Step onto a side street and you’re right into Surry Hills’ yuppie territory, but to put things politely, the stretch of Elizabeth Street near Central isn't exactly the plushest part of the suburb. Enter Juicy Lucy. It may not look like much from the outside, but between its sun-yellow, graffiti-bedecked walls the smell alone will tell you a different story.
It’s a new late-night venture from Thai restaurant Sugarcane, which is just around the corner. Owners Milan Strbac and Griff Pamment grew up in the Western Suburbs, eating out of chicken shops one night and Thai restaurants the next. Juicy Lucy is a fusion of those two styles of eating: it’s a chicken shop, with a South East Asian bent.
Order ‘Aunt Lucy’s seasoned chicken’. It’s been brined overnight with Sichuan pepper, cassia bark (like cinnamon), cloves and coriander seeds, making it super tender. It comes whole, halved or quartered, stuffed with garlic rice that hums with the aromas of those spices, layered with the deeply umami flavours of a slowly cooked chook. It's roasted on the rotisserie rather than in the Southern-fried style, upping the moisture levels even further. What it lacks in crispness it makes up for in caramelisation.
We love the giant, hulking Lil Kim burger. A glossy, sweet, charred bun encases a massive wedge of crisply battered, tender-fleshed chicken, sour nuggets of kimchi, crunchy slaw and spicy Korean barbecue sauce. We’re full already, but we can’t stop eating it.
The Jackie Chan sounds good on paper - a wrap filled with rice, Malay chicken, pickles and herbs. But although the chicken is soft and fragrantly spiced, there's just way too much rice, and it feels more like a biryani than the burrito we were expecting. Cut down on the rice and up the pickles and meat, maybe add a bit of slaw, and this would be so much better, because the flavours are fantastic.
Our server tells us that the chicken is free range, which is very impressive given a whole bird costs only $18 when we visit. Good work, Juicy Lucy. The service wasn't great though – one staffer seemed properly annoyed taking our order (which they then get wrong). But no matter, you don't come to a chicken shop for service. You come for tasty fast food. And Juicy Lucy are doing that with gusto. Just try and stop us going back for more.