June's Can't-Miss Dish
May's Can't-Miss Dish
May's Can't-Miss Dish
Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it.
Leche de Tigre at La Royal
On the plate: Leche de Tigre
Where to find it: Maria Rondeau and JuanMa Calderón love to share the origin story of La Royal, their new restaurant in Cambridge. It began with an offer they couldn’t refuse.
The couple, who also own the acclaimed Peruvian eatery Celeste in Somerville, was in the midst of launching Esmeralda, their widely anticipated dinner venue in rural Vermont, when a property developer invited them to look at a space in Cambridge. They weren’t planning to take on another project, but the opportunity felt fortuitous: the building on offer was around the corner from their home, where they had hosted a series of supper club-style parties prior to launching Celeste. “To actually create something in our own neighborhood, in our community—it was just too much of a temptation,” Rondeau explains. “It was pretty much impossible to say no.”
So the enterprising pair embraced the opportunity and debuted La Royal in February. Today, in a handsome space that’s almost three times as large as Celeste, Rondeau and Calderón are doing what they do best: welcoming guests with an exuberant array of dishes inspired by Peru’s diverse culinary traditions. Be sure not to miss one item in particular, described on the menu as “essence of ceviche.”
Notes on the nosh: Leche de Tigre translates to “tiger’s milk,” but the delicacy has nothing to do with dairy nor the striped feline. It refers to a citrusy-spicy marinade to cure raw seafood, and has since become a specialty in its own right. Calderón says people would compete to consume every last drop of the flavorful liquid leftover from a plate of ceviche. He also affirms leche de tigre’s reputation as an aphrodisiac and hangover remedy. “It’s a cure for everything,” he quips.
At La Royal, Leche de Tigre arrives in a parfait glass, filled to the brim with what looks like a tropical smoothie. A duo of fried shrimp, perched on the rim of the glass, plus a garnish of tomato-onion relish, point to the item’s savory profile. Kernels of salted corn called cancha are served alongside in crunchy contrast.
The parfait starts with raw chunks of blue cod tossed with salsa madre, a condiment made with ají amarillo chilis, placed at the bottom of a glass. A blend of lime juice and fish stock, whirred together with uncooked fish trimmings, sweet and hot peppers, celery, and ginger, is poured over the fish. Sip some of the tart, refreshing liquid then use a long-handled spoon to scoop up bites of cod. “It’s like an upside-down ceviche,” Rondeau enthuses, referring to the liquid-first, fish-second presentation.
Sip alongside: A cocktail called La Royal Sour is as festive as the Leche de Tigre. Like a Pisco Sour, it features Peru’s grape-based brandy; but this version macerates the spirit with hibiscus and pomegranate, resulting in a brilliant fuchsia hue. The infusion is shaken with lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and ice, strained into a chilled coupe glass, and adorned with a garland-like design made from bitters. It’s a libation so mood-elevating that it just might inspire you to take on your next big project.