At Via Lima, the carpet does not match the drapes. Relax, we're not about to shoot a homemade porno Zack and Miri style, but it's a vivid explanation of how something about it doesn't mesh.
Via Lima is a Peruvian restaurant in North Center opened by a woman who wanted to honor her Peruvian roots. Fair or not, we had expectations about what that would be. We wanted awesome Peruvian food in a cozy neighborhood place. The good news is the Peruvian food is really good. The problem is that walking into Via Lima feels a little like Peruvian Applebee's.
As far as the food, we really enjoy the Peruvian classics. Ceviches are well-exeucted and let you mix and match different fishes and sauces. The typical pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian chicken, is great. And the use of choclo, thick and savory Peruvian corn, is perfect, particularly in the corn soufflé topped with duck confit. And yet, sitting there is a little underwhelming. It's nicely decorated with a lot of purple and plenty of space, but the design leaves it feeling empty and quiet even with a bunch of people inside.
These competing factors leave us with two takeaways. One, Via Lima is a great restaurant for the neighborhood. If you live in this part of town and want good food with quality service, then this is it. Go for a casual weekday dinner, bring your significant other, or meet your family there if they live in Chicago too. But just know this (takeaway two): Via Lima isn't destination dining. If your daily routine involves Soul Cycle in River North, art galleries in Pilsen, or complaining about how mainstream Logan Square is from your Logan Square apartment, then you don't need to go out of your way to Via Lima.
But like Applebee's would say, it's all good in the neighborhood.
Marinated fish with lime, red onion, sweet potato, savory corn, Peruvian pepper, and tiger's milk, which we hear builds strong bones. You can choose your own type of fish and pair it with a different spice level. We suggest the tasting option so you can give a few different styles a try.
Giant potato croquettes stuffed with beef, raisin, onion, tomato, egg, and black olive. Meat and potatoes, the Peruvian version, and there's nothing wrong with it.
An awesome corn souffle topped with duck confit and more choclo, or peruvian corn, which is much bigger and more savory than your standard corn on the cob.
Basically a chicken stir fry. Skip it, unless you're in a group and happen to have a picky eater with you. It's not bad, but you don't need it here.
Similar to the papa rellena, but stuffed peppers instead of potatoes. Good news: it comes topped with a bunch of mozzarella cheese and potato au gratin underneath. We're fans.
A seafood and rice dish with shrimp, calamari, scallops, octopus, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, peas, and a pepper puree. Like a Peruvian paella. Good for seafood lovers.
Peruvian chicken marinated with pepper, garlic, beer, and soy sauce, and served with fries. The rules of generally ordering chicken at a French restaurant also apply here. Good chicken.