by Ian Froeb
"I think chicken tends to get short-shrift," says John Perkins, the formerly anonymous chef behind the caterer-mobile kitchen-underground restaurant Entre. "This is a chance to rehabilitae its image -- or at least for us to try to do that."
The "this" of which Perkins speaks is Le Coq, the chicken-centric pop-up restaurant that Entre will operate during the month of January in its new event space at 360 North Boyle Avenue in the Central West End.
Beginning on Thursday, January 3, Le Coq will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m. Diners have three prix-fixe options: three courses for $35, five courses for $55 or a family-style meal of a whole roasted chicken served in a cast-iron skillet with fingerling potatoes, two sides and dessert for $160. (The last option feeds four and must be pre-ordered.)
You can make reservations -- and Perkins soon hopes to have reservations available online -- but he also plans to keep the seating split between reservations and walk-ins. In addition, he's considering a less expensive to-go option for the whole roasted chicken meal.
The menu, which you can view on Entre's website, features dishes with chicken as the main component (chicken roulade with grits, egg-yolk sauce and apples) as well as a supporting player (chicken-skin-wrapped scallops or Brussels sprouts with smoked chicken stock, Korean chile flakes, white beans and apple butter).
"This is an idea I had three years ago," Perkins explains. "I was really compelled by the notion of serving a whole-roasted chicken on a cast-iron skillet. You don't really see that or hear about that [much].
"There are very tew things better than a whole roasted chicken."
(Riverfront Times is well aware of Perkins' love for chicken. In 2010, he assisted us -- by which we mean saved our butts from ruining multiple birds -- with our Association of Food Journalists award-winning project "Tastes Like Chicken".)
The month-long Le Coq project will also serve as an advertisement for Entre.
"The idea is, we've got this great event space that really nobody knows about," Perkins says. "Doing something like this gives us a chance to build visibility. We have chunks of time, slow months [for the catering business]. This is the way to keep ourselves busy in what would otherwise be a dead time of year."
Though Le Coq will end with the month of January, Perkins tells Gut Check he already has plans for three more pop-up concepts throughout the year. In April, he will unveil a comfort-food restaurant called A Good Man Is Hard to Find (after the classic Flannery O'Connor short story -- though we hope with fewer acts of murder involved). This summer there will be a vegetarian pop-up called Green. Finally, in the latter part of 2013, Perkins will run a "hyperlocal" pop-up called Black Walnut, which will draw everything it serves from within 25 to 50 miles.
"By everything, I mean everything," Perkins adds.
Fans of Perkins' "underground" dinners can take comfort in the news that he will continue to offer the meals in some format. However, he says, "I needed to revamp what we were doing. This is kind of the new direction we're going to be heading."