Ahh, globalisation — the force that means Sydney now enjoys the same cheap thrills as all the rest of the world. While you can get Prada knockoffs, dodgy thermals and T-shirts from Zara, Topshop, Uniqlo and Gap; good ramen at Ippudo; and decent teishoku at Yayoi, it's Taiwanese import Hot Star Large Fried Chicken that delivers the most fun for the least buck.
A small takeaway-only shopfront on the dingy, cold end of Liverpool Street, Hot Star does very little to live up to its name. The colour scheme is contact-lens-brand blue and the staff wear surgical masks that make you think they are fighting bird flu, not frying chicken.
The simple menu is laid out confusingly. There are two flavours (original and spicy, $7.90), two kinds of fries (curly and sweet potato, $3.90), as well as mushrooms (??, $4.90) and chicken 'bites' ($5.90) that completely defeat the purpose of 'large fried chicken'. Having ordered, we are given plastic bags to hold. The purpose of this is revealed as bagging a piece of fried chicken the size of Western Australia is like getting a sleeping bag into a condom — between you and the store attendant it's a two man job.
But it is worth it. The spicy chicken is a brilliant, powdery Mars red, while the pale expanse of the original chicken resembles a vast, pocked lunar landscape (but with a much higher water content). The breast meat is remarkably juicy, and while the seasoning on the original chicken puts the Colonel's secret recipe to shame, the moderate heat of the spicy chicken does become a challenge after the first 200 square centimetres. In the end, we realise that the only advantage the Colonel has are the wet wipes that accompany his meals.
Unfortunately, the 'curly fries' come as a bag of greasy, smashed-up spirals. On the other hand, the excellent sweet potato fries have a sugary seasoning (insidious? ingenious? I'm not sure), and serve as the dessert that, perversely, such a large, salty meal always calls for to balance the palate and delay the inevitable food coma.
Better value for money than those Zara skinnies in your cupboard with the broken fly zipper, Hot Star is the best of Sydney's international chain store imports. Or did that fly zipper only break after your face-sized fried chicken?