Piri-Q

Q as in BBQ, but in this case Piri-Q (pronounced something like Peedy-Q). I stopped in Greenwich Connecticut late this summer for lunch at Douro restaurant, which I like very much, and later learned that the chef owned another restaurant in Mamaroneck. That restaurant is Piri-Q, and when I read that it specialized in Portuguese barbecue specializing in using piri piri (pepper) sauce in updated preparations of classic Portuguese food, and some fusion dishes, too. So, I made it a point to make a trip to Mamaroneck just for this.

Barely steps away from the Mamaroneck Station on the line from Grand Central Station to Harrison is Mamaroneck Avenue. It looks like the classic Main Street in Anytown USA, and it also looks like it might be the only street in town - but I didn't venture out very far to confirm that. In about a minutes walk up Mamaroneck Avenue, you'll reach Piri-Q, which from the outside looks just like a cute little restaurant on a street with a bunch of cute little restaurants.

Inside the décor is simply and not the typical super-kitchy, old-world look you still see in so many Portuguese restaurants, except for the Iberian-style ceramic roof tiles around the grill/kitchen area. Who can resist? Regardless, the interior is casual and comfortable, but very dimly lit —— almost down-right dark, for some reason. It started to really fill up around 6:30, mainly with women, some with their children. I think I was the only male in their, aside from one young boy at the table to my side chomping on a chicken bone.

The menu has a number of interesting items, and I'm wondering about this piri piri sauce I see listed on so many of the items. Is it hot, is it sweet, is it like the piri piri sauce at Douro which is vinegar based and a little sweet — or is oil-based like my mother and father each made when I was a kid, and which would clear your head of any recorded memories from the last 12 hours.

Q-Trio

I was considering the Piri Piri Tacos with chicken and piri piri sauce on a grilled tortilla, but instead went for the Q-Trio, which is a sample of cod fish cakes, shrimp empenadadas and some grilled chouriço. The cod fish cakes are slightly smaller than I'm used to, but you get two of them. Their made of mashed potato mixed with a little flour, egg, onions, parsley and, of course, cod fish. Served hot after deep frying, they came out crispy and well salted. The flavor was good, but not as savory and complex as I've had - or even as I've made in my own kitchen.

I tried the shrimp empanadas, which are basically turn-overs filled with a seafood roux/mousse filling. Also served very hot and crispy, they were also lacking some flavor, I thought, though I really like the tiny baby shrimps inside - usually you don't get that, you get just the mouse. The last thing I tried was the chouriço. It was sliced down the center and grilled nicely. It was that Fall-River-style chouriço that is milder in smoky flavor that the chouriço you get in the Newark NJ area. Like everything at Piri-Q, just like Douro - the appetizers were seasoned really well, specifically salted with coarse salt that really pops some flavor in your mouth. This app was good, but afterward I did regret not trying out the Piri Piri Tacos.

Hummus

On this particular night, there was some construction going on, so in a nice gesture, the manager/maitre D' offered his guests some complimentary sample appetizers. I had just eaten the app I had ordered, but let's try this one, too. It was the hummus which is served with little tiny grilled pita breads, a couple of slices of cucumber and what I think was a piri piri flavored vinaigrette. The hummus was very dense, so the soft pita breads were not strong enough to use to scoop up some hummus and plop into your mouth. The flavor of the hummus was rich with garlic and both the pita and hummus were heavily season with crushed black pepper. For me, it all worked together only with the inclusion of the sliced cucumber, which helped brighten the flavor which was a little too earthy and rich for me.

Prato

My desire to want to try a lot of dishes often pushes me to order sampler plates. So, I did. Prato is literally means plate or dish. On the menu is translates to grilled chicken, grilled chouriço and grilled ribs. I ordered sides of grilled zucchini and grill/roasted potatoes. Churrasco in Portugal is very common and so is piri piri — and most of the time a Portuguese churrasqueira (bbq joint) is going to specialize in piri piri bbq chicken. And generally, it's pretty awesome. Here the chicken was grilled nicely with crisply skin on the outside and moist breast meat inside. My plate also had a drumstick - also good. The chouriço was the same I had just eaten in my appetizer, but it was good enough that I didn't mind having more. There were a few medium-size grilled shrimp and some grilled pork ribs. The shrimp was plump and sweet. The ribs was very smoky in flavor to the point where I really didn't like them. They had that American smoky bbq flavor that lots of people like, but I just happen to not be into very much.

After a few bites I realized that the little dipping dish on my plate was not ketchup - DUH! - but was piri piri sauce. The sauce is vinegar based, in fact I think I read that a few vinegars are used in the recipe. It's not particularly thick in consistency, nor is it very hot, so if you're looking to set your mouth on fire, this ain't the stuff you're gonna to need. But, this is probably just about the amount of heat most kids can take and like. This sauce is more about the flavor of piri piri, but it does leave a little burning sensation in the back of your mouth that lingers on a while. I tried it on the chicken, the shrimp, the ribs and the chouriço, and mostly I liked it on the chicken, though I was not crazy about and frankly, preferred not to use it. In the end, this prato was just Ok - however, and this is a big however, for $28 I fail to see the value in this dish. Your best option is to go with the simple chicken plate, which is way cheaper and the chicken, in my opinion, is the best part. In fact, you can almost get THREE of the half-chicken plates for the price of this one.

The sides were good. The roasted potatoes are roasted on the grill and seasoned with coarse salt - trust me it really makes a big difference. The grilled zucchini is cut rather thick and then grilled. Though the zucchini was good, I would have preferred them cooked a little longer to soften up some of that crunch.

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Piri-Q

360 Mamaroneck Avenue
Mamaroneck NY 10543
(914) 341-1443
www.piriqrestaurantgrill.com

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