Friday, March 25, 2011

Peru is as close as Sunset Park

By Helen Klein

You want fries with that?

That may be the last thing you’d expect when venturing out to a Peruvian restaurant, but the biggest, most delicious surprise of Pio Rio Riki is the way continents seem to collide on your plate.

At the Sunset Park spot, traditional Peruvian dishes are often combined with noodles (and by noodles, we mean spaghetti) and, yes, even French fries.

It’s fitting, though, for a country renowned both for its beef and spuds. And there’s no better representation of that than the lomo saltado ($11.95) — soy sauce-marinated beef — with a side of French fries.

For Andean comfort food at its finest, order the tallarin saltado ($12), where chunks of beef or chicken are combined with sautéed onions and tomatoes, with a side of spaghetti spiked with soy sauce. It’s simple and satisfying.

The rotisserie chicken ($7.35, half chicken) is a standout, with skin that’s crispy, dark and intensely flavored. On a bed of white rice and soupy red beans, it’s also supremely satisfying. What makes the meal is the marinade, which imbues the meat with irresistible tanginess, a savory blend of garlic, cumin and vinegar and, yes, more soy sauce.

No discussion of Peruvian food would be complete without making mention of the dipping sauces that accompany most dishes. Ají verde — which is redolent with cilantro and hot pepper — and a garlicky white sauce are both extremely tasty, and can be spooned over just about anything from rice to the grilled meats, including anticuchos ($6.50) — that’s grilled beef heart — a classic street food served on skewers.

Traditional Latin American dishes are also on the menu, and the maduros fritos ($3) — fried sweet plaintains — are soothing and crispy, providing a pleasant counterpoint to the savory meats.

Leisurely service means that there’s plenty of time to savor everything that’s brought to the table, washed down by glasses of Peruvian beer or sangria — yes, sangria.

Pio Pio Riko [5911 Fourth Ave. between 59th and 60th streets in Sunset Park, (718) 492-4505]. Credit cards accepted. Open seven days.


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