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What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - Yes, It Tastes Like Chicken
Every Friday, LAist is taking you on a trip down to Orange County to uncover the unique dining experiences that await adventurous eaters willing to explore beyond the county line.
As someone who rarely eats red meat (but is not a vegetarian), my options for protein are pretty limited. Consequently, I eat a lot of chicken as well as a fair amount of fish. Chicken obviously is not the most exciting meat to eat, and despite many attempts to prepare chicken in every conceivable manner to extract some discernible flavor (except maybe sous vide, sorry Hung), I usually end up with a bland piece of poultry that I have to goose up by dousing it in some sauce or killing it with spices.
However, at Rosine’s in Anaheim Hills, the taste of chicken is elevated to a level far beyond my conventional eating experience. Rosine’s is a family-owned Eastern Mediterranean restaurant mostly known for its rotisserie chicken, although the menu also contains an extensive assortment of kebabs, pita sandwiches, and a handful of other traditional Mediterranean dishes. While entrees are fairly priced from $8-$12 for lunch and $11-$18 for dinner, by far the best deal is the rotisserie chicken combination plate. Not only do you get a half-chicken, but also two sides from the restaurant’s long list, plus a serving of the garlic sauce, all for $9.50. Rosine’s also has an impressive wine list for a restaurant of its size and stature, including a number of German Rieslings, Lebanese Reds, and many French and Californian selections.
What makes the rotisserie chicken so good? I don't know the preparation secret, although I was highly tempted to ask. What I do know is that the chicken comes out incredibly moist. Like not just moist, but melt in your mouth moist. Wow. I took that first bite and I was really stunned, which doesn't really happen that much (it was probably my low expectation chicken bias kicking in). The amazing thing was that the natural flavor of the meat really came out, proving to me that as bland as chicken breast can be, it doesn't necessarily have to taste so generically. The bird wasn't seasoned that heavily, but it didn't need to be, and the golden, slightly crispy skin just burst with flavor. Surprisingly, the "special" garlic sauce (which is more like a spread), which I would normally suffocate the chicken with, became more of the complementary flavor rather than the dominant flavor.
The selection of sides is almost as long as the selection of entrees, offering cold dishes like hummus and tabbouleh, salads, and potatoes to name a few. My first side was the ratatouille, which I had had a craving for since Dale's deconstructed ratatouille on Top Chef and the adorable (yet disgusting) rat's specialty dish in the Pixar movie. While I didn't have that "a-ha" moment like in the movie, I did enjoy the stewed vegetables and herbs. The dish was skewed towards the tomatoes and the zucchini, but also included eggplant, peppers, and carrots. It was a nice hearty accompaniment to the chicken and an excellent contrast to my other side, the wheat pilav. The pilaf, mixed with orzo, contained the grainy taste of the bulgur, but was extremely buttery, giving it a heaviness that was a bit unwanted. Nevertheless, the combination of the three items made for a very well-balanced meal with no shortage of sensations to my tastebuds.
The interesting thing about the restaurant is that it is designed to look much more decadent than the outside or the menu would suggest. The lighting is very dim, relying on candles at each table and on the walls to illuminate the room. The resulting effect is a more intimate, formal setting, which is contradictory to the simple plating and tableware. Rosine's also displays some of its war chest of wine, with racks built into the wall separating the dining room and the kitchen and more bottles prominently displayed in a small cabinet. Thus, while you are getting a pretty simple meal, you feel like you are dining out at a higher end restaurant.
My biggest complaint? Every time I eat my own poorly cooked, dried out chicken breast, I'm going to be thinking of Rosine's rotisserie chicken, annoyed that I have to subject myself to such boring, bland food. Thanks for nothing Rosine's.
721 S. Weir Canyon Rd.
Anaheim, CA 92808
photo by Ryan Young for LAist