Pecking Order | Restaurant review
The secret ingredient to this chicken shack: Kristine Subido.
There’s a sauce at Pecking Order I want to smear on everything I eat for the rest of my life. It’s made of soy sauce, vinegar, chicken livers and magic. It’s called P.O. (Pecking Order) sauce on the menu, and chef Kristine Subido refers to it as lechon sauce, which is the Filipino sauce P.O. sauce is modeled after. But considering the tweaks she’s made, I’m calling it Subido Sauce. Pecking Order is disguised as a simple chicken shack, but Subido, a smart chef who knows a lot about flavor, is really the secret ingredient—to both the sauce and the restaurant overall.
I take my tangy and rich and sweet Subido Sauce with chicken. Preferably the grilled chicken, which I cut into manageable slices and rub in a puddle of Subido Sauce before eating. The grilled chicken is the best chicken at Pecking Order: It has caramelized bits of char on the skin that add a depth that, frankly, the roasted and fried versions lack. The roasted chicken is textbook, fine, the flesh maybe a little tacky; the fried is fried too deep, until the outside turns into a dark supercrust, and sacrificed is the joy of a crisp, fall-apart coating. For a restaurant so obsessed with chicken, this may seem like a fatal flaw. But the fact is that plain chicken makes up just a tiny corner of a pretty big menu. And the rest of that menu is full of gems.
The more chefery a dish requires—that is, the more opportunity Subido has to layer flavor over flavor—the better the dish. In the Pinoy eggs, a spicy and crisp take on the Scotch egg, Subido makes the longaniza sausage. In the arancini, she pairs fragrant garlic rice with a savory chicken adobo. For the chicken-and-egg noodles, Subido crafts a lovely and sophisticated broth. In the City Bird and Country Bird sandwiches, she gets aggressive, layering fried chicken with Gouda, pimento mayo and shaved onion (Country), and grilled chicken with pâté, pickles and a fried egg (City). Together, they make a pair of the best chicken sandwiches in town.
This is not to say the simple stuff should be ignored. Sides like a Mexican-inspired grilled corn salad, or a deceptively boring-looking spicy cabbage, or the soft plantains with jackfruit chutney—these alone are reasons to order a half grilled chicken with sides. But I would ignore the simple dessert, an impenetrable block of shaved ice, and finish with the sweet and gingery pickles, or one of Pecking Order’s sodalike mimosas, instead. The only risk with this option is if the restaurant is busy, the service may lag, and you may find yourself waiting a long time for that drink, or those pickles, or anything else, for that matter. It can be irritating, but keep some perspective—poor service is the only instance when this place acts like the chicken shack it pretends to be.