Kerstin Kühn: Chocochicken - Does it work?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th July 2014
A much hyped about chocolate fried chicken restaurant recently opened its doors in Downtown Los Angeles. But does it work? Kerstin Kühn went to check it out Cheese and wine. Bacon and eggs. Strawberries and cream. Chocolate and chicken. (What?!?) There are certain food combinations that simply roll off the tongue. They go hand in hand and complement each other to perfection.Chicken close up Chocolate and chicken isn’t one of them. Or so you’d think. Chocolate fried chicken is in fact the signature dish of a new restaurant in Los Angeles. ChocoChicken opened after much hype and anticipation last month in Downtown.  It is the latest venture from Advantage Restaurant Partners' Adam Fleischman, the founder of the Umami Burger chain, who has teamed up with self-taught cook and entertainment producer Keith Previte, and film and television producer Sean Robins for the project. It was Robins, who first came up with the idea during a trip to San Francisco, when (clearly horribly hungover) he was craving mole and fried chicken at the same time. He thought: “Why not put the two together?” Fast forward to June 2014, and the first ChocoChicken opened its doors, with a second location set to launch in Santa Monica later this year, and a third planned for New York in 2015. The trio expects to have eight outlets by 2016. So what’s the deal with ChocoChicken? The star of the menu is, of course, the chocolate fried chicken. Made from organic Jidori chicken (a mixed-breed domestic free-range chicken known for its robust flavour), it is soaked in brine for 36 hours, before being coated in a crust of 62% bittersweet chocolate and a secret mixture of 20 spices. But that’s not where the chocolate-theme ends. There’s also a fried chicken sandwich on a chocolate bun and sides including white chocolate mashed potatoes (infused with white chocolate butter) and duck fat fries dusted with chocolate seasoning, while sauces include the homemade chocolate ketchup. Desserts made exclusively for ChocoChicken include s’mores whoopee pies from Cake Monkey and ice cream from L.A. Creamery. There’s a full bar serving signature cocktails, including the Choco Colada with Coco Real, Crème de Cacao and chocolate bitters. So does chocolate fried chicken work? The answer is: kind of. Some of it is great. Like the smell: As you walk into the restaurant you get a big whiff of sweet and savoury aromas, which are instantly intoxicating.  And the chicken is delicious. It’s perfectly fried, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The coating is dark, almost burnt brown in colour, peppered with the ChocoChicken seasoning, which is in no way too chocolaty or overpowering but leaves just a hint of dark chocolate, a little chilli kick, and a lingering sweet maple flavour. It’s crispy, spicy, warm and comforting, just like fried chicken should be. The white chocolate mash doesn’t work. It’s heavy, stodgy, dense, overly buttery and way too sweet. But, as the chef informed when I admitted that I wasn’t a fan, it’s still very much a work in progress.Keith Previte, Adam Fleischman, Sean Robbins, Lee Weinberg Other sides are better: biscuits are buttery and flaky, the salad, coleslaw and cup of raw crudité are fresh and crunchy and the duck fat fries are moreish. And the chocolate ketchup is great: umami-rich, it tastes a bit like HP sauce with a spoonful of cocoa powder mixed in. But despite it all being good, there’s something missing. The interior of the 120-seat restaurant is industrial: high ceilings, wood panelling and a pressed tin along the walls and the bar. It’s a bit soulless and lacking in atmosphere and service was overly attentive, almost intrusive. Altogether ChocoChicken is original and the food is perfectly fine. But despite its image the whole place just lacks the je ne sais quoi, fun factor it promises and it isn’t nearly as innovative as the pre-opening hype suggested. It may be chocolate infused but it’s still just fried chicken. The novelty wears off almost instantly and after dining here, my chef-friend and I were both left with a distinct sense of “so what?” Is it better than your average fried chicken shop? Of course. But would I go back? Unless I have a crazy hangover that makes me crave fried chicken and chocolate, probably not.  Kerstin_Kuhn Kerstin Kühn is a freelance food and travel writer, specialising in restaurant and chef stories. The former restaurant editor of Caterer and Hotelkeeper, she relocated from London to Los Angeles last summer, where she lives with her husband and two cats. With a vast network of chefs from around the world, Kerstin has profiled the likes of Michel Roux, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, the Roca brothers and Massimo Bottura. She has been a contributor to publications including FOUR Magazine, the Evening Standard Food and Travel MagazineM&C ReportDesign WeekFrame Magazine and City and Canary Wharf Magazines and also writes her own blog, La Goulue. You can follow Kerstin on Twitter @LaGoulue _

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th July 2014

Kerstin Kühn: Chocochicken - Does it work?