The cherry ginger salad at Chik'n & Mi. | All photos by Steve Coomes

Were there a vote for the city’s freakiest dish, I’d nominate the bonito fries at Chik’n & Mi (2319 Brownsboro Rd.) Not because of the lashing of black garlic aioli and togarashi spice. Those are clever and truly delicious twists. It’s the sprinkling of bonito flakes atop the crisply fried spuds that wriggle as if alive when moved by waves of steam rising from the dish.

“People call them crazy fries and psychedelic fries when they see them do that,” said Jason McCollum, chef and co-owner at Chik’n & Mi. He and wife Aenith McCollum opened the restaurant quietly almost two weeks ago. “We think it’s fun. It’s kind of a show.”

Bonito fries, a.k.a. "psychedelic fries."
Bonito fries, a.k.a. “psychedelic fries.” They are delicious!

Culinary school-trained chefs, the McCollums share a geographically diverse résumé showing work in restaurants in Manhattan, Southern California, Louisville and elsewhere. Nearly three years ago, Jason was sous chef at La Coop, where he worked for Bobby Benjamin, now at Butchertown Grocery. The couple later moved to Nashville, where Jason cooked at Union Common (owned by Falls City Hospitality Group) before moving to Seattle. They returned to Louisville last year.

“We saw the city as a really good place to start something of our own,” he said. “Seattle is a real estate nightmare for what we’re trying to do.”

The couple wanted to create a restaurant that served dishes they craved at hole-in-the-wall Asian joints, “dishes we search for and will go out of our way to find,” McCollum said. Struggling to condense their idea into a theme, he called it Asian comfort food. “Asian fried chicken and noodles, which pretty much covers it.”

The fried chicken is delicious, though not at all Southern ($7 for three pieces, $12 for five pieces, or an equal number of chicken strips for the same prices). Dusted in tapioca flour, the fried crust is but a crispy scrim. Choose from three sauces—sweet soy, hot and pepper corn ranch—for tossing, or go naked. I got the hot, which is a traditional Laotian sweet and spicy pepper paste called jaew bong. Worry ye not, it’s mild, even for a non-heat seeker such as me. But it’s delicious, especially when contrasted with bits of pickled radish sprinkled on. (So good, in fact, that I neglected to photograph it before I tore into it.)

Jason and Aenith McCullough, owners of Chik'n & Mi.
Jason and Aenith McCollum, owners of Chik’n & Mi.

McCollum shared a terrific cherry ginger salad ($8) of mixed greens, squash ribbons, carrot, radish and a cherry-ginger vinaigrette, that’s ideally portioned to serve as a shared side for two and perhaps three. I eat salad, but it doesn’t often thrill me enough to recommend one. This is an exception to that rule.

Of the three ramen dishes on offer, McCollum brought me the garlic miso ramen ($14) with pork belly, pig-foot terrine and ham jam. Bathed in a rich pork and chicken dashi stock, it is a complex and solid dish.

Garlic miso ramen with three kinds of pork.
Garlic miso ramen with three kinds of pork.

In case you’re wondering about the name, ‘mi” means noodles in Lao, which is Aenith McCollum’s native tongue. When her family emigrated to the U.S., they landed in Bowling Green. He’s from San Angelo, Texas, and they met at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Jason McCollum said they originally considered fast-casual service at the 80-seat restaurant, but the shape of the space necessitated full-service. They also wanted a full bar, which only reinforced the need for servers.

When renovations began last December, they removed all the old drop ceilings and replaced them with corrugated tin sheets and Edison lights. A bar was built and an opening into the kitchen was made to let guests get a peek at the action.

So far, McCollum said, people love the food, and that at least one guest has visited three nights in a row.

“We’ve had a lot of chefs in here, as well as people who just love food,” he said.

The side dining room at Chik'n & Mi.
The side dining room at Chik’n & Mi.

“We actually got on a small wait this past Saturday, which was a good test,” Aenith McCollum added.

For now, Chik’n & Mi is open Tuesday-Thursday, 4-9 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m. Jason McCollum said lunch isn’t coming soon, but that they may extend dinner hours, “because that’s when people are coming in.”

SHARE
Previous articleStephen Bowles on Barbecue; Michael Crouch Captains the Titanic Dinner
Next articlePints for Parkinson’s Set to Take Over Fourth Street Live April 19
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  2. I just want to tell you that I’m very new to blogging and site-building and seriously enjoyed you’re web-site. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You amazingly have incredible articles. Kudos for sharing with us your web-site.

  3. Hey! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this
    post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always
    kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have consider your stuff previous to and you
    are just too great. I really like what you’ve got here, really like
    what you are saying and the way in which through which you are saying it.

    You are making it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise.

    I can not wait to learn far more from you.
    This is really a wonderful site.

  5. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a
    captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

  6. Very good blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m
    totally overwhelmed .. Any tips? Many thanks!

  7. Fantastic beat ! I wish to apprentice at the same time as you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a weblog website?
    The account helped me a appropriate deal. I have been tiny bit familiar
    of this your broadcast offered vibrant clear concept

  8. I’m really loving the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any internet browser
    compatibility problems? A few of my blog visitors have complained
    about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks
    great in Firefox. Do you have any suggestions to help
    fix this problem?

  9. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following.

    unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield
    this hike. cheap flights 32hvAj4

  10. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more
    than just your articles? I mean, what you say is
    valuable and all. However just imagine if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts
    more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but
    with pics and video clips, this website could certainly be one of the most beneficial in its niche.
    Excellent blog!

  11. You’re so interesting! I do not suppose I’ve read a single thing like that before.
    So great to discover someone with original thoughts on this issue.

    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web
    site is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

LEAVE A REPLY