Rôtisserie Mavi: Worldly savoir-faire

Worldly savoir-faire

Mavi: Mondial meeting point
Photo: Joseph Yarmush

Portuguese rotisserie Mavi makes good on a touch-and-go situation

A pal had talked of "unignorable cravings" for Portuguese Rôtisserie Mavi’s chicken with piri piri sauce. This must be investigated. So the friend-cum-inductor led me there with my two best chicken connoisseurs, a day after the disappointing Portugal-France World Cup game. (It seemed best to give the owners time to mourn.)

I couldn’t decide whether the big chicken painted on the window is proud or imperious. It’s as though Mavi’s emblem challenges you to find better bird elsewhere. Looking inside, you can see the large grill, real charcoal and piles of pale meat turning into beasts of crisped beauty.

We settled in, admiring the tablecloth decorated with chickens and checkers, plastic grapes hanging from the ducts, a horseshoe by the door. The kind of homey, family place we all want nearby.

Mavi filled up quickly enough. The evening clientele started mostly with young guys, francophones, anglophones, a brave lad wearing an "Italia" tee. Over time, boisterous groups filed in, Portuguese, Africans, amorous couples canoodling, hunky men. By the night’s end, one sequin-wearing gal had settled in on her beau’s lap. At the back, a woman was talking into two cellphones at once.

We desired a variety of meats – chicken, pork, beef ribs – and figured on chorizo and squid appetizers, since grilled bird takes time, the inductor warned. Our waitress was clearly new, so we ordered using many languages and much menu-pointing. We sat back to catch up, and wait.

And wait. Our salads eventually arrived – a freshly made and ample mix of lettuce, tomato, some onion, but no appetizers in sight. When our squid sailed by to another table, we knew there’d been a problem. We finally caught our waitress’s eye to ask what’s up. Before long, the co-owner, Maria, showed up tableside, apologizing profusely, then let forth a stream of Portuguese invectives. The waitress was outta there. Turns out ours wasn’t the first order she’d bungled. Such is the cutthroat world of rotisserie chicken joints.

The abrupt dismissal of a server was mitigated by the arrival at the restaurant of Jean, Maria’s husband. Soon enough, a panoply of meat was set down before us.

We tackled the chicken – crispy without, juicy within, not too salty, with intriguing bitter notes. I wondered aloud about the herbs.

"It’s very Moorish," our inductor said.

"What?" I was confused.

"Not Moorish, more-ish. As in you want more." That explained it. I wish we’d had the foresight to ask for sauce on the side too, as we’d forgotten to order it spicy. No matter, the regular chicken stood up for itself and crowed. The other standout was the pork steak: tender, juicy, a little bit spicy. Chorizo was good, ribs were thin for grill-ability but flavourful, the accompanying fries were similarly more-ish. Even the sides of rice were perfectly fine, made with stock and some veggies.

After we reduced the flesh to mere bones, complimentary Portuguese egg tarts showed up, dusted with cinnamon, grilled for a moment to warm them up and impart a gentle smokiness. Even with our sweet tooth assuaged, we couldn’t resist sharing some of Maria’s wonderful homemade flan. Often Montreal’s flan is like crème caramel, but Maria’s was a slab of slightly cakey and grainy pudding, not too sweet, with a coffee-like quality to the burnt sugar taste. Jean further made amends for the earlier mishaps by pouring us brandy.

Like with any familial gathering, sometimes there are eruptions of chaos. But Jean and Maria were quick to set things right, and their food and care more than made up for the gaffes. If you know any good waitresses, send ‘em along. If you’ve a hankering for grilled chicken, head there yourself.

Rôtisserie Mavi
5192 Gatineau; 514-340-9664
Dinner for two, including tax, excluding tip: $22-$40

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