The Juiciest, Tastiest Chicken in the city is the star at this homegrown Al Wasl Road Eatery that treats the palates of children just as seriously as they do adults.
Now this is chicken.
I took my order from The Roost Rotisserie, which opened on Al Wasl Road at the beginning of May, to go. It seemed fitting, since 60 per cent of the eatery’s business is takeaway.
So it was a nice, warm temperature by the time I got it back to the office, pulling it out to share with my colleagues. It was basically the most perfect chicken I’ve ever eaten, the kind you tear apart with your fingers and let the juice run down your fingers, where you rip off the skin to eat separately, to make the most of its crispy, salty goodness. Chef Zayn brines this chicken for an entire day and then marinates it for a second day, then cooks it in front of customers on a slow-turning rotisserie for 2.5 hours. If it’s not ready, he won’t sell it to you – the end result is so firmly in his sights.
So where one might be be resigned to having a dry, white experience with chicken meat, The Roost’s been replaced with a tender mingling of flavours, including lemongrass, thyme, rosemary, pepper – with sweet, soulful surprise notes of star anise.
This is no Waitrose-barbecue-in-a bag. This is an experience.
This is elevated takeout.
The restaurant’s owner, Hadil Alkhatib, dreamt up the concept when she was considering going back to work after the birth of her second child and had grown frustrated at not only the quality, but the unhealthy options for children in Dubai’s restaurants and takeaway outlets. She believes mac and cheese, nuggets and pizza should be a treat for her daughter, who she has always served the same dinner she and her husband were eating.
So the children’s menu at The Roost is the same as the adults, prepared with just as much care and whole ingredients, just with smaller portions.
It was also essential to her that the chicken served be top-notch, because she had become highly suspicious of the increasingly cheap and pale varieties she was seeing in grocery stores.
“I came to the conclusion it’s not real chicken,” she said. “It’s not, it’s just the skeleton of the chicken pumped full of things.”
Alkhatib has visited and approved the farm where the chicken served at The Roost is raised: she can verify that there are no cages, there is nothing given to the chickens.
“I realised this hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken, where we’re sourcing it from local farms, is the next best thing to organic chicken, if not better,” she said. “If it’s not organic sourced from the farm then it better be locally sourced and antibiotic-free. Because at the end of the day organic won’t do me any good if it’s frozen, if it took 16 hours to get here, god knows what happened. So I would rather go for the option of it being hormone and antibiotic free, cage-free, eating the right natural things that a chicken would eat.”
At The Roost The Fully Monty – a full chicken (Dhs120) – comes with two “crops” (sides). Considering the compelling main event, I’ll admit it was hard to pay much attention to the wilted greens with lemon butter and almonds, but the herbed mashed potatoes were suitably buttery and fluffy and definitely got some attention. If the hot, whole chicken isn’t your thing, the honey mustard chicken salad (Dhs42) was tangy and fresh, with cut-to-order chicken, asparagus, edamame and green beans. The Quinoa salad, with beetroot, marinated feta and balsamic dressing (Dhs42) was also a solid choice.
All the sauces are made from scratch at The Roost too, including a strangely satisfying banana ketchup, a twist on a recipe from the Philippines that Chef Zayn keeps closely guarded. The Clucking Hot Sauce was too much for my palate, but the RoostBBQ and Beetroot Hummus Dip was a smooth substitute for dunking. The bone broth, packed with proteins and collagen and prepared with as much care as the chicken, is also top-notch, with shots of it offered as a pre-meal bonus for free or served in 250ml portions (Dhs20).
Bottom line? This is some top-notch food, perfect for a healthy takeaway for your family. Next time you are sighing and flailing, wanting to order food but not knowing what, remember The Roost.
The Roost Rotisserie, API 1000 Complex, Al Wasl Road, Dubai. Weekdays from noon to 10pm, weekends until midnight. (Tel) 800-ROOST (76678). Taxi Al Wasl Road just before Al Thanya Street
DOING SOME GOOD
Chef Zayn – real name Gareth Haggerty – wants to change the way you think about chicken.
What is the philosophy behind The Roost Rotisserie?
We want our food to be as clean and healthy as possible. We’re not claiming to be the healthiest, we’re not claiming that. But we will give you really good tasty healthy food.
How do you choose your chicken?
The chicken is basically from a local farm, a local producer, it’s about 40 kilometres away… Me personally when I’ve bought some brands of chicken and I’ve opened the packet, I’ve just thrown it away. There is this farmy, gamey smell to the chicken and you can even tell when you cook the chicken, you can’t get any colour on it because there’s just so much liquid inside. Basically they pump the chicken through hormones and antibiotics to help grow the chicken faster. The pump it with water to get the weight up.
How is it supposed to look?
The skin looks healthy, the skin’s intact. There’s no blood stains or splatters. Check inside, it’s clean, there’s no smell to it.
What about the rest of your ingredients?
A lot of ingredients we get I make sure they are fresh ingredients, so the beetroots the potatoes, the sweetcorn, I want to make sure we get that locally. Some things like lemongrass we can’t get locally so we get
You make all your own sauces, from banana ketchup to chimichurri. Why?
I go back to being a chef, working in restaurants for almost 15 years. I’ve always produced everything in the kitchen. A lot of restaurants have changed that, they have central kitchens and they make it and send it to the chefs and they just open packets. And it’s easy to just go buy some ketchup and mix it with something else and call it something else. We thought let’s be different, you know? Let’s try and change people’s habits.