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The Peterboro Chef Brion Wong has perfected the art of Almond Boneless Chicken

The Peterboro

420 Peterboro St, Detroit, MI 48201
  • Neighborhood: Midtown
  • Price Level:   
  • Vegetarian Options
  • Cards Accepted

Tags: chinese, midtown, almond-boneless-chicken, the-peterboro

Two bites into our first dinner at The Peterboro, we had a flavor flashback that felt akin to Anton Ego tasting ratatouille for the first time since childhood.

Friday nights were Chinese takeout night at our house. We’d all sit down for an episode of Family Matters and a big plate of almond boneless chicken. It was the perfect Chinese dish for finicky kids: basically boneless fried chicken. No spices, no strange sauces. We gobbled it up.

There was a soup that came with the meal, a gorgeous, thick mess of broth studded with water chestnuts, celery and mushrooms that our mom absolutely loved. She’d polish off the whole container.

One night, they forgot the soup. When Dad called up to tell them the error, the person on the other end of the line politely explained that soup didn’t come with the dinners. That’s gravy. For almond chicken.

Mom had been eating gravy. By the bowlful.

We’re definitely going to be grounded for telling that story. But we tell you all that to explain our love for almond boneless chicken. As kids, it was the crispy, golden batter and the tender chicken that we adored. And as adults, it’s kinda the sauce that makes the dish. (We understand now, Mom.)

Chef Brion Wong, formerly of Antietam by way of Brooklyn, has perfected the art of almond chicken at his Midtown restaurant The Peterboro. Brion’s version is actually way better than anything we’d get from our local takeout joint. The chicken is tender and juicy, smothered in just enough sauce to give it extra flavor, without making the golden fried exterior soggy. The gravy is a craveworthy combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce and chicken broth, with mild seasonings. It’s elegantly plated on a bed of fresh lettuce with a sprinkling of microgreens on top.

Almond boneless chicken has a mysterious history as a recipe. It’s not from China; it’s kinda a bastardized version of Chinese food, one that seems to have spontaneously appeared one day on the menus of metro Detroit restaurants in the mid-1900s.

Maybe it’s a hybrid of southern fried chicken and stir fry with brown sauce. It might have Cantonese origins, as this region gave us fried chicken with sweet and sour sauce and whole crispy fried chickens. Whatever inspired the recipe, it’s a uniquely local dish that – even to this day – can be tough to find outside the mitten. Maybe our most iconic food shouldn’t be the coney or the square pizza.

Of course you don’t have to be an almond chicken devotee to enjoy dinner at the Peterboro. Located in the Cass Corridor’s former Chinatown district, their bill of fare is stacked with mouthwatering, modern interpretations of classic and American Chinese recipes.  You might start off your meal with a few small plates, perfect for sharing (or scarfing all by yourself). Salt and pepper calamari, crab rangoon and a soba noodle salad are perennial crowd pleasers.

Then, you move onto the large plates. These are meant to be shareable, too, if that’s your thing.

The mapo tofu is one of our personal favorites. Big tender cubes of tofu and shiitake mushrooms are simmered in a fiery broth with Szechuan numbing spices. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this is a dish to try.

Another dish you’ll want to stuff your face with is the Hong Kong style pan fried noodles. Don’t expect a wiggly pile of limp pasta here; these noodles are crispy and thin, and a pleasure to devour. They’re sauteed with yu choy (a green, leafy veg).

When you’re craving something meaty, go for the Hunan lamb ribs. They are braised in soy and rubbed with five spice powder. The ribs come out wonderfully tender, but still with enough of a chew to give you the satisfaction of ripping the meat from the bone with your own teeth.

The Peterboro also has a late night menu which includes things like cheeseburger egg rolls and crispy chicken wings with chrysanthemum honey. Exactly what our taste buds crave at 1 a.m. on a Friday. Or 10 p.m. on a Wednesday.

Our sincere apologies to Colleen Connolly for the gravy story (please don’t ground us). And special shout out to Maureen Clark, who we hope is enjoying a comfortable and swift recovery. Hang in there, Mo.

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