If you’ve a hankering for spice-rubbed, wood charcoal-roasted spatchcock chicken like you used to find in the tiny Charlotte Street joint called Yre’s’ (neon orange and lime green slapped on crumbling plaster walls, demolished in 2010) — head to Vanier. Yre’s seems to have been reborn in two places: YKO on McArthur Avenue (where Yre’s chef Moussa Coulibaly first landed, I understand) and the new Pili Pili on Montreal Road where Coulibaly now cooks. Or so I’m told. No sign of him at my visit. My clever idea was that I’d compare the two places. So I ordered one whole chicken from each, along with rice, plantain, and salad. And then I transported my fragrant packages to the park, because this is the kind of food that screams out to be taken to the closest picnic spot and devoured. My mistake was in choosing an off-leash dog park. Within seconds of tearing open the packages, I had made 14 best friends. Smart dogs. Both birds were immensely flavourful and smoky-succulent. Both were spice rubbed and left to marinate before they hit the grill, and the finished meat — the white as well as the dark — was tender and juicy, the skin crisp and aromatic. Both birds were ordered ‘spicy’ and both delivered with lip buzzing pleasure.
- YKO’s rice was slightly more interesting, reddened with tomato and plumped up with a bit of steamed carrot and cabbage. Pili Pili’s rice was forgettable, dotted with frozen mixed veg.
- YKO had run out of salad, apparently, while Pili Pili’s salad was iceberg lettuce and bottle dressing dull.
- YKO’s plantain was sweeter, richer, left longer in the roaster such that the natural sugars caramelized the rounds. Pili Pili’s were meatier, more savoury, less wet. Both were very good.
One of these birds could probably serve four normal people, but do consider tomorrow’s lunch: the bird is sensational cold. Order two. And leftover plantain makes a seriously good breakfast. Trust me.
Cost: Pili Pili: whole chickens, $13.75; plantain $6; rice $5. YKO’s whole bird, $15 (slightly larger? And comes with a tomato-onion salsa); plantain $5; rice $6. Hours: Pili Pili: Monday to Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. YKO: Daily, noon to 10 p.m. Location: Pili Pili Grilled Chicken, 355 Montreal Rd., 613-695-7454. YKO Charcoal & BBQ Chicken, 375 McArthur Ave., 613-747-8947.