“Why order roast chicken in a restaurant when it’s so easy to make at home?” you ask. Well, yeah, I hear you. But hold on, there’s a lot to love about the restaurant version.
Local chefs are stoked about sustainable chickens from Stokesberry farm (a showpiece at Matt Dillon’s new Bar Sajor), mad for the mindfully raised chicks from Mad Hatcher (ubiquitous around the Sound) and quick to drape their sauces over Draper Valley’s finest (a staple in my kitchen).
Seek and you’ll find my comfort-food ideal — roasting whole on a spit, boned and wood-fired, or pan-seared and oven-finished.
When Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron opened the charmingly diminutive Le Pichet a dozen years ago, the menu reflected their ardor for the country foods of France. And they nailed it with Seattle’s grande dame of roast chicken: poulet roti. Roasted to order, it’s dinner for two ($36). Wait an hour and slice into two perfect halves of a burnished bird. Pierce it, and the natural juices cry a river onto vegetables adrift in a deep, dark, sherry-spiked broth. Meanwhile, bide your time with a pichet of rosé.
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Pichet’s success with poulet translates to its Capitol Hill sibling, Cafe Presse, where you need not wait till evening for your fix. From morning to late-night, eat it cold with mayonnaise (half/$14); roasted whole a la Pichet (served here with frites, $28) or take it away “tout simplement” (that’s French for “Yes, you’ll wait an hour for $22 takeout, but it’s 10 times better than that $6.99 roasted chicken from the supermarket”).
Besotted by the roast chicken at Boat Street Cafe, where that classic might come dressed for spring in a morel cream sauce, or for summer with panzanella salad? You’re not alone. At home or at work, “I’m never sick of eating roast chicken,” says chef-owner Renee Erickson. “I go for the skin immediately.” (So do I.) No surprise then, when The Whale Wins made its Fremont debut late last year, her chicken ($20) became my dream date. Pulled from the wood-fired oven, that bronzed beauty (wing-cropped breast, luscious thigh) comes showered with salty fried capers and the pleasant pucker of preserved lemon.
I’ve been crowing about the pan-roasted chicken at Crow for years. Who wouldn’t? Seared over high heat and finished in the oven, it comes crisp-skinned and shrink-wrapped in prosciutto. Which explains why, on a busy night 50 out of 200 diners say, “I’ll have the chicken!” ($18). What puts it on our love list? And how can I replicate this at home? Chef/co-owner Craig Serbousek spills this secret for succulence: “While it’s cooking, all the juices are trying to leach out, but if you let it rest, ideally for 10 minutes, all the juices naturally sink back in.” While you’re letting that sink in, consider heading up Queen Anne Hill to Crow’s sister Betty: same preparation, hold the prosciutto.
Eastsiders (I’m with them) head to Joe Vilardi’s Bis on Main — for that pan-roasted pulchritude dubbed “Crispy Garlic Chicken” ($23 lunch/$26 dinner). Marinated in garlic oil and finished in the oven, it lives up to its name. P.S.: There’s another reason to go see Joe: new hire Tom Black (late of Barking Frog and Restaurant Bea) is in the kitchen.
Live in the North End? Just shy of Shoreline, Saltoro is a neighborhood hangout touting “landfood and seafood.” Whenever I land there, I join the crowd and order the salt-roasted chicken ($18), satisfying in its simplicity when served with seasonal greenery and garlic mashed potatoes.
If you’ve been clucking “You’re nuts, Nance, I’d never spend that kind of money on chicken!” I’ve got two words for you: San Fernando, now with three locations for eating in or taking out. With $20 in my pocket I can feed my family of three here where homesick Peruvians feast on pollo a la brasa: a whole rotisserie-roasted bird ($18) glistening with a marinade built with garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. You’ll find moist sections of the bone-in bird hiding under a heap of thick-cut French fries — with an iceberg lettuce salad on the side. Grab some napkins (and the squeeze-bottle filled with cilantro-laced green sauce) and have at it.
Nancy Leson: firstname.lastname@example.org