In her opinion:
I have a passion for really good Portuguese style rotisserie chicken. Always have, always will. I am one of those people that would be happy eating chicken every single day if that was the only thing available. Now don't get me wrong...I love pork and beef ! Probably more then chicken. NO, for sure more then chicken but chicken is a comfort food for me and actually for most people...think about - chicken soup, roast chicken, hot chicken sammies. Oh yes, chicken has always had a soft spot in my heart and the Portuguese style rotisserie chicken is one of my favourites. I have been lucky to enjoy some really good examples of this delicious, juicy poultry in the past...her in Cambridge (Bairos Supermarket), in Toronto (Piri Piri Grill House) and in Montreal (Rotisserie Romados). But now, I've had the pleasure of enjoying this chicken in Hamilton at Charred Rotisserie House!
I first heard about Charred on Urbanspoons' Talk of the Town list...it was number two in Ontario (it's now number one). That caught my attention so I did a little investigating and realized that this was the Portuguese style of chicken that I prefered. What I didn't realize was that Mark Morgenstern of Hamilton's Morgenstern's Department Store had opened the restaurant in an old building down the street from the store that had been in the family since 1968. So it wasn't a Portuguese but rather a Hungarian Jew who was running the show. And that made me wonder what that would mean for the chicken!
I convinced Edgar that we needed to try this new chicken place and so on Sunday afternoon we headed down to James Street North in Hamilton. For those of you familiar with Hamilton, you will know that this area has made a recent revival. When I attended McMaster University in the late 80s early 90s this section of Hamilton was thriving; however, with the recession that hit this steel town hard, James Street North took a major hit and by the time I came back to Hamilton in the 1993-1994 to complete my post-grad diploma this areas was dead. So to say that I am thrilled by its rebirth is an understatement. That is why anytime a new restaurant opens up in the area, I feel a need to try it out...you can see that in our Hamilton blog posts...most of them if not all of them are on this street!
Charred is not huge...the decor is minimalist in nature...its basically brick walls, original tin ceilings, chalk board menu with the amazing aroma of rotisserie meat in the air. When we arrived we were greeted by our server who gave us a smaller version of the menu and told us to take a seat. The restaurant was empty and we had the whole place to ourselves. We sat up front and studied the menu. Our server brought us water and took our drink orders. They serve Coke products so I was a happy girl.
We opted for the whole chicken combo with 3 sides. We got two house salads and a roasted potato. We also ordered a regular poutine with Charred chicken.
The chicken arrived cut into quarters with three types of dipping sauce...I'll call them mild, medium and hot. I loved the medium or what they referred to as spicy. I am not a huge lover of extra spicy that can hurt so this was perfect. The chicken itself was perfectly cooked. It was juicy and succulent and the skin was crispy with the right amount of charred flavour. Excellent Portuguese style rotisserie chicken even if it was Portuguese!
The sides were great too. The salads consisted of lettuce (not the pretend veggie known as iceberg lettuce), tomato, cucumber (don't know what they tasted like because I didn't have any - after all, Chef John Horne didn't serve them to me!) and shredded carrots. The house dressing was nice and light with a bit of piri piri sauce if I'm not mistaken. The roasted potatoes had a nice flavour but I can honestly say that they weren't my favourite. The poutine was outstanding. The fries were perfect...almost shoestring and cooked to a golden brown. The gravy was flavourful and delicious. The cheese curds had been tossed in mild piri piri sauce and added an extra hit of flavour. The Charred chicken on top just added to the chicken flavour. Really really good.
Mark Morgenstern came to visit us during our meal to ask what we thought and we had the privilege of talking to this gentle man. Mark explained who he was, why he decided to start a restaurant after being in the clothing business for so many years, how a Portuguese employee put him on to the idea of starting a Portuguese style rotisserie place and how a man named Jorge and Chef Shane McCartney of McCartney and Son helped him realize this endeavour. We reminisced about Hamilton and what James Street North was like in its heyday. Mark is a really nice man and I wish him nothing but luck with this new adventure.
Overall, an excellent lunch at Charred Rotisserie House. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves Portuguese style rotisserie chicken, you won't be disappointed.
In his opinion:
It is fair to say that anyone would be a bit skeptical of a Hungarian person opening a Portuguese style rotisserie BBQ chicken place. Probably not because it cannot be done, but just for the fact that it is improbable. What would they know about it? Could they reproduce the famous Piri Piri sauce that makes this dish famous?
In comes Charred, a Hungarian-Jewish-Canadian owned Portuguese rotisserie BBQ (Churrasco) joint in downtown Hamilton. Culture jokes aside, this restaurant does not sell itself as a Portuguese BBQ chicken place but rather just a BBQ chicken place that happens to use Portuguese style technique and hot sauces.
The restaurant is very well appointed and nicely decorated. It is inviting, bright, clean and mixes a bit of modern with the old in its decoration (the ceiling is original to the building). The staff is friendly and the menu choices are basic but well priced.The focus here is chicken and chicken on the BBQ to be more precise. The menu is written on a chalkboard but also available on a regular menu card to read at the table.
We opted to have a whole chicken meal and a Charred chicken poutine. The chicken came cut into 4 pieces and served with a choice of 3 sides. Our choices were 2 house salads and roasted potatoes.
There was plenty of food in this serving, the salad was fresh and well balanced with the light dressing, the roasted potatoes were flavourful and a good portion.
The chicken had to be the test to the legitimacy of this endeavour. The smell was right on, the colour of the crispy skin was also spot on but it was the taste after the first bite that validated the meat. It was indeed very good and truly does justice to the Portuguese style rotisserie Chicken I know and love.
The 3 different sauce options, mild, spicy and extra spicy, were also very good, with my favourite being the extra spicy. All sauces are made in house by the way. The poutine was also a highlight with its fresh cut fries, very good gravy and cheese curds with a bit of spice thrown in the mix.
Overall, it was a great lunch with great service, including the owner coming to talk to us for a bit. The take-out option is a plus, allowing you to take this goodness home for a very good price.
The Good: Tasty chicken, well appointed room, great service.
The Bad: Good but limited menu.
The Verdict: Much like Anthony Bourdain who worked at Les Halles which employed only Mexicans in this very French Restaurant in New York, it is possible for Hungarians to make Portuguese food properly and the proof is Charred. Next time you are on James Street North in Hamilton, don't pass on this opportunity to have some good Rotisserie Chicken.
I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating