I thought we were done with Fried Chicken for a while, but a few FTC’ers mentioned some places that we had left off the list originally, and I thought it was good to give them another try, so off we went on an impromptu Part 2 of our Fried Chicken Journey!
Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.
This visit marked our 3rd time trying Tokyo Fried Chicken. The last time we went was over a year ago, but thanks to @TriTip for the enthusiastic post, we decided to give it another try.
It turns out it is indeed run by Chef Kouji Yamanashi, who used to work at Nobu.
Interestingly, this drink turned out to be a sign of things to come: It was extremely sweet and tasted “over-seasoned.” Experiencing freshly squeezed/ground Lemonades at places like Gjusta (their Ginger Lemonade and Cucumber variants are stunningly refreshing, bright and so fresh, while not being laden with Sugar), Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.'s version tasted like you were downing more sugar than a can of Coke, and the “Yuzu” tasted like manufactured / artificial Yuzu additive.
Each Fried Chicken Dinner (set) comes with a choice of 1 side, so we opted for:
Mac and Cheese:
Their Mac 'n Cheese is served topped with some Seaweed (to try and make it more “Japanese”?) but it really didn’t add much to the actual taste (just more salt). The actual Mac 'n Cheese was really heavy and thick. It wasn’t very cheesy. Not very memorable.
Fried Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese and Karashi Mustard:
This was way overdressed and over-seasoned. Knowing of the chef’s background, this is like experiencing an overdone California Super Hyper Dragon Hurricane Spicy Crazy Roll, whereas you might be more interested in the purity of great fish and rice when you want “Sushi.” The Brussels Sprouts were so full of Sugar and Vinegar, so heavy on the sweetness and tart, that it tasted really overdone. And there was no perceptible taste of the Karashi Mustard in this dish. It didn’t help that the Brussels Sprouts themselves were completely overcooked.
3 Sauces: Sweet Ponzu, Sweet & Spicy Ponzu and Yuzu Pepper Sauces for the Fried Chicken:
These 3 sauces are presented to douse your Fried Chicken in, with the Sweet Ponzu tasting very much like a variant on Kyochon’s Sweet / Garlicky Sauce (but thinner). The Yuzu Pepper Sauce is excellent, though, and worth trying!
And the Fried Chicken arrives. I take my first bite, and I remember exactly why we never wanted to come back previously:
The batter / crust is saturated in oil. This is just like my first 2 visits, so at least they’re consistent. It’s sort of hard to see in their default dim lightning, but the crust has that darker color because it’s absorbed a ton of oil.
Eating the Fried Chicken, the sensation we got (including a good friend who joined us) is the sensation of “oily” and “very greasy.”
But beyond the greasy, oily feeling, the Chicken itself was off-putting: Their Chicken is marinated in Sweet Soy Sauce, Ginger, Mirin and Dashi. The result is a Sugar-infused Fried Chicken that turned out to be almost cloying after a few bites.
I don’t like Sugar-infused dishes for “dinner” and at first bite, you get the oil / greasy feeling, but the Chicken is moist. But it’s the Sugar that’s at first “interesting” or different, but after 1 piece of Chicken, it started getting overwhelming. To be fair it’s just a personal taste thing. I know some friends who like the Mirin, Sweet Soy Sauce marinade a lot.
The dark meat Chicken was very moist (good), and the white meat was only a touch overcooked, still having some moisture thankfully.
Adding on the Sweet Ponzu, or the Spicy & Sweet Ponzu Sauce (that every table was using), it became clear what the chef at Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. was trying to do: Make their version of Kyochon-style Korean Fried Chicken. But instead of the heavily sticky Garlicky-Sweet style of Kyochon Chicken Wings, Chef Yamanashi was trying to do his take on that style. Hence a more subdued (but still with sweetness) version of “Fried Chicken” but I guess with Japanese ingredients? At $20 (+ tax & tip) for Half a Chicken, it’s moderately priced, but more expensive than the best place to get Fried Chicken ($15).
