Umami Burger’s Adam Fleischman to Open 'ChocoChicken'
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Umami Burger's founder will open a ChocoChicken restaurant in Los Angeles
Fleischman's umami take on fried chicken will come to LA soon, although an opening date has not been announced.
Adam Fleischman, the man behind Umami Burger, has big plans to open ChocoChicken, a fast-casual eatery in Los Angeles that will serve fried chocolate chicken “with a few key umami ingredients.” Fleischman says that his new fried chicken concept isn’t based on existing sweet and savory combinations like chicken and waffles or mole, but a reinvention of fried chicken.
“When you taste it, you're like, 'Oh, that's what chocolate chicken is,'" Fleischman told Fast Company.
The original concept comes from a cold pitch from two people Fleischman had never met, who emailed him and piqued the restaurateur’s interest. Fleischman invited the creators, Keith Previte and Sean Robbins, to come over and cook for him, and they won him over.
Fleischman tweaked the formula to add the requisite umami elements, and added a few menu items: white chocolate mashed potatoes and bacon biscuits with something called ChocoKetchup.
Although Fleischman has not yet announced an opening date, he has high hopes for ChocoChicken.
“Rather than make a dessert-mash-up sweet concoction, it's really a savory concoction,” Fleischman told Fast Company. “It's almost indescribable. It's really the perfect food.”
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
Umami Burger Founder's Latest Dish? Chocolate Fried Chicken
Neither sweet, sour, salty nor bitter, umami is a Japanese word used to describe a mouthwatering category that transcends humanity&rsquos four basic taste sensations.
It is also the name of an enormously successful Los Angeles burger joint-turned-national franchise, Umami Burger, that is reimagining this savory domain with a brand new restaurant concept.
ChocoChicken marks the latest venture from Umami Burger founder and culinary entrepreneur Adam Fleischman.
And in true umami fashion, flavor combinations such as white chocolate mashed potatoes, dark chocolate ketchup -- and, the star of the show, chocolate fried chicken -- are likely to get tongues wagging.
By pushing the boundaries of taste, Fleischman&rsquos burgers -- composed of succulent beef and umami-rich truffles and cheeses, topped with airy-sweet brioche buns -- eventually spawned 19 locations across California as well as restaurants in Florida, New York and Las Vegas.
&ldquoIt&rsquos creating a new taste, but it&rsquos also playing with psychology,&rdquo Fleischman told The New York Times of his culinary philosophy. &ldquoWe want to play with that psychology and give [people] something that doesn&rsquot taste like what they think it&rsquos going to taste like.&rdquo
Though the seminal recipe is secret, Fleischman explained that the chicken is steeped in a chocolate marinade, dipped in chocolate flour and patted down with a rub including 17 spices over the course of roughly 24 hours. Keith Previte, a chef, conceived the recipe and brought it to Fleischman.
Is Chocolate Chicken the Umami Burger Founder's Next Million Dollar Idea?
This week in weird food news: Umami Burger CEO Adam Fleischman's chocolate-flavored fried chicken resaturant, a record-breaking steak dinner and more.
The Internet is a black hole for strange, weird and wonderful things𠅎specially when it comes to food. Rather than dive in yourself, let F&W do it for you. Here, four of the most absurd food items we saw this week.
Cookie Machine: This machine is a cookie lover’s dream. It squirts out the exact amount of each ingredient to make a single perfect cookie. Unfortunately, the machine can neither bake the cookies for you nor fetch you a cold glass of milk for when they’re done.
Chocolate Fried Chicken: Chocolate? Good. Fried chicken? Great. But chocolate-flavored fried chicken? Umami burger CEO Adam Fleischman thinks it’s a winning combination. He is opening ChocoChicken in Los Angeles this March. The restaurant’s main offering with be fried chicken coated in a batter that contains chocolate for what Fleischman hopes is a salty-sweet win.
Swamp Pizza: The Everglades Pie now available at Evan’s Neighborhood Pizza in Fort Myers, Florida packs all the deliciousness of the Florida everglades into one pizza. The toppings include pork, frog legs, python and swamp cabbage (a vegetable much like hearts of palm). A 14-inch pie goes for $45—python isn’t cheap.
