As the number of new Latin-American restaurants continues to grow in the area, specialists are emerging to represent different corners of diverse cuisines. One of the latest to set up shop is Pollos a la Brasas, a Kenner destination for Latin-style rotisserie chicken.
Local restaurateurs Michael and Velmy Moguel opened Pollos a la Brasas in October, a few miles from the couple's first restaurant, Fiesta Latina on Airline Drive. Michael is from Mexico and was raised in Mid-City, while Velmy is from El Salvador. Their ethnic backgrounds play out on Fiesta Latina's wide-ranging menu, with Central-American pupusas and fried green plantains dueling with Mexican tacos and baleadas. At Pollos a la Brasas, however, the menu centers on just three essential proteins: chicken, beef short ribs and pork sausage. The unifying condiment accompanying most orders is chimichurri, the tart, vividly green sauce of garlic, parsley and cilantro from Argentine cooking.
The restaurant has a freshly renovated and bright dining room, where comfortably bilingual waitresses bop from one table of professionals in cufflinks to the next of laborers in flannel. Everyone drinks beer or Hispanic-brand sodas. The kitchen makes a few side dishes, like excellent yuca fries and soupy, South American-style red beans.
The main event, however, is impossible to ignore. Even someone who overlooks the chicken reference in the restaurant name cannot possibly miss the appetizing spectacle and aroma of dozens of whole birds turning within a brick-lined rotisserie cooker behind the service counter. Its fire is fueled by split logs, a mix of wood Michael combined through experimentation and would not divulge for proprietary reasons. That seems a valid concern, since the wood helps produce a remarkably flavorful chicken. The skin is bronze, taut and smoky while the meat tastes of lime, paprika and salt without any of those flavors overwhelming the others. Most of all, thanks to the rotisserie technique of keeping the birds moving while cooking, they come out very juicy and evenly tender.
Even tough, fatty short ribs can be delicious when prepared with skill, as they are at some local Vietnamese and Korean restaurants. Pollos a la Brasas adds another successful example, and its Latin-American approach proves similar to those Asian styles. The meat is sliced thin and against the bone, then grilled in a way that leaves deep, dark scoring char across the surface but reveals what must have been a lengthy and intense marinade. The meat remains chewy, but pleasingly so.
The third specialty here is the traditional Argentine sandwich called choripan, a street-talk contraction of "chorizo y pan," or sausage and bread. It's a sausage sandwich, but, as with any classic, specific technique makes all the difference. The link tastes very much like Italian pork sausage, with black pepper and garlic, and it is split open so the crumble-textured interior gets a chance to crisp on the grill. The bread is grilled and crusty, and the kitchen will dress the sandwich with the normal New Orleans po-boy condiments. Given the opportunity, though, I always prefer to let specialists do their thing, and in this case that means adding just a blast of green chimichurri.