Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pizza & Chicken Love Letter - Irvine

Pizza & Chicken Love Letter, the Korean fried chicken and pizza chain (yes, there is such a thing as Korean pizza) has one of the awesomest restaurant names in the whole of Orange County, if not, the world. And now, Irvine has one. It is, of course, located in the most Asian-y (that's not a word, I know) complexes in Irvine, Diamond Jamboree.

But before you shout "YOU LIE!", I can assure you I speak the truth.

Nevertheless, I can understand your disbelief. Even if you've staked out the plaza from the parking lot, walked it foot-by-foot, or stood in the forever-line at 85°C Bakery Café, you couldn't have seen this place coming.

It's not even hidden in plain sight. It is just hidden. Hidden inside the H-Mart supermarket, which itself is laid out in a confusing labyrinthine maze worthy of Ikea.

Pizza & Chicken Love Letter is at the very end of the store, next to the restrooms, at an unremarkable booth, existing as almost an afterthought.

Here's how unassuming it was: I was sitting right in front of it and I didn't realize what I was looking at while I perused the menu marquee.

"Hmm...that's interesting, this place serves Korean pizza and fried chicken like that Love Letter place I've head about in Garden Gro...heeeeyyy, waaaaait a minuuuuuuuttttte!!!!!"

The realization, of course, was followed with a scramble to order something. I took the easiest, most accessible item: the 6-piece fried wings for $4.99. With it came unexpected and complimentary sides that included a plate of shredded cabbage, which became a coleslaw the second they drizzled on thousand island, and a salad when they added corn kernels.

But the complimentary extras didn't end there. Pickled radish -- the customary accompaniment to Korean fried chicken -- came brimming in a generous bowl. Kyochon in Stanton, it must be noted, charges a buck per serving. Love Letter's, however, bit more sharply and were less soothingly sweet than Kyochon's.

While I'm making comparisons to Kyochon, I'll talk about the wings I chose. They were the base model, without the upgrades that could've gotten them glazed in a spicy sauce or honey, which I believe are standard at Kyochon.

Regardless, it was well-cooked, gilded with just a barely-there covering of batter, which allowed the subcutaneous fat to melt off, transforming floppy skin to a thin crispness: the most coveted part of all Korean fried chickens.

The meat beneath, however, was surprisingly flavorless, which was probably why they included a cute oval thimble of peppered salt for dipping.

Forget about trying to fit the wings in them though. To say that they were humongous is still understating it. Judging by the wingspan of the things, these mutant hens could've gone against a condor in a welterweight match-up. Either that or someone had finally had enough of Foghorn Leghorn's snark.

But wait, how's the pizza, you ask? I don't know. This post wasn't so much a review as it was a "preview". I tried only one dish, after all. So I am not yet ready to grab the mike and proclaim that Pizza & Chicken Love Letter has the best music video of all time....I mean, pizza.

It does, however, still has the best name.

Pizza & Chicken Love Letter
(949) 852-2900
2600 Alton Parkway
Irvine, CA 92606

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Nana San - Newport Beach

18 Comments:

At 5:43 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Now what a coincidence is this! I just went to Diamond Jamboree today and walked around HMart to see what they had to offer. I did think the "Chicken Love Letter" was weird, but didn't actually go to its storefront to see what they had. Like you said it seemed almost nonexistent. Even the people before Pizza and Chicken Love Letter shooed me away...with chopsticks.

Salad with corn seems to be popular these days for some reason. I had a salad with canned corn, lettuce, and mayo a few months ago at a restaurant in the SGV.

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger FAT PANDA said...

YOU LIE!

Haha, I have yet to try this place or Kogi or any of those other places. As far as I'm concerned, it's a "heard & herd" response to the poor man's Asian fusion movement.

 
At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatt the heck, I was just there a few days ago. How did I miss this?!

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger polar said...

Hey MM,

You must try the Love Letter in Artesia (Norwalk+Artesia). That location seems to be the best in terms of flavor.

Getting the chicken unflavored is the best. Just ask for a spicy sauce on the side, which is a variation on the gochujang.

Their pizza is pretty decent. Their individual pizzas have marinated bulgogi in it. They also have a sweet potato crust which is different and pizza w/ actual sweet potatoes on top but that pie isn't my cup of tea. Oh and I doubt you can get beer at the Irvine location, but they usually have a variety of beers on tap in the restaurant versions.

I hate the pickled radish at Love Letter. It is mushy, lacks the tanginess I love, and tastes off. A perfect example of the picked radish I love is from Pine Tree, in Norwalk.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I have yet to try Kyochon or P&C Love Letter. Just anoth two spots that sit somewhere in the back of my gigantic, overworked brain. ;)

"Hmm...that's interesting, this place serves Korean pizza and fried chicken like that Love Letter place I've head about in Garden Gro...heeeeyyy, waaaaait a minuuuuuuuttttte!!!!!"

Somehow I imagine you saying that last part in your head in a very Homer Simpson-esque way...

Also?

Either that or someone had finally had enough of Foghorn Leghorn's snark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejkguJ3wv9Y

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

I was also at Hmart 2 weeks ago and didn't notice it. Weird. Love Letter in GG is pretty good. I recall it being cheaper than Kyochon (which really isn't saying much), but that was at least a year ago....

