Who wouldn’t want this Peruvian rotisserie bird from Inca Chicken? And it comes with fries.
Chicken is such a versatile bird! While McDonald’s tries to disguise it, the yardbird’s nature keeps asserting itself again and again. The skin is great, the organs are great, the appendages better than other animal appendages. Our love for chicken is undying, and luckily there are a zillion ways to prepare it. Here are our favorite examples.
10. Rotisserie Bird at Inca Chicken — Nothing beats the flavor and convenience of Peruvian poultry kickin’ it on the rotisserie. The strange and sweet spice rub is reputed to be of Chinese origin, but the excellent green dipping sauce must come from another planet at this colorful Bushwick dispensary, right across the street from the troubled Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. 122 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-366-3763
9. Barbecued Chicken at John Brown Smokehouse — Let’s face it, chickens in a wood-burning barbecue usually turn out nicely smoky but badly rubbery. At Long Island City’s John Brown, your expectations will be exploded by a near-perfect bird with a mild spice rub and skin that you want to eat, rather than discard. And if there were any left over, it would make a very nice sandwich the next day. 25-08 37th Avenue, Queens, 718-361-0085
8. Roti Canai at Banana Leaf — Nothing beats the fleecy pancake sided with a wonderful, coconut-milk-laced chicken curry at this newish Sunset Park Malaysian. The bird is tender and the curry slightly spicy, cut by the flaky unctuousness of the pancake. And other fine forms of chicken abound here. 5216 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-851-3818
Enjoying dinner at Banana Leaf — the excellent Hakka Chicken is in the center of the table.
7. Fried Chicken at Sol de Quito — A café straight from Quito, Ecuador, might not be the first place you’d look for great fried chicken, but remember that Bushwick is the chicken capital of the city. The bird parts here are lightly floured, then assertively fried to a pleasing darkness, so that the poultry flavor predominates, and the gratis salad makes a nice contrast. 160 Irving Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-417-4174
6. Fried Chicken at the Cardinal — If you wanted the country’s best fried chicken, where would you go? North Carolina, of course, and the Cardinal seeks to reproduce that cuisine lock, stock, and barrel of barbecue sauce. The chicken here is of the cornflake-crusted school, like KFC’s extra crispy, only a thousand times better. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. 234 East 4th Street, 212-995-8600
5. Kufta at Indian Clove — Maybe you wouldn’t expect it, but one of the city’s best eclectic, slightly upscale South Asian restaurants is located in the Staten Island outback. That Indian Clove chooses to make its luscious ground-meat kufta out of chicken is a tribute to the bird. And roasting in the tandoori oven imparts a spectacularly smoky flavor. 1180 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, 718-442-5100
The modernistic interior of Indian Clove
4. Pickled Chicken Feet at Hunan Kitchen — Elegant in their rubberiness, tender yet resisting the teeth slightly, not like a rubber band but not unlike it either, these avian appendages are knocked into orbit by a sour, pickle-y taste and a creeping hotness caused by the crushed red chilies. Throw away that fried chicken and take a wok on the wild side. 42-47 Main Street, Queens, 718-389-8100
3. Kai Yang at Zabb Elee — This mighty signature of Thai Isaan cooking — issuing from the northeastern region of the country, near the Mekong River — is available few places in the city. It’s rare even in the Isaan cafés of central Queens. The bird is moist and tasting of its citrusy marinade, with two hot sauces on the side. You really won’t need that knife — other than to stab your dining companions so you can enjoy the entire portion. 75 Second Avenue, 212-505-9533
2. Buffalo Wings at Old Town Bar — You want conventional Buffalo chicken wings, moderately spicy and furnished with celery sticks and blue cheese? Moreover, do you want them in the original old-men’s-bar context that they were invented for? Experience the entire package at Old Town, a bar that also boasts extensive literary connections. 45 East 18th Street, 212-529-6732
Is that Kevin Smith outside the Old Town Bar?
1. Big Tray Chicken at He Nan Taste — This is the chicken I dream about, the chicken I return to eat again and again. I bring friends here when they arrive in town to eat this wok-ful of irregular bony bird parts swimming in so much chili oil you could light lamps with it across the city. And after the initial burn, the Sichuan peppercorns kick in, in this specialty of the province of Henan, not to be confused with Hunan. Oh, and there are some random potatoes floating around in there, too. Eat it with the house-made flatbreads. 68 Forsyth Street, 212-625-8299; or at Henan Feng Wei, 136-31 41st Avenue, Queens, 718-762-1818
Some friends of Fork in the Road at Henan Feng Wei, in Flushing
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2012