By Dan Paris
As soon as I approached the counter to order, I could tell something was different. I knew from the joy and excitement in his eyes, there was a big smile hidden behind Jonathan Moreno’s mask. Here is someone who could work twelve hours a day and wake up the next day eager to start again.
Jonathan and his mom, Monica, had been cooking out of their home and soon became overwhelmed in their small kitchen with the volume of orders from a growing multitude of appreciative customers. These customers are an extended familia who have an emotional connection to the dishes that Monica and Jonathan have perfected. Monica and her husband emigrated from their native countries of Bolivia and Peru with generations of their beloved recipes. Jonathan inherited their passion for flavors from their cultures.
Columbian cuisine is mostly comfort food served with multiple sides on a large platter including huge servings of grilled meat, sausages, chicken, twice-cooked plantains (patcones), yucca fries, red beans in broth, and rice. This is all preceded by chicken soup with potatoes and flavored with an aromatic herb (guasca) which has a subtle cumin flavor. Take the same ingredients above, add an egg, and you have breakfast. Most meals are served with a pita-like corn flour bread called arepa, which can be stuffed with ground meats or cheese.
Mi Cultura makes the best empanadas I have ever eaten, including the ones I tried in South America. They offer three varieties: one stuffed potatoes and cheese, one stuffed with minced meats, olives, and onions, and one stuffed the ground meats and onions. The dough is light and crispy. They are served with a chimichurri-like sauce (ajicriollo) and an aji verde sauce both using the South American aji chili as their base.
The Peruvian cuisine offered has Asian influences and are stir-fried in woks (lomo saltado). These can be noodle based and rice based. The flavors are clean and fresh. The ceviche is made with either shrimp or white fish and is bathed in “leche de tigre” a creamy, citrusy, aji pepper sauce.
Peruvian rotisserie chicken is marinated, then basted with citrus while grilling and served with a spicy aji verde sauce on the side. The most flavorful chicken available anywhere.
I was inspired by Jonathan’s joy and enthusiasm in sharing the food he loves. This place will do well because the food is what matters and the food is very, very good.
44795 San Pablo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.