I was expecting Llama Inn, the new Peruvian restaurant in Williamsburg, to be a small, quirky place. It’s a little far removed from the action on Bedford Ave, near the Lorimer stop, a stretch that still reflects the scrappier aspects of Brooklyn. But much to my surprise, Llama Inn is a super slick restaurant that would fit in with the Cosmes and Uplands of the world in the very corporate Flatiron district. There’s a huge bar in the center with table seating on the periphery and a full view of the kitchen and the grill. Yet another sign of Brooklyn gentrification.
I’ve never been to Peru, and the only Peruvian food I’ve had is the chicken at Pio Pio, so I was expecting something Latin with a bit of spice. I found it interesting that the menu actually reflects some Asian influences, like tuna with ponzu and a beef tenderloin stir fry with soy sauce and scallion pancakes. I later learned that there is a sizeable Chinese and Japanese population in Peru, so in hindsight, the cultural melting pot that inspires the menu at Llama Inn is not all that surprising.
I knew I had to try some of the anticuchos or grilled meat skewers that were being cooked robataya style on that massive grill for all to see. Anticuchos are a popular street food in Peru, and anticuchos de corazon, or grilled beef hearts, are a very traditional offering. I wanted something off the streets of Lima so I ordered the beef hearts, with some trepidation, as well as the pork belly with char siu. The beef heart wasn’t too bad, it was like biting into a gamey sirloin with a bit of an iron-y aftertaste. It helped that there was a lot of tangy salsa to mask some of the flavor, but after a few bites, I gave the rest to Ruoxi. The nicely charred pork belly was more of my thing, although it was tremendously spicy. Nothing that a good scraping off of the red peppers couldn’t handle.
Peru is the birthplace of ceviche, so an order of the golden tile ceviche was a no brainer. I was a little disappointed to find that the fish itself lacked flavor. The surrounding accoutrements of plantains, onions and peppers were essential to making this work, otherwise you were left with a dish that was a plain Jane.
Shortly after our chicken for two arrived. Or should I say a huge bird crash landed on our table. As I bit into the chicken, I was confused by how it tasted so much like dry smoked ham. It had nothing in common with the golden, tender juicy bits that you associate with a spitfire chicken. And the three dipping sauces didn’t add all that much. Only the green sauce, which was the spiciest one, had a little kick to it, but the other two tasted like mayo. I never was a big fan of potato wedges, and these weren’t crispy or well seasoned enough to make me feel any differently.
I was feeling a bit ho-hum about this meal, but the silky chocolate, lucuma, coffee mousse turned things around somewhat. It was an excellent end to dinner, but not enough to inspire me to check back into this inn any time soon.
50 Withers St (between Meeker Ave and Lorimer St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211