Record-Breaking Steak Eating: Canadian woman Molly Schuyler recently blew past a steak-eating world record at Sayler’s in Portland, OR. On a whim, Schuyler finished a 72-ounce steak in less than three minutes. The previous world record for the feat was six minutes, forty-eight seconds. Unfortunately, her record may not be official since Schuyler used her hands rather than just a knife and fork.
Coca-Cola Wine Glass: If you’ve been drinking your Coca-Cola from a normal glass or, heaven forbid, a can, then you haven’t been properly experiencing the soda. Luckily, Riedel, an Austrian company known for their varietal-specific glasses, has developed a Coca-Cola glass specifically designed to balance flavors and maintain the bubbles throughout the drinking experience.
Chocolate-flavored fried chicken restaurant set to open in Los Angeles
Looks like the prediction that we’ll see more outlandish food mash-ups in 2014 is coming true.
Last week, we heard about the Cragel, and now comes word about a new ChocoChicken restaurant from Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman.
Yes, that’s right, ChocoChicken, as in chocolate and chicken.
Fleischman is quick to point out that this isn’t chicken with a mole sauce, or chicken dipped in chocolate. This is a whole new concept—fried chicken with chocolate infused into the batter—that the world has never seen, he said.
“I think a lot of people think we’re going to just be spraying Hershey’s syrup on a chicken wing,” Fleischman told TODAY.com. “It tastes nothing like you think it does.”
While the recipe is a secret, of course, Fleischman told TODAY.com that he first marinates the chicken for 12 to 24 hours, then adds a secret breading, and then a final rub. Chocolate is part of all three steps to the recipe, he added.
Fleischman’s business partners Keith Previte and Sean Robbins were kicking around ideas when they stumbled upon the idea for the chocolate-chicken combo, Fleischman explained, and the three refined the dish.
The first ChocoChicken is slated to open this March in Los Angeles. And if you don’t live in L.A., don’t worry: Fleischman is confident there will one day be 1,000 to 2,000 ChocoChickens nationwide. (There are about 4,600 U.S. locations of KFC, by comparison). The restaurant will also serve house-made biscuits and “new school” sides to be announced.
The chef and former screenwriter knows a little bit about starting a craze. He founded the first Umami Burger back in 2009 with little more than $40,000, and the chain, now with 21 locations, projected $50 million in revenue last year.
The King Of Umami Teaches Us How To Create Incredible Flavor Bombs
Adam Fleischman, king of the fast-casual food scene and father of Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizzeria, and PBJ.LA has just written his first cook book — fittingly titled Flavor Bombs. Fleischman penned this particular book for the home cook looking to expand their knowledge of the science of flavors and taking their recipes to the level of savory heaven that is Umami.
Despite being a guest-judge on Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Chef, and founding three extremely popular fast-casual restaurants in roughly the last decade, Adam found time to put together a book full of some of the most savory dishes you’ll ever serve up. We spoke with Adam over the phone about his new book, the art of seasoning, and the perfect pan. He also gave us some tips perfect for aspiring home-cooks and even shared some recipes from his book perfect to impress your next dinner guests!
First, I want to say that I really like your book. It’s funny and engaging, and I thought the photography was really great!
Oh, thank you! I’ll pass that along to Wendy, our photographer.
How would you describe umami to someone?
We have five basic tastes that our tongues can detect. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and then umami was discovered last in the 20th century. Basically, what that taste is, is a savory taste that’s comprised of glutamates or amino acids. It’s an actual thing, it’s not theoretical. If you have glutamates in your food, you have umami… If you have umami, you have that savoriness, that taste that people really enjoy in burgers, pizza, steak, and Japanese food. All these different cuisines that are based on it.
How exactly is that umami flavor profile made in the kitchen?
You either get it through the ingredients, or through something you add. The book deals with ingredients like tomatoes and mushrooms that are high umami already, but it also deals with added umami enhancers like miso, soy, marmite, and all this other fish sauce. There’s like 20 of them.
In your book, you mention how you had to make mistakes in order to get to the point where you could write it… How important are those mistakes to the creative process?
