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Pan-American Eateries

Restaurants in San Francisco and Portland are adding a kick to their dishes.

Peppers, red, yellow, purple for pan-American cooking
Photo caption
Chefs are including ingredients, such as these colorful peppers, in their Pan-American dishes.

Chef Rick Hackett of Bocanova, a lively restaurant on the Oakland waterfront, keeps the usual arsenal of pans and skillets, but his melting pot is his menu. It marries New Orleans gumbo, Peruvian ceviche, and Sea of Cortés scallops plucked from Mexican waters but bathed in Brazilian curry. Hackett calls his place a "Pan-American kitchen."

"The name gives me a lot of latitude," he says. The chef got the idea while cooking at San Francisco's MarketBar, a well-regarded restaurant that serves California cuisine prepared by cooks from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. "For staff meals, they'd make these dishes with incredibly layered flavors," Hackett says. "I thought, What a great world to explore."

No matter how you label its cuisine, Bocanova (510-444-1233, joins a growing list of restaurants that blur culinary borders while forging distinct identities. In Mountain View, Calif., Cascal (650-940- 9500, offers a small-plates menu that reads like a Western Hemisphere roster: Cuban black bean soup, Mexican tostaditos, a fiery Brazilian seafood stew called moqueca. In Seattle, Barrio (206-588-8105, gives a modern spin to Latin classics in such inventive dishes as squash soup with chanterelle mushrooms and chiles rellenos filled with Dungeness crab.

Ignacio del Solar was raised in Peru but trained under Hackett in San Francisco before opening Del Inti in Portland (503-288-8191, Instead of steaming quinoa, a Peruvian staple, the chef now prepares the grain as if it were risotto, then studs it with mushrooms from Northwest forests. Local halibut and salmon compose the base for his ceviche rather than the marlin he might use in Peru.

"When you move to a new place, you learn to adapt," del Solar says. "Every cuisine has something to offer."

Photography courtesy

This article was first published in March 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.