The cuisine of Peru is both distinctly Latin American and, at the same time, laced with Asian and European influences. At this Lynbrook offshoot of an established Queens Peruvian restaurant, the fare is showcased in an attractive setting with bold Inca symbols lining walls and sky-painted hangings overhead.
In the course of a single meal, though, you may feel as though you're at two different restaurants at Cuzco Peru. At times, the kitchen excels. Other times, the attention to detail wavers.
While waiting for your food, nibble on the addictive toasted salted corn nuts at the center of the table. They go well with the house sangria, sweet and studded with bits of orange and apple.
Grilled octopus, tender and savory, starts the meal on an up note. Papa relleno, mashed potato cakes stuffed with ground meat, have the delectability factor of a good knish. And it's hard to resist salchipapas, thin slices of Peruvian hot dogs atop a bed of crisp fries. Tamalitos, corn husks stuffed with corn kernels, pork, onion and tomato, get it right in flavor and eye appeal.
One night, the kitchen does well with arroz con mariscos, a paella-like composition with rice and a mixture of shrimp, calamari, mussels and crab. But overcooking undermines the jalea, fried breaded seafood with onions, tomato and a lime sauce. It can be hard to distinguish the individual components of the dish called pescado a lo macho, a tilapia fillet topped with a seafood assortment, everything cloaked in a surfeit of tomato cream sauce.
The pride of most Peruvian restaurants is chicken, marinated and rotisserie-roasted to a juicy, coppery turn. The bird here does Cuzco Peru proud, made from a "secret" recipe of owner Alex Torres. Get it whole or as a quarter piece, with salad and a side dish (sweet plantains are especially good). There also are family-style dinner combos.
Arroz chaufa, Peruvian-Chinese fried rice, would be a knockout were it not for the dry, overcooked beef and white meat chicken in the mix. Dryness also undermines the beef and chicken in the lomo saltado, a stir-fry featuring an assortment of vegetables and, incorporated into everything, fries.
Flan and rice pudding end the meal on a sweet, if unspectacular, note.
Yet, Cuzco Peru has the capacity to do better. The kitchen can turn out food that draws you back for more. It just needs to do that all the time.