Prior to my first visit, I read some pretty terrible reviews of the Tumi Cafe, so I went in expecting the worst. We had a LivingSocial coupon to use, so I figured it was worth a try anyway. Upon entering the small Peruvian restaurant, we soon realized that we were the only customers for lunch on this Saturday. We were greeted by the owner and showed to a table near the back of the room.
I started out with an Inca Kola, a popular soft drink from Peru, commonly described as having a bubblegum flavor. It pours a similar color to Mountain Dew, but is even sweeter. I was disappointed to find out that Coca-Cola actually owns the trademark and that the soda is not really an export of Peru. I wouldn’t order it again, but I figured I had to try it.
While the owner walked us through the menu, our one-year-old son was growing very hungry, so we rushed in an order of sweet potatoes while she continued to tell us all about the various dishes on the menu. Within a few minutes, a plate of oven baked sweet potatoes with butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and rum was given to us, and they were very good! Our son loves sweet potatoes and he quickly ate his way through these with no complaints.
The easiest decision we had to make was to try their most popular entrée, Aji de Gallina ($8.95). This dish features chicken covered in a sauce of walnuts, aji peppers, and Parmesan cheese. Also on the plate is their green rice and a side of hot mayo. Not pictured but also included is a small cup of salsa criolla (aji peppers, red onion and vinegar). Though the menu describes this as very spicy, I didn’t think it was, but it was actually very tasty. The hot mayo did add a little kick, if needed.
Since we were splitting the Aji de Gallina, we decided to order something else to try as well. With a somewhat limited menu, we decided to give the pulled pork sandwich ($4.95) a try. A full half pound of pork was served on a bun with more hot mayo and a little barbecue sauce. It too was good, though I think the Aji de Gallina was the standout item of the two.
While we enjoyed our food, the owner continued to share information with us. The tables, chairs, plates, and silverware are all mismatched items and have all come from the salvation army. Nothing they serve is fried, in fact they only have a small oven and use crock pots to keep things warm, cook rice, prepare soups, etc. The chicken is baked and then sliced by hand for use in a variety of dishes. She also provided some samples to us, the standout being their aji chili con carne.
It was also interesting to learn that all tips are donated to the Mt. Washington Music Project. Acts from this non-profit provide evening musical entertainment on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. It sounds like some nights can become quite crowded, so we may have to check that out in the future. Also of note is that the restaurant is BYOB, there are a couple of alcohol retailers just behind the restaurant.
To wrap up our first visit to the Tumi Cafe, we ordered the Tres Leches cake ($2.95). This is a traditional Peruvian light cake dipped with three kinds of milk and covered with cinnamon. It was light and spongy cake and was the perfect ending to a good meal. Despite what I had read about the Tumi Cafe before our visit, I was pleasantly surprised and would not hesitate to go back in the future.