First Look: With Flock, Cory Vitiello joins the high-end rotisserie chicken trend
Cory Vitiello (right) mans the counter at his newly-opened restaurant, Flock.
Image: Suresh Doss
The rotisserie chicken trend that really took hold in the U.S. last year, with big name chefs focusing their attention on cabinet ovens filled with meat turning on spits, has come to Toronto. Flock from chef Cory Vitiello (Harbord Room, THR and Co.) opened its doors yesterday in the city’s Entertainment district.
“I think we’re moving away from flavorless pre-made sandwiches and salads. Also the fatty, greasy dishes,” Vitiello said of his new restaurant.
The roast chicken ($17 for a full bird, $9 for half, $5 for a quarter) is the main event at Flock.
I had the chance to speak to Vitiello after he wrapped up his first lunch service. About a 150 people showed up in the first hour for his take on slow-roasted chicken and healthy salads.
“With Flock, I wanted to focus on two styles of eating. Healthy salads and vegetables, and rotisserie chicken which is a personal favourite of mine,” Vitiello said as he opened the doors to the restaurant’s star attraction, a custom-made rotisserie from acclaimed French manufacturer Rotisol.
That is the same company that Daniel Boulud got his rotisserie from earlier this month for the upcoming Café Boulud reboot.
Vitiello in front of the custom-made French oven.
Flock’s unit has eight individual motors, with customizable temperature units that allow the restaurant to cook up to 48 chickens every 70 minutes. As the birds slowly turn and roast, drippings fall to the bottom and flavour sweet potatoes, which are served as a side with chili and lime salt.
Rotisserie has become a trend over the past two years, with notable American chefs riffing on what is otherwise a supermarket product. Perhaps the most popular example of this is Eataly’s bustling La Rosticceria station at the New York location. Also using a Rotisol oven, Eataly feeds hundreds daily with their range of spit-roasted chicken and prime rib.
On a day-to-day basis the kitchen at Flock will be led by chef Etienne Regis, the saucier and chef de partie at Harbord Room. Regis and Vitiello wrote the launch menu for Flock which currently features four salads and rotisserie chicken, with sides or in a sandwich.
Vitiello and Regis get their free-range birds from Farm Fresh Poultry Co. in Harrison, Ontario. The birds are rubbed with a house blend of barbecue spices and left to dry cure for 24 hours. Then they’re roasted for 60 to 70 minutes.
“We’re not going for super crispy skin, that’s not our thing. Our goal is make really juicy, well seasoned roast chicken,” Vitiello said as he placed a bowl of freshly cut meat on the table. He then sauced the bird with two house-made concoctions: a chimichurri sauce and a habanero based Caribbean hot sauce made with mango, carrot, ginger, curry powder and herbs. The sauces are instant stars, slightly chunky and full of peppery flavor without being overly hot.
Nothing says “healthy salad” like the trendy combination of kale and quinoa.
Along with the roast chicken, Regis and Vitiello have crafted four healthy salads. The BOHO Flock ($11 for a full, $7 for a half) – marinated kale with a healthy dose of red quinoa, raw beets, fried currants, sweet peppers, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds. Before it was handed to me, it got a generous coating of beet basil orange vinaigrette. Vitiello wanted to create health conscious vinaigrettes with as little oil as possible. “About 20% of the oil you would normally see, more vegetable based, acid based. The squash side has a carrot ginger miso vinaigrette”.
There are no fries on the menu at Flock, instead they offer healthy sides like this steamed acorn squash.
The side he’s referring to is a bowl of steamed acorn squash ($4), tender chunks that are slightly sweet and kicked up by a house-made chili yogurt. The crunch comes from toasted pumpkin seeds.
When I asked if he plans on using the Rotisol for any specials, “We’ve toyed with the idea of doing a prime rib on the rotisserie, maybe sometime in the near future we’ll have a prime rib sandwich special”. Vitiello said. For now he wants to keep it simple, roast chicken with hot sauces. He also wants the product to be as fresh as possible out of the rotisserie “Nothing sits for more than 15 or 20 minutes”.
Despite about a dozen seats by the window, he space is clearly designed as a takeout counter rather than a sit-down restaurant.
Flock is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Flock, 330 Adelaide Street W., 647-483-5625