A bit of Googling turned up a list of Peruvian restaurants and on the list was the quirkily-named Pollo Mania in El Monte. A search for Pollo Mania turned up a Pennysaver coupon for 1/4 roast chicken and two sides for only $3.99. Chicken! Aji! Coupon! Rain or not, I was on my way.
As I neared the exit, I noticed a rainbow overhead. OK! Things were looking up already.
Pollos a la lena? What's lena? Woodfire!
If you look closely enough, there are logs where the flames are shooting out.
So I got my quarter chicken, rice, beans, tortillas, and orange aji. Without the coupon, this meal would have cost $5.85, chicken only is $3.79. A half chicken combo is $7.85, chicken only $6.25. And a whole chicken combo is $15.99, chicken only $10.79. Very reasonable prices. The beans and rice were meh, but I've never had orange aji before! Only the green stuff. Intriguing!
Oooh, look at that succulent skin. Yes, I'm all about the chicken skin, but in this case, the meat was also tender, juicy, and flavorful.
More crispy skin goodness.
And the tiny little container of orange aji. It's 75 cents if you want extra. There were also two other kinds of salsa, but who cared about those when I had ORANGE AJI!
Orange aji on woodfire-roasted chicken goodness. The taste was slightly spicy, tangy, sooooo sooooo goooood! I scraped up every last bit of aji, and if I had more, I would have lapped it all up.
I got an alfajores cookie for $1.50. The shortbread cookie with dulce de leche filling wasn't made in-house, but was still tasty.
Later, I returned and got anticuchos de corazon (Peruvian beef heart skewers) for $7.99 that included four skewers, corn, and potatoes.
The heart was flavorful, slightly chewy but tender enough. Who am I kidding? I doused the hearts with orange aji and I was good to go.
I mentioned my find to Gourmet Pigs who loves organ meats and we hit it up on a day when I was under the weather and tempted to try the Aguadito de Pollo (Peruvian Chicken Soup). Cilantro-laden green goodness.
With rice, chicken, and peas. A large container for $5.95. Totally hit the spot when I was sneezy and sniffling. Of course, after trying the soup, I made my own recipe for aguadito.
The problem with some rotisserie places is that while the I love the wood char on the skin, the chicken meat itself can be rather bland. Such has never been the case here. The chicken skin is crispy, the meat is succulent, and the orange aji just puts it over the top for me.
I asked the cashier once what was in the orange aji because I've only had the green version and she had no idea. Said she didn't even know green aji existed since she's only seen the orange version. :P
On another visit, I ran into the Japanese-Peruvian owner. She said the the aji isn't made in-house either. :( I don't care, it's still the best!
There are a handful of tables, but most people just get the food to go. On subsequent visits now, I just get chicken only, which comes with tortillas (I know, not terribly authentic Peruvian.) and orange aji. I saw the cook tossing something in a wok with flames shooting up. I wonder which menu item he was making? And since they offer other chicken dishes such as sandwiches, quesadillas, and burritos, I'd love to see them add pollo saltado (Peruvian chicken with French fries). After all, they already have the ingredients.
Other chicken restaurants:
Pollo ala Brasa - Los Angeles
Pollos KiKiRyKi Peruvian Restaurant - Claremont
Zankou Chicken - Pasadena
Pollo Mania (Between CVS and Pizza Hut)
11910 Garvey Ave., Ste. #B
El Monte, CA 91732
Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
1 year ago today, Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra.
2 years ago today, one last glimpse of my old garden.