April 22, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: Restaurants: Awards: The Oregonian : Portland's Andina: The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005 owned by Peru RPCV John Platt

Peace Corps Online: State: Oregon: February 8, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Oregon : April 22, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: Restaurants: Awards: The Oregonian : Portland's Andina: The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005 owned by Peru RPCV John Platt

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Portland's Andina: The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005 owned by Peru RPCV John Platt and his family

Portland's Andina: The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005 owned by Peru RPCV John Platt and his family

Portland's Andina: The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005 owned by Peru RPCV John Platt and his family

The Restaurant Of The Year, 2005; Andina: The Future Of Food

By David Sarasohn
The Oregonian
Portland, Ore.
April 22, 2005

The entree stretches across the rectangular platter like -- there is no other way to put this -- a mountain range.

Everyone knows the basic restaurant entree style, arranged like a metropolitan area: a core of protein in a river of sauce, surrounded by suburbs of green and starch. Presentation, like transit policy, is making the core and suburbs somehow connect.

But now there's this dish, a double row of parallel, pungent Peruvian structures -- monkfish confit wrapped in serrano ham, stuffed piquillo peppers, a purple potato tortilla. And before a single fork is employed, the map is clear: We're going someplace we've never been.

For taking us there, and for pointing the way to a wide range of Latin culinary possibility, Andina is The Oregonian's 2005 Restaurant of the Year.

Portland's first serious Peruvian restaurant opened two years ago to great promise and a few problems. Its early menus were complicated, and service often was uncertain or abrupt. That's all changed, spectacularly. Now, while Andina is on the crest of a wave of new Latin cuisine in Portland, it's not to be confused with anyplace else.

The restaurant's style is called novoandina, a blend of Peru's contemporary cooking and older, deep-rooted Inca themes, such as quinoa and purple potatoes. The combination produces dishes like the one stretched out on the rectangular platter -- a mingling of monkfish and Machu Picchu.

"When the Spanish people came to Peru," explains executive chef Emmanuel Piqueras Villaran, "real Peruvian cuisine went to sleep." To illustrate, he puts his hands together and lays his head on them, like a rocoto pepper dropping off into historical obscurity.

Andina wakes up a lot of things.

To the 33-year-old Piqueras Villaran, Peruvian cuisine is a fusion of fusions, a cross-cultural cuisine combining Spain (and its own Moorish underpinnings) with the local peppers and Pacific seafood, plus the Chinese and Japanese input of a century of Pacific Rim immigration. There are menu sections where Cebiche settles seamlessly into sashimi.

Piqueras Villaran powers the mix with his years at the three-star restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. The top of the menu is filled with his flashy, sophisticated stylings -- from crispy escolar with mango-shrimp ravioli and a rocoto pepper, passion fruit syrup to a Quechua Indian-inflected casserole of lamb, quail and venison. Below, the menu turns to traditional dishes such as lamb chunks stewed with cilantro and black beer, entrees laid out by Doris Platt Rodriguez -- whose family owns Andina, and whose arrival in Oregon from Peru goes back a little longer than Piqueras Villaran's.

"What you plan in life may never happen," says Platt Rodriguez, 60. "What you don't plan sometimes comes together, and that's Andina."

Platt Rodriguez came from Peru years ago, with her husband, a Peace Corps volunteer, settling in Corvallis and raising three sons. One went back to Peru with Mercy Corps and decided the way to help the country was to start a Peruvian restaurant in Portland. Back in Peru, he asked another volunteer if her boyfriend's family knew any chefs who might be interested.

It turned out they did.

Now, Platt Rodriguez and Piqueras Villaran combine on the menu, and in their explanations of it. Questions can produce a long burst of liquid Spanish from him, an answer that she then carefully re-creates in English.

It helps that they have the same vision.

"In Peru, we love bright colors," says Platt Rodriguez. "Andina is a rainbow of bright colors. What Emmanuel does is bring that to the fore."

"It is very important for me as a cook, the architecture of the dish," he explains. "I like to make a beautiful dish, so when (waiters) serve it in their hand, people say, 'That's my dish.' "

Now, the personal extends through the dining room at Andina, a combination of deep-rust coloring, rising buzz and strolling Peruvian musicians.

The restaurant's considerable overhauling since its early days has extended to new options, including the downstairs Pearl Wine Shop, which offers five-, six- and seven-course fixed menus for private dining parties.

More dramatically, Andina's bar -- called Mestizo, or "mixed" -- has been re-created as a casual hangout featuring tapas, raw seafood and hand-sliced Spanish and Peruvian hams, with a layer of live Brazilian or flamenco music. It turns out that a seafood Cebiche, a kebab and a Pisco sour can fill up an evening as vividly as a more elaborate meal in the dining room.

"We saw the bar lacking warmth," explains Platt Rodriguez. "We thought if we changed the ambience of this place, we could give people another way to come and enjoy."

From seafood Cebiches to passion fruit mousse, Andina offers lots of ways to come and enjoy. And to do it, it creates a place we've never been.

When this story was posted in April 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Oregonian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Peru; Restaurants; Awards



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