I don’t have fried chicken too often. Once upon a time, when concern about my cholesterol was but a distant concept, fried chicken would usually end up on my plate when offered. I thought these days were mostly behind me, now that I’ve trained myself to avoid these temptations. This was, of course, until I found a place nearby called BBQ Chicken.
You see, they don’t serve the standard style of fried chicken Americans know and love. No, they offer something I believe to be better: Korean fried chicken. There are vast differences in preparation between the U.S. and Korean varieties, and the results differ in turn.
The former is covered in a thick batter with plenty of seasoning, resulting in a hearty crust — the chicken itself can be near-perfect in good hands. As delicious as it is, though, it’s also quite greasy and largely avoided by health-conscious folks. Also, flabby skin might still take up the space between the crust & the chicken.
Korean fried chicken, however, is thinly battered and fried twice in slightly cooler oil. As a result, there’s a light yet satisfyingly crispy crust, moist meat and a refreshing lack of grease. It can be as spicy or mild, and sauces merely add to the flavor, rather than ruin the texture. All this, though, is only true when it’s done right.
BBQ Chicken claims to serve the best Korean fried chicken in town, and while Buddy from Elf might take that at face value, it makes me curious about what’s going on.
Turns out, what’s going on is some very, very, very good chicken.
As far as flavors and varieties go, BBQ Chicken offers them in perfect moderation. There’s original, of course, along with sweet & spicy, soy & garlic, a traditionally Korean variety involving gangjeong sauce (which offers a sweet and spicy sensation), and others with special preparations to make them spicier, crispier or crunchier than their peers.
At the base of this assortment, there are commonalities that tie them together. These take the form of two claims made by the establishment. First, like certain other Korean chicken spots, they tout their chicken as healthier due to it being fried in 100 percent olive oil.
Second, regarding the chicken itself, their point of pride is quality. Their to-go box even states it contains the “best of the best quality chicken.” As a Kanye West fan, I appreciate confidence and believe it’s a sign of good things to come, so my hopes climbed as I decided on my order.
As far as bone-in wings and drumsticks go, the price doesn’t dip below $12.49, although the smallest size offering is 10 wings or five drumsticks. As you will find out, that’s more than enough for a meal.
You can expect to pay $23-$27 for 20 wings or 10 drumsticks, and the latter could feed a family of four with the chance of leftovers afterward. You could probably do the same with the wings, although a side dish might be in order.
Seeing as I am but one dedicated journalist, I needed to think carefully about how to get a good idea of their offerings while keeping to a budget. I was happy to find their lunch special, which offers smaller versions of some entrees with two sides at $8.99.
I decided to get the variety with four of the soy & garlic wings; however, I was an hour late, so it became a dinner special that included an additional wing & a price adjustment to $10.99. They offer rice(steamed or fried), a salad or french fries as sides. I decided to go with the latter two, although rice would be a better choice for the hungrier among you. That’s not to say they weren’t generous with the others, as my plate was plenty well-supplied. I did wish the wings were a tad larger, but they looked more than appetizing enough for me to dive in as soon as the plate arrived.
The first thing I noticed, of course, was the texture of the skin. It provided enough crunch and toughness to make things interesting, but my teeth had no trouble sinking into the star of the show: the chicken.
And boy, was she the star; even with my limited experience, I knew this was a fine chicken I was experiencing. Tender, not a hint of dryness, and a quality unmatched by any wing I’d had in years.
The sides were a pleasant complement as well. The salad came with a light, citrusy dressing that made for a refreshing break between wing bites, and the french fries were, as all should be, warm, crispy and salty.
I would’ve been content to end my review here, but the true test of a chicken spot is how they execute their original recipe. After all, if the foundations are shaky, what good are the offerings built upon it?
With that (and the empty stomach of my mom) in mind, I ordered 5 of the original drumsticks to-go, taking the first and saving the others.
Were it not for my already full stomach, that box might’ve not made it out of the restaurant. Yes, five of something for $12.49 doesn’t sound like a deal, but when you see the Medieval Times-tier meat clubs they offer you, you’ll quickly understand the price.
This is no quantity-over-quality trickery, either. From the first bite you notice three things.
One, frying chicken in olive oil is an objectively good idea. The crispiness is unmatched, it’s present while not overbearing, and there’s something happily missing: extreme guilt. You can taste the olive oil, which comes with plenty of calories, but greasy this is not. It’s as satisfying, if not more so, as any classic southern fried chicken, but uses less to get to that point.
Second, they’ve managed to cook it all the way through. Usually, as the drumstick gets bigger, the question of where the safest bites lie is the first on most people’s minds. Here, worry is a far-off dream, and the consistency in each part leaves one simultaneously relieved & impressed.
Third, they refuse to hold back on quality. The wings were amazing, yes, but this was a more satisfying experience for the simple reason that there was more perfect chicken to be had. Flawless songs are one thing, but a flawless album is treasured as long as memory lasts.
Mrs. Najjar agrees, specifically praising the lightness of the skin and the fact it was cooked all the way through. Mr. Najjar even asked for “a piece to try,” and ate the whole drumstick in 20 seconds. Who could blame him, though? It’s good chicken, and you should have some too.
BBQ Chicken, 2750 Alton Parkway #111, Irvine.