Hot RVA Chick(en)

I was prepared to be disappointed by this place. Anywhere I've eaten owned by Eat Restaurant Partners has been overpriced mediocrity drenched in buckets of "local", "natural", and "sustainable" marketing puffery. Fat Dragon, Blue Goat, Boulevard Burger and Brew, Foo Dog, etc. It's not bad food, and I don't pass over food based on price alone, but there are plenty of better options in their respective price ranges around town.

Now there's Hot Chick (har har, another cheeky name like...ugh..."Wong Gonzales"): the restaurant group's take on Nashville-style hot chicken. I adore RVA's dining scene, but we have a habit of picking up on food trends after everybody else has had a turn, don't we? I love spicy food, though, and Nashville is too far a drive for a busy dad to try the real deal that is "hot chicken". My options are limited (but please do check out the fancy chicken biscuit at Saison Market - it's leaning in the same direction), so today I took my daughter to the new joint for lunch.

It's good. Like, really dang good.

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I got the basic sandwich, with a brutally hot fried chicken breast on a sweet and tender roll. I'm picky, so I excluded the pickles and slaw, but this meant it was just me and the chicken. I can't speak to authenticity, nor the difference between its progenitors and the gentrification version of hot chicken, but Hot Chick is HOT. At the very least the chicken breast was dipped in some kind of hot oil or sauce, though there may very well have been some heat in the marinade and/or batter as well. But the crucial element here was the flavor—it was spicy but still tasted delicious. The waffle fries on the side were seasoned to perfection and helped mitigate the heat.

This was a $12 sandwich with a side. That's not cheap for something in this category, but is the quality worth the price? I think so. Hot Chick won't be a regular lunch stop, but I'll go back when I get a hot chicken craving in the future.

Excuse me, did you say, "Raw"?

I'm a pretty freakin' picky eater. Seeweeuswy you guys. Example? I grew up in a household that ate predominantly Italian food. I grew up in a household that also made me eat whatever was put in front of me. And here I am, with utter distaste for peppers, onions, and tomatoes (okay in sauce, as long as they're not chunky).

For some reason, however, I find it pretty easy to try out new seafood. Ever since I was a youngin' in Bayville, New Jersey, I've tried out dish after dish of sea food at my old friend Matthew Stevens' house, be it blowfish, lobster, or mako shark steak. Last year on my honeymoon, I went a step further and tasted amazing ahi tuna that was barely seared, leaving the inside cool and uncooked. This, too, was delicious.

None of this could prepare me for the obvious next step...sushi. Specifically make-zushi often containing raw fish.

So I planned an occasion with my wing-man, Dave, whereupon I'd settle this food score once and for all. This past Saturday, we headed for Hana Zushi in Shockhoe Slip for dinner. Dave, being a bit experienced with sushi already, helped me choose my gastric weapons and provided moral support. We each ordered a la carte, selecting from a decent listing of rolls and nagiri. Our plan was to divide and conquer, sharing our selected rolls that we each may experience a broad range of flavors.

My verdict? I really enjoyed the experience - both the exhiliration of walking out on a culinary limb and the food itself. The most amazing point of the evening was realizing a distinct difference between the sushi and most Western food that I've yet eaten:

Whereas with Western food (or perhaps cooked food in general) you tend to experience the full taste of the food when you bite into your morsel, the sushi did not provide its full spectrum of flavors until I had chewed the piece for a moment or so. Once I had given a few rounds of molar-attack to my spicy tuna roll, for example, the full effect of the combination of ingredients spread accross my tongue like a taste epiphany.

Wholly different from anything I've yet ingested, yet intriguing and delicious, I have a feeling I'll be seeking out new sushi bars in the future.


So last night I was seriously thinking about writing an exalting post about what I consider to be Richmond, VA's best sandwich: 821 Cafe's Smoked Turkey and Chedder Sub w/ Bacon. Typically, this sandwhich comes with succulent smoked turkey, sliced thin, yellow chedder melted over it, and the optional bacon, on really delicious bread. Served nice and hot with a pile of incendiary fries on the side, this sandwhich works on soooooooooooooo many levels.

Well last night, it didn't. I'm not entirely certain (because I didn't ask), but I think they ran out of smoked turkey and filled in the gap with their roast was just enough difference in taste to be a bit dry and boring. Still mostly delicious, and the bacon really helped, but in general, disappointing.