The smell of fried chicken and melting chocolate wafts out of the soon-to-open Chocochicken and has taken over the corner of 11th Street and Grand Avenue downtown. That distinct sweet and savory aroma is the restaurant's signature dish, the chocolate fried chicken.
Advantage Restaurant Partners' Adam Fleischman, who is also the founder of Umami Burger and the 800 Degrees pizza chain, teamed up with self-taught cook and entertainment producer Keith Previte and film and television producer Sean Robins to open the chocolate fried chicken restaurant.
Fleischman, Previte and Robins are aiming to have the restaurant open May 29 but said it could open as late as June 7. They've also announced the opening of a second location in Santa Monica later this year.
Robins, who brags he's eaten at eight of the 10 best fried chicken restaurants in the country, originally thought of the idea during a trip to San Francisco. He was craving mole and fried chicken at the same time and thought why not put chocolate and fried chicken together? The result is a chocolate fried chicken made from organic Jidori chicken soaked in a 36-hour brine, then coated in a crust with a mixture of 20 spices.
"We wanted it to be elevated comfort food, similar to what we do at Umami and 800 degrees," said Fleischman. "We created this new recipe that some people think is Mexican, but it's not."
"We don't see anything Mexican about it," Previte said. "It's a layering of flavors and adding a complexity to it that nobody has done."
Fleischman uses 62% bittersweet chocolate from Coco Suisse, a local producer based in Beverly Hills. The chocolate is used in or on almost everything on the menu, including the fried chicken, the chocolate ketchup, duck fat fries and a special Choco seasoning. There's also mashed potatoes with white chocolate chive butter, peppadews stuffed with sausage, black cherries, Parmesan, dark chocolate, herbs and Choco dust and bacon biscuits. In addition to the chocolate ketchup, Fleischman created a miso ranch and a hot sauce infused honey.
"Chocolate isn't there to make sweetness, it's there to make more of a savory experience," said Fleischman. "It just adds a lot more complexity because a lot of fried chicken is bland because they don't do much to the chicken, the flavor is all in the coating."
The coating is a dark, almost burnt brown color peppered with Fleischman's Choco seasoning. It creates a thin crisp layer over the skin with a hint of dark chocolate, a little salt, and a lingering sugary maple flavor. The chicken itself is moist, a tad sweet, and the meat shares the subtle taste of chocolate found in the coating. It's served as a bone-in breast, boneless thigh, drumette or wing.
Other items that will make an appearance on the menu include molten chocolate meatballs, a fried chicken sandwich on a chocolate bun, a salad with chicken and a pickle plate.
L.A. Creamery, and Cake Monkey, the company that supplies dessert for Umami Burger, will also be providing desserts for the restaurant. Fleischman says L.A. Creamery has created an apple fritter ice cream sandwich with salted chocolate ice cream. The restaurant also plans on selling bars of the Coco Suisse chocolate.
Exact menu prices weren't available, but Previte estimates you'll be able to order chicken and a side and a non-alcoholic beverage for less than $20.
The restaurant will have a full bar with a menu of signature cocktails such as a chocolate martini, and suggested champagne and fried chicken pairings. There's also chocolate whiskey and chocolate tequila.
Previte plans to turn the patio area into a biergarten with what he calls "hillbilly coolers" full of $3 cans of beer and $6 "gut punch" shots that come with a can of beer and a shot of tequila or Jaeger.
The interior is industrial with high ceilings, wood paneling behind the bar and a back-splash of pressed tin along the walls and the bar. In about two months, one of the restaurant's logos, a Chicken dressed as a World War II air force bomber, will be painted outside on a bomber plane replica.
"It's a higher testosterone feel, but that's our clientele," Previte said. "Inspiration came from the American World War II generation ... that sort of gung-ho attitude. We're sort of like that."