Last week was my friend Jerry’s birthday, and even though I told him a “special dinner” was his gift, little did he know that, through the minor miracle of me being a mostly low-rent food critic for an obscure local social blog, I was going to use this celebratory excursion as a conniving excuse to review a woefully ignored Peruvian restaurant that I defiantly believe more people need to visit and visit very soon.
That beautiful and, yes, thoughtful, gift was made pure and true in the guise of an expertly seasoned and diligently rotated Latin-style rotisserie chicken—with all the otherworldly fixings and finishings, mind you—from the criminally underrated Naylamp Peruvian Restaurant, 2106 S.W. 44th.
Having just finished a rather easygoing afternoon of a trip to movies, when we hit the odd little corner where Naylamp rests, the sun was just starting to set and next door’s “Pretty Girls” neon-sign was lit up at Sugar’s Mai-Kai. And while I was slightly hoping for some “pretty girls” at Naylamp, instead I got a young high school kid working the floor, greeting us with about as much energy as he could muster as we found a place to sit.
Without even looking at the menu, I knew from their legendarily underground word-of-mouth what I was desperately craving—the Pollo a la Brasa, a Peruvian specialty. Giving the Kid my order, I grabbed a can of Peru’s number one cola, Inca Kola—the Golden Kola!—from their fridge and gently swigged the bubble-gummy liquid, looking around at all the Peruvian images and artifacts that were surely swiped from an old travel agency.
The Kid emerged from the kitchen, bringing us decked out plate after plate of purely indigenous eats. Starting off with the bombastic appetizers of plantains ($3.00) and yucca ($3.00), the absolutely brutal sensation of the delicately singed roots was a great way to start this meal—and really any meal—the earthy flavors of the fried plantains and yucca both a wholly unknown yet virtually comforting spot of eternal grub.
The Pollo a la Brasa special ($18.99) not only contained a deeply cut and fantastically quartered hand-marinated and spit-roasted chicken, but also a couple of magical sides, in this case we chose the papas fritas and arroz verde, the serving dishes loaded to the hilt. As we joyfully consumed these Peruvian eats, each bite always better than the last, the Kid opened up and told us the maniacal history of Naylamp, from name changes to new owners, drawing out a quiet passion in him for his family and this place they built up.
Speaking of, the papas fritas were a realistically crunchy affair, while the arroz verde was a torrid mistress, but this chicken, this Peruvian delight for the tongue, the heart and the soul was the reason, gastrically at least, that Peruvian poet laureate José Santos Chocano wrote so intrinsically about the people and culture, and now I write so didactically for this holy live-in love that you’d spend a lazy Sunday in bed with, this Pollo a la Brasa.
As we sat there, laughing at my precise humor and enjoying the ribald food, I realized this was a God-gifted birthday meal that anyone celebrating a feliz cumpleaños would’ve given all their meaningless presents back just to have had a dinner like Jerry and I did that evening. So, I guess what we’ve truly learned here is that not only am I’m a good friend with a devious knack for edible gifts, but also that Naylamp is undoubtedly the best present you could ever give a loved one, or, if you’re like me, a mild acquaintance. Cómpralo ya!