Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pio Pio: Roasted chicken for giant appetites

Note: I am in Fort Collins now and no longer in New York City, but though the Colorado posts will definitely follow, I'm going to continue with the backlog of New York posts for now….
One afternoon several months ago, RL came online and began raving about the meal she had eaten at Pio Pio, putting the place once again on my radar. It wasn't the first time I had heard of the Peruvian restaurant—BH and I had also attempted to go before (and never made it) and even before that, I had been hearing about the chicken at the various locations of Pio Pio for years. Specifically, the thirty-dollar Matador Combo: a whole roasted chicken accompanied by rice and beans, tostones, salchipapa, and an avocado salad. That's what had inspired RL to her ravings, and I wanted in.
So last month, with GQ in town and RL and I trying to figure out where to take her for dinner, Pio Pio seemed like the perfect choice. At the Murray Hill location (home of the world's surliest waiter) we started with a pitcher of sangria, too syrupy for my tastes and nearly without fruit, but sweet-toothed GQ seemed to enjoy it.
Before we get to the Matador Combo, let's talk jalea. Misled by RL's assurance that ordering both the combo and another item wouldn't be too much for three people, I added on an order for jalea, described on the menu as "typical Peruvian seafood platter topped with an onion and tomato lime sauce." I was completely bowled over when the above plate came out—not only was the entire damn thing deep fried (I had been expecting something more like ceviche), but that was the small size! I cannot even imagine how big the large size would have been.

And then the rest of it came out….
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Tostones, avocado salad, salchipapa, rice and beans. It was all a little bit nuts. The fried green plaintains were huge, the fries and fried hot dogs were huge, all of it was huge. Including the chicken:
Yeah. I could barely hide my shock over how badly we had misjudged the portion sizes.

But so?
you're thinking. How was it?

In a word, awesome. The jalea, a good mix of fish and seafood though heavy on the shrimp and squid, was really well fried and paired perfectly with the vinegary red onions scattered on top. The chicken was extremely flavorful and juicy as hell, and had a nice crisp skin. And the sides, aside from the tostones (which were dry and hard) made excellent companions.

We couldn't finish everything, of course, and the tragedy is that fried food never keeps very well. So though we ate what we could and took whatever we couldn't finish home, the leftover seafood and fries eventually went into the bin. So here's the lesson: go to Pio Pio, order the Matador Combo and the jalea, but come prepared with a huge appetite—or several other people!


  1. how much you paid for all that food?

  2. The Matador Combo is about 30 bucks, and I believe the Jalea was 20. I don't remember how much the sangria was…maybe another 20?