Aji Peruvian restaurant, located in Ooltewah, Tennessee, serves delicious, fresh Peruvian food and beverages with friendly service!
Since we decided to eat in for 30 days (starting after spring break) we decided that our spring break strategy would be to eat at some restaurants that are not open on the weekend. Back when we ate at Thai Chili, we had actually tried to go to Aji Peruvian restaurant only to find out that they are closed on Saturday. Since it’s in Ooltewah, it’s a little bit of a drive for us to try to visit on weekday evening, so spring break was a perfect opportunity.
We arrived at around 12:00 on a Friday and were immediately seated by Sakei, who was our server as well. There was only one other table occupied, so I assume that they do most of their business at night. Sakei gave us our menus and gave us a few minutes to look over, then came back and answered questions and made recommendations.
While I ordered water, Philip decided to order a chicha morada ($2.15) – Andean purple corn juice blended with apples, pineapples, quince, lime juice, and spices. I didn’t take a picture of it because I didn’t think I’d get a good photo in the low lighting, but it was a deep purple color and it was delicious – it tasted like a very fruity spiced cider.
We considered ordering the choclo a la huancaina – Andean corn with a side of mild or spicy fresh Aji amarillo cheese sauce ($4.50), but we decided instead to order the empanadas al horno – five savory stuffed pastries from Aji’s bakery stuffed with your choice of chicken, three cheese and spinach, or tofu and spinach ($4.25). We decided to get two chicken, two spinach and cheese, and one tofu and spinach. The empanadas are basically small hand pies, filled, brushed with egg wash to give them a beautiful sheen, and baked until golden. They had just the right amount of filling and were amazingly not so hot that the filling scorched my mouth. The chicken was nicely spiced, the spinach and cheese very well balanced, and the tofu and spinach had a nice curry flavor.
For my entree, I decided to go with Sakei’s recommendation of lomo saltado ($9.65) – steak strips sautéed with onions and tomatoes, served on a bed of fries with a side of rice. Sakei said that this was one of her favorites and a very traditional Peruvian dish. The steak strips were tender and the sauce rich and savory…it definitely had some sort of seasoning like Maggi in it. The vegetables were nicely cooked and I loved how the fries soaked up the sauce. The rice was well-cooked and paired well with the meat mixture.
Philip couldn’t decide between the arroz chaufa ($9.15) – Peruvian style fried rice with sautéed steak or chicken, green onions, and eggs, seasoned with ginger and soy sauce – or the frito ($8.95) – deep-fried fish (tilapia) fillet served with rice and salsa criolla. Sakei suggested that, as a compromise, he could sub arroz chaufa for the rice that was included with the frito for an additional charge, so he decided to do that. The chaufa was delicious, with lots of egg and green onion and a strong ginger flavor. The fish was perfectly cooked, gorgeously golden and crispy, seasoned wonderfully, with onions and cilantro on top. Sakei also brought us some spicy Peruvian sauces made with Peruvian peppers, one medium that was similar to a salsa, and one hot that was creamy and green and delicious but a little too spicy for me to eat much of it.
Because we were pretty stuffed, we begrudgingly decided against dessert, but we would have loved to have had an alfajores (shortbread cookie filled with dulce de leche) or flan (custard topped with caramel). Our total pre-tip for Philip’s drink, the empananadas, and our two entrees was $29.50…not a bad value. The people were very friendly – Sakei and a sweet older lady who didn’t speak English but came out of the kitchen to greet us. The restaurant was nice, pretty basically decorated but clean and well-kept. The menu was full of delicious-sounding dishes, and I can’t wait to go back and try more.
We will definitely be back to Aji Peruvian Restaurant!
Aji Peruvian Restaurant is located at 5035 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road #123, Ooltewah, TN 37363. They are open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can call them at 423-396-3919. Check out their website, www.ajiperuvianrestaurant.com. You can like Aji Peruvian Restaurant on Facebook and follow @ajiperuvian on Twitter.