We asked a friend what the next food trend in Melbourne was, having seen the waves start there then spread northwards. She told us that it was fried chicken, and as we walked back from having had dinner, said that Sam Sam was one of the places she thought did it well. She indicated its direction down the road, and as it wasn’t far from where we were staying, after parting ways, we doubled back. At past 10pm, it turned out to still be open and serving. We deliberated briefly. We had recently had dinner (it was underwhelming, review to follow..), and dessert. We don’t live in Melbourne, and didn’t have easy access to it every day though.. So we stepped in.
Once through the glass doors, there is effectively a second entrance, framed by metal scaffolding and shelves, the words “Korean Chicken and Beer” and “Sam Sam” in neon lights, and a counter where you place your orders at side. There are also a few seats and tables in this almost ante-room-like area, for those who are waiting for their takeaway orders, or potentially as an overflow area when it gets really busy and there aren’t available seats further in.
It isn’t the most extensive of menus at later hours, but it had the main thing we wanted: fried chicken. There are other things you can have until “late” on a bar food-style menu, like kimchi fries and sizzling bulgogi dishes. Within more conventional eating hours, they do offer other korean dishes like varieties of bibimbap and stir fried noodles.
You can have your chicken in a whole or half size serve. Flavour options are Original, Sweet and Spicy, Soy Garlic, or Hot and Spicy. We picked the half size serve of the Sam Sam chicken in Soy Garlic flavour. After our food order was taken, we were shown to seats.
The decor has just a bit of a funky edge. A strip of black and white tiles in concentric diamond patterns goes through a plainer polished concrete floor area, like a path leading you to the main seating area. There are tall bar-style tables and stools comfortably seating four at a table, lighted by overhead lights. The lights in the main seating area have a slightly pink hue. The simple polished concrete-look walls are a good contrast to the patterned floor, and keep it all from looking garish. Korean pop ballads and more upbeat music were playing at a volume that wasn’t too intrusive. The floors were a little oily when we were there though, so patrons would be well advised to watch their step.
Each table had an amber glass bottle of water and metal cups, and a little metal pot with utensils and some serviettes. It was all conveniently set up.
We didn’t have to wait too long for our food to be brought out. On the platter was a little mountain of fried chicken pieces, and a heap of shredded cabbage and dressing. We also received a side dish of pickled radish cubes. A little pot for the bones was thoughtfully brought to the table.
The fried chicken had a crispy skin, and was amazingly juicy inside. It was possibly the juiciest fried chicken we had ever had. They somehow made it crunchy without being oily. We had the soy and garlic version, which had a sweet sauce over it, rather than the saltiness we were expecting. The original version would probably have been just as tasty, but less sweet.
The slaw was fresh, and the sauce on it was spicy. The raddish cubes were crunchy, a bit tart, and a bit sweet. These were both a good flavour contrast to the chicken.
The wait staff were friendly and polite. They were happy to explain the menu to us, and patient while we were deciding. They also replaced our emptying bottle of water before we asked.
Sam Sam is indeed a very good place to go for fried chicken if you’re in Melbourne. Perhaps the truest testament to this was that even on a fairly full stomach, we thought it was delicious (you know how the perception of how good food is can be skewed by how hungry you are). Some consideration has gone in to the decor and the setup, and the staff were great. We kept trying to make it back there for more food, but either never had room, or got there much too late. Next time..
Price point: Half serve of chicken or boneless chicken $16 to $18, depending on flavour. Whole serve $31 to $33. Chicken wings $15 to $16.
Value: Good. It’s tasty stuff.
Address: 209 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD (right near a tram stop)
Phone: None yet..
Website: Sam Sam