Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Feb 17, 2011 06:19 PM

amazing roast chicken

I am going to Paris this fall and am looking for a simple but amazing restaurant to eat thiis staple but favorite dish of mine. Can someone give me advice. Aloha from Hawaii

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Oh, there are many opinions on this subject. And, we will get those for you.

    My opinion is to find a great street vendor and select a fat chicken from the rack, plus an ample amount of potatos and drippings and take them, along with some sides from another vendor, back to your apartment with several bottles of promising wine and a fine dessert pastry...the very BEST meal I have on my annual to semi-annual visit to none! ( With apologizes to my wife, an excellent chef, who always labors with the best ingredients France can offer for one or two extraordinary meals on our balcony.)

    1 Reply
    1. I love that idea but in the case that my hotel would not allow this is there a restaurant that has a similar meal. Thanks and aloha

      2 Replies
      1. re: maya1

        Search using the window above and the words "roast chicken" and you'll find several useful threads

        But, you could still eat the street chicken on a picnic.

        1. re: maya1

          It's all about economics; many of the rotisserie shops make a superb product at resonable prices. For a brasserie or high-end cafe to offer Poulet Roti/frites at a reasonable profit they will often reheat the dish etc. That is why souphie notes that it is often overdone. So go to to a brasserie like Balzar for an early lunch, you may luck out. The price shouldl be under 20 Euros.

        2. I've only been to Paris once and didn't notice street vendors. Could you please expand on a shop that would sell this suberb chicken meal. Do they sell the potatoes too, or would I have to go to a different shop. My mouth is watering already,. Thanks and aloha

          30 Replies
          1. re: maya1

            Laidback and I swore by our Chicken Man on rue St Lazare. He even chose an apartment in ordr to be near him. But Chicken Man is now looking for fame and fortune in Beijing. Absolutely tragic for LB and me.
            There is the very good roast chicken stand in the humongous Richard Lenoir market, Others may be able to give you more precise instructions. If not, look for a long queue and a chicken lady. You can easilyi find the opening days and hours of the market on line.
            Our own Doctor John swears by his hood's roast chicken guy on rue du Poteau in the 18th.

            For some reasons that mystify us all, this great thread called "roast chicken in Paris" was moved out of the France board.
            The subject of roast chicken should rightly be part of the FAQ on this board.
            Waiiiiit, there's no FAQ on this board, is there.

            1. re: maya1

              Those 'street vendors' are actually 'traiteurs' (prepared food shops) where the roast chicken rotisseries are either in the window, or on the sidewalk just outside the door. You'll pass 'traiteurs' all over Paris, but if you somehow fail to spot one, you can always go to the Grande Epicerie in Bon Marché (in the 6th). Then walk over to the small Square Boucicault or much prettier Luxembourg Gardens and have that picnic.

              1. re: maya1

                "Street vendor" is a misnomer. Most of these are located outside regular butchers shops and on the butchers stalls in markets. Simple to find head to the nearest shopping street and check out the butchers - they are universal.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Thank you so much Boredough and Phil Parigi and Laidback, I read somewhere that the favorite dish of chefs all over the world was a good roast chicken. I make a good one myself in a clay pot but my daughter said the best she had was aboard a boat tour on the Seine. I will try to find this chicken if it takes my whole trip. Mahalo and bring back the roast chicken in Paree thread Maya

                2. re: maya1

                  follow your nose!

                  There's usually a chicken seller in the open-air markets -- but there's no missing that amazing smell drifting down the street.

                  Like the fudge shops of Mackinac Island, I'm pretty sure they blow the exhaust out over the sidewalk to boost sales. (usually the ovens sit out on the sidewalk because there's no room in the shop...but sometimes it seems like the first theory is correct...)

                    1. re: Naguere

                      my personal favorite is small-town weekly markets, where the "chicken guy" drives a truck that has that apparatus actually built into the outside wall of his truck...his truck becomes his shop.

                      THOSE guys usually also do enormous poulets fermiers (barnyard chickens, or what Americans would call roasters), quail, and pintades (guinea hen) alongside the "poulets normals".

                      1. re: Naguere

                        On my last trip to Paris in July 2007, the poulet roti I got from stalls that looked like this were consistently dry and very disappointing. They looked and smelled good but the breast was over cooked. I tried a couple of places around Rue Cler with equally disappointing results. Maybe it was the location? Maybe these places are hit and miss? I'm hoping someone can comment so I don't make the same mistake on my next trip.

