Ma’Ono Fried Chicken (University Village)

Overall: 4/5

/blows dust off blog

/checks last posting date

/faints

I know, it’s been a long time since my last post. I wish I had better a good excuse for the inactivity, but it was nothing more than laziness and procrastination overtaking my ambitions. Anyway, time to get off the snide and get back to (non-income generating) work! And what better way is there to get back in the groove than to start off with something deep fried?

In the newly christened University Village location of Rachel’s Ginger Beer is a walk-up order window for Ma’Ono Fried Chicken, a renowned local institution for Hawaiian fried chicken. Judging by the heat that radiates from the walk-up window, there is intense deep frying going on in the kitchen. On a recent trip home, I was lucky enough to avoid the crowds and place a large order to go.

Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11) – Chicken breast on King’s sweet bun with bread and butter takuan (Japanese pickled radish), ono sauce, and iceberg.

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With their fried selections, you can customize the heat level between naked, mild, medium, HOT and BRING THE PAIN. When I asked for BRING THE PAIN, I was discouraged, in a friendly but unmistakably ominous manner, to stay away from THE PAIN. I was glad to follow her advice because the HOT version brought plenty of heat.

This is a well-conceived sandwich. The hearty piece of fried chicken breast protrudes beyond the reach of the sweet King’s Hawaiian bun. The crust on the chicken was crispy, the interior was just a touch dry but did not affect my enjoyment. The heat arrives fashionably late for the hot sauce glazed on the crust. When it does arrive though, the “HOT” level delivers a long-lasting sear. The crisp lettuce and pickles work to offset the heat. The choice to use daikon instead of cucumbers for the pickles was a wise substitution. Daikons have less water content and prevent the sandwich from getting too soggy. The ono sauce, which appears to be some kind of aioli, was overshadowed by the heat level.

Chicken Fried Tofu Sandwich ($10) – Chicken breast on King’s sweet bun with bread and butter takuan, ono sauce, and iceberg.

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The vegetarian option replaces the chicken breast on the chicken sandwich with a large piece of chicken fried tofu. This was disappointing because the tofu in the interior was flavorless. Thus, the flavors from the sandwich condiments dominated, supported by a crispy, but bland custardy tofu patty. The sandwich looks great, but falls far short of the chicken version.

Chili Kimcheese Fries ($6)

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The melty-greasy chili cheese sauce goes well with the crispy fries. Surprisingly, but the kimchee flavor is pretty muted. Their chili cheese sauce has hints of chili oil and mild heat. But there is little here that calls to mind the acid or fermented flavor that one associates with kimchee. Overall, this was pretty good, but those looking for a pronounced kimchee flavor might be disappointed.

Fried Chicken Digits ($8) – Honey hot-mustard dip, bread and butter takuan

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Without a doubt, this is far superior to the equivalent from Chick-fil-A. As with the chicken sandwich, there is little to complain about with regards to the chunks of crispy breaded breast meat. The hot honey mustard is also fantastic. There is a horseradish/wasabi-like kick to the otherwise sweet mustard. As you can see from the picture, the heat level for this order was also HOT. It may be overbearing for some to mix the heat from the hot sauce with the kick from the mustard. Even as someone who enjoys spicy foods, I was overwhelmed when I dunked the HOT tenders into the mustard.   I would recommend ordering the tenders as mild for full enjoyment of the mustard.

Overall, the Ma’Ono walk-up counter delivers an excellent fried chicken experience. The non-chicken selections could be improved, but these guys know they do that one thing very well; so much so that they named their store after it. So why tempt fate when the right choice is staring at your face? Sit down, grab a fizzy drink, order some fried chicken – your reward awaits.

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Ma’Ono Fried Chicken (University Village)

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