(Photos courtesy Thomas Smith/Gado Images)
Parada restaurant in Walnut Creek, California is situated in a relatively small space, tucked into a shopping center next to the Pleasant Hill BART station in the Contra Costa Transit Village. But the small, lively, trendy restaurant serves the best Peruvian food in the Bay Area. After a visit, you might find yourself feeling inspired to fly to Peru to experience the real thing.
Parada offers a variety of Peruvian dishes, from a variety of different styles within the country's culinary repitoire. There's a wide variety of ceviches, a dish for which Peru is well known. These feature various raw fishes "cooked" in an acidic mixture of citrus juice known as Leche de Tigre. There's a catch of the day ceviche, as well as standbys like an ahi tuna version. If you get a ceviche, you'll definitely want to pair it with some of Parada's homemade chips.
In addition to ceviches, Parada offers a variety of lower-priced, more casual Peruvian street foods. These include various grilled skewers, fresh and delicious empanadas, and chicharrones. The chicken chicharrones are one of the best items on Parada's menu if you're in the mood for more casual fare. They're tiny, juicy pieces of delicious fried chicken, served with a variety of Peruvian dipping sauces.
The mac and cheese--which is rich and cooked with thick slices of bacon--makes a great side dish for a casual meal, too.
At lunchtime, the restaurant also offers a variety of sandwiches, including one which is basically just the chicken chicharrones on a sourdough bun with some sauce. It's a fantastic option. Parada's Kola spare ribs (flavoed like the nut, not the drink) are an excellent casual dish too if you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty eating them.
If you're seeking out parada for fancier fare, the restaurant has you well covered, too. Parada offers a variety of main dishes which are more complex, and with much larger portions. I love the adobo pork, a sizable chunk of pork shoulder cooked with a deep red mole-style sauce.
The main dishes are often too much food for a lunch, but they're fantastic heated up later as leftovers (or do work as the main portion for lunch if you're feeling especially hungry). If you're seeking out something less intensley flavored (or someting for a more finicky family member), remember that Peru is also known for its rotisserie dishes. Parada delivers here with a simple, deliciously cooked Marys chicken, available in half and full sizes.
If you've never tried Peruvian food, what is it like? The cuisine is similar to Mexican food in many ways, but brings in many flavors which are unique to the country. It's an accessible cuisine for most diners, and few dishes at Parada are overly spicy. Several items are very kid-friendly--especially the mac and cheese and chicken dishes.
The restaurant offers a variety of tasty desserts, too, as well as a sampler which combines multiple desserts into one plate. Try the churros if you ever get a chance--they're not on the menu right now, but it's possible they'll make a comeback in the future. The panna cotta--a creamy jello-style dessert made with coconut and dunked in passion fruit syrup--is delicious too.
If you're looking for a creative drink, Parada has you covered, too. The restaurant is known for its wide range of pisco drinks, including a pisco sour which incorporates whipped egg whites to give a frothy, creamy feel.
Parada has remained open through much of the pandemic, with a heated outdoor patio which it has expanded.
The atmosphere at Parada is lively but approachable, and trendy enough for a fancy dinner, yet not pretentious or stuffy. Since it's a small space, reservations are a good idea on weekends or special occasions. Parada has great takeout options, too, and its food travels well--especially the fried street food dishes.
Check out Parada to experience Peru here in the Bay Area.
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