I think they’re essential because when you make a mistake, you’ve actually attempted it. Whereas, if you are afraid to do something, then you’re never going to get better as a cook. It’s really through the mistakes that you improve in the kitchen, and that’s built up over many, many years. You get to the point eventually when you can tell how something’s going to taste just mentally and that’s where I am. I can tell in my head if something’s going to be good just by adding up all the ingredients in my head.
This is your first book… What made you wait so long? Did you just have to make that many mistakes to get to that point where you thought it was the right time?
No, I do a lot of psychics books, so I wasn’t really interested in doing a cookbook, but then they approached me to do it. They wanted me to do a cookbook, so I just said, “Yes.”
What word of advice do you have for those who let excuses like, not having the right ingredient, get in the way of starting to cook?
I think whether you have the right ingredients, or even the right tools or equipment, the energy and enthusiasm can really overcome a lot of those boundaries. Because, when you look at a lot of these professional kitchens in Italy, they’re very simple. It’s really just a work table with some old woman rolling out pasta. You really don’t need gadgets to cook at the end of the day. You need good fire and you need a pan, and that’s really all you need. The rest is stuff you have to learn, so you might as well focus on the simplicity of it, and just try and make the flavors come out that way.
How important would you say something like courage is? Because, I recently tried to make pad see ew for myself, and I needed a sweet soy sauce and didn’t have any. I tried to make a substitute for it, and I felt like I could taste my lack of confidence in the sauce. If that makes any sense?
Yeah, I totally believe in that! Your attitude and the amount of courage is recognizable in a dish. I do a lot of judging on cooking shows. You can tell the courage of the chef in the dish if you really know food, you can tell how much heart is in the dish, or lack of, or happiness or lack of that. The most important ingredient I think is the cook’s mentality. Then you get the ingredients and the techniques which are all learned.
Who exactly did you write this book for? What kind of cook?
I wrote it more for the home cook who maybe knows how to cook, but is interested more in the science of flavor and getting more flavor into their recipes.
I wanted to ask a little bit about the impossible burger, but more specifically, do you find crafting vegetarian or vegan dishes a fun challenge? Or more of a business necessity?
It’s definitely a business necessity. That’s the way things are going. But, it’s also a fun challenge as well. That mushroom burger that’s in the book, that I recreated for the book, because I’ve done other veggie burgers before. Obviously, the Impossible Burger, but that one is really, really good. I think it’s fun to try them.
Recently, I read this crazy story that more and more restaurants are removing salt shakers from the table
In your book, you said people tend to under salt. Where do you stand on this whole salt shaker removal thing? Is it chefs being too proud or do you support this?
I agree with the chefs. I think that the food should be seasoned properly. But, I was referring to-
In the kitchen?
Yeah, in the kitchen, not seasoning enough and if the dish is properly seasoned in the beginning, the middle, and the end, no one’s ever gonna need to reach for a salt shaker. That said, there are certain foods that require salt. If you’re serving french fries, I think it’s important to have salt around. But, we generally don’t put it on the table … and I’ve never had anyone ever ask me for salt in my house in 20 years…Seasoning is a real art, and it’s the fundamental key to being a good cook, but I think when you cook for a long time, you can learn how to season properly. It also teaches you to taste your food. If you make a big pot of chile, taste it, and see if it’s salted right before you serve it.
If a person wanted to start cooking who was maybe on the fence about it, what kind of tips do you have for that person…What’s an essential pan to have?
I think an essential pan is the cast iron skillet because you could get that Maillard, that caramelization that really works well with umami flavors. I think you want a cast iron skillet, and you can sear something, and you can glaze it, and then you can make vegetables in the same pan. It’s really about keeping the flavors in the dish, and not running out of them.
Any advice for those insecure by some of the beautiful presentation of your recipes in particular?
I tried to make them really messy! It’s more about flavor than beauty. At the end of the day, if something’s really delicious, that’s really the most important function.
Are there any classic staples you think are ready for a reinvention?
God, all of them now are coming back. The crab imperial thing that’s in the book, that’s an old dish from the Eastern shore. Those types of casserole dishes and old school French food, those things are really coming back now because people are going beyond the basics and they’re trying to explore historical versions of things. Historical comfort foods and stuff. I would say comfort foods of the past are definitely all coming back.
One of our other writers, Zach, really wanted me to ask you this since you’re a burger expert. What is really the best cheese for a burger?
