Consider this to be a horoscope for the L.A. food scene, but with less concrete astrological science, less fake accents in dimly lit rooms, and probably less accuracy. My ultimate goal is to predict the next big menu items from iconic local restaurants. If Plan Check debuts a kimchi poutine, I want you to have seen the idea here first. If Superba decides to open a gourmet cheesesteak shop, I want you to say, “Hey, didn’t that one guy write about it before it existed?” These are the foods you’re going to be noshing on in the future. (I hope.) This is Future Nosh.
I like to imagine that ChocoChicken is the end result of some insane bar bet that follows the story arc of an Oscar-snubbed, mid-’90s Freddy Prinze Jr. movie. The concept seems too insane(-ly awesome) to have spawned from unprovoked, un-peer-pressured sobriety.
Just for a minute, put yourself in Adam Fleischman’s shoes. He’s fresh off the 20th successful Umami Burger opening, he’s feeling invincible at this point, and he’s looking to pop some bottles. So he goes out to a bar—or an artisanal whiskey cave, I don’t know what he does—and starts tipping back a few with some industry folk.
Then a rival restaurateur gets a little too sauced up to conceal his resentment. He starts running his mouth. He wants a shot at the Umami king.
“Hey. Hey Fleischman. If youse is so good,” he says like a 1920s mafia goon in this hypothetical, just roll with it, “at opening restaurants, then I gots an opportunity for youse to put your money where your mouth is.”
Fleischman sits there, trying to ignore the instigator, the Paul Walker to his Freddy Prinze Jr., but he can’t. His interest has been piqued. He gives the nod, and his would-be nemesis continues.
“I bets I can think of a restaurant concept so crazy even youse can’t make it work,” but he pronounces it like “woik,” because that’s how he said it in my head.
Fleischman’s game for the challenge, and the crowd that’s assembled around this fictional encounter knows it. They see it in his eyes.
“I bet youse can’t make a multimillion-dollar restaurant chain out of Sour Patch Kids and artisanal deli meats.”
Fleischman looks him dead in the face—he’s turned from FPJ to Dirty Harry in an instant—and chortles, “Is that all you got? I thought this was supposed to be a challenge.”
Anachronistic 1920s-sounding restaurateur guy backtracks, his bluff has been called. “Hey, guy, take it easy, that was just a warmup. Youse gots to open a joint that only serves mayonnaise-based sushi rolls and Golden Corral leftovers.”
Fleischman’s unfazed. He’s not fazed by much these days. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize this challenge was designed for my grandmother. I think you’re wasting my time here, friend.” He gathers his belongings to leave.
“Woah, woah, woah, fine, fine. I got one more idea. I didn’t want to have to use this on youse—youse seems like a nice guy—but this has gone too far.” He pauses for effect and looks contemplatively to the ceiling. “Chocolate. Chicken.” The crowd falls silent. A silver-haired woman faints. A toddler—inexplicably hanging out in a bar—clutches his mother’s leg.
In all likelihood, Adam Fleischman met with the rest of Umami Restaurant Group’s creative team in an air-conditioned conference room and workshopped the idea for several months, but I like my origin myth better.
When ChocoChicken choco-fried their first chicken in May of 2014, they opened up a Pandora’s box of deep-fried chocolate treats. There are no more limits, the walls of convention have crumbled beneath our feet, and I dig it.
Even though ChocoChicken slightly dialed back the choco-content of their menu in September, these things tend go in cycles, and I think they’re going to unleash a deluge of choco-fried animal parts in the near future. But that future has recently been shrouded in ambiguity and cryptic Twitter messages. They’ve been “closed for the holidays” since December 23, only dropping vague hints on social media as to when they might return, and Eater wonders if they’re ever coming back.
Assuming they do return—and I have a feeling they will—I think there are some baller new menu items in store. Choco-calamari, choco-katsu, choco-pura shrimp—the possibilities are endless. But if ChocoChicken wants to stay true to its Southern-fusiony flair, there’s only one way to go: ChocoChicken-fried steak. Throw it on a biscuit, add some chorizo gravy, a fried egg, and some cotija cheese, and that’s a million-dollar menu item.
I brined a piece of round steak in dark chocolate, black peppercorns, and whole cinnamon sticks. After an hour in the fridge, dredge it in flour seasoned with ancho chile powder, salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, and, yup, that’s right, more dark chocolate. Drop that meat disc in the fryer at 350 degrees for four to five minutes, or until it’s a nice chocolatey brown, and throw it on a classic buttermilk biscuit with a cream-based chorizo gravy.
I bet that fictional, belligerently drunk restaurateur regrets that wager right about now.