2011-04-20 / Restaurant of the Week

Pollos A La Brasa Mario

Pollos A La Brasa Mario has been offering delicious rotisserie chicken and Colombian fare for 13 years at its Broadway location in Astoria. Anyone walking by is drawn to the tantalizing aromas of their famous chicken, marinated with a special blend of spices and slow-cooked on the rotisserie oven. These birds fly out the door since people just can’t get enough of the juicy, tender chicken that falls right off the bone. At just $8.70 for a whole chicken, the whole family can enjoy a meal together. It doesn’t end there though. A complete menu of traditional Colombian dishes includes steak, chops, fish and seafood. Breakfast and lunch specials are served too.

The festive interior resembles a tropical courtyard with brightly painted balconies overlooking orange trees and colorful paintings. The bilingual menu makes ordering easy and the staff is very friendly and helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they’re happy to help. Meanwhile, enjoy an icy cold beer, a glass of wine, or one of their fabulous freshly squeezed tropical juices such as guava, mango and papaya. A Colombian meal is not complete without arepas, a type of pancake made with coarsely ground white corn, cooked on a hot griddle, then topped with melted cheese. Share some fried green plantains called tostones spread with the house made creamy guacamole, or maduros, the sweet version of plantains. I love the empañadas, delicate, savory pastry filled with beef and mild spices, perfect when dipped into fresh salsa ($1 each). Steamed or fried yucca are typical snacks or ask for a “picada Mario” and sample several of these great appetizers or side dishes. Each day, a different homemade soup is offered made with beef, chicken, plantains, fish or oxtail.

Meat from the sizzling grill plays an important role in Colombian cuisine and the “bandeja Mario” provides a sampling of grilled steak, one quarter chicken, pork loin, fried pork skins, salad, beans and rice and a homemade arepa, all for $17.95. This is a great way to sample many typical dishes all at once and I dare you to finish everything on your plate. Another popular entrée is called “entraoa”, or grilled skirt steak, cooked to order and served with a crunchy salad, rice and tender, pink beans. Ask for the tangy chimmichurri sauce to pour on this tender, juicy steak. My companion loved the chuleta de cerdo empanizada, a tender pork cutlet that is pounded thin, breaded and fried till golden and crispy. A sweet plantain accompanies this dish, as well as savory rice and beans and salad ($11.25). If you prefer, you can have your pork chops grilled swiftly on the open flame. Lomo de cerdo is impossibly tender roasted pork loin served with the same sides. I can’t say enough about the delicious, slowly cooked beans here and how great they taste over the fluffy rice.

Pollos A La Brasa also features plenty of seafood dishes to choose among including whole red snapper, fried or broiled, with plantains, rice and salad. You’ll enjoy the shrimp with rice dish featuring a dozen plump, grilled shrimp around a mound of saffron rice and veggies ($14.95). Shrimp in garlic sauce is heady and

aromatic, while even the kids will devour the golden, breaded shrimp, tender and crunchy. For a traditional specialty, you ought to try the seafood cazuela, which combines lobster, crab, shrimp and clams in a light and flavorful cream sauce that is delicious with white rice. Fried porgy or flounder are also quite popular, as is their seafood chowder.

For dessert, we shared the cool, creamy flan in caramel sauce. There’s also passion fruit mousse, traditional white cheese with figs or pudding. The coffee is great too, Colombian of course!

At lunch time, no one can beat their prices and quality with lunch specials for just $6.95 served Monday to Friday, from 11am to 5:00pm. The menu changes each day to accommodate the steady clientele: chicken Marsala on Monday, grilled pork chops on Tuesday, fish fillet on Wednesday, grilled steak and mushroom sauce on Thursday, and T-bone steak on Friday. The low price includes a generous helping of their delicious rice and beans.

Though Colombians will often eat grilled steak with rice and beans for breakfast, you’ll also find scrambled eggs, with tomato and scallions, fried eggs with ham or arepas con queso.

Pollos A La Brasa Mario is a great place to share a meal with friends and family. The staff makes you feel very welcome and the menu is very easy to navigate. They’re open until 3am weekdays and until 6am Fridays and Saturdays for your late night cravings. Have your order delivered for free and the “cash only” policy helps keep the prices so low. Enjoy a fiesta Colombiana at Pollos A La Brasa Mario! Buen provecho!

POLLOS A LA BRASA MARIO

40-19 Broadway, Astoria

718.932.2424

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