Poulet U.S.A. is casual, inexpensive, but not equal to the original

December 31, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Jonathan Soudry's fast food-style restaurant, Poulet/Jonathan's Rotisserie-Deli, has been so successful you'd think he would have opened exactly the same kind of place when he expanded to Towson. Not so. Poulet U.S.A. is a sit-down restaurant, not aJonathan Soudry's fast food-style restaurant, Poulet/Jonathan's Rotisserie-Deli, has been so successful you'd think he would have opened exactly the same kind of place when he expanded to Towson. Not so. Poulet U.S.A. is a sit-down restaurant, not a cafeteria. It also has a full menu, with much more than the excellent rotisserie chicken seasoned in the style of Soudry's native Marseille that's made the Pikesville Poulet such a hit.

Still, the concept is the same: quick, casual, inexpensive food that has some style to it. You can get beer or a glass of wine here; you're waited on by enthusiastic young servers. All in all, eating here is more relaxing than at the frenetic rotisserie-deli in Pikesville. It's more my kind of restaurant.

Except that the food isn't as good.

It's not a big thing -- a matter of a little tweaking here and there. Take the best of our meals, the rotisserie chicken platter. It's still a bargain at $6 for half a succulent little bird, crisp-skinned and herb-scented, roast potatoes and vegetables. The vegetables are plain but decent enough: steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. But the potatoes are smothered in the same herbs as the chicken, so they don't offer much of a contrast.

The chicken gumbo soup was a little too heavily thickened and much too salty. Fried ravioli, filled with jalapeno cheese, had been dipped in Italian-seasoned bread crumbs and deep-fat-fried. Too weird for my taste -- you'd do better starting with Poulet's nice little Caesar salad, a genteel version with crisp romaine, a not-too-garlicky dressing and no anchovies.

We ordered corn bread with the salad (bread doesn't come automatically), and got something that looked and tasted like a rectangular muffin, short on cornmeal and long on sugar. No butter.

A pizza with a thick crust and lots of cheese and tomatoes, topped with pieces of rotisserie chicken, was OK. The problem is that there are lots of places around where you can do better than just OK when you feel like pizza.

Our meal at Poulet U.S.A. pretty much revolved around chicken (chicken on pizza actually works better than I thought it would), but there are other options at the new restaurant. Lamb shanks and barbecued ribs are possibilities, as well as various pastas and sandwiches.

Poulet has you thinking about dessert even before you order your appetizer. The first thing you'll see when you walk in the door is a case full of temptations. If tiramisu and lemon pie and deadly chocolate cake don't appeal, Poulet also has sundaes and profiteroles -- miniature cream puffs (a bit chewy) filled with coffee ice cream and topped with fudge sauce and whipped cream.

Poulet U.S.A.

Where: 7800 York Road, Towson

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: Rotisserie chicken

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 828-0202

Prices: $5.95-$12.95

** 1/2

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