Thursday, September 23, 2010

Aji Limon - Good Peruvian Cuisine in Cape Coral at Great Prices!

Aji Limón (pronounced ah-hee’ lee-moan') has a solidly good following in Cape Coral, and it’s less than 9 months old.

It was smart decision to open on busy Pine Island Road in the bright yellow strip center that's just west of Goodwill and across the street from bustling Mel’s Diner.

Peruvian cuisine, stands on its own as proudly as French, Chinese or Italian. It is a culinary amalgam forged from these and other cuisines, using the wonderful Peruvian peppers, potatoes and traditional spices in to its own cuisine. Most of the USA is still oblivious to Peruvian cuisine’s charms, however once introduced, it becomes a treasured cuisine to return to. I’ve sampled the cooking from its source, and have had great meals at Peruvian restaurants in the USA. Peruvian chefs do absolute magic with their spicing on meats, fish, shellfish and they excel at ceviches.

Aji limón is priced very reasonably (translate as ‘A steal!”) and has a good variety of foods at family friendly prices, perfect for dining in or take out.

Park in front and walk in. You are quickly greeted by a friendly server. Above and to the side are billboard menus with attractive photographs of the food that describe the ingredients.
There’s a nice seaside mural and brick counter. Many dishes have fried rice, which is made in an iron wok, as is much of the cuisine-Chinese style Seafood, beef, chicken and pork dishes. Nearly all served with rice, portions are generous, and nearly all are priced $9-11. A classic appetizer is the papa a la huancaina ($5.25), sliced potatoes in a rich yellow pepper and cheese sauce- sort of a potato salad.
 If a place makes a good huancaina sauce, or ceviche, you can be sure everything else is good! They also have it made with yuca, a tasty starchy root, for 5.50. There’s various grilled steaks or grilled pork (1/2 lb for $9), and a geat bargain is the half chicken with two sides for only $6.75.  Below is the smaller dark meat chicken.
Rich chowders or stews, called chaufa are a specialty. Try the seafood with rice ($11), beef, pork or chicken, all $9. Pescado a la macho, or fish with seafood sauce (11) is a classic dish, as is lomo saltado (stir fried/ sautéed beef) which is traditionally served with French fries. Other classics are aji de gallina ($7), salchipapas (5), and garlic fish with shrimp (11.25). A popular ish is the ¼ chicken, rice and beans for $3.9, served 11 am to 4 pm , M-F.

Sides are in regular ($1.75 -3) or large size, and include my favorite fried yucca, sweet plantains, tostones, beans, rice, fried sweet potatoes, salad and garlic or onion potatoes. Soups are around $4.50, sandwiches $5, and sodas are only $1.25, with $0.50 reefils. Try a chicha morada, the classic purple corn juice! There’s domestic beer for $2, and also Pilsen, Cristal, Cuzquena, Corona and Henieken beers for just $2.75. I can come here for just the best beer prices in town! Wine is $3.75 small, and $12 for a large bottle.
Ceviches include shrimp ($11), fish (10), and mixed seafood (10.50)

I started my meal with the $10.50 seafood ceviche and got a large portion of various tender fish, calamari, shrimp, octopus, two large New Zealand Green mussels and red onions. It comes with a small salad, characteristic large toasted, salted corn kernels called cancha serrana.
 It’s a more than filling portion for a hungry man or woman, and is a very good example of Peruvian ceviche. Tigers milk (leche de tigre) is the wonderful tart lime juice remaining after the seafood is removed, and it is available in small cups, as are several different sauces.

My lomo saltado ($9.95) is stir fried in a wok before your eyes-if you come up to the counter, and peek into the kitchen. It’s a show to see!
 Lomo saltado has onions, steak and a generous portion of French fries, which are traditionally mixed in with the sauce of tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar and aji amarillo peppers. Have it your way! The mound of rice is also generous.
This combo is as traditionally Peruvian as a hamburger or jambalaya in parts of the USA. Their steak and onions are tender, seasoning is spot on, and the price, under $10 is a very good deal.

There’s also family sized specialties to feed 4- 8 members inexpensively-I figure it is $5 for a large plateful of chicken, grilled steak, grilled pork, rice, beans and fries. At the counter are free samples of different sauces or salsas to try: hot (looks like a rocoto chili), huacatay (“ 'wah-kah-tie' “ a mint-basil tasting herb), a pale green garlic and others.
Desserts are a high point of a Latin meal, and there’s a good half dozen that includes, cheesecake, caramel cookies, Flan, rice pudding, tres leches, torta de chocolate, and pionono carmel rolls-ranging from $1.50 to $3. You can’t touch those prices in Naple$!

Aji Límon’s food is a solid example of Peruvian cuisine at wonderfully inexpensive prices for the quality. It is not gourmet quality Peruvian as at Naples Inca’s Kitchen, however the price points are quite reasonable at each spot. The only thing I missed was Peru’s national drink, the pisco sour, a white grape brandy. They don’t have full liquor license. Aji Límon appears as if this can be readily groomed in to a popular chain, like the Cuban Pollo Tropical. The setting is simple perfect for lunch or dinner, but not the place to impress a first date, unless it’s for a Peruvian food lover! I live in Naples, so it’s perfect for take out when I’m in the area.

It’s open 7 days a week, 11 am to 10 pm., at 1480 NE Pine Island Road, Cape Coral, phone 424-8216

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