It depends, we re-texturize cheese at Umami, so we transform the texture with sodium citrate which is what’s in the book. You could use any one, you’re just changing it into American cheese texture.
Oh, so you get that melt.
Yeah. Yeah, we re-texturize it so it melts. Because American cheese is great because it melts well, but it’s not the most flavorful cheese. If you take, let’s say blue cheese, and you want to re-texturize it so that it melts really well, then that’s a good choice. It’s really whatever’s the most flavorful cheese, and usually those are cheddars, manchegos, like aged cheeses. Cheeses that have really sat and aged, whereas American cheese is not aged… If you’re not up for retexturizing, then I think American cheese is a good way to go because it’s always going to melt properly. I would say a thicker American cheese…would be a good shot.
So, you brought us Umami Burger, 800 Degrees, PBJ.LA, what’s next?
Next, I’m doing four new brands. I’m doing an Italian gyro shop, sort of like the reinvention of the gyro. And I’m doing a coffee place called Cold Cocked, which is about to open, which is sort of a reinvention of the coffee bar…I want to do some more vegetarian concepts like PBJ, that are all plant-based, those types of things.
Are you sticking with that fast-casual format?
Yeah, I like the fast-casual format…It’s accessible and crave-able. We look for crave-able, burgers, and pizza, and Italian gyro’s are all very crave-able!
RECIPES FROM ADAM FLEISCHMAN:
The name says it all. Whip up these garlicky noodles with the leftovers in your fridge for a fast, delicious late-night snack. Everything about this dish is a lesson in improvising with what you have. The Garlic Confit pairs nicely with the Burnt Miso, but fresh garlic will also work, as will roasted garlic. You can omit the miso from the puree if you’re out even with just garlic and noodles, this is a satisfying quick meal. One thing you will want to do is keep any leftover sauce. It’ll last up to a week in the fridge and will taste good on most everything. It’s even good right off of the spoon—it’s my peanut butter.
One thing you will want to do is keep any leftover sauce. It’ll last up to a week in the fridge and will taste good on most everything. It’s even good right off of the spoon—it’s my peanut butter.
Sea salt if using Italian pasta
12 ounces whatever noodles you have in your pantry (I like the fresh ramen from the Asian market or a good dried Italian pasta.)
2 tablespoons Burnt Miso (page 47)
½ teaspoon shio koji
10 to 15 cloves Garlic Confit (page 38), depending on how garlicky you like your noodles
2 tablespoons oil from Garlic Confit (page 38) or olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel (optional)
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil—don’t forget to salt the water if you’re using Italian pasta—and cook the noodles according to the directions on the package.
- While the noodles boil, make the garlic-miso sauce. Place the Burnt Miso, shio koji, Garlic Confit, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the butter and scoop out and add ¼ cup pasta water and puree again. It’ll thin out and become more sauce-like, which is exactly what you want.
- Place a large skillet over low heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic-miso sauce. When the noodles are just about done, drain them or use tongs to transfer them from the saucepan directly into the skillet. Stir to combine, and finish with the pepper.
- Taste for seasoning. If the noodles need a kick of salt, add a pinch of fleur de sel and top with freshly grated Parmesan.
Mojo de ajo is an awesome all-purpose garlic sauce that’s a staple in Latin American cooking. Everyone has their own version of mojo de ajo that involves varying amounts of garlic, lime juice, oil, and salt in mine I roast the garlic first to really deepen its flavor. From there I toss it with prawns. I prefer to use spot prawns because they are bigger and meatier and won’t overcook as easily as shrimp. If you can’t find spot prawns, ask your fishmonger to pick out large head-on prawns, or sub in high-quality wild-caught shrimp from a responsible source. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge. It is tasty on anything savory.
2 heads garlic, unpeeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Splash of dry white wine—use whatever white wine you’re drinking
Splash of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound spot prawns or large head-on prawns (see headnote)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices rustic bread
- MAKE THE MOJO DE AJO: Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the top.
- Cut just enough off the top of the garlic heads to expose the cloves, and drizzle a good amount of olive oil directly on top of the cloves, enough to really coat the garlic generously. Wrap both heads, together or separately, in aluminum foil and place on the rack. Bake until the garlic is soft, deeply golden, and your kitchen (if not your whole house) is thick with the aroma of garlic, about an hour. The cloves should be a deep tan, but not black.
