In their quest to bring a “big-city” restaurant to downtown Rockford, this couple has found a unique fusion in Peruvian cuisine, with influences from China, Japan and beyond.
LimaMar is one of the more unique restaurants you’ll find in Rockford. And that only makes sense because the owners are also unique.
LimaMar is an intimate Peruvian restaurant located about two blocks east of the Rock River, at 221 E. State St. in downtown Rockford. Ross Terry and his wife, Rossana, opened the restaurant in 2019 with the intent of providing something new to the area.
“We wanted to do something that’s more city,” Ross explained. “Everything here is kind of the same; more sports bar themed. This is something that is kind of out of pace in Rockford, but something you would find in Chicago, New York or New Orleans.”
So Ross, an electrician and lifelong Rockford resident, and Rossana, a Peru native, decided to give the city something different.
Rossana is the head chef, based on skills she gained as part of her family’s successful restaurant businesses in Peru and Colombia. When she reached college, her focus turned to graphic design and fashion design, but cooking steered her back to the culinary world, where she now uses her design skills to a flair of artistic presentation to her delectable dishes.
When you walk into the restaurant, Rosanna’s influence on the decor is easily noticeable. From the many llama figurines on one wall to the authentic Candelarian masks or the monkey in the men’s room, LimaMar intoxicates the visual senses.
A definition of Peruvian cuisine is not simple.
“A lot of people don’t realize how influential Peru is to the world,” Ross says. “So many foods are in Peru like your tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peppers. Peru taught the world how to make them.”
As Ross explains, Peru was part of the Spanish empire 500 years ago, and the South American region’s colorful cuisine was shared in Europe.
At the same time, Peruvian cuisine has also evolved with influences of Spain, China and Japan, and the nation now boasts a distinct imprint in modern cuisine. For example, one of the key ingredients you’ll find in Peruvian cuisine is the aji amarillo pepper, which has a strong flavor of yellow bell pepper. It’s used in many Peruvian dishes.
Those dishes range from beef and chicken to Rosanna’s favorite: seafood.
“We have many ceviche dishes,” she says.
Ceviche is a citrus-marinated seafood offering. LimaMar’s options include Ceviche Nikkei, which is ahi tuna marinated with a special Nikkei sauce, daikon, celery, nori, avocado and lime juice; Ceviche Mixto, which has prawn, octopus calamari, scallops, shrimp and mahi-mahi marinated in special Leche de tegre with chulpa corn, onion and sweet potatoes; and Ceviche Fashion, served with avocado, mango, shrimp and fresh fish marinated in a tartare sauce with onion, capers, cilantro and crab.
One of the more popular dishes is Lomo Saltado, which features wok-fried tenderloin beef with red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, yellow hot pepper, french fries and rice.
“A lot of people come in to try new things,” Ross says. “We also have a lobster dish that is very popular and a sea bass dish people like. And, we have a pork stew called Carapulcra, which is a very traditional Peruvian dish.
LimaMar also offers a high-quality beer and wine selection, many from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Ecuador and Uruguay.
“We’re also known for our cocktails,” Ross says. “We create new ones all the time.”
One of the more unique custom drinks is the Bubble Pop, a mix of grapefruit juice, Peruvian white rum, syrup and a bubble on top. The Altitude cocktail is a piscosour made with eucalyptus-infused pisco.
LimaMar is open Tues.-Fri. 4:30-10 p.m. and Sat. noon-10 p.m. Visit limamarrestaurant.com to see weekend specials.