LYNNWOOD — Looking for fast food that includes slow-roasted chicken? Search no more. Pollos a la Brasa San Fernando does it right.
My 93-year-old mother last week pronounced this Peruvian-style pollo the best chicken she’d ever eaten. My friend and colleague Alicia Jones agrees.
Like all of the Americas, Peru is a melting pot of cultures — primarily native, European and Asian. The dish pollo a la brasa debuted in Lima during the 1950s with the help of some Swiss guys who owned a hotel there. They used a traditional Peruvian spice rub on the chicken — paprika, cumin, oregano, along with salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of vinegar — to give the chicken its special taste.
Today Peruvian rotisserie chicken is one of the hottest food trends in America, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. The usual plate is the hindquarter (cuarto) of a chicken served with fries and a fresh lettuce-tomato-cucumber salad.
In New York City, Peruvian chicken is so popular, says New York Times food writer Sam Sifton, that “there are whole swaths of (the city) in which Peruvian chicken is as important a takeout dish as pizza or orange beef, neighborhoods in which the lacquered birds and their accompanying little plastic tubs of tangy green sauce are weeknight staples, where the delivery guy gets a year-end bonus same as the doorman. Peruvian chicken can become a habit.”
Alicia has begun to make a habit of trips to San Fernando, which is located just off Highway 99 at 208th St. SW in Lynnwood. It’s a small restaurant — one of those great hole-in-the-wall strip-mall joints — and on weekends, Alicia said, the booths are filled with families, most of them with South American backgrounds.
“For a couple of years, I would pass by, thinking it an odd place to put a restaurant. About six months ago I decided to give it a try. Do take-out. Wow, am I glad I did,” Alicia said. “Oh, my goodness, the chicken fell off the bone. And the skin — the flavor was exquisite.”
Alicia visited San Fernando another four more times that week, ordering the quarter-chicken plate ($12).
Today, she skips the fries in favor of double the amount of salad because she can’t get enough of the house salad dressing, which is mayonnaise-based with some tangy elements.
She also slathers the chicken with the house green sauce — made from mayonnaise, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper. The house red chili sauce is even more spicy, so go slow. Ketchup is on the table, too, for those who must have it with their fries.
When I ate at San Fernando with Alicia, we tried the papa rellena ($6) — a deep fried mashed potato with seasoned ground beef and onions. It was so good, we wished we had just ordered a number of appetizers. When I took my mom out the other day, we split a tamal ($6) — hominy bread stuff with egg and pork. It was topped with the shop’s delicious pickled red onions. Another “wow.”
On my first visit, I tried lomo saltado ($13), which is another favorite in Peru, I am told. It’s top sirloin strips, onions and tomatoes on rice, and served with fries. I couldn’t eat the fries, because the rest of the dish was so filling.
Also popular is tallarin saltado, which is chicken or beef marinated in soy sauce, onions, green and red peppers and garlic, served over spaghetti ($12).
Other dishes include a Cantonese-style fried rice called chaufa, fried pork with yucca, grilled pork chops with rice and beans, Italian-style tripe with rice, ceviche de pescado and tilapia frita.
“The prices are great,” Alicia said. “I always end up getting two meals out of whatever I order.”
The most popular drinks at San Fernando are the Peruvian cola, which is green, and mango juice, which is delicious ($2.50).
Next time I plan to order the helado de lucuma dessert. It’s an ice cream made from the lucuma fruit, which is native to Peru. It sounds like a “wow,” too.
Pollos A La Brasa San Fernando
20815 67th Ave W., Lynnwood
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.