Ay Ay Picante Peruvian Cuisine

February 20th, 2012: As seen on Chicago Sun-Times (PDF)

Buzz-worthy Peruvian BYOB with an authentic price tag. 


You do not have to be hip to Peruvian cuisine to understand you’re experiencing top-notch authenticity at Ay Ay. Adjacent, regular diners might divulge the drinking capabilities of the lime juice and rocoto chile sauce that soaks about its ceviches. And every once in a while, a flaming whoosh from the kitchen will reveal actual Peruvian chefs behind the stove. But any blind poke at the menu will exude the region this still secret of a BYOB is set in.

The tricky part is that region is a hodgepodge of fusion, brought on by all the cultures that tried to take it over – African, Japanese, Arab, Italian, Chinese and most importantly, Spanish. So it’s not uncommon to see pesto-sauteed pasta dishes next to soy-sauced fried rice medleys, finished off with seared tilapia in a red wine sauce.

However, pre-Columbian days, the Peruvians were one of the first people in the world to domesticate corn, avocados, potatoes and chiles. And they’re everywhere, in glorious fashion, all over the menu; mashed with mayonnaise, shredded chicken and green peas aloft velvety half-avocados (palta rellena), ground into sweet cinnamon and raisin dotted tamales (humita dulce), steamed with cheese and yellow pepper cream sauce aside grilled steak (papas a la diabla con bistec). And rice. Everything comes with a side of rice.

The ‘secret’ and ‘glorious’ nods are mostly for the cost of all this, at around $7 for entradas (small plates) and $14 for entrees. But once you’re under the candle-flick shadows of Nazca murals, and the bread and aji sauce hit the table seconds after an attentive server explains what aji sauce is, it will all make sense.

Average cost: $10-$20