The best fried chicken David Chang has ever tasted was a bird prepared by Andrew Carmellini at Café Boulud. It was cooked in duck fat in a Dutch oven and covered in a batter seasoned with Old Bay. Chang uses the seasoning in his own fried-chicken dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar, the restaurant’s overdue answer to the bo ssam feast at Momofuku Ssäm. It’s more than a little down-the-middle for the reigning king of haute punk food to tap something as mundane as chicken to be his new showstopper, but don’t expect this dish to resemble the various fried-chicken specials, mostly Cantonese style, that have been offered previously around the Momoverse. “We decided it wasn’t interesting as it could be,” the chef told us over the weekend.
All the Momo chefs — Tien Ho (Ssam Bar), Kevin Pemoulie (Noodle Bar), and Peter Serpico (Ko), and others — tested recipes for a year. In the end, ten finalist versions later, they decided to fry two ways: Korean- and Southern- style. For now, the birds are Bell & Evans chickens; in the future, they’ll use Ayrshire Farms product, for the slow foodies in the crowd. The Korean pieces, all dark meat, are thrice fried, using a recipe they created by committee. (The entire Momofuku team has spent the last 30 days on a fried-chicken bender.) “What you’re trying to do is separate the skin from the meat and almost create a pomme souflée effect,” says Chang. “You want the skin to be super-crisp and crunchy. In a way, it protects the meat while it’s cooking.” As for the white meat, it’s fried once in a buttermilk batter seasoned with … Old Bay. But, at ease, Chef Carmellini, there’s no foul play here: Serpico, who’d been shit-talking about his chicken since the beginning of the competition, is from Baltimore, where local-born Old Bay is used on everything.
And Chang acknowledges that Carmellini’s, which was off-menu at Café Boulud, is still the best.