D.C. eateries, chains serve up great chicken dishes

The Bird, Bonchon, Nando’s, Chloe show how exciting chicken dishes can be when they are prepared well

With the push to deliver more creative dishes to impress customers, it can be easy to consider completely new ingredients altogether. However, there is often something to be gained by sticking with the classics, and new takes on old dishes and ingredients sometimes wow diners the most. Chicken is no exception to this and there’s proof of that all over the DMV food scene.

The thing that makes chicken so popular is perhaps its ubiquity. As a meat found in nearly every culture’s cuisine, people from all over the world can identify with the bird and how it stars in their favorite plates. In the DMV, there are many international eateries offering their own spin on chicken. Bonchon is one of the most popular, bringing mountainous plates of Korean fried chicken to its patrons each day.

Bon Chon Best Chicken: Swizzle Chll
Bonchon’s spicy chicken wings can be addictive. Photo via Bonchon.

With multiple locations in D.C., Md., and Va., it’s one chain that has developed a cult following. Bonchon features many Korean classics, such as bibimbap (mixed rice bowl) and japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). The most demand though is for the fried chicken platters. Diners can choose from wings, drumsticks, and strips basted in either soy garlic or spicy sauce and can add authentic Korean sides and drinks to round out the experience.

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It’s impossible to talk about international chicken dishes without mentioning Nando’s Peri-Peri, a customer favorite around the globe. Nando’s offers the standard fare of sandwiches, salads, and wraps, but thanks to its signature “peri-peri” sauce, customers keep coming back for the rich flavor. The spice comes from the peri-peri pepper, also known as the African Bird’s Eye Chili. Nando’s’ chefs mix the peppers with salt, vinegar, lemon, onion, and olive oil to create the famous sauce. With restaurants across nearly all continents, Nando’s is truly offering a unique chicken experience everywhere it lands..

As mentioned earlier, marketing chicken dishes these days in a saturated food market requires creativity as restaurateurs have to push their chefs to offer more than just standard fare plates. Isaiah Ruffin, head chef of The Bird in D.C., gave us his insights on how he ensures his chicken dishes stand out from all others. According to Ruffin, the bird itself is just as important as the process used to prepare it.

The Bird sources its chickens from New York and Pennsylvania and they come “BoBo style”, meaning that the head and feet are not removed. This guarantees a level of freshness that is hard to find in other restaurants and makes the unique ingredients that Ruffin employs pack an even bigger punch. Take the “Thai Barbecue,” one of The Bird’s standout chicken dishes. It is marinated in fish sauce, lemongrass, and other Thai flavors before being smoked. The fish sauce-lemongrass combination together creates a pungent flavor that is not common in traditional American dishes.

In addition to fascinating new ingredients, chefs can turn to unique cooking methods to create special culinary masterpieces. Navy Yard newcomer, Chloe, offers a delicious roast chicken on its menu, served on a bed of softened greens and paired with a tangy chili-lime sauce. The secret to Chloe’s delicious take on a classic roast chicken is that the bird is air-dried overnight, resulting in its crispy, crackly skin and tender, moist inside.

Chicken’s popularity in the foodscape proves that you don’t always have to go for overly expensive, exotic ingredients to wow customers. By sticking with a classic staple and elevating it with rich and flavorful ingredients and innovative cooking techniques, chefs can create dishes that will have people coming back for more. And with chicken around for the long haul, these new plate possibilities are definitely worth taking advantage of.

Author credit: Roshan Thomas

Photo credit: The Bird (featured), Bonchon (inline)

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