We are reaching peak fried chicken sandwich in Los Angeles. So prolific is fried chicken between slices of bread that it may one day surpass pastrami as the quintessential L.A. sandwich. (I can hear you screaming already!) But when done well — chicken crisp, bread excellent, pickles in abundance — there’s always room for a newcomer.
Enter the new off-menu fried chicken sandwich at Kismet, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer’s not-always-traditional-but-always-delicious Middle Eastern restaurant in Los Feliz.
“It’s a sandwich that rules them all,” Hymanson said. “We both just love chicken sandwiches. The one at Alimento. There’s one at Night + Market. There’s a lot of chicken sandwiches in the neighborhood, and we thought it would be nice to be part of the club.”
Kismet’s take is a Goliath, with wings of iceberg lettuce sticking out the sides and a knife plunged into it, announcing it as a whole-meal experience.
The chefs marinate a whole chicken breast in what Hymanson called “classic Americana black pepper, salt, paprika vibes” before dredging it in equal parts sesame seeds and panko bread crumbs to create a sesame chicken schnitzel situation with serious crunch.
“It’s an ode to our Eastern European Jew heritage,” Hymanson said. “It is very similar in technique to the schnitzel of my youth that my mom would make.”
The chicken is topped with a mound of giardiniera — a nod to Hymanson’s Chicago upbringing — made from pickled whatever-is-fresh-from-the-farmers-market. On a recent visit, there were shaved celery, peppers, carrot and cauliflower.
Then there’s the special sauce: a goopy, tangy white concoction that drips from the lettuce to the chicken to your lap. It’s a lemon and thyme mayo made with labneh, fresh thyme and lemon zest and an extra hit of umami from spicy, fermented tofu.
“It’s such a rich sandwich, we really wanted to balance things out by having enough pickles, acid, lightness and brightness,” Kramer said.
“But it will also take a grown man down,” added Hymanson.
It’s all piled onto two thick slices of buttered-and-griddled Texas toast-style brioche made by Kismet pastry chef Meadow Ramsey.
The sandwich has been around for a few weeks as an off-menu item, but here’s hoping it finds a permanent spot at the restaurant.