                        However, on my way up to Montmarte from the metro, I stumbled on a small store with both chicken and lamb roasting on a spit and people lining up for it at 1130. Here's from my last trip report. Not sure if it's still good or if its still around, but this was the best poulet roti I had on my last trip:
                        Day 6
                        Maitre Volailler (9th). On our way up to Montmarte, we stumbled on Maitre Volailler. I was across the street when I smelled and noticed the delicious chicken and lamb roasting on a spit. Half a poulet with fries was only 8.25 euros. Up until this point, I was not impressed with the poulet roti that I had tried in Paris. This place changed all that. The chicken was moist and the sauce was made from drippings, roasted tomatoes and onions. The fries were refried on the spot so they were perfectly crisp and more flavorful than any french fry I've ever had. Maybe it was the potato, maybe it was the oil? This was what I had imagined poulet roti in Paris to be like.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I totally agree with you.
                          In the rôtisseries in France, all roast chickens look great and smell heavenly, but they are not equal.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            In fact, it is almost unavoidable that those chicken turn dry, esp. the breast. That's because the breast cooks faster than the thighs of course, but also because the quality of those chicken is rarely sufficient (as Parigi noted), and they way they're prepared makes no sense.

                            As far as quality is concerned, there's not much you can do except look at the anatomy of chicken, (and their price, I suppose) as most rotisseries actually don't tell you much about the chicken they use. As far as moisture goes, it should also, in fairness, be noted that very poor quality chicken (like the ones found in the US) are so full of water that they get less dry in the cooking process. That's why people would often prefer the first price chicken over the fermier. They're still tasteless and feel like plastic marinated in toxins, but not dry.

                            Some places will actually advertise the chicken they use and it can be meaningful. For instance, Au Petit Riche does roast Géline de Touraine every thursday I believe, and that's a good quality indication. Coucou de Rennes, like at l'Ami Louis, is also a rather reliable signal. And if you see Gauloise Blanche, go for it.

                            The worst chicken comes from those rotisserie where the bird actually does not spin -- a tray moves in the window, back and forth from the heat. The breast is always in front of the heat, so it cooks faster than the thighs, making things worse. So you want a rotisserie where birds actually rotate.

                            Then there is the way they're troussed. The ancient style, that uses a big needle and goes inside the bird, makes the breast thicker and therefore less dry (I like to call it the wonderbra effect). It's usually not the case. Most chicken are attached with an elastic rope that goes around them, and goes between the thighs and breast. That's another sign that your chicken is likely to be less good. You want a chicken that looks like a footbal, with the thighs trapped inside the bird. A few butchers do that right -- one of them being in the Marché Lebon in the 17th for instance, but that's just one.

                            Then of course, no matter how the chicken is prepared, most of those socalled rotisseurs cook their chicken way too long, following the advice of ignorant idiots like François Simon who believe long cooking will give them crispy skin. It does give good juice, which the same ignorants people often believe will make up for dry meat. It's easy to spot: the flesh on those overcooked chicken is faling apart, has cracks and look dry. Often though, the very brown and juicy skin is more appetising. Sometimes you want to ask those rotisseurs to give you a chicken before "they think" it's cooked. They will look at you funny, but it might be your way to really good roast chicken.

                            The good rotisseurs (wish I knew one...) will actually achieve brown skin with moist meat. The main secret is to rely on radiations. One thing you want, for instance, is a very open rotisserie that lets the heat out. Another thing you prefer, is a rotisserie that actually has flames, for this is the still the best way to create heat rays. Chicken roasting in a confined, heat protected environment, can't be good.

                            1. re: souphie

                              Please excuse the relativism here, but don't think that rotisserie chicken and "real" roast chicken are two different things. Like a 'Whopper' and a "real" hamburger, I know one's better than the other, and prefer it, but I must say I enjoy both.

                              Also, not that he needs my defence, but F Simon doesn't claim to know how to cook, and he admits that his preference for over-cooked birds is a faute de gout.

                              1. re: vielleanglaise

                                VA, you have an interesting point, and I couldn't disagree more about its relevance to chicken. The appeal of those carboard like chicken that are the norm in roast chicken is a mystery to me. And if you cook it like FS, you still don't have a crispy skin, just a darker one.

