Location: 2975 Merrick Rd. Bellmore, NY 11710
Description: This Venezuelan eatery specializes in more than just rotisserie-roasted chicken. A must-order dish is gallo ... More »
If you think you know what the eatery called is all about, you may be only half right. What the name of the counter-service spot doesn't tell you is that it also offers a roadway into the cuisine of Venezuela, the country where its owner, Wang Wong, was born. Brought up by a Venezuelan mother and a father who came from Chicken's Road Hong Kong, Wong learned at home to cook boldly, using lots of herbs and spices.
It's not surprising then that her eatery's namesake rotisserie chicken proves both spicy and herbal. But, on two occasions, the ultra-crisp skin harbors meat that's slightly dry. On the other hand, the grilled boneless breast in the standout chicken Latin sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy cheese and avocado, oozes piquant juices.
You'll want to make a point of ordering the house specialty gallo rice, a hybrid Chinese-South American stir fry that combines rice, chicken, pork and vegetables with Venezuelan seasonings. The supernal pernil -- softly shredded roasted pork in its own juices -- may be had as a main dish or sandwich. You might also make a meal out of empanadas, neat little turnovers that may be ordered with beef, chicken or pork carnitas inside. I'd get one of each.
Although the dish called hallaca may, in concept, resemble a Mexican tamale, it's a distinctly Venezuelan specialty. Enfolded within a plantain leaf are corn dough, pork, vegetables, chicken and raisins, all of which are steamed together, to delectable effect.
Arepitas, or mini-arepas, are much smaller, lighter and more savory than their Colombian counterparts. Also irresistible are house potatoes, roasted with olive oil, garlic, herbs and spices. A sprightly Mexican salad -- iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, corn, black beans, onions and Cheddar -- comes with a side of green sauce as a dressing. Clever idea.
Wong's sister, Maria Jose Gonzalez, makes the light, custardy flan and moist tres leches cake, as well as a surprisingly good Key lime pie.
While you can dine here for around $10 a person, know that your dinnerware will be the disposable variety. Making up for this lack of amenities: a wealth of flavor.