Tokyo Fried Chicken – Here’s Hoping for a TFC Double-Down

16 Oct

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As much as I love the SGV, I’m sure if you live there you want to get out of East Asia sometimes. Tokyo Fried Chicken is a new attempt to get halfway out of East Asia, combining a soul food fried chicken place with Japanese.

The SGV is a place almost devoid of date restaurants. So maybe TFC will fill that void for WGAG couples (sorry, random WGAG couple). On second thought, your meal comes with a plastic glove, so maybe this will be a place for old married couples to have date night, not a place for first dates.

TFC is the Open Door reborn – same staff, same chef, same owners. They’ve retooled the concept to great initial success, as you’ll usually have to wait for a table. The fusion idea reminds me of a quirky place near Berkeley called the Lao Thai Soul Food Kitchen, the product of a marriage of a (I think) Laotian woman and African-American man.

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Sorry for the blurry shot. They’re only open for dinner, so expect dark photos.

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A nice selection of local and Japanese craft beers.

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We started with the battered chips, described to us as like Shakey’s Mojo potatoes. That’s much more apt, as these are not at all like chips. They are battered in rice flour and fried to a nice crispness on the outside and starchiness on the inside.

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They bring over these sauces: a ponzu bear, spicy ponzu bear, a wonderfully zesty yuzu, a small shaker of Japanese chile powder, and a sneakily spicy soy sauce. The yuzu and the spicy soy were fantastic and worth dipping whatever you can in.

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They make the menu easy by offering a fried chicken dinner for 2-4 people for $12.50 each. You get a wing, drumstick, and thigh, although I subbed out the drum and thigh for a breast. It comes with chicken rice, a small pickled cabbage, and one side per person.

The chicken is good. Nicely crispy on the outside, the coating is thin and not especially bubbly. The seasoning is subtle, not strong, flavored of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. It’s more rightly called kara-age, the Japanese fried chicken. It is served ridiculously hot, so be warned. In terms of moistness, the dark meat was done well but the breast was a little less moist. It’s hard to do white meat perfectly, and this is a place that would prefer you order dark.

The chicken rice is OK. It’s just rice boiled in chicken stock. The flavor is decent, but it plays its one note after a few bites and is done. I want them to do something more interesting with this, like maybe fry it up or add mirepoix.

The pickled cabbage is pretty good, although a bit too sweet.

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As for sides, we got the dashi collared greens and the curry creamed corn. It’s hard to see here, but the greens were a highlight. They don’t hold back on the bitterness of the greens. It marries well with the briny dashi, which also is a nice counterpoint to the oil from all the fried stuff.

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The curry creamed corn was OK. It’s a nice idea, but it’s executed in very straightforward fashion. But the flavor of Japanese curry goes well with canned corn, so you’ll probably like it.

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For dessert, they are offering a couple selections from Quenelle, the pastry shop from former Lukshon/Father’s Office pastry chef, John Park. We got the strawberry shortcake bonbons. These were almost great, with a good recreation of the cakey flavors from a strawberry shortcake bar. Park adds a touch of salt to accent the flavors. My only quibble is a slightly plasticky flavor like cake frosting from a tub.

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Overall, TFC lives up to its promise of interesting Japanese flavors in Southern fried chicken. The chicken and accompanying sauces are the star of the show, and while not the best in town are pretty good. I think some of their dishes could use some tweaking, but it’s still early.

Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.
122 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
626 282-9829
Hours:
Wed, Sun 5:30 pm – 10 pm
Thu-Sat 5:30 pm – 11 pm

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