With three locations (two in the Mission and one in Bayview), the brains behind Limòn Rotisserie must want to make sure that no San Franciscoan has an excuse not to try Peruvian cuisine.
My friend and I went to the South Van Ness location, which was hopping at 7:30pm on a Saturday night. Unexpectedly small, the restaurant never felt cramped, thanks to the high ceiling, simple décor, and happy colors.
The dishes here are a little bigger than small plates, a little smaller than family-style-sized entrées.
But first, the drinks. Never one to pass on an opportunity to try something new (and I’m a cocktail girl), I made a beeline for the cocktail list. We ordered the Pisco Sour, which is apparently the signature drink of Peru, and the Cactus Sour (both $9.50)
Limòn gets an A-plus for deceptive presentation. They’re adorable, right? But underneath those cutesy little dots and foam heaven (courtesy of egg whites) is SO. MUCH. LIQUOR.
What does Peruvian brandy taste like? Well, a little like regular brandy, that’s what. And the Sours were so strong that there was little discernible difference between the two… Maybe the Cactus Sour was slightly sweeter.
While you wait for your food to arrive, you will be introduced to three sauces. One of them is a thin chimichurri. The other two are creamy, tangy aji sauces, one mild and one with a real kick.
When one sees rotisserie chicken on the menu of a restaurant that has the word “rotisserie” in its name, one must order the rotisserie chicken. We did and it was good.
The half-chicken ($11.95, with two sides) was done well – crispy, deliciously roasted skin, moist dark meat – with the exception of the white meat that was a touch on the dry side. I found that the chimichurri was an excellent accompaniment (and remedy).
The yucca fries ($3.95 as a side) were so soft on the inside—creamy, even—and would have been amazing had it had a crunch. These were amazing with the spicy aji.
The second side that we ordered with the chicken was called tacu-tacu ($3.95 as a side). Unfortunately, Limòn’s take on Peruvian beans and rice tasted more like the MSG-laden powdered chicken flavoring that comes with instant noodles.
That’s not to say it wasn’t good! It just tasted like instant ramen.
At the other end of the spectrum was the Ceviche de Pescado y Camaron ($10.95), which was fresh and tangy and oh-so-delicious.
I was surprised by the kernels of Peruvian corn, which are about the size of your thumbnail and less sweet than California summer corn. I enjoyed the firmness and the different flavor of the corn with the fish, which came chunky instead of practically minced. (That’s a good thing!)
Another disappointing dish was the “Lomito” Saltado ($10.95), a signature dish of Limòn Rotisserie and traditional dish of Peru.
I wish it tasted better than it looked. While the strips of beef sirloin were wonderfully tender, the whole thing tasted quite ordinary—like a home stir-fry with leftover french fries tossed in.
My friend and I skipped dessert as the offerings were decidedly un-Peruvian. (Warm chocolate cake? Profiteroles?) It did appear, from a scan around the room, that the mango panna cotta was a popular choice.
As the last plates were cleared, parties without reservations crowded the entrance of the restaurant and the bar area. Service had fallen off drastically: at one point, there were three servers at our table doing various things and at other times, the servers failed to acknowledge our empty plates. It annoyed us for the five minutes we sat there trying to wave waitstaff over.
For a Saturday night in the Mission District, it was normal. If you plan to visit, I urge you to make an early reservation (before 8pm) and get there a half-hour early to find parking (though there is a $20-flat fee parking lot a coupla blocks away from the S. Van Ness location, at Capp and 20th.
Our meal consisted of hits and misses. On one hand, I would like to revisit Limòn Rotisserie just to find out what other dishes are worth trying. On the other hand, I would rather take my money to a more reliable restaurant.
At any rate, my dinner there was not a bad introduction to Peruvian cuisine. I would definitely return for the cocktails!