It is a pleasure watching a skilled craftsman work. It is that reason we watch everything from Master Chef to Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch. We enjoy watching the best at work. When High Definition TV cameras are put away real skill and passion are so much more obvious. Boris Torres is the living embodiment of that passion and his restaurant El Anzuelo Fino is the canvas upon which he paints.
A simple family style restaurant situated on the corner of Northern Boulevard and 86th Street in Jackson Heights has been preparing Peruvian “soul food” for the past 6 years. He has been doing this in his Woodhaven location for the past 13 years. The restaurant has become a staple in this busy ethnic neighborhood.
We spoke with Chef Torres who describes Peruvian foods as “diverse” and we are hard-pressed not to agree. Peruvian foods are influenced by not only the Spaniards but Italians, Africans and recently Asians. From what we tasted the cuisine is the ultimate melting pot in the borough that is the melting pot. In a borough that is made up of approximately 50 percent foreign born nationals a cuisine that is all encompassing only makes sense and Chef Torres is one of the few that have the technical know-how to do just that. He is an artist when it comes to the kitchen.
Torres is a 29-year-old professionally trained chef. His passion for the kitchen started at the ripe age of 7 while watching his mother work at the family restaurant in Peru. He struggles with keeping harmony between his traditional family recipes and the tricks of the trade learned in culinary school. Naturally things change over time. Equipment is updated, techniques change, the world has gotten smaller and food is at the core.
“It is a fine line between pleasing our customers who prefer the traditional dishes made the way our families made it and new techniques and flavor combinations that are associated with professional cooking,” Torres said.
“Peruvian foods are inspired by the world, and we incorporate them to our own. All we ask is for an open mind to accept them,” he continued.
“Chef Torres is an artist when it comes to the kitchen.”
Torres prepared several dishes for us to sample. Up first was his version of ceviche, a dish that was declared a “national heritage” in Peru and has its own holiday. Ceviche is to Peru what apple piece is to the U.S. Torres’ version is made of diced raw fish marinated in lime juice, onions and chili peppers. The chef sliced Corvina, a fish found along the coast of South America, using a Japanese inspired sashimi style cut. The ceviche was pleasantly tart, had a bit of a kick and was perfectly complimented with a sweet potato. It was just outstanding. We also sampled his version of anticucho, which is any type of meat – but most popularly beef heart – marinated and served on a skewer.
The last appetizer-sized meal we had was Pulpo al Olivo (Octopus with [black] Olives). Personally, I love octopus. Anytime I have octopus it is usually Croatian “Domaci” style – cold octopus with potatoes, red onions, garlic and olive oil tossed as a salad. The Peruvian style was a breath of fresh air. The tenderness of the octopus played well with the delicate flavor of the black olive oil. It was amazing and like a vacation for my taste buds. For our entrée, Chef Torres prepared Lomo saltado, an interesting dish.
As aforementioned, Peruvian food incorporates the cuisines from around the world and no dish says this more clearly than Lomo Saltado. It consisted of beef tips sautéed with onions, tomatoes, reduced with soy sauce and served over French fries. This dish looked very much like something I would expect at a Chinese take out restaurant. Peruvian’s call this styled of cuisine “Chifa” which means Chinese- Peruvian influenced, another culture Peruvians uniquely made their own.
El Anzuelo Fino may be a restaurant run by a top of the line chef but it is family based to the core. Most entrées listed on the menu were between low teens price point to mid twenties on the high end. A regular cheeseburger was listed at $5, which is less than your standard Long Island diner.
The wine list is extensive with the bulk being Peruvian-based, as one might imagine. South America’s gold standard for wines are Chilean, but most Peruvian wines are every inch as good and slightly less expensive. El Anzuelo Fino also boasts a triple fermented “pisco,” or grape brandy, similar to Italian grappa.
As the TV in the corner showed Spain leading Ecuador 2-0 in a soccer match, Chef Torres sat down with us.
LIB: Seeing how Peruvian cuisine incorporates all, how much Portuguese influence is there?
Torres: Very little. Brazil, our neighbor to the east, has that covered pretty well.
LIB: What are the major obstacles you face?
Torres: Our major obstacle is marketing this great food. We are trying to broaden our base. This food is very diverse and there is something for everyone. People just haven’t experienced it yet. As a chef, I deal with is the constant struggle between traditional foods and creating new flavors.
LIB: What is next for Peruvian food?
Torres: We are in the midst of the next thing. Chinese influence or “Chifa” has been around for nearly 30 years. Now Japanese influence or “Nikei” has played a part our in cuisine for the past 10 years. There is more demand for things like ginger, traditional Japanese cuts like sashimi and overall Asian ideas. It is very exciting.
Remember Long Island, open minds are an art form, too. Try something different. El Anzuelo Fino is as good as it gets. You will not be disappointed.
El Anzuelo Fino has two locations:
86-01 Northern Blvd
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
98-01 Jamaica Ave
Woodhaven, NY 11421