Friday, September 11, 2009

Unidentified Flying Chickens

7122 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY
11372, USA
(718) 205-6662
Owner: Young Jin
Small plate $10, large $18 (USD)

For Labour Day weekend, I went to New York for my first time ever. And me being me, I designed the entire trip around where to eat. No meal was left unplanned. On Sunday night, after watching The Lion King on Broadway in the afternoon, Stephanie and I trekked out to Queens for Korean fried chicken.

I never heard of such a thing before, but trusty Twitter led me to the suggestion via @rolandgonzales. He pointed me to a 2007 New York Magazine article that gave UFC a hefty five drumsticks out of five. Up until this point, Steph and I had not left Manhattan. Why would anyone need to leave Manhattan? And we were taken aback when we found ourselves in a down-and-out, mostly Latino neighbourhood where when I asked for directions, people either said they didn't speak English or stared at me blankly or ignored me entirely!

In any case, the eatery was not even a block away from the Roosevelt-Jackson Heights subway stop, and we found it soon enough.

I expected the place to be hopping, and signs of no one was not a good sign to me. But it was Sunday night, 7 p.m. on a long weekend -- not exactly the best time for fried eats and beer.

My friend Steph took one of these chopsticks home because she loved the logo.

On the ground level is the take-out shop, and downstairs is a small dining room. Green walls, flat screen TVs playing episodes of The X-Files, and a very sweet, smiling server who sounded like she just aced her English-as-a-second-language exam. The menu didn't have many choices. The fried chicken option is divided into drumsticks, wings, or drumsticks&wings; and you can pick small or large. If you choose large, you can try two sauces and it comes with two sides.

The sides are completely filler. It was like eating bagged lettuce, store-bought dressing, and that pre-made macaroni salad crap (I have always hated macaroni salad from childhood to adulthood). But the chicken... my god... the chicken. This is why people need to leave Manhattan.

Our plate of the best fried chicken I've ever had. Sweet&spicy on the left, soy&ginger on the right.

I knew it was going to be like American wings, but I didn't know why it was going to be so different. We ordered large drumsticks&wings, half sweet&spicy, the other half soy&ginger. (Normally I'd just go for hot but Steph can't handle heat.) As soon as we took our first bite, we knew we discovered fried chicken like no other. The skin is perfectly thin and crispy throughout. No sogginess, no little nubby bits of fried breaded batter -- just a smooth but crunchy layer. And the meat was ridiculously tender and moist, no part under- or overcooked. The sauces were great too -- a light coating of tangy, sweet, salty sauces.

I wondered out loud why I never knew of this before? Toronto has a huge Korean population with at least two very distinct Koreatowns. I was determined to find the dish upon return.

In the meantime, we ate about two-thirds of the plate, and thought we could not eat anymore. But the crispiness, the tenderness, the sauciness was tempting me, and before we knew it, it was all done.

I will never look at wings the same way ever again.

Rating (out of five stars): *****
To read more about Korean fried chicken, here is a great New York Times article about it from 2007.

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