runa 2Lunch at Runa: cebiche two ways and chicken empanadas. Below, the fried sweet potato. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)


runa 1PieHole and our frequent lunch companion rolled into Runa at about 1pm, excited to try out Red Bank’s Peruvian restaurant that opened recently after two years of gestation.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but had heard that fish featured prominently on the menu. So we came armed with a chilled bottle of vinho verde leftover from a recent pork belly party.

The restaurant had two other tables of lively lunch guests animatedly discussing the food that they’d just been served.

runa 5The quinoa-crusted flan dessert. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

We were seated, poured some wine and the waiter brought over some fried sweet potatoes with a creamy pepper dip – a tasty combo and an auspicious opener for the lunch, good heat and sweetness here.

Having just opened, Runa does not yet have a lunch menu. The menu we were handed was the same as the dinner menu: same portion sizes and, importantly, same prices.

The ceviche (‘cebiche’ on the Peruvian menu) dishes were around $16 each. Tapas plates were priced at $8 and $9 each, and entrees ranged from $12 to $18.

The knowledgeable waiter steered us towards the popular cebiche dishes, so we tried the Classic Cebiche ($16) and the Runa Tiradito ($17). The latter differs from traditional ceviche in that the fish is sliced thinly instead of cubed (the menu cites Japan’s influence on Peru’s cuisine here) and features a cream-based pepper sauce.

We also ordered the Empanada Aji de Gallina ($8), a chicken fricassee empanada.

Both cebiche dishes featured corvina, a white fish with a texture that reminded us of snapper sashimi. The waitstaff at Runa has been well-schooled by chef Marita Lynn, and our waiter was able to give us a good education in the various aji amarillo (yellow pepper)-based sauces used in the dishes.

The dishes came out quickly. We poured more wine and devoured the tasty empanadas: a savory chicken with a nice crusty exterior.

The ceviche dishes were surprising and delicious – surprising because the texture of raw or marinated fish has not yet lost its novelty for us. We plowed through the ceviche dishes, soft but tough and with a great hit of acidg, arnished with a variety of great flavors and textures: crunchy Peruvian corn kernels, sweet potatoes and red onions.

With the wine bottle empty and the plates cleared, it became clear that one downside to such a tasty albeit pricey lunch is that it is comprised largely of raw fish, and unless you call a holding tank at Sea World home, there’s only so much raw fish you can eat. Alas, we were still hungry.

To get us that last bit over the lunchtime hunger hump, we ordered the quinoa-crusted flan for dessert. A tasty and interesting take on the traditional custard, it brought our final lunch bill to $50 for two of us.

We’ll go back to Runa, but unless there’s a menu with lunch specials on it, we’ll save our next visit for dinner. We’ll also bring more wine and order more tapas dishes.