Jane Stern: Norwalk Peruvian restaurant Fiesta Limena delivers a world of flavors

Fiesta Limena

330 Connecticut Ave., Norwalk

Jane Stern

Every professional food writer has a few secret places they do not write about. These are our private eateries, and while we want them to do a thriving business we are scared of them being over run with newbies.

And so from the deep unselfish part of my heart ( rarely visited) I have decided that it was time to tell my readers about one of my covert restaurants.

The place is called Fiesta Limena, and it is a Peruvian eatery. I think it is the best Peruvian place in Fairfield County. The food is first rate, it is well priced, and the atmosphere is casual and happy. I have never eaten here when it was empty. The crowd changes with the time of day or night, sometimes working men, high school students, families, in short the whole panoply of people who know where the good eats are.

If you scan the menu filled with exotic foods you will laugh at me when I tell you I always order the roast chicken. In my defense about twenty years ago I read an article where the top ten chefs New York City were interviewed about the dish that is the true test of a great kitchen. Unanimously the chefs said “roast chicken”. Of course anyone can roast a chicken or buy one at the grocery store, but to make it knee shockingly delicious is not easy.

The official name of the dish I order is Medio Pollo Ala Brasa, and it is half of a rotisserie chicken that is moist on the inside and cooked with the exotic spices of Peru that cling to the crisp skin. The chicken is so exceptional I once ordered it to go (with a side of yellow rice, and a side of yucca frito) and there was nothing left but chicken bones by the time I got home. I could not wait to eat it. To tempt you even more this enormous meal costs $9.95!!! With my take out container filled with chicken bones I wanted to turn around, drive back to the restaurant and get more.

If you crave something more exotic then roast chicken you will be mesmerized by the menu. Peruvian food can be singular but it also occasionally is a hybrid of Peruvian cuisine with the foods of other nations.

Take as an example Chaufa, a very popular Peruvian dish that is a South American version of Chinese fried rice. Choose your protein (I like chicken or beef) and you will get a huge serving. Chaufa is seasoned more boldly then the Chinese version but like this old school favorite it has scallions, egg and enough soy sauce to make it a dark beige.

Another strange nod to China is Tallarines Saltados, a Peruvian take on The Chinese noodle dish Lo Mein. Again you choose the meats or seafood and your Lo Mein will be served with a South American addition of tomatoes, onions and peppers mixed in amongst the shiny noodles.

Leaving international hybrids behind Ceviche is a Peruvian classic. It is Peru’s signature dish. Ceviche is fish that has been marinated in lime juice that “cooks” it from raw to done. Because there is no oil or butter used Cerviche is both healthy and delicious and at Fiesta Limena is served with yucca and toasted corn nuts.

While there a dozen or more terrific entrees on the menu, I often just have an appetizer feast. The reason for this is that appetizers are smaller in size than entrees, you can eat more of them, and often the more exotic dishes are to be found here. One of my favorite appetizers is Papa A La Huancaina, a unique type of Peruvian potato salad which featured boiled potatoes in a mildly spiced cream sauce.

The there is Choclo Con Queso, a slab of fresh cheese served “alongside a cob of giant corn imported from Peru”. Maybe I have seen to many joke postcards of huge corn, potatoes and tomatoes, but the “giant” Peruvian cob was delicious and did not need to be trucked in by a semi, nor served in a mule cart.

A very sophisticated appetizer is Cause Con Pollo, a potato puree molded and served cold, and filled with chicken salad. Who ever sees anything molded these days except for Jell-o. On the flip side of sophisticated is Salchipapa, which sounds exotic but is a “happy” mix of French fries and sliced hot dogs. Even a cranky suspicious seven year old I would have eat it.

Make sure that so matter what your order you get a side of the Peruvian Aji sauce. Pungent and spicy and a lovely shade of green similar to pesto. You could pour Aji sauce it on a shoe and it would be delicious. There are many recipes for aji sauce, and Fiesta has its own. It is available to take home with you, from a modest 2 oz container to a huge 32 oz one. The 32 oz size is $10. Tell me that is not a bargain!

On occasion I have ordered only side dishes and Aji sauce. There is a choice of fried plantains, fried sweet plantains, yucca or yellow rice. Sweet plantains with Aji sauce is this reviewers idea of a perfect meal.