“It’s not the first restaurant fit-out that’s late and it definitely won’t be the last.”
Journalist-turned-chef Drasko Jankovic is in a reflective mood. Drasko’s Hot Chicken, his Nashville-style fried chicken restaurant, was due to open a month ago in early December but, like many hospitality businesses, was waylaid by Covid-19-related complications.
While the delay is less than ideal for Jankovic, his business partner Ken Craigie (RoyAl’s Chicken) and lovers of fried chicken – people like you and me – the upside is that it’s enabled our man to further fine-tune his food offering.
“It’s a constant process of evolution and refinement,” says Jankovic, a former graduate of Noma in Copenhagen as well as a one-time junior sous chef at Noma’s sister restaurant, 108. “I’m never one hundred percent satisfied and always looking to improve things and not just sporadically. I’m looking at these things every day with an eagle eye. Everything we do is about making our customers the happiest customers in town.”
The chook, while staying faithful to Nashville tradition – brined, floured, fried then finished with a seasoned oil – is jazzed up using techniques Jankovic brought home with him from Copenhagen. The brine, for instance, is based on dashi rather than buttermilk, while the finishing oil has been flavoured with, among other things, a savoury garum: a fermented sauce that, in this instance, has been made from roasted chicken wings. The result is a bird that’s juicy and crunchy in all the right places and all too easy to eat.
Despite the forensic detail involved with frying the chicken, the side dishes speak just as loudly to Jankovic’s fine-dining background and commitment to local produce. (The menu includes the sweet dedication, “local organic and biodynamic farmers are our heroes” and name-checks all the restaurant’s suppliers).
The fries are made in-house using white potatoes from an organic farmer in Muchea, fried in a cold-pressed canola oil from Healthfarm in Kojonup and seasoned with a house-made “chicken salt”, a by-product from the roast chicken wing garum. The beans are a vegan riff on pasulj, a slow-braised bean dish that features prominently in both Serbia as well as the Jankovic family’s memories. The pickles are fermented rather than vinegar-pickled and contain seasonal vegetables, salt, bay leaves, time and nothing else.
Chicken is available as a Japanese-inspired sandos with pickles, slaw and comeback sauce – the sourdough bread is from The Woodfired Baker in Maylands while Ryan Bookless of Monsterella Pizza has agreed to bake gluten-free rolls in the pizzeria’s wood-fired oven – or by the piece. (The chicken is available as tenders, wings and a whole Maryland and comes in five different heat levels). On weekends, fried chicken waffles with Canadian maple syrup will also be available. It’s not a big menu, certainly, but to Jankovic, quality will always trump quantity.
“We want to make every dish shine,” he says. “We want to put that time and effort into every dish. We want every dish to be as good as the next one.”
The former Dome site in Mount Hawthorn has been transformed using a colourful mural from local artist Hans Bruechle of Handbrake Art and a variety of indoor, outdoor and counter seating. To drink, there’s coffee from Filament, kombucha from Kommunity Brew and a house lemon myrtle and rosella iced tea, although guests can also BYO. Jankovic, after all, is all about feeding the community.
“All my [cooking] experience has been in fine dining, but at that price point, not everyone can afford to enjoy that type of food,” says Jankovic. “I wanted to bring that attention to detail to something that’s comforting and accessible to most people and make more people happy.”
Drasko’s Hot Chicken opens on Saturday January 9.
Drasko’s Hot Chicken
Shop 36/148 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn
Wed & Thu 4pm-7:30pm
Sat & Sun 12pm-8pm