Rotisserie chicken has become the modern TV dinner. Starting in the 1990s, chains like Boston Market promoted it as a healthful fast-food alternative, and grocers across America began cooking up chickens that were nearing their expiration dates to help the bottom line. In 2010, more than 600 million of the birds were sold across the United States, from the $5 Costco variety to an $8.99 Mary’s Organic at Whole Foods. Still, how many of these resemble the au naturel, crackling, flavorful (but not salty) ones turning on a trio of spikes at Mar Vista’s Status Kuo?
“It’s not at all the same thing,” says owner David Kuo, who opened the specialty roaster and restaurant in December. Locally raised, preservative-free chickens twirl inside the shop’s mammoth French rotisserie. And there’s not just poultry: Slabs of heritage pork, air-dried ducks, and entire heads of cauliflower are rotating, too.
Pollo a la brasa, code for Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, has long been scrawled across awnings throughout the city, and at the well-established Haitian restaurant Tigeorges’ in Echo Park, an open rig fires Caribbean-style meats over avocado wood. Only in recent months have high-end chefs begun to experiment with the rotisserie, moving the humble roast into the realm of artisanal fare.
At Gjusta, Gjelina’s dashing new deli, Venice locals purchase whole organic chickens to go. Beverly Boulevard’s Stir Market and Studio City’s GC Marketplace took cues from Italian food halls, where rosticcerias are the focus of epicurean wonderlands.
“The beauty of the rotisserie is it’s self-basting,” says Stir Market executive chef Chris Barnett, “and since it’s rotating, it cooks more evenly than in a conventional oven and allows us to cook larger portions.” Hence L.A.’s sudden glut of porchetta, the better part of a deboned pig rolled up with herbs and roasted until the skin takes on the ethereal texture of a potato chip.
“All the fat drips off during the cooking process, so it’s a bit healthier,” claims Barnett. But watch out for Stir’s roasted vegetables, which caramelize at the bottom of the rotisserie to absorb each savory drop.
Status Kuo, 3809 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista, 310-574-7610
Gjusta, 320 Sunset Ave., Venice, 310-314-0320
Stir Market, 7475 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-879-8283