Courtesy of Bantam King
Courtesy of Bantam King
Sometimes, research for a food story can mean eating a lot of ho-hum or totally unappetizing food, and my search for Washington, D.C.’s best fried chicken sandwich wasn’t easy. To be a winner, the chicken sandwich had to look and taste appealing; not be greasy; be crisp and juicy; be on a soft but sturdy bun; include garnishes and condiments that complement the taste of the chicken; and, last but not least, be affordable.
Instead, what I found was a lot of overpriced, greasy, badly cooked chicken that was either very bland or over spiced. It was as if the chefs were trying to disguise inadequate chicken by hiding it beneath too many garnishes or drowning it in sweet condiments.
Just in time, Bantam King, which has made a name for itself with its incredible chicken ramen and fried chicken platters, put a new fried chicken sandwich on its menu, and it’s by far the winner in this contest.
Forget about Korean fried chicken and head to Bantam King for Japanese-style fried chicken; the eatery may be a newcomer to Chinatown, but it’s one of several popular restaurants developed by the trio behind Daikaya, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Katsuya Fukushima, a partner and the executive chef at Bantam King, is the culinary genius behind the fried chicken sandwich. He says, “The chicken sandwich at Bantam King is a no-nonsense chicken sandwich inspired by many visits to Shake Shack, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and Royal Farms. Not much beats a Martin’s bun with butter and chicken fat.”
So what makes this particular fried chicken sandwich D.C.’s crowning glory of chickendom?
For starters, you get incredibly satisfying chicken that’s cooked to perfection and loaded with mouthwatering chicken flavor. To keep the meat moist while frying, the chicken is first marinated in brine seasoned with dashi and then triple-battered with crushed breakfast cereal and cooked in a pressure fryer with soy and vegetable oil.
Once cooked, the chicken is a lovely golden brown with a deliciously crisp exterior and tender, juicy interior. It’s then placed on a toasted Martin’s potato bun and generously spread with a zesty herb-infused buttermilk sauce made with Japanese and America-style mayonnaise. Rather than overwhelm the flavor of the chicken with too many garnishes, Katsuya’s chicken sandwich is simply garnished with fresh lettuce, cabbage, and pickles. Keeping the garnishes to a minimum allows the chicken flavors to shine through or, as Katsuya puts it, “At Bantam King, chicken takes center stage.”
Let’s face it; Bantam King gives you the most cluck for your buck at $10 for the sandwich plus a side of French fries sprinkled with nori flakes; even the dismal fried chicken and fries combos at fast-food joints can’t beat that price. So grab a friend and head over to Chinatown for the best lunch (right now it’s only offered during lunch Monday through Friday) in D.C.