Have you ever sat in a restaurant, exhaustively working through a 12-page menu, and realized that the number of items makes it impossible for the kitchen to prepare everything well?
Elvis Jimenez-Chavez, chef/owner of The Coop Rotisserie in downtown Amesbury, no doubt had that experience.
Jimenez-Chavez is hardly a newcomer to the local culinary scene. His credits include working for Boston uber-chef Todd English and stops at Amesbury’s No. 8 Kitchen & Spirits and Ristorante Molise before opening his own place.
Visit his newly opened eatery, which seats about 30 in an L-shaped dining space around an open kitchen, and you might not be overwhelmed at first. Soft colors and earth tones dominate the pleasant room. The menu is concise and to the point, with the emphasis on Latin American and Caribbean specialties. The basic premise: Do just a few things really well and pay attention to the details, including good service.
The Coop’s menu boasts six appetizers, four entrees, a couple of salads, half a dozen side dishes, and daily specials. There is also a basic, and sturdy, beer and wine list.
Yuca (cassava) fries, one of the available side orders, is a good example of what The Coop Rotisserie does so well. They arrive very hot and resembling crispy, golden, rough-cut french fries. They taste that way, too, but a slight difference in taste and texture hints that something else is going on here. Given the choice, I’d prefer yuca fries like theirs almost every time.
It’s unlikely, however, that I’ll find them anywhere else, and the reason why is at the core of The Coop Rotisserie’s menu. To properly and safely prepare yuca, this root vegetable needs to be boiled for 40 minutes ahead of time. Who is going to make that time investment? They do at the Coop, and that commitment is reflected in their menu.
A variety of fresh sauces is available for most orders, including pico de gallo, chimichurri and salsa verde. The roasted carrot chipotle has a nuanced kick and plenty of flavor, and is a natural for the tender, juicy rotisserie chicken ($12.95 for a quarter, $16.95 for half), the eatery’s calling card dish.
The beef picadillo empanada ($7.95) and the grilled avocado salad ($7.95) are generous orders, both prepared simply and carefully to let the riotous mix of tastes and textures shine.
Similarly, the sweet chili sauce for the chicken wings appetizer ($8.95) is subtly potent and elevates the half-dozen drumsticks in a thick, spiced batter to a higher flavor level.
The aguadito de pollo ($3.95/$4.95), better known as chicken vegetable soup to most of us, is chock full of fresh chicken, and the lime cilantro broth was a big hit with the soup purists at our table.
There are only two desserts on the menu. But again, the focus on quality versus quantity results in both being keepers. The Caribbean pineapple rum bread pudding ($6.25) is a welcome variation on a traditional meal finale. Pineapple is just one of several flavors, including rum, that meld together for a great result.
The caramel tres leches ($6.25) manages to be sinfully rich and light at the same time. The high caramel quotient doesn’t hurt.
When you visit The Coop Rotisserie — and you really should — don’t be afraid to pose the obvious question. Surely the staff must be used to it by now. Go ahead … ask them if Elvis has left the building.
[Editor’s Note: In this review, we use the standardized English word yuca (yoo-kah) for cassava to avoid confusion with yucca (yuk-ah), a completely different plant. On the menu, this tasty root vegetable is referred to as yucca.]
The Coop Rotisserie
Tuesday, Wednesday: noon to 9:30 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Take out available