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The Latin Chef still cooks in Liberty Station

Soulful Peruvian eatery moved from Pacific Beach to Liberty Public Market

Lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian dish influenced by Chinese stir fry
Lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian dish influenced by Chinese stir fry

A Pacific Beach restaurant called Latin Chef closed earlier this year, following a good thirteen in business. I never visited the Peruvian and Brazilian eatery, but it sounds like I missed out — it was mostly spoken of fondly, and closed not due to disinterest so much as it was allegedly forced out by a new landlord.

Place

Latin Chef Liberty Station

2820 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego

Make that, I almost missed out. Fortunately, at least one of the chefs responsible for its success wasn’t done bringing authentic Peruvian meals to San Diego. By the spring, chef and Latin Chef alum Tony Kanashiro was already back and cooking up many of the same dishes in a corner suite off the main hall of Liberty Public Market, with a restaurant counter named The Latin Chef.

Pesto spaghetti and grilled top sirloin

Fans of the previous venture have undoubtedly followed this food here, so long they know where to find it. The Latin Chef sits off the southwest corner of the public market proper, in a sequestered suite it shares with (as of last week) a bubble waffle cone ice cream counter. I wouldn’t call it hard to find, except there’s always lots of turnover in the public market, so the landmarks keep changing. You’ll know you’re close when you see the Le Parfait Paris bakery counter. For those of us new to Kanashiro’s cooking, consider it worth seeking out. At least, I can vouch for the beef.

A low-key counter restaurant for the second coming of Latin Chef

Like most of the market, this space is ultra casual with community seating, but because The Latin Chef is removed from the main hall, this stall feels closer to an enclosed restaurant, with plates delivered to you after you’ve ordered at the counter and taken a seat. Sitting on a bar stool at the counter, you can just catch a glimpse of the chef at work over a flaming grilltops in a partially open kitchen.

In a room at the back of the Liberty Public Market

The sight makes me go off script, and rather than try the signature Peruvian dish, lomo saltado, I opt for the tallarin verdes con bistek, a top sirloin steak with pesto pasta. And when the 15 dollar dish comes out, it’s just that simple: grill marks on a medium well steak sitting beside a pile of basil green spaghetti noodles, all of it with a light dusting of parmesan. It couldn’t be less complicated, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thoroughly satisfied.

But I would make a return for that lomo saltado. Wheras the pesto reveals the influence of Italian immigration on Peruvian cuisine, lomo saltado takes cues from Chinese stir fry. Strips of beef sautéed in a with onions, tomatoes, and — get this — French fries. It’s served with a scoop of rice, all of the above steeped in a pool of savory soy sauce based pan jus. My plate came with a small squeeze bottle of spicy green chili sauce made with aji Amarillo, a favored chili pepper in Peruvian cooking. Spicier the better for yours truly, but with or without, this was my favorite meal yet within Liberty Public Market.

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Lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian dish influenced by Chinese stir fry
Lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian dish influenced by Chinese stir fry

A Pacific Beach restaurant called Latin Chef closed earlier this year, following a good thirteen in business. I never visited the Peruvian and Brazilian eatery, but it sounds like I missed out — it was mostly spoken of fondly, and closed not due to disinterest so much as it was allegedly forced out by a new landlord.

Place

Latin Chef Liberty Station

2820 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego

Make that, I almost missed out. Fortunately, at least one of the chefs responsible for its success wasn’t done bringing authentic Peruvian meals to San Diego. By the spring, chef and Latin Chef alum Tony Kanashiro was already back and cooking up many of the same dishes in a corner suite off the main hall of Liberty Public Market, with a restaurant counter named The Latin Chef.

Pesto spaghetti and grilled top sirloin

Fans of the previous venture have undoubtedly followed this food here, so long they know where to find it. The Latin Chef sits off the southwest corner of the public market proper, in a sequestered suite it shares with (as of last week) a bubble waffle cone ice cream counter. I wouldn’t call it hard to find, except there’s always lots of turnover in the public market, so the landmarks keep changing. You’ll know you’re close when you see the Le Parfait Paris bakery counter. For those of us new to Kanashiro’s cooking, consider it worth seeking out. At least, I can vouch for the beef.

A low-key counter restaurant for the second coming of Latin Chef

Like most of the market, this space is ultra casual with community seating, but because The Latin Chef is removed from the main hall, this stall feels closer to an enclosed restaurant, with plates delivered to you after you’ve ordered at the counter and taken a seat. Sitting on a bar stool at the counter, you can just catch a glimpse of the chef at work over a flaming grilltops in a partially open kitchen.

In a room at the back of the Liberty Public Market

The sight makes me go off script, and rather than try the signature Peruvian dish, lomo saltado, I opt for the tallarin verdes con bistek, a top sirloin steak with pesto pasta. And when the 15 dollar dish comes out, it’s just that simple: grill marks on a medium well steak sitting beside a pile of basil green spaghetti noodles, all of it with a light dusting of parmesan. It couldn’t be less complicated, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thoroughly satisfied.

But I would make a return for that lomo saltado. Wheras the pesto reveals the influence of Italian immigration on Peruvian cuisine, lomo saltado takes cues from Chinese stir fry. Strips of beef sautéed in a with onions, tomatoes, and — get this — French fries. It’s served with a scoop of rice, all of the above steeped in a pool of savory soy sauce based pan jus. My plate came with a small squeeze bottle of spicy green chili sauce made with aji Amarillo, a favored chili pepper in Peruvian cooking. Spicier the better for yours truly, but with or without, this was my favorite meal yet within Liberty Public Market.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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