No matter how many times we demeanour underneath a wing, or examine a backside of your breast meat, we won’t find them during Chicken + Whiskey: The luscious clumps of spices and piquancy that censor in a tiny joints of birds during many polla a la brasa outlets are nowhere to be found here. The usually blemishes found on these specimens are a browned and indian sections of skin constructed in a kitchen’s colourless ovens.
Your initial instinct is to consider that Enrique Limardo, a pretentious cook behind Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore, has left minimalist with Peruvian chicken. Your initial punch won’t immediately change your mind: The breast beef is luscious over all expectancy yet not flaccid-juicy a proceed overbrined duck can be. There are suggestions of cumin and garlic, most dreamlike in their fleetingness and formlessness. The bird is essentially savory, as if it were engineered that way, like MSG in ornithology form.
It was usually after articulate to Limardo that we schooled his secret. He doesn’t take herbs, spices and other aromatics and triturate them into a pulp to slather onto his birds. Instead, he creates a pulp of aji amarillos — a fruity prohibited peppers executive to Peruvian cooking — and adds it to a brine along with garlic, rosemary, tender sugarine cane, vinegar, cumin, garlic, dim drink and no doubt other cooking agents. His chickens luxuriate in this saltwater bath for during slightest 12 hours, and infrequently as prolonged as 24.
“It’s a really absolute brine,” Limardo explains. “For me, it’s improved to put all in a brine so all goes into a meat.”
The technique explains a chicken’s neat appearance, giveaway of a seasoning clusters that adhere like barnacles to a polla a la brasa found in a Washington suburbs. For a cook who has remade Venezuelan cooking into grand, impressionistic, Twombly-like masterworks, it should come as no warn that Limardo has found a proceed to change a mettle of Peruvian duck though ruinous a fundamental deliciousness.
Yet Chicken + Whiskey doesn’t come opposite as a twee interpretation of a strip-center pollo a la brasa shop, even yet it incorporates some of a really elements you’d design of a cheffy charcoal-chicken joint, including a speakeasy with dozens of whiskeys accessible in two-ounce pours. The front space, some-more or less, mimics a simple blueprint of a suburban counterparts: narrow, counter-focused, splendid as an inquire room. The place has a beat of Latin American grill, even if it has a bill of a Star Restaurant Group. (Although we do wish a owners had invested in a few tables, that promote review improved than a worried opposite seats.)
The 14th Street emporium casts a wider net than your standard-issue Peruvian duck outlet. Credit Limardo for Chicken + Whiskey’s scope. The cook borrows a few flavors and dishes from his Venezuelan homeland. Some are easy to mark (the reina de chicharron), others are subsequent to unfit to detect (the tender shaft sugarine combined to a duck brine to assistance caramelize a skin). But possibly way, a additions are not a stretch: Venezuela has a prolonged tradition of rotisserie chicken, Limardo says, yet expected nicked from Peru.
In fact, one reason Limardo motionless to join a Chicken + Whiskey group was because, behind in his mom country, a locals will hit behind a finger or dual of blended Scotch blockade (yes, no “e” when a bottles come from Scotland) with their rotisserie birds. The cook urged a coronet during Star to make a pairing some-more pithy with their project, yet he mislaid a argument. As such, no duck shall pass by a walk-in cooler doorway that leads to a whiskey room.
“There are going to be skeleton everywhere,” Limardo says, by proceed of explanation.
You enter a whole opposite universe in a behind bar, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” yet in reverse. You pierce from a sunny, Technicolor precinct of a duck emporium to a dark, flickering domain of small-batch spirits and bittersweet Boulevardiers. It’s easy to get dipsomaniac on this space — and in this space, with a inexhaustible batch of whiskies. I’d advise a flow of Navazos Palazzi Spanish Malt Whisky, aged in Palo Cortado sherry casks, a well-spoken sip with a spirit of candied cherry. Knock it behind with a lager, and we might find yourself during rise tipsiness, happy yet not blotto.
Back in a fluorescent side of a building, a options are some-more limited. You can’t go wrong with Limardo’s chicken, that an worker will penetrate adult to your preferred apportionment distance and beef preference. Would we like crispier skin? Yes, yet that’s a matter of timing: You wish birds uninformed from a oven, not hold until a skin sags. Do we skip those small explosions of piquancy found on customary Peruvian birds out in a ’burbs? we confess we do. But we venerate (and respect) Chicken + Whiskey’s take on prohibited sauce, that ditches minced jalapeños for Peruvian rocoto peppers, creation for a some-more formidable and peppery bite.
Limardo puts duck to use in other dishes. The tiritas de pollo are thick, boiled sticks of cassava-breaded breast meat, improved when dipped in a rocoto prohibited salsa than a concomitant Chicken + Whiskey grill sauce, a seasoning that reeks of cloves. The pollo frito, a cassava-breaded patty slipped into a brioche bun with aji amarillo mayo and other garnishes, is a distant higher proceed to suffer white meat. The cook even stuffs colourless duck and an avocado widespread into a Venezuelan arepa frequency found in these parts: a slot done out of deep-fried pig crackling. The plate is so wrong — and so good.
True to a approach, Chicken + Whiskey draws impulse from a far-reaching operation of sources for a sides. With a sofrito base, a black beans are sweet, abounding and rewarding. The basmati-rice-based arroz chaufa gets a flog from soy salsa and rice vinegar, a curtsy to a Chinese mixture in Peruvian chifa cuisine. Even a yuca fries here get a powdering of Tajin, a refreshing seasoning with a roots in Mexican cooking.
Now . . . if usually we could have my duck and sides with a shot of whiskey. Limardo says that might occur with a subsequent Chicken + Whiskey, still in a formulation stages.
1738 14th St. NW, 202-667-2456, chickenandwhiskey.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Nearest Metro: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, with a 0.4-mile travel to a restaurant.
Prices: $1.50 to $5.99 for sides; $7.99 to $21.99 for duck strips, sandwiches and chicken.