Francesco restaurant-Coral Gables, Miami

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

For mom's birthday celebration it was an easy choice--a dinner for three, our cozy little family. I invited her and my uncle to a special dinner celebration at Francesco.

This was my first visit to this unexpected Peruvian restaurant. The name led me to believe it was Italian food. But we loved it all.

Located on Alcazar street, the storefront was a charming cottage house front with lattice-lined windows, framed by curtains, and wooden door. Walking on the sidewalk from our parking space, you could miss the entrance in the blink of an eye.

Upon entering, a warm, cozy nook with upholstered seat benches welcomed any patrons to rest while they wait.  But tonight was a Tuesday night in the slow summer months. We were the second guests.

For my  mother and uncle, it's not about crowds. We welcomed the serene calm, a break from the day's hustle and bustle. We relaxed, enjoyed catching up on personal updates, and the food just topped the evening.

For starters we ordered the grilled octopus appetizer. Francesco's got it right. Not too chewy, lightly fried and the seasoning was perfect. Did I order the traditional cebiche? No I did not as my mother is not big fan of uncooked fish and I didn't want to fill up on two appetizers. Next time for sure. My curiosity is burning to know if Franceso rivals my favorite ceviche at the Crab Shack at the Cavalier Hotel in South Beach.

My uncle, if you'll recall, eats homemade soups daily. A tradition I believe keeps him healthy for peaking 70 years of age. My uncle Mauro ordered the "Aguado de Pescado" (Watered fish soup). Indeed it was more liquidy than a cream based soup. The thickening agent here was cilantro. Definitely on the "watery" side but that's intentional and stocked with chunks of fish.  Different and delicious.

For entree we ordered the "Lomo saltado" (lamb) with a mushroom sauce, accompanied by a medley of red peppers, red tomatoes, and red onions, and a compote of white beans, rice and white mushrooms. This specialty is called Tacu Tacu and it was the best part of the meal.  The lamb was tender and the mushroom sauce was your traditional dark sauce.

My uncle ordered the special of the day, the corvina fish topped with shrimps accompanied by sauteed asparagus.  The fish melted in your mouth but the light sauce didn't mask the fishy flavor for my preference. My uncle devoured it! Our favorite was the side asparagus sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and salt/pepper according to the waiter. 

For dessert we selected the Suspiro Limeño to share.  Now in my limited culinary repetoire I actually prepared suspiro which is whipped egg whites but in this dessert instead of airy, froth it's more dense like a thick cream atop a syrupy dulce de leche. All around it was super sweet, too sweet for me. Maybe the "two spoonfulls of sugar" as Mary Poppins recounts will help the food go down. Next time I'll try sponge cake with nuts!

I recommend Francesco for  home-made Peruvian cuisine, where portions are reasonable, and food is not heavy in filling. Entree prices average $30. One could even order tapas style and choose several appetizers, average price $15.  More to sample and more to share.

Memorable: grilled octopus, the white bean and mushroom compote that accompanied the lamb, and the corvina and sauteed asparagus.

Bon apetit!

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