- Once the garlic has cooled enough for you to handle, pop the cloves out of their paper skins into a food processor (or mortar), and puree the garlic with the splashes of white wine and white wine vinegar, the lime juice, a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper, and the butter. It should form a thickened sauce. Set aside to let the flavors meld.
- MAKE THE PRAWNS: Peel the prawns, leaving the head and tail intact (see Flavor Tip). Place the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then sauté the prawns until they’re just opaque, a few minutes. Remove the prawns to a plate, and add the bread slices to the skillet. Toast each side for 2 minutes (you can also grill the bread if you’d prefer).
- To serve, put a slice or two of toast on some plates. Place a few prawns on each slice, then spoon a generous helping of mojo de ajo on top. Leave a bowl of mojo de ajo on the table for anyone who might want more. Dive in.
- FLAVOR TIP: Shrimp and prawn heads have a ton of umami, so give one a try if you’re not otherwise accustomed to eating them. They are delicious
The Umami Burger
This is it. This is the original. The Umami Burger, the burger that I pulled together in my home kitchen with not much more than a few umami-intense ingredients, a cast-iron skillet, and a food processor. This is versatile: If you don’t have time to make the Oven-Dried Tomatoes, sub in ripe tomatoes. If you’re out of Parmesan cheese, omit the Parmesan cheese crisp. It’s your burger. Do it your way.
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 ounces chuck, boneless short ribs, skirt steak, or hanger steak, nicely marbled, about20% fat, or a combination
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1½ ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
1 potato bun, split
2 slices Oven-Dried Tomatoes (recipe follows) or ripe tomato
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
- Divide the cheese into neat piles on the baking sheet about 4 inches apart. Flatten the piles with a spatula or the bottom of a cup to form 3-inch rounds.
- Bake until the rounds are crisp and golden, about 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cheese crisps to a rack and let them cool completely before using you should have 15 to 20 crisps. You’ll need only one Parmesan crisp per burger save the rest for other burgers, or for snacking on later. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not refrigerate.
- While the cheese crisps cool, make the patty. Cube the meat and place it in the freezer for 20 minutes (see page 102). When the meat is cold, place it in your food processor and pulse a few times, just until it’s coarsely ground.
- Place a cast-iron skillet on the highest heat. You want the pan to be wicked hot so you can quickly sear the patty crisp without overcooking the inside.
- Dump the meat out on a plate and loosely shape it into a flat ball or something close to that general shape. Don’t pack the patty—it should barely hold together. Season the patty generously with salt and pepper.
- Add the oil to the pan, wait a few seconds, then carefully place the patty in the pan it should crackle and pop right away.
- Sear the patty for 3 minutes, then flip it over and cook another 3 minutes for a medium-rare burger. Set aside.
- Lower the flame to medium. Place ½ tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet, then toss in the mushrooms. Sauté until the caps are softened, about 2 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, throw in the remaining ½ tablespoon butter, and toast both halves of the potato bun cut side down.
- When the bun is nice and toasted, remove it from the pan and assemble your burger, starting with the ketchup. I like to ketchup both the top and bottom bun, but use as much or as little as you want. Place the patty on the bottom bun and top with the Caramelized Onions, a Parmesan crisp, mushroom caps, tomato slices, and the top bun. Eat. Enjoy.
Umami Master Sauce
This glutamate-intense sauce can be used for wet applications, like braises and stews and any other dish that cooks low and slow. Since it’s a concentrated sauce with several umami ingredients, a little bit goes a long way. Use a small amount and dilute as necessary.
2 cups top-quality tamari or soy sauce
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry wine
¼ cup dried wild mushrooms, like porcini
¼ cup red or white miso
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon Marmite
1 tablespoon shio koji
1 (4-by-4-inch) piece dried kombu
- Start with the tamari or soy sauce, in a pan over medium heat do not let boil. Add the sherry wine, dried wild mushrooms, and miso. Stir.
- Add the honey, Marmite, shio koji, some hot sauce, and the dried kombu. Stir for a minute, remove from the heat, and strain. Add water to taste to dilute its intensity, then cool.
