On Friday, November 18, my wife and I journeyed South of the border to one of the top Hispanic restaurants in the greater Cincinnati area. Located in an unassuming strip mall in Florence, KY, Lima Limon offers authentic Peruvian cuisine, quite a rare find for the Queen City. Boasting an expansive menu with unique eats, vibrant flavors and delicious drinks, this casual diner has the power to draw even seasoned city-dwellers like us out to the suburbs for an excellent meal.
As we perused the menu and contemplated our choices for the evening, my wife and I enjoyed the folk tunes of South American pan flute music and two glasses of chicha morada. Tasting like a mix between plum, pear and blackberry, chicha morada is a classic Andean drink made from purple corn and cloves. Slightly sweet, dark, fruity and refreshingly light, this addictive beverage makes a perfect accompaniment to a traditional Peruvian meal.
For an appetizer, we decided to indulge in our usual favorite, antichucos mixto. Unlike typical antichucos – which only includes grilled beef heart – the mixed plate also features tripe. Covered in a tangy chili oil, these organ meats were exceptionally well-cooked and full of flavor. Though both heart and tripe have a tendency to become tough and chewy, at Lima Limon they are always tender and succulent. Served with a roasted potato and boiled corn, the antichucos mixto made an excellent start to a hearty meal befitting a cool November evening.
For entrées, Lima Limon has something for everyone. With dozens of climate zones and an incredibly diverse population of native groups and immigrants, Peruvian cuisine is varied like no other. Incan, Chinese, Spanish and Italian influences converge to create a wonderful multitude of familiar and exotic flavors. The restaurant’s menu reflects this diversity with entrées such as minestrone, pesto spaghetti, paella and chaufa de pollo – Chinese-style fried rice. There are also recognizable American dishes like steak frites and fried chicken, along with a host of unusual flavors and ingredients.
Out of the plethora of choices, my wife decided to indulge in a plate of arroz con pollo con huancaina. While arroz con pollo is a classic Hispanic dish, the Peruvian version includes a slow-roasted rotisserie chicken quarter instead of the diced breast commonly found at your neighborhood Mexican-American restaurant. Moreover, the rice and chicken were both heavily seasoned with sage and cilantro, bringing an herbaceous vibrance to an otherwise dense and soulful dish.
What truly sets the arroz con pollo at Lima Limon apart, though, is the side of huancaina. A Peruvian staple throughout all strata of society, hauncaina starts like so many Andean dishes with a boiled potato. Then, taking a turn towards the sublime, it’s smothered in a decadent cheese sauce made with cream, queso fresco and peppers. Topped with a hard boiled egg and a juicy, briny olive, this one-of-a-kind dish combines so many flavors and textures that it steals the show from the already delicious arroz con pollo. For those wanting to enjoy this unique eat by itself, hauncaina can also be ordered as an appetizer.
On every previous visit we’ve made to Lima Limon, I’ve always given in to the siren song of ceviche. Featuring raw seafood, citrus and fresh cilantro, ceviche is a bright, refreshing and incredibly delicious dish that’s hard to pass up. Nevertheless, with a chill in the air, I was in the mood for something a bit heartier this time around. So, I decided to try something new: seco de carne con yuca.
Basically, seco de carne is everything your Mom’s pot roast wishes it could be. With succulent, fork-tender beef, carrots, peas, rice and a robust cilantro gravy, this dish is comfort food at its finest. The addition of yuca – as opposed to the more mainstream potato – provides an additional element of earthiness and rib-sticking goodness. To balance out the richness of the roast, the seco de carne is paired with a side of lightly pickled red onions and fresh cilantro. The astringent onions make an ideal compliment to the meal because they cleanse the palate, making the heavy beef roast all the more appetizing.
Although we usually end our trips to Lima Limon with an indulgent flan, this time we called it quits after the main course. With stuffed bellies, we left well-fed and satisfied, with take-out boxes to boot. And, at just under $48 with a tip, we left with a happy wallet as well. I hope you get the opportunity to ride your llama down to Florence for a delicious Peruvian meal at Lima Limon too!