This past week, on the repeated recommendation of numerous friends, I took my family to a Peruvian restaurant in Jackson Heights, that is thronged with customers, day and night (I, myself, have actually gone here for lunch once before, and had a great meal). It is rumored to have the best recipe for the gastronomic marvel that is known as Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken. I know, I know…but before you say anything, let me tell you that the secrecy behind the recipes for these chickens (as well as the green Peruvian aji that sits on the table as a condiment) are practically a matter of Peruvian National Security!
The name of the restaurant is Pio Pio and is located on Northern Boulevard and 83rd Street in Jackson Heights. We arrived with very perky appetites, to find a colorful and beautifully appointed restaurant, with 2 dining rooms and a garden area suitable for dining, as well.
We wasted no time in ordering a carafe of Red Sangria, although Jerry and Erik opted for a nice, cold Cusquena Beer, accompanied by a platter of ceviche and some of the most delicious Pork Tamales I have ever tasted in my life. They were tender, almost soft, and very moist and full of flavor and served alongside a red onion aji. The Ceviche was a briny, impeccably fresh sea bass (corvina) and had an agreeable bitterness at the end, almost like from a naranja agria.
One would think that this was an auspicious beginning to a meal, but in fact, we had to ask the waiter for our drink orders not once, but twice, and the music was so loud that you couldn’t hear other people sitting at your table. The food was also late in coming, and we had to ask for every little amenity like paper napkins. But, since the food had been so delicious up to this point, I was willing to make concessions. We ordered 2 Matador Platters for the table, which included an entire roasted chicken, tostones, rice and beans, and Salchipapa (very typical Peruvian dish, which tasted a lot like Nathan’s hot-dogs and fried potatoes on the same plate…I have never had this is Peru, soI don’t know if it s a regional thing, or if this was their “take” on the dish), and 2 Jalea Platters (fried seafood served with red onions) which was delicious (fried fish, hello?!), but would have merited from either a light vinaigrette or even a squeeze of lemon. We waited over 40 minutes for the food.
That needn’t have been the problem, but apparently the food had been sitting, waiting for the waiter to pick it up. The chicken, though tasty, was dried out from the heat lamps. The tostones, served with a garlic mojo, were cold and limp, as were the fried potatoes on on the choripan plate. The Jalea was the highlight of the meal, with the fish fried to a crispy finish without a trace of oil.
I actually said to Miggy, that I remember the food the day of our lunch being much better, and she replied that it was the same food; the only difference was that the manager on duty the day we had lunch there was apparently keeping a close eye on things, and paying attention to the service. It couldn’t have been that they were overwhelmed, as there were empty tables in the restaurant, so I can’t really figure it out. What I will say is this: Pio Pio is a very good restaurant with less than mediocre service, and in my book, that is not a good recipe. Good food is important, yes, but if you are going to sit in an establishment and get upset over the service, it hardly seems worth it. You’ll have to roll the dice and decide for yourselves.
Pio Pio Restaurant
8413 Northern Boulevard
719 426 1010