ALLAN REID: Chicken bonanza, Korean style

Simple Victoria restaurant knows how to please if your go-tos are chicken and fries

You’ve spent the afternoon swimming at Victoria’s Crystal Pool with your kids (or grandkids, as the case may be), and they are starving, and who doesn’t love fried chicken?

Lucky for you, Chicken 649 is right across the street. That little white box of a building on the corner of Quadra and Queens, the one with the sunshine yellow entrance? Don’t be scared, for it offers some mighty fine fried chicken.

Allan Reid, Monday restaurant reviewer

And this is budget dining. No expense has been made that wasn’t absolutely necessary. A stub-wall and short ramp turn arrivals toward the small counter, where a much amended menu is presented and orders and money are taken. Behind is the kitchen. A pair of beverage coolers stand to the left. The rest of the space can only be described as utilitarian and spartan.

A single relevant movie quote (from The Help) adorns one wall: the sole concession to decor. Otherwise the place is painted in peeling black and white. Wood-veneer tables and long-ago painted wooden chairs with well-worn white leather seats and a long grey wooden bench complete the room. Oh, and the pair of portable electric heaters by the window. But the place seems clean enough.

I ordered the 649 Original Lunch Special ($9.50), which offers five pieces of chicken, six jumbo potato wedges and a can of pop with ketchup and mayonnaise for dipping. As an adult, I noted the absence of greens, and so ordered a green salad ($3). I then selected my pop of choice (or choose from a decent selection of local craft beer for extra cost) and returned to my seat.

Moments later a personal-size pizza box arrived at my table with a plastic take-out container of salad fresh from the fridge (only an odd fork is ever dirtied in this dining room). I suspect I got the coleslaw (same price), for it was not very green: shredded cabbage with flecks of carrot, celery and kale. It came covered in an unappetizing gelatinous substance reminiscent of congealed chicken fat but tasting like overly sweetened vinegar. I don’t expect much for $3, but I do expect an effort to please.

Of course, this is not a salad café. I’m here for Korean Fried Chicken, which, FYI, is lightly breaded in panko, pre-fried to reduce fat before deep frying, and has minimal seasoning. This chicken is light, crispy, toasty and neither too greasy, nor too salty. Salt is available if you need it. Same crust on the wedges, which are adorned with fresh minced herbs. My five pieces of chicken contained just two bones and plenty of soft and juicy meat. And those six wedges must have equalled one whole russet potato. A big meal and, honestly, I’ve never enjoyed better.

But if plain friend chicken seems, well, too plain, 649 offers six options to liven it up: sweet and spicy Yang-Nyeom, Soy-Garlic, Sweet Honey, Pa-Dak (topped with shredded green onion), Cilantro-Lime and Creamy Cheese (fried chicken is dipped in a cheese sauce and sprinkled with minced herbs).

Chicken can be ordered in eight or 16-piece boxes that are perfect to take home, to a park or to a party. In any case, arrive with a box or three and bask in the accolades. Dine in or take out, you and the kids will love you for at least as long as the flavour lingers and the bellies are full. Just slap down your inner adult and leave the salad in the fridge.

Chicken 649, 2224 Quadra St.

250-590-6491 chicken649.ca

*****

Also by Allan Reid:

Like fresh food? Find it in Cook Street Village

A good time for Thai in Estevan Village

Authentic Mexican molé hits the spot

FoodRestaurant review

 

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