Have you ever walked by a restaurant and thought, “I should go in there?” Well I have. Many times. One particular place in our neighborhood I’ve managed to walk by probably hundreds of times in the practically ten years we’ve lived there. I can’t say why exactly. Though I could venture a guess- I’m a creature of habit. I tend to only go to the places I’ve already gone and grown accustomed to. And likewise I don’t go to places I haven’t been. It’s a pattern I aim to change. Which is why I found myself yesterday walking through the front door of Brasa Roja, a Colombian restaurant on the corner a couple of blocks from me. Brasa Roja officially translates as The Red Grill. But it sounds cooler in Spanish.
I had a feeling it would be good. The design of the restaurant is such that you can actually see the huge rotisserie grill they have going from open until close right in the front window. Early in the day there are countless chickens rotating their way around the charcoal fired grill. By late evening, they’ve been known to completely sell out, they’re so popular. And because the grill is in the front of the restaurant, the exhaust vent typical to urban restaurants is also just outside on the facade. I suspect this is intentional, since it basically allows them to advertise by smell. Which is, in fact, glorious. How I’ve managed to just walk by this place so many times since we’ve been in the neighborhood is beyond me. You can usually smell the place for blocks. The combination of charcoal and spices that comes from the vent practically makes me salivate every time I walk by. So much so that the other day I made a pact with myself. I would try it soon. With Kate out of town this week, I decided it was the perfect time.
My only real problem was deciding what to get. I’m not usually the biggest fan of chicken on the bone. But the smell, and seeing the chicken in the window convinced me. I ordered the pollo entero, the whole chicken. Luckily for me, my many years of Spanish class finally came in handy for reading the menu, which was only in Spanish. The chicken came with potatoes, plantain, and a corn pancake. I reasoned that for the price, which was only $10 for the whole order, I could easily have leftovers for a couple of meals. I paid for the order at a register in the back, and then took my receipt up front to the chicken guy, who took a chicken, expertly broke it down into edible pieces, and packed it all together for me. So not only did I get a whole chicken dinner for $10, but I was in and out of the restaurant in under ten minutes. Talk about fast food.
On the way home, I stopped off at the liquor store and picked up some Modelo Especial, not the best beer in the world, but I can’t seem to eat any Latin food without a beer in hand. When I got home, I chose a couple of pieces of the chicken, a potato, half of the plantain, grabbed a beer, and sat down to see if the chicken was as good as I’d built it up in my mind to be. And it did not disappoint. The chicken itself was moist and flavorful. They obviously do some kind of spice rub on the chicken before they put it on the rotisserie. I’m not generally fond of eating chicken skin, but I made an exception for this. The skin was crispy and tasty, definitely worth whatever the fat content was. I will have to say, though, that even though the chicken was awesome, what really put it over the top was the green sauce that they gave me to go with it. I believe it was tomatillo based, but there were chile seeds in the sauce too, so there must also have been some jalapeno or other green chile used to make it. But whatever it was, the sauce was brilliant. It was spicy and tangy, and perfectly complemented the spice and grilled flavor of the chicken.
In terms of the sides, the potatoes were basically just baked potatoes that I assume were under the grill as it was going all day. They were good, but just your basic potatoes. I couldn’t help but think they would have been made that much better by just being brushed with whatever they’re putting on the chicken. The plantain was also good, though I have had better. The corn pancake I would have had more of. It was kind of like a small thick white corn tortilla. It was great dipped in the sauce. Maybe I’ll have to just order an extra side of them next time I’m over there. Because I will be back over there. Of all the options I have in the neighborhood for take-out, this is certainly one of the better ones, now that I know how good it is. And on top of that, it is absolutely healthier than pizza from the place on the corner, my other stand by for lazy nights I don’t want to work for dinner. And if you live near me, and haven’t tried Brasa Roja, you most certainly should.