Top Fried Chicken in Los Angeles
In honor of National Fried Chicken Day, here are five unique takes on fried yardbird, displaying L.A.’s geographic and ethnic diversity. The only thing the preparations have in common is that they’re on the bone, utilize dark meat and are profoundly flavorful.
Tomo Ueno trained at a yakitori bar in Saitama Prefecture before he and wife Megumi moved to Los Angeles to open their five-table, 520-square-foot shoebox on Redondo’s International Boardwalk. Sit at the counter and watch the chef work his magic on Fried Chicken Wings ($6.50), served fresh from the fryer, with miraculously thin skins and a spicy-sweet chile glaze that builds in intensity with each bite. Tomo san only uses premium free-range chicken.
The southern Thai restaurant from Chef Tui Sungkamee and sister Jazz Singsanong has become a Hollywood phenomenon, and their magic extends to fried chicken. Kai Kamin ($9.95) features bone-in nubs of chicken showered with turmeric and completely addictive fried garlic. The dish doesn’t need any embellishment, but the accompanying honey chile sauce sure didn’t hurt.
When Korea-based KyoChon Chicken opened a branch in Koreatown in 2007, the idea of eating at a 1000-link fried chicken chain seemed about as appealing as funneling a quart of Drano. They defied the odds by delivering a dynamic preparation of fried poultry. KyoChon fried chicken comes in two flavors: Garlic Soy Sauce and Hot Sweet Sauce. They sell wings and sticks, but the best way to experience the bird is by ordering a whole chicken ($17.99). The cooks hack the chicken into two-inch chunks with total disregard for joint placement. The luscious meat is jacketed with a thin, crispy sheathe. The frying process fused the garlic soy sauce into the skin, and since the chicken isn’t battered, melts away the succulent skin’s fat.
Chef Larkin Mackey’s Good Ole Fried Chicken ($10) is lightly breaded, well seasoned and expertly fried. The dark meat retains its moisture while barely betraying a hint of grease. The crust couldn’t have been more than a millimeter thin, and the skin was virtually fat-free.
The side: Aunt Carolyn’s Potato Salad, inspired by a version from Larkin’s aunt, “sweet and spicy,” studded with chunks of red and green pepper. The menu claims the potatoes inspire diners to “slap yo’ mamma.” My mamma was nowhere in sight, and my friend was bigger than me, so I’ll have to save the slapping for next time.
The best time to get your chicken fix is on Sundays, when Larkin’s offers a “Poor Man’s Buffet.” Certain Sundays, the $12.99 feast includes all-you-can-eat fried chicken (and catfish, and smothered pork chops, and mac ‘n cheese…).
Celebrated French chef Ludovic Lefebrve returned to BREADBAR West Third on May 19 to relaunch LudoBites. Through August 22, Ludo will be behind the bar prepping “innovative twists on classic French comfort cuisine.” I expected Ludo to break out some culinary fireworks, but never expected him to lower the boom on fried chicken. He coats the dark meat in herbs de Provence and fries the bird in duck fat. That may have been a shortcut to poultry nirvana, but so what. On my visit, he plated the chicken on “Basque vegetables,” which consisted of spice-soaked peppers, onions and potatoes.
ADDITION – SEPTEMBER 9. 2009
On a regular basis, Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb’s market-driven Santa Monica bakery/café churns out dozens of tantalizing specialties, but it’s the Friday-only Jidori fried chicken ($12.50) that warrants special attention. Tad Weyland, Nathan’s chicken-crazed sous chef, developed the recipe for his premium yardbird. He bathes Huckleberry’s plump free-range chickens in seasoned buttermilk for two days before coating them in house-made breadcrumbs, typically a mix of baguette, ciabatta and multigrain baguette, depending on availability. Weyland lets the chicken sit overnight, then fries the birds on Fridays. The result is a heaping mass of uniformly juicy half-chicken sheathed in a crispy, absolutely addictive crust. Strangely, the wing and drumstick were nowhere in sight, but there was still more than enough food, especially when plated with a thatch of spicy, lightly-dressed arugula leaves and a sweet corn salad tossed with green beans, radicchio and onion.
ADDITION – JULY 19, 2010
At Bastide, chef Joseph Mahon said his mission is to “redefine how people think/feel about common everyday items and flavor combinations.” He’s certainly accomplished that aim with his Tomato Salad ($14). The “salad” is a study of summer, featuring an imaginatively plated thigh and leg. The dark meat was juicy without being greasy and hosted crispy coats that Mahon accented with espelette pepper. The plate features several complementary elements, including thick-cut tomatoes (red and yellow) garnished with gobs of tangy Feta, pillars of sweet compressed watermelon, a judicious drizzle of Sherry emulsion and mache for crunch. Happily, Mahon insists that fried chicken will always have a place on Bastide’s menu; the accompaniments will just change depending on what’s in peak season.
If you have a favorite fried chicken that wasn’t listed, please let us know.