It was Sunday afternoon, and we decided to try Santouka for lunch. Unfortunately, the line was as long as a Greek unemployment office, so we decided to try Zabu Chicken just down the street. I was told that it was really good by another friend (not to mention that it was also mentioned on Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2011), and I’ve never tried the Korean rendition of fried chicken. How did it compare to the powerhouses like Church’s and KFC? Or can it be compared at all?
We arrived right when the restaurant was opened. There was no sign of anyone, humans or chickens. Finally, an ESL student/waitress emerged from the darkness and seated us in the empty restaurant. There was a signature chicken menu as well as a run off the mill Korean restaurant menu. Since the word “chicken” was in the name of the restaurant, we opted for the chicken menu, as a quick glance at the regular menu revealed that you could pretty much get those items at any other Korean restaurants.
We were told that we were required to wait 30 minutes. To fire up the grill? No matter. 15 minutes into the wait, the waitress turned on TVs at full blast. It was so loud that it was hard to hear my friend who was just a feet away. They were playing some Korean music show, but to be honest I would rather be watching StarCraft replays so I can impress the waitress with my APM, if she can ever hear me over the loud ambient.
If this JPEG have sound, your screen would be cracked by now.
After a long wait, the first of the chicken arrived. We first had the Zabu Soy Sal-Sal (rice) chicken. It was served on a bed of salad alongside with another plate of salad. The chicken, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It was simply breaded chicken, not unlike the party platters you would get at Safeway. It was bland and void with flavor with just a hint of chicken taste.
Our last two items came together: the Zabu Soy Original and Zabu Hot Original. We could immediately smell the difference. First was the Zabu Soy Original. My first few bites and I am already attracted to the sweet, crispy crust with a hint of garlic. The skin was moist enough so that it is not too dried (like some of the low end, soul less Chinese take out places).
More attractive, however, was its neighbor, the Zabu Hot Original. I was traumatized a few years ago by downing these fire sticks which they called spicy chicken at some Thai restaurant, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have a repeat of that incident. This, however, was good. They only have a hint of spice, generally sweet, but just enough heat to bring out the taste. I liked this over the Soy Original and the plate for Hot Original was quickly emptied before the Original. For both of the chicken, the amount of batter was just right, so I was not eating bites of batter.
This was deceptively addictive.
Service could be better. The ESL student/waitress must have been shrouded by the fog of war because she wasn’t visible most of the time while we were there. I then realized she was busy cleaning, but she obviously missed the cigarette butt that was a few feet away from our table. Given that this is more of a bar than a restaurant, I wouldn’t put too much weight on service.
The Zabu Hot Original was incredibly addictive, and I would return for more. But do keep in mind, the restaurant opens at 12:00pm and closes at 2:00am. Hopefully the restaurant would get over its hangover start when it opens and be able to kick into high gear at night.