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Koo Koo Roo: Something to Crow About

August 25, 1988|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

Once in a while a fast food restaurant comes along whose product catches my eye; Koo Koo Roo's skinless char-broiled chicken is one.

How do you like that for keeping up with the latest health messages to avoid fried foods and eat chicken without skin so that you can cut down on calories, fat and cholesterol? More importantly, this could be the beginning of a new trend for fast food chicken. Others are bound to respond to the koo-koo-roo of the times.

But does Koo Koo Roo's skinless chicken taste good?

Yes, it does taste good. Spicy, but not fiery, and nice and brown outside so you don't know the skin is missing.

I would not have been alerted to Koo Koo Roo's chicken had I not bumped into Mike Badlian at Cedar-Sinai hospital's seventh floor lounge, while visiting patients a year or so back.

"What are you doing now?" I asked Mike, whom I had met when he was co-owner of Bistango, a posh French bistro in Beverly Hills and a far cry from a fast food skinless chicken restaurant.

He said he was into healthful fast food--skinless chicken that also tastes good, and side dishes that are made without oil or fat.

"No fat, no cholesterol and all low-cal," he said.

"Good," I said, "you probably will end up with a low-cal chicken fast food national chain."

"As a matter of fact I'm working on a prototype," he said.

So that's how I found out about Koo Koo Roo, Badlian's concept of healthful fast-food chicken. Then, recently, a notice came in the mail about Koo Koo Roo's skinless chicken, so I checked it out.

No frying, no breading, or coating, no preservatives or additives, says the blurb on the menu. The chicken is marinated in vegetable juices and char-broiled over open flames. Don't ask about the spices used in the marinade. They won't tell you. It's a trade secret. But if you've had El Pollo Loco, the taste is not too far off.

On to the side orders, which are also included when ordering a chicken combo or family pack. The cucumber and onion salad has a Middle Eastern twist that also is recognizable in the warm eggplant salad. The cucumber is crisp and refreshing and eggplant salad is a mashed mixture with a lovely spice to pick it up. It can be eaten as a salad or as topping for chicken or other sandwiches. Pinto and Northern beans also are available. I loved the cracked wheat that is served warm and used instead of rice or noodles. So far, no fat, no cholesterol.

Edible Platter and Wrapper

All the chicken pieces are served on a "platter" of Koo Koo Roo bread, which is actually a soft sheet of bread baked in a clay oven, which Indians and Persians call tandoor and Arabs kbuz marook. The huge sheets are used throughout the Middle Eastern world as both edible platter and wrapper for all kinds of foods, much as you would tortillas. It's an excellent unleavened bread, probably one of the first baked breads of mankind--the same bread probably eaten by Moses and Jesus Christ, as well as Babylonians, Phoenicians, Indians and Persians. No fat, no cholesterol there, either.

At Koo Koo Roo you get three pieces of white and dark chicken (breast and wing, leg and thigh) for $2.99 and 12 pieces for $10.99. The combos include two pieces of chicken with two side orders for $2.89 or 4 pieces for $4.99. You also can order chicken wings with side orders for $3.79. But be warned that the wings (and only the wings) have skins attached for those who like some chicken skin to nibble on. You can pull it off if bothered. The family pack costs $10.79 for eight pieces of chicken with two large side orders, or 12 pieces with three side orders for $15.59. Not bad for fast food chicken prices.

There is one dessert: frozen yogurt, also low-calorie, low-cholesterol and low-fat for 79 cents a serving. Orange- and pina colada-flavored drinks are among the usual regular and diet sodas, milk and coffee. The place is spanking new and clean in a spanking new, unfinished shopping mall in an area filled with other chicken fast food places. But don't be surprised if you see the Koo Koo Roo logo chicken winking at you in other locations around the city, state and country before long. And, oh, yes. Koo Koo Roo. That's the sound chickens make when they crow. Also, maybe the sound you'll hear from Badlian when and if his prototype flies.

Koo Koo Roo, 3450 W. 6th St. (213) 383-6414. Open seven days, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., eat in or take out. No checks or credit cards. Reservations not necessary. Mall parking. Catering available.

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