Lima Taverna is a family-owned Peruvian restaurant that opened last year; it breaks free from the humdrum of nearby Collin Creek mall, adding spice in all the right places. Even the name on the restaurant’s exterior signage catches the eye, exploding onto the clear sky in a flaming orange.
On Saturday nights, owner Eliseo Figueroa clears space in the center of the restaurant for a dance floor, playing live upbeat Peruvian music and allowing people, if so inclined, to kick off their shoes and dance in total bliss, as others follow with the same spirit. It’s the same passion that drives Eliseo to run his restaurant. “We don’t have customers here; we have guests,” Eliseo says, and he chats with all his guests openly, jovially, like he’s known them all his life.
Eliseo arrived in Plano just last year, but spent 15 years in Washington D.C., invested in the food industry. Growing up, food as a career never crossed his mind, even though his mom had a small cafeteria in a university nearby. In Peru, he worked as a physical education teacher, after note-worthy experiences as a soccer player.
Still, his culture is something he learned to take pride in. Ask Eliseo what he likes most about that culture, and he’ll say with a smile, matter-of-fact, “I like everything. I am Peruvian.” When he talks about his homeland or food, it isn’t nostalgic, drawn-out, or coming from a land far away; it’s tangible – so tangible that any non-Peruvian could feel connected to Peru, if only for that hour at Lima Taverna.
“Our food brings memories back,” Eliseo says, but it’s more than that. It’s the impressive blend of food, culture and hospitality that separates Lima Taverna from other restaurants – the sense of belonging and inclusiveness it inspires for everyone.
According to Eliseo, the two most famous Peruvian dishes that define a restaurant are the ceviche and the Lomo Saltado. Eliseo’s 14-year-old son, Sebastian, for example, has been eating ceviche since he was nine months old. “He’s 100 percent Peruvian,” Eliseo says, laughing.
Peruvian ceviche is shrimp and calamari briefly marinated in lime juice, and served with potatoes (of which there are more than 3,000 kinds in Peru), Peruvian corn (which is toasted and crispy) and red onions. Eliseo adds more of a kick with garlic and ginger, and encourages guests to try some Peruvian rocoto pepper sauce, which does the trick too. Lomo Saltado is a stir fry dish that combines marinated strips of beef with onions, tomatoes, french fries and other ingredients and is typically served with rice.
Ceviche is often the first Peruvian dish many people try but it’s just the beginning into the culture. Every Peruvian dish is an entryway into trying another unique flavor – one so different from what most Americans feast on daily. Even the Peruvian drink Chicha Morada (“morada” is purple in Spanish) was such a surprising treat, especially on a hot summer day. Eliseo serves the plum-colored drink in a mason jar with mint, and it’s as lush as it looks, but also restorative. The fruit drink, made of purple corn, fresh pineapples and cinnamon sticks, is known in Peru for its health benefits.
The interior of the restaurant has an ancient feel to it with words in Quechua, the official language of Inca, glowing on the ceiling tiles. Diners looking above can sense elements of the universe: the rainbow (Turmanya), the sun (Inti), the moon (Killa), the water (Yaku) and the Earth (Allpa).
Since Macy’s closed in Collin Creek mall, much of the area around it appears to have fallen under a sleeping curse, but Lima Taverna seems to have broken that spell – at least within the bounds of Eliseo’s charming mom-and-pop restaurant. Stop by and let traditional Peruvian food and Eliseo’s hospitality lift your spirits.Lima Taverna >