Alibi V.28 No.16 • April 18-24, 2019 

Restaurant Review

Peruvian Excellence

Pollito Con Papas II nails the mark with quality

The color of the food is as vivid as the array of tastes.
The color of the food is as vivid as the array of tastes.
Eric Williams Photography

Pollito Con Papas II popped up rather quickly in a very iconic location in Nob Hill. The “II” in their name comes from the fact that this is their second location, with the original being on Gibson and Dakota, right across from the VA hospital. Having previously worked with many veterans, I was no stranger to hearing about the original location and how incredible its food was, and that you could guarantee that you’d be in and out as fast as needed to get to your appointment.

I don’t know much about Peruvian cuisine, and to be fair, it appears that neither does Albuquerque. A quick search shows just six restaurant listings under Peruvian, with two being Pollito Con Papas, and the other four being Columbian or Latin American. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, and in a way, that was exciting; going in fresh to new tastes and experience comes with the job but also tends to be a bit rarer when trying a whole country’s cuisine for the first time.

In terms of design and feel, Pollito Con Papas II is a stripped-down experience, offering you a more contained dining experience. The goal here is to focus on the food and the company you’re with and not necessarily the restaurant around you. There was some light guitar playing that helped add a little ambience, but ultimately this is a place to engage with those around you. The look and feel worked great for the location, because it feels like a local place which is a strength they should play to. Albuquerque is a foodie city, and as a rule, rejects big flashy national chains in favor of local flavors and experiences.

I started with the yuca fries, which came with an aji (I’ll get to this a little later) dipping sauce and were enormous. It should be noted that yuca and yucca are two completely separate entities, which led to confusion when they initially showed up. For those who have never had it (myself included), yuca is a tuber that is fairly starchy and a fantastic potato replacement. They’re more commonly referred to as cassava and are a thick-cut delight. Here there was enough for a table of four to get down on before the meal. The yuca had a delicious crunch on the outside, with the interior being softer, similar to a traditional French fry.

The sauce that came with it was an aji, which I had never heard of before. Rene Coronado, the owner, explained to me that aji isn’t necessarily a specific recipe, much like salsa. Everyone has a different style and way to make their own aji, which on the surface is a similar concept but can be executed very differently from person to person. This aji was creamy and rich but had a good kick of heat on it that Burqueños will fall in love with. I was given a second sauce, which Coronado explained they give out to first timers to help them try a wider range of tastes and flavors but it comes from a very expensive pepper so it’s typically more of a “request only” for seasoned Pollito Con Papas guests. The second sauce was also exceptionally good but definitely a bit kickier in the heat department.

For the main dish, I grabbed the Lomo Saltado with cilantro rice. This plate was piled high with food, starting with a gorgeous pyramid of the cilantro rice, as well as a generous helping of marinated beef strips, tomatoes, onions and fries. Added on to the dish were two more sides of sauces, which I wasn’t complaining about. The beef was exceptional with the marinade having really gotten into the meat’s core. The strips were thin enough to allow that flavor to be evenly dispersed and cooked properly throughout and it paired amazingly well with the rice. Each bite was a small celebration of taste, a slightly salty and tangy jubilation in each mouthful. Add some aji to it, and you get an exceptional medley of savoriness on your tongue. The choice to stir fry all these ingredients adds that flavor profile to the whole dish and makes it a culinary experience worth noting. Ending with the Peruvian flan proved a great finish to the meal. It was rich, sweet and exactly what you want from a flan.

The love of food is clearly here, with every dish being a standout option. The new location is sure to give people access to something unique and different for Albuquerque, helping bring more choice to the Nob Hill dining community. If this is your first chance to try authentic Peruvian food, it isn’t going to let you down; Pollito Con Papas II is absolutely a worthwhile encounter with food that you shouldn’t pass up.

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3200 Central Ave SE
505-508-3404
http://www.pollitoconpapas.com/

Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm
Vibe: Peruvian cuisine done simply and cleanly
Alibi Recommends: Lomo Saltado with aji sauce