Taking Chicken for a Spin at Chicken Hut

Restaurant Review
You’ve gone past those shops in Langley, or Wheaton or Manassass and seen the signs that read pollo a la Brasa and have tried to pull out your 9th grade Spanish skills. You’ve smelled the unmistakable aroma of chicken juices hitting the grill wafting out from these places  and understood the reason for the crowds of people you’ve seen lined up inside. And you know that chicken isn’t halal. But you want it. It smells good. You love charcoal grilled chicken. You keep driving past, intending to go back one day and give the owners of these places dawah so they’ll become Muslim and then put halal chicken on those grills.

Ok, so go ahead and give the owners the dawah, but in the meantime you can have that halal Peruvian-style grilled pollo (pronounced “POY-yo) at Chicken Hut in Clinton, MD. Or get your chicken done barbeque-style, tandoori, sweet and sour or fried, hot wings, curried, in a wrap, in a salad, in a sub, or kabobed. Owner Mohiuddin Mansur knows what his customers want, and chef Avila Brayan and his crew know how to make it. Out of this one relatively small kitchen comes southern American style, Indo-pak style, Asian-influenced or Louisiana-hot, and of course, Peruvian.

Where’d all this mestizaje come from? Peruvian cuisine is truly international, with heavy influences from Africa, Spain, China and Europe. Br. Mohiuddin capitalized on all of them during his 22 years in the food business. He used to go to a little place in Virginia for their Peruvian chicken, and at the suggestion of his wife Sis. Hafsa, experimented with a way to make the pollo a la Brasa without the customary beer-based marinade, then opened his own halal Peruvian restaurant.  Non-Muslims come to Chicken Hut for the fresh chicken and don’t even know it’s made the halal way. Br. Mohuiddin even received a letter from an out-of-state inmate once who requested a menu; seems the man was nearing parole and was ready to taste freedom and Chicken Hut’s chicken all in the same day.

The pollo a la Brasa is what it’s all about at Chicken Hut, and after you’ve been soothed by the muted earth tones of the décor and the overall cleanliness of  the place,  that aroma of fresh, halal chicken winding its way from the huge coal-fired rotisserie gets you all worked up again. Close to a dozen whole chickens, marinated in special Peruvian spices, pirouette slowly over smoky crimson coals. Each pass renders them more golden, sealing in juices underneath crispy skin. Match it up with Peruvian rice and pinto beans for a classic dish.

Br. Mohiuddin, being Bangladeshi, had to include el marisco so he’s got platters for your palate; whole fried tilapia, whiting tenders, crackling-skinned red snapper, sautéed shrimp and grilled salmon. The salmon, not to be missed with its moist and flaky texture, is paired unexpectedly with a baked sweet potato lightly kissed with a bit of butter. It’s a nice touch instead of the usual fries. This platter comes with a side of string beans, but substitute that for the okra: this is okra as it’s meant to be, firm, fresh and still green.

If you have an issue with decision-making, you can switch up any platter’s fixings with sides that range from homemade cornbread, potato salad, string beans, mac and cheese, a Bangla-influenced curried cabbage, mashed potatoes with gravy, cole slaw, collard greens with a hint of vinegar like your grandmother used to make, corn, or Peruvian pinto beans.

From a whole chicken to a half, or a quarter section, or pulled off the bone, your prices will range from $5.49 to $10.99 for any of this deliciousness. Take your time and decide, todo es bueno.

Chicken Hut – 8849 Branch Ave., Clinton, MD 20735.  301-868-1669. Monday -Thursday 11am to 10pm; Friday and Saturday 11am to 11pm; Sunday 12pm to 9pm.   www.chickhut.com