Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken, you so crazy

Crazy, despondent chicken

Growing up, my family would often go to Pollo Loco on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens where the train tracks are elevated. My grandfather would try to pretend he spoke Spanish and the staff would go along, though with quizzical looks. It took some time to translate Jack Spanish to actual Spanish. He once attempted to order coffee by asking for a Columbiana, but ended up with an oddly-flavored soda. Soda not available here. Pollo Loco eventually adopted a new name that was neither crazy nor memorable.

Keeping with the crazy and chicken combination I went to Mad for Chicken, a Koreatown fried chicken restaurant. Based on the website, I expected Korean fast food that you order at the counter and receive in a paper bucket, on a tray, with a pile of napkins. Walking up to the restaurant only reinforced these expectations. Mad for Chicken is above a pizzeria. To get there, you have to go through the lobby of a small office building and walk up to the second floor. I kept looking for another door, thinking there could not possibly be the entrance, but it was. And sure enough, on the building directory was listed "Mad for Chicken - 2nd Floor."

As it turns out, Mad for Chicken is a legit restaurant with a bar, tables, waitstaff, dim lighting, odd music selection, and even silverware. I chose a seat at the bar, next to a middle-aged, Caucasian regular - Peter, I later learned - and two young Korean ladies who Peter was desperately (and awkwardly) hitting on. After awhile, Peter gave up and moved on. Although advised to order the wings - Mad for Wings on the menu - I went for the Mad for Combo. The medium Mad for Combo came with three drumsticks, eight wings, something pickled that looked like honeydew, and the ever so traditional carrot sticks, celery and bleu cheese dressing. There is also a large size that I assume would feed two people. The chicken can be made mild or spicy. When I asked how spicy it was, the response was "spicy," so I knew that I had to have it.

The platter of chicken came out with Saigon Grill-like speed. It was accompanied by a bucket for the bones, a pile of napkins and - inexplicably - a fork. This is a manual meal and I would not be utilizing utensils. The skin is crispy, but not overly battered. There is a faint taste of soy sauce, but the spices dominate. The chicken is incredibly moist. Next time, I will probably order the mild, because spicy is a little intense. My tongue eventually numbed to the experience, but not before a fair amount of pain and sweat. The medium sized platter was a great size and I did not regret passing on a starter of some sort.

And then came the birthday song. Someone in the restaurant was celebrating her birthday, and some odd Korean/techno version of Happy Birthday started blaring through the sound system. I took that as my cue to get the check and head home. But I will be back. Oh yes, I will be back.

Mad for Chicken, 314 Fifth Avenue, 2nd Floor (at 32nd Street)

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