Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant
2551 Hemphill Drive, Norman
Date Established: December 2007
Owner: William Chunga
Kitchen Manager: Renato Victorio
Food Style: Peruvian, Mexican
Average Check: Lunch $8; Dinner $11
The tropical, exotic landscape of Peru feels worlds away from the tamed, mild plains of Central Oklahoma, yet you can find the littlest slice of South America tucked between a trio of bigbox stores in east Norman. Hidden in the unassuming, pale yellow barn-like building is the closest thing many Oklahomans ever get to (literally) getting a taste of the Peruvian life.
Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant opened three years ago, but it would be a few months after opening that the restaurant would add the options that have attracted a wide array of culinary adventurers.
“We first opened as a Mexican restaurant, but wanted to offer something different and new to the area,” owner and manager William Chunga said. “We began with the Peruvian menu about six months after we opened, and people didn’t know so much about it.
“Sometimes it takes a little time, sometimes none, but people tend to love it once they give it a chance,” he continued.
The Peruvian cuisine is both well flavored and largely authentic; it’s not all that unrelated from the more familiar Mexican dishes that are so very popular in the area, just with a little more zip.
The ceviche ($10.99) is one of the best offered for miles around. The fish is bright, with a pleasantly fresh flavor, while the tangy citrus of the lime gave it just the right amount of kick. The pairing with creamy sweet potatoes and crisp onions and corn further balances the dish into the right amount of tangy and savory.
Another tried-and-true dish, the Peruvian paella ($13.99), is equally impressive. The traditional rice dish found tons of zest with the bite of its scarlet saffron sauce that proved a capable vessel for navigating a sea of marine bites — mussels, calamari and shrimp — with assorted vegetables, fresh cilantro and gooey cheese anchoring it down. Both the portion and flavors are hearty and full.
Still other popular Peruvian plates include chaufas ($10.99), a Peruvian, Chinese-styled fried rice, and lomito saltado ($10.99), a traditional favorite of sautéed lean beef mixed with onions and a special spice blend. These and several others offer the unexpected Asian influence that often sneaks into Peruvian cooking with surprisingly good results.
for the more guarded gastronomic explorers, the tamer, traditional
Mexican dishes are aplenty, oft ordered and still quite good.
people get a hang of it, they usually just rotate their orders around
the Peruvian menu,” Chunga said. “Still, it’s about 60/40 in favor of
people ordering our Mexican dishes.”
Meals begin with the traditional set-up, and Mamaveca does it very well. The tortilla chips were crisp, but the creamy, queso blanco and
fresh salsa — with the perfect consistency and spice — made for a
welcoming introduction, and the soft, doughy and house-made flour
tortillas were delightful.
for entrées, the old favorite tamales ($8.99) are just as soft, warm
and comforting as ever, and the rest of the gang — enchiladas, fajitas
and burritos — are all there, too.
interior paints a picture closer to that traditional Mexican feel, with
tiny pieces recalling more foreign lands. Bright, but soft, orange
paint lights up the restaurant, while sleek steel and exposed ductwork
give it an industrial feel. The decor mixes up North and South American
elements, with Aztecs, Mayans and Incans all receiving their dues. It’s a
safe, but suitable, atmosphere built upon the idea that tastes and
flavors transport you much further than paint and figurines.
this south-of-the-border meets south-of-the equator restaurant, it’s
the wonderfully exotic but accessible Peruvian dishes that make Mamaveca
worth a visit (or two). But you are safe going with either menu; Chunga
said most all of his customers — many of whom are repeats — tend to
very blessed here since the start,” he said. “I approach each table
after every meal just to check to see how things were. I’ll tell you,
about 99 percent of the people simply tell me, ‘Outstanding.’” Mamaveca
is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m.
on Friday and Saturday. But if you are looking to get a taste of the
Peruvian cuisine, avoid Mondays and Tuesdays, as that menu is offered
only Wednesday through Sunday.