The Pearl’s culinary and cultural embassy to Peru celebrates 12 years.
ANDINA’S DEEP SENSE of family speaks not just to this revered Peruvian restaurant’s owners but also to their warm embrace of both customers and the Portland community. “We feel that our food unites people,” says Doris Rodriguez de Platt, who co-owns Andina (1314 NW Glisan St, 503-228-9535, andinarestaurant.com) and works closely with the talented kitchen team to ensure that the restaurant presents Peru’s richly diverse and robust cuisine authentically.
In fact, opening the restaurant has deeply united the already close-knit Platt-Rodriguez family, which includes Doris’s Portlandborn husband, John S. Platt, and their three adult sons, John, Peter (pictured), and Victor. John and Doris met in Peru in the late ’60s and started a family there before moving to Oregon in 1978.
They’re able to look back with both humor and gratitude at the initial challenges. “The idea of owning a restaurant had never come to our minds,” says Doris, who credits Andina’s early success to son Peter’s can-do determination and creative vision. “We didn’t know even six weeks before the restaurant opened who our chef would be. I asked my son, ‘Who will we hire to cook? You’ve never cooked in your life.’”
“There was a steep learning curve at the beginning,” admits Peter Platt Rodriguez, Andina’s founder and co-owner. “We were very lucky to survive.”
Through a fortuitous twist of fate, they were able to hire talented chef Emmanuel Piqueras Villarán, who had studied in Lima under the noted early proponent of Novoandina cuisine Cucho La Rosa. Villarán helmed Andina’s kitchen the fi rst two years. “He exceeded our expectations in ways we never could have imagined,” says Doris. “The food you see on the plates today, he conceived of—he’s very artistic.”
They also enjoyed a stroke of good luck when Peter stumbled upon the stately redbrick warehouse on NW 13th Avenue that now houses Andina and its festive bar, Mestizo. “We’re going on 12 years, and the biggest change over that time has been with our growth as a family,” says Peter. “Andina has brought us closer together. It’s also been a way, especially for my parents, to explore family heritage.” The restaurant extends its ties back to Peru by helping to provide isolated Peruvian villages with renewable energy.
PRESENTING THE OLD AND THE NEW
“Offering food that reflects the country accurately is what matters most to us,” says Doris Rogriguez de Platt. Andina’s menu is divided into two main sections, traditional and Novoandina. “Our traditional dishes are more about flavor than presentation,” she says. “The modern dishes—these please both the eyes and the taste buds.” The atún con tacu tacu y aguaymanto (seared yellowfi n tuna with lima beans, rice, orange wedges, endive spears, salsa criolla, and cape gooseberry–ají amarillo sauce) is a strikingly beautiful example of the latter.
Among the classics, consider the seco a la Norteña. “It’s one of my mom’s recipes, and it’s become a best seller—it’s a very Andean dish,” says Peter Platt Rodriguez of the slowcooked lamb shank served in a heady cilantro–black beer sauce that’s delicious, if not especially radiant. “Seco a la Norteña is like our ugly duckling that’s become a black swan,” says Doris. But even iconic dishes are given creative accents here. “Arroz con pato (rice with duck) is a very traditional dish, but we serve it in a more modern style, with a crispy confi t and a pan-seared breast,” she says.
Very popular at both lunch and dinner is Peru’s national dish, cebiche, a fresh, healthy concoction of raw seafood cured and seasoned with citrus juices and chiles. Andina off ers several varieties, including a sweet-tart version with poached prawns, green mango, and passion fruit leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) sauce.
The 60-seat Bar Mestizo cultivates a dynamic energy of its own. Every night a steady stable of regulars sip drinks and graze from the extensive raw bar and tapas menu (featuring beef empanadas, grilled octopus, lime-scented quinoa-and-avocado salad, and more). There’s also nightly live music, from South American solo guitar to Latin jazz.
“Latin cocktails as a genre are really popular because they play on two major notes: sweet and sour,” says Peter Platt Rodriguez. “Peru has a wealth of tropical fruits and its own national spirit, pisco, which is very versatile.” Indeed, this white spirit distilled from grape wine fi gures prominently in several Andina libations, including the refreshing hechicero, with cinchonaelderfl ower tonic, pisco, muddled cucumber, and citrus peel. “We consume over 90 percent of the pisco in the state at our restaurant,” he adds. There’s also an impressive wine list featuring some 200 bottles.
Although they’re careful to preserve the integrity of their menus, the Platt-Rodriguez family isn’t resting on the laurels of Andina’s success. They recently completed a back-of-the-house renovation and have announced plans to freshen up the dining room and bar next year. “It’ll be a rolling process,” says Peter. “We won’t be closing.”
In a city where buzz-worthy restaurants open weekly and chefs routinely reinvent their menus, Andina continues to delight regulars—and dazzle newcomers—by hewing closely to tradition and serving passionately as an ambassador of all that is delicious in Peru.
– Andrew Collins | Photos by Amy Ouelette