The Jazzy Bird

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Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken from the jazzy bird

“I’m confident in saying that I have the best chicken in Northern California,” proclaims chef Matt Wambsgans. He may be right. At The Jazzy Bird, the Peruvian-style rotisserie joint that he and his wife, Reagan, opened last spring, Wambsgans turns out birds so succulent, so flavorful, that after trying one, you may kick yourself for settling for the bland supermarket deli version before now.

It all starts with Rocky-brand free-range chickens and a Thomas Keller brine recipe that Wambsgans tweaked until he got it exactly to his liking. “The chickens sit for up to two days in the brine,” he explains, then air-dry in the fridge for 24 hours “so they get a nice, sticky skin that can absorb the marinade.” The marinade’s surprise ingredient: huacatay, a pungent black mint native to Peru.

The birds are slow-roasted to perfection—dark, blistered skin; moist, boldly seasoned meat—in an $18,000 oven imported from Peru. “The last 10 minutes, I add charcoal to it. There’s no knob or anything, so I can’t just adjust the gas. It’s an art, and I’ve got it down,” says Wambsgans, who fell in love with pollo a la brasa at Peruvian restaurants around Washington, D.C., where he was raised. “I’m trying to replicate the taste I grew up eating.”

In the Peruvian tradition, the chicken is served with two house-made sauces: a piquant garlic aioli made with aji amarillo peppers, and a sharp salsa verde brightened by lime juice, jalapeño and cilantro. Both sauces are excellent accompaniments to the thick, golden fries that come as a side dish. (Rice is the other option.)

The Jazzy Bird, which occupies the kitchen inside Track 7 Brewing Company’s East Sacramento taproom, has an abbreviated, meat-centric menu for now—don’t come expecting a salad. But Wambsgans has ambitious plans for the venture once he finds his rhythm (and more employees). “I want to focus on what I do well, and I always want to send out quality food, so I am taking my time.”

The Jazzy Bird

5090 Folsom Blvd.;
thejazzybird.com