Zankou: So, Like, El Lay

Armenian king of a roasted chicken empire goes bad: guns, garlic, and Glendale.

Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows exactly what Zankou Chicken is. It’s quite simply heaven on earth. You can get a whole or half roasted chicken, some cabbage on the side, a pinkish slaw which I always ignore, pita bread, and this unearthly, insanely delicious if slightly mysterious garlic paste. The meat’s always tender, the skin, crisp and browned. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

HB and I have been known to be reduced to smacking, slobbering, silent cavepeople, busy stuffing our mouths with giant helpings of chicken slathered in garlic paste wrapped in pita.

This garlic paste of which I speak. Pray tell, what is it? A friend of ours did experiments to try to determine its main ingredients. She fried it in a pan. She baked it. She ate several little condiment containers of it, plain, and swirled the pungent flavors around on her tongue til her tonsils reeked. It remained a secret. The consistency of this mysterious garlic paste is not wet and gelatinous like an aioli, nor a grainy paste like wasabi. It’s a bit like the creamiest mashed potato you’ve ever eaten, but intensely garlicky. And it’s white–unusual, because garlic in its natural state is sort of beige. The secret truly is in the sauce, because this stuff lifts up what’s otherwise a damn good rotisserie chicken into transcendent roasted chicken you would leave your comfy little neighborhood for and drive all the way into Hollywood or Glendale (not that we have locations memorized, or anything) to eat it. I’m guessing maybe the garlic paste has crack in it, or maybe opium.

It’s that good. So of course Los Angeles magazine knew that by posting half the story online, everyone would wait with bated garlicky breath until they could read the rest of the story about how one day the owner of the local chain killed his mother and his sister, then himself.

I’m about to go out and buy a copy of the magazine. I have to know what happens! “Put some garlic on that shit!”


4 thoughts on “Zankou: So, Like, El Lay

  1. could it possibly be just the gooey bits of a roasted head of garlic? that can be creamy in a way not unlike how you describe.

    (now, i’m hungry…)

  2. Hmmm, no, it’s definitely not gooey like that. It’s kind of on the dry side like a fluffy mashed potato.

    The befuddling thing about it is its color. I’m talking white like chalk.

    Definitely high-grade cocaine in there.

    I need some Zankou for dinner!

  3. Mmmm. Haven’t had Zankou in probably years… I didn’t eat meat for many years, but I always made an exception for Zankou. I could eat that garlic right up. It’s kind of buttery too, I always thought there was some kind of fatty thing in there… ? Also, there’s one in the Valley, I think on Sepulveda near Oxnard, and another in WestLA near Sepulveda and Santa Monica…

  4. Jenni,
    I agree–sometimes the chicken is just an excuse for *more garlic sauce*!

    The article was a bummer, but it did give a context for the west LA Zankou opening, which I was really surprised by. Sad that the family lost so many family members so violently.

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