After we ate, we felt bogged down. This was easily the “greasiest-feeling” Fried Chicken on our journey, even if other places might have actually had more oil issues. And from their Sides to the Drinks (even on our first two visits), to the Fried Chicken seasoning, it feels too clunky and heavy-handed, like they want and try to go for “Big Flavors!” with everything, only for it to mean “more sugar” and “more vinegar” and “more grease.”
Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.
122 S Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Tel: (626) 282-9829
Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken
This was another place that’s been pretty popular over the years. We’ve given it a fair number of tries, but it’s always disappointed. But it had been almost 2 years since I last went to Honey’s Kettle, so I figured we should see how they are today (our 6th visit).
Fried Chicken (3 Piece Lunch):
One look at the Fried Chicken as it came out and I knew exactly why I hadn’t been back in over 2 years. Just look at that glistening, oil-laden Chicken!
I took a bite, and I think @ipsedixit described it best: I could literally feel my insides being coated with oil after eating a couple bites of this Fried Chicken. It was also the 2nd saltiest Chicken we had on this journey (with Gus’s Fried Chicken being the saltiest by far).
The dark meat Chicken was juicy and moist (positive), but white meat Chicken was overcooked and dry (and notice how oil-saturated the crust is).
Suffice to say, I couldn’t finish 1 piece of the Chicken. We both started feeling not well after a few minutes of eating.
Their Biscuit is dry and on the sweet side:
Their French Fries were hot and crispy but also laden with oil.
At $12 (+ tax) for Half a Chicken, it’s one of the cheapest places to get Fried Chicken on our journey, but it was also the most oil-drenched Fried Chicken we had out of any of the places.
Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken
9537 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Tel: (310) 202-5453
Eagle Rock Brewery Public House
I remembered one place that we visited last year, that had special attention for its Fried Chicken, so we figured we might as well drive out and see how it was nowadays.
It turns out Public House is the restaurant and casual bar connected to Eagle Rock Brewery, so they always feature their latest Beers from their Brewery. This evening we tried:
Manifesto (Belgian-style Witbier); Mumford Brewing Golden Kolsch (Guest Tap); Anton (Vienna Lager); Brown Porter (Porter).
They were all quite interesting, with the Brown Porter being heavily into Chocolatey and bitter, and the Anton being my favorite for easy drinking.
Summer Melon (Meredith Feta, Mouse Melon Cucumber, Thyme Tuile):
Their Summer Melon Salad was delicious! Farmers market fresh Watermelon, an Heirloom Melon that’s a cross between a Cantaloupe and Honeydew, with Pickled Watermelon Rinds (adding a delicate piquant undertone), and the Meredith Feta Cheese giving just the right amount of pungent notes to balance the Melon Salad.
Steamed Buns (Duck Confit, Pickled Radish, Cilantro, Peanuts):
This was pretty good. The Duck Confit could’ve been more succulent, but the pieces I had featured some crisped Duck Skin (yum! ), and tender pieces of Duck. The Pickled Radish and nutty Peanuts helped to counter the sweet Hoisin Sauce.
Bucket of Fried Chicken (Whole Free Range Chicken, Smoked & Fried):
Literally served in a bucket, the “Bucket of Fried Chicken” features an odd, interesting crust: It is very crunchy and crumbly, like a… Fried Cookie perhaps? It sounds odd, and tasted almost like a “healthy” version of Fried Chicken in that it was almost “dry,” but it still had a solid crunch.
It just lacked any crispiness (none).
But the most unique part of this Fried Chicken is that Eagle Rock Brewery Public House smokes their Chicken, before they fry it!
Cutting open a piece, at first you might mistake the pinkish color for being undercooked (it’s not), but what you’re seeing is the smoke ring / color from Smoked Chicken.
The smokiness seeps into every bite of the Chicken, and it is enticing and delicious for that reason alone.
