Deep-fried, double-fried, bathed in buttermilk, dusted in spices, glazed in hot-sauce or all of the above – fried chicken has hit Sydney and it’s never tasted so good. Inspired by the traditions of the Deep South, Korea, Taiwan and Japan, local chefs are putting their own twist on this signature snack. And Sydney diners can’t seem to get enough of it. Whether you share it at a fancy restaurant or dig into plateful after a big night out, be prepared to get your hands dirty, because these fried-chicken dishes are finger-lickin’ good.
Devon by Night
“Our signature KJI Fried Chicken is inspired by our love for the late-night, post-service, beer-and-fried-chicken combo,” says head chef Zacharay Tan. “Brined in a buttermilk and white-pepper solution overnight, the chicken is coated with a Korean-style batter and then floured and fried.” The result is a mountain of golden, crunchy winglets, served alongside a sweet-and sour-gochujang peanut sauce. If cravings take hold earlier, diners can get their fried chicken fix from Devon Cafe’s brunch menu – with the KJI chicken sandwiched between a black-sesame brioche bun with a Brussels sprout and kimchi slaw.
76 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
“Good fried chicken is my favourite thing in the world,” confesses Pinbone’s head chef, Mike Eggert. From America to Japan and Korea, Eggert has travelled the world sampling this fried delicacy and developing his very own recipe, which he describes as a, “blend of the best of these three cultures.” Pinbone’s signature dish is salty and sweet, and the crisp batter is complemented with acidic pickled carrots and crunchy lettuce. Stop by during the week and you can dig into a plate of the restaurant’s bite-size chicken poppers, or make a special trip on a Sunday for Pinbone’s famous fried-chicken burger.
3 Jersey Road, Woollahra
“The Korean name of my fried chicken dish is Yangnyum tonk dak,” says head chef, TK, but after his recipe became a staff favourite in the Ms.G’s kitchen where TK used to work, head chefs Dan Hong and Paul Donnelly nicknamed the dish “TKFC”, which has caught on among diners. Cured with salt, sugar, garlic, ginger and the Korean alcohol, Soju, the chicken is then coated in a thin batter – “so you can taste more chicken than batter,” says TK. The chicken wings are then dressed in the gochujang BBQ sauce – which is sticky, sweet and sour all at once – and covered in nuts and shallots.
7/24–30 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point
Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken
When it comes to fried chicken, Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken firmly believes that “bigger is better”. Originating at Taipei’s Shilin Night Market, this larger-than-life snack is now available in Sydney’s CBD. “With a single, whole piece of chicken breast on the bone, our chefs expertly butterfly cut the breast resulting in a 30-centimetre chicken steak,” explains owner, Lili Shi. The chicken is marinated, battered with herbs and spices, fried and wrapped in a paper bag to eat on-the-go. Customers can also add different seasonings including chilli, seaweed, curry and plum salts.
96 Liverpool Street, Sydney
“I discovered the recipe by trial and error in our one-bedroom apartment in Rozelle,” says head chef, Gregory Llewellyn. The chook is brined for a full day, cold smoked, double dipped in house-made hot sauce and buttermilk and then seasoned. “It’s all about the crust,” says Llewellyn, and indeed, you’ll hear the crunch as you bite into the batter.
33 Enmore Road, Newtown
It’s made a name for itself as Sydney’s master of booze and burgers, but the team behind Mary’s also does a darn-good fried chicken. Soaked in a marinade of buttermilk, hot sauce and maple syrup, then rubbed with more than 10 herbs and spices, the crunchy, chunky fried chicken pieces are served in a basket, with hot sauce in a Jack Daniel’s bottle. You can order a half or whole chicken or, go for broke, with the Larry, which is two whopping birds.
6 Mary Street, Newtown
Head chef and co-owner, Ben Sears, explains how his take on fried chicken was inspired by bringing together his favourite recipes from around the world. “The saucy glaze is from Korean fried chicken, the brine is a cross between buttermilk-marinated Southern fried chicken, with a Malaysian fermented shrimp sauce.” It’s a winning combination. The chicken is crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, the shrimp packs a real salt kick, and you’ll want to mop up every last, sticky drop of the soy and syrup sauce.
34 Redfern Street, Redfern
“Our fried chicken is inspired by the stalls on the streets of Bangkok,” says head chef Dan Hong. “What makes it super tasty is the curry paste we marinate the chicken in, which includes coriander, lime leaves, onions, chillies and garlic.” Crisp, spicy, crunchy and succulent – it’s everything you want in fried chicken and more.
155 Victoria St, Potts Point
For a restaurant that has the title of ‘Chicken Institute,’ the expectations are naturally high but, fortunately, the casual eatery in Surry Hills lives up to it. Heaven Kim, owner and chef believes that “regardless of cultures or what country you’re from, people love chicken.” The menu offers “damn good” chicken in four ways and it’s all about sharing. The secret to Heaven’s succulent pieces of fried chicken is the light batter, a tasty fusion of Mexican and American spices and the choice of traditional fried, sticky, garlic or peri peri. It can get messy but Heaven’s got you covered with “a side of glove.”
61 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills
Fat Rupert’s in Bondi offers their own twist to the road trip binge of choice, the Notorious K.F.C Burgers. The Kentucky fried chicken favourite has been smartened up with some smoked tomato, lettuce, crispy bacon and a brioche bun. Alternatively, Rupert's offers a heaped serving of a moreish take on buttermilk-fried chicken. The Pepe Saya fried chicken hits the spot with a crunchy exterior and succulent meat inside, which is made even better with lashings of sticky honey butter.
249 Bondi Road, Bondi
10 William Street
A favourite of chefs and locals, this tiny wine bar and bistro has been making some of the best modern Italian food in Sydney for the last five years. Chef Dan Pepperall is known to add Asian ingredients to his dishes with a great effect. Although the menu changes regularly, keep your eye out for the crispy skin chicken. It's not quite the heavily battered bite-sized morsels we think of as fried chicken but you'll forgive us for including it when you try it. Pieces of tender meat is encased in a thin layer of crunchy skin, served with half a lemon and a spice mix to dip it in. It's conversation-stopping.
10 William Street, Paddington