Rotisserie chickens are a godsend in the realm of weeknight dinner prep—their ubiquity and price point offer a low barrier to entry and the leftovers can be endlessly repurposed to concoct all manner of winner winner chicken dinner. There’s also the fact that they taste delicious on their own despite their relative simplicity. And at least for me, there’s the primal satisfaction of tearing into one with your bare hands after struggling to endure the irresistible aroma on the ride home. As for its origins, perhaps it’s natural to picture our Cro-Magnon ancestors huddled around an open flame, fighting over the charred corpse of some prehistoric vulture some thousands of years ago. But the dish as we know it today wasn’t conceived until the 1950s through a couple of Swiss immigrants living in Peru. Which is to say you needn’t look any further than pollo a la brasa to find the original depiction of this supermarket staple.
It’s easier than ever to find Latin American cuisine here in the states—at least within the Lower 48. I’ve heard rumblings of a few places in town that have largely come and gone, but nothing has ever captured my eye quite like Spinz—a newcomer with a clear focus on Peruvian style chicken along with a deluge of sides. Their website offers a description of their cooking process which involves a 12-hour brine before the chickens are roasted over charcoal until reaching a balmy 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone who’s ever cooked a bird at home might be thrown off by this exceedingly high threshold, but I quietly kept my reservations in check before venturing out to enjoy some comida Peruana.
One thing to note is that Spinz functions entirely as a takeout joint, leaving me with little choice but to take my spoils back home. In hindsight, walking over to the neighboring Alpenglow Brewery for a little sit down might have been a viable option, but I digress. What little time was spent on location consisted of me peering into the kitchen; outfitted with shiny new appliances that gives off a very professional feel. As for their ordering system, it’s pretty straightforward. Their menu is centered around their trademark chicken which is sold in quarters (choice between light or dark meat), halves, or a whole. From there, all you’ve got to do is select one of several sauces and two sides to complete the combo.
Their sides are divvied up between standard and premium categories with the latter introducing an incremental upcharge when ordered separately and as part of a combo. There was an abundance of new and interesting things I had never heard of, leaving me to rely on some Google-fu to help understand it all. One item that stood out was the arroz chaufa—literally translated to “Chinese rice” and happens to be a direct result of Latin America’s vast Chinese immigrant population (who knew?). This was also recommended by one of the employees, so I obliged and decided on “guasacaca” as my second side. Based on the name and menu description, I was more or less envisioning an alternative to guacamole, only to discover it being a lot more salsa-like and paired with a handful of fried plantains.
Tostones were given in lieu of plantain chips as they had run out for the night, though it’s not quite clear where the distinction lies. Either way, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of flavor out of this bland fruit, but these turned out to be liberally seasoned (think potato chips) and completely satisfying in their own right. As one might hope, these were enhanced by the sweet and vinegary guasacaca—a tangy and refreshing accompaniment to the meal as a whole.
Next, I was eager to sample the fried rice while wondering just what kind of unique Peruvian twist had to have been employed in its creation. Visually speaking, it looked very much like what you’d get at your average Chinese joint. And one bite was enough to determine that this really was your garden variety fried rice, as my expectations continued to get shattered. That’s not to say this wasn’t good though; in fact, this version was remarkable for possessing rich, almost caramelly umami notes that lingered on my palate. The rice was pleasantly granular and it’s clear whoever made this knew what they were doing.
The crown jewel of this whole meal was, of course, the chicken, which could best be described as an volatile flavor explosion. A peppery blend of herbs and spices was beautifully adhered to the skin, which itself was well rendered, borderline crisp, and free from any unflattering rubberiness. Any fears that the meat would be overcooked had dissipated upon biting into the tender, succulent meat between both the white and dark sections—keeping in mind this had to be well after the chicken emerged from the oven. This was undoubtedly a result of the critical brining stage, which not only leaves lasting impression flavor-wise, but also alters the protein structure of the meat to help retain its moisture. If that’s a little too science-y for you, let’s just say this exceptional chicken was perfect as-is; so much so that I hardly felt the need to use up the aji amarilla sauce—a creamy, spiced concoction with a tang similar to honey mustard.
Pollo a la brasa may not be considered the gastronomic innovation it once was, yet it persists as a shining example of simple food that when prepped with the utmost care and precision, can produce something spectacular. Time will tell if Spinz can uphold the level of quality experienced on this first go around, but for now, the fast and friendly service, mouthwatering chicken, and delectable sides offer more than enough reason to explore this gateway into this trending and somewhat surprising fusion cuisine.