lamb chops Courtesy of Ronero

Trending Tables: Peruvian food picks up steam

Chefs draw inspiration from wood fires, Southern food and Asian cuisines

If you’re getting a whiff of huacatay and the lingering bite of aji rocoto, you might be in one of the country’s hottest restaurants. 

Four of this class of 33 Trending Tables — that’s 12 percent — are bringing clear Peruvian influence to bear on their food, whether it’s the herbal sauce on the lamb chops at Ronero in Chicago, the aji panca sauce on the fried butterfish at Ruka Restobar in Boston, the anticuchos at Botika in San Antonio or the ceviche at Jimmy’s Bodega in Aspen, Colo.

Apart from that, we’re seeing Southern food continue to spread in non-Southern cities, like Kansas City, Seattle and Boston, and people in often meat-centric cities like San Antonio and Chicago taking a shine to vegetarian food.

There’s also plenty of gussied up comfort food, like the reindeer pizza at Fat Ptarmigan in Anchorage, Alaska, and the cheeseburger made with local beef and lemon garlic mayonnaise at The Fat Lamb in Louisville, Ky.

Quite apart from barbecue, which continues to expand in popularity, there are other types of wood-fired offerings at places like El Che Bar in Chicago, which draws inspiration from Argentina and flavors from wherever chef-owner John Manion sees fit. That’s one of two trendy restaurants in the Windy City with crank-operated wood-fired grills. The other is vegetable-forward Bad Hunter, which draws inspiration from places as far-flung as Korea and Italy.

There’s a lot of Asian influence at these restaurants, including Chinese at Stephanie Izard’s latest place, Duck Duck Goat in Chicago, and Chinese-American food like shrimp Rangoon and General Tso’s chicken at LongBranch in Indianapolis. But there’s also Japanese motoyaki at Ruka Restobar in Boston, Indian-spiced quail at Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio, mostly Asian vegetarian dishes at Bok Choy in the same city, and a whole Indian menu at Saffron Table in Bozeman, Mont.

Of course foods inspired by France and Italy are scattered generously across these Trending Tables as always, anchoring our dining traditions even as sources for chefs’ inspiration continue to expand.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Inset photo of General Tso's chicken courtesy of LongBranch

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