August 30, 2009
We here at Metromix have a new restaurant crush: Wings and Rice. It’s one of those rare international hodgepodges that works—well. Read our review of Wings and Rice and, we’re betting, you’ll want to head there soon, too. OK, no actual money is exchanging hands here at MMX central, but that’s only because we need it for more chicken wings.
Address: 5502 E. Pima, Tucson, AZ, 85712
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
What we ordered: one pork katsu combo ($9.99) upgraded to fried rice ($1.00) and one barbecue ribs with white rice ($7.99) for a total of $18.98, just short of our Cheap Eats goal of $20 for two people.
Comments: From its Philly cheesesteaks and fried rice to the oversized island posters on the wall, Wings and Rice specializes in a mismatched, international appeal. The chicken wings have you thinking American, but the fried rice is mostly Chinese, the katsu is Japanese, the décor is Hawaiian and the stately bird on the logo oddly looks like the German Nazi eagle. Everything is out of whack.
When you go to a restaurant like this (or something close), it’s advisable to order the owner’s native cuisine. Unfortunately here, unless you ask, it’s hard to tell exactly what that is. It wasn’t until we were midway into our $7.99 kalbi beef shank that an employee told us the owners were Korean.
Food: Wings and Rice is notable because it very well may be the only place in town that serves authentic Korean fried chicken. That may sound like another bastardized food concept, but apparently this delicacy is huge in Korea and has evolved into a major cuisine in cities like New York. Lani’s Luau on the East Side claims to serve Korean chicken wings, but they don’t have the batter that these do.
The five wings that came with our combo were covered with sesame teriyaki sauce, but tasted more like miniature KFC drumsticks. Wings and Rice serves a variety of chicken wings, from the classic buffalo to a spicy garlic parmesan, and these plump wonders had me itching to try all of them.
Not to mention, these wings were insanely cheap. For $10.99, we got five of them along with a gigantic plate of pork katsu (fried and breaded pork), a heap of the most delicious fried rice in the world and a fountain soda. The plate usually comes with chicken katsu, but the server obliged to sub it for no extra charge.
Instead of coming with a side of the standard katsu sauce (like a dark barbeque sauce), the pork came with a thin pink topping that tasted like a tangier Thousand Island. The sauce was very good, but wore thin and had to be scraped off after a while.
As stated, the fried rice on this dish was absolutely amazing. It should be ordered at all costs. It had a ton of small egg scrambles mixed in, as well as tiny carrot shards to give it a crispy texture. There was also a rich sauce
mixed in that was similar to the katsu topping, but the employee said the sauce is a secret recipe.
The kalbi barbecue beef ribs were an excellent deal, but were slightly more boring than the namesake wings. A dish like is this almost always more expensive—upwards of $20 for dinner—at sit-down restaurants like Korea House or Takamatsu. The selection here was just a little thinner and less juicy, but still good. The kalbi also came with steamed rice and a standard potato salad—almost like a Hawaiian plate lunch.
Service: You order at the counter and pick up your food when it’s ready.
Bottom line: The diversity of the entrees here didn’t disgust or drive us away—it only makes us want to come back to try everything out. This is one of the rare cases where an ethnic hodgepodge actually works. But then again, we haven’t tried the hamburger yet.