                                But the appeal, not even of the wonderful Whopper, but even of a simple MacDonalds cheeseburger is pretty obvious to me. In fact, I would totally concede the point when it comes to burger: there is no evidence to me that a burger made with quality ingredients is any better. In my experience so far, the main difference has been that some burgers are much more expensive, but not better by any mean. I think I probably like a freshly made Whopper better than the socalled quality burgers I had in more sophisticated joints.

                                1. re: souphie

                                  I don't have the necessary equiment to "properly" roast a chicken at home, and thus much prefer to poach them.

                                  However, different members of my household have a penchant for over-cooked individual BITS of chickens - wing tips, parsons nose, end of drumstick. This is also difficult to achieve in my Parisian kitchen, while rotisseries here get the job done just fine.

                                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                                    VielleAnglaise, if and when you ever have the room for it, make sure you get yourself an oven with a rotisserie in it. I still buy rotisserie chickens for Sunday lunch because someone else has done the work, but having your own rotisserie is worth its weight in gold.

                                    (the Indesit outlet store is out in Collegien close to the junction of the A4 and the A104 -- and the prices really are truly outlet, but the appliances come with a 2-year warranty. Bonus. )

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      I'll do that. But you know, even with a roasting spit, I think it's almost impossible to properly roast a chicken: ie with the legs and breast evenly and perfectly cooked.

                                      The two parts of the bird require different cooking times, like brisket and filet steak. You'd never try to shove a whole cow into an oven, although it might be fun.

                                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                                        You can cheat and wet brine the chicken overnight. This imparts flavor to the breast meat and also buys you time so the breast doesn't dry out while the thigh and drumstick is cooking. I do roasted chicken in a baking dish at least twice a month and use free range chicken or capon when the store has it. The results are pretty consistent, the breast always moist, the legs cooked through, and the skin brown and crispy. The only argument is that it does change the texture of the breast meat slightly. You can also dry brine overnight but the cooking window on the breast meat is much more narrow with dry brining but not as narrow as if you don't brine.

                                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                                          are you kidding? The 5kg turkey in November almost needs a shoehorn. I've actually been to pig-picks in the US that featured a whole roasted hog, spit-roasted in an enormous trailer (we're talking a few hundred pounds of pig) -- somehow THAT comes off perfectly moist, so I gotta figure it's possible in my much smaller, much higher-tech Ariston.

                                          I roast an enormous amount of chicken in my oven (including one tonight) and have yet to ever have any sent back for not being nicely done or moist and juicy.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I am in a rented flat at the moment with a very dodgy oven that burns things in unusual places. But it does have a rotisserie and I have cooked lots of great roast chickens. In my view the rotation stops the meat drying out as the juices don't all settle with gravity. In effect it is like the classic method of roasting "upside down" and turning to retain a moist breast. The classic French street rotisserie works well because the machine eliminates much of the skill required to roast well.

                                          2. re: vielleanglaise

                                            "....I think it's almost impossible to properly roast a chicken: ie with the legs and breast evenly and perfectly cooked."

                                            Do try this method developed by San Francisco Judy Rogers' Zuni Cafe. I test any Parisian (yea verily French) bird against this simple, luscious flesh. I've not found one to compare yet.

                                        2. re: vielleanglaise

                                          It's not a question of equipment, but of technique. Rotisserie doesn't make better chicken, just easier chicken. I wrote extensively about how to achieve perfect cooking of a whole roast chicken, for instance here:

                                        3. re: souphie

                                          On my next trip we have to get together. I'll smuggle in a few corn fed and properly aged Black Angus sirloin burgers from the farm down the road. If you can say with a straight face after one bit that these are only as good as a "Big Beef" from McD's, I will on the spot write a check for $1,000 to UNICEF.

                                          1. re: hychka

                                            Dude, I did not say that. I was talking about the sandwich. My point is, let's not use your good beef for a cheeseburger: let's grill it with, say, a blue cheese sauce and forget about buns, pickles etc.

                                            1. re: souphie

                                              I don't like those buns either. Sorry if I knee-jerked.

                                            2. re: hychka

                                              Hychka, if you're going to all that trouble, why not bring in some grass fed beef? Feeding corn to cows is just unnatural and not what their systems have evolved to digest well. I know most Americans have grown up used to the taste of corn fed beef, but that's because they usually don't have access to the real thing.

