An old school diner is the last place one would expect to find such Peruvian specialties as papa la Huancaina, sliced potatoes in a cheese sauce spiked with aji amarillo, and cau cau, a tripe stew. In Queens though, such cultural cross pollination is becoming more and more common. Take the Rego Park Café, where a separate menu called La Mistura Peruana went into effect over the summer.
I’ve been meaning to try out the diner’s 12-item “Peruvian mixture” for months. I had my hungry heart set on the chicharron con camote sandwich ($6.95), a typical Peruvian breakfast of pork and sweet potatoes. They were out of it the day I stopped in, so instead I slurped augadito de pollo ($4.50) a verdant chicken and rice soup that gets its color from handfuls of cilantro.
It turns out that the diner’s Peruvian chef Carmen, who was a sous chef at the Sheraton Hotel in Lima, only makes the pork and sweet potato sandwich on weekends. So the following Saturday I came back for a Peruvian breakfast. The fried pork chunks are piled on a roll topped with slices of sweet potato and salsa criolla, a pickled red onion slaw. I applied a goodly amount of aji verde, the kicky green Peruvian hot sauce and dug in.
It was good, but not great. I wish the pork had truly been chicharron, most of the fat had been trimmed off. Chef Carmen would do well to leave it on and keep things as authentic as possible. In reality it’s no fattier than the bacon served with a typical diner breakfast.
Still I’m grateful to live so close to the only Peruvian-American lunch counter in Queens. I’m going to try to convince Chef Carmen to leave the fat on the pork and to start serving ceviche.
La Mistura Peruana/Rego Park Cafe, 94-14 63rd Dr., Rego Park, 718-459-2233