The Chicken Breast is overcooked, though, and dryish (but not super dried out, thankfully):
By itself, it actually tastes a little bit bland, except the smokiness really elevates the Fried Chicken.
But with 2 bottles of their housemade sauces (Habanero and Roasted Hatch Peppers!), they really transform this lightly seasoned Fried Chicken into something much more delicious!
They are both very unique with the Habanero being a tart bottle of liquid fire (much spicier than the Roasted Hatch Chilies).
Buttered Taters (Calabrian Beurre Monte, 3 Year Vaca Rosao Parmesan):
We finish up with their Buttered Taters, which feature a Melted Butter Sauce, and the very, very heavy funk of a 3 year old Vaca Rosao Parmesan Cheese. It was noticeable before it even arrived at our table! LOL. These were quite delicious, but definitely on the heavy side.
At $37 (+ tax & tip) for a Whole Fried Chicken (so $18.50 for Half, if we were doing comparisons with the other places on this journey), it’s fairly priced as well. The downside is that they only serve a Whole Chicken, so it’s a lot of food. The dryish, but very crunchy crust, is a bit off-putting, but the smokiness from the Smoked Chicken base makes it one of the most unique Fried Chickens in town.
Eagle Rock Brewery Public House
1627 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Tel: (323) 739-0081
Howlin’ Ray’s (Revisit)
And to finish off this 2nd part of the journey, we had to revisit our current #1 favorite Fried Chicken: Howlin’ Ray’s. So off to our 11th visit!
Important note: Starting this week, Howlin’ Ray’s now has 3 Permanent Side Dishes(!) in addition to a rotating Special Market Side. The 3 Permanent Sides are: Collard Greens, Potato Salad and their Cider Vinegar Slaw! Paging @bulavinaka for the Potato Salad.
As noted in the main Howlin’ Ray’s thread, it’s as fantastic as the first time. There’s a good creaminess, some tartness to balance out the Potatoey goodness. Although this new permanent version has removed the Jalapenos (bummer).
Chef Zone’s Housemade Collard Greens, while sounding simple, are just spot-on perfect. The Collard Greens are cooked down to a tender consistency, the Onions, Garlic and Vinegar help to counter the 2 types of Pork being added in, which gives the whole dish a subtle lush quality, while still being about the wonderful Collard Greens. These were delicious.
Hot Shake Fries:
We’ve ordered their Crinkle Cut style French Fries only once before, I think during our 2nd visit, which felt so long ago. They were "OK’ the first time we tried them, but they seem to have improved dramatically! They were piping hot, slightly crisped, and the Hot Shake seasoning (in-house blend) made them seriously addicting! Despite the red color, they weren’t spicy. Just beautifully seasoned, and not very salty.
Fried Chicken White (Breast & Wing), “Country” Style (Level 1 - No Heat):
The beautiful golden batter, yielded to perfectly fried Fried Chicken once again. In all 11 visits, Chef Zone’s Fried Chicken has been consistently cooked, always crunchy and crispy, with this lightness to the batter and lightness to the taste.
It’s well-brined and seasoned. Never too salty, or oddly sweet, or dried out, or too greasy; the stuff that plagues too many of the Fried Chicken specialists around L.A.
It’s just fantastic, juicy, excellent Fried Chicken!
And you can customize it to 6 levels of Heat if you choose, but for the interests of comparison on this journey, we stuck with the traditional No Heat version.
Side note: Kudos to the Howlin’ Ray’s team for getting a shout-out from Phil Rosenthal (host of “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having!”) on the Jimmy Kimmel Show last night. Well-deserved! (And maybe the reason the line after we left increased to over 120 people in line! )
Howlin’ Ray’s continues to deliver the most amazing Fried Chicken in L.A. It’s so good and consistent, nothing else we’ve tried has come close.
Initial Hours (extended Hours will be added once they settle in):
Wed - Sun
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken
727 N. Broadway Ave #128
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 935-8399