For most of its time on Earth, the back corner units of the MoonStone Square shopping plaza have been empty, possibly an undesirable location hidden from those passing by at high speeds on Alondra Blvd. One of the two units was briefly home in 2019 to a small taqueria specializing in tacos al vapor, but this did not last very long.
2020 wreaked havoc on the restaurant world, and presumably delayed the opening of Ají Verde, which combined the two spaces to make a grand restaurant. But in early November they opened their doors and are trying to get through the end of the pandemic before becoming what could be a really fun place to have dinner in Southeast Los Angeles.
Until that big dining room can be filled, takeout orders are done very nicely here, each served with a portion of a split pea and chicken soup. This had corn and potatoes within and was delicious enough to have it as a main course. You also get an enormous amount of their homemade ají verde, which after being enjoyed with these meals started to get used on sandwiches and other lunches later.
A good foundation to know what kind of chef you are dealing with at a Peruvian restaurant is the basic ceviche mixto ($15, above), listed here in the appetizer section and full of fish, calamari, and shrimp, all fresh as could be. It is surrounded by boiled and fried corn, lettuce, and sweet potato. Peruvian ceviche is strained after “cooking” in lime juices and spices and served dry, but they include a small shot of the tart marinade known as leche de tigre for you to do with as you want.
Unconsciously wanting to keep the theme green, an order of tallarin verde ($11.60, above) was placed. You can also get this served with breaded steak for a bit more, but on this occasion the quarter chicken was desired. Rather than ají, the green is created here by a cheesy sauce given its color by basil and spinach. A side of Parmesan cheese is ready to sprinkle on top.
The spinach is a northern substitute for the albahaca that would be used in Perú, a green that looks similar but has a much more distinctive taste. You can choose dark or white meat when ordering, and either way this dish is a good way to grab some pollo a la brasa without committing to a full order of it.
If you happen to be here for a weekday lunch, turn the menu over and check out the amazing prices for their lunch specials. Many Peruvian classics are here to choose from, like their very good rendition of lomo saltado ($7.50 lunch price, above). Since this dish has gravy poured over fries, it begs to be eaten immediately if possible, but if you cannot, remove the fries at home and air fry them while warming the rest up more traditionally.
No matter what, those fries are where much of the taste comes from as they have soaked up all that delicious gravy. The sauteed strips of lomo were all good cuts, the combination of everything is definitely worth the regular price of $13.35 but at lunch it’s basically theft.
Ají Verde, 8527 Alondra Blvd., Paramount, Southeast Los Angeles.