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31.08.2018

Are your friends even friends if they don’t rev up to your sweet sixteen in matching 2018 Rolls Royce Phantoms - with rose gold accents, obvi - one for you and one for them? Not when you’re a Rich Kid of Saudi Arabia, they aren’t. We contemplate our distinct lack of swag as we pray our Maruti doesn’t give up the ghost after decades of toil, in our quest for local fried chicken that’ll bring any sheikh to his knees.

Al Baik, Saudi Arabia’s legendary chicken chain, has many misspelled imitators across town, but our intel (see: Saudi returns desperate to tuck into toum that doesn’t disappoint) has been assuring us for months now that they have found the real deal. Result: we find ourselves rolling up to JS Food Court, the unassuming little joint that houses Chickbaik, on a busy Kammanahalli street corner on a Sunday evening.

The place is unimpressive - stock photos of fried chicken and shawarma dominate the shopfront, the ambience is food-court chic sans attached mall, and the menu is limited. We settle on a order of normal and spicy broast chicken, kudu mutton steak, and an enticingly named rocket shawarma.

The rocket shawarma could bear a load of meat large enough to populate a planet. It’s tender, the meatiness balanced with vinegared vegetables, and a sight better than your local shawarma joint, but unremarkable. The same can be said for kudu mutton steak, which turns out to be a simple subway sandwich housing a mutton steak that melts in the mouth pleasingly. We begin to worry about that Chickbaik was built for efficiency, rather than finessing on the ‘gram.

But these concerns fade away a bite into the fried chicken. Fresh from the fryer, the broast’s tender meat perfectly contrasts its shell which splinters satisfyingly as we tuck in. The crunch drowns out a hallelujah chorus and we go in for a second bite before swallowing the first. The meat is succulent and the spices sizzle on our tongue momentarily before dissipating in the most pleasing fashion. But the star of the show are the lashings of toum that accompany the pile of fried chicken before us. Swinging between the sadistic sting of macerated garlic and the soothing ministrations of the creaminess, we can’t stop lapping at it. This fragrant dip isn’t for first dates - save it for your habibi, instead.

Suddenly, we are deeply thankful to not be sipping Chandon, drag racing Lambos, and renewing our membership to the #GucciGang in a dusty desert kingdom. We’re still unfriending everyone who didn’t buy us a tiger cub for our birthday (please address all conciliatory cheques and pacifying presents to the writer, ℅ BPB). But for now, a flatteringly loose thobe and living our best #LuruLimeSodaLife will suffice.

Getting There: Chickbaik at JS Food Court on 5th A Main Road, Chinnappa Layout, Kammanahalli, Bangalore. A sheikh-sized meal for two will set you back around Rs. 900.

Accessibility: A step up from the pavement.

Sushmita Sundaram writes about food, culture, and discovering your city. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.

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