Wherein our critic’s chickens come home to roost
by Aidan Morgan
As you may recall, my foray into chicken wing reviewing resulted in disaster when an attempt to reach out to our chicken brethren and sistren (siblen?) lead to my imprisonment and trial - a trial by chickens, which is both terrifying and kind of gross (lots of droppings).
By now you're probably wondering how I survived. After all, the chickens were angry; the case against me was conclusive and my lawyer was a goat. He ate my hat. I think that was his retainer.
In the end, I was sentenced to the fate that my chicken "victims" suffered: I was to have my wings pulled off, deep-fried and covered in hot sauce.
I was saved when the chickens realized that I had no wings. There was confusion and much debate.
Some of the chickens contended that my arms were just as good as wings. Others thought that it was a spiritual question, and pecking me to death would be a sort of symbolic wing removal. Then the farmer came by with a bag of feed. The entire court emptied out - even my lawyer - and after a few minutes it was clear they had forgotten all about me. So I departed, intact and un-pecked.
I celebrated by going out and treating myself to some chicken wings. You're next, mutton chop.
1946 Hamilton St.
Nobody thinks of a Thai restaurant when they're trying to come up with a good wing joint. Well, I'm here to tell you that the set of Regina restaurants that serve chicken wings includes the subset of Regina restaurants that are named Siam. You can't argue with math, and that's what that last sentence very nearly is.
A lot of places in Regina serve Thai wings, but Siam knows how it's done. The restaurant serves up their Hatyai Chicken Wings ($6.95), a dozen or so drummettes and joints with a light, flaky breading that resembles tempura batter. They're marinated in a spicy-sweet chili sauce that tasted nice but didn't have any heat - which is a little surprising for a restaurant with some of the city's hotter food. The texture was a little soft but it was a nice change from the ordinary. Wash them down with a Singha or some Thai lemon iced tea.
Earls Kitchen & Bar
2606 28th Ave.
Earls. You know what it is. I know what it is. An all-purpose restaurant that draws in affluent families on the restaurant side, and young folks with bright smiles and backward-turned baseball caps on the lounge and patio. Meanwhile, servers in little black dresses glide around booth, bar and table, hair piled high in a blonde bun, like Hitchcock heroines released from the screen. Not that I'm complaining.
If you're a mood for the lounge side, Earls has a good selection of appetizers, including their Pound of Wings ($11). They come in hot, hotter and Thai, with a creamy Parmesan dip and celery stalks. I like the Thai wings best. They're nice and sweet, with a sharp edge of lime that hits a second or two after you bite in. The other good thing about Earls wings is the relative lack of sauce, which means your fingers won't get too messy. In fact, their Thai sauce almost feels and tastes like a glaze. The downside of their approach is that the wings turn dry and rubbery fairly quickly. On Wednesdays, wings are half price from 3 p.m. until close.
The Broken Rack
3806 Albert St.
Golden Mile Shopping Mall
When I embarked on my grand chicken wing adventure, I put a post on Dog Blog asking for recommendations. The most frequent suggestion was The Broken Rack. People claimed it was the quality of their wings that kept them coming, but I suspect it has more to do with their all-day Sunday and evening Monday wing specials, when wings go for 35 cents each (the rest of the week it's $9.75 for one dozen).
I had the good fortune to go on a Monday, when I could fill up on deep-fried, sauce-dipped chicken. At table after table I spied baskets lined with telltale checkered wax paper, as fingers dipped again and again to pick out wings and gnaw on bones. Even over by the pool tables, where young men with close-cropped hair and tattoos climbing up the sides of their necks concentrated on shots and breaks, a family was taking down two or three baskets of wings. The guy behind the bar claimed that the Rack can move 4,000 -5,000 wings on a busy Sunday or Monday, and I believe him.
The Broken Rack offers wings in a variety of flavours: hot, medium, mild, teriyaki, barbecue, Buffalo ranch, honey garlic, Greek, and lemon pepper. The most memorable for me were the Buffalo ranch, which turned out to be exactly what the name indicated: wings dipped in buffalo sauce and splashed in ranch dressing. Normally I don't like ranch, but it cooled the spiciness and gave the wing a creamy taste and texture. My friend found the taste too bland, but I liked it. If chicken wings are guilty of anything, it may be the minor sin of overloading on flavour. Sometimes mild is good.
And that's my last wing review of 2011. My favourite in the city is still Crave Wine Bar & Bistro, but there's a wing for practically any occasion - except a fast, I guess. Sometimes you want a nice appetizer with friends, and sometimes it's a drunken contest between you and the water polo team.
Good luck on that last one.