I rarely ever order chicken at a restaurant unless, of course, it’s been deep fried. As a chef, I suppose that I’m far too aware of “food cost” to view poultry as anything other than the perennial high-margin protein. Whether or not this bias is justified, I tend to feel that ordering chicken is unadventurous and, in some cases, an outright sucker bet. I make an exception for fried chicken only because it’s one of my main culinary weaknesses (also, frying anything at home is a huge hassle, so I appreciate the convenience of ordering out).
Since you won’t see much (non-fried) chicken on these pages, you can take the following recommendation to heart: The Chicken Pomegranate at Cafe La Mediterranee, pictured above, is easily one of the best chicken dishes in the city. The skeptical reader might wonder how I can back such a bold statement, since I typically don’t order chicken at restaurant. It’s a fair rebuttal, except that La Med’s Chicken Pomegranate is so transcendently delicious, I just know that it rates as a top-tier bird. How can it not?
The key to this dish is the pomegranate braising liquid, which imparts a wonderfully complex flavor to chicken legs. Slightly tart, slightly sweet, fully savory, the meat falls off the bone practically on sight. Everything else on the plate sends this dish over top: Pitch-perfect rice, great hummus, and a cup of superior lentil soup (the latter item is a side option, but at the same time, the requisite choice, as far as I’m concerned).
In my universe, La Med’s Chicken Pomegranate is on par with the Pollo a la Brasa at Limón Rotisserie, to name another of my non-fried San Francisco favorites. If there’s a better bird in the Bay Area that’s not breaded, I’d like to know.