El Norteño and the Best Chicken in Tarapoto

I don’t often go down into the Banda de Shilcayo district to eat. In fact, the last two times I’ve been to La Banda I’ve headed straight to one restaurant: El Norteño (Jr. Santa María N° 246, half a block from La Banda’s Plaza de Armas). The first time was by invitation. The second time was because I had to show a friend how damn good the chicken is…

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It’s All Good at El Norteño

Before I launch into the chicken, let me just say a few non-chicken things. El Norteño serves a variety of dishes — including pork, beef, goat, chicken and duck — served in either Northern Peruvian or oriental style. From what I’ve sampled so far, it’s all good. The family-run restaurant is also bright, clean and friendly. Also good. You should go there tomorrow for lunch.

And now the chicken…

El Norteño’s Pollo Cantones con Arroz Chaufa

Writing about El Norteño’s phenomenal Pollo Cantones con Arroz Chaufa is like writing a love letter to a beautiful woman. As the words flow, my memory recalls — quite vividly — her tender breasts, her delectable skin, her sweet and crispy legs…

OK, so I’ve never met a woman with crispy legs, but you get the point. Cantonese chicken at El Norteño is something special.

This isn’t a standard chifa dish. The chicken, through some magical process that involves freezing, has perfectly crispy skin. That’s always a good start. Then there’s the sweet and slightly tangy sauce that coats the tender meat and forms a rich pool on your plate. Forgive me while I wax lyrical, but the whole thing is sublimely toothsome.

Add to this a side plate of special arroz chaufa. If I forced a chef to listen to me while I demanded a precise form of arroz chaufa, my commands would result in El Norteño’s version. It’s chunky but with delicate flavours; there’s lots of it — enough to share — and it’s chockfull of chicken.

(Quick tip: you may consider mixing your rice into the sauce on your chicken plate. Resist! The arroz chaufa is excellent as it is, so save the sauce for the chicken.)

To complete the holy trinity, buy a jug of fruit juice. El Norteño’s fruit juices are icy and delicious (I recommend the cocona).

In Conclusion…

In conclusion, go to El Norteño and eat yourself silly. The Pollo Cantones con Arroz Chaufa costs S/.21 (about US$7.90); other mains range from about S/.15 to S/.25. The restaurant is closed on Monday, but open every other day of the week.

If you do head down to El Norteño, feel free to write a short review in the comments section below. Cheers!

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El Norteño’s Pollo Cantones con Arroz Chaufa. The photo really doesn’t do it justice, but I was too excited about eating it to waste too much time photographing it, which says a lot…