When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Crazy Chicken & Crab
Location: 1825 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
Open: About three months
Eats: Korean fried chicken and crab
Some restaurants easily lend themselves to dining solo. The atmosphere and reasonable portion sizes at these spots lend themselves naturally to enjoying a quiet meal alone while you contemplate each dish in relative silence.
Crazy Chicken & Crab in Chandler is not one of those spots. The starkly decorated space is more easily overlooked when you're chatting with friends, and the heaping platters of chicken are nearly impossible to tackle alone. This is a restaurant meant to be enjoyed with a group, preferably one of eager diners who won't be off-put by the slow but excessively friendly service.
As the name implies, this strip mall restaurant specializes in two things: fried chicken and steamed crab. The combination might seem arbitrary at first, but makes more sense when you learn the restaurant serves not just any type of fried chicken, but Korean fried chicken, specifically — as in the the delicately coated, double-deep-fried variety that's taken off in popularity in cities like Los Angeles and New York.
At Crazy Chicken & Crab, the fried chicken comes either by the whole or half chicken and can be ordered plain or covered in a number of sauces. They range from the sesame and peanut-based Sweet and Mild to Honey Butter Garlic and Garlic Soy Sauce.
The signature offering is Fried Padak Chicken, or an order of plain fried chicken tucked under a layer of artfully shaved green onions with a side of Padak sauce. Be warned: The fried chicken here is cut rather haphazardly, meaning you never know if you're getting meat or bones or, most likely, a mixture of both in each bite. On the upside, the batter delivers a decisive crunch and is flavorful without overpowering the sauce. Though, to be honest, it'd be hard to completely drown out the pungent, vinegary presence of the Padak sauce. Made with garlic, vinegar, lemon, soy sauce, and wasabi, it delivers a nose-clearing level of heat that's only elevated when you throw some piquant green onion into the mix.
We also tried a side of Crazy Chicken's Extremely Spicy Sauce, which doesn't quite live up to its intimidating-sounding name but will leave a nice burning on your lips.
Crabs, priced according to market value by the pound, are of the Dungeness variety and come with chile paste, a vinegar sauce, and drawn butter on the side. If you let your server take the lead like we did, she might go ahead and crack the whole thing for you, in addition to mixing the crustacean's insides with white rice and chile paste inside of the crab's back. The spicy, briny flavors of the meat and rice may remind you of eating cheap sushi — in a comforting way.
Digging into and destroying the rest of the crab in order to extract pieces of well-seasoned meat is a messy affair, but well worth it when you dip each hunk into butter or the deep, only lightly spicy chile sauce.
The order of Fried Padak Chicken ($16.99) and a two-pound crab made for more than enough food for three diners. And if you're hoping to try more than one or two things, we'd recommend bringing an even larger group. You may have to wait a half-hour or so for the fried chicken to finally arrive, but when it does, it shouldn't fail to impress.