"KFC - we have a winner... on Pitt St"
As vaguely as it may sound, but when I received this SMS from my mate, Five 'Fiddy' Phon, I knew exactly what he is talking about and I trusted him that he will never joke about KFC - our beloved Korean Fried Chicken. But he is also a dick by sending me the text message at 7.51pm, which presumably that he is possibly still holding a fried chicken in one hand munching away while texting on the iPhone without telling me where exactly on Pitt Street. His secrecy only means one thing - we are bound for another KFC hunt.
We have had very little luck during our first KFC hunt out in the suburbs due to spending way too much time travelling between places, but we did find a good ginseng fried chicken in Eastwood eventually. So this time we will mainly focus on the restaurants in the city within walking distance. When there are fried chicken, it is almost effortless to gather around a group of seven hungry people to join in the hunt.
Arisun - Haymarket
We've decide that the ideal route for our KFC marathon is to start from the bottom of the hill and work our way up to Pitt Street. Hence, first stop we found ourselves at Arisun, a Korean restaurant located at the quiet end of Dixon Street away from Chinatown crossed Liverpool Street. Having said that, this area has rather become an eatery street off late with restaurants popping up one after another and very popular specially with uni students.
Arisun has a huge outdoor seating area, but we are advised to take the big table inside the restaurant for our group of seven. We are given with two menus, the big regular restaurant menu and also a center-fold 'I Love Sun's Chicken!' menu, with everything deep fried, and everything chicken.We only peruse the latter one, order ourselves some chicken and nothing else.
You can choose between two type of fried chicken - the original deep fried, or the 'spicy' fried chicken. And if you are like us and would like to try both, then it is best to order the original fried chicken and request a plate of hot sauce on the side for dipping at an extra charge, $2.50 if my memory serves me right.
For those who wait shall be rewarded. After a short 10 minutes wait, the waiter eventually comes back holding a wooden basket lined with tracing paper, covered with nothing but irresistibly sexy deep fried chickens. There are many different cuts of chicken pieces inside, lightly battered and deep fried to an amazing consistent golden brown. The impatient me means burning tongue, the chickens are straight out of the deep fryer and extremely hot in temperature, we couldn't even hold it with our fingers before letting it cools down a little. Whilst the skin is crispy and perhaps a tad on the greasy side, the chicken is cooked to perfection, it is still very succulent and tender on the inside.
As we only ordered fried chicken, we finished our meal pretty much in less than an hour and ready to move on to our second KFC spot. So far so good.
KOBOW - Liverpool Street
Our second stop is at Kobow, another Korean restaurant which is just a stone throw away from Arisun on Liverpool Street. I spotted it on my way down to Arisun as the overly massive photos of food plastered all over the shopfront is hard to miss. I simply mentioned Kobow to the group and everyone is more than happy to give this place a try.
Kobow looks deceptively cosy from the outside, with entrance on the right and a small split level dining area on the left, but we soon find out that the front entrance actually leads to another dining area on the lower level where most of the actions are. It has an unusual decor of corrugated iron wall panel and picket fences dividers, plasma screen TVs and projector are playing K-pop music videos constantly. Nonetheless, this place is busy with customers. Accompaniments of kimchi, pickled radish and seaweed are served almost immediately, they are always a great welcome appetiser while waiting for the food to arrive.
The fried chicken at Arisun was simply not enough and we are getting hungry, so we decide to order an extra dish of seafood rice cake to share. The dish comes in an alarming hue of redness, makes one sweat just by looking at it. I love the chewiness of rice cakes, smothered in hot gochujang sauce makes them even more deadly and addictive. A few slices of fish cakes, squid and octopus tentacles are not easy to be identified in the pool of red sauce.
It doesn't take long for me to feel the burning sensation from inside out .The tongue has gone numb, sweat is dripping down my forehead, but I simply couldn't stop and still keep finding myself chewing on more bullets of fiery rice cakes. So good.
When the fried chickens arrive, we are quite surprised to see how generous the portion size is with fried chickens filled to the top in a deep plastic bowl. They only used chicken drummettes and wingettes for the KFC here in Kobow, and the fried chickens look distinctively different from the normal ones we have. The fried chickens are still nice and hot but as soon as we sink our teeth, we are very disappointed to discover the chickens are actually coated in a thick layer of schnitzel breadcrumbs.
The crumbs are nice and crisp but they do have an oily aftertaste. It gets a little too much after having only 3 or 4 of them and fill us up way too quickly. Sadly this is the first time we couldn't finish all the fried chickens and decided it's time to move on to our next stop for one last round of fried chicken.
Darling City - Pitt Street
"Hello, hello, baby; You called, I can't hear a thing. I have got no service in the club, you see, see…"
*~ Ahem* We hike up the hill to Pitt Street and soon find ourselves in the mini Korea town. "I don't remember the name but it's just up the street. And they have the best fried chicken man..." Five 'fiddy' Phon assures us that they do have the best KFC he has ever tasted, almost as good as the one we first discovered at Dashi restaurant which has sadly closed down since 2008.
So I am having high hope as we slowly walk into a restaurant called Darling City, which is disturbingly lit in fluoro green. The restaurant is cosy and modern, cutesy wall decals are everywhere on the walls, and everything is in a tint of green from the unusual green lightings which makes taking photos in this restaurant one hell of a challenge.
Despite we are already half full, we decided to make the most out of our last meal of this evening and order a few more dishes to share. Five 'fiddy' Phon orders a bottle of sochu to share, the clear rice wine which I find is rather tasteless but alcohol. I am fascinated by the different accompaniments served at different Korean restaurants as here we get four generous servings of kimchi, beancurd sheet slices, blanched beansprouts and carrots, and a scoop of mashed potato.
The menu is mainly written in Korean with English translation which makes ordering a little easier. As soon as we spotted "corn" and "cheese" in the description, we have to have it. The grilled corn with cheese is literally a bed of corn kernels, grilled and bubbling away in butter on a tiny hot metal plate, atop with a layer of melted mozarella cheese which is just slightly burnt. The sensation of juicy corn kernels pop in the mouth along with extremely stretchy cheese is strangely satisfying. I can see myself making this dish for many dinner parties to come.
"No, you don't want this," the waitress assures us that we won't like it when we try to order the grilled dry squid. "Yes, yes, yes! We want it! We know what it is." Five 'fiddy' Phon insists. "Are you sure?", she asks one last time still being skeptical. "Yes, yes, yes! We will eat it!" Well, why wouldn't we?
The unmistakably pungent smell of grilled squid fills the air as soon as it arrives at our table. The squid are cut using scissors along on both sides to make eating it a lot easier as you only have to pull one strip of the squid at a time. Then all you have to do is start chewing on the tough dry squid and give your jaw a good exercise. The grilled squid is usually a snack food to go with beer, something you can enjoy slowly, chewing away while watching TV. If you've done enough chewing, there is always a side of toffee coated peanuts to give the jaw a break.
The Japchae is a pleasant dish of stir fried glass noodle with mixed vegetables. The glass noodle is a lot softer than normal wheat noodle but still surprisingly light and not stodgy. It has a nice flavour of light soy sauce, tossed with red capsicum, carrots and mushrooms for the much needed texture.
And the dish that we've been dying to try has finally arrive and oh boy it sure does look good! This time we go for the half-half fried chicken, with half originals and half smothered in hot spicy chilli sauce. Without tempering our palate too soon with hot chilli sauce, we all go for the original fried chicken to begin with.
The chicken pieces are deep fried to a slightly darker golden brown, and also pleased to see they are not as greasy as those we've tried at the last two places. Then it is the moment of truth, the crucial first bite is indeed amazing - it is incredibly crunchy with crumbs shattered everywhere on the table. However, I actually prefer the one with hot chili sauce, a nice addition of flavour and counter the dryness of the chicken nicely.
Have we found a winner? The verdict is unanimous and we all agreed that the fried chicken here at Darling City by far is the most crunchy but we also prefer the chickens at Arisun which is moist and succulent.
Do you have a favourite KFC restaurant that you think we should try?
Arisun 1 Dixon Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
(near Liverpool Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9264 1588
Kobow 68 Liverpool St
Sydney NSW 2000
P: (02) 9283 8077
View Darling City in a larger map
Darling City 369 Pitt St
Sydney, Australia 2000