Editor’s Note: Uchu is closed.
Uchu’s location is deceptive. Set in the corner of a Plymouth strip mall, the dining room is a simple, food court-like space. But a gigantic open kitchen with a blazing stainless steel range herald what will arrive on your plate: flavorful seafood-centered Peruvian cuisine.
Owner and head chef Jorge Armando Sarmiento (above) comes from coastal Peru and has been working in restaurants for 14 years. He calls his month-old restaurant “Uchu” after the Incan Quechuan word for pepper, three types of which he highlights throughout the menu.
Sarmiento’s food is certainly an ode to perfect heat, as well as texture. Both themes were well executed in almost everything we tried. The Arroz con Mariscos ($15), a pinkish paella-like dish, is a quilt of textures including soft, sweet scallops, flexy little squids, mussels, and tender curls of shrimp. Even the rice has personality, marked by an even, mouth-filling heat from the uchu panca.
The menu features several criolla (or creole) dishes that reflect the patchwork immigrant culture of Peru. True to this distinction, the flavor profile of the criolla dish called Tacu Tacu ($14) leans toward that of a soy sauce-based Asian stir-fry. A smoky mixture of rice and fat red beans is topped with decent strips of steak and sidled by two delicately sweet griddled plantains. The only quirk is the extra-hard fried egg that disappoints where it might otherwise enhance.
The Pescado ($12) is one of four ceviches on the menu. Firm chunks of tilapia marinated in lime juice are served alongside a scattering of white corn and cold, ghostly yams. The combination of citrus-spiked fish, sweet yam, and some crunchy red onions is wondrous and totally weird. It’s possibly the best example of the way Peruvian food can shoot off in a million directions at once and still land on target.
Of the rather pricey appetizers, the Papa a la Huancaina ($6.50) is the most affordable. It celebrates the sturdy tubers found high in the Andes of Peru. Cold, boiled potatoes are covered in a creamy queso fresco sauce, amped by the garlicky warmth of the uchu amarillo. Its bland appearance gives way to a strangely refreshing taste — a quiet way to start your meal.
And for dessert is the Trilogia Limena, an adorable trio of puddings, which is a great deal at only $6. On our visit, the Arroz con Leche (rice pudding) could’ve used more spices and fat, but the Mazamorra Morada (purple corn pudding) was pleasant and cool, like a chunky, homemade applesauce. The Suspiro a la Limena (caramel pudding) was the sweetest of them all, but smooth and toasty, topped with a melty cloud of meringue.
Uchu might not be the most affordable or romantic spot to stop in Plymouth, but it fills a gap in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s grand old lineup of Latin American joints. And, in addition to a collection of deliciously strange bites, a visit to Uchu might just get you a tableside visit from the chef himself, who’ll wisely suggest you saute your leftovers slowly on the stove in a pan of oil.
Peruvian cuisine in Plymouth, MN
4130 Berkshire Ln N
Plymouth, MN 55446
OWNER / CHEF: Jorge Sarmiento
Tue-Thu 11-2pm and 4-9pm
Fri 11-2pm and 4-10pm
BAR: Beer (Wine license in the works)
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $12-$15