Korean fried chicken is having a real moment in Sydney. So when a place like Flying Tong, a tiny establishment on Enmore Road, dedicates itself almost entirely to the art of the crisp bird, expectations run high. And we’re happy to report, this intimate spot does not disappoint.
The interior is stripped back and minimalist – green bottles adorn the deep charcoal walls, while backless wooden stools line low communal tables – and the tone is relaxed and welcoming. The sound of Korean pop music fills the air, and boisterous clanking from the open kitchen is a sign of good things to come.
And come they do: a handful of blistering, golden tenderloins and chicken wings served with cubes of sweet, tangy pickled radish – perfect for refreshing the palate after a mouthful of impossibly juicy, sticky and sweet, finger-lickin' good chook. Unlike its American counterpart, which gains richness from a buttermilk soak and thick breading, Korean fried chicken takes a more subtle approach.
First, the chicken is brined overnight in more than 12 spices, and then dipped in a thin batter mix and coated again in a housemade breading powder before being deep fried to deliver a delicate finish with a gratifying crunch. The subtlety is blindsided by a selection of heavy-hitting sauces: sticky and sweet chilli topped with crushed peanuts, garlic soy with sesame and shallots, or for the spice lovers, a dried chilli and coriander number, the ‘Spicy Bomb’. We’d recommend having your chicken naked or opting for the garlic soy in order to appreciate the meat in its purest form.
While fried chicken is the obvious drawcard, the menu boasts a combination of classic and more contemporary Korean fare. Take the bowl of steamed rice topped with an assortment of fermented pickles, crisp vegetables, smokey nori, and a sharply sweet apple sauce, affectionately referred to as Mama’s Bibimbap. It’s comforting and familiar and a clear nod to tradition, while fries loaded with bulgogi beef, spring onions, shallots and sriracha mayo present a more LA food truck-style modern edge. Old favourites like ssam and a sizzling plate of mozzarella and sweet corn kernels are on the crib sheet, too. Wet naps are offered at the end to hide the evidence, a nice touch.
Familiar Inner West faces like Batch and Young Henrys grace the beer list, while Korean tap beer, a range of soju, fruit and rice wines injects a bit of traditional flair. The Good Day Soju is sweet and moreish with a pleasantly dry finish. It’s a nice, clean counterpart to all the flavours on the table. Should you wish to BYO, you can.
What co-owners (and brother-sister duo) Jeff and Julie Oh have done is create an ensemble of Korean dishes that is generous, well-considered and a cut above. Despite the intensity of flavours and textures, this is elegant cooking that leaves you satisfied as opposed to outrageously stuffed, and will have you searching for any excuse to come back.