And Other White-Meat Birds
Dozen Best Roasted Chickens
Until Thanksgiving, the thought of a roasted whole white-meat bird, with a crisp skin and the flavors of herbs and onions and garlic rising and falling as you eat, is very appealing. One of the reasons for that is the relative rarity of roasted chickens on local menus. When I entered this game, almost every white-tablecloth restaurant had a half-chicken on its menu, baked or broiled. Now almost every venue has gone over to chicken breasts, usually boneless and skinless, and there mainly for dieters. Bah!
Here are a dozen restaurants that still do a respectable job with roasted chicken. I also include some of the few Cornish hens on local menus (a Cornish hen really is a chicken). And pheasant, which while clearly a game bird is like chicken in having predominantly white meat. As for turkey, it turns up only one day a year, and is too inconsistent to rate.
Note to the people who will ask about Tujague’s great chicken bonne femme: it’s fried, not baked, and therefore relegated to this note. (Tujague’s, Decatur,
1. Mosca’s. Westwego: 4137 US 90. 504-436-9942. Roast chicken the way it was meant to be cooked and served. A half-bird with lots of rosemary and garlic, a crisp skin, and a roasted potato. Perfection.
2. La Crepe Nanou. Uptown: 1410 Robert. 504-899-2670. Le poulet maison is what other French bistros call poulet grand-mere. It’s just like the one you’ll get in Paris, and one of the restaurant’s best dishes.
3. La Petite Grocery. Uptown: 4238 Magazine. 504-891-3377. Roast chicken, savory bread pudding, truffled mushroom gravy. This dish proves that an old-fashioned dish can be brought up to modern standards without losing its identity.
4. El Mesquite Mexican Grill. Gretna: 516 Gretna Blvd. 504-367-1022. Chicken with molé is a strong candidate for the best traditional dish in the entire Mexican cuisine. It is very rarely encountered here in New Orleans, but this new restaurant in Gretna does it well.
5. Patois. Uptown: 6078 Laurel. 504-895-9441. Roasted pheasant breast with confit of pheasant leg and foie gras emulsion. It avoids the main problem with pheasant (a proclivity to dryness), and delivers the rich flavor for which that bird is famous.
6. Flaming Torch. Uptown: 737 Octavia. 504-895-0900. Coq au vin here is the best I’ve ever encountered, better even than the previous record-setter at the extinct Crozier’s. Half a chicken (not a rooster, despite the name), roasted in red wine with pork belly, onions, and herbs. Comes out like a stewed chicken with root vegetables. An ideal fall dish.
7. Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. Rock Cornish game hen Whitecloud is a lighter dish that the old Twelfth Night hen that was served at Arnaud’s for decades. You get a whole hen and sauce Veronique with grapes.
8. Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. All of John Besh’s restaurants have served poulet grand-mère at one time or another. The one at Luke is the best of those, with a great jus and Allen Benton’s bacon wrapped around it.
9. Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103. Roast chicken with rosemary is in the old style. But that’s something I never tire of.
10. Ciro’s Cote Sud. Riverbend: 7918 Maple. 504-866-9551. Cornish hen wrapped with bacon is the main poultry dish in this combination French bistro and pizzeria.
11. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Chicken Clemenceau is a classic New Orleans-style chicken dish: half a roasted bird, with a pile oh some kind of hash over it. In this case it’s made with bacon, fried potato cubes, mushrooms, peas, and a lot of garlic and butter. Welcome to the time machine.
12. Zea.Harahan: 1655 Hickory Ave. 504-738-0799. Covington: 110 Lake Dr . 985-327-0520. ||Harvey: 1121 Manhattan Blvd.. 504-361-8293. ||Kenner: 1401 W Esplanade Ave.. 504-468-7733. ||Lee Circle Area: 1525 St. Charles Ave. 504-520-8100. ||Metairie: 4450 Veterans Blvd. (Clearview Mall). 504-780-9090.The city’s great specialist in rotisserie chicken offers the poultry in a choice of three finishing touches: a basic salt-and-pepper roaster, a pesto-coated version, and barbecue. All good, tender, and lacking only a crisp skin–but that’s a sacrifice you make for the juiciness of rotisserie chicken. A lot of people buy these whole and take them home.