Panca92 Seventh Avenue South New York, NY 10014 212-488-3900
It has been feeling more like September rather than July in NYC lately and I am certainly not complaining. Thursday evening was clear & cool and it seemed as if everyone took to the streets to enjoy themselves before the weekend officially started.
The shops and restaurants lining the streets of the West Village came alive with music and people buzzing inside and out. People sat on benches in the corner park enjoying ice cream cones & gelato from Grom & L’Arte del Gelato as the pianist played to the backup sounds of the water fountain in the center.
It is nights like these when you truly appreciate and marvel at the wonderful city that is New York.
Being lucky enough to leave work at a reasonable hour, we decided there was no better way to celebrate than to have dinner outside and watch all of the activity surrounding us. Numerous times we have passed by the Peruvian restaurant Panca and we knew it offered outside seating. So within moments of asking “Where should we go to eat?”, we were headed in that direction.
Panca offers Peruvian dishes and although there are many tapas & appetizers options, Peruvian entrees are also available.
When we were seated, our waitress placed before us a large bowl of roasted & salted corn nuts. I believe this batch may have been overcooked as they tasted a little like burnt popcorn, but I was hungry and enjoy anything with salt and crunch so I had a few to start off with.
Roasted Corn Nuts
Now it was time for some drinks to toast the wonderful evening before us. I debated getting the traditional Peruvian drink, the pisco sour, but instead my friend ordered it and I sneaked a few sips. I have to admit, I was nervous about egg whites in a drink but this turned out to be delicious! Very refreshing, although a bit sweet, it vaguely reminded me of a margarita. I, on the other hand, ordered Panca’s sangria. Now, typically I enjoy receiving some of the fruit in my sangria glass and was sad to see this was not how they serve it at Panca. My disappointment quickly turned to delight, however, when I took a sip and realized how good their sangria is. My new theory is that fruit in your sangria just means you are getting less of it 😉
Now that the drinks portion of the evening was underway it was time to decide what we were going to eat. The menu at Panca is broken up into four sections and features selections of Cebiches, Tiraditos (Peru’s interpretation of sashimi & cebiche combined), Appetizers and Entrees.
In order to try a few different items, we decided that we would stick to the tapas & appetizer dishes and come back again to enjoy the entrees.
We chose Panca’s chef’s signature cebiche, Cebiche 5 Elementos. The menu stated that it included fresh fish of the day, red onion, key limes, hot pepper and hawaiin pink sea salt, however, when it came to the table we noticed it came with a few additions such as a slice of yam & hominy.
Cebiche 5 Elementos
The cebiche was good although it lacked any heat which would have been a nice contrast to the acid from the limes. I could not determine what the fish used was but it was very fresh, sweet and mild. The hominy, in my mind was the star of the dish. It was slightly tough on the outside but once you bit into it, the inside was creamy and soaked up all of the flavors in the cebiche.
The only dish we ordered that was served warm was the Yuquita Frites, fried yuka sticks which were served with a bright green pepper sauce. Delicious! The “fries” were salty and crunchy and the pepper sauce had a touch of garlic which made the whole dish burst with flavor.
The biggest success of the evening, however, was the Causa Marina en Trio. The dish consisted of pureed Peruvian yellow potato dough stuffed with three different seafood mixtures & a slice of avocado. The first mixture was crab meat which was sweet, juicy and was given a slight crunch with diced pepper. Up next was the shrimp mixture which was also quite tasty. The far superior stuffing, though, was olive marinated octopus. The chopped mixture was briny with hints of smokiness perhaps added by finely diced sausage or ham. The plate was served with an aji sauce which was also delicious.
Causa Marina en Trio
About halfway through the meal my friend decided to switch from the Pisco sour to a Peruvian beer. The beer was light and he likened it to our Budweiser but hey, when in Rome.
Overall the meal was fabulous. As most of our dishes are supposed to be served chilled, Peruvian food seems like it would be a great choice for a hot, steamy summer night…that’s if Mother Nature ever remembers what month it actually is.