When I first heard that Chef Dave Cruz would be cooking in San Francisco, I was delighted for the opportunity to have his famous fried chicken close at hand. He is the master behind Ad Hoc's fried chicken. But then my heart sank when I learned that the restaurant, LIttle Gem, would be gluten- and dairy-free, knowing that both wheat flour and buttermilk are part of his recipe. Fried chicken was not on the opening menu, but has been added recently.
Last week, I nabbed the last seat at the counter for dinner service. The LG fried chicken, $8 on the small bites menu was described by my server as "tempura style". Boneless thigh meat is dusted with rice flour for frying and served with spicy aioli and slivers of scallion. Juicy and well-salted, the chicken had definitely been brined. I found the crusting too thick and hard, needing a knife to break through it, though the flavor was good. An ex-chowhound spotted here who had just finished her dinner had the same issue with her serving.
Roasted broccolini, $6, seemed more wet and steamy than roasted to me and was drenched in oil. The fermented black garlic added an interesting note, but the red chili flakes noted on the menu were missing.
Not perfect, but I'd try it again. Two plates were plenty for dinner for me, and it was nice to spend less than $20.