I am a daring diner. There’s little more I enjoy than trying a new type of cuisine that has eluded my taste buds for far too long. About a year ago, Juliana’s Kitchen opened at 11th and Lincoln Streets in Wilmington. Previous occupants the Dumpling House and Just Desserts came and went rather quickly, but Juliana’s Kitchen seems to be enjoying a good amount of buzz from both locals and some foodies from Philadelphia who have made the trip down see what Juliana’s cooking up.
Upon entry, you’ll notice the restaurant is rather small. There are several tables upstairs and down, but I’d recommend calling ahead before; it can get quite crowded. To get started, splurge on a very fancy – and very different – drink. The first sip I took of the chicha morada and I was asking to be hooked up to an IV of this beautifully sweet and refreshing drink made from purple corn with a hint of spice. I restrained myself from ordering a second because I could only imagine how much sugar went into that delicious concoction.
To start, we ordered several appetizers, all of which were beautifully and tastefully executed. The papas a la huancaina were big, thick slices of potato covered in a creamy, yellow sauce that looked to be accented with saffron. Anyone who thinks potatoes are an “Irish thing” clearly doesn’t know that with thousands of varieties of potatoes, Peru is more likely the potato capital of the world! We also ordered the causa a la limena, a potato stuffed with chicken and creamy avocado. It was almost like a Peruvian version of chicken salad.
For my main, I ordered the bistec a lo pobre. The grilled sirloin I received was a little overdone for my medium-rare-loving self. It was cooked more to a medium-well. Thankfully, though, the fried egg atop the steak served as an excellent foil to help remedy this problem. The runny yolk immediately served as a juicy contrast to the somewhat tough cut of steak I’d been served. Accompanying the steak and egg were some deliciously sweet fried bananas. This is a real guilty pleasure of mine when eating Latin American cuisine. Whether they’re bananas or plantains, these fruits when fried are an absolute treat.
A friend ordered the lomo saltado, which I’ve learned is almost like the national dish of Peru. And I can see why. Stir-fried beef with big chunks of onion and tomato served with rice may sound pretty ordinary. But it’s the French fries on TOP of all of this that makes it something special. The fries soak up all of the delicious juices and seasonings from the stir-fry and create a pleasant harmony in your mouth.
To wrap up the meal, my friend and I were piggies. We ordered three desserts. The rice pudding was good. Not spectacular, but good. It could have been a little creamier and a little sweeter. The tres leches cake was also OK. I’m partial, though, because I make this cake regularly and have perfected my own recipe. This one was a little dry and, like the rice pudding, could have been a little sweeter. However, Juliana & Co. knocked it out of the park with the alfajores, which are delicate wafer cookies filled with the most decadent caramel on the inside. The caramel filling must have been an inch thick. Two cookies came per order and I don’t think I could even finish the one cookie I was allotted.
Overall, Juliana’s Kitchen is an excellent option for those looking for something different. Peruvian food is no doubt new to many Delawareans. Here’s hoping it will be just as popular as in 10-or-so years as Thai and other pan-Asian cuisines are now after languishing for years in culinary obscurity.