No, vats of boiling oil don’t necessarily have to result in some kind of twisted medieval torture. It’s actually just part of the process for producing fried chicken, one of the most beloved dishes worldwide. Los Angeles chefs have embraced the bird, and they’re producing versions that draw on diverse cultures to please palates.
Considering A-Frame specializes in “modern picnic” fare, it seemed natural for Roy Choi to add fried chicken and complementary sides to weekend brunch service. Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., he offers bottomless bird for $18. “Krispy buttermilk fried chicken” features dark meat cooked sous vide with spices, herbs and chilies. They coat legs and thighs in light flour and fry to a crisp. The chicken comes with chile and garlic dipping sauces, a “supermarket sweet potato deli salad” laced with tangy pickled shallots and whole grain mustard vinaigrette, and zucchini cabbage cole slaw seasoned with buttermilk, Dijon dressing and herbs. It can get hot on A-Frame’s patio, especially in summer, so cool down with “endless” pours from a Hite lager pitcher.
Walk past the colonnades and well-manicured lawn that front Thomas Keller’s sprawling two-story establishment and climb a grand staircase to reach the bistro. The room has a high ceiling, plush burgundy banquettes and stylish tiles, plus an adjoining patio that overlooks the park. If you’re lucky, they feature Ad Hoc-style fried chicken for Sunday Suppers. Bouchon’s sister restaurant gained fame for their crisp-battered bird, which enjoys brine, buttermilk and fried thyme. In cooler weather, they might serve the chicken with crisp bacon chive waffles, Tahitian vanilla bean butter, cheddar grits and sauce Chasseur, a “hunter’s sauce” with bacon, mushrooms and chicken gravy. This summer, they served the bird with cole slaw, mac & cheese, cornbread and honey butter instead.
Chef Corina Weibel and front of house partner Jane Choi continue to lead the seasonal Cal-Med charge in Atwater Village at their charming bistro. Brunch is particularly popular at Canele, and their breakout sandwich stars fried chicken. They fry thigh meat in canola oil until the batter becomes crispy, and then layer crunchy slabs of tangy pickled green tomatoes on a soft toasted bun with creamy mayo. The accompaniment is a lightly dressed salad of mixed greens that lends another bright note to some hefty bites.
Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s bakery café is always bustling, but on Thursday nights, they tend to slow things down, gathering the community to sit side-by-side for a proper three-course meal. They occasionally feature Free Range Fried Jidori Chicken. To start the summer of 2012, they revised the recipe, which still involves buttermilk brine, but now includes a flour batter seasoned with cayenne and hot sauce. They feature de-boned thighs and airline-cut breasts, both of which have a pronounced chicken flavor that comes from free-ranging the birds. During our dinner, they accompanied the chicken with a summery bowl of beans (purple runner and fava), string beans and sweet Brentwood corn.
Komodo, an Asian café in Beverlywood that promises “dangerously good food,” sprouted out of a pair of roving food trucks from Eric Tjahyadi and chef/brother Erwin Tjahyadi. The sleek café has an open kitchen, stainless steel furniture, pressed tin ceiling and a wall-sized photo with a line of people waiting to order from the truck at the beach. Mochiko Fried Chicken, a Hawaiian style that involves marinating boneless bird in a sweet, tangy sauce, frying and oven baking, results in a sweet and caramelized exterior. Try it with rice (white or brown) and mixed greens.
Some chefs go big, and at Lazy Ox Canteen, the seasonal small plates concept in Little Tokyo, recent addition Perfecto Rocher goes small. Well, at least with his chicken. For L.O.C. Fried Jidori Hen, he designed a dish that mimics the experience of Kentucky Fried Chicken, treating a female bird to buttermilk brine, followed by a bath in pine nut oil. The result is a crisp, crunchy crust, juicy meat, and less chile than you’d find in Colonel Sanders’ secret spice blend. He enlightens the dish with lemon basil puree that has a hint of onion.
Hite and OB beer flows like water at this Koreatown pub. The menu’s long, and features daring choices like spicy sea snail salad and pan-fried small intestine, but most people opt for heaping plates of either deep-fried birds or spicy battered chicken wings, both of which come with a tart pickled radish cubes and a crunchy salad topped with creamy dressing that brings to mind 1000 Island. The chicken is un-battered, and sports especially crisp skin, and the wings’ spice builds in intensity with each bite.
This two-story, triangular gastropub in downtown’s Fashion District features one of the hardest charging chefs in town, Casey Lane from The Tasting Kitchen, his seasoned crew, and similarly well-seasoned chicken with salt and cayenne. The chef’s family on his father’s side hails from Georgia, and he lends the bird Deep South flair, plus finesse. For Lane, it’s all about the ratio of buttermilk and egg, so the batter doesn’t get soggy. He fries the meat in a mixture of peanut and canola oil and serves with mustard greens, grilled peaches, bursting sun gold tomatoes, currants and red wine vinaigrette.
Chef Ernesto Uchimura graduated from the Umami Burger school of burgercraft and helped to open this sleek gastropub on Sawtelle Boulevard’s Little Osaka, featuring exposed wood beams and an inviting patio. Yes, he continues to make burgers, but he’s become at least as well known for Smokey Fried Chicken. The boneless, crisp-sheathed Jidori chicken appears in a shallow pool of smoked milk gravy with candy sweet yam preserves, with a skillet that’s accented with tart, crunchy, spicy pickled okra.
Yin Yamada has quickly built a burgeoning ramen-fueled empire, but it would be a shame to stop with bowls. The Chicken Kara-age Bento Box is an especially good value, dark meat chicken coated in flour and deep-fried in soybean oil. They marinate the chicken in garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sake, so there’s no need for sauce, only a squeeze of lemon, though they do provide the option for Tar Tar Chicken, serving meat with what basically amounts to ranch dressing. The bento also comes with cole slaw dressed in an onion and garlic dressing, potato salad, sliced tomato, and a heap of white rice.
The second restaurant from culinary Animals Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo has a nautical theme, complete with a ship and anchor logo on the window, fishing poles and life preservers on walls, and a stuffed deer head wearing a captain's hat. At lunch, grab a seat at the communal wood table, or possibly a brown booth, and order the fried chicken sandwich. Boneless breast meat enjoys attention from buttermilk and cayenne. Deep-frying makes the breadcrumb coat crispy, and then the duo piles on sweet, tangy bread and butter pickle cole slaw and a spicy kick from Sriracha-aided aioli.
Superba Snack Bar is a chic Venice pastaria from restaurateur Paul Hibler and chef Jason Neroni, and even though they trade in dough, the duo still features a unique fried chicken that draws on multiple influences, which is tres LA. Neroni's wife hails from Kentucky, Hibler favors Cal-Med cookery, and they both enjoy an Italian restaurant called Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. The mash-up resulted in thighs that luxuriate in a garlic, ginger and onion marinade before cooking low and slow in a vac-sealed sous vide bag. A light dredge in flour and cornstarch, followed by flash-frying in Canola oil, yields crips skin and juicy meat. The finishing touches are sweet, tangy red wine vinegar reduction, sharp Parmesan for an umami effect, and pickled Fresno chilies for added zing.
12565 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 310.398.7700
235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, 310.271.9910
3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, 323.666.7133
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo, 213.626.5299
3002 W. 7th St., Koreatown, 213.480.4910
840 S. Spring St., Downtown, 213.225.2400
1800 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, 310.288.6500
11172 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310.815.8776
Son of a Gun
8370 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, 323.782.9033
Superba Snack Bar
533 Rose Ave, Venice, 310.399.6400