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Photo by Rob Bartlett

Chi-Kin brings Korean-fried flavors to flap-happy folks in Mills 50 

Wing nuts

Comfort and escape – qualities duly satisfied in a time not so long ago by restaurants who once invited guests into their thoughtfully designed spaces to enjoy a meal. But on this months-long episode of The Twilight Zone, it's Netflix that provides the escape (or CBS if you're a fan of the TZ reboot by Jordan Peele) while restaurant-goers are left to seek comfort in not-quite-so-piping-hot dishes picked up at, or delivered by, these old gathering grounds of gastronomy and social intercourse. I feasted on Chi-Kin's Korean-fried numbers in those days – reveled in them really, the sauce on the gochujang flappers as memorable as the crispy ones zinged in yuzu and pepper. Ten wings ran $10.95 back then. Now they're a dollar more, but still every bit as worthy as the first day I tried them more than two months ago.

A recipe tweak has since lent the gochujang coating a more infernal complexion, though for purposes of takeout, the dryer rubs tend to hold up slightly better on the journey home than their wet counterparts. Hey, there's no shame eating saucy wings like that hot gochujang, sweet soy, buffalo garlic or Thai chili in your car. I have, but it just made me long for the handy-dandy wash station inside the restaurant all the more (wet naps can only go so far).

If you're not into bones, chicken tenders (three for $5.50; six for $10.50; nine for $15.95) are available with all the same sauces. Enjoy them with waffle fries ($3.50), the primary accompaniment to the wings, or upgrade to the bulgogi beef waffle fries ($4.95), arguably the most photogenic of the dishes offered here. Glossy shreds of meat, specks of black and white sesame and a latticework of spicy aioli look as good as they taste.

And now to the matter of Chi-Kin's poutine ($4). At times like these, when negative criticism needs to be tempered and trumped by support and positive reinforcement, I'll simply offer this from my Canadian heart: waffles fries, grated Parmesan and a miso gravy fashioned from a fish stock base are no match for French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. Hmm, maybe that didn't come out right ... by the way, they're offering a great combo special where you can get 15 wings, six tenders and three sides for just $27.95. If you're considering the mac & cheese or cheese corn as one of your sides, I suggest the kimchi slaw instead. There, that came out better, didn't it?

Speaking of, kimchi makes up a part of the attractive mélange in the chicken bibimbap bowl ($9.95), which includes other banchan like pickled and spicy radishes as well as pickled cukes. It's a sight (particularly with a fried egg on top) I beheld happily when I ate it cold the next day for lunch, the flavors of garlic and chili and pickling juices deepening even further. I really wanted their fried doughballs ($5 small; $7 large) with condensed milk and whipped cream, but didn't think I'd enjoy them at home as much as having them fresh at the restaurant.

Yes, folks – I said no to dessert. Only proves we've entered another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of touch and taste. I didn't think denying myself a sugary conclusion to a meal could ever happen, but it did happen ... in the Twilight Zone.

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This story appears in the April 15, 2020, print edition of Orlando Weekly. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider supporting this free publication with a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.

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