If you live in North County, there is a good chance you have been to the Sammy’s Woodfired location on Avenida Encinas. It was one of the first in the area to offer wood-fired pizza and had a long run in that location. Restaurateur Sami Ladeki who founded Sammy’s has a fresh new concept in the location and has transformed it into Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria with partner Chef Emmanuel Piqueras, a celebrated Peruvian culinary star. Based on the early crowds and a recent dinner I had there it’s a perfect evolution of the location and the menu of classic Peruvian specialties and modern takes on them makes for a fun and delicious dining experience.
The restaurant is named Pisco though and that Peruvian white spirit is well-represented on the drink menu, which is extensive. Pisco is a grape-derived brandy that’s a signature drink of Peru. There’s a wide variety to sample, plus a list of crafty cocktails based on the spirit. Pisco Carlsbad also offers Peruvian and other South American wines as well as local and Peruvian beers. The Pisco Sour Classico is the traditional cocktail of choice and includes Pisco Quebranta, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and Chuncho bitters. Then you have the whimsical treatment of Pisco with something like their Prickly in Pink with Pisco, prickly pear puree, fresh lemon juice and soda. They have a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. with food and drink specials.
Given the inclusion of cevicheria and rotisserie in the name of the restaurant, it’s safe to assume that they excel at both. I’ve written about ceviche before and it ranks right up there in my favorite ways to prepare seafood. Pisco takes it to a whole new level though and in the tradition of Japanese Sashimi, Peruvian ceviche is freshly made to order, combining fresh fish with leche de tigre or “Milk of the Tiger” as they call it and it is fabulous. It comes in seven varieties including Salmon, Bay Scallop & Shrimp, Ahi Nikei, Mixto, Classico and Martini De Tigre.
As far as the rotisserie element goes, the Pollo a la Brasa Peruvian Rotisserie chicken is made from natural, hormone-free 3-pound chicken marinated for 48 hours in their Peruvian spice mix. It comes as a half or whole bird cut up and served with mesa sauce, chimichurri, aji and Amarillo mustard and your choice of two sides that include Choclo garlic rice, potato wedges or white beans with bell pepper. And yes, it should be high on the list of must-try items on the Pisco menu.
Causitas, the chilled whipped Peruvian potatoes, are another favorite and come in four varieties including grilled octopus, chicken, crab and ahi tuna. There are also a nice variety of small plates and salads, sandwiches, burgers and large plates. And yes, the small plates include the popular Empanadas. My table sampled several of the large plates including the Arroz Con Pollo (pictured) and Lomo Saltado, which is a traditional beef tenderloin stir fry. My adventurous friend went for the Lengua, which is grilled beef tongue.
Be sure to leave room for desert at Pisco as they have some really tasty offerings including the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Alfajores, Spicy Caramel-Filled Cinnamon Churo, Plantano and Green Apple Cotton Candy. Inca Cola and Chicha Morada are the two most popular sodas in Peru and are part of the beverage lineup as well.
Chef/partner Emmanuel Piqueras has a great backstory as he draws from Peru’s oldest culinary traditions to create innovative dishes. Piqueras is helping to spark a new interest though his menu influenced by indigenous agriculture, ingredients and ancient cooking techniques. Beyond being a Peruvian celebrity chef through “Sabor y Fusion,” his popular cooking show on Latin America’s largest international cable network, he has had the honor being Peru’s culinary ambassador to the U.S. and Canada. His culinary resume is impressive as well with stops in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and New York City.
The Carlsbad Pisco is located at 5790 Avenida Encinas and is the second restaurant for Pisco along with Liberty Station location. Call (760) 438-1212 or check out the menu at www.piscorotisserie.com.
Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com