Fried chicken served with Southern flair
Many fried chicken devotees believe that you have to travel south of the Mason-Dixon Line or north to Harlem to have your bird cooked as God intended. Chef Charles Gabriel, of Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken fame, brings a little of that Southern flair to Midtown’s Aretsky’s Patroon with his latest creation. On Friday nights for a fixed $25, diners feast on three pieces of chicken, two sides and dessert, with live jazz accompaniment.
I’d postponed eating there until my friend was able to come, so by the time we finally met up, I was practically drooling. She, with a Southern family, considers herself a soul food connoisseur with strong opinions on how it should be cooked. Fortunately for us, judging by the unobtrusiveness of the restaurant’s Gibson Room, the emphasis is clearly on the food. Even the musical interludes from the piano player and bassist receded into the background.
I deliberated over the sides because, really, how can you choose between macaroni and cheese, candied yams, black-eyed peas and collard greens? I went healthy with the peas but then killed the whole notion by ordering the macaroni and cheese. My friend opted for the greens and yams.
The chicken was moist, juicy and meaty, and the pieces were well sized. But onto the true test: the skin. Instead of being heavily breaded, it was thin and crispy with a little spice. Following my tablemate’s lead, I tried the chicken with hot sauce, which was a novel way for me to eat it. I liked it that way, but the bird had more than enough seasoning for my tastes without the extra kick. Though a tough critic, my friend gave the signature dish strong marks. She was less won over by the sides, saying the kitchen should use more butter for the yams and add cinnamon and nutmeg. She also wanted more heat in the greens. The macaroni was light on cheese, which worked for me because we were eating such heavy foods. I stuffed myself on that and the peas so that I could have some leftover chicken and cornbread to savor at home.
Dessert was banana pudding. It was small and light after a big meal, which was definitely a good idea. But for me, a Southern dinner ends with peach cobbler, so hopefully the menu will have at least two items featured for summer.
Now that I have tasted the legendary Charles Gabriel chicken, I must head uptown to Harlem. Life is too short for just a one-night-a-week indulgence.
160 E. 46th St.
Between Lexington and Third avenues
Fried chicken dinner: $25