Savoring South America

A strip mall in Plymouth is certainly the last place I expected to find a taste of Peru. But there lies Uchu, a real gem waiting to be discovered.

Uchu is the Incan word for “chile” and chef/owner Jorge Sarmiento does a masterful job at highlighting this spice. I don’t mean an alert-the-fire-department heat, but rather a more subtle, gradually building warmth.

I highly recommend starting with an appetizer that is ugly (looks aren’t everything, people): the Papa a la Huancaina. It’s just cold boiled potatoes topped with creamy queso-fresco sauce mixed with a hint of uchu amarillo, but it’s strangely delicious. We nearly licked the plate.

If you like to sweat a bit while you eat, order the anticuchos (grilled beef heart). Its uchu panca sauce is hot and fantastic, and nicely pairs with the flavorful char of the meat.

Of the four cebiches, we really enjoyed the mariscos, a mixture of shrimp, calamari, octopus, and scallops layered with zippy lime and a background note of spice. The side of homemade corn nuts gave it a fun crunch.

The entrées were more inconsistent. I absolutely loved the Tacu Tacu, a Peru-meets-Asia dish of soy sauce, rice, and beans, along with steak, plantains, and a fried egg. The egg was nice and runny, adding another layer to this glorious dish. I can’t wait to go back and order it again. The Frejol con Seco (short ribs), on the other hand, were tender, and the cilantro sauce was nice, but the overall dish was too much mush and not enough texture.

Do save room for dessert, however, as the trio of purple-corn pudding, rice pudding, and caramel meringue was the best $6 I’ve spent in some time.

The ambiance, sadly, leaves quite a bit to be desired. It’s way too bright and the interior looks almost exactly like the former tenant: a Tex-Mex chain restaurant. And as far as beverages go, Uchu was only serving Corona when we went—no license to pour wine or liquor. Which is too bad, as this food screams for a good red wine.

All that said, the positives far outweigh the negligible negatives at Uchu. Plus, it’s Peruvian food! In Plymouth!

Uchu Peruvian Cuisine, 4130 Berkshire Ln. N., Plymouth, 763-577-3744,

Jason Derusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.