At open-air markets, especially in the Mediterranean, the smell of rotisserie-roasted birds wafts over the entire market, goading you into following that scent right to the source. Take it home, eat it right there — you have to have it. In the city, we're lucky enough to have some chefs and cooks who revel in the play of live flames and a wood-fired rotisserie. And some are roasting much more than the usual (and delicious) chicken: other birds, lamb, rabbit, pork. Nothing else gives that smoky, caramelized skin or that subtle wood-smoke taste. Here are three places to try.
Superba Food + Bread
Jason Travi first worked with a wood-fired rotisserie at Gino Angelini's short-lived La Terza. Now at Superba Food + Bread, he cooks leg of lamb scented with vadouvan on the rotisserie, a black rice salad with nuggets of rotisserie-roasted pineapple (shades of Dinner by Heston in London) and chicken with panzanella. He's just added a pork belly porchetta to the lineup, and on Tuesdays, a superb half a duck, lightly smoked first and then roasted on that wood-fired rotisserie and presented with greens and radishes. Don't forget to order potatoes with schmaltz and pimentón, and a loaf of bread for home.
1900 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, (310) 907-5075, superbafoodandbread.com. Rotisserie items, $20 to $29.
Vincenti was one of the first restaurants in L.A. to install a wood-burning rotisserie, and I used to love to sit at one of the few seats in front of it, watching ducks and pork shoulder turn on the spit. Chef and co-owner Nicola Mastronardi sets his porchetta twirling in front of the almond and olive wood-fired rotisserie. Whole ducks turn in front of the fire too. Succulent and crisp-skinned, a half duck is served with sautéed rapini and roasted potatoes. Sometimes there's rabbit stuffed with herbs and house-made sausages or kale-stuffed quail wrapped in prosciutto, both presented with shavings of black summer truffles.
11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 207-0127, vincentiristorante.com. Rotisserie items, $34 to $42.
Pollo a la Brasa
It's hard to drive by the corner of 8th Street and Western Avenue without stopping to pick up a Peruvian-style chicken roasted over flames at Pollo a la Brasa in Koreatown. The cops are there, half the neighborhood too. Even Nancy Silverton has been known to pick up a few birds for an impromptu dinner at home. The birds aren't organic or anything fancy, but they pick up a wonderful flavor from the wood. The skin is crisp and smoky — irresistible. Make sure to get some of the nicely seasoned rice and beans, and plenty of the scary-hot green aji sauce too.
764 S. Western Ave. (at 8th Street), Los Angeles, (213) 387-1531. Whole roasted chicken with sides and aji sauce, $18.