerset West. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.
You used to have to climb a flight of stairs and dine beneath a mirror ball, skedaddling once the room began to fill with dancers. That was on Dalhousie Street, when Petit Peru shared space with the Discoteka nightclub. Today you find it in Chinatown. At least the Petit Peru on this side of the river. There is a small Petit Peru in Hull, the ‘Epicerie des Ameriques’ that was established three years ago by Jorge Bahamonde. And now this second one, relocated.
Jorge tells me, as he delivers my long thin plate of stuffed mussel shells, that this new location is about to have a new neighbour. It will be a Latin market. Soon, the Peruvian products he currently sources further afield, will be found just next door, to the east, on Somerset West. He seems pretty pumped about that.
It was a good lunch, though I could have used a friend to help me eat it. The ‘appetizer’ of warm tamale followed with a cold dish of steamed mussels presented on the half shell and piled on with good, tart crunchy stuff was plenty of food for a solo diner.
Cornmeal dough stuffed with soft chicken spiced with cumin, garlic, pepper and Peru’s brilliant yellow aji marillo chili, arrived on the bananaleaf in which it had steamed, served with pickled red onion. And then the mussels: cooked, chilled, piled on with red onion, tomato, and with choclo, the pale yellow giant corn kernels with a winning chewy texture and nutty taste.
The menu is long, and I’ve mined only a titch of it. I’m looking forward to a return visit — with friends — to taste more of Petit Peru. And soon to shop at its neighbour.
792 Somerset St. W., 613-229-2868