One could make a strong case that the best chicken in Los Angeles can be found near the crossroads of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue in Koreatown. In this area, you’ll find innumerable Korean fried chicken joints, the Peruvian chicken specialist Pollo a la Brasa, also Dino’s, Pollo Campero, Crawford’s and Gus’s.
And it’s at this Koreatown intersection where there’s a new, recently opened restaurant named the Pollo L.A., pressed into the back of the mini-mall sheltering the Vermont-Wilshire Metro. It’s a fast-casual, minimal set-up, just a few bright yellow chairs and blonde wood tables on a concrete floor with rooster head logos all over the big glass windows.
There’s exactly one dish to be had here, and that’s the chicken. . It’s whole marinated chicken roasted two hours on the rotisserie, a cosmic cousin to the type you sometimes see cooked on open flames by the roadside in Mexico and L.A.
The restaurant comes from Derek Rhie, who also owns Roll Call, a sushi roll and sake spot next door. And chicken is a part of his DNA, having grown up around his grandmother’s own popular, longstanding restaurant, Lennox Chicken, which she followed with Pepe’s Pollo in Lynwood.
At Rhie’s place, you walk to the counter and order a half or whole chicken or a combination big enough to feed a family/small film crew.
The chicken is served hot, with the skin mottled a golden brown — both sticky and crisp.
It comes with a chunky, spicy salsa with tomato and jalapeño as well as a smooth green guacamole that work in concert. There are also refried beans, rice and a baggie of steamed tortillas.
The overall effect is an inexpensive and well-executed pollo asado place you wouldn’t mind having in the neighborhood on your lunch breaks.
Rhie confesses that he is hoping to eventually replicate the concept. But as for the marinade, he refuses to divulge much of anything, other than admitting that citrus is in there, albeit in a non-central role.
“My grandmother would probably kill me if I told you anything else,” he says.