(Olive Original Chicken)
Southern-fried chicken is one of life's perfect pleasures. Locked in an armored shell of crunchy batter, the chicken is practically steamed in its own rich juices. The intense heat gelatinizes and draws collagen and marrow out from the bones, then forces it into the meat. Biting into a well-prepared piece of fried chicken is an experience akin to eating deep-fried stock; a lip-smacking good time.
The opening of Diamond Jamboree, Irvine's latest Asian mega center, brings a new wave of spectacular Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese eateries to an area of Orange County second only to Little Saigon for great Asian eats. Among them is my latest go-to place for Southern-fried chicken; BBQ Chicken. A restaurant which, ironically enough, serves no barbecue chicken at all.
Any American barbecue enthusiast worth his disposable plastic bib can tell you that true BBQ requires a dry rub, charcoal, and smoke, the holy trinity of this slow-cooked art. Keeping these immutable tenets in mind, BBQ Chicken's "Barbecue Chicken" isn't actually barbecued, it's grilled. What's more, while the grilled items on its myopic menu are good, where BBQ Chicken really shines is with its Southern-fried chicken. South Korea, that is.
In the past, my fellow SoCal food bloggers have raved about the crispy rendered goodness of Korean fried chicken, as epitomized by Kyochon Chicken (1 2 3 4), the reigning king. They've had good cause. Like frozen yogurt and designer cupcakes, Korean fried chicken is one of the latest food fads to sweep the Southland. The crack-like combination of parchment-thin, crispy skin and gelatinized meat tossed in spicy sweet sauces is highly addictive. Before BBQ Chicken opened in Irvine, I had to head out to Stanton or Los Angeles for my fix. For good or ill, Cat and I can now glut ourselves on these fusion masterpieces from the comfort and convenience of our own town. Dangerous...
There are three basic ways to enjoy fried chicken at BBQ Chicken; flakey, meaty, or crispy. For the flakey parts of the equation, we have the Olive Original Chicken (pictured top), Red Hot Drumsticks, and BB Wings. Crusted with panko crumbs and fried to a light blonde in Spanish olive oil, these dishes are the closest to classic Southern-fried chicken. The use of panko crumbs increases the crunch factor, while the olive oil adds a slightly bitter, complexly floral bouquet to the meat. Other than the Red Hot Drumsticks, which are coated with hot sauce, the other dishes are simply seasoned with a little salt. That's all they need.
If you're into the meaty portion of the spectrum, the Seasoned Chicken is superb. Boneless, golf ball-sized nuggets of thigh meat are tossed in your choice of sweet, sweet & sour, sweet & spicy, or extra spicy sauces. I'd recommend the sweet & spicy, a tangy blend of chilies, garlic, and syrup.
However, the other two sensations are mere window-dressing when compared to BBQ Chicken's coup de grace. Representing the crispy side of the triangle, the Teri-Q Gold Wings (pictured above) and the Teri-Q Gold Sticks are the epitome of BBQ Chicken's Fry-o-lator arts. Thinly battered wings and drumsticks are slowly fried at lower temperatures until all of the subcutaneous fat has melted away, leaving moist meat tightly encased by crackling, flavorful skin. The finished product is given a light, candy coating of sauce before serving. Each sublime bite of skin and meat is best enjoyed with one of their complimentary turnip pickles as a chaser. You know, so you can look you mother in the eyes when she asks if you've been eating properly.
BBQ Chicken - There's no barbecue on the premises, but they've got some damn good fried chicken.
Olive Original Chicken (5/10 pcs) - 9.25/17.00
Red Hot Drumsticks (5/10 pcs) - 8.99/17.50
BB Wings (10/20 pcs) - 7.99/14.99
Seasoned Chicken (8/12/24 pcs) - 6.50/9.25/17.99
Teri-Q Gold Wings (10/20 pcs) - 7.99/14.99
Teri-Q Gold Sticks (5/10 pcs) - 8.99/17.50
BBQ Chicken Irvine
2750 Alton Parkway, #111
Irvine, CA 92614
Buena Park, San Diego, Seattle, Elk Grove, and Garden Grove
Read these reviews of BBQ Chicken by my food blogging friends: