Pio Pio, Hells Kitchen, NYC

The next chapter in our food fairytale of New York (see what I did there?) found us shivering our whatnots off in Hell’s Kitchen. GREAT name for an area, no? Actually, no. To be fair, whilst it sounds terrifying, I think it’s the NY equivalent of Shoreditch; probably a bit rough-and-ready in its day, but now pricey AF and all middle classed out because of the smashing location. It had some great restaurants though, and was close to our hotel which is a massive bonus when you’ve been walking all day (Central Park you absolute BABE) and the temperature has dropped what feels like 15ºC in the space of a couple of hours. We chose a Peruvian restaurant because we’ve never had Peruvian food before, and because the place was rammed. Both pretty solid reasons in an unfamiliar place, tbh.

We kicked off the evening with a half hour wait for a table (fair, at 8pm on a Saturday) and some pisco sours, which thanked us by kicking us right back in the face. With alcohol. Caroline reckons they’re much better than any she’s had in the UK, so if you like pisco sours you’ll probably love these. I was expecting something akin to an amaretto sour (no, I don’t know why) so I shuddered my way through one drink and then moved gratefully on to some excellent Chilean wine.

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^ Looks innocent and pretty BUT IT’S ALL A LIE

We shared two starters between the three of us and thank God we did because the portions in this place were huge. Epic. Enormous. Like, the biggest portions I have ever seen in the whole wide world ever. We shared two empanadillas – sweetish, crumbly pasties stuffed to the gills with pulled chicken and spicy sauce – which made me feel like one of the borrowers they were so big. We also had what was described on the menu as a ‘roasted red pepper stuffed with meat and cheese’ but what was actually, in reality, a pepper full to the brim with the most glorious chilli I’ve ever eaten. It tasted like somebody’s Mother had started making it at some point the previous week and had spent the intervening time wringing and stewing every little bit of flavour out of the gorgeous meat and spices until it fell apart in my mouth and made me weep a little tear.

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^ it was v dark and moody in there, bad for photo taking

Unfortunately, between the starter and main course things went kind of downhill. Maybe it was the fact that we were genuinely quite full by the time we finished the chilli, maybe we ordered badly, but they just didn’t quite live up to the promise of the starters.

Mum ordered Peruvian fried rice with chicken (Arroz Chaufa, menu here). It was rice. All the rice. Tasty, but SO MUCH of it! I’m not kidding when I say it could comfortably have fed the three of us. For about 2 days. Caroline ordered slightly more sensibly and had the Camerones Cuzco, which was prawns in a spicy sauce with MORE RICE.

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^ If anyone knows why wordpress won’t let me put up photos I’ve edited (i.e made lighter so you can *see* the food) hit me up, it’s well annoying

Again, it was tasty, the prawns were huge (like everything else…) and the sauce was fresh, slightly spicy and with a hint of coriander, but it could comfortably have been out a third of the size it was. I had the Tacu Tacu, which was basically beef stir fry with MORE RICE *sobs*. The beef was beautiful (I gave up after a mouthful of the rice) – really smoky and tasty and yummy – but to be honest my enjoyment was completely compromised by the fact that I felt a bit sick. Maybe sharing a main course would be better, or sticking to some starters and maybe having a cebiche. A shame, but yunno, it’s a learning curve and we’ll know better next time 🙂

We had our leftovers boxed up and gave them to some people sleeping rough, because to do anything else would frankly have been criminal.

They’re probably still eating them.

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