The Ecuadorian restaurants of the Bronx largely remain far off the radar of adventurous eaters, who stick to Jackson Heights and Corona for their bounty of seco de chivo, humita, and morocho. But there are, to be sure, some Ecuadorian eats in the Bronx that rival what you'll find down in Queens, and through the end of the year we'll be occasionally spotlighting the restaurants that serve these dishes. First up, Lucho Barrios and their excellent chaulafan.
Just a couple quiet blocks from the bustling Hub, Lucho Barrios is—despite the drawn shades and a building that calls to mind a gentleman's club—bright and welcoming. You'll find a menu of down home standards, like fritada de chancho ($20 for a small, $25 for a large; poached and fried pork), humita ($3; fresh corn cake) and a rotating case of soup specials including chicken, salchicha (hot dog), and bolon (plantain dumplings).
Luchos Barrios' kitchen produces a very fine plate of Chaulafan ($13), the Ecuadorian take on chao fan or fried rice. Short grain rice is cooked just right, mixed with bits of fried egg and salty, crispy ham, small shrimp with a slightly metallic flavor, and parsley for a much needed dose of herbal brightness. It's a far cry from healthy but less greasy than you'd expect, and a taste of the familiar from somewhere new.
Other dishes we tried were not so impressive.
I, for one, can't resist the temptation of Humita, a steamed corn cake like a tamale, whenever it presents itself. But here you should. Unravel the foil wrapping and the sweet corn's aroma will entice you. But it seems like all the flavor escapes with the steam, and the plastic cheese doesn't help.
Don't bother, either, with the Bollo de Pescado ($8), a hulking tamale stuffed with underseasoned fish. The muddy colors, disconcertingly earthy aromas, and mushy texture of the shell make for a particularly unappetizing dish.
Our advice is to stick to the chaulafan, perhaps with a plate of fritada for good measure. You won't regret the indulgence.