- Store, covered, in glass jars for up to around 6 months in your pantry.
Excerpted from FLAVOR BOMBS © 2018 by Adam Fleischman. Photographs © 2018 by Wendy Sue Lamm. Used by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
New ChocoChicken Restaurant Will Feature Chocolate Fried Chicken
The whole food mashup thing might finally be going too far. Umami Burger creator Adam Fleischman is about to blow foodie minds once again with a brand new concept, chocolate fried chicken. Of course with a feature dish so unique what else could you name the restaurant other than ChocoChicken? Short, sweet, and straight to the point.
We're fairly positive some Umami Burger fans will have doubts about this unlikely combination but Fleischman is determined to prove naysayers wrong:
If this new chicken's "crack factor" is anything like Umami's truffle fries then we're totally on board. With chocolate fried chicken as an entree the only acceptable sides have to be white chocolate mashed potatoes and house made bacon biscuits, duh. Oh and don't forget the ChocoKetchup. The restaurant will also feature a full bar with beer and specialty cocktails.
Don't worry about this chicken being overly sweet Fleischman assures us that the chocolate is actually enhancing the savory factor of the dish. The chocolate fried chicken is described as being very dark on the outside due to the chocolate but that first bite is juicy and unlike anything you've ever experienced. In a nutshell, Fleischman says the dish "tastes like happiness".
Inventive Kitchen Mixes Chocolate and Chicken
LOS ANGELES — The creators of Umami Burger, who boasted of producing a whole new taste and who went on to expand from a single Los Angeles restaurant to a national franchise, are hoping to do the same thing again, this time with chicken. And chocolate.
At ChocoChicken, which is to open in downtown Los Angeles sometime over the next month, there will be white chocolate in the mashed potatoes and dark chocolate in the ketchup. There will be palate-cleansing chunks of chocolate in bowls on the table. There will be whoopie pies for dessert. And there will be, in the defining culinary gesture here, chocolate in the chicken, a marriage of two seemingly disparate tastes consummated in a ceremony of marinating, dusting, frying and rubbing that takes the better part of 24 hours.
“There are two things that everybody likes,” said Keith Previte, a chef who developed the idea and brought it to Adam Fleischman, the founder of Umami Burger. “Chocolate and chicken. And when you combine chicken and chocolate. . ”
There will be limits. Mr. Fleischman, who stepped down as chief executive of Umami to help lead this latest let’s-invent-a-new-taste mission, promised that at least one dish on the menu will be chocolate-free: the bacon muffins. “We didn’t want to go too far with the chocolate,” Mr. Fleischman said a few weeks ago as he scampered around his third-floor cooking loft in Hollywood, preparing to unveil the new dish for an invitation-only group of about 30 people on a sunny afternoon.
Umami Burger opened on La Brea Avenue here in 2009, the name referring to the so-called fifth taste — the other four are sweet, salty, sour and bitter. The hand-ground Umami Burger is served on a slightly sweet bun with caramelized onions, dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and shiitake mushrooms. Umami Burger was a case of taste meets marketing, which spawned a chain that today includes outposts in Manhattan and Florida and is celebrated for having one of the best hamburgers in Los Angeles (no small praise).
Mr. Fleischman is hoping to do to chicken what Umami did for the burger.
“It’s creating a new taste, but it’s also playing with psychology,” he said, as breasts and thighs sizzled in a vat, perfuming the air with the smell of chicken and, well, sort of chocolate. “When you tell people they are eating chocolate fried chicken, they get a picture of what that looks like. We want to play with that psychology and give them something that doesn’t taste like what they think it’s going to taste like.”
The idea of inventing a taste raises a few eyebrows. “I’ve learned something from doing this for many, many years: It’s almost impossible to create a new flavor,” said Danny Meyer, the New York restaurateur. “We are all dealing with the same eight notes in the octave.
“What you can do is present existing flavors in a fresh way, in a fresh context,” he continued. “I would be excited to take a flavor combination I’ve already enjoyed within the context of a Mexican restaurant and see how Adam presents it in a new frame and a fresh light. It will be fun to see how those same flavors translate to a mass audience.”
This is not some meat-meets-sweet fondue concoction: Do not picture a chunky chicken leg dunked in bubbling chocolate.
