Latino restaurant and lounge. Examples of skewers there,
all grilled over a wood-burning grill, include white Florida
shrimp topped with aji amarillo coulis consisting of habañero
chili, garlic, Spanish onion, yellow bell pepper, turmeric,
white vinegar, salt and pepper, as well as layered chicken
thigh strips and scallion tops, topped with chipotle aioli.
“We are in the process of adding accompaniments for them,
but they often are ordered with various sides, such as roasted
mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, chorizo hash, tropical salad or
deviled eggs,” says Miguel Aguilar, Wynwood chef.
Influences from another part of the world are increasingly
showing up in the U.S. in the form of Japanese robata grill
restaurants, based on the tradition in Japanese homes of
grilling skewered foods in hearth fires with skewers standing
upright in sand. Purists use Japanese charcoal instead of gas,
but American restaurants often make adaptations.
“The 2½- to 3½-oz. skewers are a lighter way of eating and an
accessible price point in today’s economy,” says Hugh Moran,
executive chef of POD, a Philadelphia restaurant owned by
STARR Restaurants that includes a robata grill menu. Skewers
are priced from $6 for vegetables to $18 for king crab.
POD’s grill is gas-assisted, but does use the Japanese
charcoal in baskets under the grate, Moran says. The
grill heats up to 1200ºF. There are usually between nine
and 12 skewer choices available daily. A few choices are
prawns with spiced yuzu butter, flavored with a Japanese
citrus juice; jumbo asparagus with tare, a sweet and salty
soy glaze, and bonito, dried fish flakes; and king trumpet
mushroom with ginger shiso butter, flavored with an herb
that has mint and curry characteristics.
“Customers may get two or three for a first course or an
entree,” Moran says, adding that one order is two skewers
containing three-to-four pieces of food. “Many eat family-style. It makes the dining experience more fun.”
Kebabs also are common in Bombay and central India,
says Sunil Kumar, executive chef of Bombay Spice in
Chicago, which also has an outpost in Phoenix. He uses
TOP: At POD, these prawns are grilled over the hot robata grill, then sprinkled with chile
powder and brushed with yuzu butter.
BOTTOM: Wynwood Kitchen & Bar’s skewers of layered chicken thigh strips/scallion tops
with chipotle aioli.
authentic recipes for Seekh kebab with lamb or chicken
with red onions, green and red bell peppers, ginger, garlic,
cilantro, lime and lemon juices and a spice mix containing
roasted coriander seed, cumin seed, garam masala, paprika,
turmeric and dry mango power.
CAROLYN WALKUP IS A CHICAGO-BASED FREELANCE WRITER WHO HAS LONG SPECIALIZED
IN FOOD AND FOODSERVICE.
PHOTO CREDIT: Top, Crystal Wang; bottom, Andrew Meade
Meatless skewers are another option at restaurants that have
a demand for them. Celebrity chef José Andrés has a low-calorie tomato/watermelon skewer at The Bazaar by José
Andrés in Beverly Hills. Plum tomatoes and watermelon
bites are dressed with a reduction of sherry vinegar and
lemon juice. The tapas restaurant serves five of these
skewers per serving.