When it comes to culinary firsts, Miami seldom beats Manhattan. So when an article in New York magazine virtually swooned itself silly last December about the opening of Pardo's (a twenty-year-old Peruvian rotisserie chicken chain) in NYC, it was hard to believe. There's been a Pardo's Chicken in Miami for years.
It's a small, luncheonettelike place out west in a warehouse zone, to be sure, so not exactly an obvious "worth a special drive" eatery (especially not when one gets so lost in the area's dead-end streets that the drive takes roughly as long as a flight to Peru). But it's there. And, apparently it was there first!
Not really. Our Pardo's actually isn't an official branch of the famous Pardo's which leads one to wonder what legal excitement might be in store when the Peruvian chain's first franchised Miami eatery (planned to open later this year) rides into town. Meanwhile, though, we don' need no stinkin' laws. Our outlaw Pardo's serves some damned good chicken.
The signature chicken, though not the sole poultry preparation here, is pollo a la brasa, marinated in spices and roasted on a spit (to keep the juices moving around inside the bird, rather than dripping out). Admittedly the flavor was more herby than smoky; the kitchen's concealed, so it's not possible to see if the heat source is a wood fire, as in Peru's traditional pollerías, or gas, as in Manhattan's Pardo's. Still the skin was a beautiful burnished brown, and the chicken was juicy through and through, white meat as well as dark. It was also intensely aromatic enough to be appealing even without its accompanying tingly hot dip. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't blow an extra 50 cents for additional sauce. A whole chicken comes with only one small container, and, while not as fiery as many Peruvian restaurants' green sauce, it's great stuff.
Accompanying fries aren't so great. So carb-cravers should also spring for an order of yuca fritaa la huancaina, deep-fried cassava strips with creamy, mildly cheesy sauce on the side.
Pardo's has other items, too, including an "Especial de Brochetas" sampler of grilled beef and chicken skewers, plus deep-fried chicken chicharrones and Peruvian corn on the cob (the kind with big, bland, starchy kernels, that were nevertheless pretty terrific with huancaina sauce). No sauce could revive the dried-out fried chicken mini-logs. But the kebabs were most appealing, the beef strips tender, the grilled white meat chicken exceptional possibly, miraculously, moister than the rotisserie poultry, though skinless.
To finish, dulce de leche lovers will adore the similar but even richer Peruvian dessert suspiro a la limena, a concentrated caramelized custard topped with merengue. Beverages include chicha morada, a tangy-sweet spiced purple corn cider/gruel that's near indescribable, except as authentically Peruvian. This Pardo's Chicken may not officially be the real place, but it serves the real thing.