The Valley Gets its First Peruvian Eatery, Los Balcones, in Studio City
Experiential dining at its best.
CategoryEat & Drink
Written byJoshua Lurie
The Valley has seen a record crop of new restaurants in recent years, but nothing like the new Peruvian eatery Los Balcones. As visitors to Peru will attest, the country is a glorious place to eat creative ceviche preparations and explore more varieties of potatoes and corn than previously thought possible. Peruvian cuisine is also a melting pot, combining indigenous and Spanish influences with proud traditions from Chinese and Japanese communities. When those flavors meld in skilled hands, as they do at Los Balcones, the result is a heightened and thoroughly hearty culinary experience.
The restaurant, owned by the Rodriguez family, replaced Girasol in Tujunga Village. The family has run another Los Balcones outpost in Hollywood for the past 14 years. For the new location, Jorge Rodriguez turned to celebrated compatriot Ricardo Zarate, a 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” to craft the menu. Ricardo previously steered popular LA Peruvian restaurants Mo-Chica and Picca.
With eager anticipation I began my meal with ceviche frito—striped bass prepared two ways: in crudo blanketed with piquant rocoto leche de tigre (chile-spiked “tiger’s milk”) and as deep-fried, panko crusted nuggets, alongside caramelized sweet potato and salad of shaved celery, red onions, cilantro and crunchy cancha (toasted corn).
For this multi-faceted fish dish, sommelier Sarah Jones poured an effervescent 2017 Hondarrabi Zuri txakolina from northern Spain, that’s built to drink young and bright. Los Balcones’ wine list only includes organic varietals, with half of the bottles made by female winemakers.
Next I tried aguadito de choritos: plump steamed New Zealand, green-lipped mussels atop a fragrant bed of cilantro rice and in a shallow pool of sudado (“sweated”) tomato. A thicker, spicier tomato sauce, blended with mussel jus, added to the dish’s depth.
Pairing against type Sarah chose a light-bodied 2016 Se Martino “Gallardia” red wine, featuring 100% Cinsault grapes from Chile’s Itata Valley.
My main entrée was seco de pato, duck prepared two ways. A crispy duck leg joined two thick slices of perfectly pink, roasted breast, sporting fatty skins. Accompaniments to this hearty dish included earthy cannellini beans, cilantro salsa verde, rich pancetta huancaina feta sauce and another tangy lettuce-free salad.
With this course Sarah suggested a 2017 Aplanta Tinto, an Alicante Bouschet blend from Alentejo, Portugal. It turned out to be a rich, round-bodied red that was light on tannins and a good match for gamier meat.
For dessert I enjoyed lucuma budino, a fluffy pudding crafted from an Andean stone fruit, with earthy sweetness. It is served in a glass topped with a rather ethereal Chantilly cream and feuilletine (crushed, crispy crepes) sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.
Interesting cocktail options include a frothy Pisco sour, shaken with Peru’s signature grape spirit, lime juice and egg white. Vivid yellow Fire of Peru combines smoky mezcal, aji amarillo puree, passion fruit, lemon and lime juices, spicy house-made aji limon bitters and a blood orange ice cube that melts to unlock more flavor.
The previous, sophisticated Girasol interiors were kept intact, making for an upscale dining room that’s right in step with the ambitious kitchen.
11334 Moorpark St., Studio City | 818-924-2323 | losbalconesstudiocity.com