The Chicken Nanban That’ll Make You Rethink Fried Chicken
Hidden in a quiet plaza in Marpole is a cozy Japanese restaurant known as Cafe de L’Orangerie. Despite its discreet location, this cozy Marpole café is often bustling with families, friends, and couples during peak hours. This place specializes in Western-style Japanese dishes known as “youshoku,” and my go-to dish is the Chicken Nanban.
When I first tried the Chicken Nanban, I remember reading its menu description and thinking,
Why haven’t I ever heard of Japanese fried chicken and tartar sauce before?
It sounded like an amazing duo. I later learned that Chicken Nanban came from the Miyazaki region in Japan. The Japanese modelled it after a similar fish dish introduced by the Portuguese in the mid-17th century.
On my latest visit to Cafe de L’Orangerie, it was a busy weekend lunch hour, when lively chatting drowned the sounds of soft jazz music. Despite the busyness, my Chicken Nanban arrived shortly after I ordered. The polite staff also regularly refilled our waters.
The Chicken Nanban immediately indulged my senses. With the glistening chicken in front of me, I could smell the biting scent of vinegar and onions, intertwined with a waft of sweetness. The dish was neatly plated with equal thirds taken up by a generous amount of chicken, rice, and salad. I squeezed lemon onto the chicken, added a dollop of the chunky, homemade tartar sauce, and took a bite.
First, the sweet and the sour from the sweetened vinegar nanban sauce contrasted with each other in harmony. Then, the mellow juice of the chicken toned down these strong flavours. The squeeze of tangy lemon mixed with the smooth mayonnaise and pungent onion from the tartar sauce added another dimension of taste. All of this combined to create a complementary balance of sharp and mild flavours.
The rice and mildly bitter salad also softened the lingering taste of vinegar and onions. And the chicken? It was cooked to golden-brown perfection. It had a crispy outside, a slightly gooey egg coating, and soft, juicy meat on the inside. With so many flavours and textures, each bite of the Chicken Nanban at Cafe de L’Orangerie never got boring!
Restaurant: Café de l'Orangerie
Featured Dish Name: Chicken Nanban
Dish Type: Poultry
Available For: All Day
Dish Price: $12.00
Flavour Profile: Savoury
Portion Size: Large