Ceviche of passion fruit, green mango and prawns

“Everything,” replied the server, who was, shall we say, on the large side?

He’d been asked “What’s good, low fat, light and healthy?” This was The Restaurant Dieter’s first experience with Peruvian food. The TRD Spouse had wanted to explore boho Portland’s Pearl District, a gentrifying warehouse area that now sports modern furniture emporiums, $30 Woolrich T-shirts and even a place that specializes in outfitting all your sheepskin needs.

Beets, pickled vegetables and salsa verde

We’d found Andina on Yelp searching for “vegetarian,” which it most certainly was not. And given the server’s response and build, confidence waned.

But a lunchtime visit turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Everything was not light, low fat and healthy or vegetarian, but there were more than enough good choices.

A cevichecebiche on Andina’s menu — is always a safe bet. Being able to choose from four, including a catch of the day that rotates, seemed a miracle. The green mango with passion fruit and prawns ceviche also featured some red onion and, in a lovely twist, a small corn cob, barely cooked if at all, and a chunk of sweet potato. Mixing the kernels and sweet potato chunks into the rest of the mixture added a depth to the sweet-and-hot passion fruit broth and a crunch. Although listed as a small plate, it’s really enough to classify as a main in any country other than the United States.

The gnomes; piquillo peppers

An extensive list of 28 plates suitable for tasting and sharing could be ordered in three sizes: $9.50, $18 and $34. Light options included salads, tar tare, smoked fish, mussels. The grilled asparagus was nicely charred and smoky with a good kick of salt. We could have ordered the kitchen to go a light on the olive oil to make it even healthier. Two gnomes — actually piquillo peppers stuffed with cheese, quinoa and bits of Serrano ham — also turned out to be pretty light.

A plate of roasted red and golden beets, served with tart pickled vegetables and a mint-and-jalapeno salsa verde was the freshest take on a beet salad I’ve seen in years. Again, it might have been wise to ask the kitchen to go light on the olive oil.

Chicken kabobs

Given the oil quotient up to that point, I’m not sure why we misstepped by ordering the marinated chicken kabobs, served with a spicy salsa de rocoto. The word “marinated” should have been the hint. It almost always means that the dish has waded all day in a pool of fat before coming to the table.

The kabobs had a shiny oily sheen that overpowered the chicken and the salsa and almost always has to be counted as a teaspoon or two of oil. When I can remember to do so, and when I have the courage to challenge the kitchen, I’m likely to request: “Can you please ask the chef to take it out of the marinade and run it under some water before throwing it on the grill?”

In fact, lunch would have been perfect had I only remembered to tell the kitchen: Go light on the oil.

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