I spent half of last week traveling, but back home in Houston, the dish that left the strongest impression on me was the Seco de Res at Piqeuo Peruvian restaurant in Cypress, the subject of this week's restaurant review. (Look for it online Wednesday and in print Thursday.)
There was so much going on in this resonant dish that it made me forget completely that I've had enough braised short ribs — near-ubiquitous on menus in recent years — to last the rest of my life. Chef-owner Gerry Sarmiento, who also owns the Italian restaurant Mezzanotte in the same upscale strip center, marinates the beef in chicha de jora, the ancient corn beer of the Incas, which imparts an interesting tang.
A couple of the less familiar Peruvian chiles, or ajis (pronounced ah-hees) chime in, adding warmth and deep fruitiness: the red aji panca and the sunnier, milder aji mirasol. The green herbal twist of cilantro sets the whole, lush affair on edge.
None of these effects would matter if the short ribs involved had not been cooked to such a shreddy tenderness. But they were, and I greedily consumed the lion's share of a sensibly portioned small order that costs $14. (A larger order goes for $24 on the dinner menu) .
While you're at it, check out the restaurant's Diablo Sour, a variant on the Pisco Sour in which the Pisco (Peruvian grape brandy) is infused with rocoto chile, which electrifies the flavors.
(Piqeuo Restaurante & Bar, 13215 Grant Rd., Cypress. 281-404-4190)