Wednesday, January 27, 2010

great peruvian taste test criteria (polls open friday!)

So, one question I've been asked about the Great Peruvian Taste Test is "how is this going to work?" I admit I wasn't totally clear about that before. Here is my plan:

Through Thursday, I'll be taking suggestions for Peruvian places around the area. I'll compile that into a list which I'll post on Friday as a poll for y'all to vote on your top three favorite Peruvian chicken places. The five restaurants with the most votes will then be taste-tested by yours truly.

What experience do I have with Peruvian food? I eat it. A fair amount of it. I eat many other kinds of foods, too. I suppose that's enough to do a taste test, but even better would be a list of criteria, like:

Juicy meat. The ideal pollo a la brasa has meat that falls right off the bone and into your arteries. It's juicy, tender, and easy to chew or cut with a knife.

Flavor. This may be more subjective, but I like chicken with a dark, smoky taste and just a little bit of tang. A lot of spices go into pollo a la brasa, meaning it should have a fairly complicated flavor.

Skin. It should be charred but not black. I know some people don't like to eat the skin because of the extra fat, but if done right, it compliments the meat nicely. It cannot be tough or stringy. Ideally, the skin should be falling off the meat.

Sides. Each place generally has the same sides, including french fries, yucca fries, fried plantains, rice with or without beans, cole slaw, or salad. Some places charge extra for certain sides, usually the plantains.

My sides of choice are white rice and plantain (as I am from the Caribbean), and they will be accompanying each of the chickens I eat. The rice must be fluffy and fragrant. The plantain should be brown on the outside, golden on the inside, and a little sweet. Some places will cut and fry it when you place your order, which is a nice touch.

So far, these are the places readers have recommended, along with a couple others that I know. I'm noticing a big empty spot around Langley Park. Does anyone have any recommendations for that area? You'll get to vote on these, and whatever other places that are submitted, when the polls open on Friday.

View the great peruvian taste test in a larger map


Unknown said...

Great article! Here's my rundown of a couple of the pollerias mentioned :

Lizbeths Cafe : the old owners used to be peruvian but they sold out a couple years ago to a central american couple that changed the focus of the food from peruvian chicken to more central american fare (although they still sell pollo a la brasa chicken). Their chicken is pretty simple in taste (salt and pepper with a slight aroma of smoke) although the skin is pale and rubbery (a pollo no-no).

Crisp & Juicy in the Giant shopping center is either hit or miss. The chickens tend to come out juicy but rarely is the skin ever crispy. The seasonings are heavy on salt and garlic. About 3 times I've received a chicken that was TOO heavy on the salt (to the point of the skin being INEDIBLE). Their side order options are also standard although you pay extra if you choose to get plantains or yucca.

Sabroso in front of the AFI in downtown is pretty consistent (at least during lunchtime). The skin is a crispy dark amber and the seasoning is more complex than the 2 places mentioned above. I can taste a mix of smoky garlic and cumin. It reminds me most of the old Pollo Rico in Wheaton although the smoke flavor is sometimes missing. I especially love their plantains.

The NEW El Pollo Rico in Wheaton is still very popular with the locals because everytime I go there is STILL a line! The chickens tend to be very moist (i imagine because of the high turn-around) and the flavor is the same as before just a LOT more subtle (too subtle to satiate my cravings for the old smoky EPR!). Overall they are still pretty good but the side orders are limited to only frozen steak fries and slaw.

JUTP - you should probably check out to see which places really are the most popular in this part of MOCO. Cheers!

Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama said...

I've tried a lot of the ones that Jon (above) mentioned and El Pollo Rico is my hands down favorite! Besides the great chicken, I love that the smell permeates almost all of Wheaton on any given day and it adds some great color to the local scene with the money laundering and fire that burned down the old location!

Also, one of the Virginia El Pollo Rico locations was featured on the Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations when he came to DC. Bourdain had heard so many people talking about it, he went out of his way to stop and loved it.