Photo by Tenaya HillsPlease praise Francisco Pizarro every time you peruse a Peruvian menu. The 16th-century Spanish conquistador's betrayal of the Incan chief Atahuallpa decimated the Empire of the Sun, and over the following centuries, subsequent rulers imported Chinese and Japanese laborers in the hopes that cheap labor would return the nation to its Incan splendor. These rebuilding efforts continue to fail—coups, Shining Path and Fujimori will diminish a country's riches, you know?—but the resulting cultural exchange among the immigrant and indigenous people created one of the world's finest fusion cuisines, a dining tradition in which Hispanic and Asian influences quarrel for your mouth's love.
This culinary tension comes deliciously alive at Nory's Restaurant Nos. 1 and 2, Anaheim and Stanton eateries owned by Masanori Oshiri, a stocky man whose personal background—born in Japan, raised in Peru and speaker of a sonorous Spanish that would make Cervantes proud—matches his dishes for wondrous amalgamation. Oshiri spends most of his time at the larger Anaheim location, but the quality of both places is so similar, so excellent you'll swear that a secret passage connects them.
Oshiri's Japanese dishes begin with ají, a mustard-green sauce with the physical quality of watery mayonnaise. It has a garlic kick and stealthy burn similar to Chinese mustard, singeing your lips until they're as parched as the Atacama; only a long sip of chicha morada, a purple corn drink reminiscent of Kool-Aid with cloves, brings back the saliva. Ají mixes well with any dish, but most customers content themselves with dipping a hard hot-dog-bun-like table bread into the condiment. The coming swirl of flavors attacks the senses enough.
The various entrées speak of a Peruvian experience so wildly colorful, so diverse it's understandable the country itself is in perpetual chaos. The Nory's version of papas à la huancaina is the mac and cheese of the Andes: two slabs of boiled potato garnished with hard-boiled eggs and floating on a frigid cheese sauce that may remind you of Velveeta. The eight different soups, however, are as complex as a khipu language string, each violently flavored with ingredients that would be surreal anywhere else in Latin America—bitter milk, fried egg remnants, giant toast slabs and entire crawfishes. The sopa criolla, for instance, alternately tastes like yolk, morning toast and the spiciest milk you'll ever drink. Beef selections are little more than finely sliced steak strips accompanied by starchy French fries, as protean a platter as you'll find outside a game reserve. The rotisserie chicken—only available at the Stanton location, thank you—is crispy and juicy; rubbed with a fiery paste, it's almost Texas barbecue-like in its charm.
Relatively straightforward, however, is the Asian-influenced section of Nory's recipes. Chaufa is Peru's take on fried rice; it's clumpier and more obsessed with peas than what's common in fast-food Chinese joints. Spaghetti here is nothing more than buttery chow mein, with tomato blocks spilling its juices onto the noodles and imparting a vaguely Italian flavor. Pescado à la Nori, steamed red snapper surrounded by a wasabi-like tartar sauce, tastes as if it were shipped directly from Yokohama.
These entrées might have resisted assimilation with the rest of Peru, but the Asians redeemed themselves with the contribution of ceviche. Asian-Peruvians concocted the seafood favorite, but Peru's version doesn't consist of a brittle tostada dotted with acrid fish or shrimp slices as Mexicans have accustomed you to expect. This ceviche is large enough to qualify as a marine biology study: jewels of the sea such as pale calamari knots; gargantuan prawns; and chewy, headless purple octopuses, salty with brine, all wading in a gush of yield-sign-yellow lime juice. Hollow, toasted corn kernels hide among the meat, and the entire heap is ladled over a lettuce leaf so soaked with lemon juice that it's like a supersour dessert. Wrap it around a block of Halloween-orange sweet potato for a result that is the best argument anyone can make for the glory of open borders.
Nory's Restaurant, located at 933 1/2 S. Euclid, Anaheim, and 6959-63 Cerritos Ave., Stanton, is open daily, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (714) 774-9115 and (714) 761-3332. Wine. Dinner for two, $8-$31, food only. All major credit cards accepted.
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