If you wander by Side Chick at the right time of day, you can see an absurd number of whole chickens being prepped for that day’s service, both steaming pyramids of plump, pale birds fresh from their poaching liquid and burnished roast birds oozing a bit from the spot where they have been pierced by the spit. Flashing cleavers reduce the chickens to their constituent parts.
You could walk down the corridor to the other food spaces in this Asian corner of the Santa Anita mall, toward crabs or udon or even the dumplings at Din Tai Fung, but Side Chick, which specializes in Hainan chicken rice, exerts a powerful pull. There may be a thick pane of glass between you and the production kitchen, but you can imagine the cooking smells of a dozen grandmothers in that tiny room, all chicken, ginger and garlic; roasted skin and sweetly burnt soy. Johnny Lee, who is nothing if not a showman, surely had this affect in mind.
You have run into Lee, I’m almost sure of it. He came from working with John Sedlar at Rivera to be the cook at the Monterey Park bar Spirit House, where he stuffed 24-hour roast Chinese pork into tacos and made exquisitely crisp French fries that required a three-day process. His Thai-style chicken rice at Sticky Rice was the best reason to visit Grand Central Market in the early days of its gentrification. He worked with Alvin Cailan on Eggslut, Ramen Champ and any number of Hainan chicken rice pop-ups.
What does Side Chick serve? Find out at the Los Angeles Times.