As a self-described fried chicken lover, I’ve had my fair share of Korean-wings, Japanese-style karaage and katsudon, and our local ayam goreng. When it comes to American fried chicken, however, my experience is limited to buffalo wings and the commercialised stuff you get from popular fast food spots the likes of KFC and McDonalds (most of these have been tweaked to suit Malaysian tastebuds anyway).
So when I saw multiple positive reviews on Hot Bird – a new joint in Damansara Uptown specializing in authentic Southern fried chicken from Nashville, Tennessee – I had to check the place out.
People who follow me know I hate queueing up for ‘hype’, but I braved the queue on a Saturday just for this. The Hubs and I arrived at around 5.45pm. There was already a queue of 12 people ahead of us waiting for the doors to open at 6PM.
Prices at Hot Bird are premium. A two-piece meal (with drinks, fries, and coleslaw) will set you back RM24.90. There are six levels of heat to choose from, ranging from no heat to the ‘Reaper’. Group ‘pecks’ are available as well for up to 7 pax.
We were allowed in at 6pm sharp. The shop itself is pretty cramped; tables are squeezed together tight to accommodate as many patrons as possible, so it’s difficult to maneuver around in. The theme fits the typical American diner, with lots of red, white, and black. Hubs booked a spot while I made my order at the counter. They fry the chickens to order, so you get fresh, piping hot birds to bring to your table.
And here’s what we ordered! We got a ‘peck group’ set for RM50.90, which we felt was better value than getting two set meals, since it had an extra piece of chicken and a large coleslaw. I also got some dipping sauces (Cool Ranch and Smoky BBQ) for RM2.50 each.
A bit of history before we dig in: Southern fried chicken is strongly influenced by the region’s past in slavery; drawing its roots from when African-American slaves would incorporate seasoning techniques from their homeland into their food. As such, Southern fried chicken almost always has an element of spice to it, hence the ‘heat levels’ at Hot Bird. The chicken is also typically battered and dipped in buttermilk, which acts as a meat tenderising agent. The result is moist, juicy chicken with a crispy, crunchy exterior.
For the price we paid, my expectations were way high for the chicken. It looked beautiful, with a perfect golden crust and crisp skin. Hot Bird only offers two parts : drumsticks and thighs. The pieces are served on a slice of white bread, which soaks up the hot oils dripping from the chicken.
Unfortunately, while I really, REALLY want to say the chicken was amazing, it was just….Decent. Like a 7.5/10. But not WOW. And it was definitely not worth paying almost 40% more compared to regular fried chicken.
The skin had a decent peppery flavour, but it lacked the layers of depth I was expecting from something that would have been marinated in multiple spices. The inside was moist and juicy, but it was bland. The first few bites were good, but it felt extremely greasy, to the point where it became cloying.
The Hubs had his fried chicken at ‘Hot’ level. I tried abit – it was a lot spicier, and the spices lingered in the mouth for some time. But again, flavour was mostly on the skin, it was almost bland on the inside, and was very greasy. The dipping sauces I ordered as an extra came in handy here, especially the Smoky BBQ. The Cool Ranch was nice too. But for RM2.50, the portion was extremely small.
The only thing the Hubs and I both agreed was fantastic was the Cajun fries. Hot, steamy, crisp, and full of potato goodness. Fries were seasoned well, not too salty, and since they were fried with bits of potato skin still clinging on to the exterior, we got that nice, smoky flavour on it as well.
All in all, Hot Bird in my books is just OKAY fried chicken. It’s not bad by any stretch, but it’s not phenomenal. Maybe I hyped myself up too much, lol.
Would I come back again? Judging from its prices and the queues, probably not, as I think there are other alternatives out there that offer better quality at more affordable prices. But hey – if you’d like to give Nashville-style fried chicken a shot, try it and judge for yourselves 😉
83 Ground Floor, Jalan SS 21/1a, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Opening hours: 12PM – 3PM, 6PM – 10PM (daily)
Phone: 011-2363 6995