Where: Pelicana, Shop G5/163 Franklin Street Melbourne
What: Good Korean fried chicken
Who: Sashimi Slanderer, Butter Bean, Foodie-Married-To-A-Non-Foodie, Afternoon Delight
Bloat score: 2 – The belt had to be completely removed
I’d received two separate work emails a few minutes apart from colleagues who wanted to try the newest fried chicken craze in town – Pelicana – and so I marshalled the troops and we visited the Friday after, unable to tolerate the thought of untried fried chicken lying so close to our office.
Pelicana is a well-known Korean fried chicken franchise that has over 3,000 shops but has only just started to open up in cities around the world, setting up shop in New York last year and following suit in Melbourne this year. It’s largely credited with starting the Korean fried chicken trend, both within Korea and elsewhere.
Pelicana is tucked away in an unobtrusive laneway off Franklin Street that is also home to the city branch of Andrew’s Hamburgers and Jojo Little Kitchen. Word of mouth had all but guaranteed that every other worker bee in Melbourne knew about it, however – we arrived slightly after 12 on Friday, but not long after, a significant queue had started to form behind us.
There are a few different ways you can choose to have your fried chicken at Pelicana – you can order it with bones or boneless, and with one of 11 different sauces. There’s the option to order a whole chicken or a half chicken – perhaps suitable if you have a big group of people and you’d like to share – or you can do what we did and order a meal set, which comprises a few pieces of chicken alongside rice, salad or chips. There are also main dishes like chicken chop, a kimchi burger, and kimchi soup or sides like fried vegetarian dumplings, and deep fried chicken giblets served with rice cakes (i.e. two of my favourite things – offal and rice in some shape or form).
Pelicana was rather understaffed when we visited – the one person manning the counter was unable to promptly deal with the litany of orders, not helped by the Eftpos machine playing up. Afternoon Delight, a serial grazer who can’t go an afternoon without snacking on something or rather, was unfortunately the last of us who got stuck trying to pay for her meal when the Eftpos machine decided to call it quits.
The wait for fried chicken was significant – we estimated almost 30 minutes passing before our first order arrived. I’ve since read other reviews that mention how Pelicana fries its chicken fresh, which may go some way to explaining the wait. That notwithstanding, Pelicana’s attention to detail was meticulous – our table received a bucket with plastic gloves, refresher towelettes and cutlery to tackle our fried chicken when it eventually arrived.
Thankfully for the purposes of this post, each of us had ordered something different.
My serve of hot spicy fried chicken and rice arrived first, much to my delight and everyone else’s as it put an end to my incessant whingeing. I’d ordered the hot spicy chicken on the recommendation of a staff member – it was rated two chillies on the menu, which I knew my brown girl palate would be able to handle.
I was pleasantly surprised by the heat quotient of this, though I shouldn’t have been – Pelicana is a Korean fried chicken outlet after all. The chicken was crisp and saucy on the outside, with the crunchiness of the batter intact despite the sauce, and moist and tender within. I was glad to have my bowl of rice to pair the chicken with, as my tongue was starting to smart from the accumulation of chilli, though it’s nothing a chilli fiend wouldn’t be able to handle. The interplay between sweet and spicy is a hallmark of Korean fried chicken, but it was delivered with aplomb in this version – though, as a matter of personal preference, I generally prefer spicy and savoury over spicy and sweet.
Butter Bean, my gentle colleague who goes by the nickname ‘bean’ and is nothing like the namesake wrestler, is somewhat of a fried chicken aficionado – purely based on the number of times he eats it in a week. He ordered the honey butter chicken with chips but was sadly disappointed by the marinade. While the chicken was again deep fried to perfection, the combination of honey and butter was slightly too sweet for Butter Bean, who was expecting something more savoury on account of the butter. I threw caution to the wind and tried a piece of Butter Bean’s chicken, despite not being able to eat honey, and enjoyed it without loving it – it’s a flavour profile that would suit a sweet tooth.
Sashimi Slanderer, who continues to hate sashimi despite liking nearly everything else, went for the original fried chicken and smartly ordered a side sauce of the hot smoky chilli. Based on how good this side sauce tasted, I’ll be ordering the hot smoky chilli fried chicken next time! Sashimi Slanderer enjoyed the original chicken, particularly when paired with her other side order of kimchi slaw – maybe I should change her name to Side Order Queen – but I (rather shamefully) conceded that I preferred KFC chicken (at the top of their game) after trying this original version. While I couldn’t fault the lightness or crispness of its batter, it wasn’t as salty or as herby as I would’ve liked.
Foodie-Married-To-A-Non-Foodie, who, like me, has chosen to partner with someone with a basic AF palate, was going to order the Pelicana-marinated fried chicken only to be told the eponymous marinade had run out. She opted for the garlic fried chicken instead and got it with chips like Butter Bean. This was unfortunately the most disappointing flavour of the lot – the garlic tasted acerbic and pungent, as though it’d been incorporated into the marinade raw as opposed to after being fried up. Each of us is a fan of garlic but not enough that we enjoy the taste of raw garlic. Poor Foodie-Married-To-A-Non-Foodie struggled to finish this, although we each helped out and swapped one of our pieces with hers.
Afternoon Delight ordered the best fried chicken, hands down – her karmic reward after she waited the longest. She went for the wasabi-dusted fried chicken (please note that there’s also a wasabi fried chicken on the menu) and enjoyed the interplay between salty and shoot-through-your-nostrils-hot. Unlike the heat of my chilli marinade that caused my nose to run – I’m embarrassed to admit it – her wasabi-dusted fried chicken cleared her sinuses without leaving a lingering aftertaste of heat. Hers was also the most savoury and saltiest of the lot – she’d chosen a winner and for once didn’t need her famous afternoon snack.
I didn’t feel too bloated after, which is always a win when you have fried chicken and have to go back to work, but the bloat eventually settled in – though not as bad as I expected it to be. I’ll definitely go back to Pelicana with anyone who will share those fried chicken giblets with me before I move on to the hot smoky chilli fried chicken.
Pelicana is open every day from 11am to 11pm.