2008-08-13 / Restaurant of the Week

Pollos A La Brasa Mario

40-19 Broadway, Astoria 718.932.2424
By Teresa Barile

Pollos A La Brasa Mario proudly celebrates ten years at its Broadway location in Astoria.

Follow your nose to the tantalizing aromas

of their famous rotisserie roasted chicken,

marinated with a special blend of spices. 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 $7.95 for a whole chicken, the whole family will be happy. Besides

the pollos a la brasa, you'll find some of the best

rice and beans and a wide array of traditional Colombian dishes including quality meats, fish and seafood.

The festive interior resembles a tropical courtyard with brightly painted balconies overlooking orange trees and colorful paintings. The bilingual menu makes ordering easy, while you sip on a cold beer, a glass of wine, or one of their fabulous freshly squeezed tropical juices. Start with some 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, dipped into fresh salsa, or maduros, the sweet version of plantains. 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.

Colombian cuisine focuses on delicious grilled meats 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 "entrana", or grilled skirt steak, cooked to order and served with a crunchy salad, rice and stewed beans. Ask for the tangy chimmichurri sauce to pour on this tender, juicy steak. My dining companions, who come from Colombia, loved the chuleta de cerdo, 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.

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). There's also shrimp in garlic sauce and golden, breaded shrimp to choose among. Another seafood specialty worth trying is 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. The service here is fast and friendly and they will gladly answer any questions you might have in making your selections.

Take advantage of value priced lunch specials from Monday to Friday, from 11am to 5:00pm. For just $6.95, enjoy chicken Marsala on Monday, grilled pork chops on Tuesday, a whole fried trout on Wednesday, and T-bone steak on Friday, just to name a few. The low price includes a generous helping of their delicious rice and beans.

For breakfast, try the scrambled eggs with tomato and scallions or arepas con queso. If you've worked the midnight shift, you might choose the grilled steak with rice and beans for breakfast or steak and eggs. Of course, the coffee is Colombia's best. For dessert, try the flan de trés leches, a light and creamy custard, or passion fruit mousse.

Bring some friends and have a Colombian fiesta at Pollos A La Brasa Mario. They're open until 3am weekdays and until 6am Fridays and Saturdays. Cash only, free delivery.

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