Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill

Double the pleasure, half the price
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  October 22, 2008
2.0 2.0 Stars

On to the chicken. The rotisserie pollo a la brasa ($15.99/whole chicken; $8.99/half; $5.99/quarter) comes with fries and a Misti salad. The secret 24-hour marinade must feature salt or soy sauce, since the chicken — even the breast meat — is as juicy as brined Brazilian barbecue. The rotisserie gives it a nice crust. El parihuelo ($12.99), grilled half chicken, has the salt on the outside, and with it you get better side dishes, such as the plantains. Pollo al estilo ($9.99) has some tomatoes and onions, so you end up with something similar to a sauce. On the whole, stick with the pollo a la brasa.

I promised you a cheap steak, so have the churrasco ($13.99). It’s a thin, pounded chuck steak, not especially tender, but it has lots of flavor. I sort of preferred the pork-chops version ($12.99).

To drink there are two Peruvian beers. Cristal ($4) is a light, apple-y lager best enjoyed quite cold. Cusqueña — which I did not sample when I visited Cuzco, where it’s made, due to intense altitude sickness — is a little maltier. They sometimes have a dark version. I report without tasting that there’s now a diet version of Inca Kola ($1.40). When I had the regular stuff in Peru, it was an alarming bright yellow and tasted like Dubble Bubble bubble gum. My favorite drink at Machu Picchu was non-alcoholic chicha morada ($2), a large glass of sweet purple stuff made from Indian corn and flavored with cinnamon and sugar. It would be a fine base for sangria. The actual sangria ($4), however, is a small wine glass of dull punch with some chopped pineapple. With dessert, there’s an herbal tea ($2.50), uña de gato (cat’s claw), bracingly bitter with a mint finish.

Although there are many desserts to choose from, none are really fabulous. That said, I did appreciate the combination of mazamorra and rice pudding ($5). The former is another native corn product, kind of a mild purple jelly, here with a few prunes. The latter ($3.50 on its own) is not sweet or creamy enough to stand alone. My second favorite was a small square of bread pudding ($4). Tres leches cake ($4) had a layer of dulce de leche — caramelized condensed milk — but it wasn’t as sweet or rich as the Miami style. Alfajores ($6.50) is a box of butter cookies sandwiched around dulce de leche, and not bad for a group that just wants a bite of something for dessert.

Service was good on a quiet weeknight. The atmosphere is fairly sophisticated for a small storefront, because the redesign is modern rather than folkloric and features lots of quarry tile and granite. The lost city in the Andes is also gray stone, so it fits, but the new space isn’t as obviously pitched to the homesick and tourist trades as was the first Machu Picchu restaurant. There’s also more space between tables. I won’t go so far as to call Machu Picchu “cheap and romantic,” but it’s not far off. It’s also an excellent restaurant for large groups, since the menu has both exotic items and basic meat-and-potatoes platters. You could put an Atkins dieter and an Ornishite at the same table and they could order an all-meat platter and a quinoa salad and make peace.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at RobtNadeau@aol.com.

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