Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater Vegas talks with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their first anniversary.
Sheridan Su and Jenny Wong of Fat Choy debuted their chicken and rice focused Flock & Fowl last year in September, serving up their versions of chicken dishes served in the Hainan province of southern China. The small, casual spot close to the Golden Steer Steakhouse and the under construction Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino keeps compact hours from Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. that keeps fans in Las Vegas and far beyond packing the tiny restaurant. Here, Su talks about how he came up with a restaurant dedicated to Hainanese chicken rice, some of the crazy things that have happened so far and what the future holds.
How did Flock & Fowl come together?
This restaurant is purely a celebration of chicken, specifically Hainanese chicken rice. In 2013, Jenny and I took a trip out to Taipei, Taiwan, and fell in love with a chicken rice plate at Boon Keng Chicken restaurant (an outpost of Singapore's Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice). It blew us away. It is a dish that we both grew up eating, but it was this very moment that changed our lives. It was a simple plate of perfectly sliced chicken, perfect rice and perfect sauce. I couldn't stop thinking about this plate, and I knew we had to share this "life changing moment" with the rest of Las Vegas.
What have you learned in the first year of running the restaurant?
We learned that our way of serving people is still very new to most. We have a hybrid between fast casual and full service. Our guests still walk up to the counter to order. After that, the way our food is made to order to the quality and our high-service standards, it is basically a full-service restaurant. It has been a very efficient way for us to operate.
Is it different than running Fat Choy? How?
Fat Choy is a collaboration between us and Eureka Casino, so we have immense support from them along with our managers Emily Hernandez and chef Tom. Fat Choy is an all day restaurant with items on the menu that anybody can enjoy.
Flock & Fowl is a specialized restaurant and because of our limited hours, it is usually a sprint from the moment we open.
Flock & Fow. Photo: Amelinda B Lee hat were you thinking about in terms of design of the restaurant?
We took over a pizza shop that was there for 20 years. We were honestly just thinking to be as far away from what the restaurant originally looked like as possible. We also didn't have much money so we piecemealed everything ourselves.
What was the menu testing process like?
We cooked and ate a lot. Travis Silva, who is my chef-partner at Flock, and I, developed all the recipes. It was important for us to use the best ingredients, to cook without flavor enhancers, and just focus on real cooking. When the signature dish is just rice, chicken and sauce, there is absolutely no room for error. To perfect this dish, it is all about the small details. The chicken has to be a free-range bird and barely cooked through. The skin should be seasoned and as smooth as silk. The flesh has to be firm because it is a free-range chicken, but tender and juicy at the same time. Every grain of rice needs to be seasoned and full of flavor from absorbing our superior chicken stock. The rice should have the essence of ginger, garlic, pandan leaves and other aromatics. In addition to our chile sauce and ginger sauce, we make two different soy sauces to pair with this dish. When all of these elements harmonize, you will get a pretty magical bite of food.
Has Las Vegas embraced the restaurant?
Tremendously. Thank you so much, Las Vegas. We have everyday people like lawyers, nurses, police officers, business owners, people in the industry, poker players, and so many families and their friends coming in again and again.
Six months in, what changed?
A really good team of people came together to make this restaurant work. For the first six months, it was just Jenny, myself and Travis. Travis' girlfriend, Amber, worked with us a day a week. We were serving 150 to 200 guests for lunch everyday in our tiny spot. It was crazy.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened in the first year?
It has been amazing how the word of mouth has spread beyond Las Vegas. On the weekends, three-quarters of our guests are from out of town or another country.
How about the craziest thing?We have several guests that fly in to eat at Flock & Fowl and then fly back right afterwards. With the time involved, they tell us that it is better than having to fly to Asia to eat.
What's the must-order dish of the moment?
We have different specials everyday. Currently, our best selling special is the Indo Fried Rice. It is also known as Nasi Goreng and it is fantastic. Imagine a fried rice seasoned with Chinese sausage, pulled Mary's chicken, smoked pork, ginger, shallots, garlic, curry, shrimp paste, chiles and our house made sweet soy. It is then topped with an organic poached egg and herbs.
What's on tap for the future?
Hainanese chicken rice is just one of the thousands of dishes in Asian cuisine. However, there are only a small handful of restaurants in this country specializing in it, so we're kind of pioneering this dish. We are all about creating that "life changing moment" for our guests. Chicken rice is a type of soul food that can exist in any city. There has been a lot of interest to grow this, so we are looking forward to things progressing.