I love “mom and pop” shops, little eateries that often offer a specialized and differentiated offering for our palates. Particularly in Calgary, we are beginning to see more and more eateries open that specialize in one particular item, whether that be the traditional Pizza shop, Sub delis, Vietnamese Pho Restaurants, or Donair counters. I am still waiting for the day when Calgary gets its first dumpling shop, but until then, I will wait and explore and enjoy the current offerings that we have in our uncrowded and lacking foodie landscape.
All of that to say, yesterday my wife and I finally had the opportunity to swing by Olive Chicken to checkout their highly-praised fried chicken. We first heard about Olive Chicken from my sister-in-law who praised this little eatery, and since then, many of my friends and peers have also encouraged us to check out this little diner.
Olive Chicken is located “downtown” along 10th Avenue SW in the heart of what is growing to become Calgary’s Korea Town, as well as upper 17th Avenue SW (in and around the neighbourhood of Killarney). Our Korean population in Calgary is quite substantial and while many of the Koreans are students in Calgary, there is a growing presence of Koreans in Calgary that call this city home, and subsequently, more and more Korean establishments are popping up all over the place.
As described by its name, Olive Chicken (OC) serves predominantly one dish: fried chicken. But it is not just any old fried chicken, this is not the same type of fried chicken that you will find at KFC or even Calgary’s own Chicken On the Way restaurants. The fried chicken at OC is battered, freshly fried, and is served either in as a plain fried chicken, or served with a hot and sweet sauce or a “extra hot” sauce.
Since this was our first time at OC, my wife and I opted to try the “half and half” platter: 5 pieces of plain fried chicken and 5 pieces of the hot and sweet sauce. We also ordered some soda pop and a side order of fries and onion rings.
Our order of chicken came out fairly quickly, we were the only group in the restaurant at the time and so I would imagine it would take 5-10 minutes if the restaurant were busier. Our order came with a peculiar and interesting side condiment: pickled daikon radish. Now for those of you who do not know, (South) Korean cuisine often comes with numerous side dishes that help to accentuate your palate or help to cleanse your palate during your dinner experience. Some condiments include boiled and salted peanuts, kimchi, slightly pickled bean sprouts, and so on and so forth. It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise to see the pickled daikon, but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a Korean restaurant.
Our chicken came out fresh and steaming hot. I was interested in testing out the hot and sweet sauce and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not incredibly sweet in comparison to say, Thai chili sauce, and instead it had a beautifully subtle amount of heat that came as an aftertone and much of the flavour came from the natural sweetness from their housemade fruit-based sauce. There is a strong and mild base of freshly cut garlic that is noticeable in this sauce, so if you dislike garlic, you may want to stay away from this particular offering.
Both types of fried chicken were fabulously succulent and fried just right. The chicken was not greasy (and this means they fry the chicken at over 400°F to ensure that the batter is sealed from the oil), and there was a wonderful crunch to the skin of the chicken. This is not KFC, it is an East Asian restaurant and as a result, the chicken parts that are chosen to be used for cooking were predominantly (if not all) dark meat. East Asians love dark meat–it’s succulent, it’s tender, and it’s not dry like white meat. I surmise the choice to use dark meat is also one of cost as dark meat often is cheaper wholesale than white meat.
If you are ever downtown, I encourage you to go to the west-end of town into Korea Town and check out Olive Chicken. The prices are not too bad (remember it’s a mom and pop shop… there’s something to be said for contributing to local establishments!), and the service is incredibly friendly.
Also located beside Olive Chicken is Arirang Oriental Food Store, a grocery that imports Korean and Japanese foodstuff, so if you’re looking for items that are from those parts of the world, it’s worth heading down to this side of town for a meal and a shopping experience.