Culantro has been on my list of Hamilton-restaurants-to-check-out for a while and the opportunity finally came. It started with a tweet about the special for the day – beef hearts and pork belly tamales. Hamilton foodies united and we made a reservation. Culantro is a very small eatery on King Williams beside The Baltimore House. The dining area seats only about 20 people because it’s run by chef and owner, Juan Castillo. He is a one-man-show in the kitchen and sometimes, front-of-house! Juan’s approach is to introduce his treasured family recipes to the table by presenting them in a familiar way and making it affordable.
The foodies have been bringing me to new and old restaurants around downtown Hamilton. A couple weeks ago, we gathered at Nabil’s for some comforting Middle Eastern food. Then we had tastings at Knead Pizza (before their soft opening) and at Serve Ping Pong, Hamilton’s newest ping pong lounge serving really good food!
Beef Hearts and Tamales
We always share everything when I eat with the Hamilton foodies. For the table, we ordered Lomo Saltado ($11.95), Pollo a la Brasa ($24.95), Quinoa Salad ($4.25), Yucca Fries($4.25), Empanadas ($4.25), Beef Hearts, and Pork Belly Tamales. The main reason we decided to come here were the Beef Hearts. The tender and flavourful muscle rested on beautifully stewed potatoes. The portions were bite-sized and it had no resemblance to a heart, so don’t be afraid to try it if they have this again! I’ve only had tamales once before this dinner and I didn’t have a great experience with them. Chef Juan’s tamales were life-changing! Well, it wasn’t that dramatic but my view on tamales changed after my first bite. The starchy dough (masa) was beautifully moist and smooth, while the pork belly stuffing was bursting with flavour.
Next came the Lomo Saltado and Pollo a la Brasa. The stir fried skirt steak with red onions, pepper, tomatoes, and fries were finished with a red wine and soy sauce reduction. Again, the beef and potatoes were seasoned well and we were able keep everything moist and juicy with the sauce. The chicken was piled high with deliciously looking char marks all over the skin. We ordered our own empanadas and I went with chicken. The deep fried pastry was stuffed with shredded chicken, mushrooms and cheese. It was a super stuffed and savoury pocket of goodness. It was impossible for me to finish it with all the food we ordered!
The two sides we ordered were a nice balance to the meaty mains. The Quinoa Salad was mixed with fresh vegetables and seasoned with a lime vinaigrette. I didn’t think I’d like this grainy super-food but the texture and taste was just perfect. The fried chunks of yucca were surprisingly delicious! The crispy crust was salted beautifully and the interior was subtly sweet. I’d actually prefer these over regular fries! Definitely give these a try.
I would’ve loved to try their dessert but I didn’t have room for it! I enjoyed all of the dishes we ordered and I’m glad we ate family-style. Culantro has a really small space, so make reservations ahead of time (especially when they have specials). Make sure you visit Culantro for a flavourful Peruvian dining experience!
Ps. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.