BUSAN, South Korea — I'm sure all of us would have no trouble discussing our favorite fried chicken joint with our friends or expat newbies. There have to be thousands of chicken places all across the peninsula, and we could argue which is the best until the hens start clucking. Surely most of us here can name some of the best fried options out there, but what about some solid offerings of roasted chicken? Here's hoping this article directs you to the doors of one of the best chicken joints around.
This isn't a chain, and there are no substitutes; Pollo Oakwood Chicken is as the title promises: true, fire-roasted chicken using real oak. There’s no charcoal to be found here. This is chicken that would make Davy Crockett proud. So you might be asking, "Why, pray tell, should it matter that the chicken is being cooked on a spit using oak for the fire?"
Well, I think the culinary fanatics out there would agree that if you have to ask such a preposterous question, then your taste buds are sure to be missing out on a thing or two. There’s nothing like the taste that results from being slow cooked over an open wood fire, the bird itself being stuffed with all manner of goodness: ginseng, garlic, ginkgo, a plump date and a small handful of sticky rice.
The skin on this chicken is the stuff of legend: a crisp, golden layer that flakes right off as you sink your fork into the succulent white meat. The sultry, smoked flavor is accentuated by the aromatic combination that makes up the stuffing. This is where I could begin writing in an erotic dialect about the chicken, but I will spare you from such debased imagery.
You can find spit-roasted chicken in all corners of Korea, but I can assure you that it is nothing like this. There's something about the way the fine folks at Pollo Oakwood do their chicken that puts other places to shame. There are more than a few options on the menu, such as a sesame roasted chicken that's delivered to you in pieces (without the stuffing), and a roasted chicken that's smothered in a spicy sauce… but why in the blue hell would you bombard an already stunning palate of flavors with copious amounts of spice?
Pollo Oakwood Chicken also offers some very decent fried options, but let's leave the fried stuff to the experts at The Frypan, shall we? The oakwood chicken is the main attraction on the menu, and at 16,000 won it does a fine job of feeding two people.
As for beer, there is plenty of chemically brewed domestic garbage on tap to sate the financial needs of those cheap suckers out there, but what you really want to do is spring for one of the bottled imports such as Asahi, which does a nice job of complimenting this fine bit of fowl. There's something about the way Asahi goes down with all manner of BBQ that really gives one pause in recognition of life's simpler bits of awesomeness.
Getting there: Pollo Oakwood Chicken is tucked away in a lesser-known corner of Jangsan, but just a stone's throw away from the Diver Vita and Blue Square apartments that so many expats call home. Go to Jangsan subway station and take exit four. Walk straight ahead. You'll pass a major intersection and then the road will begin to veer right. The restaurant is on the right side of the road as it bends, near an intersection. If the stray cats can find their way there, certainly you can too.