Memphis at The Santora - Santa Ana
Ah, Memphis' buttermilk fried chicken! Here is a dish so unbelievably great, Gustavo Arellano once proclaimed during a lunch meeting at the restaurant, "I can't have that anymore. It's too good!"
I had it again recently and I did then and still do agree that it is too good, except I order it any and every chance I get.
This, ladies and gents, is the way fried chicken should be. There is no bucket, no mascot, and the bird comes practically deboned.
But if you think that it's some frou-frou deconstruction of a classic, you'd be wrong. Memphis' fried chicken plate might just make a displaced Southerner weep from his meemaw. What you get is a meal as traditional as it is gigantic. A study of balance and excess, it starts with a flattened, boneless breast covered with a shimmering, crispy, flaky, golden chainmail of breading -- what I consider the "original" original recipe.
About the only bone you'll encounter is in the wing drumlet, which is attached as an extra treat to nibble on for dessert. Though there is no dark meat here, every well-cooked molecule of it is moist and juicy. The flavor is slightly tangy from an overnight soak in buttermilk.
Then, beneath the swooping shadow of the golden fried breast, there are the sides that complete the dish: a scoop of rustic mashed potato as starch, a heap of pot-stewed mustard greens as a bitter counterbalance, and a lighter, more refined version of country gravy to slather over everything. And when I say more refined, I mean it. Do not expect the standard caramel-colored glop that tastes like it came from a bouillon cube.
Once I polished off my plate and squeegeed every speck that was left, I longed for another. Like Gustavo said, the dish really is too good.
Memphis at the Santora
201 N Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
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