One of the best reasons to visit Wilmington for dinner these days? A surprise trip to Peru. Juliana's Kitchen, a cozy two-year-old bistro at the edge of Little Italy, is one of the best examples of authentic Peruvian cuisine one can find in this region, thanks to chef-owner Juliana Jimenez, whose husband and partner, Edwin, is the charming maitre d'.
We enjoyed all the traditional specialties Jimenez learned from her mother growing up in Chibcha, south of Lima, from the toasted cancha corn snacks, to the tangy seafood ceviche, the banana-leaf tamale studded with tender pork, and the arroz con pollo turned emerald with cilantro.
Our favorite, though, was a breaded sirloin (bistec apanado) served with "tacu-tacu," a traditional dish descended from colonial Peru's African slaves, a pan-crisped cake of refried beans and rice, and sofrito scented with cumin and aji amarillo chile. Wash it down with colorful chicha morada, a sweet and earthy drink brewed from purple corn and pineapple, and this South American journey will truly be complete. And likely soon to be repeated.
- Craig LaBan
Bistec apanado con tacu-tacu, $14.99, Juliana's Kitchen, 1828 West 11th St., Wilmington, 302-888-1828; www.julianaskitchen.net