It's a piece of knowledge that Dernovsek, a native of Thailand, withholds from her employees and customers alike. She won't divulge the exact combination of 12 herbs and spices that give her Peruvian-style rotisserie broiled chicken its unique flavor.
"I've never told anyone, except my son. No one knows," says Dernovsek, owner of Edy's Chicken & Steak in Falls Church. The reticent chef will say that the original recipe for the marinade came from a friend she visited a decade ago in Peru where there were these wonderful chicken places on every corner."
Meanwhile, back in Falls Church, Dernovsek had a sandwich shop that wasn't attracting customers. "It just wasn't working out," she says. Dernovsek knew it was time to change her concept. Chicken seemed to be the way to go. But, she says, "the Peruvian recipe was only so-so."
She fiddled with the chicken recipe for three months, trying different spice mixtures. Then, she added spices that are typically used in her hometown of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Bingo. "I came up with the perfect combination." Dernovsek opened Edy's Chicken & Steak just as the rotisserie chicken craze was getting off the ground.
Three months ago Dernovsek moved her operation into a modern building on busy Leesburg Pike that has housed at various times Bob's Big Boy, California Pizza Kitchen and the turkey-carving chain Koo Koo Roo. The bright space with lots of windows has 8 booths and 10 tables. Service is counter-style. Long lines form at the lunch and dinner hour. Beautifully browned chickens sizzle and revolve in four wood-fired rotisserie ovens. Each day between 300 to 400 chickens are cooked and served.
And we know why chickens are flying out the door. This delicious bird (whole chicken, $11.50), includes tossed salad and choice of french fries, yuca, rice or Peruvian-style potato salad. It was very moist and tender with just the right amount of seasonings - whatever they are - on the crispy skin. Two dipping sauces that complement the chicken are served with every order - a light "white" sauce made of mayonnaise and vinegar and a tangy "green" sauce strongly flavored with cilantro and a kick of jalapeno pepper.
But there's more on the menu than great chicken.
Marucha ($9.95, served with french fries and tossed salad), a pounded top round steak, which is cooked to order, was nicely seasoned, flavorful and chewy (in a good way). We were astounded by the portion size of the mixed grill ($11.95, served with french fries and tossed salad); it included a large pork shoulder chop, chicken, a patty of chorizo sausage and a big slab of pounded sirloin steak. Our favorite side dish was the platanos ($1.50). The fried sweet bananas were not the least bit greasy. Peruvian-style potato salad combines large chunks of boiled potato with beets and carrots, mixed with an oil dressing.
What's for dessert? Edy's Cafe, a separate section of the restaurant, has an espresso bar and assorted cakes by the slice as well as Peruvian-style ice cream in six tropical fruit flavors ($2 per portion). We sampled the unusual ice creams, which had a creamy texture and reminded us somewhat of sweetened condensed milk.
The most popular flavor with customers from Central and South America is lucuma, a burnt orange-colored ice cream with a hint of butterscotch - an acquired taste if there ever was one. Overly sweet and odd maracuya as well as pina (pineapple) also will not appeal to everyone. We can recommend the creamy and rich coconut, mango and cherimoya ice cream.
-- Walter Nicholls