Helen Schwab

Surveying chicken, Peruvian style

Machu Picchu’s chicken and sauces.
Machu Picchu’s chicken and sauces. HELEN SCHWAB

Here’s a quick survey of Peruvian chicken in Charlotte, just in time for the summer, possibly the ideal time for Peruvian chicken.

Peruvian chicken, pollo a la brasa (aka rotisserie), typically has more depth of flavor than your typical rotisserie chicken: You usually see the marinade or paste all over, and often underneath, the skin – and is typically sparked with noticeable garlic and lots of citrus. Great hot, great for takeout (I’ve had both dine-in and takeout from each place), great cold in summer.

Pio Pio

The most well-rounded experience in town, this has juicy chicken and nicely piquant sauces, one with garlicky tang, one with legitimate heat. If you’re a fan of the smooth yellow (aji amarillo) sauce, though, you are out of luck. Some might call that a deal breaker. (Fried yuca is inconsistent, too.) The dining rooms are cozy, with diligent service, in my experience.

Price: Whole chicken is $10; you can add sides or get combo meals slated to feed two to four for $25.50-$35.50.

Plus: Beautifully tender white rice.

Details: 1408 East Blvd., 704-379-1911; 15025 Lancaster Highway, 704-542-2629; www.piopiocharlotte.com.

Mily and Lalo

Chicken here sports a nice char on the skin and a fine depth of flavor. Birds were on the smaller side and not as juicy as others, but fans of less-chewy skin, cooked more fully, will like them. Sauces, both aji amarillo and verde, are smooth and creamily bright. This dining room has the most character, small but dotted with Peruvian memorabilia, and the menu is nicely varied.

Plus: The best fried yuca of the batch, and a green sauce with kick.

Price: Whole chicken, $11; with fries and salad, $15.

Details: 3210 N. Sharon Amity Road; 704-449-2089; and on Facebook.

Genaro’s

The juiciest chicken we had was here, though that means a flabbier skin – if you’re the sort who likes that, or is happy peeling it off, you’ll likely be a fan of this. Both aji amarillo and a green sauce are offered. The dining room’s simple and the service warm.

Plus: A lovely, tangibly smoky quality to the chicken, and desserts.

Price: Whole chicken, $9.75.

Details: 10405 Park Road; 704-752-1987; www.facebook.com/GenarosRotisserieChicken.

Viva Chicken

Quick, tender and flavorful, this venture accompanies its chicken with a stoplight’s worth of sauces: the mild aji amarillo, a verde (huacatay, with black mint) with a little kick and a red/orange (rocoto) with some serious heat. These are thick, rather than creamy, and a nice change-up. The fast-casual setting means you order at a counter, but your food is brought to you, and your table is bused.

Plus: The quinoa-stuffed avocado is killer, as is the outside patio.

Price: Whole chicken, $12.50; with three sides, $21.

Details: 1617 Elizabeth Ave., 980-335-0176; and 12206 Copper Way at the Shops at Toringdon (Ballantyne), 704-341-8174; vivachicken.com.

Machu Picchu

Though I love the ceviche here, chicken didn’t prove to be a strength, with drier meat and merely mild flavor. The setting is plain, service friendly.

Plus: Plenty of other things on the menu to try, and a nice little bar area.

Price: Whole chicken, $14.99; with two sides, $18.99.

Details: 315 S. Polk St., Pineville: 704-909- 7174; www.machupicchucharlotte.com.

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