Thursday, November 10, 2005

Nory's # 3 - Lake Forest



Peruvian is the truest form of "melting-pot" cuisine. Throughout its rich and troubled history, Peru has seen an influx of Chinese, Japanese, and European immigrants who have influenced its food. The result is a unique "fusion" of traditional preparation of indigineous ingredients spiced-up with European touches and Asian techniques, brewed and refined through time.

As with the first two Nory's Restaurants in Stanton and Anaheim, Nory's #3 in Lake Forest finally provides us South County residents with proper renditions of the food in a space typical of a good Peruvian joint. Hand-painted murals of Machu Picchu adorn the walls and a TV blares the evening news in Spanish.

And just like any other Peruvian restaurant, warm rolls are served with the requisite chilled plastic squeeze bottles of aji salsa.

The green aji has the dull-green color of jade. It's bracingly herby and garlicky; a smooth puree of the aromatic and pungent. Constrastingly, the orange colored aji harbors a fruitier tang but burns hotter at the back of the throat. Errant rocoto chili pepper seeds sting like darts on the tongue, amping up the sauce's Scoville heat rating.

A liberal squirting of this salsa can make anything palatable. But squeeze on a healthy dollop of the sauce on the preferred delivery device, a torn piece of a lightly toasted roll, and prepare to sweat.

For one of the main entrees we chose the Arroz Chaufa con Pollo, Peruvian fried rice with chicken.



As those who are familiar with Chinese cuisine might have guessed, chaufa is derived from chow fun, which means "fried rice." Along with the name, the Peruvians have adopted the technique and perfected this dish using a blazing hot wok. Originally conceived as a method with which to reinvigorate day-old rice for consumption, just about every culture in Asia has a version. But what sets the Peruvian chaufa apart from any Asian fried rice is the added kick of spices and inclusion of the crusty-brown seared chicken morsels. The springy and well-marinated dark meat pieces transforms what is typically a side dish into a substantial meal.

Bistek a lo Pobre is dubbed "poor man's steak," but even Bill Gates himself would be sated for days after eating this hearty and hefty dish.

It starts with the steak, which has been pounded so mercilessly with a tenderizing mallet that the final product is delicate enough to be torn apart with two bare fingers. The thin, deeply-flavored and spiced slab of beef is seared quickly and served with a sunny-side up egg on top.



What would have been the ultimate Atkins meal is then flanked with a carbohydrate triple-threat.

Underneath the steak and egg lies a base of homemade fries and fried plantains. The potatoes were unfortunately limp and oily. But wait, remember that aji? Slather a good amount of that lip-burning sauce on the fries and "voila," it is saved!

The plantains were perfect by themselves. Its caramelized crust was the fitting compliment to the subtle and starchy banana sweetness of the flesh.

And then there's the spherical mound of rice formed by an upturned bowl. It's not just ordinary rice either. It is cooked with chicken broth and/or coconut milk which makes each grain emote an aromatic flavor and scent.

If you're hankering for Mexican, Chinese, or Italian food and can't decide on which to eat, Peruvian is the cuisine for you. It's the happy bastard child of everything that is good about food in these cultures.

Perhaps ex-president Alberto Fujimori was longing for a taste of it when he was recently arrested in Chile after a half-decade of exile in Japan. If only he'd known that he could've gotten his fix at Nory's in Lake Forest.

Nory's Restaurant
(949) 458-0318
23798 Mercury Rd
Lake Forest, CA 92630

31 Comments:

At 9:28 AM, Blogger MEalCentric said...

Odd, I had been craving good Peruvian lately. I lov ehow no matter what you order at most Peruvian joints, they give you a heap of fries. The fries sure to look limp and greasy though. How does this place compare with Inka Mama or Inka Grill (Always forget which one is which).

But agreed that the green chili sauce makes pretty much everything taste beuno. Oh man, that sauce on a sunny side up egg, you're talking about some divine eats.

Great report

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Kirk said...

Elmo - I've been craving Peruvian as well. Not too much of that going on here in San Diego. I really miss lomo saltado.....

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Mealcentric,

I'd have to say it's a lot better than Inka Grill (I haven't been to Inka Mama). Although you are right about the fries here...really soggy, greasy, and limp. Nothing that aji can't fix!

Kirk,

Lomo Saltado...That's the next dish I'll try at Nory's. It's gotta be good...I hope, I hope.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger hbgrrl said...

I've been craving some good Peruvian too!
This place sounds really good, and if it's even better than Inka Grill, it might be 'the' spot for a lunch when I'm down that way.
It's impressive that you have time to blog, considering that you're probably in the midst of fielding offers from other newspapers to write Haiku reviews. :-)
Yep, saw the OCWeekly column! Glad to see that others can share in the great review....elmo style!

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger MEalCentric said...

Elmo- forget to mention the congrats on the OCWeekly issue. You're humility for not advertising it up is unbelievable!

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

hbgrrl and Mealcentric,

Thanks for your kind words! It was cool to be published in OC Weekly, but even cooler to know that I have loyal readers such as yourselves!

 
At 2:41 AM, Blogger Reid said...

Hi Elmo,

Lucky you have such options there in California. If I only were so lucky. That's why I can't wait to visit LA next year. Thanks for giving me some hope and inspiration for the trip. Everything here looks so good!

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Reid,

Judging by the wonderful eats you've posted on your blogs, I won't be starved for great Asian foods in Hawaii when I make my trip there soon.

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Oh I forgot to credit Gachamai who clued me into the existence of Nory's in Lake Forest. His great review and photos enticed me. Thanks Gachamai.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

Elmo!!!

Wow, I didn't know you were in the OC Weekly! That's so cool dude--congrats!

Great post BTW...the line about Fujimori cracked me up! Funny, it seems like we're ALL craving Peruvian food; FI and I were just talking about it yesterday. Must be something in the air...oh well, I guess we'll be seeing a slew of posts re: Peruvian food in the near future!

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

Elmo,

Great review. Very professional. Can I check out your article for the OC Weekly online? When are you hitting KCRW? You deserve it!!

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

elmo, i'd love to see the OC Weekly article. congrats on that. how does Nory's compare to Maria's Peruvian on Melrose? i know about the green chile sauce. i thought it was guacamole and kept eating and eating and eating it. few hours later, i was hurting haha. nice posting.

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Pam,

Thanks for the congratulations!

That'd be awesome to read more about Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and O.C. We all benefit if we uncover more of them. I only know of three in O.C. that are worth trying (and it does not include Inka Grill).


Eddie,

Thanks! Here's the link to the article. KCRW?! That'd be something! I don't think I'd be anywhere as entertaining on the radio as you or Gustavo Arellano. And I'm definitely not an authoritative source on sushi just yet. Besides, tame old sushi's pretty boring to talk about compared to balut and live squid tentacles. But thanks for the vote of confidence!!!

Dylan,

Click on the link above in my reply to Eddie to see the article. I haven't been to Mario's, but it's been on my growing list of restaurants to try in L.A. I still am wary of driving up there these days. And I hear parking is bad too. But someday...

 
At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Jess said...

Hello. I googled randomly upon your blog and couldn't resist reading the whole page! Keep up the good work so I won't waste $$ on trying out the not-so-great places.

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Jess,

Thanks for visiting! I'll keep plugging away!

 
At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Kirk said...

Hey Elmo - Nice article! Yoso-poetic! Congrads on hitting the big time!

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kirk,

Thanks man!

 
At 7:36 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

i just had peruvian food today at Mario's and ordered the Lomo Saltado (stir fry of beef, tomatoes, onions and fries). Awesome. That green sauce also kicked my @$$. so spicy.

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Dylan,

Aji should be served at every eating establishment. Be it Mexican, Chinese or other wise. It's the miracle sauce.

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous J. the Fiancee said...

