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.
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I may be bad at math but if the chicken is now $18 and you paid $6.50 for beer, doesn’t it make it more expensive now than the previous menu? I dunno how they justify their new lower price. I took the liberty of looking at the previous menu just before they closed so I can do a comparison. Not much difference in my opinion, just mine.
Polderside is the farm the chicken is raised on http://www.polderside.com/. Suffice to say it is not your average supermarket chicken :-).
Re the new lower pricing: it used only to be available at lunch on Fridays and you only had a choice between two beers, R&B’s Bohemian Lager or Red Devil Pale Ale when we went. I’m guessing the new price is quoted as lower because it is at dinner but I dunno. I only had the lunch version once and I think it maybe only had two pieces of chicken but not sure on that… my picture of our lunch in May is inconclusive on that point. The price then was $19.50, according to my notes, FWIW.
Thanks Grayelf: Well I learned something new today. I’ll be damned. I would not have known the difference if you did not tell me. It will be interesting to do a blind test and see how many people actually can tell the difference.
It was indeed 19.50, and it was the same amount of chicken. 🙂
“Fuel’s Fried Chicken Fridays is a $19.50 combo that includes 3 pieces of buttermilk battered chicken, coleslaw, a biscuit, housemade gravy, and a choice of R&B Lager or Pale Ale.”
I dunno, while paying $20~ for fried chicken is a little pricey…they are the only restaurant that I know that does this, so hey, it’s like paying a premium. Would I constantly order it? Definitely not, I’d either share it or something, it’s just hard to justify for my poor little student budget..
oh and re the new lower price, it definitely doesn’t make it cheaper by taking out the beer. No way a beer would cost $1.50. Absolutely not.
Wow that is some expensive fried chicken haha I don’t know the conversion rate for money ( I am in Ohio ) but sounds like that chicken should have been lined in gold 🙂
Hi Pamela: $17 Canadian works out to be about $16.50 USD.
I too found the burger salty – I thought it was a spurious thing until I started reading and hearing that other people found it salty as well. It is perhaps a stylistic thing.
Premium burgers seem to run in the $13-$15 range here in Vancouver so that price isn’t out of line. I haven’t made a note of the pricing on premium Fried Chicken since Refuel could very well be the only place here that serves such a dish.
Ooooh, chicharron (pork rinds)! Haha, yes, that’s right, I’m ignoring all that bit about the restaurant and focusing on that package you have at home. Pork rinds are sooo good. And, I think the brand you have is a good one! =D Oh, having chile-infused vinegar as a condiment is a very Philippine thing.
Hi TS: We bought the Chicharron from this nice little Filipino place in Brighouse Square (No 3 Rd and Cook in Richmond). They even sell balut … but the dozens! Do you know that place? It is called New Town Bakery where we often go there to buy their Zeen Duy.
Oh yeah, usually New Town is where people buy Siopao (those buns). =) What is “Zeen Duy”?
“Zeen Duy” are sesame coated deep fried glutinous rice balls! Mmm, they taste heavenly when fresh.
Thank you Marike for explaining this!
Hi TS: We also have a recipe for Zeen Duy (Sesame Ball) here http://chowtimes.com/2006/06/10/sesame-ball-zeen-duy/ I am sure you know how to make this yourself.
LOL, I wish! My grandma is the expert and she always makes them for Chinese New Year.
Btw, isn’t it weird it’s on Valentine’s Day this year?
Oh, I didn’t know they were called Zeen Duy! And I didn’t know New Town sold them!
And no, we’ve never tried making any of these Chinese desserts/snacks. =)
Oh, btw, we’ve tried this chicharron/prok rind product where they come “uncooked” or “dehydrated” or whatever, then, one just micorwaves them and they’re good as freshly-fried! We had them at our cousins’ house. Although, I think those were from the Philippines. Not sure if they’re available here.
I had Fuel’s fried chicken back when it was just opened. It was part of a 6 courses tasting menu and I was so full when I tried it (like the 5th of the courses). We LOVE it and managed to finish the whole plate. (I don’t know how to calculate the cost of it) It was cripsy and tender and juicy. Polderside chicken was VERY tasty.
btw my friend made roast Polderside chicken for our Xmas dinner and it was wonderful! So they are not regular supermarket chicken for sure.
forgot to mention in the reply. I will probably try refuel soon. ^_^
For very tasty and tender “fried chicken”, go to Gyoza King on Robson and get their Chicken Karaage.
Uh oh, I dredged (pun in fried chicken talk) an ancient foodblog thread where I rambled on about fried chicken [blush]:
Oh yeah, I miss Nancyland’s posts. I see that you had Church’s on your list. It was our family’s favourite too along with Lees Chicken. Your comment was way back in 2005 and you still mention Gyoza King’s Chicken Karaage … it must have made quite an impression on you!
that dessert does seem really yummy, but you know what it really reminds me of…mcdonalds chocolate sundae with the peanuts on top!
My boyfriend and I went to Refuel not too long ago, and just like you we were really tempted by the duck confit but had already set our sights on the fried chicken! My boyfriend had the chicken while I had the gnocchi and I loved it.
It’s definitely not an everyday meal, but I think for special date nights it’s nice.