So, I didn’t REALLY eat an entire cow. But upon exiting El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant in Gardena, it sure felt like I did. I think I could sum it up best if I shared with you the best quote ever, said to my friend Rob by a restaurant server:
“I don’t eat til I’m full; I eat til I hate myself.”
Hate is too strong of a word here, because I know I only stuff myself to max capacity when I’m eating food that truly feels special and unique.
El Rocoto is special and unique, indeed.
I do recommend checking out El Rocoto’s online menu first as it gives you a peek into the dishes you’ll find, and features creative food categories such as “soul warmer” and “from the garden” that are somewhat difficult to navigate on a crowded in-restaurant menu.
For a storefront at the center of a strip mall sandwiched between Marukai and the Burnt Tortilla, the web site is pretty professional and upscale! It made me feel I would be walking into an eatery a little more fancy than El Pollo Inka, my other favorite Peruvian hang out. But upon arrival, you’ll feel more cozy than pretentious at your unassuming table beneath a turquoise ceiling, complemented by simplistic chairs and just enough space to throw out your elbows and dive into the massive-sized plates.
Enough with the tease: let’s talk food.
I ordered a #26: Milanesa de Carne, a beef steak pounded super thin and breaded, then served with salad and your choice of steamed rice or French fries.
ENTER THE COW: this was the hugest breaded beef steak I’ve seen in my life, and I can honestly say I’ve seen big breaded beef steak before! It was served on a plate at least 12 inches wide that could barely contain the amount of food on it!
But the flavoring, the breading, the steak – it was perfect. I didn’t run across any fatty pieces that hat to be cut from the steak. And considering how thin it was I was sure it might be on the tougher side, but I was wrong; it was tender and flavorful. The creamy dipping sauce in the middle of the plate was delicious but subtle, leaving me wondering just what was in it and why I had to keep trying it.
I’m not a big fan of steak fries, but these were cooked well and maintained a nice crunch that complimented the tender steak.
Watch out for the salad: the dressing was nice and refreshing, but the salad itself was laden with celery: one of my greatest gastronomical foes! If you’re not picky about vegetables, you’ll be just fine.
Our server was very friendly and not overly-attentive, which is just my style. They do have an extensive wine list which, because it was a workday lunch, I didn’t tempt myself with so I can't attest to the quality of it. Prices range from $9.00 to $16 (or maybe even a little higher) but if you get a dish such as the Saltado de Pollo (pictured below: lean chicken sautéed with onion, tomatoes and French fries with a ample helping of steamed rice), you’ll definitely have enough to take home for a second helping.
El Rocoto is one of those places were you see dishes being served to other patrons and automatically “oooh” and “aaah,” then want to know what it is so you can order it next time. I’m definitely going back and am looking forward to trying their Chinese-inspired offerings.
I feel lucky to have been referred to El Rocoto, definitely a diamond in the restaurant row rough.
1356 Artesia Boulevard
Gardena, CA 90247