Best of the Rest: Tasting traditional Peruvian food in Woodhaven
How far will you go for moist and tender rotisserie chicken with crunchy skin and flavor that only comes from hours marinating and caramelizing? Me, I spent an hour traveling from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to Woodhaven, Queens. I took three different subways, including one out-of-station transfer in Brownsville. When I arrived, I was hungry.
There are many reasons to venture outside your usual restaurant stomping grounds, and
El Anzuelo Fino (The Fine Fishhook) is one of them.
Straight away we ordered a carafe of red wine sangria, and drank the fruity, slightly effervescent appetite-enhancer with the complimentary corn kernels and fried plantain crisps. About the kernels: they looked like peanuts and were large and roasted until they turned light and airy. They were starchy and hearty.
The restaurant has been serving fresh and tasty Peruvian food in Woodhaven since 1998, after first opening in 1982 in Lima, Peru. In 2008, the Torres family opened a second NYC location in Jackson Heights. Boris Torres, a veteran of such kitchens as Red Rooster and Raymi, now runs the family business that his parents began.
El Anzuelo prides itself on unique preparations and special sourcing of ingredients. For example, Aji Amarillo, a traditional spicy yellow pepper from Peru, is grown by Torres’ grandmother in Peru. She sundries the peppers herself and ships them to her family to be served in their New York City restaurants.
The restaurant prepares classic Peruvian dishes like Causa Rellena with shrimp, which looks like a decorated cake: two layers of ground potato formed into patties are held together with a mayonnaise-based salad of shrimp, vegetables and spices. A large butterflied shrimp and decorative mayo on top complete the package.
The aforementioned chicken, Pollo a la Brasa, is served with rice and beans and salad (or with french fries, which is the more authentic choice).
A popular house specialty is the Corvino al Anzuelo Fino. The dish consists of a white fish fillet (they used pollock but its likely every day there’s a different fish), octopus, shrimp, clams and mussels, covered in a traditional Peruvian cream sauce and served over rice. The taste was tangy and sweet, creamy and fishy.
The dessert menu is full of dishes you’ve likely heard of before, like rice pudding or doughnuts, and others you haven’t, like the combination rice pudding and purple corn pudding. I’d never had purple corn pudding before, which is the purple corn kernels cooked with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, figs and other dried fruits.
Sometimes what’s interesting and different is what’s best. That was the case here. Take the train ride and see for yourself.