107 Addison Rd Marrickville, NSW 220402 9569 3963
|Opening hours||Wed-Sun, noon-10pm|
Peruvians love potatoes. And they have lots of them - 5000 varieties or so - with many ways of serving them. Peru is also home to chillies - thousands of them, too, including a juicy but potent yellow chilli, and a squat and rather feisty fellow known as rocoto. Then there's a fierce grappa-like liquor called pisco and another national dish - ceviche - in which raw fish is doused with a fresh lime-onion-and-chilli-based marinade known, rather exotically, as leche de tigre, or tiger's milk.
These are things you probably need to know if you're heading to this blindingly white-walled dining room on a dark part of Addison Road. Named after a seaside town in northern Peru, Mancora is squeaky-new, with multi-coloured Peruvian paintings on the wall and a bouncy, up-tempo soundtrack of Latin classics. (If you're not a fan of Gypsy Kings, Guantanamera and Besame Mucho, think about going elsewhere.)
Keeping to the under-$30 budget may be tricky when raw-fish entrees such as ceviche and tiradito (sliced fish rather than ceviche chunks) start at $20. But they're ideal to share and, to paraphrase writer Alexander McCall Smith, traditionally portioned - read, large serves. The ceviche is excellent: fresh-as fish pieces, a good drenching of citrusy tiger's milk, finely sliced spanish onion, coriander and the traditional contrasts of sweet potato, roasted corn and corn kernels.
To balance the ceviche, you might opt for a potato dish. Best perhaps is a crema (cream) item - boiled potato slices drizzled with Peruvian sauces in a lovely range of orange, cream and green. These include ocopa (with feta and a musty herb called huacatay), huancaina (with yellow chillies) and a mayo-like version. The huancaina packs a decent punch.
There's a series of seafood rice dishes for the main course. Or perhaps, to keep on budget, a stuffed potato. Alternatively, there's the old Lima favourite called lomo saltado, in the ''chifa'' or Chinese-Peruvian tradition. It's a simple soy-laced stir-fry of beef strips served on hand-cut chips (more spuds) and a hillock of rice. Plain but good.
Mancora is barely two months old and the kitchen can be a little slow, the prices a tad ambitious for the area (our pisco sour cocktails were $15 each and, while properly executed, not traditionally portioned) and they don't take credit cards.
But it's a fun place for some bright new flavours. And at least a dozen interesting ways with potatoes.
Do … have a Peruvian Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) beer. Great with potatoes.
Don't … forget to bring cash.
Dish … ceviche. As it should be done.
Vibe … whitewashed modern with folksy overtones.