Wednesday, July 6, 2011

IZ IT FreshGrill - The Icon (Chinese Fried Chicken Drumsticks)

When my husband first told me that it was National Fried Chicken Day, he should have known that I would want it for lunch or dinner. After all, fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, and I can find a million excuses to eat it any chance I can! Unfortunately for me, today my craving for fried chicken was specific to IZ IT FreshGrill, and they were not anywhere around me. Yes, I could have grabbed some other fried chicken in C-town or even stopped at Popeye's, but I had Icons stuck in my mind, and nothing was going to satiate my craving except for them.

For those unfamiliar with IZ IT, they offer a mix of Hawaiian and Chinese food and are famous for their fried chicken drumstick dish known as the Icon. The Icon is based on a secret family recipe that was once served at the Kwong Shing Market deli, located in the Richmond District for over 35 years and owned by the grandparents of IZ IT's Jeff Kong. The restaurant closed in 2006, leaving its fans yearning for more. However, the "iconic" fried chicken that was so beloved was revived by IZ IT when the truck was born, now creating a new generation of fans.

Maybe I am the biggest (admiration, not pants size)!

If you have never had an Icon then it might be hard to understand why it elicits such a strong craving from its legion of fans, myself included. But there is something that is just, well, perfect about them! The very first time I tried one was at the Fort Mason Off the Grid a few months ago, and from the first bite I was hooked. They are my food truck drug! Much like my beloved Onigilly, if I see IZ IT at an event I can't pass them up. I have tried but failed. There have been times when I was actually full, but I still got an order just because I knew it would make me happy.

The Icon is served two ways on the truck, either a la carte or as part of a platter that includes salad and rice. They are best served piping hot, though it's really difficult to wait when all I want to do is sink my teeth into them! Their batter is delicate but super crunchy. It is perfectly seasoned with secret spices, though I do detect Chinese five spice somewhere in there. It's salty, crispy and has enough of a kick without being too spicy. The chicken is tender, flavorful and not the least bit oily, which is difficult to do with fried chicken. Plus, the drumsticks are pretty big in size, plump and round. That shape really helps to hold in the juices. Every bite, from the first big mouthful of crunchy skin to the last bit of moist chicken is great. The Icons are served with a hot sauce, but I personally choose to eat them naked, savoring the marinade and spices.

It was certainly appropriate for me to save the review one of my most loved dishes for National Fried Chicken day, except that it's extremely disappointing to not get to actually eat them today! Even as I write this review I can almost taste that crunchy saltiness and I can tell you with certainty, if IZ IT was out for a late night shift I would be lining up for an order!

Rating: 5/5 (ratings guide)

IZ IT FreshGrill (@IZITfreshgrill) $4.00 per order of two drumsticks.

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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