If you haven’t heard about Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken then you must be living under a rock – or in Far North Queensland. I do understand we are a little sheltered up here in our beautiful part of the world. Heck, the Mexican food fad that took over our southern states about 3 years ago hasn’t even reached us up in Cairns yet (and no Cactus Jacks doesn’t count). In fact I am pretty sure we are still in the midst of the frozen yogurt phase that is so, like, totally 2012. Being an avid reader of Gourmet Traveller and Delicious magazines thanks to my monthly subscriptions (friends and family know the way to my heart for birthday’s and Christmas) I like to think (hope) that I am pretty up to date on the food trends. Along with Mexican food there has been cupcakes, macarons, hot dogs, anything Vietnamese, dumplings, gelato, burgers, Korean food and god knows what else! But now it’s the Taiwanese’ turn with Hot Star Large Fried Chicken. A chicken franchise brought in by some savvy travellers which has taken the cities of Sydney and Melbourne by storm, one deep-fried chicken breast at a time.
People are lining up down the street for these Taiwanese street food inspired protein pockets. It’s pretty basic to say the least but at Hot Star Chicken they take a whole chicken breast on the bone and smash it flat, marinated it for 2 hours, coat it in tapioca flour and then deep fry it in Cottonseed Oil till it’s crunchy on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside. Having recently travelled to Sydney with my family Hot Star wasn’t really somewhere that I was hell-bent on seeking out but more hoping to stumble upon. It certainly didn’t take long to spot a small crowd of people (mostly young Asian’s) huddled on the street waiting for the latest batch of chicken to be deep-fried. Before I knew it my whole family with MS in tow was lining up to try Hot Star Large Fried Chicken.
It’s a CASH ONLY kind of gig and for a mere AU$7.90 a hit, it’s a pretty good deal, especially when it’s cooked to order – that way you know it’s fresh – freshly fried anyway. The guy at the counter asked if we wanted Original or Spicy to which MS and I decided that we wanted ‘spicy’. He gave us a small plastic bag and a ticket with a number and we stepped aside, laying in wait for our ‘afternoon snack’. We waited about 10 minutes until with expert precision the guy working the deep fryer began to pull each chicken breast from the bubbling hot cottonseed oil, bag them up and call the individuals numbers of the hungry chicken lovers waiting curb side. MS and I spotted a couple of breasts that were basted in some sticky brownish sauce and then coated in sesame seeds. We had no idea what they were (possibly the lemon chicken?) but we both wished we had gotten that one – the grass is always greener.
Additions of deep-fried mushrooms and sweet potato chips on the menu at Hot Star also rate very high on the culinary Richter scale according to various reports on social media and other online reviews. Those deep-fried goodies would have to wait till the next time I crossed paths with a Hot Star Chicken joint because I had to save room for dinner – even if this was classed as ‘research’.
A couple of minutes later the ‘spicy’ coating was sprinkled onto our piece and our number was called. The pictures of it in MS’ hand just doesn’t do it justice. This thing is seriously about a foot long and with the breast itself weighing on average 250 grams. MS and I shared one but I could have easily polished one-off on my own despite it’s size. I refrained because technically we had just eaten a late lunch including BBQ pork puns and Deep Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste. Seriously those things are the best damn sweets ever invented!!!
The Hot Star Large Fried Chicken is kind of like a big chicken schnitzel crossed with KFC I guess. It was tongue searing-ly hot having just been pulled from the deep fryer seconds before but a perfect way to warm you from the inside out on what was a ridiculously cold and windy afternoon in the city of Sydney. The spice was spicy but nothing major. Hey, if MS can eat it without many complaints then it’s definitely not very spicy – he is a total pussy when it comes to spice after all. The batter was thick and crunchy and although the whole thing was encased in a little paper bag it didn’t seem overly oily.
