Chicken Latino, a restaurant I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog, is one of the best places to find authentic Latin American food. Known for their Peruvian cuisine, literally anything and everything you order there will make your taste buds explode and your stomach crave more. The place is, naturally, known for it’s peruvian-style chicken and the fantastic burritos and quesadillas that the chicken often finds itself in. However, something you probably wouldn’t expect to find at a Latin American restaurant is barbecue done to perfection, but oddly enough, that’s exactly what I reviewed the first time, and is what I’ll be reviewing this time. First it was barbacoa beef brisket, now it’s lechón, or slow-roasted pork, better known to barbecue-heads as pulled pork.
I honestly don’t know how the head chef at Latino does it; it seems to defy all logic. But believe me when I say this is quite possibly the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten. There’s not much pomp to the ‘wich, which (Get it? ‘wich and which? Juxtaposition pun? I know you liked it) is certainly an endearing point of the whole thing. It says, “Look out, people eating me. I’m two buns and a bunch of slow-roasted pork, mixed with a fantastic barbecue sauce. Eat me if you would like, and put green sauce of me if you dare.” But don’t let the simplicity of the appearance and seeming lack of ingredient complexity fool you: there’s a whole lot going on here, and I’m not just saying that because it’s a gigantic sandwich.
Let’s start with the levels of texture. First of all, the pork is roasted to an absolutely sinful tenderness. Often, you’ll take a bite of a sandwich and it’ll feel like the ‘wich is almost fighting back if the bun and filler are too rigid or firm, making for almost a battle of a ‘wich. That’s a problem: sandwiches should be a battle in terms of determining the flavors, but not in the texture department. The Lechón is the absolute opposite of that sensation, as each bite is pure, tender bliss. The meat falls off the bun with every bite, and there’s enough give so that it’s not in the territory of too mushy, but rather in the perfect balance between the two ends. There’s a significant chew to it, but not too much, and when you combine the tenderness of the meat with the happily pliable bun, you have a great, soft sandwich that’s basically begging for you to take one more bite.
And then we have the all-star of the ‘wich: the barbecue sauce. It’s very interesting, because there’s a clear knowledge of your barbecue sauces here, but there are also noticeable Latin American influences. You can tell that the creator of the sauce knows their BBQ because of the combination (and, even more importantly, balance) of sweet and smoky. You get this indescribable sweetness at first, meshing with the meat and creating a fantastic combo of sweet with savory, and then after the initial flavors are past, you have a smoke that lingers in your mouth for the duration of the sandwich. Unlike the majority of barbecue sauces, however, the emphasis is put on the sweet, making for an all-around pleasant eating experience with only a hint of the smoke. Then, you explore the Latin American influences. If you’ve ever tasted Latino’s chicken, you can immediately sense extremely similar spices and flavors in the sauce. It’s a certain savory, quasi-garlic-y flavor that’s almost indescribable. It’s most decidedly not garlic-y in actual flavor, but there’s a certain characteristic to garlic that is also present in the spice, and it translates perfectly to the sauce.
For the final flavor explosion, if you want to kick your sandwich up an extra notch both in the flavor and heat departments, you have to to put the famed green sauce on your sandwich. Latino’s green sauce, as I’ve explained before, is a hot pepper sauce made from a base of habañero peppers that packs mad heat as well as a great pepper flavor, and this is coming from a guy who doesn’t even like peppers. There’s a certain addictive quality to it, however, so beware of the accumulative heat that will undoubtedly build and pummel your taste buds until you’re eating the stuff through your tears (which, believe me, is still worth it.)
Chicken Latino crafts some of the most intriguing barbecue I’ve ever tasted. By combining the Latin American aspects with the traditional barbecue ideas, they create something in it’s own class, and that something is one of my favorite barbecue sandwich ever.