American comfort food collides with Australian pizzazz at this spot for fried chicken connoisseurs in Phrom Phong.
Bangkok will make an elevated dish out of damn near anything. So, when the winner of My Kitchen Rules 2012 (Australians will know) opened up a fried chicken space in Phrom Phong about six months ago, it kicked off a lot of buzz. Today, Birdies is thriving—in fact they’re now open for lunch—so BK stopped by.
You can spot the small Birdies sign from the BTS, found two floors above a weed shop and spitting distance to the mighty Emquartier shopping complex. After a walk upstairs (which will be a problem for anyone with accessibility issues), you enter a narrow but comfortable dining area reminiscent of an American diner and a mirrored wall to give a sense of space.
Before we get to the star fried chooks, let’s talk about the menu. First, it has to be said this is some rare American soul food—collard greens, cornbread, chicken butter rolls. It’s not as uncommon as it used to be, but as gimmicks go, this one is fairly fresh.
For the appetizers, the small smoked duck collard greens (B190) serving is not exactly smokey (or recognizably duck, for that matter) but it’s more of a palette cleanser. On the other hand, the Mac and Lots of Cheese (B380) is a hearty, gut-buster of an appetizer you might want to share.
On the other side of the menu, Birdies offers “Small Plates,” which are fairly small in portion if not in price. Other than the heavily red, white, and blue apps and fried chicken, the diner who eschews the Americana won’t be left wanting as there’s a touch of Greek courtesy of Australian cafe culture. Take the Taramasalata (B420), made with ikura salmon roe rather than the more traditional masago or cod, and you’ll also find some tzatziki on the appetizer menu.
BK, however, went for the Parker House rolls (B280). Like a lot of things on the menu, it’s very American. In this case Parker House rolls refer to the eponymous Boston hotel of the 19th century and the nationwide craze for the recipe. At Birdies it comes not as an “everything” option (as in Everything Bagel) and isn’t as fluffy as traditional Parker House rolls, but it makes up for it with the chicken butter.
Now, let’s get to the chicken. Let’s just get this out of the way: If you told people you went somewhere and paid B420 for three fried chicken wings, they’d laugh. But this is Birdies, it’s what you signed up for. You choose between wings, tenders, and legs and then pair your choice with a flavor of naked, hot honey, and spicy. You can also get a side sauce which includes barbecue style dippings sauces and a fermented chili as well as a toum sauce.
If you took the BTS down to Phrom Phong for some of the most expensive chicken in the neighborhood and got them naked, frankly, we don’t know what to do with you. We chose the wings with the spicy sauce and the tenders with the hot honey sauce. The three wings in spicy sauce—from the tip of the wing to the drumlette—didn’t come off very spicy, but the wings themself were well (and evenly) cooked.
Getting the tenders, though, is probably the best advice BK can give. They’re not necessarily of any higher value than the wings or legs, but they do seem to have a bit more meat. This whiter meat with the hot honey sauce was moorish and if a little on the too-sweet side.
It’s fun, it’s careful, it's pretty good—the downside is that if you don't grab a few apps and side plates, you might leave feeling a little unfulfilled. Their reimagined classic cocktails like the VS Cognac Nightcrawler (B590) are on the pricey side for the size, but fairly interesting.
Back when Birdies opened, BK asked “Can fried chicken be fine dining?” And the answer is, of course, yes. “Fine dining” is a rather pointless classification, but speaks to sophistication, price, and uniqueness, and Birdies meets all of these points with room to spare—especially the price. The overarching criticism of the spot is that it’s got big American dishes that are hard to find and harder to do well—but the portions for the prices clash.
That said, this spot is worth a visit for the neat gimmick alone, but your fetish for fried chicken will determine if you want a second.