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Fat Panda:

Well said!

I love the "heard and herd" term. Perfect description.

This mostly applies to Kogi and not so much what Pizza & Chicken Love Letter. As a matter of fact I am going to try this place based on Elmo's review. Its not all super hyped up and the place that was similar in Stanton (Kyochan) was good..just too expensive and too far.

I am sure Kogi is good as well. I just do not think it warrants all the hype and especially all the blog attention and every blogger says almost the exact same thing about it. Yawn.

The reason this blog is so good is because Elmo may review a over hyped place in a rare occurrence, and he scared the doo doo out of me when I though he was going to review one of the most over hyped places in the word; Wahoo's (but really didn't), but mostly Elmo just tries to seek out interesting food. And rarely does anyone else review the same places he does. Even the "Asian week after week" has lessened and he has really introduced some unique, great places! (Which Wich & The Chippy Fish & Chips come to mind and I tried them both only because of this blog).

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

We used to live near a Super H Mart! The one in Niles, Illinois. That one was also difficult to get around. But they had a lot of neat stuff. I remember getting some dukbokki in the food court that was a little too sweet, and not spicy enough.

 
At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Evelyn said...

lol, FAT PANDA took my response.
Yeah, H-Mart is definitely confusing! You have to walk in a circle before you get to the cashier... ridiculous. But I'll go for the pizza and chicken. Haha

So which do you like most? Kyochon, BBQ Chicken, this?

 
At 5:50 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I wished I tries this place before I left Ca. It sure looks good.

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

EatTravelEat,

I too have noticed this invasion of corn nibblets into Asian salads...heck, even Asian pizza. And I must say that I approve, as long as it doesn't someday replace buttery croutons altogether.

FAT PANDA,

"heard & herd" response to the poor man's Asian fusion movement.

I concur with Diamond Dog. That was well put! I do prefer the poor man's version than the rich man's. Chinois anyone?

Anonymous,

It's quite easy to miss actually. If I didn't look up, I would've missed it too!!!

polar,

There's one in Artesia/Norwalk? Awesome! Of course, being new to the place, I had no idea you could ask for gochujang on the side. And hey, any suggestions for a new/exciting, not-so-expensive place for Korean in Garden Grove? I'm looking for anything, but was leaning towards a place that specializes in naengmyeon. Or any other Korean cold noodles?

Melissa,

You know me too well! There are two voices in my head. Homer, when I'm feeling silly and buffoonish; Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory, when I think I know what I'm talking about. Of course a majority of the time, it's Homer.

And my god! That Family Guy clip is even more violently hilarious than Stewie's "Where's my money" rant!

eaterdeltustin,

All we need now is Kyochon and we'll have a the trifecta of Korean fried chicken in one location! I think I'm missing another one though...one that starts with G.

Diamond Dog,

Well gee! Thanks buddy! Although your comment wasn't directed at me, I'm still grateful that you think my blog is "good"!!! HAHA! Now I have it in writing!

By the way, I only tried this one dish, so I can't judge the place beyond that. I was more interested in telling people about its unlikely existence than I was in providing a full review of the place. I don't think I even tried their signature item. So I'm actually looking forward to hearing what you think of the place, especially if you like Kyochon. I don't have enough data yet to decide where this place lies in the Korean fried chicken rankings.

Juliet,

So H-Marts are always laid out this way? That's interesting! And here I thought they were trying to design around the small space they got. I do like the fact that the first thing you see is the produce section. In American supermarkets, the first thing you see is the Chips Ahoy.

Evelyn,

Hmm...that's the question of the hour! Kyochon, BBQ Chicken, or Love Letter....hmm. I think the jury needs to deliberate more. Perhaps it's time for me to do a head-to-head taste test!

Bill,

I was going to says something funny, like this stuff can be duplicated by buying a bucket of KFC and dunking it in gochujang, but don't do that...that would be wrong...and a waste of the gochujang!!!

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

I love the where's my money clip too. Heheh.

Hey, have you tried the revolving sushi place at Diamond Jamboree yet? I know you talked about it opening on SAFII, was just curious if you had made it over.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Actually, the H Mart i Illinois was HUGE! I'm talking shopping mall huge.

 
At 8:28 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Melissa,

I tried to get in that once and decided my growling stomach wasn't going to let me wait. I'm still looking forward to it though. And if there's a time to enjoy revolving sushi, it's when it's still popular!

Juliet,

I envy you. Our H-Mart is as tiny as a bento box. I was in line yesterday, and noticed that with just a total of six people waiting to pay, all the cash registers were occupied and the walkway was blocked on either side.

 
At 3:15 PM, OpenID temeculafoodie said...

Nice Blog! If you're interested in more So Cal foods and restaurants check out: www.temeculafoodie.wordpress.com

 
At 9:29 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

There's one in Artesia too :) I have yet to try it, though I live in Cerritos...

http://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-and-chicken-love-letter-artesia

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

temeculafoodie,

Thanks for sharing! Like your blog. Would love it if you had pictures!

Amanda,

I'd heard about the one in Artesia. But when I'm there, I'm at Magic Wok!

 

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