On our second stop for the best ceviche in town, we went to El Pollon in East LA. We would have gotten there earlier if it wasn’t for the metro train crashing into a car that thought it could beat it. There was a relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant, with TV’s all around replaying the previous soccer matches- I did not want to see a repeat of the USA game so soon. They also have pictures of Peru throughout the restaurant; my favorite was of Machu Pichu on a glass wall dividing the eating area from the cashier. Aside from the soccer matches, there was a steady line of customers ordering take out, along with a handful of customers savoring the meals they had ordered. The handful grew to almost being full during the time that we took dissecting and devouring our food. Our waitress was awesome, being very patient with us taking our time and explaining the different dishes to us.
We were going to try their other ceviches, but unfortunately, they had run out. So instead, this is what we had ordered:
- Ceviche Mixta - With red snapper, squid, shrimp, octopus, and mussels garnished with yams, red onions, and Cancha (toasted Chulpe corn). In the past, we found some ceviches were pre-cooked and then tossed in the marinade. Sure as hell not this place! It had a bright, spicy flavor to it that made you NOT want to stop eating it! You can taste the assertive flavors of the chilies and lime used in the marinade. Thick slices of squid, the big chunks of red snapper and shrimp, each single bite was jam-packed with flavor. With every morsel you took in, you could tell that it was cooked in the marinade since the flavors were deeply infused within the ceviche. The garnish of the Cancha was perfect with the mixture, since it added a nice texture/crunch to it. As with the sweet potato, it balanced out the heat and tartness from the marinade. Thinking about it now still makes this chonchudo’s mouth water.
- Jalea Mixta - Included prawns, green lipped mussels, calamari, shrimp, red snapper, octopus, clams, and yucca (cassava root) – all fried. Served with sides of house made tartar sauce, Cancha, and Salsa Criolla (pickled red onions). Having to fry such a huge amount of food, some restaurants might overcook their dish. Luckily at El Pollon, they fried everything perfectly. Every item was still very tender, moist, and not overcooked, considering how much was on the plate! The whole dish in itself was well balanced from the sweet flavors coming from the seafood, to the richness and tartness from the tartar sauce, to the acidity of the salsa criolla. Didn’t hurt to add a little spice from their house made Aji hot sauce (salsa verde), either.
- Lomo Saltado - A sliced tenderloin served with thick cut fries, tomatoes, sliced red onion, all sautéed together into a beautiful palate of flavors served with a side of white rice. Was stupendously decadent with its complexly rich sauce, layered on top of the meat. Although I doubt they are making their fries from scratch, the whole meal in itself was amazing, making us want to just drop everything and go to Peru itself for a week or two. You can never go wrong by adding some kick from the salsa verde.
- Chicha Morada – Made from purple corn. The drink was pretty sweet with a hint of acidity from the lime juice they add to it. Tastes like blueberries, but without the strong tartness of them. Although actual chicha is an alcoholic drink made from fermenting corn, this Peruvian style wasn’t.
- Maracuya - Made from passion fruit, but has a sweeter flavor with a mango taste than the first mentioned. Straight to the point, it is very delicious and refreshing.
Again, the ONLY thing we were missing at this meal was, of course, a nice cold beer or michelada. Even without the alcoholic libations, the food was still amazing that we again had a hard time finishing the food. In other words… those of you that didn’t get a chance to make it to this event, you SERIOUSLY missed out! By far, some of the best Peruvian dishes I have ever had. Quite possibly might have surpassed Mario’s in Hollywood for both quality and price. I absolutely will be coming back here to try more of their dishes. El Pollon has certainly set the bar pretty high for any other Peruvian ceviches we will be trying in the near future. All other Peruvian restaurants, beware…