A night out in Poblacion likely means getting a little drunk. Some of the best bars in Metro Manila are in the neighborhood, so no matter what it is that you like to drink, you’re probably going to find it. And at some point in the night, you’re going to be stumbling around those neon lit streets, likely overwhelmed by all stimuli bombarding you from all sides of this red light district.
And you’re probably going to be hungry. Your alcohol-soaked stomach is going to ask to be filled. Now, there is certainly no dearth of dining options in Poblacion. But a lot of the restaurants in Poblacion are trendy affairs, with complicated menus and loud music and none of the comfort that you might need after all those shots of tequila.
But then there is Korean Traditional Chicken on Don Pedro Street, just a stone’s throw away from Z Hostel and its surrounding coolness. It is the antithesis of all those places: a small, genuine hole-in-the-wall with just four dishes on its menu, offering up an experience that can’t be really be replicated anywhere else.
The place is barely big enough to fit twelve people. It is decorated like a home. And not “home” in the restaurant sense, which tends to involve a certain kind of baroque opulence. Eating in Korean Traditional Chicken is more akin to being invited into a studio apartment.
Living in said apartment is the owner, a Korean gentleman whose English is just good enough for taking orders. Also there is his young son, a precocious little kid who will just talk to you once he gets bored of playing on his phone. His toys are often littered on the tables, because this is just where he plays.
You can get beer and soju here, but it doesn’t quite feel right. There’s a kid right there, after all. So you’re left with the chicken. You can get drumsticks with rice, but it’s late so it’s likely that he’s run out of those. You’ll probably have to get a whole chicken. Hopefully you weren’t out drinking alone. The chicken is fried whole, and at the end of a night of drinking, its mix of spice and grease is the absolute best thing you can possibly have. It’s served with pickles, and you can ask for kimchi. Order some rice, and it’ll be one of the most satisfying meals you’ll ever have.
But what makes it all the more satisfying is where you are, and how it feels. The owner is running the place by himself, running back and forth from kitchen to dining area, splitting his attention between the customers and the whole chicken in his fryer. His kid is there, eager to show you the game he’s playing on a phone, or the Hot Wheels truck that he’s been rolling on the table. In the heat and mess of Poblacion, where things are trendy and cool and seedy and strange, this place is an oasis of comfort. And when you’ve had too much to drink, that can be a beautiful thing.
Korean Traditional Chicken is located at 5648 Don Pedro, Poblacion, Makati. It is open every day from 1PM to 3AM.