Oh, chicken. What an interesting protein it is. When treated wrong, it can be tough, dry, and just plain sad. When treated right, it can be a juicy morsel of love. Unfortunately, I’ve had more experiences with the former than the latter, causing me to be paranoid, yet still hopeful. Though the chicken I’ve had so far in Gwangju has been pretty good, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered just how delicious something as simple as fried and/or roasted chicken could be.
Not too long ago, I went to 오꾸닭 (Okkudak), which is short for 오븐에꾸운닭 (obeun-e kkuun dak), or just “chicken that’s been cooked in an oven”, with a couple of friends for dinner. One of them had recommended the restaurant to me, going off about how moist and juicy the chicken was whenever she had the chance to bring it up. Though I was initially skeptical, I’ve made it a point to grow a little more trusting of the opinions of others and figured that it couldn’t hurt to give the place a chance.
When we arrived, the large restaurant was packed. Luckily for us, there were still a few tables left. The noise level in restaurant got louder with each step we took inside, echoing through the building. It was not quite at nightclub levels, but it was still loud enough to where we had to shout every now and then to make conversation.
Once seated, we were given a menu. I flipped through the pages, looking to see what kind of chicken was available. Outside of the set menu options, many of the choices were also in English, making the chore of picking what to eat for dinner an easier one. The most impressive aspect of it all was just how many different types of chicken the restaurant offered. Their specialties included Crunch (battered and fried), Crunch Seasoning (battered, fried, and seasoned), Roast Original (oven roasted), and Roast Seasoning (oven roasted and cooked up in a pan with vegetables and sauce). Some of the side dishes looked rather interesting as well, though it mostly consisted of popular bar snacks like sausages and potatoes. After much deliberation on empty stomachs, we settled on ordering the Welsh Onion Roast Chicken, the Crunch Boneless Chicken, and the Grilled Cheese Pumpkin (we wanted the Egg Tortilla, but they were out). After we placed our large order, we were asked to choose two types of sauces to eat with our chicken. Though it wasn’t easy to pick two out of the eight options (with interesting ones like Black Garlic and Pineapple chili), we chose Wasabi Mayo and Sweet Chili.
As we waited for our orders, we found that it was a little difficult to get the attention of the staff to get drinks, even with a bell at our table. While I’m sure that it was mostly due to them being busy, my shy nature left me in an awkward place when they brought us only two glasses of water when we asked for three. On the bright side, they were pretty quick on filling our requests when we ordered soda.
Before long, our table no longer had any real estate available for our phones as our food arrived. We were first given the usual sides of pickles and radishes with our sauces on the side. After that came the Crunch Boneless Chicken, which was still piping hot. Soon after, we received the cheesy mess that was the Grilled Cheese Pumpkin, as well as the Welsh Onion Roast Chicken. Though we were left questioning if we had possibly ordered too much food, but those worries were silenced as soon as we started eating.
The first thing I tried was the fried, crunchy chicken without bones. I feel like saying each bite was moist and succulent is a bit of an understatement. I don’t know how it was done, but these pieces of battered and lightly seasoned chicken were almost too juicy, if that’s even possible. Due the juice levels, the first few bites were painful from having just come out of the fryer, though that didn’t really slow us down. I also got into the cheesy pumpkin while waiting for my chicken to cool down a bit. Though it looked a little overwhelming, the combination of salty, oily cheese went surprisingly well with the sweet, creamy pumpkin that came in varying textures. The only downside to the dish, as with most cheese covered options, was that it didn’t take long for the cheese to go from being gooey and melty to tough and chewy.
My last few bites of dinner consisted of the roasted chicken, which had been served with a bed of shredded and dressed scallions. The subtle sauce that the scallions had been seasoned with pooled at the bottom of the pan, causing the already moist chicken to soak up those complex flavors. Despite the high levels of moisture, the skin of the roasted chicken still managed to stay crisp, just the way I like it. This chicken was my favorite part of the night, though the raw green onions were a bit overwhelming. Seeing how no one else touched the stuff just confirmed that we all would have preferred the dish without the greens.
After just one visit, 오꾸닭 has officially climbed up the ranks in my list of places for chicken, easily taking the top spot. Never in my life have I had chicken this moist and flavorful, and that includes what I’ve had outside of South Korea. While a quieter restaurant with slightly better service would make this place poultry perfection, the chicken alone will definitely keep me coming back.
Address: 광주 동구 문화전당로35번길 16-4 (on the same street as German Bar)
Hours: 4:00PM to 6:00AM
Average Price Range: 13,000 to 20,000 per chicken dish