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The elegantly modern presentation of the dish could have been at home in any upscale dining room: two rounds of mashed yellow potatoes sandwiching a filling of chicken salad made with Pollo Bravo's rotisserie chicken, mayonnaise, lime and a bit of ají paste. It formed a sturdy yet chic tower, which we admired momentarily before tearing it down with our forks and eating every last bite.
Our infectiously cheerful waitress came by a few moments later and admired the destruction. "You liked it, I see!" she said as she cleared the plate. A minute later, she returned with a slip of paper and the words "causa rellena" written on it. "So you can remember for next time!" she smiled as she handed it to me. How could I forget?
While I've had wonderful luck with the rotisserie chicken, the chilaquiles and nearly everything else on offer at Pollo Bravo, the off-menu ceviche still needs a bit of tweaking here and there to bring it up to par with the rest of the dishes. One day, the thick strips of tilapia will be soft and well-marinated with creamy citrus sauce, each bite evoking flashes of hot summer days. The next, the strips of fish are gristly at the edges and tough, barely soaking up any marinade (and making you wonder if they're cooked all the way through). Still, at $12.95 for a portion that's easily split between two people, it's a great deal...when the fish comes through.
Houston, TX 77042
Causa rellena: $4.99
Half chicken: $5.99
Yuca frita: $3.99
Helado de lucuma: $3.99
Flan de lúcuma: $3.99
10434B Richmond, 713-278-0801.
I want Pollo Bravo to shape up its ceviche to be on par with the dazzling dishes that are already being offered at Latin Bites and Lemon Tree. Houston is a city that should, by all rights, have a wonderful variety of ceviches at every turn — not just Peruvian-style, but the Mexican ceviches like the seafood-laden Vuelve a la Vida cocktails found everywhere from Connie's to Hugo's and the hybrid ceviches found at more modern restaurants like Yelapa Playa Mexicana, where you'll find "Sevichey Tejano" on the menu.
Pollo Bravo doesn't need any improvement when it comes to its desserts and traditional drinks, like chicha morada. All made in-house, these items instantly transport you to another place entirely. That's what I love about eating ethnic food, after all: the mini-vacation and temporary sense of being immersed in another culture without paying plane fare.
Chicha morada is a traditional Peruvian drink made from fermented purple corn. Although it's fermented, it's not alcoholic and is enjoyed more like iced tea. At Pollo Bravo, they boil ears of the purple corn in a giant pot with slices of pineapple and warm spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It's an acquired taste, but no more so than the cans of Inka Cola served here, and it's worth a try just for the unique flavors — tropical and earthy and sweetly spiced all at once.
Another wholly unique flavor is that of the lúcuma, a fruit that's sustained the Peruvian people for thousands of years. Incredibly rich in nutrients like B vitamins, the fruit has a flavor that can best be described as a cross between caramel and sweet potatoes. Needless to say, this unusual combination is best showcased in desserts. Here, you can try either a flan de lúcuma or helado de lúcuma, but the ice cream is my preferred choice. The custardy, almost maple-syrupy flavor of the fruit makes for a strikingly rich ice cream that's best washed down with nibbles of the ladyfinger served on the side. It's easy to see after one dish of the ice cream why lúcuma is vastly preferred in Peru to either vanilla or chocolate.
It's a sweet surprise at the end of a meal that's full of them.
The chilaquiles are the best at Pollo Bravo. The chicken is tender and tastes great with her green aji sauce. The smell of roasting chicken welcomes you as soon as you open their door. Their alfajores, cookies with caramel are such a sweet and perfect dessert. Maribel is such a wonderful person, thanks for sharing her place with everyone.