Despite its oceanic name, lower north shore eatery Johnny Lobster, which opened in 2015, spent more time serving up poultry than seafood. Consequently, the owners decided to listen to the people and metamorphosise. Since February, Johnny Lobster has been known as Johnny Bird and its menu has been dedicated to free-range fried chicken.
"In the restaurant biz, you don't get to choose your signature dish. Your diners do that for you," says co-owner Tom Baker. "Over 50-percent of the food we sold at Johnny Lobster was fried chicken. So rather than continue to airfreight crustaceans from the North Atlantic, we decided to just go with it."
The menu's centrepiece is fried chicken, which is served with sauce — such as Sticky Sichuan or Nashville Hot — and sides, including fried pickles, sweet potato fries and mac'n'cheese. On top of that, there are burgers — the staple being the Johnny, packed with fried chicken, pickles, coleslaw, tomato relish and chipotle mayo.
"Each cut of chicken at Johnny Bird is treated differently. It's a time-consuming process but you can taste it," says head chef Jason Hall. "The wings are cooked sous vide at a low temperature for three hours before frying. Tenderloins are wet-brined in heavily seasoned buttermilk to increase moisture in the final cut and our boneless thighs are soaked in seasoned natural yoghurt for 48 hours."
To match such carefully prepared offerings, there's a handpicked selection of craft beers from Young Henrys and Moon Dog, plus a bunch of signature cocktails, including the Waist Not (gin, watermelon-rind vermouth, soda) and the Cold Fashioned (Mr Black Cold Brew Liquor, rye whiskey, orange bitters).
Johnny Bird is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30am-10pm at 48 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest.