Address: 61 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm-10pm Website: http://www.chickeninstitute.com.au/
Adding to the growing number of fusion restaurants in Sydney is Chicken Institute. Situated in Surry Hills, Chicken Institute offers modern Korean cuisine with Korean fried chicken as their specialty, which they have proclaimed as “damn good”. The girls and I decided to come here one Sunday evening to see if this was really the case. We arrived at 5pm on a Sunday night and looked like eager beavers standing outside, waiting for it to open. Chicken Institute is a small restaurant, seating about 20-30 people, with a floor to ceiling glass window at the front. Because of this large window, the restaurant staff could see us standing outside waiting, looking like eager beavers. The waitresses motioned that it would be another 10 minutes until they opened, so we looked over the display menu at the front while we waited. Within the 10 minutes, we had basically decided what we wanted to order for the evening: Damn good fried chicken ($20), Damn good fried garlic chicken ($24), BBQ corn ($7), Kimchi poutine ($8), Wagyu ssam ($24), and Steam buns ($6 each).
The steam buns and BBQ corn were the first dishes to arrive, and we finished them in minutes. The steam buns at Chicken Institute appear to be a modern reworking of the gua bao bun (a current food trend that is becoming ubiquitous in Sydney). The menu had stated that the steam buns contained eggplant schnitzel, but if they hadn’t, I would have assumed it was chicken. Chicken or not, the schnitzel was delicious deep fried perfection, with a heap of tangy sauce as garnish on a bun that was as soft as a pillow.
The wagyu ssam was arranged with shredded carrot, shallots, lettuce, cloves of garlic and a dollop of ssamjang on the side. We wrapped the meat and vegetables in the lettuce to make a small wrap. The wagyu beef was tender and marinated in a sweet sauce, which made it wonderfully flavoursome. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. Several of the girls said that the BBQ corn was one of their favourite dishes of the night, while I didn’t like it as much. The corn was juicy, topped with sea salt, Manchego, coriander and chipotle. It was tasty, but didn’t have any complexity or contrast in textures.
The kimchi poutine was one of Chicken Institute’s dishes that I had been looking forward to. The shoe string fries very closely resembled Mcdonald’s fries, but topped with a bunch of goodies such as thin strips of cheese, shallots, kimchi and chilli. I had expected a stronger hit of kimchi and chilli, but there was only a subtle hint of these flavours. I like strong flavours in my food, and would have preferred a spicier kick, but overall, really enjoyed the kimchi poutine anyway.
The two chicken dishes arrived shortly after our entrees. The damn good fried chicken and damn good fried garlic chicken were fairly similar in taste and appearance, with the only real difference was that one was a little spicier than the other. Aside from that, the chicken was perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior that wasn’t oily, and moist insides that were still steaming hot when we bit into them.
The sweet potato doughnuts with dulce de leche topping were pleasant but not amazing. We struggled to finish them. In comparison, the gold fish ice cream waffle ($6) was eaten up eagerly by everyone. It reminded me of taiyaki from Japan and also the Korean grocery store ice cream in the shape of a fish.
Rating: 7/10 The service and atmosphere of Chicken Institute were good, with pricing that was great value for money. The girls and I paid $20 per head for our dinner that night. I thought that their dishes had a good balance of Western elements while still maintaining traditional Korean origins.