Peruvian in Jackson Heights
Well I had dinner at Pio Pio last night and was not
super impressed. I mean I went expecting to be
impressed -- a recommendation from the alpha hound is
no small thing (to see Jim's impressions of the
restaurant follow the link below) -- but their
specialty is rotisserie chicken, and their rotisserie
chicken just doesn't stand up to at least two other
places in the neighborhood I could think of offhand. I
found it a bit undercooked -- the flesh was stringy and
tough, and clung to the bone. (That could have been
from an off night; I'll go back one of these days to
The side dishes were generally quite good -- tostones
were good, though again better is available nearby;
french fries were excellent; rice and beans also were
top-notch. I made the mistake of drinking Cristal, the
Peruvian beer they serve, which tastes almost exactly
like Budweiser. (A Pisco sour next time!)
It is a very nice restaurant as far as decor and
service -- the decor is food-themed, shelves
overflowing with fresh fruit (I think it is probably
wax) surround the room, and open racks of wine bottles
are in one corner. I didn't exactly notice, but I think
you could see into part of the kitchen from the dining
room. The waiter was very friendly.
Well my friend Maurice has been suggesting we go check
out this Peruvian place on 37th Avenue; I guess I'll go
there next and see how it compares.
I don't understand any hype about Pio Pio... i was there last week and thought the food was terrible... the seafood salad tasted like frozen pre-prepped industrail seafood... the consistency of the squid was limp, the shrimp chewy and/or mushy and the scallops? were bland... all in all the dish tasted stale and freezer burned... as for the rest... well the beans and rice were nice... the chicken was tender but boring... the plantains were so hard you couldn't eat them... and what was with those mediocre hot dogs and fries? when i complained to the manager... something i have done twice in 15 years... nothing was done... not even a polite acknowledgement... it was the first time in my life i walked out without tipping and only paid for 80% of the bill... and felt i should have walked out without paying a cent... i was furious at the lousy service and terrible food... i could never even mention that place to others... especially when there are some great peruvian places... most especially Raymi near by... where the food is more diverse and incredibly well prepared... and some of the best ceviche i have ever had... and i am nuts about good ceviche...
Jeremy, I've never heard an unravey word about that poultry. I do trust your taste,
though, so I totally believe you. But it was an anomaly! Please try again! Nowhere in
Jackson Heights can touch it, promise. The beer was a serious error, alas; South
American beer is pretty lame.
The french fries are awesome, and while I love their tostones, I know what you mean.
Incentive to return quickly: one block west, on the same side, is a Columbian take-out
snack shop/bakery with really memorable chorizo and pretty good pan de yuca. Go
another block west and there's a sugar cane juice squeezing fruit shop.
re: Jeremy Osner
Scratch my previous review -- I went Saturday and the
chicken was excellent. (Though I still think Listo's
has got the greatest rotisserie chicken in the nabe, if
only they could make their starches better.) I
particularly like the rice and beans at Pio Pio, they
are some of the most flavorful ones around.
Something about the way they cook their chicken at Pio
Pio -- the dark meat is way better than the white. I
mean, I always prefer dark meat; but in other
restaurants the difference tends to be more subtle --
and at Listo's (whose chicken has replaced my mother's
as the standard of excellence) the breasts are quite
moist and tender.
re: Jeremy Osner
If the 37th place in Jackson Heights is Inti Raymi, you won't be disappointed...unless you go early in the week (when it's closed) or when Floyd comes through on a Thursday (when someone drops in to check out the place but not to serve...even for a soaking wet customer who has been waiting for the 5 p.m. opening for a half hour).