But Piqueo's offers cancha steamed on skewered cobs ($9) in a fabulous, turmeric-yellow aji sauce. The corn itself was a little bland (though it doesn't stick in your teeth the way the ordinary kind can), but the sauce was so good that we pleaded for, and were brought, a plate of toasted baguette rounds to clean it up with.
Bread recurred (in a kind of late-inning rally) as part of a fried-smelt sandwich ($9) enlivened by sprigs of fresh cilantro. Smelt is a fresh-water fish not often seen in restaurants around here I associate it with the Great Lakes and early-spring fishing expeditions by night along Chicago's lakefront but there is a variety native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, so it's not necessarily an exotic delicacy.
Also not exotic delicacies, but delicious all the same, are calamari tubes ($19), closed off at one end like pastry piping bags, filled with chorizo, and grilled. The tubes (which look like elongated dreidels) are plated with broad, flat white beans, a jumble of watercress, and yet another wondrous sauce, this one called chupe.
If there is a slight letdown, it has to do with the dessert menu. Many of the usual suspects can be found here, from alfajores (the little cookies) to suspiro to passion-fruit mousse. After some squabbling ("Gentlemen, draw your Peepers"), we settled on the chocolate cake ($10) with ice cream. The ice cream, made with lucuña, a tropical fruit native to Peru, was a pretty orange-pink color but disappointingly granular, which suggested it had melted and been refrozen. The cake, on the other hand, a disk held within a rim of crushed nuts, was outstanding: a mousse cake, smooth and dense as night. No sauce needed.
Daily, 5:3010:30 p.m.
830 Cortland, SF
Beer and wine