Everyone in Los Angeles and Korea already knows that KyoChon makes the best fried chicken in the world, but I shrugged it off because I’m an unfortunate combination of stupid and lazy.
Well, that’s all temporarily resolved: today I discovered that KyoChon Chicken, a tiny little Koreatown miracle, is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. This is going to be a problem.
There’s a certain Asian eating establishment aesthetic that has been much discussed in recent years and will gain nothing additional by my personal views. However, I do want to add that I like it. Along the same lines as Pinkberry, KyoChon is clean and cute and somehow cutting-edge and retro at the same time. I didn’t get any photographs of the interior of the store (I initially left the house to get a residential parking permit, so a camera seemed unnecessary), but The Gastronomer did, so in accordance with my aforementioned laziness I’ll let her do the legwork for me. Mike remarked that the combination of design aesthetic and music (club-mix K-pop) made him feel, happily, that he was inside an episode of Cowboy Bebop.
After quickly looking over the menu, we decided to settle on an order of legs (4) which KyoChon charmingly calls “sticks” (someone needs to contact KyoChon corporate and make sure that take-out orders of legs are referred to as “get-away sticks”), fried original style (garlic soy), and one side order of pickled radish. This timidity was purely due to financial reasons – fried chicken isn’t super-cheap, and the order plus a soda and tip ran us just under $15. Knowing now that it would be THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN I’D EVER EAT has since made me re-categorize that $15 as an incredibly good deal.
Anyway, we ordered and then settled down to wait. I knew it would be a while since I’d read that the chicken is largely made to-order, and the place was totally empty (!?) save for two folks that dropped in to grab call-in orders before us. Still, I was oddly touched when the girl working brought us (apparently customary?) tiny servings of vanilla soft-serve to tide us over while we waited. We also didn’t know it yet, but they gave us an extra piece of chicken, gratis, as well.
When ready, our bag was cute and tidy and small (much smaller than that picture looks, I should have used something for scale) and filled my car with the most outrageously, startlingly fantastic odor. It was agony driving home.
Though we live a short distance away, by the time we were home our stomachs were gurgling menacingly and I couldn’t even be bothered to take a decent photo of the un-crated goods. The chicken was taped into a demure little paper box and the pickled radish was sealed into a mass-produced plastic container. None of this mattered. All that mattered was getting into the box as fast as possible.
And what a hallow moment, this moment I captured – forever frozen in time – of the seconds before I would taste the finest fried food I’d ever encountered. Like good french fries, Korean chicken is fried twice and only very thinly coated, so that it seems, as you are eating it, as though it might even be baked. There is almost no noticeable grease on the exterior, and the rough bits that appear to be breading are actually small chunks of garlic. The above piece doesn’t demonstrate as well as others did, but the legs are slashed deep with a knife before frying to ensure even cooking.
The flavor is slightly sweet, pretty salty and mildly garlicky, but the texture is the moment of epiphany. Each piece is sort of crispy-chewy, like chicken jerky, but somehow remains moist and fresh. There’s no danger of chicken juice and oil running down your chin as is the case with even the best American fried chicken. KyoChon is such a revelation of meat-eating, I’m not even sure I could articulate to a vegetarian what the experience is like.
I commonly find one piece of fried chicken to be satisfactory (I think I might have a wonky gall-bladder or something, because more than one piece of anything fried upsets my stomach to the point of discomfort) but after three pieces of KyoChon chicken I sat there, half amazed at my own gluttony and half-hysterical for more more more. The pickled radish was is an inspired side for the salty-richness of the chicken, and I crunched my way through the entire container in an effort to calm my appetite down. This is ridiculous! I felt like I’d been drugged.
Even now I feel, well, good. It’s been about an hour and I certainly do not feel like I ate three pieces of fried chicken for lunch. I feel light and satisfied. I feel like I could eat it again for dinner. This, as already noted, is going to be a problem.July 27th, 2009 | Eatin' Fancy, Obsessed