2014-08-27 / Restaurant of the Week

POLLOS A LA BRASA MARIO

Before you even walk inside Pollos a la Brasa Mario, you’ll be enticed by the aroma of the famous rotisserie chicken cooking inside that has made this traditional Colombian eatery so famous. It’s so easy to enjoy the diverse flavors and dishes that comprise Colombian cuisine any time of day or night, seven days a week. The festive interior welcomes families, friends, and couples with brightly painted balconies overlooking orange trees and colorful paintings. The bilingual menu makes ordering easy and the staff is very friendly and helpful. Sigifredo is the jovial owner and runs a smooth operation in his clean, welcoming restaurant.

Our lovely waitress brought us glasses of wine or you can have a cold beer or one of their tropical fruit juices while you pick on some fried green plantains called tostones, dipped into creamy, chunky, freshly made guacamole or house made salsa. This impressive platter is ample enough for the whole table. Maduros are the sweet version of plantains and fried yucca is another traditional appetizer that everyone will dive into. A national snack is ‘arepa,’ a type of pancake made with coarsely ground white corn, cooked on a hot griddle, then topped with melted cheese. Arepas can also be topped with savory sausage called ‘chorizo’ or with crispy pork skin. Each day, a different homemade soup is offered made with beef, chicken, plantains, fish or oxtail. A crunchy salad with slices of avocado and wedges of lemon is a refreshing way to start. Colombian food is very flavorful and hearty, but not spicy, and incorporates lots of meat, fish, seafood and rice, so there’s lots to choose from.

If you’re new to Pollos a la Brasa Mario, you might want to start with their legendary chicken, marinated in a blend of secret herbs and slow cooked on a rotisserie (la brasa). I devoured a quarter chicken and requested the leg and thigh and found them to be incredibly juicy, with the tender meat coming away from the bone so easily, you can eat it with a knife and fork if you like but don’t hesitate to get your hands on it. This platter is served with a cup of chicken consommé, rice, their famous beans, fries and a side salad for just $11. What a bargain! Take one of these succulent chickens home with some sides of rice and beans and everyone’s happy, especially when a whole rotisserie roasted chicken costs just $9.20 and is far better and healthier than any fast food.

Meat features prominently in the interior regions of Colombia and Pollos a la Brasa Mario prepares hearty dishes in huge portions. The traditional “Bandeja Mario” provides a sampling of grilled steak, one quarter chicken, pork loin, fried pork skin called ‘chicharron’, salad, beans and rice and a homemade arepa, all for $20.25. I dare you to finish this platter, though it tastes just as good the next day for lunch or dinner. My friend’s steak and sautéed onions was cooked to perfection and topped with sweet, juicy onions, served with salad, rice, beans and sweet plantains for an unbeatable $14.25. ‘Entraña,’ or grilled skirt steak, was cooked to order and served with a crunchy salad, rice and tender, pink beans. Spoon a little chimmichurri sauce on the tender meat and rice for extra flavor. “Chuletas alla parrilla,’ are tender pork chops grilled on an open flame to order. These tender pork chops can also be ordered breaded and fried till golden and crisp, or you can try lomo de cerdo which is tender, sliced, roasted pork loin that cuts with a fork.

Pollos Alla Brasa Mario features plenty of fresh fish and seafood dishes to choose among including whole red snapper and fillet, fried or broiled and served with plantains, rice and salad. ‘Asopado de marisco’ is a seafood soup served in a cast iron pot replete with plump shrimp, fresh mussels, rings of calamari, octopus and juicy crab legs in a savory broth that’s delicious spooned over fluffy white rice. Shrimp in garlic sauce is made with jumbo shrimp in a savory and aromatic sauce ($19.95).

For dessert, try a piece of tres leches cake, moist and sweet, the perfect ending to this savory meal. Cool, creamy flan in caramel sauce, and sweet figs with white cheese are traditional mouth sweeteners, best accompanied by a cup of robust Colombian coffee.

Visit Pollos a la Brasa Mario for lunch served Monday to Friday, from 11am to 5:00pm. For a very affordable $7.25, you can choose a different dish each day of the week and the low price includes a generous helping of their delicious rice and beans. Breakfast is served, both American and Colombian style. Order scrambled eggs with tomato and scallions, fried eggs with ham or arepas con queso, even grilled steak with rice and beans to start your day.

Pollos a la Brasa Mario is open until 3am weekdays and until 6am Fridays and Saturdays for the night shift crowd. They do a brisk delivery business too, so call in an order to your home or office. Pollos a la Brasa Mario offers hearty, delicious Colombian food, a friendly, welcoming, bilingual staff, and promises a great meal at a fair price.

40-19 Broadway, Astoria
718.932.2424

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