El Pollon: Peruvian Shady Restaurant of the Month
Please note: the name of this restaurant has changed to Naylamp Peruvian Restaurant since this review was published.
Editor’s note: this month’s shady restaurant feature is a special contribution from Chef Ryan Parrott. Chef Parrott is a leading chef and restauranteur in Oklahoma City and we’re delighted to have his contribution here. For more about Chef Parrott, please see his author page.
As a chef, I am constantly searching for the next great meal, combing the planet for a new flavor, new technique or new ingredient. As of late, I have found more enjoyment seeking out the little, out of the way, family owned ethnic places — the ones that are truly displaying and sharing their culture the best way they know how — through their food.
Recently I was directed to El Pollon by a close friend. He casually told me about a nice little Peruvian Restaurant at SW 44th and Penn. Being a northsider, I find myself, at times, not really getting out my “bubble,” so I had no idea that this place existed.
Upon entering, I was warmly greeted and directed to the rest of my group. This was nice but unnecessary as they weren’t hard to spot in this very small, 35-seat dining room. The décor is unassuming, with generic tables and chairs — think 1970’s era Pizza Hut, but renovated and updated. The walls are adorned with cheesy, Peruvian-style rugs, wall hangings, and a large flat screen that plays old Peruvian variety show DVDs. There appears to be one server that takes care of the entire dining room, and on my several visits, it has been more than adequate. The menu verbage is very easy to read, offering detailed descriptions of each dish in clear English. Sometimes I find that true ethnic restaurants have a hard time conveying the dishes to those not versed in their culture or language, but this is not the case at El Pollon.
First off, the beverages. They offer the standard lineup of sodas and iced teas, but if you order one of these you are missing out on a great part of the experience. Instead, try a canned Peruvian soda called Inca Kola ($2). This popular soda is sweet with a bubble gum flavor and a cream soda finish. Another option is the Chicha Morada ($2.99), which is made from purple corn. It’s reminiscent of clove and pineapple, with some sweet earthiness of corn mixed in. This drink is quite refreshing, and pairs well with most of the flavors in the dishes I have had there.
Now, onto the food. The selection is pretty good, with several different offerings and even a lunch menu. Although there are several main characters in the plot of this menu, the star of the show, though not but by much, is the rotisserie chicken. The manner in which they prepare it is exceptional. As a chef, I certainly won’t be giving a standing ovation to a simple, ordinary bird very often, but this one truly deserves a repeat performance. Seasoned to perfection and slow roasted, the skin is perfectly golden brown, with meat left tender and juicy on the inside. Ask first if it’s available, as they seem to have issues keeping up with the demand on this item.
The wonderful supporting cast of menu items are certainly nothing to shy away from. One of my favorites, although I haven’t encountered anything yet I didn’t love, is the Papa Rellana ($4.99). It is perfectly-prepared mashed potatoes enveloping a filing of ground beef, seasonings and raisins. The addition of the fruit in this one really adds a new dimension not regularly found in most American dishes, even the American adaptations of popular Peruvian dishes.
The sauce de Aji — a mixture of roasted peppers, milk, cheese and Peruvian seasonings — repeats itself throughout the menu and can only be described as beautiful. The rich velvety texture and the “slightly sweet at first, slightly spicy finish” is perfect with the not-so-heavy-mouth feel of this sauce.
The Papa a la Huancaina ($4.99) features this sauce over blanched potato slices and garnished with olives and hard-boiled egg. I can promise you that this vegetarian dish will leave even the biggest carnivore a happy diner. The sauce is also used in the Aji de Gallina ($6.99), which combines their rotisserie chicken, walnuts, raisins and more potatoes. This item is listed on their lunch specials and leaves me speechless every time I consume it.
Among the other offerings that we enjoyed are Chicharron de Chancho ($8.99), which combines fried pork loin with a salsa criolla and sweet potatoes; the Bisteck a lo Pobre ($9.99 – their version of steak and eggs) with fried egg, plantains and avocado; and another crowd favorites, the Jalea De Mariscos($10.99), which features deep-fried calamari, mussels, shrimp and fish, and is also served with the salsa criolla and fried yucca.
They do offer desserts, but I have never had the room to try any one of them, so I may have to report back on these at later date.
I have to say that owners Juan and Niel do an impeccable job of making sure their diners are happy. Their food and flavors are to be cherished. They stay true to their heritage and cooking style, and it is very refreshing to experience this heritage as a diner.