                                              Having said that, I'd probably also agree with you, hychka, that your cornburgers will taste a lot better than the meat of hundreds of cows from dozens of countries that go into one typical fast-food burger.

                                              Souphie, re your comment following, I say "the bun is for fun." Why else would you grind up good beef if not to make an easy eating, hopefully grease-dripping sandwich? Otherwise, leave it as a steak and definitely no bun.

                                              1. re: RandyB


                                                I'm on the "corn fed" and "street chicken" sides on these threads.

                                        4. re: souphie

                                          "a big needle and goes inside the bird, makes the breast thicker and therefore less dry (I like to call it the wonderbra effect)"

                                          hahahaha. You are forgiven, nearly.

                                        5. re: Porthos

                                          As Parigi pointed out upthread, Maitre Volailler on Rue St. Lazare, sold his shop over a year ago and the persistent, long lines are no longer there. Ms. L. and I were saddened by the change.

                                          1. re: Laidback

                                            That was your Chicken Man?! I was hoping it was some other chicken man...

                                            Thanks for the heads up so I don't go wandering in circles in May.

                                            To Souphie, great post! I suspect I'll have a hard time finding one that trusses the chicken the old fashioned way.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              Thanks. It's not that hard to find butchers that truss chicken the right way, but they're definitely not in the majority. I remember there's one on rue de Vaugirard close to Volontaires, for instance. And at least it's something that is easy to check. Also, anyone who does that is more likely to know something about chicken than François Simon.

                                              1. re: souphie

                                                I meant hard to find a rotisseur that roasts chicken trussed that way. Maybe I'm wrong. I'll try to use that as one of my guides.

                                                Any recommendations from Parigi or Laidback or anyone for tha matter on who they go to in place of the Chicken Man these days (especially around the 1st or the 2nd, even the 7th) would be greatly appreciated.

                                  2. Our most memorable street chicken was purchased during our jet-lag stroll on our very first visit to Paris. Our apartment was in the 7th and we found rue Cler.And, the roast chicken smell was overwhelming! So, we bought the biggest, plumpist bird plus potatos and drippings and lots of other things up and down the street. And, we had a feast on our balcony with its view of le Tour Effiel although it was March and quite chilly. My two younger daughters were with us and they repeat that story again and again.

                                    Now "the street chicken" is a "must meal!"

                                    1. L'ami Louis if you want to spend a fortune ($60+ for a whole roast chicken)
                                      Allard (if you don't) for awesome Poulet de Bresse.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Markcron

                                        My only concern is that my daughter and I can't do justice to the whole chicken and I hate to waste food. Do they sell half a chicken? I would think not.

                                        1. re: maya1

                                          Yes! On rue Cler...

                                          Also, see Porthos above.

                                        2. re: Markcron

                                          I never mind repeating myself, so here it goes: 68€ for a whole Coucou de Rennes roasted is NOT expensive by any reasonable standard. It's certainly much less expensive than 30€ (or even 20) for a quarter of a Bresse (which should not be roasted)or lesser chicken.

                                          1. re: souphie

                                            Maya1 will know by now that there are MANY opinions on roast chicken.

                                            I hadn't thought of buying one less than done and finishing it off in the apartment. Great idea when we plan on eating in!

                                            But 60 EU for a chicken......oouuuuuuchhh!!!

                                            1. re: hychka

                                              It's not an opinion. It's a number question. If you're ready to pay 20€ for a quarter of a chicken, why do you find 68€ expensive for a better, whole chicken? The retail price for a whole, big Coucou de Rennes is easily in the 30€ range.

                                              That said, I think you raise the most important issue: France is probably the only country in the world where there is a market for chickens that are worth 20€ a kilo, that have grown for over 120 days, with over 10sqm of real estate each, and are from carefully selected breeds. You don't have that kind of quality chicken in other countries simply because people do think that chicken is worth 3$/lb at most.

                                              1. re: souphie

                                                To your point, Perdue whole chickens are currently priced at $0.95 per pound in our local store. (Roasted on my Weber, these taste pretty darn good. Never had a complaint.) So, at current exchange rates and with metric conversion, I could have about 12 pounds of Perdue whole chickens for one pound of French chicken. Yah, that does sound expensive.

                                                1. re: hychka

                                                  You know how it works.
                                                  Once you taste well-sourced chicken, or well-sourced anything, you can't go back.