Save for the occasional outing to Popeye's at the mall food court for some spicy goodness, my fried chicken eatin' and finger lickin' days were long gone. Heck, I even switched to the Colonel's grilled chicken at KFC, although my stomach still growls after a full meal due to the puny leg and thigh pieces. Or maybe it was the extraneous breading on the fried chicken that actually fills you up.
However, when my friend C. suggested checking out Chef Charles Gabriel's celebrated fried chicken, I was intrigued. I was aware of her quest for the perfect bird, and some of my suggestions (including Popeye's) had not impressed her. We thought of dragging ourselves all the way to Harlem, but as we were psyching ourselves up for the "big trip", we heard the great news - Chef Gabriel will be serving his iconic dish at Patroon in Midtown every Friday. The downside: it would cost a cool 25 bucks for three pieces plus two sides and corn bread. Seriously, $25 for fried chicken? (Mentally calculating how many meals at Pollo Campero this is equivalent to). The last time I read the paper there a recession going on.
We managed to drag two other friends to Patroon last Friday. I immediately liked the warmth of Patroon's earth-toned walls decorated with black-and-white photos of classic New York landmarks, the soothing soft lighting, and white tablecloths. It reeked of quiet dignity and looked like an expensive place. Well, it WAS an expensive place, judging from the prices on the menu and the $15 margaritas we were sipping. So, blowing $25 on fried chicken didn't seem quite out of the ordinary.
I scanned the room and noted that most of the other diners were feasting on the fried chicken dinner. Although momentarily distracted by the Restaurant Week menu, ultimately all four of us (including one friend who hasn't eaten poultry in years) decided to order the fried chicken as well. The hard choice really was deciding which two sides to get - I figured since I was eating bad stuff (health-wise) anyway, I'd skip the veggies and opt for the fattening mac-n-cheese and candied yams.
Three pieces of Chef Gabriel's fried chicken later, we all agreed it was pretty good - non greasy, moist, meaty, not too spicy/salty, no extraneous breading. Skin was pretty crunchy, and got stamped with the non-poultry eater's approval. On the other hand, the side dishes garnered less positive reviews, and in truth they were mostly just okay.
Curiously enough, the couple both were blown away by the cornbread, while I thought that Boston Market's was much better. The banana pudding made me happy though, but I was the only one who really enjoyed it.
In the end, as we forked over our $25 plus tax and tip (don't ask me to do the math again), there was no denying it - that was one heck of an expensive fried chicken meal. Couldn't resist quipping that we need to rush to the nearest hospital, not to have our cholesterol levels checked , but to get our heads examined. Was it worth it? Let's just say that next time I'm craving some chicken, Bon Chon will be the one to satisfy it.