Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Foolish Chicken

Foolish, maybe. Tasty, definitely. That’s how I’d sum up our dinner at Holland Avenue’s newest eatery, the Foolish Chicken, last Saturday night. It was a last-minute selection for that night’s dinner; plans with friends for all-you-can-eat sushi fell through around 4:30 p.m. and we found ourselves at loose ends. Fortunately for us, my friend P called shortly thereafter with the news that her husband was working until late and she was bored. Joining us for dinner sounded like just the ticket. She has a fatal nut allergy, so her dining options are somewhat limited, and a lot of them are Mexican places, but as I’d had Mexican the previous night, we needed to find something else. I racked my brain and finally remembered the review I’d read some days prior of this new chicken and ribs joint in West Ottawa. A quick phone call revealed that not only did they have a table for three, but that P’s allergy could certainly be accommodated.

A quick change of clothes and off we went, picking up P on our way. We arrived about ten minutes early for our 6:30 reservation (keeners, or just hungry? You decide) and were seated immediately in the upstairs bar section, which is essentially two high-top tables with four blessedly high-backed chairs around them. The remainder of the room was full, it transpired, with a small wedding reception party of some sort. The downstairs was equally packed and the place was buzzing. Looks like that review did the restaurant some serious good – according to the gentleman who served us (who I believe to be one of the owners) they’ve hired five new staff this past week to deal with the increased business.

That said, the waitresses were new and completely overwhelmed, leaving us menu-less, cutlery-free and unwatered for a good ten minutes until said gentleman finally appeared to apologize and explain the situation. He immediately rectified the menu situation and returned promptly to take our order, which was easy. We all ordered essentially the same meal, a combo involving a quarter chicken and a quarter-rack of ribs. Chris and P ordered sweet potato fries, while I went with the house salad. Each plate comes with a ramekin of barbecue sauce for dipping, a baby cornmeal muffin and a scoop of slaw. There are three combo options, involving various amounts of chicken and ribs, or you can get them alone. They offer a few wraps, a burger and some meal-salads, as well as apps, but we stuck to the star attractions, and a good choice it was.

P and I asked for white meat, which ended up being an enormous breast, skin-on, including a moist wing, basted with a dark, spicy-sweet sauce. Three meaty ribs, less saucy but desperately moist and tender, sat alongside the bird. My salad was a generous mound of mixed greens, chopped cucumber and tomato, chunks of bottled roasted red pepper and slivers of red onion topped with excellent vinaigrette. The slaw was also delicious (next time, I’m ordering extra) and the muffin, delightful. So much so that I ate Chris’s and P’s, too. Hey, they were tiny, and I ordered salad. They each reported that the fries (which come with a spicy red curry mayo) were quite tasty. Chris’s chicken leg and thigh were equally generous of size and very tender.

P and I shared a half-litre of the house red, Kittling Ridge merlot, which was serviceable but a bit too warm for my liking; Chris had a half-pint of Sleeman honey brown. Somehow, he and I found room for dessert, mostly because we had heard such good things about the house-made sweets. The chalkboard outside advertised coconut rice pudding, and that proved an irresistible temptation for us both. Topped with toasted coconut and a poof of whipped cream, the rice pudding was rich, thick and sticky, and utterly fabulous.

We were all stuffed when we left, and for an unbelievably reasonable price: dinner for Chris and I, with dessert and a drink each, came to $61 with taxes and tip. The space is enjoyable, with gorgeous local art for sale on the walls, clean and zen-like bathrooms, and comfortable chairs. Plenty of street parking nearby, free after 5:30 p.m. In short: we’ll be going back (though we might give them a month or two to train those new waitresses and let the ruckus die down). We’re no fools – we know a good thing when we eat it.

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