There’s some serious culinary witchcraft happening down on Cesar Chavez in the little, secluded courtyard of East Side Food Park. For the past few weeks, we’ve been working our way through the menu at Pachamama’s Peruvian Creole Cuisine, probing for a weak link, drinking lots of wine smuggled in [] and celebrating the potato-the shoulders of which the menu rests upon. Go at dusk. As the fairy lights strung up in the trees blink on, the glow over the nearby Austin skyline turns blue and there’s a ripple of electricity coursing through the air. The assembled throng gets ready to taste what Chef Victor has in store for his patrons, and the excitement is palpable.

This man is in the zone.

We’ve had two writers recently turn in reports that claim the ceviche served at Pachamama’s is the finest in Austin. These bold words hasten our most return visit.

Cold marinated fish is the opening salvo out of the kitchen. When the platter hits the table we marvel over what we initially think is a massive slice of golden tomato. It’s actually a perfectly-cooked, sweet potato; served as a cold, starchy side dish. As we work our way through the ceviche, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary spin on the classic. The fish is sweet enough to have been candied with discs of hot, red chile cutting through the sugar. Toasted crunchy kernels of hominy corn are tossed about the plate with elan. Along with the requisite lime juice, they provide needed contrast.

On a recent visit, we decided to give the good chef the ultimate test; we ordered the “vegetarian plate.” Certainly a bold move. By removing the bloody deliciousness that is meat, you’re taking away a potent weapon in the chef’s arsenal.

We needn’t have worried. If all vegetarian food tasted this good we could easily scale back from our nightly meat and go herbivore one night a week. We keep hearing the phrase “meatless Mondays”, maybe that could be the day.

The “vegetarian plate” is a heap of herbal rice served with a pool of utterly wonderful canary beans. The beans have been slowly simmered, cooked down, in the parlance of the Deep South. They’re rich as though they’ve been boiled in pork stock. Batons of yucca and sweet plantains complete the platter.

Another course we relish is papas rellenas de res, a hefty potato croquette stuffed with beef, olives, raisins and eggs. Imagine a Peruvian riff on the American hashbrown, quadruple its size and boost the normally bland dish with a superb green salsa and you’re just outside Lima, heading into the city for some home cooking.

The arc of the evening reaches crescendo with the lomo saltado, which could easily be added to the list of Texas’ official state dishes. Beef loin is carefully cut into tidbits, sauteed with onions and tomatoes, then served on a bed of french fries and white rice. A rich gravy is the byproduct of the cooking and it ties the dish together by soaking the starches and rendering them into a glorious melange of acid and jus jus.

Superb work on the range by the chef on this dish.

We’ve noted the crowds getting denser and denser at Pachamama’s. The word is slowly starting to get out. Four tops carrying bottles of wine are showing up to to rear back on the patio, get a little drunk, eat some soul food, have a smoke or two, listen to a Peruvian music sound track and enjoy Spring time in East Austin.

Pachamama’s, Swift’s Attic, John Mueller Barbecue, La Fruta Feliz and Al Sur are the hottest restaurants in Austin right now.

birth notice for Pachamama’s

first report on the magnitude of Chef Victor’s cuisine

Hours: Wednesday – Friday 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm
Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm!/RLReevesJr

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