When you walk into 4812 Bryan Street #101, you can still feel the ghost of Khao Noodle Shop. I remember the first time I ate there. My then-fiancé and I squeezed ourselves onto two low, metal stools facing the kitchen where steam from boiling broths and noodles twirled above our heads.
Those stools are still there. As are the long tables and the Beer Lao stocked in the cold case. The kitchen is closed off by a wall with a chicken-bedecked mural, and where servers once flitted in and out of the kitchen, there is now a makeshift stall. You’re now in Darkoo’s Chicken Shack.
Last month, I reported that Khao Noodle Shop was permanently closing (in that location, for now, pop-ups are still fair game). But that sad news came with a very bright silver lining: chef-owner Donny Sirisavath had plotted an Asian chicken joint with Jimmy Niwa of Niwa Japanese BBQ. Huzzah!
And on Wednesday, Darkoo’s Chicken Shack officially opened with all of the attention to detail of Khao—24-hour-brined chicken, dipping sauces like jammy hot ketchup that’ll make you wonder why you haven’t slathered tomato jam on fried bird before.
Buckets of drumsticks and thighs—called Lao Gai, “gai” meaning chicken—carry a distinct tangy-spicy flavor and, unlike other fried poultry out there, it’s not heavily breaded but remains incredibly crisp. It comes with fries or sticky rice. I’m partial to the sticky rice. For boneless options, the karaage basket with yuzu aioli is a great example as to what all chicken nuggets should aspire.
And don’t sleep on the sides: the Lao cucumber salad is something I could see on the Khao menu, but easily fits as a spicy-funky-delicious accompaniment to Sirisavath’s Lao chicken. The eLAOtes might be my favorite iteration of the corn dish, here with kaffir lime leaf, frizzled alliums, and ever-so-slightly tinged with fish sauce flavor.
As for drinks, a few beers (Beer Lao, Chang, and a domestic offering) and sake that come in juice boxes for adults. Yes, it is as delightful as it sounds.