Gordo’s Peruvian Restaurant: A Review

Story G. E. Light

P
eruvian cuisine, only recently emerged on the world stage, dates back to at least the Incan Empire in the 13th century. It specializes in seafood, given its Pacific coast, and the primary dish is the classic ceviche: simple fresh seafood “cooked” by the acids in a citrus marinade (a great entry point to sushi for anybody truly afraid of raw fish). The rest of the cuisine mixes local ingredients and dishes with the immigrant cuisine of Spain, China, Japan, West Africa and Italy. Expect a lot of three basic staples: corn, potatoes and beans, along with chicken, red meat, rice, quinoa, kiwicha (or amaranth), yucca, plantains and local chili peppers.

Starkville, though still lacking a Thai or Indian place, or even what the Brits call a Curry shop (surely some international entrepreneur could make a killing opening such places — hint, hint), is lucky enough to have that far rarer beast, a proper Peruvian restaurant in the form of Gordo’s Rotisserie Chicken located on Old Highway 82. Yes, the exterior is pretty plain at this simple sit-down restaurant, but they’ve redone the front “room” to look a bit like a patio outside a hacienda — except maybe for the table numbers in black reflective tape on the wall. Plus they have a beautiful flat-screen TV perfect for catching futbol on Univision.

For a recent lunch, I tried a classic combo: the spicy version of aji de gallina with a side of plantanitos and iced tea. The aji is a dish of shredded pieces of chicken breast in a creamy yellow pepper sauce mix with peanuts. It’s served with rice, slices of boiled potato, eggs, Peruvian olives and a leaf of lettuce. If anything, the dish was slightly under-spiced, but then I’m a taste fiend. Plantanitos are essentially plantain (a member of the banana family which is slightly more fibrous and definitely sweeter) slices that are roasted or fried á la hash rounds.

You’ll be hard pressed not find something interesting and new on the menu, from the pescado ceviche de macho (a hot and spicy take on the classic preparation) to seco de carne (a traditional Peruvian beef stew simmered in a coriander based sauce) to lomito saltado (sautéed marinated beef strips, red onions and tomatoes over fries and an extremely popular classic in Peru itself). As suggested earlier, don’t be scared off by words like “spicy” or “hot.” The cuisine simply doesn’t do the overpowering stuff a la India and, say, vindaloo.

The service, while excellent in attention to detail, can be a bit slow and/or frantic, as occasionally every table in the joint is served by a single waiter. Someday you must visit the wonders of Peru: Cuzco, Macchu Pichu and the Sacred City of Caral, but for now a quick bite at Gordo’s will have to suffice. As Andres Cantor would definitely say, Gordo’s scores a “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!”
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