birds with a Latin spin.
We're still mourning the flight
of El Pollo, our favorite source for expertly seasoned Peruvian-style
rotisserie chicken, from its Upper East Side roost. But birds of
a feather do seem to flock together, as we discovered last Memorial
Day when the vacant El Pollo space reopened as the first Manhattan
branch of Queens-based Pio Pio. The chicken, prominently
featured in the gut-busting "matador combo," is as juicy and succulent
as its counterparts in Rego Park and Jackson Heights. For $28, a
ravenous couple or a threesome of average appetites can ravage a
whole bird, plus rice and beans, avocado salad, tostones, and a
very kid-friendly plate of French fries adorned with sliced hot
dogs that turns out to be a straight-from-Lima street food called
run: Digging in at Cocina Cuzco in the East Village.
Downtown, we're partial to the exceptional birds at Cocina
Cuzco, a friendly Avenue A storefront that won us over with
its spectacular two-tone herb dipping sauce, made from huacatay
and yerba buena, which adds a subtly spicy kick to everything from
the moist, marinated chicken to the freebie bowl of cancha (roasted
corn kernels) and plantain chips. Last month, a second Cocina Cuzco
opened in Park Slope, a potential threat to the sovereignty of Coco
Roco, heretofore the Slope's leading purveyor of Peruvian roasted
chicken and a good source for various lime-marinated seviches. For
a different Latino take on birds on a spit, try the excellent "pollo
rostizado estilo Yucatán" at Gabriela's, the bustling
Mexican cantina with two Upper West Side branches. For $8.95, you
get half a bird, rubbed with sweet, citrusy spices, a choice of
two sides (we love the herby stewed hominy), and three hot corn
tortillas. Splurge on all three moles -- a fruity mancha manteles,
a peanutty pipian, and a smoky dark mole negro -- for $1.25 each.
We can never choose just one.