Ann Arbor is a hidden gem for its diverse and vibrant restaurant scene for anyone not from Michigan. And that scene is about get even more vibrant once Culantro opens its doors this fall.
“We are making the most original and popular dishes in Peru,” Culantro owner Betty Shuell said, adding that the food she serves is Peruvian comfort food “doing justice to food that makes you feel at home.”
It was not until recently that Peruvian food came onto the global gastronomical scene. But in recent years, the South American nation’s unique blend of European, Amerindian, African and Asian influences have become increasingly globally recognized.
While there are dishes that will be recognizable to anyone who has eaten Latin American food – cerviche, flan, lovely beef empanada’s with a salty sweet crust – the unique mixture of wholesome flavors provides an interesting contrast to other national pallets more familiar to us in the United States.
“Peru has had this gastronomic revolution where a lot of young chefs are reproducing [Peruvian food] into a more Western way of thinking and applying those techniques and recipes to their own heritage and that is what we’ve done,” co-owner Alvaro Herrera said. “It’s not an unknown fact that there are not a lot of Peruvians in Michigan. But when we started this restaurant it was not meant to be for Peruvians. The idea of this was so we could share our culture with the home that we have found here in the United States.”
This will be the second location for the family run Ferndale-based Peruvian restaurant. It will fill in the slot at the corner of North Main and Washington, where the Broken Egg used to be.
Similar to Frita Batidos, food will be ordered at the front counter. People dining in will then seat and wait for the food to be brought out to them.
The space will be tight though – with only four booths, six tables and a bar with stools facing Main Street are being planned. Herrera is confident that the take out business that they rely on in Ferndale will be replicated in Ann Arbor.
A charcoal grill is being imported from Peru to the restaurant. Shuell said that their most popular dish is a chicken marinated for 24 hours before grilling over the coals, providing a unique flavor.
Herrera and Shuell are also planning on having outdoor seating come next spring. Their application to do that is yet to be finalized, however.
The final opening date is yet to be finalized. In preparation for the opening in autumn, they are looking for staff at all levels. Anyone interested can use the QR code put in the window to begin the application process.