The Best Thing I Ate All Week: Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Nightingale

Yes, the pizza’s great, but let’s talk about Nightingale’s other offerings, shall we?

Yes, the pizza’s great, but let’s talk about Nightingale’s other offerings, shall we?

Up until two weeks ago, I had never stepped foot in Nightingale, the more casual sister spot of local chef David Hawksworth’s eponymous restaurant, but, boy, had I heard a lot about it. “The pizzas!!!” exclaimed one friend who visited shortly after Nightingale’s opening in (gulp!) 2016. “Definitely get a pizza,” recommended another when I told him I was having dinner there for the first time soon. “Yasss kween,” one Yelp user said of the cacio e pepe pie at the downtown joint, which, by the way, is categorized under three categories, one of which is “pizza,” on the review site.

This feedback—combined with my admittedly limited knowledge of Nightingale at the time (though I did know that Hawksworth owns a wood-burning pizza oven in his backyard!)—meant that I was pleasantly surprised when I rolled up to the very chic restaurant this past Wednesday and discovered more than 50 items on the menu, about 75 percent of it not pizza. Naturally, I was overwhelmed by choice, but after some deliberating, my dining partners and I settled on a range of dishes (hot tip: they’re all designed to be shared—though you’d know that if you, uh, did your research) that included the buttermilk fried chicken.

Now, fried chicken is a risky endeavour for any chef, mostly because there are so many ways it can go wrong. As a diner, you don’t have to be a Chopped judge to know what went wrong (or well), either. Too much time in the fryer and it’s dry and tough. Overcrowd the pan and it’s soggy and greasy. Too light of a hand with the seasoning and it’s, well, under-seasoned. But with high risk comes high reward, and, luckily for me, Nightingale’s take wasn’t any of the aforementioned descriptors. No, this dish is everything you want fried chicken to be: tender, juicy, expertly seasoned, and with a light, pleasantly crisp exterior that gives way to all that tender juiciness inside.

Nightingale serves its pieces boneless atop a pool of spiced maple syrup that lends them a zingy, distinctly Canadian flavour. The sumac and pickle slices sprinkled over the skins add a nice, unexpected punch of acidity, too, helping to cut through an otherwise very savoury dish. (See what I mean about the Chopped thing? And I’m no Alex Guarnaschelli.) Overall, it’s an incredibly well-balanced plate that, IMHO, has played second fiddle to Nightingale’s wood-fired pizzas for too long. So I’m shouting it from the rooftops: order the buttermilk fried chicken, people!!!

Buttermilk fried chicken, $15 at Nightingale (1017 W Hastings St.)