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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Beer Belly in Koreatown: Excellent Fried Chicken & Decent Beer Selection

I had heard a lot of things about Beer Belly, a gastropub or beer joint that has decent beer choices and serious food.

My friends and I were famished by the time we got there, so we got the fried chicken strips, fish and chips (in the form of garlic, herb and parmesan fries) and a buffalo chicken mac-n-cheese. And a beer flight, of course.

I can't say I remember all the beers I've had but that's part of the fun -- trying new ones, discovering likes and dislikes. There wasn't one that I thought stood out, like Hitachino's White Rice Ale that I love. But it was fun trying a Hef, a chocolate stout-like one, etc.

The fish and chips were ok. The catfish was just not as fresh as in Arkansas. I couldn't help but pine for the ethereal fried catfish I had there, so didn't enjoy it as much as my friends. This image of the fish and chips looks like it had some lighting issues but I thought it looked like the spotlight had been placed on the fish, the supposed star of the dish.

Let's talk fries. We substituted plain chips for the garlic, herb and Parmesan fries, which were good. There was definitely a lot going on and hence a tad distracting detecting the explosion of flavors, but when those flavors are garlic, herbs and salty/nutty Parmesan, it hardly mattered.

The fries came with a few dipping sauces, including ranch and spicy ketchup that were good but not sure they needed them.

The fried chicken strips were excellent. Chicken breasts dipped in buttermilk and fried to perfection...What's not to like?

I didn't care too much for the aioli dipping sauce that came with it. Again, it didn't need it. The chicken was moist and steamy with a super crunchy exterior that made me wonder how many times they had to fry it before reaching this level of crunchiness.

Then we got the buffalo chicken mac-n-cheese. We were all ooh-ing and ah-ing when it arrived at our table with the perfunctory sizzling sound. Yes, it was like cue music to my ears (or sound effects).

I determinedly dug into the scorching hot goodness with a spoon to reveal a puff of steam. Despite its promising beginning, however, the actual flavor was on bland side and a bit too cheesy for me. It used blue cheese and maybe it's because I like blue cheese in moderation, not melted all over my mac-n-cheese.

But the most interesting thing was the crust, so to speak. It's usually sprinkled with some bacon bits but this place used chicken skin bits, which I thought was interesting. Was it tasty? Yeah but I'd take bacon bits back any day. Also, the massive chunks of chicken in the mac-n-cheese kind of threw me off because I don't usually expect there to be such large pieces of meat in my mac-n-cheese and the chicken was bland, to top it off. I liked the surprise element of the chicken skin bits but overall didn't love the dish. Can't blame them for trying though.

Overall cool vibe but the no table service is annoying -- standing in line, ordering and having to bring everything to the table, etc. Ok, I'm just lazy when it comes to eating out. I don't mind cooking the meat tableside at barbecue joints but don't make me bring all the cups, silverware and stuff! Wow, that sounded snooty. Parking was a breeze on a weekday evening -- either in the lot if you want to valet (I never do) or on the street. 

Oh and a side note, it's owned by a cute, young couple that I want to support. I do think I like the food better at Biergarten, where I recently had short rib poutine that was to die for.

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