There’s really not a whole lot for me to say about it especially considering that Hot Star Large Fried Chicken has been blogged about and reviewed to death since it opened in Australia about six months ago by people far more in the know than me. At the end of the day although tasty, succulent and a sh*tload better than a 5 piece feed from KFC (much kinder on the wallet too), it’s really just a big deep-fried chicken breast. Typically, MS was more smitten with the $4 slice of greasy Meatlover’s pizza that he bought from the pizza place directly next door while we waited for our chicken. In his own words that was his ‘culinary highlight’ of our trip to Sydney. Ah such a typical male.
Hot Star Chicken
96 Liverpool St, Sydney NSW 2000
429 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
231 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Opening Hours: 11am – 11pm 7 days
Yeah I am really dragging this whole Melbourne thing out I know. Especially considering that MS and I went to Melbourne in December! But, the memories of the fantastic food we ate are still as raw as ever which is why we are heading back again this month. Day 3 in Melbourne wasn’t a particularly big food day for the two of us although it was MS’ birthday. We ended up at a bakery out near the motorbike raceway out at Broadford getting pies for breakfast since we were on the road early.
MS had shouted himself a Champion’s Race Day for his birthday which included a full day of racing around a track on a motorbike and yeah some other guy stuff. I wasn’t particularly interested but I did have to drop him out there and drive all the way back into the city to catch up with a friend for lunch. EG told me that I could choose anywhere for lunch – something I had already planned on doing anyways – so after a legs workout at some random community gym in Footscray that I found on Google maps and then a quick stopover at a random clothing alterations place to get a dress taken up (I couldn’t look any less than smoking hot for MS’ at his birthday day dinner) we headed to the much hyped and hip burger joint Huxtaburger on Smith Street.
I’m not sure if I had heard about it in one of the foodie magazines that I read (Delicious, Gourmet Traveller and Feast) or whilst trawling through Melbourne cafes and restaurants on Urbanspoon (or all of the above) but it seems that everyone in Melbourne has been going crazy (especially those crazy vegetarians) for Huxtaburger. And yeah I might be a little slow on the uptake (any Melbourne foodie reading this is probably like “der that was so 12 months ago”) but this was MY first experience at Huxtaburger.
At first I was like “How good can a burger really be?” I was reading reviews from people saying things as simple as “best burgers in Melbourne” to the more profound reviews like it was “life changing” or “an out of body experience”. Sh*t yeah these burgers must be good! I must admit I still hold fond memories of the ‘Macca Burger’ at the JCU Refectory that my study buddies and I used to mung out on during my uni days as a Science student.
Upon entering Huxtaburger with my friend I had a strong feeling that the JCU’s signature burger that tied me over between my Statistics lecture and my second year Zoology lecture was not going to rate too highly on the ‘best burger in Melbourne’ scale. My friend and I went to the flagship store on Smith Street but there is also one in the city and one in Prahran.
I had heard stories about people queuing down the street for their own Huxtaburger and I was expecting no less for our lunchtime burger experience so you can imagine my surprise when we walked straight in and straight to the counter to order. The small list of only 6 burgers sounded bloody good especially the Denise (original Huxtaburger with jalapeno and Sriracha mayo) but I figured I should go with the original, that way I had a baseline to work with. EG and I took up a couple of seats in a little cramped area of tables and chairs out the front on the footpath and waited for our burgers.
Within about 10 minutes out two Huxtaburgers had arrived, each served on a small silver platter. Each looked like the perfect burger – almost like a cartoon burger. I’m not going to go into a big speel about how good these burgers were/are because frankly, Melbourne reviewers have already blogged the sh*t out of Huxtaburger and I don’t really need to add my two cents into the mix but for my Cairns readers… These burgers are the bees knees. From the juicy beef patty to the soft but toasted and slightly sweet brioche bun. Like I said, I didn’t understand how good a burger could really be… Until I went to Huxtaburger, and then I understood. RIP Macca Burger. I was going to have to bring MS back for his own Huxtaburger before we left Melbourne.
