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Savory Chicken in Milpitas via Manila

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With no Filipino-style contributions to July’s dish of the month project, I decided it was finally time to check out Savory Chicken in Milpitas. This franchise of the Manila original has been here for more than 20 years.
http://www.savorychicken.com/

While the menu offers a variety of Filipino dishes (illustrated with photos pinned to the walls), everyone’s here for fried chicken or the charbroiled option (50¢ more). A variety of combo plate options starting at $7.50 feature half a smallish bird and all come with the signature Savory Chicken gravy. Hard to choose, but eventually I settled on the first one that includes a pair of pan de leche. Other accompaniments range from potato salad to Shanghai lumpia. The owner/cook said that my order would take eight minutes to fry to order. I noticed that he informed some other customers that it would take nine minutes and cut down to five minutes for one woman who looked to be in a hurry.

While I waited, I helped myself to self-serve ice water and this condiment tray. Shaking the Filipino white vinegar let loose a flurry of minced garlic, black pepper and spices.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Presented on a fast food type tray on a styrofoam plate, my order looked like this.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

The owner said the chicken is made in the Chinese style, seasoned, par-cooked, and without flouring or batter then fried to a glassine crispy brown when ordered. Loved the bare skin, the meat not so much as the breast was on the dry side.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

While the technique may be rooted in China, the brown gravy is all Philippines. Not as thickened as what typically graces Thanksgiving tables, the bright tartness takes it to the islands. Extremely salty yet full-flavored, the gravy almost resuscitated the dryish breast meat. And I liked it best for dunking a bit of the buttered rolls. Savory, indeed.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

During my quick eat-in lunch, a couple new customers asked for guidance on what to order. The owner pointed to the diners and said, “Why don’t you ask them?” One gal volunteered that she has been eating here for more than 10 years since she was a kid. She said she always gets the charbroiled chicken. Another disagreed and said that fried was the way to go. I asked the man sitting closest to me why he chose Savory Chicken when this shopping center also has Chow King and Max’s of Manila restaurants. He gestured a thumbs down for Max’s and then explained that this was his first time at the Milpitas Savory Chicken. He elaborated that he had just moved here from the Philippines from the Escolta neighborhood, home of the original. He was amazed, saying that the gravy here tastes just like back home.

Needing to get the salt out of my mouth, I had a Magnolia ice cream bar, $1.50, to finish. The macapuno was badly freezer-burned, and was swapped out for halo-halo. Other flavors include ube, mango, and green tea.

Any other experiences at Savory Chicken?

July dish of the month:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8567...

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