Question: Can a restaurant featuring chicken find success in Philadelphia’s ever-growing, ever-changing restaurant landscape?
If you answered “yes,” you win the golden drumstick.
A number of years ago, Federal Donuts opened in South Philly and served fried chicken, the best donuts in the city, and coffee. There are now several locations, and every time I walk past the Center City store, it is always filled with happy people.
Several years ago, Rotisseur opened on 21st Street. I sampled the rotisserie chicken and some sides and found it a fine place for pick-up if I did not feel like cooking.
In December, Chef Olivier Deswanmartins caught the rotisserie chicken bug. He opened Petit Rôti in the Washington Square West neighborhood, next door to Zinc. He also owns Caribou Café. This seems to be a good idea. Breads are baked and some pates are made at Zinc that are sold at Petit Rôti.
The star, of course, is the chicken. A whole large chicken ($19.50), which weighed about four pounds, was cut into eight pieces for easy enjoyment. It was moist, tender, juicy and free of grease. The rotisserie technique allows the fat to drop down onto a pan, but the fat and flavor from the skin keeps the bird quite tasty.
Sides are sold by the pound. On the day of my visit, they consisted of zucchini, cabbage, beets and carrots and parsnips. The zucchini looked sad, dry and dreadful. Ditto for the cabbage. Carrots and parsnips are the flavors of fall and would do nothing for my taste buds on an 85-degree day. The roasted beets ($6.50 a pound) appeared promising. They were roasted just right, retaining a bit of toothsome quality I enjoy in beets. I stored them in the fridge to enjoy them cold with the chicken. All they required was a sprinkling of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.
I toted home a baguette ($3.29) that I simply tore apart and topped it with either pates or cheeses.
I purchased three different pates, two of which were prepared at Zinc. A duck liver mousse made with port ($21 a pound) is an essential part of bistro dining in America and throughout France. It was rich and filled with the distinct ducky fatty flavor one finds with top-quality mousse enhanced by the sweetness of port.
Pate forestier ($18 a pound) was a rough pate prepared with pork, chicken and mushrooms. After the ingredients are cooked, they are ground, placed in a terrine lined with fat and baked in the oven, sitting in a water bath. The use of pork added fat to the pate, and I liked the inclusion of mushrooms. It provided some headiness, which mushrooms always impart in any dish. I found the pate a bit on the dry side.
Pate campagne ($17.50 a pound) was another rough pate prepared with pork and a mix of seasonings that were also used for the forestier. It was a little dry to my taste.
Petit Rôti sells two of my favorite cheeses. Delice de Bourgogne ($16 a pound) is a ripe, smooth, rich in fat cheese from Burgundy, France which people will fall for immediately after their first taste. It is a soft spreadable cheese, so slather it on a slice of baguette or a plain water cracker.
Affinois ($18 a pound) is akin to brie. It is not as soft and spreadable as the Delice, but it is one of the finer brie cheeses one can find in America.
Petit Rôti is open seven days a week. It offers specials such as platters and sandwiches as well. A few pastries are available as well as a selection of olive oils, jams, preserves and condiments. There are a few tables and chairs outside.
I was fortunate to have a jar of cornichon in my fridge along with a selection of olives I always have on hand.
I poured myself a glass of wine, made a delicious platter and watched the “Mad Men” finale.
Three tips of the toque to Petit Rôti.
248 S. 11th St.
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