There is a backstory to this review of the Lawrence eatery Sazon Peru. I originally intended to review it late last summer, and was, in fact, driving there on Interstate 495 when disaster struck and Lawrence, Andover and North Andover exploded. Instead of dining on delicious fusion cuisine, we were gridlocked on the highway as dozens of emergency vehicles screamed past us — in the breakdown lane, in the median, even weaving their way through stopped traffic.
We saw a lot of smoke drifting over Lawrence and maybe a half-dozen helicopters bobbing over the city. Once traffic started moving again, all exits to Lawrence were blocked by police. We just kept heading north until we found an exit we could take.
It seemed like a good idea to visit Sazon Peru another time. Little did we know that even if we had managed to get there, we likely would have been told to evacuate even before the cocktails were served.
Like most businesses in the blast zone, this restaurant wasn’t allowed to open for months, and only began serving again around the beginning of the new year.
Though an event like that could be fatal to many businesses, Sazon Peru seems to have bounced back. The single dining room is inviting and tidy. There is a small bar to the right as you enter, and tables that can accommodate around 50 diners. Colorful tablecloths are under glass, and smoky stemmed goblets are positioned on the tables. It’s a pleasant, neat and casual setting.
Not yet a Peruvian cuisine aficionado? Not to worry. Though the menu is in Spanish, there are English subtitles, and staffers are friendly and helpful. They may suggest a cocktail made from pisco, a type of Peruvian brandy, or perhaps something containing Inca Cola, a carbonated lemon verbena soft drink that’s popular in Peru.
A little historical background may be in order. Peru has jungles, coastline and mountains, so the cuisine is a rich mix of seafood, stews and potatoes, along with fruits and vegetables. There is also a sprinkling of Asian influences, the result of Japan’s impact on Peruvian culture over the years.
A small complimentary bowl of fried corn kernels was a fun start. They imploded with a powdery texture when chewed but quickly grew addictive.
The “Causa de Pollo o Atun” ($11.99) was a terrific starter. The mix of potato puree, chicken, avocado, chili cream and pickle juice was a visually striking platter. The melange of textures and flavors was impossible to resist.
Entrees include ceviches, generous rice dishes, traditional platters and more, with nearly two dozen from which to choose.
I went for the “Arroz con Camaron” ($15.99), a large and richly seasoned rice entree with shrimp, calamari and more, dramatically adorned with a lobster tail draped over the dish.
The “Lomo Saltado” ($15.99), another appealing platter, included sauteed beef and rice mixed with onions, tomatoes, a dash of soy sauce and wine vinegar. The mix of tastes and styles brought the dish together in a great way. The thickly-sliced french fries paired excellently.
Even something as classic as a rice pudding dessert ($4.99) was served with an agreeable twist — a dash of coconut.
By all means visit Sazon Peru. This independent eatery took a belly blow under the most unbelievable circumstances and was forced to stay closed for months.
Here’s the good part: You’ll be rewarded with a pleasant night out and some seriously good food at very reasonable prices.
Tuesday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday to Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(The bar remains open until midnight)
Editor’s Note: In the print edition of MVM, we published the wrong phone number at the end of this review. We thank all of you that called to make reservations, and deeply apologize to the individual who was unintentionally bombarded with calls. (978) 866-3964 IS the correct number to call for Sazon Peru.