Crazy Chi-Mac: Finger-Lickin' Great
Photos by Dustin Ames
Crazy Chi-Mac has a lot going for it--a doting Korean mother-type who'll ladle the soup into bowls for you until its 2 a.m. closing time on weekends--but there are only two things that should convince you to go, like, right now: the beer and the fried chicken.
As with Zoomak Asian Bistro in Buena Park and the Past Memories in Garden Grove, Crazy Chi-Mac is a Korean tavern where Hite, OB and Cass come out in big pitchers and the customers don't get loud until about 9 or 10 p.m. But it may be the first Korean pub around these parts to specialize in fried chicken. You only need to have been paying attention to the miracles Korean purveyors such as Kyochon and Pizza & Chicken Love Letter have done with fried chicken over the past decade to know this natural progression of things is very, very good.
The restaurant doesn't just have one kind of fried chicken either. There's the base model, golden and crispy battered, the crust similar to the Colonel's, though lighter and not harboring a gallon of grease. From there, coating possibilities emerge in saucing options ranging from a hot sauce made with red kimchi juice to a sugary soy to something called "Habanero 911 Hot Wings" that has a note underneath it saying, "Caution: Very Very Spicy!!!" If you dare try it, you're a braver person than I am. After trying the "Crazy Hot Wings"--described as "sweet spicy," covered in a gloppy but otherwise clear-looking sauce that didn't look the least bit dangerous--I was reduced to terror, sweat and tears. It was the kind of hotness that came at me as though a punch in the nose, the pain registering in my cerebral cortex the split second the sauce touched my lips.
But then, when the endorphins started surging, I went back for more punishment, more of those wings, and then more beer to douse the fire. It must be noted the original hot sauce slathered on another order of chicken, the one that rendered them a deep adobe color, wasn't that spicy at all. Instead, that one was more multifaceted in its flavor, with hints of garlic and a touch of honey-like sweetness behind the chile.
With all of the chicken at Crazy Chi-Mac, there's the unshakable hallmark of the Korean Method, a double-fry that leaves the skin thoroughly rendered of its fat and practically disappearing between the batter and the meat. Another notable feature: Even if you ask for a half order, enough equally sized pieces appear to share with the entire table, and the breast is cut into smaller pieces so that no one person hogs it all. Also offered is an oven-roasted hen that I've never seen anyone order, as well as another special preparation called "Pa-Dak," in which any chicken of your choice is served with a shredded nest of marinated green onions. No matter what, you get a bowl of pickled daikon in cubes--the customary palate cleanser.
The shrimp and clam soup comes in a bowl as big as Lake Arrowhead, a liquid so rich with umami it can satisfy as a single meal. A list of pub food includes a mixed seafood pancake and stir-fries that involve kimchi, gochujang or both. And of course, you can have bossam, boiled and sliced pork belly that you're supposed to wrap in perilla leaves or lettuce, served on a big platter with two dipping sauces and sliced raw garlic cloves, cucumbers, carrots and jalapeños to stuff in between.
As with all Korean pubs, corn cheese, that amalgam of corn kernels and stretchy cheese served on a fajita platter can be had here. But, again, don't lose sight that you're here for the chicken and that there's a spittoon on your table for the bones. Also don't forget the whole point of a Korean pub is to bring enough friends with you to split a pitcher of beer and at least one bottle of soju, makgeolli or baekseju. And if you find that the soju tastes an awful lot like how nail polish remover smells, soften it by ordering it as the melon bar cocktail, for which you'll be given two melon bar popsicles, a can of Sprite and the bottle of soju.
You pour a shot of the soju into the glass, add Sprite, and then stir it up with the popsicle until the whole thing froths up like an ice cream float. Pour it out into shot glasses, and then toast to the fact that while Roscoe's might be getting all the press and attention, it's Crazy Chi-Mac that has the best fried chicken in all of Anaheim--even if it's closer to Knott's than Disney.
Crazy Chi-Mac, 2895 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 995-1500. Open Sun., 4 p.m.-midnight; Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Dinner for two, $20-$50, food only. Beer and soju.
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