Friday, January 7, 2011

Pio Pio

My boyfriend recently started working in finance in NYC. The British company he works for is pretty lax, to say the least, affording him the time to take leisurely lunch breaks and sample the different fare available in the city. Some of his colleagues took him to a place called Pio Pio and he insisted that we go back together. So we did. And now I envy his proximity to the establishment everyday.

Pio Pio is a Peruvian restaurant group with six locations throughout Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. They serve both lunch and dinner, but their specialty is rotisserie chicken, or pollos a la brasa. It didn't say on their website so I looked up the meaning of "pio pio" and supposedly it means "the weak cry of a young bird". Their logo is a bird too, so I guess that makes sense.

We went to the Hell's Kitchen location and it is a pretty big restaurant, but has a very modest entry way. If we weren't looking for the specific address, we never would have found it. Once we were led past the bar and down a flight of stairs we entered a room elegantly yet simply decorated. The lights were low (but not too low), the tables were nicely set and the wait staff was dressed in either black or white, head to toe. My favorite part was the stone work on the walls.

It was time to look over the menu. I am a firm believer in the idea that we should eat whatever the restaurant claims to be good at. I don't order pizza from Iron Hill Brewery or a Cheeseburger from Cucina Italia. I had always thought this way, but had never really articulated it. A really good friend of mine dates a chef, and after I heard him put it in to words, I knew it was the way to go. So that's that, "I'll have the pollos a la brasa." Had I ordered this way I would have received an entire chicken to myself. Good thing my boyfriend is an "insider" and knew what was up.

We ordered the lunch special. When we were there it wasn't listed on the menu. Definitely ask if you don't see it. I am convinced it is the best deal in all of NYC. For $8 you get a quarter rotisserie chicken, a side, avocado salad, and a non-alcoholic beverage.

It was a ton of food, and good thing because I had been traveling and was starving. Phil ordered the sides, again since he's a pro at Pio Pio. He picked Tostones for himself and Yuca Frita for me. The chicken was moist, perfectly seasoned and delicious! Chicken is tricky since there is a fine line between cooked and overcooked. The pollos a la brasa was done perfectly!
The shine you see on the vegetables is an indication of freshness. That's not the dressing!

I ate the avocado salad first. It was one of the best salads I have ever eaten in my life, no lie or exaggeration. Over a bed of iceberg lettuce there were several pieces of the freshest avocado, tomato, cucumber and a little radish. It had a little bit of a very light vinaigrette over top. Every mouthful was a collection of flavors from each of the fresh vegetables. Especially as someone who LOVES avocado, I couldn't get enough of the salad.

The Tostones weren't bad, but they weren't my favorite. Tostones are fried, green planatains, a traditional side in many Latin American meals. They were just bland for my taste, even with the sauce. I think I personally am just not a fan of plantains.

The Yuca Frita or Yuca fries (pictured right) were great! I hate to say they are similar to potato  fries because they are SO much better, but they are similar in that they are both tuber carbohydrates cut in to pieces and fried. What makes the yuca frita so much better is the texture. Potato fries are soft and mushy on the inside, while the yuca frita are much denser, able to be cut with a knife. They don't have a very strong taste, could be compared to potatoes, but the texture makes them much more enjoyable. Especially with the unbelievable sauce, which I'll get to later.

Everything was delicious on its own, but what really set it all off was the green sauce(s). There was a thinner green sauce (see above with the Yuca frita) that came with the meal, and a second sauce (see below) that's creamier and more vibrant in color that the professional asked for on the side. We couldn't get enough of either one. The thinner sauce looked like it was going to be oily, being that it was light in color, almost transparent, but it wasn't. It was spicy and strong in flavor, a mixture of different spices that worked perfectly on any of the accompaniments.

The other sauce I've been thinking about since we left. It is a creamy, but not very thick, spicy green sauce. I'm not sure of the ingredients but my guess is a plain yogurt similar to what's used in Mediterranean cooking with cilantro, garlic and perhaps green chilies. At least that's what it tasted like. I ate every last yuca frita just to be sure I got as much of the sauce as possible. It was the perfect savory sauce to dip each of more subtly flavored foods in to. Supposedly they bottle it. I will find out. I will buy a case.

Needless to say, we cleared our plates!
Pio Pio seems to be NYC's best kept secret, especially their lunch special. If you're ever in the area I strongly encourage you to type it in to your smartphone and find the nearest location. It was absolutely delicious. And although I love trying new things, I hope to return to Pio Pio several times, I'll just change up the sides for something new.


  1. We NEED to find a way to get the five of us there before we graduate.

    Keep up the awesome blogging!

  2. That avocado salad is making my mouth water! Avocado is one of my absolute favorite salad additions! :)