Ayawaska Restaurant in Petaluma

Carey Sweet
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Sonoma County's new Ayawaska Restobar in Petaluma certainly has an interesting name. Ayawaska is a variation of Ayahuasca, a mystical spirit plant native to the Amazon rainforests thathas powerful hallucinogenic properties. Yet that is indeed what Petaluma’s new Peruvian eatery is called, and it specializes in modern South American dishes like purple corn pudding ($8) and pisco sours.

ceviche at Ayawaska in Petaluma in Sonoma County

The look:

The place is undoubtedly modern, as one might expect from a spot called a “RestoBar.” Bright and airy with lots of large windows, a partial dropped acoustic ceiling and a bar backed with colorful glass bottles, it feels like a party. Background music, several TVs, and crowds of diners can make it a bit noisy, but that’s part of the social mood.

To eat:

Think Peruvian, and you’ll probably think ceviche. It’s a must, here, in various recipes including the catch of the day that gussied with lime, aji (hot pepper), red onion, boiled cusco corn with kernels the size and texture of lima beans, cancha (crunchy toasted corn nuts), and sweet potato coins ($16), or the salty-good cubed tuna fillet that’s “cooked” in lime with soy sauce and sesame oil, then finished with avocado and sesame seeds ($17).

shrimp ceviche at Ayawaska in Petaluma in Sonoma County

For another tasty, traditional appetizer, papa rellena ($10), pleases as golden fried potato croquettes studded with beef picadillo, egg, onions, sweet raisins and tart olives in mild, smoky panca pepper sauce. A similar but equally delicious dish brings a fiery hot rocoto pepper stuffed with beef, ground peanut, fresh cheese and raisins with panca pepper sauce and potato cake ($10). It’s a terrific combination of texture, sweet, hot, creamy and crunchy.

Appetizers are so bold and colorful, it’s tempting to make a meal of them. But it’s definitely worth exploring entrees. This arroz con marisco is opulent fried rice, studded with tender octopus, shrimp, scallops, calamari and crab meat moistened with white wine butter sauce and showered in cilantro ($20).

Shrimp and Pisco at Ayawaska in Petaluma

Ravioles de zapallo con parrilla offer another elegant salute to seafood, the silky ravioli stuffed with salmon, shrimp, calamari and fish with velvety pumpkin, heavy cream, almonds, and parmesan ($20). Lomo saltado is Peruvian comfort food, on the other hand, as a take on the popular street dish that of slightly (intentionally) overcooked wok-fried beef tenderloin tossed with onion, tomato and yellow pepper in a salty-sharp sauce of cilantro, soy and oyster sauce over rice with a side of fries ($18).

mixed cocktail at Ayawaska in Petaluma in Sonoma County

To note:

The wine and beer lists are quite impressive, including Sonoma County labels and also French Champagne, Spanish Cave, Italian Prosecco, Spanish red and white wines, and Peruvian beers.

Dessert:

The arroz con leche is like the best tapioca ever, the soft rice grains sweetened with condensed milk and evaporated milk and topped in orange ($8).

To drink:

There are five kinds of pisco cocktails, including a very delicious Ayawaska sour of Caravedo pisco, tangerine juice, cilantro juice, passion fruit and lime juice ($14).

Details: 101 2nd Street, Petaluma, (707) 559-3519, ayawaskasf.com.