Care Package. The meat comes early each day after being freshly slaughtered in Springdale, Arkansas. He said that these chickens are small, which helps keep the meat as tender as possible.
Are you a breast man or a leg man? What's your preference? --with chicken, that is. Salari's Char Chicken on south Peoria Avenue continues the tradition at the same location as Chicken-Char, which closed a few years ago after more than a decade in operation.
"It's a simple menu," Salari said, but it allows him to "keep all the food fresh and to service people quickly." This basic menu does not mean the food is basic; rather, he lauded that he combines more than 17 herbs and spices in its preparation.
The simple part is that the menu has two dinner options: breast (with wing) and leg (with thigh), and with or without rice. Both are priced at $8.30. Two sides come with the meal. Additional sides may be purchased for $2.50. Sides include tabouli, steamed mixed vegetables, Waldorf salad, rice, and marinated artichoke hearts with unpitted black olives.
Salari's chicken preparation is a process of many steps. He explained each, saying he begins with "the freshest chicken in the world."
He said the meat comes early each day after being freshly slaughtered in Springdale, Arkansas. He said that these chickens are small, which helps keep the meat as tender as possible. He cuts the chicken into double limb pieces, breast-wing sections and leg-thigh sections. He reserves the backbone to use for making a rich broth and then soaks the chicken pieces for more than eight hours in a brine of citrus and seasonings; this will remove any odors from the chicken skin.
The next step is to marinate the brined chicken in a special concoction of chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. For the final step, Salari rubs a house seasoning of herbs and spices including thyme, roasted coriander, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, cumin and more into the skin. The end result, Salari said, is that his chicken pieces are eventually treated with at least 17 complementary herbs and spices.
The chicken is now ready to cook. Salari chars the skin, resulting in a burned-skin appearance, and then he slow-cooks the poultry until it is done, yet still tender and moist.
The chicken has a very delectable brown/black charring on the skin, depleted of any hint of tough texture or fattiness.
Chicken pieces rest either in their own rich broth or on a bed of white rice.
A few friends and I sampled the menu and gave the chicken high marks for tenderness, but a little below average on meat flavor.
"It is fall-off-the-bone tender, but somewhere along the way, the flavor fell off as well," one friend said. He suggested maybe a little more salt would help; it's just that the seasonings were not carried through into the meat. The charred skin was revved with robust flavor, but it stopped there. The rich flavor congregated on the skin and in the broth, rather than permeating throughout the meat. The meat is quintessentially tender--leaving the bone with the slightest movement of the fork--but lacking the flavor we thought it would have.
The house-made barbecue sauce was simply an afterthought for us. It was nice for a variance of taste--not too sweet or spicy, but with a slight smokiness. It was definitely not needed or really wanted.
Sides for Salari are not afterthoughts, but rather given loving consideration. Salari is mightily proud of his Waldorf salad mainly because of the special touch: homemade yogurt. "My yogurt is what gives it the creaminess that others will not have," he said, adding that this in itself is a four-hour process. Ingredients for this rich and refreshing salad include chopped red apples, raisins, celery, walnuts and grapes.
His rice is not just rice; he prepares it in chicken broth and seasonings, then finishes with some clarified butter. We found the rice very flavorful and soft in each bite. The marinated mixed vegetables include sliced carrots, celery and cauliflower. These veggies were not mushy or limp as often happens; they were firm and robust with flavor. The tabouli is traditional, with lots of parsley, green onions, tomatoes and cracked wheat with plenty of lemon juice for a pleasantly jolting citrus taste.
Salari, a native of Iran, came to the States in 1977. He has quite a repertoire in the restaurant industry. He's had stints at such places as Fountain's, Warren Duck Club, Bodean Seafood, Oaks Country Club, Southern Hills Country Club and Valentino's.
Salari is quite personable to all his guests, giving the place a homey feel. He is rightly proud of his new place on South Peoria, having opened in April 2008. He said he spent time polishing up the place with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, pulled up the carpeting and dotted the walls with a few pictures.
6835 S. Peoria Ave.
Mon.-Fri. 11am-2pm, 5-8pm
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