On Massive Formosan Fillets: Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, Eastwood City Walk 2
Large fried chicken is a popular snack in Taiwan's night markets. Usually made of butterflied chicken fillets, these are breaded and fried twice before getting a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and chili powder. While this is usually eaten by itself, it also works with rice.
Hot Star Large Fried Chicken is among the Taiwanese fried chicken joints that emerged here in the Philippines years ago. Hot Star prides itself as the creator of the XXXL fried chicken since its inception in 1992. This restaurant already had an established presence in major countries worldwide such as Australia, Singapore, and the United States prior to entering the Philippine market.
Hot Star's foray in Manila started in 2014, with a substantial amount of its locations being stand-alone ones. This branch at Eastwood City Walk 2 was among those first outlets, which I first visited in 2015. As of 2022, however, most of its branches are located in the food courts of major malls.
Diners who enter Hot Star were treated to the unforgettable scent of freshly fried chicken and spices. While the lower floor accommodated a limited number of diners, its upper level had more space. A function room was also available, but was opened for other diners depending on the need.
Staff members gave customers RFID coasters that vibrated when their order was ready. The joint initially started off with a gravy dispenser for dine-in customers, but this was later scrapped. Enough of the introductions and on with the food.
Let's begin with this Chicken Pops Meal consisting of Hot Star's chicken pops, a cup of rice, gravy and a regular-sized drink. These bite-sized chicken pieces were as flavorful as their bigger counterparts. The Blue Lemonade that came with the order washed down the chicken's taste. I frequently had this meal on tight days as it was rather filling for its price.
The BBQ Chicken Skin consisted of chicken skins strung on a skewer and fried in the same manner as the signature large chicken. It only had one flavor, and the frying process rendered the chicken skin rather tough. Nevertheless, it still whetted the appetite. The BBQ Chicken Skin was later modified into the Chicharrones, vinegar-flavored bite-sized chicken skin pieces for diners to snack on.
Now, onto the signature items that made Hot Star famous. The Original Large Fried Chicken lived up to its XXXL size, bigger than my left hand. The joint later added a glaze option for added flavor. On the other hand, the Crispy Large Chicken was simply breaded unlike the original variant. It remained flavorful as the main attraction, nevertheless.
The Large Crispy Fish, meanwhile, substituted cream dory (Pangasius) fillet for the chicken. I would recommend this the least, given that it came with the smell of bleach. Apparently, these fillets were treated with antibacterial solution to prevent the growth of foodborne pathogens.
Hot Star later offered the Cheese Bomb during a revamp of its menu. This was a smaller version of the Original Large Fried Chicken with stringy mozzarella cheese inside. I paired it with the teriyaki glaze for that hint of sweetness, but I still had some gravy at the ready. Apparently, the sweet glaze and the savory cheese cancelled each other out – leaving the chicken taste behind.
I managed to eat there years after I first reviewed the joint in 2015, becoming a frequent joint I dine at during paydays. However, I started working from home in March 2020 and only got to dine there again in December of that year.
Almost two years later, our office finally had an in-person get-together at Eastwood City. I arrived there early after finishing my shift at a nearby co-working space, so I decided to roam around. Out of curiosity, I decided to pay Hot Star a visit – only to see this.
Truly, nothing lasts forever. Hot Star's Eastwood Citywalk 2 branch joined the many restaurants that eventually folded for good amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But looking at it now, the enclave where Hot Star is located is known for rather high rental rates — which impacted several other establishments during the pandemic's early days," I replied to a fellow blogger who learned about this disappointing turn of events.
At least this entry immortalized that joint one way or another.
Until the next post.