Nestled in Gastown, one of Vancouver’s most historic and tourist traveled neighborhoods, Silvestre Gusto Latino is home to a world of cuisines. The Latin bistro is doing Peru proud by serving up an authentic taste of this multicultural nation. The cuisine of Peru is diverse and that’s putting it lightly. Over many years Chinese, African, Spanish and Italian people have all made their way to Peru combining their cuisines with the foods of the ingenious people such as corn, potatoes and chilies. Open for just about a year now, Silvestre Gusto Latino offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and are open seven days a week. Last Friday evening, Silvestre Gusto Latino’s owner graciously invited Eating in Vancouver & the World for dinner to experience their authentic Peruvian dishes.
After being warmly greeted by manager Eduardo and his lovely wife, Eduardo spent a few minutes going over the menu and answering any questions I had. Seeing as Peruvian food is completely new to me, I found him to be very informative so I left the selection of dishes in his hands. Also, Eduardo was kind enough to serve portions 1/3 the size of regular dishes so I could really get a great sampling of multiple items.
To start, I had a purple drink called Chicha Morada made from dried purple corn with aromatic cinnamon and clove, adding a unique taste to this traditional Peruvian staple. The drink is served cold and is non-alcoholic so it can be enjoyed by all. Chica Morada was absolutely delicious and went with all the items I had throughout the night. Eduardo also brought out a sample of a beverage called Chicha De Jora which is made from white corn and is fermented which thus means it’s an adult drink. Taste wise, it reminded me of a homemade wine but it was cloudy like a wheat beer. It was nice to sample but I preferred the Chicha Morada. One item that I did recognize right away was the Cancha, or as we know them here, Corn Nuts. I enjoyed the size of these kernels of white crunchy corn as well as their homemade flavor.
For appetizers, I had Papa a la Huancaina which is salad of boiled yellow potatoes that is bathed in a creamy yellow pepper sauce with Parmesan cheese and garnished with black olives and hard-boiled egg segments. This was a great way to start off the meal. Looking at the sauce you would think it would be heavy but it was actually light and velvety. Spice wise, it wasn’t overpowering at all and the peppers complimented the potatoes which were the star of the plate. To add acidic and salt components, the pickled red onions and olive were perfect and the egg was icing on the cake providing a richness of its own.
Silvestre has four different ceviches on the menu and I went with the most traditional type, appropriately named Cocktail Ceviche. They used basa fish for this and marinated it in lemon and lime juice, diced chilies, and topped it with red onion, sweet potato, and some of those awesome corn nuts along with boiled corn that looked like garlic cloves. This was some of the best ceviches I’ve had in a longtime as it packed a big fresh lime punch with a fiery kick from the chilies that literally made my mouth water. To add a delicious toast note, the roasted corn was perfect while the pieces of boiled corn helped with the heat from the chili peppers. The basa was really fresh and was still juicy because they didn’t over marinate the fish.
Next up was Arroz Chaufa de Camarones, or in English, Shrimp Fried Rice. They fried the rice with soy and oyster sauce to add that deep brown color and added Spanish or Tortilla style eggs and Peruvian spices along with shrimp and green onions. If you’re a fan of fried rice, then you’ll want to give this a try because it’s better than what I’ve had in some old school Chinese restaurants.
The one last appetizer I had was the Salpicon de Camarones. With a mix of shrimp, avocado, boiled potatoes, peas, celery and mayonnaise this was a perfect summertime dish. Flavor wise, the potatoes were the star of the dish and the mayo along with the avocado gave it a nice creaminess. If you’re a lover of potato salad, then your going to want to give this beautifully presented dish a try.
Moving along to main dishes, I started with the Pescado Sudado which is a fish fillet cooked with tomatoes, yellow peppers and served with rice and potatoes. This was an enjoyable dish because it made the fish the focus of the plate. They used a nice and meaty piece of basa which was moist and flavorful and the dish wasn’t overly spicy.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Lomo Saltado de Carne. It consisted of a combination of sirloin steak cooked in vinegar, onions, peppers and Peruvian spices, then served on French fries — how could you go wrong! The steak had a slight chew to it but I didn’t mind the texture, and the French fries were the perfect accompaniment.
The next plate I was served was Aji de Gallina. They take shredded chicken and cook it in a Peruvian yellow hot pepper sauce made with walnuts and Parmesan cheese, then serve it with rice and potatoes. I was expecting something spicy from the menu description but the sauce was really mild and creamy. The chicken was melt-in-your-mouth tender and had the texture of pulled pork.
Something that Latin America is famous for are empanadas. Silvestre has two different types of empanadas, baked or fried, and I went with the Spicy Shrimp fried version. The empanada was great and the sauce was flavorful and packed a nice amount of heat. The pastry was neither too greasy or too dense.
Another favorite of the night for me was Seco de Res Confrejoles. Made with stewing beef that is cooked in cilantro, onions, spices, green peas and potatoes, it is then served with rice and beans. Being a cilantro based sauce I was expecting a punch of flavor but I was pleasantly surprised how well-balanced the flavors were. The meat was alright, although I found a couple of the bigger pieces dry. However, for me the star of the plate was the sauce and the peas that still had a nice pop to them when I was eating the dish. The beans and rice were pretty standard, nicely seasoned and cooked properly.
Silvestre Gusto Latino takes a lot of pride in their desserts and it shows in the fantastic selection of homemade gelato and pastries. I tried some Lucuma gelato along with a cookie called Alfajor, filled with Peru’s version of dulce de leche, called manjar blanco. The lucuma is a fibrous plant that can make the gelato taste like pumpkin, but for some people it has flavors of butterscotch – which is what I tasted. The gelato itself was nice and smooth and is something that I would definitely order again. The cookie was just like a traditional shortbread cookie in flavor and texture and filled with a generous amount of manjar blanco. Both desserts were absolutely delicious.
All the dishes I tried at Silvestre Gusto Latino were wonderful and the service was friendly and informative. If you’re looking for some authentic Peruvian home cooking and a great selection of delectable desserts, then Silvestre Gusto Latino should definitely be at the top of your list. For further information, visit their website SilvestreGustoLatino.com, connect with them on Facebook , and follow them on Twitter.
Silvestre Gusto Latino ~ 317 Water St. Vancouver, BC ~ Tel: 604-558-2825 ~