Sure, I enjoy Iberico pork and shaved Alba truffles on risotto as much as the next guy, but sometimes you want to take a break from the wagyu and o-toro and just enjoy the simpler things in life. Like Nutella. Or cabeza tacos. Or, as was the case over recent days, some fried chicken.
I’ve had a hankering for fried chicken going on weeks and so I called on Toronto’s resident fried chicken expert, Elliot Sokolsky, to lead the way. Unfortunately, since the last time I saw Elliot, he’s adopted one of those crazy diets where he avoids sugars and starches and fried chicken, but he made an exception for the occasion. (And, I’m hearing, regretted it soon after, but that’s a story for another blog post. Maybe on his blog.)
Ivon Bartok (who no longer eats fried chicken and, instead, opted for one of those grass and shrub smoothies) and Akemi (who doesn’t like fried chicken) joined us for moral support…
Our first stop was Gdous Juicy Chicken House (223 Spadina Ave.), a Taiwanese fried chicken chain that opened up in Toronto’s Chinatown about a month ago.
Since we need to pace ourselves, we simply went with the double drumstick order. It was very crisp, with a surprisingly light coating, and the meat was tender. My only criticism – the flavors were restrained and I felt they could have used more seasoning.
The restaurant is in the midst of a soft opening, so a lot of its menu items are not yet available, but I look forward to coming back and checking out the spicy wings on my next visit.
Don’t we all?
Our second stop was one of food personality Anthony Bourdain’s favorites, the venerable Popeyes (400 Queen St. West), a ubiquitous establishment I – believe it or not – have never visited.
Akemi and Ivon = super excited!
I deferred to Elliot, the Popeyes veteran, who ordered up some tenders and Buffalo Wing sauce. Overall, not bad but there was a notable drop-off in the quality of the chicken from Jdous.
Our third stop was The County General (936 Queen St. West) where we ordered their signature County Fried Chicken (buttermilk fried chicken, Texas BBQ sauce, dill ranch, honey garlic herbs, pickles, corn bread). The chicken was delicious, although I could have done with a lot less of the accompanying sauce. Also, not a fan of cornmeal-crusting and its occasionally gritty texture. Akemi loved the cornbread!
And that was a wrap on the Elliot-assist. The next day, however, Akemi joined me for second lunch at Buldak: Home of Hot Taste (658 Blood St. West) for their Korean fried chicken. I was, honestly, overwhelmed by the enticing offerings and ultimately elected to go with a combo that included both their regular and spicy fried chicken. The waiter attempted to steer me clear of the spicy version, warning me “It’s very hot.” I told him I’d be fine.
The original recipe was very good and served with a side of salt so that customers can presumably adjust to their preferred level (I definitely thought it needed a pinch). As for the spicy fried chicken – wow! I rated it a 7.5 (on 10) on my heat scale: fiery yet flavorful, sweet and savory, with a great crunch. Akemi, on the other hand, rated it a 10 and then refused to hold my hand for the rest of the afternoon for fear I’d somehow transfer the spiciness despite the fact I used two wet towelettes and throughly washed my hands afterwards.
Home of Hot Taste’s spicy fried chicken was, hands down, the winner of this extended outing.
I fully intend to check out some of Toronto’s other contenders. But not before I pay a return visit to Home of Hot Taste so I can sample their green onion fried chicken and their Blazing Fire chicken with cheese. Who’s in?!