‘You Gotta Try This’ fried chicken from Origami
This is “You Gotta Try This,” The Bee’s series featuring one particular must-have dish at a local restaurant. Each featured dish is nominated by a reader and chronicled here. Got a menu item you want to shine some light on? Comment below or email reporter Benjy Egel at email@example.com.
The best item at Origami Asian Grill might not even be part of the build-your-own-meal structure the year-old East Sacramento restaurant is based around.
Origami’s $14 fried chicken is a crunchy, mouthwatering blend of Szechuan heat and syrupy sweetness begging for biscuits or waffles. Co-chefs and co-owners Scott Ostrander and Paul DiPierro use a wide array of seasonings to gussy up a traditionally down-home dish.
“For us, it’s kind of the rule of Julia Child. If you’re going to add an ingredient to a recipe, you gotta add enough to taste it,” Ostrander said. “It is a technical recipe, it has its nuances, and if done right, it produces wonderful results.”
Cooks start by breaking down 2 1/2 pound Mary’s Free-Range Chicken WOGs (chickens WithOut Giblets), brining them for 24 hours and air-drying them. They then coat the pieces in a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, kosher salt, Szechuan peppercorns, black peppercorns, thyme and all-purpose cake and rice flours.
The dusted chicken is submerged in a batter of eggs, cream and whole milk, then covered again in the dry mix. Bone-in pieces are fried for nine minutes, breasts for slightly less than that.
After draining the excess oil, cooks dust the chicken once more with a 4:1 mix of ground Szechuan peppercorns – grown at Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento – and kosher salt. The chicken is positioned on a ceramic plate – thigh piece on the bottom, then breast, then legs – then drizzled with a sweet infusion of maple syrup, honey, ginger root, Fresno chilis and garlic.
Served à la carte, the chicken is topped with rosemary and grated orange peel. An orange hot sauce made from garlic, gochujang, red onions, yellow onions, Fresno chilis, Thai bird chilis, red bell peppers, salt, sugar, rice vinegar and water is available upon request.
Origami also fries and seasons chicken tenders the same way as a protein option for the banh mis, ramen, rice bowls and salads that comprise the bulk of the “Asian Chipotle” menu. Fried chicken has its place in Asian cuisines – think Japanese karaage or Korean wings – but Origami’s triple-flour mix is decidedly Southern.
Origami goes through 300 à la carte orders per week, Ostrander said, making it one of the restaurant’s best sellers but not nearly as popular as the rice bowls or ramen, which can generate 100 orders per day during summer and winter, respectively.
Fried chicken has become an unlikely Sacramento fine dining favorite for its approachability, pliable taste profile and accessibility from North Bay Area farms. It’s been a special at Ella Dining Room & Bar, Localis and Hawks Public House in recent years, and Empress Tavern paired the bird with Big Stump Brewing Co. flights last month.
Origami’s leaders come from fine dining backgrounds: Ostrander was a line cook at three-Michelin-starred Alinea in Chicago early in his career and worked with DiPierro at Park Winters and Paragary’s before opening the East Sacramento restaurant. The two chefs went back and forth on whether the fried chicken should be on the menu at all, then how to season it once DiPierro gave the green light.
“People want that indulgence of fried chicken, and it’s a great thing for children,” Ostrander said. “We’re able to bring parents in and it’s like ‘Hey, let’s get a side of rice, let’s get some fried chicken, some veggies,’ and you’ve got a little meal for kids together. Kids are happy at that point.”
Origami Asian Grill
4801 Folsom Blvd., (916) 400-3075
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Pro Tip: Want to check out Ostrander and DiPierro’s fine dining chops? Eleven-course meals at the chef’s counter run $150 per person on Friday or Saturday nights.