In my youth, our stove had a separate rotisserie compartment where my mom would roast whole chickens or roast beef for Friday night dinners. Some people owned free-standing countertop rotisseries that took up a lot of space, but produced juicy, succulent birds.
For years, supermarkets have offered whole roasted chickens for easy meals. All one needed to prepare were the side dishes, and dinner was ready in about 30 minutes.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Rotisseur, a BYOB on South 21st Street, opened for business. I walked by it a number of times and made a mental note to sample its chicken dinners and freshly-prepared side dishes.
Last week, I decided it was the perfect time to try Rotisseur’s fare. I cooked all week, simmering a big pot of chicken soup, braising some short ribs, grilling salmon with root vegetables and brewingendless cups of tea. I simply could not face the stove until the next day.
Rotisseur is a small, brightly-lit place with about a dozen seats, but it also offers takeout. Patrons simply order from the chalkboard, and the meal is ready in minutes. A delightful clerk described all the offerings as I glanced at the chickens roasting on spits. For $33, Edward and I enjoyed a simple, tasty, comforting dinner.
Unfortunately for us, Rotisseur was out of cornbread, but the array of fresh vegetables on the mise en place table was enticing. A black, cast-iron skillet held baked beans, and another was filled with braised then grilled baby bok choy. The owner pulled out a pan of macaroni and cheese, set it next to the roasted potato wedges, and I immediately got big eyes. I wanted to try everything.
The clerk told me two sides come with the whole chicken dinner ($26). I also wanted to take home a sample of contrasting cool vegetables as well.
While I was making my choices, a couple arrived and asked for a vegetarian banh mi to go. If you are not in the mood for a meal, a chicken sandwich or any type of banh mi is available.
I brought home our goodies and set the table. Rotisseur roasts local, organic birds, which is a plus with me. The meat was moist, tasty and juicy. Sometimes breast meat can be dry and bland, but our bird was evenly roasted, resulting in a comforting experience. Since the chickens roast on a spit, much of the fat falls off. It’s a healthy way to cook.
The six grilled baby bok choy were a fine foil with dinner, especially when we dipped them into a rich, deep garlic sauce that the clerk included as a sample. The people at Rotisseur come up with new sauces and like their patrons to sample them before they appear on the menu.
Pickled vegetables have gained in popularity within the past year or so, but many cooks just can’t seem to strike the right balance of slightly sweet and pungent. The pickled vegetables hit the mark.
The container was filled with shredded cabbage, onions, marvelous carrots that retained a bit of crunch, beets and okra. Okra can be tricky. Some folks say it is slimy and tasteless, but when prepared properly, it’s one of my favorite vegetables.
Cool roasted beets mixed with herbs and generous chunks of tangy feta cheese was another tasty side dish. Beet salads have been the rage in so many places for years but this simple and flavorful preparation brought smiles.
Casual and moderately-priced places like Rotisseur, where one can either dine in or take out, are popping up throughout the city. Barbecue blazed the trail after burger joints made their deep imprint.
But fast food need not be loaded with calories and fat. Rotisseur demonstrated this on every level.
As I was about to leave, the clerk smiled and said “Come back and bring a bottle of wine.” After Edward and I cleared the table, he admitted Rotisseur has been added to the list of inexpensive BYOBs. Besides, I want to try a banh mi.
Three tips of the toque to Rotisseur.
102 S. 21st St.