I love Peruvian food so when my friends agreed to try El Rocoto to celebrate a birthday, I was absolutely tickled with that idea. My other 3 friends weren’t well versed with this type of cuisine, in fact, 2 of them had never had it before so I was excited to see if they would enjoy it. It was also my first visit to El Rocoto so I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would be good Peruvian rather than just so-so.
The minute you sit down, warm bread rolls are brought to the table with two sauces — one ‘red’ and one ‘green’. This aji sauce is quinessential of Peruvian cuisine and each restaurant does it differently. I prefer the green sauce because it is generally a lot spicier than the red. The green aji at El Rocoto is really good! The spice level could be hotter, but I thought it was good enough.
My friends left the ordering to me so I took the liberty to go with the little knowledge I do have with Peruvian cuisine. We started off with cebiche mixto (pictured top)which I’ve had many times at other places, always happy with the results. The other dish I generally order is lomo saltado (pictured left) and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it. Arroz con mariscos was my best friend’s choice and we decided to order another dish just to be safe and asked the server for a recommendation. She suggested pollo encebollado. I’ve had the beef version of this dish, but since we already have beef in the lomo saltado, we went with the chicken instead.
The cebiche mixto was lovely with a tart dressing which ‘cooked’ the seafood, tenderizing it and giving it a great texture. I always love the roasted corn nuts as it gives a great crunch to the rest of the items in the dish.
Lomo saltado was as I had expected it to be, very flavorful with the beef pieces nicely seared and stir fried with tomatoes and onions and a handful of french fries. The sauce always reminds me of a Chinese stir-fry and the accompanying steamed rice just works perfectly with this dish. This was highly popular amongst my friends.
Pollo encebollado (pictured above right) was a grilled chicken breast atop sauteed onions and tomatoes and served with steamed rice. Although the ingredients in this dish are similar to the saltado, it is much more subtle than saltado.
Arroz con mariscos (pictured below) is like a Peruvian paella. Everyone loved this dish because the rice itself was perfectly flavored with the saffron wine sauce and a mixture of shrimp, squid, mussels and scallops.
I like to use the green aji sauce on everything — from the french fries in the lomo saltado, the grilled chicken in the pollo encebollado to even the rice in the arroz con mariscos — I find that it makes everything taste even better than it already does!
Service could’ve been more attentive because we were often left with empty glasses which weren’t being refilled promptly. However, the restaurant was busy and whenever I flagged them down for a drink refill, or a green aji sauce refill, they were quick to respond.
Definitely one of the better Peruvian places I’ve been to in a long time! I’m keeping this place on my bookmarks for a future re-visit!
El Rocoto, 11433 South Street, Cerritos, CA 90703. Tel: 562-924-1919