Monday, April 29, 2013

Food Truck Of The Month: El Calamar Peruvian Cuisine


I'm not really planning a literal "Food Truck of the Month" feature. There may not be another Food Truck of the Month for another six months in this blog; then again there could conceivably be be two FTOMS in one month. The simple fact is that once in a while a food truck comes along that stands out so prominently that it deserves an honorific of sorts, so why NOT "Food Truck of the Month?" El Calamar Peruvian Cuisine, which started appearing frequently at the SoMa StrEat Food Park a month ago, is  just such a truck.

El Calamar is not a hipster creation of social media; as far as I can determine, El Calamar doesn't have a website, Facebook page or even a twitter account. It's a family operation, and you'll run into most of the family over the course of a couple of visits. The owner, chef and pater familias has great creds: he cooked at the Michelin-starred La Costanera Restaurant in Montara Beach.

El Calamar serves traditional Peruvian classics; there's no fusion or crossover foods on the menu. Yes, there's the familiar lomo saltado and papa a la Huancaina; but you'll also find less familiar platos, like carapulca, a stew of chicken, pork and dried potatoes in a peanut sauce, and jalea, a mixed grill of sorts featuring (mostly) fried calamari, grilled fish, shrimp and yuka.  Calamar means calamari, of course, and you can also get a standalone order of fried calamari or, also in the fishy deparment, grilled tilapia.  The current menu also includes papa rellena, and a Peruvian tamal. The refreshing Peruvian purple corn beverage chicha morada is also offered, and alfajor cookies for dessert.

So far, I've tried the lomo saltado, carapulca, and jalea and enjoyed all three immensely.  I was particularly impressed with the fried calamari in the jalea, tender with a crunchy breading that had not even a soupçon of greasiness. I intend to work my way through the entire menu at El Calamar. I find myself checking SoMa StrEat Foods lunch roster on Twitter each morning, to decide if I need something at Costco, Rainbow Grocery or Best Buy; if El Calamar is scheduled to be at the Park, I do.

Another thing: if you are a chili head, ask for the hot sauce if it's not included.  You won't be disappointed. If you're not a chili head, approach that little tub of green stuff with caution. It's not guac!

And oh yes, if you are listening, El Calamar, let me whisper something in your ear:
"c-e-b-i-c-h-e."

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