>> Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Same food, half the price?
Years ago my family visited San Francisco as tourists for the first time. We did all the classic touristy things: walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, ride the famous trolley, and marvel at the sheer size of the biggest Chinatown in the US.
We found a fantastic hole-in-the-wall restaurant with simple formica tables, super bright fluorescent lights, and incredible food. The best part? It was super cheap.
One our second day there, the waiter told us that a much fancier Chinese restaurant upstairs served exactly same food but charged twice as much. Of course, the decor and service upstairs were much nicer, but the food was identical. In fact, it came out of the same kitchen.
We chuckled, feeling like we had found some amazing secret about which the clueless, duped tourists upstairs had no clue.
In reality, we never did confirm or validate the waiter's statement. He played to our instinctive values - the desire to get a good deal.
Whenever a successful (and expensive) restaurant opens a more casual joint with the same trade name, people tend to get excited (think Jean George or Daniel Boulud), thinking that they can get something amazing for much cheaper.
The owners of Macchu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill began with a highly successful Peruvian restaurant in Union Square (also called Macchu Picchu). After moving that restaurant to a bigger space, they opened up a simple, casual rotisserie at the old location.
Their namesake dish, of course, is the Peruvian chicken, which costs $15.99 for a whole chicken. It's marinated for 24 hours in their secret blend of spices and then cooked over charcoal. It's juicy, flavorful, and definitely quite enjoyable.
We only got take-out, so I can't comment much on the ambiance of the restaurant or the service. Nevertheless, the chicken is definitely very good, as well as the classic fried plantains and the yucca fries.
Classic Peruvian cookies called Alfajores - these were filled with caramel and were absolutely delicious.
I hope to someday return to try the larger, sit-down restaurant, which has a much bigger menu, full bar, and takes reservations. Until then, I'm perfectly happy relishing in the memories of the simple yet delicious menu items at the more casual counterpart down the street.
307 Somerville Ave
Somerville, MA 02143