It wouldn't be fair to say Hollywood's 2-month-old La Huaca Peruvian Cuisine is hidden; it's just a bit off the beaten path. Sitting at Harrison Street and South 20th Avenue, one block south of Hollywood Boulevard, the new Peruvian eatery is really just steps from the clustered chaos of the city's restaurant row.
The name, according to owner Ynes Sona, can be interpreted as "hidden treasure" -- a nod to the shrines found throughout the Inca territory from Ecuador to Chile believed to house spiritual beings. For her, the place is a diamond in the rough, an escape from the often-traditional approach to Peruvian cuisine.
See also: La Huaca in Hollywood (Photos)
Unlike many casual South Florida Latin eateries, La Huaca doesn't fit into the typical format -- all those small, unassuming spots tucked into strip malls with order counters, plastic-covered menus, and fading photos of the Andean landscape.
Instead, the newly renovated space, which took the place of Sage French Café, has been transformed into an elegant affair. Two spacious dining areas -- one looking out onto South 20th Avenue with floor-to-ceiling windows and another more secluded private room -- can accommodate up to 180 people. The restaurant also boasts an upscale touch with a glass-encased wine storage room and a large marble bar at the front.
Peruvian-born Ynes and her husband, Tunisian-born Maher Sona, moved to the U.S. in 1997. Together, they enjoy a broad range of cuisine. Maher is a classically trained chef who prefers the tastes of France and Spain. Ynes grew up in her family's restaurants in Peru and continues to harbor love for the meats and seafood of her homeland. Their first restaurant together was in Fort Lauderdale and rested on Maher's specialty: a small bistro serving French and Italian, called Bon Moments. When Maher decided in 2007 to retire from the kitchen, Ynes says she was already dreaming of opening her own Peruvian establishment.
For Ynes, La Huaca is a passion project with purpose: to represent the gastronomy of her country in a contemporary light, with a modern take on Peru's coastal cuisine.
"There is nothing like this here. No good Peruvian food," says Ynes. And location was important."I wanted a place to go that wasn't as far as Miami."
Despite its upscale ambiance and cultural mission, if all you're hankering for is a good ceviche or tiridito, rest assured, you'll still find every solid Peruvian dish you've come to expect at La Huaca: traditional starters like Papa a la Huancaína, boiled potatoes served with a smooth, dense sauce of cheese; parihuela, a chili-intensive seafood stew; and rotisserie-style pollo a la brasa, moist and full of flavor.