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Review: Lima Limon is not Peru’s best

<p>The tacu tacu con lomo saltado at Lima Limon.</p>

The tacu tacu con lomo saltado at Lima Limon.

Almost exactly a year ago, I reviewed a Peruvian restaurant in this space. At the time, I found the food, service and atmosphere at Henderson’s Mi Peru to be mediocre but was still happy it was offering a type of cuisine not well represented in the valley. Flash forward 12 months, and I find myself with very similar feelings about a new place called Lima Limon.

Las Vegas’ newest Peruvian restaurant is located on South Decatur Boulevard, in a Target shopping center just a few yards south of U.S. 95. It can be a little hard to find, since the entrance faces away from the street. When I finally located it, I was impressed by the large, new, nicely decorated space. Its retro diner vibe, with lots of shiny chrome, gives little indication of South American cuisine being served. (There was, however, Telemundo programming running on the flat-screen TVs in the main dining room.)

Upon being seated, my wife and I were presented a complimentary snack — fried salted corn kernels with spicy dipping sauce known as cancha salad — before we even opened our menus. Appetizers include traditional Peruvian offerings like anticuchos (skewers of grilled beef hearts, $10), various ceviches ($11-$12) and several potato dishes ($5 and up). Among the entrées, you’ll find several preparations of chicken ($10-$11), beef ($12-$15) and seafood ($10.50-$13), as well as three types of soup ($6-$13).

To start, we ordered papa a la Huanciana (boiled potatoes in yellow pepper cream sauce, $5) and palta relleña (avocado stuffed with potatoes, mayonnaise and chicken, $5.50). Unfortunately, our waitress informed us they were out of the latter, so we substituted ceviche mixto ($12). When our waitress returned to take our entrée order, we found two more of our choices unavailable. That was particularly perplexing, since I was told they were out of a particular seafood preparation, despite offering both the same types of seafood with other preparations, and steak with the preparation we were looking for on our seafood. But given the slight language barrier, I didn’t press her for an explanation. Instead, we ordered tacu tacu con lomo saltado (marinated rib-eye with onions and tomatoes, $13) and saltado di mariscos (stir-fried seafood, $12.50).

I’d been informed before visiting this was a family-run operation, and on this slow weeknight one woman seemed to be manning both the kitchen and the dining room, with a small child at her side. The result was incredibly slow service. To make matters worse, she apparently forgot our ceviche, and didn’t bring it until we reminded her as our entrees were being served.

The food was a bit better than the service, although inconsistent. My wife and I both loved the beef entrée. The tender meat was seasoned wonderfully, and the accompanying fried mixture of rice and beans was something I’ve never had here. It was novel and delicious. I also really enjoyed the spiced cheese sauce on the otherwise simple potato appetizer.

Neither of us was terribly impressed with the seafood stir-fry, however. Since Peruvian food draws heavily on Asian influences, soy sauce is supposed to be a main component. In this instance, it overpowered any other seasoning that might have been used on the generous helping of shrimp, octopus, calamari and mussels. Unfortunately, it didn’t overpower a slightly fishy taste of the latter. And serving the seafood on top of a bed of French fries, while a mountain of white rice sat adjacent, is a tradition that doesn’t really work for me.

Our ceviche, which arrived last, was a massive portion of all the same types of seafood as our entree, along with a white fish my waitress identified as sea bass. It was accompanied by sweet potato and a pile of Peruvian corn (a much larger variety than the one with which most Americans are familiar). Sadly, the fish was once again dominated by a single flavor. In this case it was lime juice, without any hint of the cilantro or chili peppers allegedly present.

Once again, I find myself with mixed feelings on a local Peruvian place. I’m happy it’s here — I just wish it was better.

LIMA LIMON 222 S. Decatur Blvd., 463-0002. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog,