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Aji Picante opens in Squirrel Hill, serving Latin fusion, Peruvian cuisine

Aji Picante has opened in Squirrel Hill, serving Latin American food with an emphasis on Peruvian cuisine. Co-owner Gail Klingensmith says she hopes to offer something new to the sophisticated East End dining scene and to specifically showcase the flavors of Peru.

"[The chef's] ideas are different, the tastes are different, and there are tastes here that you won't have anywhere else…because it's all his spin on Latin food with a Peruvian twist," Kingensmith says.

Chef José Luis del Solar, a native of Peru, has cooked for over 15 years, and trained at the London Culinary Institute. This is his first project in the U.S.

Aji is owned by Gail Klingensmith and Pam Cohen, of Pamela's P & G Diner, and Risé Cohen. Aji shares a storefront that is split with a new Pamela's Diner. The space, formerly a Panera Bread restaurant, was completely rebuilt to accommodate both spaces, and allows for a shared kitchen.

Menu items include a quinoa risotto with Andean peppers, vegetables, tomato confit, sweet corn; Crisped pork shank over Canary bean puree, with caramelized squash, carrots, and vegetables in a dark beer and cilantro sauce; Chupe, a Peruvian style bouillabaisse; and homemade drinks like a tamarind mojito and passion fruit and orange punch.

The restaurant seats 46, with an additional 16 seats on the front patio, and is BYOB.

Aji is currently serving dinner Tuesday to Thursday, and Sunday, 5 to 10p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11p.m. 1711 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill, 15217. 412-422-0220.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gail Klingensmith
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