El Rey, a new restaurant now open in Lynnwood, was full of families. It was mid-afternoon on a Sunday — normally a bit quieter time slot, but within the community word of this new Peruvian food spot has spread quickly. Colorful murals brighten the walls at 12926 Mukilteo Speedway E15.
A recent article displayed the women working at the restaurant in traditional dress, but today Yacira — the head of the family and the source of the authentic food served at El Rey — was dressed in sensible work clothes and colorful Peruvian-themed apron, as was her daughter Yandira. Staff hustled to keep up with the requests from tables packed with moms, dads and children.
A family member of mine did missionary work in Peru. If a spot didn’t serve Inca Kola in an establishment here in the states, it wasn’t the real deal. Rest assured, parked on the corner of each table full of family members was a liter of pale yellow Inca Kola, the national soft drink of Peru. The yellowish color and bubble gum taste is unique among sodas. Some tables had two bottles.
Beverages beyond the plastic liters held intrigue:
While I longed to try one of the fresh mango and carrot juice concoction, it was not available and I settled on Chicha Mirado Vado. Traditional preparation consists of boiling the purple corn in water along with pineapple peels and pieces of quince, adding a pinch of cinnamon and a few cloves. Once the substance is boiled, you strain and let cool to add sugar, chopped fruit and lemon.
Refresco Maracuya ( fresh passion fruit juice) is another healthier choice offered at El Rey.
As I walked up to give my order at the counter, I viewed heads and shoulders of cooks working in unison, their backs to me as orange flames shot up from the grill. Memories of visits to Mae Phim, a legendary Thai restaurant on 1st and Columbia in downtown Seattle, popped into my brain and confirmed that this South American establishment was indeed the “real deal.”
Daughter Yandira staffed the counter that afternoon of my visit. As she filled my two cloth bags with multiple containers, she raised her eyebrows and asked “Large family?”
Well… it’s a tough job — the work of reviewing restaurant fare means sampling as many different dishes as possible.
Here are my selections and my impressions.(spoiler alert- most all pictures are posted from El Rey and more appealing, compared to my take-out box versions):
Papa A La Copoa: an appetizer comprised of sliced cooked potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, jumbo-sized, tasty black olives — all ingredients covered with a smooth sauce flavored with black mint (huacatay — a plant originally from the city of Arequipa, Peru).
Lomo Saltado: This comfort food dish is a combination of starches, a generous portion of white steamed rice, grilled sliced steak and colorful vegetables — grilled bell peppers and onions — that gave the dish a nice color and eye appeal, but this mixture topped a pile of fries. Huh? I was stunned to discover the bottom layer of long peeled and fried potatoes; these appear to be house made. I took a few bites: Salty potatoes on the bottom were lightly fried and provided a balance to the rice, vegetables and grilled meat.
Ceviche, Peruvian style, includes some potatoes in with the very tender bits of white fish. It was dressed with spicy lime juice (that can be purchased separately as a beverage called Leche De Tigre), onions and other bits of veggies that have spent time in this marinade. A topping of thinly sliced red onions added interest to the dish.
Arroz con Pollo would’ve been an obvious choice, except the chicken on this dish is actually breaded and fried. I opted for a quarter of the roast chicken to be able to taste that expert grill work I’d witnessed. Succulent chicken inside roasted crispy skin was my reward.
Arroz con Mariscos supplied plenty of rice, even some extra to go with my quarter chicken. Well-seasoned, colorful additions of carrots, onions and peas, plus the bounty of the sea — shrimp, tender tidbits of white fish and mussels — are combined with the flavorful arroz.
Food pictures I’d seen on El Rey Facebook posts displayed an item that is not listed on the website menu. Pachamanca is what this dish was called. On its own, it’s a great order for two or even three individuals. The quantity of grilled meat, steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes, and the spicy sauce that accompanies can easily be shared. Dessert even comes with this entrée, in the form of what I first mistook to be tamales. One nibble and I saved the rest for the end of the meal. A sweetened corn pone was tucked into husks and warmed on the grill.
Readers, check the El Rey Facebook page for “specials” are posted throughout the week, and always Sunday has a unique dish.
Travel to El Rey, in north Lynnwood, is a short trip up the I-5 north and take Mukilteo exit, an easy way to get to this location.
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Updates on Thanksgiving Day
I am always thankful when our local restaurateurs keep me in the loop. Here’s more news:
Claire’s Pantry is a tradition for many Edmonds families each Thanksgiving, and this year they are open 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. They offer takeout and dine-in this year, plus an online option too at www.clairespantry.com.
Bistro 76 in the Perrinville neighborhood has a feast featuring “Thanksgiving Take and Bakes.” The Bistro will be closed Thanksgiving Day but they are open the day before, which is also pick-up day for take and bakes. They resume their normal schedule the day after Thanksgiving. Bistro 76 will accept orders through Tuesday, Nov. 23. Menu here:
Scott’s Bar & Grill offers up Diestel turkey for in-person dining Nov. 25: Tender and juicy with real old-fashioned flavor, slow-grown with no hormones, the bird is accompanied by chicken apple sausage stuffing, mashed Yukon potatoes, chef’s vegetables, fresh cranberry relish and turkey gravy. Reservations: scottsbarandgrill.com.
While neither of Jeff Barnett’s locations — Boathouse Taproom and Salish Sea — will be open Thanksgiving Day, he shared that the Flying Taco Truck will be at the Boathouse location in Edmonds’ Harbor Square, on Wednesday evening. It’s the perfect opportunity before settling into preparation of turkey and other tasks related to the holiday Treat yourselves to some terrific tacos, maybe a growler of your favorite brew too.
Prior to Thanksgiving, treat yourselves to lobster dinner at Anthony’s HomePort on the Edmonds waterfront. Enjoy a lobster tail, with rice pilaf and steamed asparagus. Not only is it a great deal, but a respite from turkey recipes and planning. The special ends Nov. 24.
As we tuck into our fare Thursday, let’s give thanks for our robust community and the folks who strive to provide fabulous fare for our enjoyment — almost every day. Many locations are closed to allow staff and owners well deserved time off to enjoy family and friends on the holiday. They’ll be back at it the very next day. I wish them all the best and we head into the holidays.
May we all be generous with our dining excursions this winter, be kind and tip well.
— By Kathy Passage
A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.