Azafrán Colombian Restaurant
430 N. Country Rd. St. James, NY 631-686-6506
Azafrán Colombian Restaurant in St. James is a simply appointed Colombian newcomer, that prides itself on its specialty: rotisserie-roasted chicken. Inexpensive dishes, most full of flavor, will satisfy those who are looking to feed their family. The ambience and service are both fine, but come here for the Colombian fare and you’ll leave happy.Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Monday Ambience: Good Service: Good Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible
Azafrán is both the name of this simply appointed Colombian newcomer and, also the Spanish word for saffron. The condiment plays a key role in the marinade used in the house specialty: rotisserie-roasted chicken -- a dish that, in Colombia, is a matter of national pride. Here, the poultry comes out beautifully burnished, infused with an intriguing, almost Middle Eastern flavor.
Having a good local source of such chicken is a boon to families eating on a budget: A single bird, available whole, can feed up to four people. Another option is to order a quarter chicken as part of a "bandeja," or platter. Your meal will include chicken soup rife with bone-in pieces of poultry (giblets and all) and vegetables. What would make that soup so much better would be fresh chopped cilantro instead of the dried parsley that flecks the broth. In addition to a fresh, if somewhat humdrum salad, the platter comes with fries. They're the previously frozen sort and, as such, unworthy.
Other than an oddly appealing asparagus au gratin, appetizers seem an afterthought. Beef empanadas aren't house-made and taste mass-produced. What matters most here seems to be the main course.
A life-size statue of a toque-wearing chef outside the door holds a board with the day's special. One day, it's a fish fillet (tilapia) with shrimp in garlic sauce. The dish turns out to be lovely -- rich, comforting and subtly garlicky.
A whole fried porgy comes out crisp outside, snowy within, accompanied by rice and beans. If you've never had lengua en salsa, or tongue in Creole sauce, this may be the place to try it. The meat is tender and savory, the tomato sauce lively.
The kitchen also does well with marinated grilled chicken breast, thin cutlets that come off the grill smoky and surprisingly juicy. The same holds true of chuletas a la parilla, thin, well-spiced grilled pork chops that may look dry but aren't.
To finish, there's decent flan and tres leches cake.
Before you leave, though, consider ordering a whole chicken to go. Tomorrow night's dinner? Done.