Authentic Andean

Josefa Ortega Zeuallos of Lima, Peru cooks a Peruvian concoction as Gladys Sanchez watches behind her.

Josefa Ortega Zeuallos of Lima, Peru cooks a Peruvian concoction as Gladys Sanchez watches behind her.

Photo By David Robert

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2258 Oddie Blvd.
Sparks, NV 89431

The newly opened Machu-Picchu is, as far as I know, the only Peruvian restaurant in town. It’s named after the world-famous “lost” Incan city perched high in the Andes mountains, probably the single Peruvian landmark the average gringo can name.

The restaurant is on Oddie Boulevard, in what used to be Cozy’s. Upon entering, I noticed some funky odors that were initially off-putting, until I ate some of the food. Then the cooking smells made total sense and were suddenly completely appetizing.

My girlfriend, Sara, our friend Paul and I started with the papas a la huancaina ($5.50), an appetizer of sliced potatoes bathing in a traditional cheese sauce. It was good, though slightly reminiscent of french fries covered in nacho cheese. Not necessarily a bad thing, though I did drip cheese sauce all over my shirt.

For the mains, I had the bistec a lo pobre ($11.95), a thin steak served with rice, fries, fried plantains and eggs. Plantains, you’ll no doubt recall, are sort of like bananas. So imagine this bite of food: rice, potato, egg, banana and steak. Now imagine that most of those things are fried. Kind of makes you feel fat just thinking about it, doesn’t it? But if that sounds good to you (and it should), then definitely visit Machu-Picchu.

I also sampled the appetizer anticuchos ($7.95), grilled cow heart marinated in garlic, vinegar and Peruvian chili spices. I was hoping I would be served a heart-shaped and, if possible, still beating hunk o’ blood. But it was lean pieces of tender and slightly slippery meat served on skewers. Tasty stuff though, not exactly spicy, but sort of pleasantly pungent.

Paul had the lomo saltado ($10.50), strips of marinated beef, fried potatoes and vegetables served over rice. You might’ve noticed the carb-heavy trend. Apparently, every Peruvian meal includes a huge pile of rice and a huge pile of potatoes.

Sara had the milanesa de pollo ($9.95), a breaded piece of chicken, served with salad and the obligatory huge pile of rice and fries. She was excited that the salad included avocado. Why do all women love avocado? Did you know that the word “avocado” is derived from an Aztec word meaning “testicle"? Is there a connection? Probably not.

After sampling the chicken, I declared that it tasted like chicken fried steak. Sara responded, “Yeah, except that it’s not steak.” So … I explained … of course I meant chicken fried steak … without the steak.

It is a little overpriced, especially in the beverage department—beers are five bucks apiece. And the ambience is nondescript: Besides a picture or two of the namesake landmark, there’s nothing memorable about the interior. However, they were playing some rad music that sounded like South American soul bands covering classic rock tunes. Our waiter was like 12-years-old and stumbled a bit with English but was very friendly.

I get the sense that Machu-Picchu offers just the tip of the iceberg of what Peruvian cuisine is capable. The food is a little monochromatic. But it’s nice to get acclimatized to these simple high-altitude flavors. I guess you’ve got to learn the basics before you can handle complexity. For the time being, Machu-Picchu gets a thumbs up. It’s a welcomed new option.