Restaurant News & Reviews

Peruvian dishes still on menu

File this week's restaurant news under "W" for "Win some, lose some." Just weeks after the closing of the Triangle's only restaurant specializing in Peruvian cuisine (Pollo Rico in Cary), another Peruvian eatery has opened in Durham. Like the short-lived Pollo Rico, Mami Nora's (302 Davidson Ave.; 220-9028) features Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. After talking to 24-year-old owner Ranbir Bakhshi, however, you get the feeling that Mami Nora's just might be here to stay. Bakhshi's enthusiasm is contagious as he describes how he marinates the chickens in a secret blend of herbs and spices for at least 24 hours before roasting them on a rotisserie he imported from Peru. He'll proudly tell you that his rotisserie isn't gas-fired, but burns hardwood coals exclusively.

Adding to Mami Nora's appeal are the prices, which range from $4.99 for a quarter chicken to $11.99 for a whole bird. That includes your choice of two sides from a list that includes black beans, rice, fries (French or yuca), slaw, house salad and sweet plantains. There's also a homemade chicken soup, and flan or rice pudding for dessert. The small, colorfully casual eatery is the first for Bakhshi, who named Mami Nora's for his mother, Salvadoran native Nora Palmer. He's still fine-tuning the menu, and hopes to add a Salvadoran bakery (operated by Palmer) later this year. The Peruvian connection? That would be the owner's stepfather. Bakhshi developed a passion for the rotisserie chicken sold by street vendors in Peru while visiting his stepdad's family there as a child. Now he's sharing that passion at his own restaurant, which is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Meanwhile back in Cary, Maximillians owners Michael and Gayle Schiffer have closed Terra Nova, their second restaurant, after just a few months. According to the Schiffers, the restaurant never managed to find a solid following. That shouldn't be a problem with Maximillians Pizza Kitchen (8306 Chapel Hill Road; 461-3882), which the couple have already opened in the Terra Nova space. The new restaurant's specialty, California-style gourmet pizzas, comes with a built-in fan base of customers who have had to go cold turkey since the original Maximillians on Buck Jones Road was closed by a fire in 1998.

The Schiffers have installed a pair of stone pizza ovens, and Michael Schiffer says "I'm throwing pizzas again with vicious glee" -- a description that will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the exuberant chef. Or, for that matter, to the many fans who will rejoice to learn that the Zuni (barbecue chicken and roasted poblanos), the Quattro Stagione (a pie divided into four quarters: soppressata, artichoke, asparagus, and oven-dried tomato with Gorgonzola) and other old favorites are back.

Maximillians Pizza Kitchen will also offer a selection of pastas, grilled meats and seafoods, as well as a few nightly specials -- all of which, no doubt, will bear the Maximillians trademark fusion of vibrant international flavors. The restaurant is open for dinner every night but Sunday.