The next couple of hours involved catchups and flatwhites followed by me dropping my friend back to her place in Footscray, picking up my altered and smoking hot dinner dress and then driving an hour to pick MS up in Broadford. By the time I arrived at the track I was so damn hungry that I think I ate my weights worth in Arnott’s Family Assorted sweet biscuits next to the tea and instant coffee which were there for the race day goers. Although my Huxtaburger was out of this world tasty it was a little on the small side (put it this way, I could have easily eaten two).
Fast forward a couple of hours and MS had a great time and we were on our way in a taxi to Lygon St for MS’ birthday dinner – just the two of us. There really isn’t too much to say about where we went for dinner nor is it worth mentioning (just another Lygon Street Italian restaurant) but the highlight of the evening for us was spotting Chestbrah walking along Lygon St – looking like a total douche in a black skivvy, black pedal pushers and white sneakers. MS wanted to get a photo with him purely as a piss take but then he didn’t want to give Chestbrah the satisfaction. (For those of you who don’t know who Chestbrah is, google him. He’s basically a Melbourne pretty boy/body building personality that takes lots of photos of himself with no shirt on at music festivals – I follow him on Instagram for a laugh and I’m still unsure if he takes himself seriously or not).
So after our dinner and 3/4 of a bottle of wine for me (MS had the other 1/4) – I stopped after that otherwise MS would have had to carry me home. Not something he wanted to do on his birthday! There was a club in the city that I had heard about a few years ago that I wanted to check out – only because it sounded cool. We found The Croft Institute hidden down an alley way in Chinatown and paid something like AU$20 entry – why the hell didn’t pull the birthday card?! The Croft Institute is 3 storeys – the ground floor resembled an old school science lab with shelves of odd shaped glassware, beakers and other Chemistry looking things that you’d think I could remember with all the Chemistry I did at uni.
The lighting was pretty dim in inside but not quite dim enough to see that it was a bit of a sausage fest in there (aka not many women) so we headed upstairs for a bathroom stop on the 1st floor. The bathrooms (well I can’t speak for the men’s room) were probably the coolest part of the place. The was even a hospital bed in there.
The whole atmosphere was pretty spooky and kind of like an old asylum – reminded me of that movie Gothika with Halle Berry.
Upstairs from there was another bar with a DJ playing… I can’t remember much from up there, only that it wasn’t as cool as the two previous floors and that everyone seemed to be completely off their head.
We went back down to the ground floor and ordered a couple of drinks. After watching the first season of Ray Donovan whilst out at sea I had become obsessed with tasting Cognac because that’s all they seem to drink on that show and they make it look so damn tasty. MS had tried to warn me that I wouldn’t like it but I am pretty stubborn like that so you can imagine my delight when I saw Cognac on the menu at The Croft Institute. We ordered a Cognac on the rocks and a Tequila and Orange Juice which came served with a syringe. Another quirky feature of this crazy hidden club.
So it turns out that Cognac wasn’t everything I imagined it to be. In fact it tasted pretty sh*thouse really. How the hell do they drink that crap so easily on TV?! Wasting nearly $15 on a glass of Cognac that we barely had two sips of out was soon forgotten when we found a $50 note on the floor next to some unsuspecting hipsters. It was a cool club and fun place to visit but not somewhere that I (we) would want to spend any longer than the 30 or so minutes that we did. MS and I finished off the night with a Cadbury Marvellous chocolate bar from the 7/11, a stroll back to the apartment and then me becoming good friends with the toilet bowl. White wine + cognac + tequila + chocolate = me being sick. That and I’m a lightweight on the turps. Oops. Happy Birthday baby!
106 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066
Rear 357 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
208 High St, Prahran VIC 3181
Check out the website for the different opening hours: www.huxtaburger.com.au
The Croft Institute
21 Croft Alley, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9671 4399
Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 5pm – 1am, Sat & Sun 5pm – 3am