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Miguelinas brings Peru’s flavors with flair to Rego Park

Miguelinas' long narrow space, which is doubled by its glass-enclosed side terrace, has an upscale rather than an ethnic feel. Its exposed brick walls are decorated by an alpaca wall hanging and some South American farm implements, but they are applied sparingly enough to avoid accusations of kitsch. The atmospheric lighting and cloth tablecloths and napkins also help to elevate Miguelinas above ethnic dining.Miguelinas may describe its fare as "Latin," but the emphasis is almost exclusively on Peruvian cuisine, beginning with the specialty drinks. You can begin your meal with a pisco sour, the national drink of Peru. Alternatively, you could try Miguelinas' Peruvian-style sangria. It is made with wine, pisco, and peaches, frothed up in a blender. It makes a fun cocktail, although a whole pitcher is a bit sweet to carry you through your meal. Pisco is a type of brandy made in Peru (and also Chile) that is Peru's No. 1 spirit of choice. For an interesting non-alcoholic Peruvian beverage, try a Chicha Morada, a punch made from purple corn.Peru's cuisine is an amalgam of it many varied cultural influences -- the ancient Quechuas of the Andes, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon jungle, the Spanish conquerors, and later the waves of Italian, Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Potatoes were a mainstay of the ancient Incas' diet, and they cultivated more than 1,000 varieties. Pizarro introduced potatoes from Peru to Europe. Naturally we had to try a potato dish. Our choice was causa, which is mashed, seasoned Peruvian yellow potatoes layered with shrimp, chicken or tuna. The causa was as decorative as it was delicious, molded into small layered cake. The potatoes were an astonishing yellow color, and the tuna was blended with cilantro, red onion, and other condiments to give what we suspect was originally a rather homey dish a touch of elegance.In recognition of the Italian influence on Peru's cuisine, we ordered Quattro Formaggi Ravioli in Cantaloup Sauce. We had expected the cantaloupe to be somehow blended into the sauce, but what we were served was cheese ravioli in a rich, creamy sauce with chunks of cantaloupe in the sauce. Our initial surprise turned to appreciation, although the sauce was so rich we could only manage a small portion. Tacu-tacu de mariscos is yellow rice and canary beans mixed with shrimp, fish, and calamari in a yellow pepper sauce. Some believe tacu-tacu to be the result of a Chinese cook preparing fried rice for his Peruvian patrons. Miguelinas is a classic rendition of this quintessentially Peruvian dish crammed with seafoodPicadillo habanero was humble and complex at once. It is sauteed ground beef combined with raisins, olives and avocado served over rice with black beans and a crisp-edged fried egg on top. It had the just the slightest hint of an after burn, and an amazing mingling of flavors.Miguelinas tempts diners with a range of uniquely Peruvian desserts. We opted for Lucuma Cheese Cake. Lucuma is a delicately flavored tropical fruit native to the cool highlands of South America. This dessert turned out to be a pretty typical crumb crusted cheesecake with a delightfully hard-to-define flavor that was the lucuma. Next time we want to try Mazamorra Morada-purple corn pudding served with sour plums, raisins and apricots.The Bottom LineWith all its varied influences, Peruvian flavors are simultaneously exotic and familiar. Miguelinas makes this cuisine accessible in comfortable surroundings. It's a great alternative to Italian again. There is live Latin music on weekends. Think of Miguelinas for something different, affordable and fun. Miguelinas Restaurant & Bar63-20 Woodhaven Blvd.Rego Park, NY 11375718-565-2055www.miguelinasrestaurant.comCuisine: PeruvianSetting: Small, attractively appointedService: AttentiveHours: Dinner seven days/weekReservations: optionalAlcohol: full barParking: StreetDress: CasualChildren: WelcomeMusic: Latin music on weekendsTakeout: YesCredit cards: The usualNoise level: Quiet weekday, weekend music can be loud.Handicap accessible: YesSamples From the MenuCausa de Camarones, Pollo o Atun...$9.95Tacu-Tacu de Mariscos...$$12.95Picadillo Habanero...$14.95Ropa Vieja...$15.95Quattro Formaggio Ravioli in Cantaloup sauceOrganic Rib Eye Steak with Apricot & Bourbon sauce...$23.95Lucuma Cheese cake...$6.95

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