Ceviche en Crema de Aji Amarillo, Pargo Rojo, Orange Flan
Occupation: Public Relations
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Limón
Reviewed Limón: Friday, October 14, 2005
From the in minute you walk into Limón, you know that you are in a nice yet unpretentious restaurant. The hostess greets you with a smile and seats you promptly. This place is usually happening, and even the bar is full of patrons, as walk-ins are very common. Because of its prime location on 16th and Valencia (right in the mix of all the cool bars and restaurants), it’s very conducive to getting walk-ins, as people peer through the windows and they see the delicious plates of food tempting them to come inside.
Our server was very knowledgeable and friendly. I really like it when I can talk to my server and feel very comfortable with him and be able to ask him questions about the menu and know that he’s going to give me an honest answer. Because I’ve been to Limón several times before, I have a certain level of expectation, which they always seem to meet or exceed every time I go.
The food is really the main thing that keeps bringing me back. We started with an order of the calameres fritos, which came out perfectly golden and delicious. The chipotle aiolo sauce that was drizzled on was just the right amount of heat and complemented the dish very well. It was a good portion, and we even had leftovers to take back with us (very uncommon at a nice restaurant).
Next, my main course arrived. I ordered the deep-fried red snapper, which is presented in the most creative way you could ever imagine. They remove the meat from the bone in small cubes and fry them separately. Then they take the whole bone and fry it. They replace the cubes back on the bone, which is in this “U” shape that holds the fish meat in place. This is so great, because you don’t have to work at getting the meat out like you usually do when you order a whole fish on the bone. The fish was so flavorful, and it came with two sauces that were the perfect complement to those golden delicious nuggets. One was a rocoto (a hot bell pepper from South America) curry sauce, and the other was this light and sweet sauce that was drizzled next to the fish. It also came with a side of coconut fried rice with almonds that was to die for! It was stir-fried and it perfectly complemented the fish with all the right flavors blending together in your mouth. There was also a little side of baby spinach for some color and a veggie to complete the dish. I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite dishes EVER! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
We really didn’t have room for dessert, but the orange flan sounded really good, so we got it. It ended up being just the right thing because it was so light and refreshing. The fresh orange slices really rounded out the flan with the scoop of house-made dulce de leche ice cream.
We left very satisfied and happy. I always have a great dining experience at Limón. Whenever we have guests in town, we bring them there because of the restaurant’s great take on food, the excellent service, the great location (and it’s close to our house), the presentation of the food, and just because it’s an overall fun dining experience.
Occupation: Film Festival Director
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Viks Chaat Corner
Reviewed Limón: Thursday, October 13, 2005
I have enjoyed the bold food and energetic atmosphere at Limón since it opened in its original tiny location on 17th Street, and was relieved when, upon moving to their much larger and spiffier new digs around the corner on Valencia, they showed they were still as interested in terrific Nuevo Latino cooking as they were in attracting the Valencia corridor hipsters. So, it was a treat to return this month to celebrate my birthday with some of their signature dishes, as well as try some that were completely new to me. Since there is no full bar, pre-dinner libations are limited to wine, beer, sake, and sangria, but a birthday request for something fun produced a brilliant green sake-based mojito prepared, as requested, on the tangy rather than sweet side.
The ceviches at Limon have become a house signature for being loaded with plump, freshly-marinated chunks of seafood and the occasional yam, but the ceviche in crema was a revelation. The notion of coating seriously acidic marinated fish in a dairy-based sauce made me suspicious (curdling anyone?), but I am now a convert to this style of ceviche. Served cold, the sauce is actually a thin and refreshing pool made from cultured cream (à la crème fraîche), which nonetheless retains a powerful kick from red and yellow Peruvian chili peppers. It adds a fascinating dimension to the always succulent marinated fish and seafood that are mounded in the center.
Another appetizer we tried suffered simply from being too rich — a scallop and foie gras combination on a pool of mashed yucca. We could have stopped after one bite. In fact, we were glad to have ordered only one main course to split between the two of us, since the two appetizers (and the addictive brown bread that carried a hint of salt and molasses) were practically a meal. The menu has quite a few seafood selections, including a magnificent-looking whole red snapper fried into a basket shape, but there are also a reasonable number of meat and poultry preparations. Vegetarians who don’t eat fish will not have it easy. We settled on the classic picante de mariscos, which contains sautéed seafood in a delicate cream sauce that bore a little too much resemblance to our crème ceviche than we hoped for.
The other revelation here was dessert. A seasonal special this fall was a spectacular poached quince, which was hollowed out and filled with a slightly sweetened walnut cream and sitting on a pool of cinnamon and clove-scented cranberry coulis. A little crunchy twist of phyllo was perched atop the quince, giving some textural surprise. The combination of flavors may seem too complex, but the delicate perfume of the quince remained at the forefront. Because it was my birthday I couldn’t forego the remarkable flan, which is served these days fragrant with orange in a thin caramel sauce spiked with Pisco, the national brandy of Peru. The only thing missing was the birthday candle.
Though the scene is high-energy, and the feel of the place is casual-chic, the service throughout the meal was extremely attentive. Napkins are refolded if you leave your seat; water is constantly replenished. Little tastes of wine were offered when we couldn’t decide on which variety to try. Even long after our cappuccinos and dessert were gone, and the staff was cleaning up, no one hurried us out the door. This may run counter to the prevailing mode in San Francisco’s New Bohemia, but Limón treats you well. Sure, some diners may feel a little too old and square for the crowd, but I turned a year older during my meal and I never felt better.
Occupation: Corporate Finance
Location: San Anselmo
Favorite Restaurant: Insalata’s Restaurant
Reviewed Limón: Monday, October 17, 2005
Limón serves Peruvian cuisine and what they call, Nuevo Latino Fusion, and I loved it. Located in the Mission on Valencia and 16th, the restaurant was small but pleasantly decorated with walls of lime green. I went at lunchtime and there were tables available; no waiting.
I was excited to try this Nuevo Latino Fusion. Having worked in Mexico in the mid-90s, I learned that Latin food is not all tacos and burritos and chimichangas. While in Mexico, I was introduced to what I refer to as Haute Latin Cuisine, including such delicacies as crepas de huitlacoche (a crêpe made with a fungus that grows on corn), so I am always on the lookout for interesting places like Limón for a taste of something familiar yet different, and Limón certainly fit the bill.
While the restaurant was not full, and therefore fairly quiet, I could see how it might not be the quietest place to enjoy a meal in the evening, when I hear it is difficult to just walk in for a meal. All the same, I could see how the place, when full, could be a fun place “to see and be seen.”
The staff was friendly and courteous and seated me immediately. I ordered Chicharron de Pollo as an appetizer and the Lomo Saltado as the main dish with some Cusqueña beer to wash it all down, and everything was delicious.
The Chicarron de Pollo was a dish of marinated and fried chicken pieces served with salsa criolla and lemon vinaigrette. While the chicken was tasty, it was a bit dry and somewhat too salty for my taste. The salsa vinaigrette was delicious and spicy. I felt the sweat beading up on my nose within seconds, which, to me, is the sign of an adequately spiced dish.
The Lomo Saltado was superb, served with onions, large juicy tomatoes, French fries, and white rice. Cooked to perfection, I savored every bite.
The Cusqueña beer was also delicious. As it was the middle of a very warm fall day, the beer by itself was refreshing. The lager, when had in conjunction with the Chicharron and the Lomo Saltado, was perfect.
Portions were more than adequate, and the pricing was on target. I felt this establishment provided great value for the money.
I really enjoyed my meal and would recommend this restaurant to anyone who asked. I will definitely return as I feel I have found a unique new place to eat in San Francisco. Even though I was there during the day, I could tell this would be a great place at dinner time and I am looking forward to returning. I am especially looking forward to trying their Chuleton Carlitos (a 12-ounce pork chop served over a sautéed bacon-cabbage-potato hash and a mushroom ragout). The wine list also looked inviting.