Cheese on fried chicken? You bet. It sounds like just the kind of crazy I love. It's just one of twelve types of Korean fried chicken you can order at The Sparrow's Mill, newly opened on Liverpool Street in the city, between George and Pitt. This sister restaurant to Red Pepper at Strathfield Sports Club (best partnership ever, I say) may have only been trading for less than a month, but eager fried chicken fans are already queueing down the street.
Dining room at The Sparrow's Mill
The Sparrow's Mill has taken up residence on the site of the former Japanese restaurant, Sakae. They've kept all the old chairs and tables, and installed a flat screen TV which streams a mix of Korean television and K-pop video clips. On a Friday night, the place is packed with Korean uni students, all dining in small groups. The waitstaff look run off their feet with constant orders, but they do a commendable job juggling plates of fried chicken, dispensing drink orders and plating up little side dishes of banchan from a trolley at the back.
Did somebody say fried chicken?
The fold out menu is predominantly in English with accompanying photos, but it's the fried chicken section that gets prime positioning. Twelve different kinds of twice-fried poultry beckon with promises of satisfying crunch.
You can order deep-fried chicken on the bone or boneless -- "kids will love it!" -- and they even have breast fillets in case, you know, you're watching your weight. And there's the story of gangjung to read about too, a traditional rice cookie that they incorporate into their "incredible chicken" batter.
The complimentary panchan side dishes are delivered to our table with a noisy clatter. The selection of kimchee, fish cakes, pickled radish and seaweed make for great nibbles and handy palate cleansers throughout the meal.
Pajeon seafood pancake $15
Pajeon seafood pancake is the first order to hit the table. There are big chunks of prawn and calamari among the pancake of shallots, onion and carrot bound together with batter. It's a tad gluey in the middle but there's a lovely caramelised char on the surface.
Dolsot bibimbap $15
Steam rice with beef and mixed vegetables in a sizzling stone pot
They serve the bibimbap here in a dolsot, or sizzling stone pot, perfect if you relish that crunchy layer of rice on the bottom.
Mixing the egg yolk and gochujang in with the rice
Tip in the saucer of gochujang red pepper paste and then bibim (mix) that bap (rice) until you reach a rainbow of deliciousness.
It's a spiced up collaboration of rice, vegetables and beef enriched with egg yolk. The pot will insulate your rice for ages too - we came back to this dish after twenty minutes and the rice was still super hot.
Spring onion chicken $34 (whole)
Crispy fried chicken with specially-made wasabi sauce with spring onion
But ok, ok, we're all here for the fried chicken, right? The whole chicken serves come out on giant undulating plates the size of a lily pad. The spring onion chicken is a glorious shade of golden brown, drizzled lightly with their specially-made wasabi sauce and crowned with a tumbling nest of shredded spring onion.
There's a fantastic crunch to the batter, and it's worth dunking your chicken into the puddle of sweet wasabi sauce at the bottom of the plate. A little tub of pickled cabbage, carrot and daikon will keep your tastebuds firing.
Soy sauce and garlic chicken $17 (half)
We went with the half-serve of soy sauce and garlic fried chicken, not quite as saucy as the one at Arisun but still tasty.
Snow cheese chicken $18 (half)
Snow on the branches fried chicken
And then there was the snow cheese chicken, poetically described as "snow on the branches" on the menu. If you can imagine fried chicken tossed in a bag of crushed up Twisties, you're pretty close to guessing what these tasted like. The cheese powder adds a salty sweetness that I find compelling, even if not everyone at our table agreed. Ok, I think I was the only person who went for seconds, and yes, I even licked up the last crumbs on the plate.
Wasabi sauce for the spring onion chicken
As a fried chicken aficionado, I reckon Naruone's and Arisun's crowns are still safe, but more Korean fried chicken options - especially in the CBD - are only a good thing. For the sake of all our stomachs.
The Sparrow's Mill
Shop 3, 116-120 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9264 7109
Monday to Friday 11.30am - 12 midnight
Saturday and public holidays 12pm - 11pm
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Korean fried chicken - Kim, Potts Point
Korean fried chicken - Moon Park, Redfern
Korean fried chicken - Naruone, Sydney
Korean fried chicken - Red Pepper, Strathfield
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6/22/2014 03:46:00 pm