Wow, this sounds like something I'm going to have to do on an extra-long lunch break one of these days.

I've driven past the Inka Grill off of Lake Forest a few times, and always wondered if it would be a good stopping point (I'd usually detour into the pho spot next door, though), so now that I'm hearing this one's better, I'm all over it.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

J.,

I went back this past Saturday. And it is confirmed, this is the BEST Peruvian I've had in O.C. The Calamari Frito was greaseless and crisp. The slivers of red onions and tomato dressed in lime juice that came as a side dish to the calamari was perky and perfect!

AND THEY HAD LUCUMA ICE CREAM THIS TIME!

 
At 11:47 AM, Anonymous H2O said...

There's another Nory's Peruvian place in the little 6 store plaza in Stanton at the corner of Cypress/Knott (GoldenWest St). This place is so packed and have really good chicken soup (with chicken bone) if you're recovering from a hangover or cold.

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger uninvitedsaint said...

I love Nory's- I make my parents get some every time I am down for a visit. Try the papas a la huancaina, tallerin saltado, ceviche de pescado, and of course the ubiquitous chupe de camarones.

 
At 1:51 PM, Anonymous SDPeruvian said...

Nory's is leaps and bounds better than all the other chains hands down. The food actually tastes authentic. Try the lomo saltado, ceviche mixto, tallarin saltado de mariscos, papa rellena, everything is absolutely delicious!!! I've been missing the food since our move to SD. I will be back for more soon!

 
At 6:21 PM, Anonymous BabbyDaddy said...

Elmo,
Thanks once again for turning me on to something out of the ordinary. As you know, these things are hard to come by in South OC, and I have been turning to your blog before I hit the streets. I tried Nory's tonight and kept it safe on my first visit. I started with the Peruvian Tamale, and it was muy bueno! I too went for the Arroz Chaufa con Pollo, and it wasn't disappointing. I also got a 1/4 rotisserie chicken and it was moist and flavorful. The chicken came with those soggy fries which you can pretty much get at any burger joint. The bread was a nice surprise for munching on the way home with the order. And you were spot on with the aji salsa. Very refreshing, but with a kick. I can't wait to be a bit more adventurous on my next visit and try something else. Thanks again!

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

BabbyDaddy,

I'm glad you liked it! I haven't been in a while myself. I think it's time to make a return trip. Other favorites are the fried calamari, which is fried squid done Peruvian style, with some thinly sliced red onion dressed in vinegar. Yum!

 
At 2:28 PM, Anonymous r w said...

You should try Misti's in Anaheim. They have anticuchos, really good. I had been going to Nory's in anaheim for the past 10 years but the last time I went the ceviche de pescado had a worm in it. The owner said that happens alot with fish and he didnt charge me for the plate but it is something you really dont want to experience.

Misti's has almost all the same plates and they are all good.

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Excellent! Misti's! Thanks for the tip!

 
At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

elmo,

don't know where to start, but it has been an adventure for us to have stumbled upon your posts on chowhound. your pictures and decriptions are in a league of their own.

first we checked out shibucho. i had reverse sticker shock when the tab for 4 of us for our omakase dinner in front of shibutani-san ran about $35 each.

then nory's. absolutely worth the 30+ mile drive from chino hills. THANK YOU! i'll be firing zagat soon.

we had the fish ceviche, paella, seafood suldado, fried fish, and the dessert with the caramel filling. none of the peruvian places we've been to comes close...

signed, a family of foodies. (yes -my 8-yr old eats uni, and loves seared foie.)

 
At 5:21 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks for writing in! Always happy to know when people find me. But I'm even happier to know when they liked my tips on eateries.

Sushi Shibucho is one of my faves, and so is Nory's. Glad you found it worth driving from Chino Hills! That's a long way. I know. I used to live there, near Soquel Canyon!

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Peruvian food. I heard there is a new store coming up on the internet where we can buy Peruvian food related products in USA
www.PeruSuperMarket.com Lets see!

 

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