HEALTH: An L.A. fried chicken restaurant to obsess over plus cheesecake


I try not to write about fried chicken. After an entire season of a video series devoted to excellent fried poultry, I thought I should give it a rest. But I still eat some form of fried chicken (cutlet, wing, drumstick, thigh, cartilage) a few times a week. And once in a while, I come across something so spectacular, it would be a shame not to share it. This week’s column is all about two dishes that bring me joy. Two dishes I hope will bring you joy as well. And yes, one of them is fried chicken. Sorry, not sorry.

Fried chicken thighs from Le Coupe

Does eating something with your hands make it taste better? What about eating meat off of the bone? Although I don’t know that there is any scientific evidence to support either, I find that eating my fried chicken in the form of a bone-in Frenched thigh and holding it like Fred Flintstone held his dino ribs, is supremely satisfying.

At Craig and Kristen Walker’s new Le Coupe restaurant on Western Avenue, the entire menu is built around a fried, bone-in Frenched thigh. The name Le Coupe in French means “the cut.” The Frenched thigh is something Craig made while working at a restaurant in Aspen, Colo., selling more than $80,000 worth of fried chicken thighs his first winter there.

“I had caviar, Wagyu beef, all the crazy ingredients there but people always gravitated towards the fried chicken,” he said.

Craig makes precise cuts around the chicken bone, then cuts underneath and along the sides so the meat stays connected at one end, with the rest of the bone completely clean. He pounds the meat to decrease the cooking time and increase the surface area for more crunch. He marinates the thighs for a minimum of 12 hours in buttermilk and Slap Ya Mama, a hot sauce owned by Jack Walker, whom Craig likes to call his cousin. There’s no familial relation, though the two friends did live with each other for a while in Louisiana.

Craig dredges the chicken in seasoned flour and then lets it rest to completely hydrate the flour. If you’ve ever had fried chicken with a gap between the coating and the chicken, someone didn’t rest their chicken/ hydrate the flour before frying. The chicken is re-dredged in flour and fried to order. That second dip in the flour creates a thick, craggy crust I’d be happy to eat on its own. After the chicken comes out of the fryer, Craig adds a chile honey made with chile paste and honey from JJJ Bees. It’s about a level three in terms of heat but it’s just hot enough. And he serves his chicken with a creamy buttermilk ranch packed with fresh herbs and a little vinegar.

I like to hold the chicken by the clean end of the bone and take big bites, pausing every so often to lick the chile honey off of my fingers and along the corners of my mouth. I can dunk the chicken into the ranch too, like a giant chicken tender with a convenient handle.

Though the focus is the chicken, it’s best eaten alongside an order of corn ribs (deep-fried quarters of corn with lime mayo and chile seasoning, queso fresco and cilantro), the blue cornbread, and a compressed watermelon salad served in a puddle of basil pistachio dressing dotted with creamy goat feta. Even the salad, served as petite squares of watermelon, is something you can eat with your hands.

“I do think there is something to be said about eating with your hands,” Craig said. “I have so much food on my menu that requires hands. It brings another element.”

I couldn’t agree more. Just ask for extra napkins.

The whipped cheesecake at Yangban Society

The whipped cheesecake from Yangban Society.

The whipped cheesecake from Yangban Society.

(John Troxell)

Every time I near the end of dinner at Yangban Society, Katianna and John Hong’s Art District restaurant, I experience the same dilemma. I’m happily satiated by the sticky soy garlic chicken wings, the abalone congee potpie, the avocado and Shinko pear salad tossed in a hot mustard vinaigrette I could drink, the biscuit smothered in curry gravy and a handful of other dishes. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. The thought is actually painful. But for Katianna’s cheesecake, I persevere.

The tall, chunky wedge takes up most of the small plate it’s served on, swimming in a thick red strawberry topping that spills over the sides and pools around the slice. It looks like it was pulled straight from one of those brightly lighted, rotating dessert cases at a diner.

“I love how you go into delis and diners and the cheesecakes are always on display,” Katianna said during a recent call. “They usually have a bunch of flavors and toppings like super bright canned jam. They end up being kind of underwhelming but I wanted to do it some justice.”

To achieve that same canned jam look, Katianna washes, hulls and freezes her strawberries. Once they are frozen, she removes them from the freezer and lets them hang so that a clear strawberry juice falls from the fruit. She brings the juice to a boil with some pectin and sugar, and lets it sit overnight. To complete the chunky jam look, she folds in chopped strawberries.

It’s just thick and sweet enough, with a bright strawberry flavor. Underneath is a light and fluffy whipped cheesecake made with whipped cream, whipped cream cheese and whipped coconut cream. It’s all nestled in an ultra-buttery, crumbly crust made with butter and coconut biscuits, brown sugar and lots of dark, roasted brown butter.

I’ve had to use a rideshare service every time I’ve dined at the restaurant. This has nothing to do with the amount of wine consumed with dinner. The decadent cheesecake tips me over the edge and into a blissful, sleepy coma on the way home.

If you’d like to finish your holiday dinner on a familiar high, Katianna is selling her whipped cheesecakes ($68) with jars of seasonal jams ($10) for pickup this week (email [email protected] for pickup Wednesday) and the week of Christmas. But if you give the restaurant at least 48 hours’ notice, it should be able to whip one up throughout the holiday season. I know what I’m having for dessert all eight nights of Hanukkah.

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