AJ's Inca Peruvian doesn't limit itself ethnically
Hugo Colan opened his first Pittsburgh restaurant five years ago, serving burgers and Peruvian food in Oakland, across Fifth Avenue from UPMC.
This year, he moved AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant to Downtown with a new menu featuring a vastly expanded variety of Peruvian dishes and dropping the burgers in favor of hot dogs and Mexican grilled food (tacos, quesadilla and burritos).
Located just up from the McDonald's at Stanwix and Liberty avenues, Colan's new restaurant opened in January and is adorned with Peruvian-themed art. It offers a relaxed atmosphere in complete contrast with the jangled air of a fast-food place.
Colan learned cooking from his mother, Dora, who taught it professionally in Lima, where he grew up. Peruvian food draws upon many ethnic cuisines, including not only Inca and Spanish traditions but also African and Chinese influences.
Before Colan and his family moved to Pittsburgh, he traveled throughout Peru as a salesman of plastics products. The foodie in him savored the differences between the dishes he encountered in mountain regions and in coastal communities.
The Colans moved directly from Lima to Pittsburgh because they have family here. His wife, Isandra, has a brother and sister who are both on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. The restaurant's name is taken from their children, Ariam, 14, and Jhair, 12. Colan is a soccer fan and named them after two Brazilian stars of the sport.
The luncheon menu includes 22 meat, fish and vegetarian items, plus six Mexican grill options, salads and 17 side dishes. Peruvian rotisserie chicken, marinated overnight, can be ordered with side dishes, and also is an ingredient in many of the many of the menu choices.
Since Peruvian food is more a matter of inclusion than purity of style, Colan felt free to add pieces of hotdog to the Arroz Chaufa ($7.99), which is a fried rice dish with eggs, corn, peas and chicken. He obtains authentic spices from Patterson, N.J., where there is a large Peruvian community.
The lunch menu also includes Arroz Chaufa de Mariscos, $10.99, another fried rice dish with shrimp, calamari and crabmeat. Tallarin Verde con Tilapia ($10.99), serves the grilled fish on a bed of pesto pasta.
Three of the vegetarian dishes include eggs, but Tallarin Saltado Vegetarian ($8.99) will satisfy purists. It combines mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, green peppers, onion and tomatoes with Peruvian spaghetti.
The dinner menu is more extensive and includes Incan dishes, such as the appetizer Papa a la Huancaina ($8.50), which is boiled potatoes with hardboiled eggs, black olives, and aji amarillo chile pepper sauce served on lettuce. Anticuchos ($9.50) is another Incan dish, made with skewers of beef heart marinated in spices, grilled and served with corn and traditional huancaina cheese sauce.
The aji amarillo sauce is spicy but light and sold separately because it's very popular.
Side dishes include fried sweet plantains and Yucca fries, at slightly different prices for lunch or dinner.
Desserts include Peruvian flan and three-milk (tres leches) cake, each $3.99.
In addition to the usual beverages, the restaurant stocks Inca Kola ($1.89), which has a bubblegum sweetness, and Chicha Morada ($2.35), which is said to be high in anti-oxidants.
AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant, 500 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays. Details: 412-642-6606.
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- Perryopolis cops, Frazier officials probe alleged student gun threat
- Most serious charge withdrawn in drug case involving girl, 14.
- Army officer Vets Day parade marshal
- Carroll hires full-time police officer
- Mt. Pleasant pulp fiction author releases pair of new books
- Heating oil costs lowest in years
- Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority, Allegheny Township dispute over School Road close to resolution
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not worried about Jones’ lack of sacks
- South Allegheny boys soccer grows amid adversity
- Cubs’ Arrieta, Pirates’ Cole leave batters with little margin for error