I woke up Sunday morning a few weeks ago, eager to watch March Madness – I think it was the round of 32. Went to the fridge to see if there was anything for me to grub on while watching the games, but it was empty (Linh-Nam and I are pretty useless without Eugenia, as you all know). What to do? Order pizza at 10am? No delivery service is open at that time, and the options all suck anyways. So I went to my trusty Excel spreadsheet of restaurants to try, and saw that Pollo a la Brasa opens at 10:30am on Sunday. Normally it wouldn’t be an option, since it’s not the closest (in Koreatown), but for some reason I was craving legit roasted chicken. Maybe it’s because I always talk shit about chicken served in restaurants, and wanted to be proved wrong. Or maybe “Pollo a la Brasa” just sounded sexy that gloomy Sunday morning. Anyways, I hopped into the Hei hooptie and jet.
Pollo a la Brasa is true to the hole-in-the-wall definition: tiny booths with faux wood tables straight outta’ a run-down diner, a light-up menu board with manually-arranged letters, and peeling walls of faded yellow. They apparently take credit cards, but it looked like the terminal was covered with dust – so pay in cash if you can (not that I don’t trust the restaurant, but rather I’m afraid that it’ll just confuse them). The first time I came a few months ago, also on a whim of sorts, the place was PACKED – the tables all filled up and with twenty-plus more waiting for to-go orders. They’re not the most organized of people in dealing with the orders, but the Spanish-speaking Japanese staff seems to handle the crowd fairly well (although I ended up not ordering since I was on my way elsewhere).
However, Sunday mornings are a different story. Only a couple of other customers waiting for their chicken, and I was in and out in a few minutes (I highly suggest going around this time if possible). Being a fatty, I ordered a whole chicken (which lasted me a couple of meals). The whole chicken comes with two sides. From what I saw while waiting for the food, the sides are very unspectacular. A generic garden salad being packed ahead of time, and rice and beans that look like they could’ve been made by Uncle Ben. So I ended up with a double side order of fries. Not that great either, so I ended up drenching them in the aji sauce that accompanied chicken – and proceeded to cough for a minute.
So far everything I’ve said sounds depressing, no? Shitty looking place, boring fries – a train wreck waiting to happen. But all of that went away once I had a taste of the chicken. The smokiness from the wood fire stings the nostrils right before the bite, then the nice seasoning from the skin masticates on the tongue upon the bite. As I bit through, the juices from the dark meat came bursting out. White meat was a little dry, but I find white meat EVERYWHERE dry, and it wasn’t that bad here. Skin wasn’t really rotisserie-crisp, but man, the seasoning was tasty. If I had to describe it to a normal person, I would compare this chicken to ones found a El Pollo Loco/Koo Koo Roo, if their chicken was fed with anabolic steroids, HGH, or whatever performance-enhancements there are. Or rather, if their chicken took ALL the drugs.
Bottom line: come early (parking is much easier then too), pay cash, take it to-go. While it won’t change my perception of ordering chicken when I dine out, I really enjoyed it here (although everything else is meh). Arguably the best roasted chicken in LA, no joke. And from a whole-in-the wall joint, no less. A whole chicken can provided at least two happy meals for less than $20. Now if they only served it with a side of chicken…
Chris Hei grade: B+
Pollo a la Brasa Western
764 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005