after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Meritage: KFC is “Doing Chicken Right” (and a Sampan bonus)

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t says: We’ve been to Meritage a couple times before and liked it.  To summarize those experiences: Chef Coll has some talent brewing in the kitchen, and, while not every dish was a smash hit, I really appreciated the creativity, and g really appreciated good food for a good price.  But what’s happened since then?  Not much, really – at least – not for us.  We’ve just never really found an excuse to return to Meritage.  Its price-point puts it at a similar cost to Melograno, which is BYO … meaning that we’re going to go to Melograno every time.  It’s such a shame.  Well … let me tell you that things are going to change …

7/2010, 8:30pm, Party of 3.  It’s a Thursday.  At Meritage, that means it’s Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) night.  $25 gets you a meal for two: 6 pieces of fried chicken in a spicy/savory/sweet Korean bbq sauce, a few sides, and 20-oz of beer.  It was on like Donkey Kong.

g and cm visited first.  I don’t want to put words in their mouth … but I will.  They reported that the chicken was cooked deliciously (but not really “spicy”) and the sides were also very good, but small.  They suspected that 3 people sharing two orders would be the “ideal” amount of food so that everyone would be “very full”.  Yes, they had other details, too, but if I told you what they were, then you wouldn’t read the rest of this post …

g, kp, and I then made reservations for the very next week.  We were seated promptly and then taken care of by a very friendly, enthusiastic server.  No, he wasn’t so bubbly that it seemed fake or overwhelming, rather, just the right amount of energy to put us in a good mood (not that we were in a bad one, but we were even better after talking to him).  He told us of that night’s special fried chicken dish as well as some other meat dish that we instantly forgot about.  We ordered two orders for the three of us, but asked if they could have a little extra spice to them – I pointed out that although kp and I were new, my wife was there last week and wanted a little more kick on her KFC.  I did this for a few reasons.  The first is that I apparently like dropping the W-bomb.  It makes me feel older, more accomplished, worthy of respect.  I like that.  The second is that I wanted to draw attention to the fact that at a table of two Asian dudes and a small white girl, it was the small white girl who felt that there needs to be more spice – so the chef definitely needed to kick it up a notch if she was going to appeal to the two Asians.  Am I playing stereotypes?  I sure am (actually, g can handle more spice than me … *hangs his head in shame*).

When the chicken arrived, it looked amazing.  Two plates, heaped with 6 pieces of chicken, emanated this beautiful scent.  You could smell the sweetness and spiciness of the bbq sauce, as well as something that reminded me of soy sauce (like if you could “smell” savory) – but not like smelling saltiness.  I don’t know – it was hard to describe; it smelled “great”.  The chicken’s crust was delightfully crispy, and easily gave way to juicy tender meat.  The savory and sweet hits your palate first with heat coming on as you chewed.  The chicken was so moist and tender that it tasted like it was braised and then deep-fried at the last second.  Apparently it had been brined, so maybe that was the trick.  Amazingly, after you swallowed, the spice dissipated, which was nice, because it didn’t overwhelm the palate.  The other amazing/weird thing was the size of the chicken bones – they were quite small.  g asked kp and me, “What kind of chickens are these?  Do they like work them out in a gym or something?  Do you think it’s because they’re super organic?  Or maybe they use super hormones?  I mean, I don’t really care, cuz they’re freakin’ delicious.”  g is funny.

The sides were pretty good, too.  The spinach reminded me of classic Korean spinach (sigumchi) – except for not as much sesame seed as I’m used to.  g said that they had more sesame seeds the previous week, so I’m sure it was spot on, as that was really the only thing that could have taken me way back to eating at Korean restaurants with my mom and grandmom.  The pickled daikon and pickled carrot were also very good – they added the acid that you needed to cut through the chicken’s Korean bbq sauce, so I hope these stay on the menu to give the dish some “lightness”.  The Korean slaw was a bit of a miss for me.  It tasted a little heavy for a slaw – probably because of either sesame oil or sesame seeds.  There was some cilantro to try and pep it up, but there wasn’t enough.  Man, if this was only a little zingier – maybe add a bit of mint in there or something – then this would also be a perfect foil for the chicken.  I don’t know if anyone who knows anyone who knows people who could make this suggestion to Meritage actually reads this blog, but it’d be nice to see if whatever my brain imagined actually was a good idea.  Maybe next time, I’ll bring my own mint and try it out.

The beer … it was beer.  Neither g nor I drink beer, so kp had to take one for the team.  Actually, he had to take 2.  That’s right, he downed 40 ounces of beer on a Thursday night.  Hooray for livers.

Upon the conclusion of the chicken, we ordered desserts, too!  Actually, we ordered only one, but, for reasons I cannot reveal here, more than one came out (we’re mysterious like that).  To be honest – these desserts were better than our latest outing at Zahav – although that probably isn’t saying much.  Passionfruit creamsicles dipped in chocolate – surprisingly fantastic – especially on a warm summer evening.  The chocolate-mint pot-de-creme was luscious – and the pistachio biscotti was among the best biscotti I’ve had in a long time (I’m a sucker for pistachio).  We also had the chocolate-peanut-butter bomb …  That is one helluva-rich dessert.  It was so rich, I kind of wished there was more of the berry jam to cut down the richness.  Actually, even more chocolate would have cut down on the richness, as the peanut butter creme was insane – it was like peanut butter and super-extra-creamy-cool-whip had a baby.  Don’t get me wrong, though, it was “too rich” not in a “I’m-going-to-be-sick” way, rather a “I-wish-I-could-eat-it-faster-but-I-can’t” way … don’t worry – I did get around to eating every last bit.

In the end, we each paid approximately the amount one would pay when going out for restaurant week, and I, for one, was uncomfortably full.  So, go to Meritage.  Go with 3 people and pony up $17 each, and enjoy the deliciousness.

SAMPAN BONUS:

We also went to Sampan the day after Meritage.  We wanted to eat deliciously on the “cheap”, so we went for a 6pm 1000-pt opentable reservation with the intent of going after the beloved pork bahn mi, the crispy Brussels sprouts, and the Korean rice cake dish.  It was … disappointing …  Our favorite pork bahn mi maker wasn’t there, so the ratio of meat and toppings and sauce was all wrong – AND they didn’t even wrap the sandwich in the kraft paper – they just left it open!  The crispy Brussels sprouts could have used a bit more time on the heat, as they were quite hard.  And the Korean rice cakes didn’t have as many rice cakes as I remember (but at least it tasted good!).  We suspect that maybe their “starting lineup” in the kitchen was on vacation, and they were letting the “B-team” take over or something.  Well – either that or Meritage was so good the night before that their KFC has displaced Sampan’s pork bahn mi in crave-ability?  Shazam!  There it is … I went there … it’s over … done.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 August 2010 at 5:47pm

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