Finger lickin’ feud: Top chefs battle over Sydney’s best birds
JULIAN Cincotta and Morgan McGlone are locked in a friendly battle for fried chicken supremacy. Despite the two chefs — one at Surry Hills’ Butter, the other at Barangaroo’s Belles Hot Chicken — being buddies, the battlelines are drawn.
“I don’t use any bone in my chicken,” says Cincotta of Butter. “I don’t like eating a chicken bone personally. I don’t want to put my fork in and hit bone. So I found a way of making my chicken juicy without bone.”
But for Belles’ McGlone, the choice is clear.
Pro bone... Belle's Morgan McGlone. Picture: Chris Pavlich.
No bone... Butter’s Julian Cincotta. Picture: John Fotiadis
“I honestly believe that eating chicken on the bone is the best way to eat chicken,” he says.
Despite their technique differences, the two chefs have something very much in common. Both are making their fame and fortune off the back of that most humble of proteins: the chook.
“Everyone in the world eats chicken,” says McGlone. “Even if you don’t eat other meats, you usually eat chicken.
“And the thing about it is that beef prices are going through the roof, which is why everyone is being creative with chicken. It’s good value for money and it’s so tasty.”
And says Cincotta: “If you look at trends, every year the top of the list of food trends is fried chicken.
“I like eating it every day.”
That said, there’s more to chicken than the fried variety. Indeed, one chicken’s great virtues is its versatility – it’s excellent fried, roasted, poached, fricasseed, flame-grilled, barbecued, breaded and pan-fried, used in burgers or turned into stock for soup.
The best chicken dishes may not all be expensive, but each comes crafted by experts whose extensive experimentation has led to greatness. Here are some of the best.
El Jannah restaurant in Granville
1. WHOLE CHICKEN MEAL WITH GARLIC SAUCE AT EL JANNAH
You can argue who does charcoal chicken better: the Lebanese or the Portuguese. For us, it’s a toss up, but then again, El Jannah gets it by nose on the quality of its garlic sauce. Started in Granville in 1999, El Jannah now has branches in Blacktown and Punchbowl (with its chicken all prepared in Chester Hill), and the secret to this bird’s deliciousness is in the careful preparation method, plus the heat of the charcoal grills over which the chook is cooked. Go for the superb family meal of whole butterflied chargrilled chook, large chips, garlic sauce and regular tabouli for $21.90. $21.90! That’s brilliant bargain eating
4-8 South St, Granville, 9637 0977; 701 Punchbowl Rd, Punchbowl, 9759 2999; 44-48 Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown, 8814 9485; eljannah.com.au
2. CHICKEN AND CHIPS AT SILVAS
Debate rages in the inner-west about whether Frango’s or Silvas does the best Portuguese-style chicken but we’re giving Silvas the nod, because, well, it has friendlier service. And the chicken – marinated and cooked on medieval-looking grilling racks over hot coals – is superb. Go for a whole charcoal chicken with chips and vegetable rice ($26.50) for the ultimate representation of chicken and chips in this city.
Shop 1, 82 Canterbury Rd, Petersham, 9572 9911, silvas.com.au
3. CHICKEN FRICASSEE AT HUBERT
This glorious subterranean hotspot may evoke a sexy, between-the-wars Parisian nightclub, but it’s not all about the space. Chef Dan Pepperell’s food has touches of genius and best on the list is a plush chicken fricassee, admittedly a rich $62, that involves an entire chook served with its head and claws on, steamed before being fried and offered like a gilded treasure in a luxuriant jus of mushroom, cream and white wine. It’s retro and it’s wonderful.
15 Bligh St, Sydney, no phone, restauranthubert.com
4. WINGS AT BELLES HOT CHICKEN
McGlone says the biggest seller at his cantina, which will move to a permanent location at Barangaroo in September, are his wings. Of the 1200kg of chicken he moves a week, about 650kg-700kg are wings. “Wings give you everything,” he says. “So much crunch on the outside, and that tender meat inside”. At Belles, wings are $16 for four plus a side and sauce.
33 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo, no phone, belleshotchicken.com
5. TENDERS AT BUTTER
The sneaker-pimp sensibility of this Surry Hills bolthole (they actually sell the sneakers exhibited in the window alongside bottles of strategically placed champagne) belies the serious attitude Cincotta takes towards his chook. The “sandwich” ($16) is done with dashi butter and pickles and served with a creamy slaw, and it’s good, but it’s the tenders we love – extremely tender tenderloins that remain juicy despite their encounter with the deep fryer. Each order is cooked as it comes in, ensuring all the chicken is as fresh as the minute it comes off the heat.
6 Hunt St, Surry Hills, 8283 9146, buttersydney.com.au
6. FRIED CHICKEN WITH BUTTERMILK BISCUIT AT HARTSYARD
It takes chef Greg Llewellyn three days to brine, marinate and cook the chicken that goes into each plate of fried chook at his rollicking Newtown restaurant. His birds are tenderised in buttermilk and coated in a batter with a heady mixture of spices that include paprika and mustard powder, giving them an incredible crunch. The biscuit and gravy are luxurious bonuses.
33 Enmore Rd, Newtown, 8068 1473, hartsyard.com.au
7. AYAM GORENG AT AYAM GORENG 99
This Indonesian favourite is the sort of global gem most people in Sydney know are out there, but don’t know how to find. Arrive early, because crowds build as locals and Indonesian expats swarm in for the, yes, ayam goreng (chicken fried Jakarta style), ayam goreng kalasan (chicken fried Javanese style) and ayam bakar (chicken cooked over charcoal). Thighs and breasts are $6.50 each and the Javanese style is sweeter than the Jakarta style. Both come with house-made sambal that’s also stellar.
464 Anzac Pde, Kingsford, 9697 0030, no website
8. BARBECUED CHOOK AT IL GIRARROSTO
The Via Napoli pizza chain is a Sydney favourite but now owner and chef Luigi Esposito has branched out into roasts — Naples style. Into huge Italian-built roasting ovens go whole chickens slathered with herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, slow roasted over ironbark and olive woods until the meat is tender and the skin is salty and delectable. A half chicken for $26 comes with potatoes cooked in dripping in the rotisserie ovens.
58-60 Gladesville Rd, Hunters Hill, 9428 3297, ilgirarrosto.com.au
9. SCHNITZEL AT THE UNICORN
It has to be a good schnitty to take out the title of Sydney’s best schnitty but that’s the word on the $22 version at Paddington’s The Unicorn Hotel (although the newcomer at Surry Hills’ Dolphin Hotel is also a contender). With food at The Unicorn done by the blokes from Mary’s Newtown (where they do excellent fried wings), the Unicorn schnitzel is a cleverly conceived Holmbrae breast with wing left in so the meat retains its succulence.
106 Oxford St, Paddington, 9360 7994, theunicornhotel.com.au
10. LIL KIM BURGER AT JUICY LUCY
This chicken shop opened with a bang in February, courtesy of chef Milan Strbac, who runs the nearby Sugarcane. So while the chicken here has Asian touches (a Thai-marinated rotisserie cooked bird is $18) Strbac says most come for the burgers. Try either the Lil Kim ($12) with kim chi, picked carrot and daikon and Asian herbs or the Juicy Lucy ($12) with cheese, lettuce, tomato and siracha mayo. Both come on a milk bun with a big juicy fried boneless maryland.
2A Elizabeth St, Surry Hills, 8540 8726
Source: Elizabeth Meryment, Food writer, The Daily Telegraph
Best chicken Lebanese charcoal ,,El Janna restaurant Granville