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Bargain eats: Discover a different kind of chicken at De'Liz, which offers a Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken.
BY KURT RABIN
If you like Latin cooking but have grown weary of burrito parlors and Mexican fast food, it could be time to think outside the Bell.
Legendary French chef and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier ranked Peruvian cuisine among the world's best, after only French and Chinese. One part Incan, one part Spanish and infused with Japanese, Chinese, Italian and African influences, the dishes on a Peruvian menu are definitely worth your perusal. It's a pity that, for most norteamericanos, Peruvian food means but one thing--pollo a la brasa--which translates as great-tasting rotisserie-grilled chicken that's been marinated in bold Peruvian spices.
A few of these chicken places have come and gone from the 'Burg, and I was determined not to let another one--De'Liz Chicken--get away without first trying it. It's baffling why Peruvian chicken has had such a difficult time entering this market. It could be that people simply prefer their chicken fried.
Or perhaps it's the fact that Peruvian restaurants have all been tucked away and a little hard to find, and De'Liz is no exception. Though located at Four-Mile Fork, it resides in a small, narrow space in the less-trafficked end of the shopping center there. To help state its case, there's a sign on Courthouse Road that reads: "Charcoal Peruvian Chicken Made by Real Peruvians." Accept no substitute, no bogus Peruvians need apply, right? I didn't even know that was an issue until Cesar, De'Liz's owner and himself a bona fide Peruvian, shared that none of the owners of the Peruvian eateries that preceded his had been fellow countrymen.
The first time I visited De'Liz I ordered the lunch special. It's tough to beat a quarter-chicken, fries, plantains and drink for $6.95. Everything was bien delicioso. But chicken--as my wife and I found out--isn't the whole story with Peruvian food, not by a long shot.
When next we went to De'Liz, not only were there Peruvians in the kitchen, but a family of Peruvians was dining there, as well. The kids were enjoying salchipapas, basically a mixture of sliced hot dogs and French fries. (Is Peru a great country or what?!) Meanwhile, mom and dad were having churrasco a la pobre ($13.95) and lomo saltado ($12.99), and we followed suit. Que rico!
Churrasco is grilled steak topped with fried eggs, served with plantains, rice and fries. A Cantonese-Peruvian hybrid, lomo saltado is beef strips stir-fried with red onions, tomatoes and peppers, topped with batons of sauteed potato and served with rice. (The Chinese came to Peru in the 1800s to build the railroad, bringing with them their stir-frying technique, along with their aromatics.) With its seamless blending of fresh garlic, ginger and cilantro, and soy, vinegar and chilies, lomo saltado has become a legendary fusion dish.
De'Liz doesn't offer much in the way of decoration but a wall-mounted TV, however the restaurant is clean and tidy, and service is prompt and attentive. Owner Cesar provided answers to all our questions, except for a list of ingredients that go into that crazy-good light-green sauce of his--a simply amazing dip for chicken, fries or whatever else you have on hand, such as your fingers!
Cesar later was insistent that we "friend" him on Facebook. I'm not sure how that will help him fill chairs, but instead, we'll offer a shout-out to Peruvian cuisine: It's truly out of this world--especially when it's been perfectly prepared by proudly Peruvian purveyors!
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000
Chicken: From $5.95 (quarter chicken with two sides)
Kids' menu: $4.99
Desserts: $1.99-$2.99The Scoop: Family-friendly, good service, good food--and a green sauce to die for! Payment: Major credit cards are accepted.