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Archive for August, 2013

Originally opening in 2008 as Spring Hill Restaurant, founders, Marjorie Chang Fuller and Mark Fuller quickly gained both local and national recognition in the foodie industry, which also include  three consecutive James Beard nominations for, Best Chef: PNW. Circa 2012, they decided to change course to what is now known as, Ma’Ono Fried Chicken and Whisky.  Sitting California Ave SW in West Seattle, Ma’ono is an unassuming restaurant that revels in simplicity.  The interior has a nice combination of Zen garden meets modern Chic. Upon entering, we were greeting and seated (reservations suggested.) We had the fortune to be seated directly next to the open kitchen – which in my opinion is always the best seat. Nothing compares to being able to watch the organized chaos that is, the back of the house. One thing I noticed in particular that was equally pleasing was the level of cleanliness in the kitchen. The counters were pristine, our glasses and water carafe were spotless and the flatware and tableware were all meticulously placed in perfect organized stacks. Cherry even observed a worker drying off individual spoons and closely examining each one before stacking. If a restaurant puts that much focus and detail on the things that happen “in the back”, chances are high that the product they serve will be that much better.

manon.entrance

entrance off california ave sw

maono.kitchen

courtside kitchen

maono.tablesetting

tabletop essentials

 The Food:

maono.friedchicken

fried chicken $39

maono.fixins

standard fixins’

A full order yields a whole bird – 10-pieces served in a large tray and a side of rice and kimhi and dipping saucesI specifically went against the grain and chose the notoriously dry and often last-picked, breast.  I figure, if the breast was well cooked, it would be a positive sign for the rest of the batch. Positive signs were exactly what I experienced!  After getting through the awesome crunch of the breading, the breast is exactly how all breasts need to be – moist and tender! I actually caught myself doing a double-take, to make sure it was a breast. Each and every piece thereafter was perfectly golden brown and maintained a great crunch from top to bottom – none of that soggy skin that you get at other places. The breading had rich and savory flavors that I enjoyed. At this point, everything else that came after (thigh, leg and wing) was a bonus. Each piece was equally delicious, crunchy and flavorful. Oh yeah, the sauces they serve on the side were a spicy Korean sauce, and a Chinese hot mustard sauce, neither of which were very spicy. I preferred the Chinese mustard which tasted more of a combination of honey mustard and Chinese hot mustard. It carried a nice subtle “heat” that the Chinese mustard is known for (the same kind of heat you get from horseradish), and a nice sweet honey mustard flavor. I actually have a small cup of the stuff in my fridge I took home with my left overs!

maono.manapua

manapua $8

The manapua was delicious. They’re steamed bbq pork buns similar to what you can find in a Chinese bakery. The bun was silky soft and the filling was rich and full of umami. Definitely one of the better bbq buns I’ve had. It’s served with a shoyu-harissa sauce, which I believe is their take on a spicy soy sauce. I tasted a little bit of it and didn’t taste very much heat, but the manapua was perfect without any sauce.

maono.macsalad

macaroni salad $6

A Hawaiian meal isn’t a true Hawaiian meal without the mac salad! There are many variations to Hawaiian-style mac salad, but the one here includes; potatoes, egg, and carrots.  I’ve had plenty of mac salad in my time, and confidently say, Ma’Ono’s is the best I’ve had. It had great texture from the potatoes and carrots and perfect flavoring. Like bacon, if you add egg to anything, you’ve just elevated whatever you’re eating to the next level. The same goes here.

 maono.warmtowel

warm towel wipe down, please!

My Conclusion:

I know you what your first thought is (it was mine as well) – $40 for some fried chicken!? What are you smokin?!  After the initial sting of disbelief passed, I started to look into why on earth anyone would fathom charging such an expensive price on such a common dish. According to their website, all of their chicken is raised locally and naturally in Mt Vernon, Wa (60 miles north of Seattle). In addition, they also implement a lengthy preparation process for each bird and they use high quality ingredients. Of course, everything you read must be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, I’ll try my best to answer some questions you may have.

• Is it the best fried chicken I’ve had?

I’d say, yes. I’ve had plenty of really good fried chicken, but in my opinion, Ma’Ono is the king of the mountain..

• Do I feel the chicken is worth $40 dollars?

Well that depends on how you look at it. The same reason why a bottle of Dom.Romane Coni 1997 costs over $1500 compared to a bottle of $10 red wine you get at your local grocery store? They’re both made from grapes aren’t they? It’s not like the DRC has a secret vineyard where unicorns stomp barrels of enchanted grapes while wearing silk covered booties followed by a lengthy aging process where each barrel is guarded by mystical fairies and gnomes.  I guess it comes down to how much you are willing to pay for a product. You can pay bottom dollar on a fast-food joint where everything comes frozen and prepared by local high school students … or not.

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