Friday, February 6, 2009

The Latest Chick in the Zankou Coop

There are people who are carb crazy. They eat oodles and oodles of noodles, baskets and baskets of bread, and look at the dessert menu before even cracking open the entree section. I am not one of these people. Maybe it was the endless amounts of meat based dishes I grew up on or just my body chemistry, but when I put together a meal I always have a heaping portion of dead animal. It's a lucky thing for my arteries that what I always crave is anything fowl: turkey, duck, hen, chicken etc.. If it had wings I probably ate it at some point along the way. I'm very grateful to live in a world that offers me endless options of eateries focused around this meat staple, like the California Chicken Cafe or Koo Koo Roo's.

Yet another even more popular and notable one of these chicken-centric destinations in LA is Zankou Chicken, which just opened up a new location closer to me then the one on Sepulveda in Van Nuys. For die hard Zankou fiends this new location will be a blessing. For me it didn't raise much of an eyebrow. I've only been to Zankou once before and to be frank I found it truly overrated. The chicken was drier then reported and they forgot to give me the holy grail garlic sauce. Half way through I was saying, "shouldn't I be tasting garlic?" I inquired at the counter and they handed me a pre-packaged and sealed quarter cup. It did improve the chicken but not enough to draw me back.

Even so I decided to give them another go at their newest outpost located in Tarzana in a stripmall along Ventura Blvd.

Outside Zankou

Compared to the Van Nuys location this has a much better parking situation. I'm sure their business neighbors won't be too pleased with the sudden loss of available spaces, but those headed to this Zankou will be not having to deal with the same tiny parking lot headache they did in Van Nuys. This one is also quite different in restaurant design and seating.

In Van Nuys you have a small space with a cluster of booths and a crowded order/pick-up counter. Here you have tables and chairs in a much more comfortable and well ordered atmosphere along with patio seating. Overall the place feels less claustrophobic and welcoming then their dirtier cousin. They even have a plasma TV and serve alcohol!

This time round I ordered the Chicken Tarna sandwich ($4.99).

Chicken Tarna Sandwich

Talk about doing a 180 degree from my last visit. The chicken tarna was a blend of juicy dark and white chicken wrapped inside a pita smeared generously with garlic paste. The entire sandwich was great and I enjoyed every greasy garlic mouthful. The sandwich also comes with a side of pickled turnips and chilies. As I normally do I tried mixing the flavors with a few bites of the sandwich. I liked the added zip and heat but the texture of the turnips was not a nice compliment. Perhaps next time just using the chilies would be better suited.  

Chicken Tarna Sandwich Revealed

I did notice while picking out pieces of chicken tarna the dark meat was much more flavorful then the white. At my one other visit I noticed this as well which leads me to assume that Zankou is not a place to order white meat. The grease factor didn't bother me so much although it was very greasy. Don't do what I did and unwrap the thing to peak inside. The grease softens the pita to a fragile state and the only thing holding it precariously together is that shiny wrapping of tinfoil. Believe in the tin foil and you'll have greaseless hands and not be forced to reconstruct.

However, perhaps even the more important factor to cover here is the garlic paste. I wasn't sure why it tasted better until I saw that my girlfriends plate that came with a side of paste wasn't pre-packaged. It was in a clear plastic container with a removable top.

Holy Grail Garlic Paste

Then I looked past the cashier and noticed behind her a tin vat with a ladle. Turns out Tarzana mixes it up on the premises. The taste difference is undeniable. It's richer and more pleasing, fresher and more satisfying. This is a garlic paste to stand behind.

Leave Van Nuys behind and head over to this newest bird in Tarzana. Parking is easier, tables are many, and the food will have you saying it's about time Van Nuy's Zankou was taken out of the coop and served to the dog.


Zankou Chicken
19598 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356
(818) 345-1200


H. C. said...

Oh yum! Glad your meal turned out well (have heard quite a bit recently about how Zankou's going downhill) And reminds me of another "infamous L.A. spot I gotta check off my list" place to go -- though I heard there are better chicken (and garlic pastes) out there, but still- it's Zankou!

PulledPorker said...

Glad to hear you had a better visit, Mike. Whenever I go to Zankou (90% of my visits are to the Pasadena location) I buy an 8 oz. container of the paste - basically a larger version of the little plastic cup your girlfriend's. (I think it costs 4 bucks.) I use it on anything that needs a little extra zip: burgers, chicken, even a slice of pizza once.

Mike said...

@HC: It really is just one of those iconic LA places you have to go at least once or twice. Just be careful which location you go to. If they give you that paste in a prepackaged cup BEWARE!

@PulledPorker: Galic paste... on a burger... why didn't I think of that?!

Anonymous said...

Check out Burger Barn in New Cuyama. They make a garlic burger with real garlic cloves on it!

And, yeah, the pre-packaged garlic at some Zankous is bogus.