If your idea of comfort food involves fried chicken and beer together, with a bit of Asian taste, then you're in for a treat. The popular South Korean fried chicken restaurant NeNe Chicken has opened up in The Myer Centre.
In Korea, getting together to eat fried chicken and drink beer or spirits is a popular social activity. NeNe Chicken has that covered with 8 different chicken flavours, a small variety of alcoholic beverages, sides, and even desserts. "NeNe" in Korean literally means "Yes! Yes!" and is actually pronounced more like "neh" rather than "ni".
NeNe Chicken's shop front.
On my first main visit I ordered the NeNe Dosirak (literally "lunch box") which consists of 2 pieces of chicken of any flavour (I chose bulgogi, which is a traditional garlic-barbecue marinade), a side salad, Korean black rice, and a serving of kimchi (the Korean fermented cabbage dish).
I very much enjoyed the side salad - it was crisp and fresh with plenty of different greens, red onions and cherry tomatoes. The Garden Salad's dressing brought a simple salad to a new level - sesame oil and balsamic vinegar to add an unexpected but smooth flavour. The sesame oil (which is also popular in Korean cooking) mixed with the balsamic vinegar to lessen its sometimes bitter taste and somehow seemed to make the salad even crispier feeling. The chicken pieces were tender and well cooked, and the sauce didn't seem overpowering or lacking, but added to the chicken as a whole.
The NeNe Dosirak with salad.
While rice is a simple dish, NeNe's black Korean rice is anything but. Charmingly presented pressed into a hemisphere shape, the black rice dish contained a mix of dark rice, sesame seeds, and black bean. The small serving of kimchi included in the dosirak pretty good kimchi, it seemed authentic and not sweetened. As a kimchi aficionado I could have had more, but I think the amount was OK, particularly as a sample.
My dining companion chose the lemon chicken and was also quite happy with the chicken. All of the fried chicken dishes come with 2 small side dishes - pickled radishes and coleslaw. The pickled radish wasn't bitter, and left your mouth feeling fresh!
NeNe Chicken's Lemon Chicken
As for second part of the popular Korean social activity, NeNe Chicken also serves Australian beers and Korean brand Hite. Soju - The Korean rice spirit alcohol is also available for about about $16 per bottle. If you get the large serving of chicken you can upgrade to a jug of beer for a combo price for sharing with your group. Bottled soft drinks are of course available too.
If chicken isn't your thing, you can enjoy NeNe Chicken's Bulchi Chips - fries with bulgogi beef, sour cream and kimchi, or a Sweet Corn Cup - literally steamed corn with butter, chilli and vegetable flakes. Wraps and burgers are an option too, in case you're in a rush or like bread! For dessert, soft serve cones are $2 in either Black Sesame or Green Tea. I tried the Green Tea soft serve on another visit, the flavour was not too strong, but I'd still recommend it for something different.
The staff were friendly though I didn't have that much to do with them, and the meals didn't seem to take very long to arrive - they did take time, so it's fresh and not sitting around, but also not slow. I was struck by the proper ceramic plates and metal cutlery even at the casual informal dining venue and surprised by the plastic gloves you could take to help keep your hands clean!
NeNe Chicken is located in Level A of the Myer Centre opposite Starbucks and is open from 9am to 11pm every day. Other NeNe Chicken venues are in Perth and Melbourne.