Korean fried chicken. Hello.
Is there a more perfect dish than fried chicken? You say deep-fried poultry. I say protein crunch from the gods. It's no secret that fried chicken and I are mates from way back. Hunting down the best fried chicken in Sydney is a personal quest of mine I take seriously. And often. Which is how I ended up eating fried chicken at Naruone three times over the course of two weeks. Just to make sure.
Diners inside Naruone
Naruone is easy to miss on the stretch of Pitt Street known as Koreatown. Nestled beneath a hairdresser and next door to a Nepalese restaurant, you'll have to look for the stairs to get into the basement level of this restaurant. Inside it's brightly lit and buzzing with Asian uni students.
Banchan complimentary side dishes
The pictorial menu makes ordering easy and service is typically fast and furious. "Ready to order?" your waitstaff will ask in greeting, within minutes of you sitting down.
Complimentary dishes of banchan will kickstart your appetite while you wait for your food: pickled bean sprouts, sweet tofu and several variations of kimchi spicy pickled cabbage.
Mini size steamed pigs trotters $18
Steamed pigs trotters are slightly drier and chewier than we expect, but the marinade is rich with star anise and there's a satisfying textural contrast between meat, tendon and skin.
Sizzling stone pot bibimbap $14
We also give the bibimbap a whirl, a rainbow of cooked beef, lettuce, cucumber, carrot and sprouts arranged around a shimmering fried egg.
Crispy rice action
It's worth forking out the extra two dollars to get the stone pot version because it means the huddle of rice will crisp up into a golden disc at the bottom. The standard version comes in a normal bowl without the rice crust reward.
Pierce the egg yolk so it spills forth with sunshine, add a dollop of the supplied gochujang sauce and toss everything round until you have "mix mix rice", or bibimbap, its literal translation.
Cold buckwheat noodle soup $12
On my second visit it's a hot night so the cold buckwheat noodle soup is just the kind of refreshment we're looking for. Cold soup might not sound appealing, but this clear broth is sweet and lightly salted, scattered with a confetti of sesame seeds.
The buckwheat noodles are a little tricky to untangle, particularly because the noodles are cold and stuck together, but they're nutty to taste, and still have some bite.
Bulgogi hot pot $38 small
The bulgogi hot pot comes on a portable burner, a cauldron of stock brimming with ingredients. It only takes a few minutes for the broth to start boiling furiously, and then it's each person for themself to plunder its depths. The thin sweet slices of marinated beef tend to clump together, but there's plenty of other treats to discover, like enoki mushroom, silky tofu, carrot, garlic chives and fat chewy rods of dduk rice noodles.
Napa wraps with boiled pork and kimchi $36
It's a roll-your-own affair with the napa wraps served with boiled pork and kimchi - not hard to manage but a little tricky if there are a number of you and this dish is way down the other end of the table.
Things get a little fancier than your standard bossam affair, with the pork slices heated gently on a steamer at your table. This creates a hot and cold contrast of steaming pork and wilted garlic chives against the cold spiciness of kimchi cabbage, all wrapped up in a crunchy cabbage leaf. It's a fun dish but I prefer the version with raw oysters in the kimchi.
Braised beef short rib $19 small
On my third visit we attack the braised beef short rib - cooked but perhaps an hour from fall-off-the bone. What it does bring is plenty of chilli - the double chilli warning on the menu should be heeded with caution. It won't blow your head off immediately, but the cumulative burn effect will be felt once you have a few mouthfuls of beef, vermicelli noodle and spicy
Naruone dining room
But what about the fried chicken? I hear you ask.
Fried chicken and fried chicken with sweet and spicy sauce $33 half & half
Bring in the choir because this KFC is worth singing about. There are three types of Korean fried chicken: plain fried chicken, with sweet and spicy and sauce, and plain with spring onions. Let's not talk about the boneless version. Any fried chicken worth eating is on the bone, right?
Fried chicken with sweet and spicy sauce and fried chicken $33 half & half
If you can't decide, the half-and-half option gives you original ($30) and sweet and spicy ($32) on the same plate for $33. The sweet and spicy seems to vary in its heat factor - on my first visit it was mild and overwhelmingly garlicky; on my second visit the chilli was amped up considerably.
The sauce is sticky and viscous and guaranteed to make a mess of your fingers. Freeze-dried garlic chips for garnish will keep any vampires at bay for at least a week.
Fried chicken with spring onion $32
The most popular dish on tables around the restaurant is this one - the fried chicken with spring onion provides the crunch of original with a mountain of palate cleansing spring onion, ideal for recovery and renewed appetite.
Max draft tap beer $7 for 500ml
Beer is also good for this.
Korean fried chicken
And the verdict? The sound of satisfied silence is all the proof you need, punctuated only by the audible crunch of nobbly batter, and maybe a sigh as you meet the juicy flesh underneath.
It's the gravelly batter that makes this so good, and the lack of oily residue is impressive. The chicken stays crunchy until the last piece on the place, whether that takes you three minutes or thirty.
Is this Sydney's best Korean fried chicken? It has the crown. For now.
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Lower Ground, 375 Pitt Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9261 2680
Tuesday to Saturday 11am-3am
Sunday to Monday 11am-10pm
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Korean fried chicken - Hello! Kyochon, Chatswood
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12/10/2012 01:28:00 a.m.