New Morocho Cart Brings Peruvian Fusion to Midtown
A reader alerted us that a cart that normally sets up shop in Union Square actually ventured to Midtown last Thursday, so I hurried over to check it out. Morocho, which serves up Peruvian fusion and has received a fair amount of attention since it first appeared on the scene about two years ago – for its burger and other items – was on 52nd Street and 6th Avenue, outside the Big & Tall store over there, and informed me that they plan to be there Monday – Fridays for lunch. A quick check on Friday around lunch, and they were there – with a decent crowd – so hopefully they’re here to stay.
I’m not entirely sure why they have four guys manning the cart – two Peruvian guys inside, doing the cooking and assembling of the food, one (Jamaican) guy handling the money with an (iPad mini, I believe) and one of those cool change dispensers, and a (Panamanian) guy that floated around but I never determined quite what his role was. I chatted with the Jamaican guy for a bit, and he was happy to answer all of my questions (and disclosed everyone’s country of origin when I asked if the guys cooking were Peruvian). They take credit cards, which is great, though it does mean that tax is charged on top of the listed prices – something to take into consideration if you are a stickler for the $10 limit, as the burger and pork belly sandwich are $10 before tax.
Hearing that I was getting tacos, Dave took it upon himself to get the lomo salt ado w/ chicken ($8.71 with tax), which came with rice and potato. I tried it, and found it perfectly acceptable despite the stupidity of the name, since “lomo” refers to beef (which is an option as well.) In terms of flavor, it tasted much like any other saltado I’ve had in the past although it was white meat chicken, and I don’t care for white meat, so I turned my attention away from it. Dave enjoyed it, though, and seemed to enjoy even more the hot sauce that I believe was house-made; it carried a decent kick to it, and he quickly doused his whole platter with it (after making sure I was no longer interested in eating). Like a thick tomato sauce with plenty of chilies crushed into it, I believe he said.
I was focused on tacos! Actually, I grew over the top excited when I saw chicha morada on the menu – but they were out, sadface. When the guys heard how much I like it, they offered to help me get a case – no, theirs isn’t homemade, but they said it was good. I’ll have to go back and try it; when I was in the Peruvian jungle, it was served as a welcome beverage, and at most meals, and made into jello/pudding for dessert one night. It wasn’t overly sweet and tasted like a slightly bland grape juice, but it was very refreshing on hot days… and the places where I’ve had it in Queens, it tastes like all pineapple juice and no purple corn except for color, boo… They did mention the one they buy is fairly sweet but I might be able to find it at Whole Foods. Woohoo!
As for my tacos: I chose pork and steak ($8.71 with tax). My steak taco, on the left, was cut into cubes and extremely tender, juicy, and quite tasty. You can taste that it’s been marinated in a slightly sweet mixture of soy sauce and oyster sauce. The scallions offset that sweetness a little, and the tomatoes added a little juiciness, but even more so, the pinkish-white sauce on top which has a very slight heat to it. Possibly their hot sauce mixed with sour cream or yogurt (or mayo, but not Miracle Whip)? I enjoyed it a LOT – I thought it was the perfect amount of heat to accent the meat, but not overwhelm or overshadow the flavor of the beef. Awesome.
My pork taco, which the menu describes as BBQ pulled pork with salsa criolla, was another study in excellence. The pork was fairly standard as far as pulled pork goes, and mixed with a tangy, sweet BBQ sauce – so those who dislike sweet BBQ sauce may not like this. However, the salsa criolla (sliced red onions, tomatoes, cilantro) on top did a nice job to temper the sweetness, with the sharpness of the onions a nice counterpoint to the sweet BBQ sauce. Another delicious choice.
Also, I may not be an authority on this, but I thought the tortillas they used were far superior to many that I’ve had in the past: they didn’t have that ‘raw corn tortilla’ taste to them, though they weren’t obviously griddled or anything (not to say they weren’t, but that it didn’t look or feel like it was). They were soft enough, but held up well to the slight sauciness of my taco innards. Really, really good.
I am very happy that they’ve decided to park in Midtown for lunch, and welcome them heartily… and hope you all help me keep them here! At least until I try that pork belly sandwich, omg…
By the way, after a discussion with my dining companion about the menu while we ate, I headed back over there to verify that the “Poor Man’s Burger” – which is $10 – has meat in it, as in some circles naming something “poor man’s —” means that it’s a meatless version of whatever it is. The menu doesn’t actually mention that it’s a 1/4 lb. beef burger topped with what’s listed; they laughed and the Peruvian brothers explained that in Peru, “a la pobre” is slang for adding a fried egg and fried bananas, and that it’s meant to be a bit “ironic” as it’s quite a large burger (and has won them many, many accolades). So in case you’re wondering, yes: there’s a burger in there.
For a more in-depth look at the guys who run the cart, this article covers it – and tells me I have to stake out the cart more often, not just for the chicha morada, but for those potatoes covered in cheese sauce; I also ate that in the jungle in Peru, and at first I was like “it’s 100 degrees and 80% humidity outside, no air conditioning or breeze, I DO NOT WANT TO EAT POTATOES AND CHEESE” but by the end, I was like “Where are my potatoes and cheese??” hahaha.
THE + (what people who like this will say)
- Not the same as every cart/truck out there
- The guys working the cart are all super friendly and nice
- A vegetarian option? Score!
- Prices are about right for what you get
- Chicha morada and Inca Kola? Yessssssss!
THE – (what people who don’t like this place will say)
- I don’t like paying taxes/getting change from my cart/truck lunches
- I hate fusion cuisine, give me authenticity every day
- I need more vegetables in my lunch than this
- I don’t like sweet BBQ sauce on pulled pork
- I have a restricted diet that doesn’t allow me to eat any of these things
Morocho, NW corner of 52nd Street and 6th Avenue outside Big & Tall, check their Facebook page for specials and updates on location, though it appears that they plan on being there from now on (I couldn’t find a Twitter for them).