Photo by Cathy Pinsky
Piri-Q’s homey interior
Wander along an outdoor alleyway in the Portuguese city of Lisbon, and you’re likely to see restaurant tables dotted with bottles of piri-piri sauce, a condiment made from the eponymous fiery chili pepper.
At Piri-Q Restaurant Grill in Mamaroneck, you won’t find the sauce in bottles on the tables—it is a homemade version used in the preparation of many of the dishes and served alongside others. And, to take this etymological discussion one more step, the “Q” stands for BBQ, which refers to the favored cooking method at Piri-Q.
Piri-Q is a Portuguese chicken-and-ribs joint. The menu features a few other dishes, although shrimp seems to be the only other major ingredient we could count on. We visited twice and, both times, the restaurant was out of the tuna and the “paelha” (paella) was made with extra shrimp because there were no clams or calamari. On one visit, it was out of the steak, but, on the second, happily, we were able to get the bitoque, a deeply flavorful char-grilled strip steak served with rich garlic wine sauce and topped with a fried egg. Like many dishes, the steak was served with Portuguese chips—coins of fried potato that are crisp on the outside and creamy-soft inside.
The mainstay of the menu, frango—marinated, wood-roasted chicken—is moist and tender with a crisp, savory skin. Order half or whole—or, better still, get it on a combination plate with the smoky, meaty, and tender half rack of ribs.
But before you get to your dinner, order a bunch of appetizers to share. Our favorite was the hummus. We didn’t get any tahini, but we did get lots of bold garlic flavor in the bean purée, and we loved the starchy dip atop cool cucumber slices. We also couldn’t get enough of the toasted, seasoned, half-dollar-sized pitas with which the hummus and several other dishes were served.
Bolihnos de bacalhau—the little football-shaped dried salt cod cakes that originated in Portugal but were heartily adopted (and shaped round) by Brazil—were, in a word, flawless. The crisp crust gave way to a smooth, light filling, in which the flavor of the cod was artfully balanced against the creamy potato, allowing the fish to shine but not swagger.
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Photo by Cathy Pinsky
Garlicky hummus comes with seasoned pita circles
An over-abundance of spicy piri-piri sauce on moist and tender grilled chicken cutlets, on the other hand, was like the class bully stomping out even the tiniest assertion of voice or character from the chicken. Once scraped away, the remaining thin coating of the sauce allowed for a more pleasurable, even-handed experience.
With most of the seafood missing from the paella, we found ourselves facing a lovely dish that could more aptly be called shrimp and rice. Though described on the menu as “saffron-infused rice,” we decided to enjoy the seemingly saffron-less dish for its own good flavor. Shrimp were cooked to just the right degree of doneness: they had snap but were not chewy, and their sweet seafood flavor was enhanced by thin, smoky slices of cured sausage (à la chouriço).
Don’t miss the terrific side dishes. As with everything else on the menu, the prices for these ($5!) are a bargain. A pyramid-shaped stack of thick zucchini slices was enough of the crisp-tender vegetable for four of us; char-grilled broccoli, also crisp-tender, and grilled string beans both had a hint of the char-wood and were cooked only to heighten their flavor.
Desserts don’t live up the rest of the fare at Piri-Q. But if you feel a meal isn’t complete without a sweet at the end, go for the grilled pineapple with caramel sauce. The pineapple is topped with a crisp, brûlée sugar crust and a drizzle of bottled caramel sauce. The red velvet cake was a sweet, dense mess, and the crème brûlée was cold and thick. But don’t let desserts dissuade you. Piri-Q has an abundance of inexpensive, wonderfully savory dishes on the menu. You can always stop for ice cream on your way home.
Piri-Q Restaurant Grill: 3 Stars
360 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck
Hours: lunch, Tue to Sun 11:30 am-4 pm; dinner Tue to Thur 5-9:30 pm, Fri and Sat 5-10 pm, Sun 4-9 pm
Appetizers: $6-$10; entrées: $10-$28; sides: $5; desserts: $5-$6
4 Stars—Outstanding 3 Stars—Very Good
2 Stars—Good 1 Star—Fair