Classy Beer & Peruvian Fare at La Cerveceria

Owning a restaurant in Manhattan is, to say the least, a precarious business. Starting a restaurant off a blank page is a daring venture in such an unpredictable place. After a fairly mind-blowing meal in restauranteur Kyle Saliba’s new specialty beer and tapas bar, I developed a whole new appreciation for daredevils. He explained how La Cerveceria came to be. The bar was born from a combination of timely ideas: Peruvian food is a fresh, hot commodity and beer is generally undervalued. To bring the two together is actually a gift to humanity.

Kyle and his partner, Raymond Azzi, started La Cerveceria to bring together the magical world of beer that has clearly been overlooked (at least in the US) and the intensely rich flavors that Latin food -particularly Peruvian cooking- has to offer. In place of wine pairings, waiters can assist diners in matching dishes like the braised beef short-rib causa(Peruvian potato) and Ecuadorian style ceviche with one (or more) of over ninety beers.

How do people enjoy themselves? They eat, they drink, they talk, and they seek out laughter. La Cerveceria provides it all. Kyle told a couple of stories about occasions where he got the chance to use the downright silly names on the beer menu in conversation with diners. In the case of a “beautiful couple” who came in around the time they first opened, when the lady asked where they should start on the drinks menu, he suggested the Raging Bitch and theDirty Bastard. The result was all around laughter.

When I asked what we should try, Kyle poured us out a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10– “quadruple strong dark ale at 11.3%”. I giggled for the rest of the night as a result of sipping this powerful monastic creation. The match for that dark, sweet, earthy beer were the various items on the menu that include beef- aha. The braised beef with potatoes (or the creamy awesome pureed variety), Argentinian empanadas with beef and pine nuts, and skirt steak skewers, all melded with the dark ale and made for a seriously happy belly experience. The chicken (the skewers and empanadas with minced raisins and tomatoes) was thoroughly moist, tender, and flavor-drenched. In terms of empanadas, the Chilean variety, filled with a special combination of three cheeses, was sweet, savory, and crunchy enough to live for. I kid you not: it actually got even better with the ceviche.

The ceviche was placed down on the table with a little history on the side: “In Ecuador, they cook the fish, because a lot of people died from a bacterial infection in the fish, awhile back.” Peruvians love their traditional ceviche so much that it overpowers any fear of fishy fish diseases. After savoring each kind, I completely understand why they take the risk: it is ridiculously delicious. The Peruvian version is made up of avocado, thin slices of hearts of palm, bite-sized chunks of raw fluke, in a soupy bath of bliss they call leche de tigre. Take a bite and try to stop at one, go on- I dare you.

Then they asked if we wanted dessert and I assured them that whatever else they brought would be much appreciated. To close the meal, the goat cheesecake with lucuma sauce and crushed pistachios and a decadent, melty, downright jiggly masterpiece they call panna cotta (I call it heaven, actually). Where the cheesecake was firm, the panna cotta melted. As I said at the time, the more I describe the dessert, the more inappropriate I will sound, so let’s just say that you can trust in every step of the meal, first to last bite, and with every sip, your humor will overcome the days complexities and squabbles. At La Cerveceria, you can truly lounge, with all of your basic human needs taken care of in the form of your own and shared good company and an absolutely artful menu.

La Cerveceria: 65 Second Avenue, NYC

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