Saturday, June 26, 2010

A filling meal of Peruvian specialties

Honey Glazed Rotisserie ChickenImage by Another Pint Please... via Flickr

What I love about Pollos El Chevere, a clean, well-run Peruvian restaurant in Passaic, is that even if you ignore its signature rotisserie chicken, there are so many other great dishes to indulge in -- some of them showing Japanese and Chinese influences.

My wife and I haven't eaten meat since the end of February, so on Friday evening, she ordered a tasty fish soup with a green broth (parsely?) and I started with ceviche, the Peruvian twist on sushi, this one with pollock marinated in lime juice and onions, and served with crunchy corn kernels and a small sweet potato. My son had a Chinese-Peruvian chicken soup with noodles.

We shared another appetizer -- papas la huancaina -- boiled potatoes in a light, mildly spicy cheese sauce, and tostones -- green plantains that are smashed twice and fried beautifully, perfect for dipping in the restaurant's milky hot sauce. We also shared an entree -- tallerin verde, a pesto-like spaghetti. I asked the waiter to substitute fish for steak, and he brought us a big, fried fillet of pollock.

We all drank chicha morada, a preservative-free soft drink made from purple corn extract, sugar cane, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and other natural flavors. The bill for three was $53 before the tip, and we took home leftovers.

We didn't miss the rotisserie chicken. One of the Japanese-Peruvian owners once confided the chickens he buys are nothing special before he marinates them in wine, garlic and other ingredients he wouldn't disclose, and roasts them in the special rotisserie cases that fill the front window. When we ordered chicken regularly, we stuck to moist dark meat over dry white meat.

After our meal, we drove a block or so to Compare Foods, a supermarket, and bought two, 64-ounce bottles of chicha morada for $2.28 each, normally $3.19.

Pollos El Chevere, 228 Washington Place, Passaic; 
973-249-6330. Open seven days, 
parking in municipal lot on same block.
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