Imagine this being said in Homer Simpson’s thick-witted and salivary voice: “Mmmmmm Korean fried chicken.” Granted all fried chicken is pretty amazing. In fact, it is more noticeable when you have fried chicken that isn’t good. I could count the amount of bad fried chicken I’ve had on one hand. It’s sort of like the terrible beats you’ve had at the poker table; nobody remembers the victories, but everybody can remember with razor sharp clarity the horrible losses they’ve suffered (I’m paraphrasing Rounders here)–or, in this case, the limp, pallid, and glutinous fried chicken that you’ve had the misfortune to suffer through.
But back to Mr. Simpson. If your run of the mill fried chicken had him utter his second favorite catchphrase (the first is “duh,” duh) in anticipatory delight–“…mmm…”–the Korean variety would certainly warrant three extra m’s. There is a certain je ne sais quoi to this method (as practiced by Mad for Chicken); a light, airy crispiness to the skin; a piquancy to the gently applied sauce; and a paradoxical feeling that what you are eating is somehow good for you in the ‘low-calorie’ sense of the term.
I’ve been assured by cook’s much more knowledgeable than me that a few factors come into play when making this fried chicken, a fried chicken that tastes noticeably different than the soul food norm most Americans are used to: rice flour is used as the coating, the chicken is twice-fried (the Mad for Chicken website states that this actually reduces the amount of fat), and there is a sauce applied at the end, in much the same way as buffalo chicken wings–the exception being that buffalo sauce is a heavy-handed mixture of butter and Frank’s Red Hot while the Korean counterpart is soy saucy, garlicky, slightly sweet and doesn’t require multiple hand washes to remove from the eater’s fingers.
While there are many purveyors of this poultry preparation peppered throughout the city, none provide the goods in quite the fashion as Mad For Chicken. Located around the corner from Koreatown in a second floor room overlooking fifth avenue and entered by walking into what looks like the lobby of a drab office building, Mad for Chicken cultivates a chic illegal gambling room vibe.
You usually wont find me bigging up the ambiance of a place, but Mad for Chicken succeeds admirably in setting the mood. I would even go so far as to say it’s an excellent date spot with its downtown-Seoul-at-night decor, confidential yet open seating, and central location in midtown Manhattan. Plus the cocktails and specialty shots are wacky and colorful, and the beer comes in a bubbling water-cooler type contraption emitting a disconcerting smoke (from dry ice; it’s part of the effect; it works).
Beyond the fried chicken (which is only available as wings or drum sticks) and the aforementioned booze I’ve never ordered anything off the menu besides the incongruous, though delicious mexican corn and the french fries (served with a sriracha/mayo mixture in lieu of ketchup). But when the fried chicken is this good who needs anything else?
314 5th Ave 2nd Floor (btw 31st St & 32nd St), New York, NY 10001
Calder Quinn is a fearless gastronome exploring New York City one restaurant at a time—he’s also the eldest son of Lucinda Scala Quinn, Living’s Executive Editorial Director of Food. Here’s what he has to say about the origins of Mensday Wednesday: “Being located in New York City gives us the opportunity to sample a wide array of food. After all, there are over 20,000 restaurants here and in a huge city, built on the contributions of immigrants, which continues to draw people from every corner of the world, it is statistically probable that there exists a commercial enterprise operating to meet everyone’s taste, as disparate as those tastes may be. There are no set requirements as to where we dine, but a sort of tacit set of rules have emerged: price is important–the final bill should never cause us to wince, ‘international’ cuisine is preferred, and in the event of a debate, byob is the trump card.”
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