Korean is the cuisine du jour in Sydney. Fried chicken may as well be one of the five food groups. Make your restaurant specialty a combination of the two, and you've got a new inner Sydney favourite with 1.5 hour waits to get in.
The recently opened Surry Hills restaurant Chicken Institute bustles with alluring aromas and friendly banter. The tiny space is simple yet elegant, warmly lit with a dark wood interior. Groups sit at share tables and jovially chat away, while plate after plate of Korean fusion BBQ is ushered out. It's best to grab a few different dishes and share. We rarely find ourselves saying this, but order conservatively; the portions are larger than standard tapas.
A crowd-pleaser from the namesake chook options is the Damn Good Fried Garlic Chicken ($24). Sweetly glazed in caramel, the juicy yet crispy chicken is perfectly balanced by the sour pickled radish side. The lightly battered eggplant in the steam bun ($6 each) is lovingly topped with decadent chipotle mayo, the richness nicely balanced by the quick pickled cucumber. Wrapped in the fluffiest bun we've ever tasted, this dish is a must try.
A few classic Korean dishes are present on the menu, including bibimbap ($16): a bowl of warm rice topped with a colourful mix of bright veggies, including kimchi and a perfectly gooey fried egg. The DIY Korean BBQ you're used to receiving raw and cooking at your table is instead prepared for you, because what is a restaurant if not a place that cooks you a meal. The meat options are wagyu beef ($24) and pork belly ($16), served with a trio of sides, the best of which is the miso paste. Be careful with the side of pickled garlic, which is quite strong.
If you're keen on the western twist, you can't go wrong with the kimchi poutine ($8). The shoestring fries maintain their crispiness despite lying atop cheesy gravy, and additional shaved cheese, kimchi and scallions bring the dish together in a blend of strange yet comforting flavours.
Chicken Institute has recently landed its liquor licence, but for the time being, you're still welcome to BYO. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation and you'll even be able to avoid the wait for walk-ins.