As Mr. Previte and Mr. Fleischman explained with the requisite we’re-not-going-to-tell-you-our-secret-formula disclaimer, the dish is the result of an elaborate process. The chicken is steeped in a marinade that includes chocolate, dredged in a flour sifted with chocolate and finally patted down with a rub that includes 17 spices.
The result is neither sweet nor cloying, more reminiscent of a Mexican mole than of a Cadbury bar. It presents itself in waves: heat, salt, sweetness, savory, delivered in moist boneless thighs and bone-in breasts. The chocolate is always there, standing on the sidelines.
“There’s a hundred different ingredients in there,” Mr. Fleischman said. “There’s a marinating process, there’s a battering process. We marinate — what, 12 hours, Keith?”
At least 12 hours, Mr. Previte said as he kept one eye on the timer as the chicken fried. “You couldn’t figure it out,” he said. “I designed it so nobody could figure it out if they wanted to.”
Chef Joshua Skenes and Adam Fleischman to Open Fast-Casual Noodle Concept
Joshua Skenes, the chef behind San Francisco's two-Michelin-starred Saison, is teaming with the mastermind behind Umami Burger to launch a new fast-casual concept. ISSF reports Skenes and Adam Fleischman (Umami, 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza) will soon open Fat Noodle, a hand-pulled noodle restaurant, in San Francisco. In the Chipotle mold, the menu will allow guests to customize noodles in an "assembly line"-style counter, adding optional broth, house-made sauces, proteins, and toppings. In addition to quick service, Skenes and Fleischman hope to offer all dishes for less than $10.
It's a major pendulum swing for Skenes, whose acclaimed restaurant Saison offers $498 test kitchen dinners and a seemingly unlimited potential price tag for dinner (a recent solo visit by Eater critic Bill Addison lead to a $863.91 bill). Skenes tells ISSF that the idea has been long-stewing, and that "the way we treat [our approach] is the same whether it's a 10 dollar bowl of noodles or the idea of cooking at Saison." The concept also marks the third for Fleischman's growing AdVantage Restaurant Partners portfolio, which also includes chocolate-fried-chicken concept ChocoChicken.
Of course, it's not the only well-pedigreed casual concept coming to California: Chefs Daniel Patterson (of SF's similarly two-Michelin-starred Coi) and Roy Choi (of LA's Kogi) plan to launch their ambitious take on fast food, Loco'l, in Spring 2015. Fat Noodle hopes to debut in SF's Financial District by "early 2015."
Free-Associating Mashups with the Mastermind Behind "ChocoChicken"
Chocolate-fried chicken is in the news this week. Adam Fleischman, founder of the uber-popular Umami Burger chain, is the mastermind behind a soon-to-open Frankensteinian creation called “ChocoChicken.” In what’s got to be good news for those who hate having to choose between sweet and savory cravings, the restaurant will open in Los Angeles around April 15th, Fleischman told us. That’s just in time for you to spend your tax refund on dark chocolate–doused fried chicken.
This isn’t the first instance of chocolate and chicken pairing off, of course. Puebla’s mole poblano employs chocolate (along with many other ingredients), but Fleischman insisted to a Fast Company reporter that this wasn’t the inspiration behind this new hybrid, the idea for which originated with a cold call from a duo named Keith Previte and Sean Robbins. Fleischman told us the hybrid “tastes like heaven,” and uses “multiple chocolates, all dark. Some are powdered, some are liquid.”
Fleischman has zero formal training. He’s been cooking for only five years, and taught himself to cook “through reading Heston Blumenthal cookbooks and Modernist Cuisine.” What he does have is a yen to match far-flung ingredients, as he did when he launched Umami Burger several years ago, bringing umami-laden truffles and miso, soy and seaweed, porcini mushrooms and roasted tomatoes all into the burger equation.
Clearly unusual combos are a Fleischman forte. He’s even launching an Indian-Mexican restaurant called Masty Roll (the name is itself a hybrid, of masa + namaste) this fall. Curious to inquire with the Mashup Master about other outré pairings, we gave him a call, and asked him to go wild with the possibilities. For licorice corn soup and other free-associations, read on:
Salmon: Fleischman is curious about chocolate here, too (go figure): “I might try a salmon mole. I’ve never seen anyone do that.” He’d combine elements of a mole poblano, which uses chocolate, with a black mole negro, which features burned chiles, for the bitter note to balance out the sweet flavor.
