I’ve said it several times before and I will say it again, Koreans (and not Filipinos) are the African American’s of Asia. While I do make racially insensitive and unsubstantiated statements on this blog quite often, this one actually is rooted in some significant similarities. Nowhere is this more apparent in the love and exaltation of Fried Chicken. While my own mother’s Fried Chicken has been documented to cure cancer; I tend to prefer the Korean varieties and innovations.
I first discovered this in New York several years ago, at Momofuku’s Fried Chicken dinner. This notoriously difficult to book dining engagement highlights the seamless integration of Korean food and Southern cooking. This relationship is now being highlighted by several Chef’s around the country, most notable Edward Lee and the aforementioned David Chang with his use of southern products like Benton’s Ham and Anson Mills Grits.
Though Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world, the diversity in the cuisine is pretty astonishing. Just like African Americans, Koreans tend to use every edible part of a vegetable or animal they can find and manage to turn it into something special and delicious (see posts on Jeon Ju and Gamja Gol ). Turtle Ships? The best turtle soup i’ve ever had was in Louisiana served up by one of the scariest black people i’ve ever seen. Pickles? Korean’s pickle everything, and pickled pigs feet are a southern staple. No Korean BBQ is complete without coleslaw or potato salad. There are quite a few parallels.
Kokio is a proponent of double frying and it certainly stands out – I thought their original recipe was quite delicious, and extremely well cooked. We decided to also try sweet honey laden variety of wings that was good, but didn’t satiate like the original crispy did. Delicious.
In the modern world of fry cooking – there is frying, and there is double frying. Basically if you aren’t double frying you aren’t doing something right. The utilization of a lower temperature oil followed by a higher one creates a dual layer of crispy exterior and warm greasy and gooey interior, also known as nirvana.
Kokio was a recommendation from a good friend of mine who was friends with the staff. The first thing I wondered as I walked in the door was, “Is that buttermilk I smell?” Just the word buttermilk sounds inherently sexy, something I could bathe in as well as eat. I also appreciated the fact that the were prompt with service and very attentive from the moment we arrived till we left. I noticed some other tables getting the same service, something i’m always keen to watch when i’m dining with friends of employees.
Huge plus for the cabbage salad; anytime the mandoline work is apparent with crunchy vegetables the rudiments of a winning formula are present. The dressing here was excellent and the portion was hearty, loved this start to the meal. I also enjoyed the rustic and functional chicken bucket lined with plastic on the table. Waffle fries is another bold move; like saying not only are we going to do fries, we are going to cut them in an obscene pattern because we can. I personally enjoy the waffle cut because it allows a great deal of ketchup, my first and eternal love, to hug the fry. These weren’t the best rendition but they held up nicely with the chicken.
We also decided to try a sweet chicken finger like dish with crunchy puffed starch tubes. While this dish was also good (It’s hard to mess up fried chicken) I didn’t really care for much of the sweet stuff that was being done here, and I felt the starch tubes just made the dish feel cluttered. I ate it though, trying not to over think it.
The most noticeable thing absent form the menu at Kokio was beer, and as a partial African American myself I can attest to the nourishing and magical synergy of chicken and beer. I hope that shows up sometime soon. It is apparent that Kokio is very focused on turning this restaurant into a franchise, after my experience there I can certainly get behind that.