You didn't think that I'd drive up to see my buddy JohnL and just grab a poke bowl, right? I needed to make use of John's appetite and ability to pace himself for another stop. I'd heard about a Pollo a la Brasa joint up in Oceanside and wanted to try it out. Now in Lima, it seems you can't even walk a block without running into one of those places. The most popular chain is named Pardo's, which was good, but I happen to love the papas fritas made with papa amarilla, a yellow potato with a flavor similar to yukon gold. Along with the wonderful aji aioli it was good stuff.
Located next to a laundromat on Coast Highway, it's easy to pass the rather small sign for Panca. The design and decor is very much "fast-casual" looking, simple with colors and various paintings....love the photo of Aji Amarillo on one of the walls.
Having John here was a blessing; since in addition to the Pollo ala Brasa, we could try several of the interesting sounding sandwiches.
We started with the Lomito ($7.95), which is basically Lomo Saltado minus the papas fritas on a bun.
The meat is fairly chewy, but not unpleasantly so....this is based on lomo saltado after all. I'd have loved a bit more onions and more tangy tomatoes, but I'm sure the place wants to please the meat eaters. Nice soy flavors, this seemed to missing that wonderful anise-mint flavor delivered from Huacatay, but I'm sure that's hard to get. A bit too much bread for me, but it stood up well to whatever juices came out of the meat. I must say that the Aji sauce was pretty one-dimensional, a bit of heat and not much else.
The "fresh-cut" fries were actually quite nice....good potato flavor. And there was a ton of it.....
As you can see with the Chicharron Sandwich ($6.95) we ordered:
Geeez Louise....do you think that's enough fries??? Luckily, they have a decent potato flavor, even if they don't stay crisp for very long.
Now just the word Chicharron, in the context of Peruvian food makes my mouth water. It brings back memories of a street called Pampas de Castillo in Cusco. This was where all the Chicharronerias were located. During lunch, the restaurants would wheel out the fryers to the sidewalk and start cooking up pork and chicken, the fragrance of swine frying could be caught all the way down to Plaza de Armas!
This version was fairly mild, like a tame pulled pork.
The sweet potato chips at the bottom of the sandwich, I'm sure was there to add some sweetness (which it didn't) and a textural contrast, which it slightly did. I could have done with a bit more of the sarza criolla, the onion relish, which also could have used some aji amarilla for some umph. The pork flavor was decent, but this was a bit dry and the large amount of bread did it no favors. Still, I think this is worth the price........
And finallywe tried the Quarter Chicken ($6.95), which also came with a huge amount of fries.
Now there are a couple of things I need to say first; the chicken was on the small side, but I'm fine with that. In many cases these smaller birds (like they'll use in Peru) have more flavor. Second, from the flavor, I don't think these were roasted over wood, so you can't even compare with Peru, or even LA.
The chicken was very moist, perhaps a bit heavy on the sodium, but with a decent overall flavor. I'm thinking perhaps a bit better than what Nazca Grill serves, who finishes their chicken over wood (or so I've been told), but I've got to get back there again to refresh my tastebuds. It's not something I'd go out of my way for, but I'm glad I tried it.
The service was good, they've got my favorite Peruvian Beer, Cristal, and I'd drop in every once in a while if I lived in the neighborhood. In terms of value, I'd say that it depends on what you order.
Tues - Thurs 11am - 9pm
Fri - Sat 11am - 10pm
Sunday 11am - 9pm
Closed on Mondays