Culantro Peruvian Cookery 47 King William Street
One amazing aspect of the city I have found is that if there’s a gap in the market, something the city does not have, someone will come along and give it a shot. This could anything from music to food – there is a fearless energy where people are getting out there, starting up new businesses, and getting into the community.
Cue the newest addition – Peruvian cuisine!
This is a type of dish I had not tried before and I heard great things right from the restaurant’s opening in January. I received a kind email from them and they gave me a bit of background on their restaurant, where everything is made from scratch, in-house. Chef and co-owner Juan Castillo has experience working in top San Francisco kitchens before he settled in Hamilton in 2008 (Juan’s wife is from the city). I also learned his family owns the Limon Rotisserie restaurants, which they say are a San Francisco institution.
Culantro is a small space, but fresh and inviting, with subtle touches of purple. Their bright logo and posters of food are up on the walls. I was joined for lunch by my friend Luisa and we were excited to give it a try. Luisa, being fluent in Spanish, was able to strike up some conversation with Juan, who was very kind and warm.
It’s a small menu as of now, so it was easier to narrow in on what we wanted. We each chose two empanadas with a side. I went with the Quinoa and Pollo (Chicken), and Luisa went Pollo and Carne (Beef). I think the Pollo was my favourite – the pastry was stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, peppers, and corn. Delicious! We had to sauces to dip them in. The mild Aji Amarillo Mayo was my favourite, made from Peruvian yellow pepper, but I even enjoyed the spicy one, and I’m not big on spicy.
I’m late to the party with the superfood that is quinoa. I only tried it for the first time recently and have begun testing out new recipes with the grain – and I love it. So I enjoyed the Quinoa-stuffed empanada too. For a side, Luisa went with the Quinoa Salad. Having quinoa already in my empanada, I went with Sweet Potatoes Fries, which were so tasty.
We also sampled a homemade juice, the Chicha Morada, which was a blend of boiled purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves, and lime. It was unlike any drink I’ve ever had and I quite liked it. Culantro’s blog offers up an informative look at some ingredients they use (turns out purple corn is a super superfood!).
After lunch, as full as Luisa and I were, it wasn’t long before we were texting each other saying that we wanted to go back for more. Then I giggled, remembering Seema’s post about Culantro on This Must Be The Place, where she fantasized about a sleeping on a pillow of empanadas. Not a bad idea!