Hota | Restaurant review
Fried chicken on Sundays. That’s all you need to know.
If there’s one thing you need to know about Hota (and there really is only one thing), it’s this: Sunday-night fried chicken. Jonadab Silva and Erin Silva Winston, the married couple who own and cook at this restaurant, instituted the Sunday-night tradition when they bought and rebranded Jacky’s on Prairie, where Silva had been cooking for years. It may be the single most important change they made. The chicken is part of a three-course meal that is shockingly inexpensive ($19) for the amount of food thrown at you. My table, which ordered the meal for two (the minimum allowed), received a giant bowl of salad greens tossed pleasantly with beets; two full-size casserole dishes, one with that chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, the other with beef enchiladas; and a long platter of bread pudding topped with three scoops of vanilla ice cream. The enchiladas—a nod to Jonadab’s Mexican childhood—are undistinguished. But the darkly fried chicken has a thick, well-spiced crust and impossibly juicy flesh. The coating comes off the chicken easily and gets on your clothes, but that’s about the only bad thing you can say about it.
Some of the other food at Hota is not so lucky. Though I experienced one dish that was truly distasteful (mussels with the flavor of polluted water), the more common feeling I had here was one of boredom. I couldn’t find anything to get excited about in my rack of lamb with couscous, nor in the appetizer of flautas. There were dishes that surprised me with their deliciousness, like a really vibrant plate of langoustines, and a comforting plate of three types of gnocchi (squash, cauliflower, potato). But even with these dishes there were murmurs at my table: Are these langoustines overcooked? Aren’t these gnocchi a little doughy?
On Sunday night, there were no murmurs except one of annoyance when our entrées arrived while we were still working on our appetizers. This might be a persistent flaw of Hota’s, because it wasn’t the first time it had happened to me. Ten minutes after the appetizers arrived on my first visit, our table was quickly cleared of half-eaten plates to make room for entrées that were getting cold on a server’s tray. That night, Jonadab apologized profusely and warded off any irritation with a selection of his wife’s very delicious desserts (a pear tart served with ginger puree; citrus-kissed doughnuts oozing with cream). On Sunday night, no such reparations were provided. But so what? In the warm light of Hota’s dining room, eating fried chicken with our bare hands, it would have been impossible to make us happier anyway.