Spring of Peruvian Delights on College: Puquio!

Oaklavores: it’s been a year and a half since I last posted… The good news: I found a restaurant that knocked me out of my blogging slumber and had to let everyone know!

Ceviche Mix with Yam Chips at Pucquio, Oakland

Ceviche Mix with Yam Chips at Pucquio, Oakland

Confession Time: I was a Peruvian food newbie. I had walked by this place for two years… Two years!!! …and had ever gone in. I’ve now been a number of times and feel like somewhat of a regular and have interacted with the staff enough to know this place is down home, local and damn delicious!

The server will explain the¬†whole menu as the descriptions on the menu use terms not familiar to the Peruvian food newbie types. This makes you want everything and definitely makes it tough to decide what to try. In fact, they encourage you to come back and try everything on the menu! I’m *just* about there at this point.

Octopus over Olive Emulsion at Pucquio, Oakland

Octopus over Olive Emulsion at Pucquio, Oakland

Puquio means “spring of water”, so let’s start with the drinks. They are wine and beer only, no pisco sours, but you can do without that hangover anyway!! They are very quick to refill your wine glass, let that be a warning to you… And now that you are settled in with a drink, let’s get to the eats!

The cebiches are all off the chain delicious. Tart and citrusy, the use of aleppo peppers here is the star. One evening the chef, Carlos, showed me the fish that I would soon be eating, holding it up by the tail to admire it, then breaking it down for chow time.

Ahem: People, this is not a place you go to rush through a meal on your way somewhere. It is like a vacation in town, the chefs making food from scratch, mixing sauces for each dish to order. Settle in, have some fried plantains and tuck in to an evening of fresh food that is lovingly prepared.

Chicken Deliciousness at Pucquio, Oakland

Chicken Deliciousness at Pucquio, Oakland

The menu is well split between seafood and meat, with a veggie dish or two thrown in there for lighter diners. Each dish had amazing qualities and Carlos wanted to hear feedback, giving a ch-ching type gesture when he hit a home run with a dish, which is damn close to always.

It’s really great to see a chef so invested and interested in his work. He treats this kitchen like a lab of sorts, sometimes trying new things or a new direction to see how it is taken.

Lamb Two Ways over Yucca at Pucquio, Oakland

Lamb Two Ways over Yucca at Pucquio, Oakland

The lamb seco is mind blowing. Not normally a lamb fan, my man absolutely adores this dish. The yucca underneath the lamb loin slices is like carb crack, savory and oniony yet not super oppressively heavy. Truly delightful to not only try new things that I would never make at home, but such thoughtful and balanced preparations of staple ingredients from another part of the world.

Now, my man makes sauces- cioppino that is to die for- and when he tasted the Shrimp in bisque, he was stunned. It’s the closest anyone has ever come to creating a stock so rich and flavorful, he had to give the chefs serious complements.

Pork Belly Brulee over Purple Potato Puree at Pucquio, Oakland

Pork Belly Brulee over Purple Potato Puree at Pucquio, Oakland

My best friend and I go in there to check in about once every two weeks and see how the place is doing and snag a killer meal, I never regret it.

The pork belly is rich and well sauced with some veg to cut the richness, and some purple potato to catch that rich sauce. Im telling ya, we seriously wiped our plates clean on a number of occasions at this place!

There are rotations on the menu but there are some long standbys like the lamb, pork belly and cebiches.

Shrimp Bisque with Egg at Pucquio, Oakland

Shrimp Bisque with Egg at Pucquio, Oakland

The desserts range from sorbets to filled doughnuts that just punctuate the fact that you have had a truly full dining experience. Whether you go light or go sweet, you can’t go wrong. It shocks me that I can still get in and sit at the bar most weeknights.

The music selections vary from classic alternative to brass band to chill downtempo, but it is always a fun place to be, and I happily saw some kids dancing with the staff at one of my last visits! Down home good time. Come, eat, relax and remember how to truly live here!