Dueling Dishes: Cold Chicken at the Surfin' Chicken, Victory Bakery

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No, I'm not talking about some Taiwanese concoction or that dish I had at the house of someone from the Mexican state of Guerrero years ago that involved room-temperature hen slathered in green sauce, the tastiet salmonella you'll ever eat. I'm talking about properly prepared chicken that people forgot to eat, and thus cooled down. Leftovers.

I ate two versions of that this week. The first time happened at Victory Bakery, Little Arabia's restaurant palace. I went with friends, good people who nevertheless don't dare try ethnic cuisine for the most part (yep: they're gabachos) but thoroughly enjoyed Victory's chicken kabob and garlic sauce. I went for the buffet, but quickly thought I made a mistake: it was barren, lukewarm, and the roasted chicken, though charred nicely, was cold.

Didn't matter: a pool of clarified juices kept the chicken moist, and the skin still cracked. The key were those juices--butter, lemon, sumac, garlic. You could put that on gravel and call it a gourmet meal.

I never thought chicken so lukewarm could be so great. But then I visited the Surfin' Chicken two days later.

I will praise this San Clemente eatery until death, because its charbroiled chicken is the best in Orange County and rivals Sassoon Chicken as the best overall hen. I ordered a half-order of chicken to go, drove back up to SanTana, then forgot about it--my chica made a wonderful soup. Idiot that I am, I let it cool down. Hours later, I was still hungry and dug in, too lazy to reheat it.

The Surfin' Chicken chicken also had juices on the Styrofoam plate--spicier on account of owner Jose "El Cuatro" Ramirez's epic dustings of chile powder, sharper due to the showers of lemon juice he squirts onto the hen. This time, the key was the blackened skin. As much as I love roasted chicken for its golden skin, I prefer it blackened. Maybe it's the Mexican in me--actually, it is. Burned meat is one of mankind's great achievements, and I will always side with the charred parts of food.

Of course, both Victory Bakery and the Surfin' Chicken's poultry is best hot. But don't be afraid if you find each cold or too lazy to reheat leftovers. Maybe it's not the safest approach, but since when have chowhounds cared about safety and food?


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