Pollos a la Brasa Mario
Rotisserie chicken can go in so many directions. And frequently that direction is boring (don’t even get me started on recipes that require a store-bought chicken, have you use the meat and throw away the skin). Yet, somehow on Saturday night it was decided that Latin-style chicken should be dinner.
I’m kind of partial to Peruvian renditions mainly because I like the punchy green sauce that often accompanies it. But maybe I’m just thinking of Pio Pio (I don’t think Pardo’s has it). The September Latino Gourmet has a recipe for Peruvian but they don’t make any mention of an aji salsa on the side (I’m so not crazy about the Epicurious re-design. The new recipes haven’t even been put online yet). The soy sauce in the marinade is an interesting cross-cultural addition, though. Fried rice, a.k.a. chaufa, is also a regional anomaly.
Due to a series of uninteresting circumstances, we ended up on a Jackson Heights block with three options: Casa de Pollo Peruano (too packed), Gusty Chicken (closed) and Pollos a la Brasa Mario. I’d been by the multi-level 24-hour Colombian joint with a bird mascot (maybe they all have bird mascots) a million times and had never stopped in. It was the perfect occasion.
I was always under the impression that Mario was kind of fast foodish and chicken heavy (perhaps, that’s more Frisby, the new game in town.). The formica booths and laminated picture menus imply so, but many of the entrees are substantial and over $20 (in my experience, Colombian portions are intimidatingly huge).
Sure, Rayuela has a live olive tree, but Mario has a sprawling fake orange tree and framed posters of cartoon animals eating the cuisine. My favorite was the Sylvester the Cat rip-off with an arepa and strip of chicharon. There was also a horse grilling something indiscernible.
It was Saturday night and crocks of seafood stew and teeming multi-meat platters graced many a table. But we came with a simple mission and stuck by it. Whole chicken. I wanted yuca frita, James ordered frijoles grande, which were way too grande and studded with a few bones so you knew you were in for ham-hockiness. White rice is standard but I prefer my Latin starches rooty and fried.
As accompaniments, you’re given a puree of green chile, thick and more scoopable than a usual salsa verde and a squirt bottle of what seemed like Thousand Island dressing minus the relish chunks. The two mixed together made a nice, visually repulsive dipping sauce for the yuca.
Mario is as good as a brightly lit rotisserie chicken restaurant might be, though it’ll likely be some time before I ever get around to a re-visit. There are so many contenders (what with all those Korean fried chickens crying for my attention) in the global poultry game that it’s impossible to stick with any one eatery or style.
Pollos a la Brasa Mario * 81-01 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY