June 23rd, 2010 | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Raw Deals

Peruvian Limo tantalizes with tradition, but is fishy on fusion.

     
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THE PERUVIAN POT ROAST: Limo’s seco, served with asparagus and mashed potatoes.
IMAGE: chrisryanphoto.com

With Portland’s hunger for Peruvian food growing ever bigger, Limo could become a favorite among foodies who like their raw fish limey, checks manageable and ambience homey. But first, it needs to overcome an identity crisis.

Located in the building off Northwest 23rd Place that once housed Cameo Cafe, Limo’s digs—an old house with offices upstairs—is the size of an upscale coffee shop. The place is tiny and candlelit, offering a cozy dining experience enhanced by a sprawling patio. Eating at Limo feels like attending an dinner party staffed by friendly servers who know their wine pairings and ingredients and what to recommend to less-than-adventurous eaters whose experience with raw seafood ends at the sushi bar.

The cuisine, on the other hand, can stumble on its ambitions to move beyond the traditional realm. Sometimes it works brilliantly, with a piqueos (tapas) menu offering delights like eggplant or beef skewers, tequeños ($8)—crisp, wonton-wrapped mozzarella served with a huancaína (spicy cheese) sauce—and a globe-spanning lineup of ceviches. But no amount of Asian-fusion tricks with soy sauce and garlic can disguise the bland shrimp in the camarones al ajo ($9).

Any Peruvian joint worth its peppers needs to nail ceviche, and Limo’s is dynamite. The classic ceviche ($12) has a spot-on citric tang, with chilled chunks of tilapia swimming in lime and cilantro. Unfortunately, some entrees don’t have the same classical South American flair their descriptions promise. The enticing seco ($19)—braised lamb, served atop a mound of mashed potatoes and dripping with aji mirasol, garlic and spices—is tender and delicious, but it tastes more like a finely crafted pot roast than a Sudamericano delicacy. And on our last visit the accompanying asparagus portion was downright skimpy—two little sprigs arranged artfully.

Perhaps these dishes will evolve as Limo matures. Until then, you might want to plan your first visit to coincide with the excellent daily happy hour (5 to 6:30 pm Monday through Saturday, all day Sunday), which affords the opportunity to sample more of those great traditional eats and take a chance on the fusion plates for less.

  • Order this: Limo’s ceviche ($12) has the perfect balance of lime, cilantro and raw-fishiness.

  • Best deal: Hit up the daily happy hour for tapas and ceviches at a big discount.

  • I’ll pass: The camarones al ajo ($9) offers huge pieces of shrimp with surprisingly little flavor.

EAT: Limo, 2340 NW Westover Road, 477-8348, limorestaurant.com. Lunch noon-2 pm Tuesday-Friday; dinner 5-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday; brunch 10 am-3 pm Sunday. $$ Moderate.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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