Q’ero restaurant in Encinitas reviewed
Hello all! For my first restaurant review I took my wife Beth out for an early Birthday dinner to an amazing little Peruvian restaurant in Encinitas called Q’ero. This was my 4th trip there and her 2nd but first for dinner so we were both really excited! I made reservations for 8 pm on open table and received a call from the restaurant around 3 the day of to confirm my reservations which I appreciated. On open table there is a spot to ask for special requests so I decided to test this a little and noted we’d be celebrating my wife’s Birthday and a single candle in dessert would be great. Well when we got there the server right away welcomed us and mentioned Beth’s Birthday which was great and surprised her, however that was all the Birthday Love we got, no candle in our dessert which was only a very mild disappointment.
Q’ero is a Peruvian restaurant and in all honesty it’s the only Peruvian food I have ever tried. However I can’t imagine it getting much better! Per their website this style of food brings flavors from numerous cultures such as Chinese, Japanese, African, Arabic and Spanish. The main thing that I have found during my experiences at Q’ero were not just how delicious their food is but how the flavors are so very unique and different from just about anything else I have ever eaten. The food varies from very light and refreshing (ceviche) to hearty and rich (pork shank, lamb shank, etc).
We arrived at the restaurant right around 7:55 and ended up having to wait till about 8:10 to get seated which I didn’t have a problem with as this place is very small and they can’t push people out the door just because the table is needed. This is also one of the main things I appreciate about Q’ero is you don’t feel rushed at all. The servers in my experience have always been excellent and last night was no exception. Patrick was our server and was very close to being perfect when it comes to how I want to be waited on at a restaurant. He was there just enough to make sure we had what we needed and everything was to our liking but didn’t hover, which is tough in a small place like this. Also he recited the specials perfectly noting each ingredient and taking the time to explain them properly.
We started off with a couple glasses of wine and 2 appetizers. The first one is called “Empanaditas de Verduras” which are noted in the menu as “Savory baked turnovers filled with lentils, sweet potatoes and spinach accompanied by aji panca” which is a type of chili pepper common to Peru. Basically though these are empanadas and delicious ones at that! The crust was perfectly cooked and flaky and the filling was mouthwatering. It wasn’t too mushy and had a consistent texture and flavor all the way through. The aji panca dipping sauce only made them better, it was spicy yet somehow refreshing at the same time. After this we also had their appetizer special of the day which was ceviche. They have their 2 regular ceviche’s that are always on the menu and I’ve had the “Ceviche Don Cucho” which is one of the best I have ever had so we had high hopes for this special. It was different from their normal ceviche in that it had some passion fruit, mint and a few other delicious items we couldn’t quite pick out that made it not only extremely tasty but very light and refreshing on our palate’s after the Empanaditas which of course are a little heavier.
After such a great start to our meal we were both ready and stoked to tackle our main entrees! Beth chose their daily special entrée which was a mix of seafood in a light and tasty broth. There was a scallop, a large shrimp, a nice sized piece of fish (sea bass I believe) and some calamari. It was flat out delicious! The scallop, shrimp and fish more so than the calamari, which was good but not quite as good as the other 3 items. One of the main reasons for this I believe is because the other items could soak up some of the broth while the calamari really couldn’t. It was still good and had great texture though. All in all it was very light and amazing how all 4 pieces of different seafood were cooked perfectly, something that is very hard to do.
I decided to order my favorite thing I’d had at Qero in the 4 times I have been there which is the roasted Kurobota pork shank which on their menu is called “Pernil de Chancho.” The menu notes it’s a “Kurobota pork shank prepared confit style with roasted oyster mushrooms, sautéed with shallots and finished in an aji Amarillo sauce, served with roasted fingerling potatoes.” If that didn’t just make your mouth water please take a minute and check your pulse…. OK, still with me!?
The shank is literally one of the best pieces of pork I have ever had in my life. If you’ve never had any type of Kurobota pork I feel very sorry for you, go out and get some today! Since the shank was cooked confit style it was unbelievably tender and also extremely flavorful at the same time. As I ate it I would get hints of bacon and ham and a bite of the pork, potatoes and mushrooms all together was simply perfection.
Finally after eating all this amazing food we (I) decided to order some dessert as I thought they would bring it out with the candle as I had requested. Unfortunately as I noted above this did not happen but really didn’t take away from our experience. We decided on their tres leches cake which is one of my favorite desserts and as I was going to order a glass of port with it our waiter recommended a black beer called Xingu that he said matched with the flavor perfectly. As Beth and I definitely love a good beer and food pairing I was instantly intrigued and told our waiter that sounded great and I appreciated him bringing it to our attention. In all honesty I was insanely stuffed at this point but the cake was so light and delicious I ate almost all of it! And Patrick our server was spot on with the pairing, both the beer and the cake enhanced the flavor of each other tremendously.
So all in all I would say you’d have a hard time ever going wrong eating at Q’ero however it can get somewhat expensive. After a nice 20%+ tip to Patrick our bill was just this side of $200, which is what I had prepared myself for though. I would definitely say it was well worth it and good money spent!
One other item of note Q’ero is very small and probably can only seat about 30 people at a time so I would definitely make reservations. Also it is a perfect date place but not somewhere I would ever bring children.
I would rate Q’ero and the entire dining experience there as 10 feet (on my surf scale noted above). Which basically means I would highly recommend it to anyone and would expect everyone to receive as great of service and food as we did.
If you have been there or go please comment and let me know how your experience was and what you liked and/or didn’t like!
Please note some of the pics (dark ones) are mine and some are ones I took from the Q’ero website and google. I didn’t want to use my flash in the restaurant so my pics didn’t turn out too hot.