Alpamayo Restaurant: A taste of South America in the Berkshires
LEE — Javier Fernandez and his wife, Alicia, have been serving authentic Peruvian dishes in the Berkshires for more than nine years, bringing traditional flavors from the Andes Mountains to the Berkshires.
"Three years in, it was a struggle. People didn't know what to make of the menu," Fernandez said of the dishes he serves at Alpamayo Restaurant on Main Street. "Thanks to the town of Lee — they are my customers and support, [they are] the reason I'm still here. It wasn't easy, but I'm here."
Fernandez began his culinary career at an early age. He grew up in Huaraz, a city in the northern Callej n de Huaylas valley and capital of the Ancash Region. It's close to the Cordillera Blanca Range and the Alpamayo ice-capped peak from which the restaurant gets its name. After high school, Fernandez had an opportunity to take culinary classes offered for hospitality professionals and honed his craft. After working in restaurants for a while, he went to Lima and worked at the Lima Sheraton Hotel and other restaurants in Lima. An avid bartender, Fernandez also represented Peru in national bartending competitions in the 1990s.
After moving to the U.S. to live with his sister in Maryland, he visited the Berkshires and knew this was the place he wanted to call home. After working in various restaurants in the county, Fernandez opened Alpamayo in July of 2010 and hasn't looked back.
Alpamayo's menu consists of favorite Peruvian dishes from all areas of the country. Fernandez works with local farmers to source organic produce, and everything is made to order. Appetizers include the Ceviche de Pescado, marinated in lime juice, and Peruvian spices mixed with onion and cilantro and served with sweet potatoes and corn ($15), and the Parihuela, a soup of calamari, shrimp, muscles, clam and fish in a consomme broth ($16.99).
Entrees include Arroz con Mariscos, their version of seafood paella with yellow rice, shrimp, calamari mussels, clams and vegetables ($18.99). One of the most popular dishes is Lomo Saltado — which Alicia Fernandez explained is as popular in Peru as the hamburger is in the U.S. — Angus sirloin or filet Mignon sauteed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and spices served over French fries and rice ($18 to $22.99).
The couple has run into the assumption that Peruvian food is very spicy, which isn't the case, Fernandez said. While customers looking for spicy food will feel at home at Alpamayo, not all dishes are made that way.
"I only use spices from Peru," he said. "Some people are afraid that it's spicy, but it's seasoning."
Alpamayo offers a full bar, featuring traditional Peruvian cocktails, in addition to classic American favorites. Central to the cocktail menu is the famous Pisco sour, some variations available are the Maracuy Sour, made with Pisco, passion fruit, lime juice, egg white and jarabe de goma ($7), and the Chilcano de Pisco with Pisco, lime juice, Angostura and ginger ale ($7).
One menu item that customers new to Peruvian food are often surprised by is the cuy (COO-ee) or guinea pig — the Peruvian national dish. Fernandez makes a Picante de Cuy, half of a cuy with Peruvian red creamy pepper and garlic sauce, served with boiled potatoes and salad ($21.95). When discussing customers reaction to the dish, Fernandez laughs and mentions that most of the American customers who try it enjoy it.
"I can say it's very popular in Peru," he said. "Everyone has their version of cuy. Mine is similar to where I am from."
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