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New Eats: Wishbone

Here's a quick look at the latest from Jing'an, a hip, minimalist rotisserie chicken joint. Just in time for the grand opening tonight.
By Mar 20, 2015 Dining
Rotisserie chicken. Eduardo Vargas and David Laris, two erstwhile fixtures of the food scene here, tried building small empires on it a few years back. They fizzled out. But I wonder if that was only because they had investors who were hell bent on mindless expansion. In Jing'an Wishbone is taking a stab at it, and it looks to be off to solid start.

It's a narrow slot, stripped down with concrete floors and dangling incandescent bulbs. 25 diners would make it a packed house. This is what it looks like at near full capacity.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. It looks like every other restaurant that has opened here in the past three years. Oh well, the kitchen makes up for it.

It's run by Samuel Norris. His most recent work in Shanghai was at Dogtown, where he cobbled together a decent little menu of Mexican snacks in a kitchen the size of a broom closet. The press material that Wishbone put out also says that Norris has worked in the kitchens of Nobu (though it doesn't specify which one) and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Whether or not these were paid positions or stages (the culinary equivalent of an unpaid internship) I'm unsure. Regardless, Norris is doing some worthwhile stuff with this new project.

Much like Dogtown, it's a limited menu. Roasted chickens are the centerpiece, and you can get them in quarters, halves, or the whole bird (75, 140, and 250rmb respectively). This is what a half portion looks like.

The menu says it's meant for two, but I beg to differ. I could easily polish this whole thing off. And while the 140rmb price tag seems a touch steep. It's a quality bird, basted generously with butter, stuffed with gremolata, and, most importantly, moist and tender throughout with a perfectly crisp skin. It comes with a homemade jalepeño mayonnaise and a mustard sauce for smothering or dipping or however you like to dress your bird.

As the birds roast, he collects the drippings. They're an excellent addition to roasted new potatoes, which make great side dish for 25rmb.

The same goes for Norris's okra. He roasts them, which helps to dry out some of that goo inside that turns so many people off from this fruit. They're plated with fresh tomatoes and a tangy lemon herb vinaigrette. Nice.

He also does a simple, rustic country paté with shiitake mushrooms for 35rmb...

Again, pretty solid stuff. It's good to see more chefs realizing that you don't always need to keep pushing the envelope with gimmicks and ever more outlandish flavor combos.

I also like that he's dusting off and updating old school dishes food that probably only our grandparents would have found tasty, like pickled mackerel (35rmb)...

That's fish, not raw beef. He cures the fillets in salt before pickling them with beets and onions and then serves them alongside fresh, thinly sliced pears. My only grievance is that the pickling slightly overpowers the flavor of the mackerel. It tastes more, like pickled beets than it does fish. But that's really just minor issue in execution, not an inherent flaw in the dish. Still, it's a gesture I appreciate. You're not seeing many dishes like these around town.

And even the dishes that don't I particularly like I at least like in theory, like Norris's homemade ricotta with roast pineapple and fresh thyme (not pictured). It's a plate of disparate and poorly matched flavors and textures. So it didn't work. Oh well, back to the drawing board. I still like it when chefs try to push diners out of their comfort zones like this. And it's curiosity and experimentation like this that will keep me coming back.

For a listing of Wishbone click here.



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  • OnoMakana

    140 kuai for half a chicken? Is it 3X better than Brasa? Or just 3X more hip?

  • dteeban

    I'll just buy 4 rotisserie chickens from CityShop and eat them in an unfinished basement for the same experience at a fraction of the cost.

  • calatrava

    Ate here twice already (both times other ppl wanted to give it a try). first time chicken was average at best--undercooked with pallid skin. second time chicken was very good, juicy with tasty browned skin. i thought the whole chicken which the menu says serves 3-4, does indeed serve 4 nicely. it comes with 4 sides which are not generously portioned, but they're not especially tasty so it's fine. i've tasted all the sides and have to say all are forgettable. i typically love butternut squash, but their preparation of it is so blah that they might as well use the much cheaper and commonplace pumpkin. The sides need serious improvement and excitement. How about some dirty rice or roasted root veggies? Even the ubiquitous brussels sprouts would be better than the okra tomato thing.

    The best thing here is actually the country pate, though it would be better if served with actual bread slices rather than what are essentially croutons. Speaking of bread, some biscuits or soft dinner rolls would make an excellent accompaniment to the chicken.

  • calatrava

    Also, I liked the ricotta with pineapple dessert. The thyme didn't add anything but oddness to the dish though.

  • Justin Fischer

    Yes, calatrava, two days after I visited I heard mixed reviews from others, especially on Friday night, the night of their grand opening. But consistency issues are to be expected when I place has only been open for a couple of weeks.

  • calatrava

    not knocking them for inconsistency. i just want better sides.

  • Poloche

    I really enjoyed the dinner I had there. The pulled pork croquettas starters where amazing, had to order another batch even before my chicken arrived, nice and moist with crispy skin. I maybe got lucky but overall I really enjoyed my dinner and will definately go back. Tasted the pickled Mackerel off a friends dish and enjoyed it as well ... nice and different.

  • ewenyu

    Sides w tasty but a bit on the small side to be honest. In terms of the chicken, it was good, but nothing amazing but the sauces that it came with were pretty top notch. I dunno, I cycle pass it and see it pretty pumping during the evenings few hip people hanging out for a beer or 2, a good sign for a food biz that just opened. Give it another go soon :)

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