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Chicken Coop

Pollo entero a la brasa, whole rotisserie chicken,

Pollo entero a la brasa, whole rotisserie chicken, is the specialty at the Chicken Coop in Valley Stream. (Feb. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

What does the name "Chicken Coop" bring to mind? A barnyard? A fast-food fried poultry joint?

Certainly not this bright and attractive new Valley Stream eatery specializing in the cuisine of Colombia. Service is gracious, tabs are modest and the caliber of cooking outclasses what you'd expect at a place with such an appellation.

CHICKEN COUP

The namesake rotisserie chicken is moist, spicy, delectable - a coup, indeed.

At lunch, green plantain soup is full-bodied, savory. Alongside is a dish of stewed beef with rice and a small salad, a satisfying combo if ever there was one. Chicken soup is a heady elixir loaded with giblets, potatoes, carrots and cilantro.

One dinner begins with flaky empanadas stuffed with a hearty ground beef mixture. An order of chorizo (sausage) spurts spicy juices at the touch of a fork.

Here, seviche is a main course, not an appetizer. The seafood - a combination of tilapia, calamari, shrimp and clams - is "cooked" by the acidity of its citrus marinade. Everything virtually sparkles.

I'm surprised at how juicy a thin but smoky grilled pork loin turns out to be. It's served with yellow rice and black beans, hard to stop eating. I'm also enamored of the shrimp ajillo - lots of shellfish in a resonant garlic sauce arranged in a circle around a hillock of yellow rice.

Trembly flan and moist tres leches cake end the meal on a sweet note.

GETTING PECKISH

It's a letdown that the avocado salad is just an ordinary iceberg salad with the addition of sliced avocado. Prosaic bottled salad dressing doesn't help.

I have mixed feelings about the cazuela de mariscos, a rich and creamy seafood soup-stew. It has lovely flavor and nicely cooked shrimp and clams, but the calamari is rubbery and the presence of surimi (a crab substitute) uncalled for.

BOTTOM LINE

Bargain-priced, family-style chicken dinners add enticement for groups on a budget. And Wednesday nights, there's karaoke, which might be fun. Or embarrassing. Or both.

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