Thursday, November 19, 2009

Restaurant Review: Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken and Grill

25 Union Sq
Somerville, MA 02143
Rating: ☆☆☆☆ – 

On a recent frigid evening, Cthulhu, Destroyer of Worlds and I journeyed Pizarro-like via the 91 bus to Somerville's Union Square to check out a Peruvian eatery, the Machu Picchu. It turns out that little old "Summahvuhl" has twice as many Machu Picchus as the entire continent of South America, as there are actually two separate locations in Union Square with this name.

We wound up at the smaller and more casual of the two restaurants, which both appear to be under the same ownership. The menu here was oriented toward char-grilled chicken and meat.

We were initially disappointed that there was no Pescado a lo Macho, or any other seafood for that matter, on the menu, so I decided to take solace in a bottle of beer: Cusqueño, "El Oro de los Incas," according to the advertising placard. I guess los Incas are running a bit short on their oro,  because the bottle only contained 11.2 ounces of cerveza, rather than the standard 12. It was a handsome bottle, though, with a raised "stonework" detail around the midsection which made for a sure-handed grip. Cthulhu meanwhile ordered a "glass of purple corn drink," which was sweet and comparable to bubble tea in that it had giant kernels of Peruvian corn nestled at the bottom of the glass.

For a starter we both really enjoyed the yuquitos arepiqueños, or fried yucca wedges. Similar to french fried potatoes, but quite a bit denser, in a good way, both in consistency and taste. They were served with a mildly spicy ocopa cream dipping sauce.

The char-grilled chicken came with tacu tacu (which means "scrambled" in Quechua; in this case it meant seasoned rice and beans). Both were done just right. The enormous maize tamale was stuffed with olives, egg, and pork, which gave it sort of a breakfast burrito aspect, but it was mighty tasty. And the cold salad, consisting of cooked quinoa—a grain-like crop native to the Andes—along with queso fresco and more enormous corn kernels, plus lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, avocados, and an aji amarillo (yellow pepper) paste, was really hearty.

For dessert we shared the combinado o classico, a half-n-half bowl of purple corn pudding on one side and rice pudding on the other. True to form, Cthulhu refused to eat the little raisins that come with the rice pudding, so I had to take that one for the team.

The service was terrific, the premises were spotless and no expense was spared on the up-to-date interior design. I even snagged some brochures from the Peruvian travel bureau. The only thing left to do is to return to Union Square to check out the larger, fancier Machu Picchu Resturante Turistico, with its much more extensive menu, which is just down the street.

So why only four stars? The soundtrack. During our one-hour sojourn, we were subjected to three complete play-throughs of an album of treacly Christmas songs—plus "I Have a Little Dreidel"—all performed by a purportedly traditional Peruvian flute band. It was enough to make me pine for Downtown Crossing, where on warm afternoons a coterie of poncho'ed floutists crank out "El Cóndor Pasa" upwards of 50 times a day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The great news is that you got to hear El Condor Pasa 800 times!! And you got to sample some semi-authentic elements of food. Some were authentic. Usually the percentage of authentic elements is zero but they actually had several.

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