Caviar: “One of my favorite foods in the world,” says Fleischman. “I like to put zest in it and pair it with Japanese ingredients like yuzu.” OK, then!
Grits: Fleischman has no fear about introducing other world cuisines into the Southern standby, whether treating grits like polenta and ladling ragú over them—”maybe with chicken livers!”—or topping them with saag paneer. He might even top the saag with white miso, for a last bit of umami.
Licorice: Fleischman’s brain goes straight to vegetables for licorice. We expected to hear “fennel” straightaway instead we heard “corn.” Corn soup, caramelized in a pressure cooker, then “hit it with licorice powder and tarragon and balsamic.”
Potatoes: White chocolate mashed potatoes are on the menu at ChocoChicken, with a slab of the sweet stuff standing in for butter. (There’s Red Boat fish sauce in there, too.)
Eggs: “I like to do a coddled egg in a water bath—you would put whole anchovies in the ramekins before you do it—and then black truffle puree.” There’s more: “I’d put umami spread on top (one of our products), almost like a dashi broth, and you bake it.” Sounds like one hell of a hangover killer.
Tuna: Fleischman would go visual with this one: “I’d love to do raw tuna loin with an umami ‘soil’ out of different ground things, like ground mushrooms, soy powder, those types of elements to give it a real earthiness.”
Parmesan: Ice cream + cheese = some serious awesomeness. “I would do a Parmesan ice cream with some candy cap mushrooms, maple, maybe balsamic on top of that, maybe chocolate sauce.”
Vanilla: When we said vanilla, Fleischman’s mashup brain went straight to seafood—lobster and spot prawns—a pairing so rich and decadent-sounding, we’ll be making this savory lobster bread pudding with vanilla chive sauce as soon as possible.
Concept with 'the crack factor'
Getting the most attention, however, is ChocoChicken, which Fleischman plans to open in March in downtown Los Angeles.
The concept is described as a &ldquofried-chicken-and-chocolate hybrid,&rdquo and Fleischman is reluctant to explain what exactly that means because he doesn&rsquot want people to form preconceptions about how it might taste.
&ldquoI&rsquom not going to explain it,&rdquo he said, noting that it&rsquos not Mexican-style mole or chicken dipped in chocolate. &ldquoMy theory is you taste things with your mind, rather than your taste buds. &rdquo
The concept will use only Jidori chicken, an all-natural premium product produced in Los Angeles and prized by high-end chefs across the city.
The menu will include both breasts fried with the bone in &ldquoto keep it juicy,&rdquo boneless thighs, and wings, with unique sauces. Biscuits will be house-made and s&rsquomores will be offered for dessert. Down the road, a chicken sandwich will likely be added.
The concept is fast casual in that guests will order at a counter, but the first ChocoChicken will have a full bar. As the concept grows, the presence of a bar will depend on location.
Guests checks will likely range between $10 and $20 per person, depending on whether they have alcohol, Fleischman said.
The concept is being developed with partners Keith Previte, a self-taught cook, party planner and entertainment producer, along with Sean Robins, a film and television producer who is described as the first person to eat at every restaurant listed in a Zagat Guide.
Fleischman said the chicken space has long focused on the quick-service segment, but there is opportunity at the fast-casual level for a national brand to step up.
&ldquoPeople get fried chicken brands. But no one has done this kind of rollout in 50 years,&rdquo he said.
&ldquoChocoChicken is completely different than anything else out there,&rdquo he added. &ldquoIt&rsquos got the &lsquocrack factor&rsquo I look for in a great restaurant brand.&rdquo
More brands are coming this year from AdVantage, but Fleischman isn&rsquot ready to reveal what&rsquos next.
Unlike Umami Restaurant Group, which is owned in part by hospitality group SBE, AdVantage will be &ldquoall me,&rdquo said Fleischman, though the company also has backing from attorney Lee Weinberg.
The goal is to &ldquocreate companies and hand them off,&rdquo while retaining some ownership, said Fleischman.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] .
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