Hempstead Village is known nowadays for its Central American restaurants. So it’s something of a surprise to find El Ajicito Peruvian Restaurant, nearly hidden away in a storefront on a quiet stretch of Front Street, across from the V&T supermarket.
The dining room is a cheerful space, with Andean decorations on the walls and recorded salsa music playing as smartly dressed waitstaff ferry plates across tile floors.
Corn is big in Peru — literally. Giant kernels of choclo, also known as Cusco corn, are toasted, salted and served in lieu of chips. Purple corn is the main ingredient in chicha morada, a red-wine-colored sweet soft drink served in a carafe. It’s nonalcoholic ($7 a carafe).
Need something stronger? A full bar serves up specialties such as a Coronita sour ($15). The sour is made with pisco grape brandy and passion fruit juice. An upturned 7-ounce Corona slowly drains into the glass goblet as you sip through a straw.
Peruvian specialties include seven kinds of ceviche, the raw, citrus-marinated national dish ($10 to $30). In the Leche de Tigre ceviche pieces of whitefish and shrimp swim in tangy cocktail juice ($10). A half rotisserie chicken ($10) arrives nestled against French fries. According to Peruvian custom, the accompanying packet of mayonnaise goes on the fries.
El Ajicito Peruvian Restaurant, 246 Front St., Hempstead, 516-292-5724, elajicitorestaurant.com