Here in Atlanta, we are so blessed with a multitude of outstanding Latin restaurants: Mexican, Cuban, Brazilian, Colombian and Argentine food is pretty easy to find. But until recently if you had asked me to recommend an authentic Peruvian spot I would have been stumped. But now in Poncey Highlands the new Tio Lucho's Peruvian Coastal channels chef Arnoldo Castillo's cooking energy into this fun and colorful concept. The restaurant is named after Castillo's father, Luis, (he was also a chef) who earned the sacred nickname of "Tio" which means uncle in Spanish. But it's more than that--it's more of a supreme term of endearment, like a guide or mentor. Sadly, Tio died 2 weeks before the restaurant opened but Chef Arnoldo carries on in his father's memory. Having recently helmed Minero in Ponce City Market and a very popular pop-up called La Chingada, Castillo partnered up with Howard Hsu of Sweet Auburn BBQ and Lazy Betty and concocted this shrine to modern interpretations of his hometown cuisine of Piura, Peru.
Walking into the restaurant, a wall-size mural reminds you: "En Atlanta Se Come Rico" (Atlanta eats rich) so buckle up your tastebuds. As inspired by the coast, seafood is the star of the show with dishes such as ceviches, fresh snapper, oysters, octopus plus plenty of land-based cusine (from the farm) like lomo saltado (stir-fried steak over french fries), pork belly with yuca mash plus salads and savory Peruvian sandwiches known as Sanguches made with fried fish, marinated chicken or avocado and egg served on cibatta. Every morsel I tried was fresh, explosive in flavor and very memorable. Wash it all down with one of their signature Pisco sours featuring several varieties of pisco, a high-proof grape-based Peruvian distillate.
I have to admit, Tio Lucho's totally opened up a whole new experience of Latin cuisine for me that had been missing from my palate. This is a menu that requires multiple visits to conquer since there are so many tantalizing options to try and the staff is extremely knowledgeable to explain the subtleties and origins of Chef Arnaldo's creations so book for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch.