Kevin Tien, the Himitsu chef who lured national dining critics to Petworth with Korean chile-glazed chicken and biscuits, will soon have a new business that focuses on fried chicken.
Tien tells Eater that Hot Lola’s, a food stall inside Ballston’s sharply curated Quarter Market food hall, is about 10 days away from being ready to open. Although the karaage quickly became a signature dish at Himitsu, Eater D.C.’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year, Tien says his next project will be fueled by Sichuan spices.
The fried chicken sandwiches at Hot Lola’s will be brushed with Sichuan chile oil and seasoned with a spicy crisp that includes Sichuan peppers, fennel seeds, star anise, and Thai chiles. The sandwich looks like it would be at home in Nashville, but Tien says it’s a style all his own.
“I don’t want to call it ‘hot chicken’ because I know I’ll get yelled at,” he says.
Tien, who was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation last year, says Hot Lola’s will bake fresh biscuits for breakfast. Sides will include french fries and an Asian cole slaw made with Kewpie mayonnaise and rice wine vinegar. The batter for the “mega-crunchy exterior” is a blend of rice flour, potato starch, and all-purpose flour.
Customers who want to cut out the bun will be able to order chicken tenders, and Tien promises there will eventually be a variety of daily specials and off-menu items — perhaps poutine. He’s still waiting on a permit to sell beer, which will be the only alcohol available at the casual hangout.
The name of the restaurant is a nod to Tien’s dog, Lola, a Greyhound and German Pointer mix whose favorite toy is a rubber chicken. The chew toy also serves as inspiration for the logo.
Tien will have some sandwich competition inside Quarter Market. Gravitas chef Matt Baker will have a location for his former global sandwich pop-up, French Exit. Sloppy Mama’s will have a spot for barbecue sandwiches.
Tien’s Petworth neighbor, Timber Pizza, will have a shop called Turu’s. Other D.C. businesses staking a claim to the market include Ice Cream Jubilee and Cucina Al Volo. Several Baltimore restaurants are involved in the project as well.
“I think that’s a big thing that differentiates the market from other food halls,” Tien says. “They did a good job of choosing local things to go in there.”
Tien, who appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef Gauntlet last year, is also busy preparing to open Emilie’s, a full-service restaurant in Capitol Hill.