Updated 19th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com
I had always wanted to go to Fuel and it was just for one thing. People had been raving about their fried chicken which they served only on Fridays. It is not that I like fried chicken a lot. I just want to find out what the big deal is and how Fuel could charge $21 for just three pieces of chicken.
Back then, the name of this West 4th Ave was Fuel. It had recently been renamed to Refuel. They closed for a few days for some renovation and reopened again as a lower priced establishment. And guess what. Fuel/Refuel retained their star fried chicken dish and serves this everyday now … and at a lower price too.
That’s a good thing. No matter how good the fried chicken are, I don’t think one can sustain justifying it at $21. Some things are not meant to cost that much no matter how good it is. Just like Taiwanese Beef Noodles are not meant to cost $11 no matter how good it is, if you know what I mean.
Talking about TBNs … Gosh, I don’t know what it is with Chef Hung. Until today we are getting tons of traffic and is the #1 restaurant review of all time on chowtimes. The long lines are still there even today after all the bad reviews they had been getting. They must be doing something right somewhere.
Sorry, I digressed. Back to Refuel.
The loud music, warmth and aroma from the cooking hit us the moment we walked in. It was not ear drum splitting loud but was very noticeable having walked in from the quiet of the street outside. It’s kind of like walking in from another world.
They have an open kitchen which you could see the action if you are seated by the bar. It was only later after we had very much settled down that it occurred to us that it might be better to have a seat by the bar. We did not bother to switch since we were all setup already.
Refuel tagged themselves as the neighborhood restaurant and bar. Never been here and with thoughts of $21 fried chickens, I thought it would be like a place you hang out with friends … you know, kids unfriendly kind of place.
We were surprised to see there were families with kids and babies at two other tables.
Service was good as I well expected. Our server was cheerful and came by really quickly. It is our usual Friday date night and we took our sweet time to settle down. I decided to order the Vancouver Island Brewery. It is a dark beer, well balanced and smooth. Suanne just had water.
Their menu is small. It is just a 1-pager. There are only seven items on the Mains section with the rest of the menu dominated by snacks and starters. Go ahead and click on the menu above to show it in extra large size.
Our server explained that they have specials which are not on the menu. There were two specials that night which are sharing plates. The first is a Whole Confit Duck meant for 2-3 people and the other is an 18oz Steak for Two. We were so tempted to get the Whole Confit Duck but decided otherwise because it would mean us not ordering the fried chicken.
We stayed the course. The Confit Duck will have to be for another visit.
Refuel also had something called Whipped Lard in the snacks section of the menu. We did not order that but I thought it sounded kind of interesting.
Instead we had Piggy Puffs. That is $5 and is deep fried pork skin. It was interestingly served in a brown paper bag. We looked around for the tell tale oil stain on the paper bag. There wasn’t any. I only assumed that for $5, this is made fresh.
The Piggy Puffs were very crispy and crunchy but some part is very hard and impossible to chew through. For the most part it was good — just that it was not perfect all round.
The white Vinegar with Thai chili above is for drizzling onto the piggy puffs. It added a different flavour dimension to the snack which I thought was very nice.
Talking about Piggy Puffs. We have a pack of this at home too. This one is $1.50 and this actually tastes better. LOL!
So this is it … the famed Buttermilk Fried Polderside Chicken. It came with Jalapeno Biscuits, AJ’s Gravy and Coleslaw.
It is no longer $21. It is cheaper. It is now … $18.
Our server said that it’s the same thing except that it’s cheaper. I wanted to know more and she said the reason why it is now $18 is because the older $21 version came with a beer. So in effect it costs the same now.
Polderside. That is one word I have never heard of before. What does that mean? Anyone?
There are 3 pieces of chicken comprising of a drumstick, a thigh and a breast.
The fried chicken was really moist and had a sourish taste from the Buttermilk.
I had earlier read that what makes Refuel’s fried chicken stand apart from all other fried chicken is the way it is made. They uses a method of cooking called sous-vide which involves slowly cooking under low temperatures for a long time. This technique prevents loss of fat and retains the texture of the meat better.
We had to eat it with the hands and its about the only way to deal with it. It does not drip grease all over your hands unlike fried chicken you often find else where.
We were informed that the chicken is double dipped to create a thicker batter.
Overall the fried chicken is really good. I personally did not like the buttermilk taste because it makes it sourish.
The sides that came with the fried chicken are the coleslaw, biscuit and gravy.
We used the gravy as a dip for the biscuit which was a bit salty tasting but otherwise had a great texture. The coleslaw was just OK.
The other main we had was their burger. It is because the patty of the burger are not made from just any minced beef. They use 30-day premium dry aged beef to make this burger.
Which explains why it is $14.50.
First impression … small. Yes, it is very noticeably small. For that price, one usually expects it to be big.
OK. I am sure you can’t quite make out what it is from the picture above. They don’t dump in loads of stuff like onion, lettuce, tomato and stuff. This is meant to have you savouring the flavour of the meat.
Suanne thinks it was salty but I thought it was OK. The burger was good. No doubt about that. But truth be told, I would be more satisfied chomping on a giant burger from Burger Etc than this one.
The fries were good. Very uniformly fried all round and without the greasiness.
As usual, my date wanted dessert even though she complained she is full. We got the Peanut and Chocolate Parfait honeycome. This is $6.50.
We both love it. The ground peanut gives it a crunchy texture. It is best eaten by digging in the spoon all the way down and scooping it up so that you get all the combination of sweetness and saltiness in every spoonful. Double thumbs up. Certainly one of the better desserts we had.
The above is their dessert menu. As usual, click on the image above to read better.
The bill came up to $54 before tips.
Let me put it this way. For $54, we had fried chicken and a burger with beer and dessert. Sounds kind of expensive don’t you think? Well, we had a good time and that is what is important really. The food was good, the service fantastic but $54 … I don’t know if this could be sustained in the long run. To many people fried chickens are not meant to cost $18 just like Taiwanese Beef Noodles are not meant to cost $11.