Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Manhattan Valley for a new rotisserie chicken-slash-Mediterranean tapas restaurant.
Infamous Chicken, a brand-new rotisserie chicken/Mediterranean tapas restaurant from the owners of Marlow Bistro (located next door) is now serving up $17 plates of (2) pork ribs, no sides included, at Amsterdam and 109th Street. But they've also got some promise in their pretty decent chicken dishes.
With a cheeky name like Infamous Chicken, you might expect a contemporary-looking, Instagram-friendly sort of spot, but the aesthetic here plays it Upper West Side Safe. There's blue-and-white tiling on the wrap-around bar, dark wood all around, earth-toned leather chairs and throw pillows, lots of plants, pale-green painted brick walls, and dim lighting from hanging lamps. It's a fine looking room, but it's not something you haven't seen a dozen times before.
Either way, they seemed to not be expecting guests when we arrived for dinner on a recent Sunday night. The only server on duty was a total pro and tried her best, but the place is too large to expect a waitstaff of one to carry the load. They were also actively discouraging people from ordering the namesake chicken, claiming it would take at least 20 minutes to prepare. Kitchen staff were entering and leaving the front door at a rapid clip, looking harried and sighing deeply, clearly doing double duty here and at Marlow next door. None of this made for an especially relaxing experience.
All of which is unfortunate, because head chef Zivko Radojcic and his crew can obviously cook. Take the Rotisserie Chicken, which took just about five minutes to arrive at our table. The bird was small, and overpriced at $14 for a half, no sides included, but it did taste really good—the meat juicy all the way through, with a crackling, well-seasoned skin. The trio of sauces—a lively chipotle mayo, a sweet onion jam, and a garlicky salsa verde—were all accomplished as well.
The Pork Ribs were a bit of a head-scratcher. Again, the meat itself was nice and tender, but there was hardly any of it on these two sad bones, with no accompanying sides to distract you. Obviously to make a real meal at Infamous Chicken you're going to have to dive deeply into the tapas and sides section of the menu. We had mixed results.
The Bombas, four little fried balls of mashed potato, lacked the expected stuffing, but were still hearty and satisfying, the dollop of harissa adding a welcome punch. The Mushroom Pie also had some love in it, a soft and flaky phyllo filled with fungi and feta. (No, I don't really understand what either of these are doing at a chicken-n-rib spot either.) The Falafel was forgettable, even with the alarmingly bright beet hummus, and the Rainbow Carrots were charred but too woody to really recommend. Friends of ours at another table let me sample their soggy Fried Chickpeas. Thanks?
Infamous Chicken could either become a decent, semi-splurgy Manhattan Valley go-to (the place was surprisingly lively by about 7 p.m. on a Sunday), or yet another overpriced disappointment. I'd love to see what these talented cooks could do with quality ingredients and a full staff.
Infamous Chicken is located at 1012 Amsterdam Avenue between 109th and 110th Streets (212-205-2055)