Saturday, October 22, 2011

AJ's Peruvian Restaurant (Oakland)

Update (5/20/2013): AJ's Peruvian Restaurant is closed.

As someone who is interested in cultural diversity and world cuisine, I have found myself paying more attention to Latin American restaurants in the city ever since I learned of SeƱorita Cibulka's project.  To my surprise, there are actually quite a few of these restaurants in town, several of which are recent additions, with more to come soon.  So when my friend and I were looking for a place to do lunch the other day, I suggested AJ's Peruvian Restaurant.  It was a sunny and warm fall day, and we were also glad we could take advantage of it by hitting up a place with a decent amount of natural lighting.

The hostess, who I believe is the owner, sat us at the booth closest to the entrance.  The decor of the restaurant is casual yet inviting.  While American restaurants serve bread before a meal, at AJ's we got some yummy sweet potato chips:

Sweet Potato Chips at AJ's Peruvian Restaurant
Sweet Potato Chips

I decided to try their Ensalada Rusa with Rotisserie Chicken.  The salad is made of corn, beets (yum!), peas, and mayonnaise, served with Peruvian rice which is flavored with something (garlic?), and the customer's choice of 1/4 rotisserie chicken, grill chicken breast, or grilled pork chop.  I went with the 1/4 rotisserie chicken, with all its crispy skin and juicy meat glory, and rubbed with a flavorful seasoning.  It was delicious!

Ensalada Rusa with Rotisserie Chicken at AJ's Peruvian Restaurant
Ensalada Rusa with Rotisserie Chicken ($8.99)

My friend enjoyed her 1/4 rotisserie chicken with sides of sweet potato fries and sweet plantains, but not before we did a little switcheroo: I had been served with white meat and her dark meat, but I far preferred dark meat while she slightly preferred white meat, so we switched our chicken.

This being my first visit, I couldn't resist ordering some Fried Plantains for myself as a side, which turned out to be a  good choice.

Sweet Plantains at AJ's Peruvian Restaurant
Fried Plantains

I actually came back less than a week later when another friend and I decided to do dinner before a show at the Petersen Events Center.  I ordered the Ensalada Rusa with Rotisserie Chicken again (though I made sure to specify I wanted dark meat) and it was just as good the second time around.  My friend had gotten rotisserie chicken and loved it.  During this second visit, I ran into a colleague who is from Peru who verified that AJ's is as authentic as it gets.  He was so excited to see that we were enjoying his cuisine and generously let us try his ceviche and beef heart - both of which were awesome.  I think I might just have to go for some beef heart myself next time. In the meantime, it makes proud to have introduced two very happy friends to AJ's.

P.S. To be honest, I have no idea what this restaurant is officially called.  Urbanspoon calls it "AJ's Burgers Fries and Peruvian Rotisserie" and Yelp as well as the restaurant's Facebook page calls it "AJ's Burger & Peruvian Chicken," while the restaurant's website refers to itself as "AJ's Peruvian Restaurant."  So I guess I'm probably simultaneously right and wrong here, but I decided to just go with "AJ's Peruvian Restaurant" for simplicity's sake.

UPDATE 1/20/2012: Thanks to a tip from a reader, it appears that AJ's has a new website URL which I have updated.

Restaurant info:
AJ's Peruvian Restaurant
3608 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
On the web:
On Facebook:

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AJ's Burgers Fries and Peruvian Rotisserie on Urbanspoon