Saturday, April 9, 2011

Kenny Rogers says Hi to Hainanese

When we went to Power Plant Mall last night to watch a movie, we decided to get dinner beforehand. We are big fans of Kenny Rogers Roasters, or Kenny's as we affectionately call it. I like how they blend healthy options and tasty meals under one roof. Mabie had told me that they now offer Hainanese chicken, so we thought we'd try it out for ourselves.

Kenny's serves one-quarter orders of the chicken paired with rice for PhP200. The rice itself is attractively garnished with cucumber slices, a parsley sprig and dried garlic flakes, and a small bowl of soup is served along with it. Accompanying the chicken are the ubiquitous three sauces: rich soy sauce, minced ginger sauce, and a very mild chili paste. Kudos to the Power Plant Mall branch for having our order served very quickly.

We've sampled Toast Box's Hainanese chicken as our very first experience of this Singaporean staple, and we were absolutely floored by the tastes and textures woven into this very humble food. That's our benchmark, then. 

How does Kenny's version fare? Unfortunately, it was slightly disappointing. 

Taste-wise, Hainanese chicken isn't far removed from our very own tinolang manok, so it's not that hard to pick apart and appreciate. That said, we think Kenny's stuck too closely to its signature roasting techniques preparing this, quick serving time aside. The chicken itself seems a bit overcooked and dry, without the characteristic savory moistness of either dish. It's as if the meat got squeezed out of its juices and served on the plate, with the liquid served separately as a soup. It might make for a "healthier" version of the dish but it's not quite as satisfying on the palate. 

Another thing: because the chicken is less flavorful and savory by itself, the rich soy sauce that would probably have been okay paired with more traditional Hainanese chicken suddenly overpowers Kenny's version. The best of the three sauces was the minced ginger. The chili paste was simply too mild to make an impression.

Kenny Rogers Roasters Hainanese chicken rice @ PhP200 per quarter-chicken order.
Chicken rice is not complete without its rice, and here Kenny's also comes out wanting. Maybe it's a nod to a more Filipino version of this dish that they used what looks almost like a dry sinangag (fried rice) and garlic flakes. It's not a bad combination to go with the chicken, but it just doesn't shout authentic Hainanese chicken rice, just like the rest of this dish.

Kenny's Hainanese chicken rice is simply okay, but it needs a little improvement here and there and we do hope we've been of help. We'll probably stick to ordering what we think they do best: good roast chicken, their signature classic corn muffins, a surprisingly good, heavy cheeseburger, and a nice platter of roasted salmon. Can't go wrong with any of those!


  1. i think i'll stick to their cheeseburger or roast chicken. i'll just look for another resto with a better hainan chicken rice.

  2. I agree with all the points you've written. It was just like eating tinolang manok at a more sosyal setting. Perhaps we'll try chicken rice again soon but this time from another restaurant just to compare the taste. :)

  3. It seems weird for me that they're offering this...

  4. @pinkcookies and rose:
    Both Toast Box (GB5, Trinoma) and President in Binondo serve up a pretty mean and juicy plate of Hainanese chicken rice; I'd recommend both. I've never been to Singapore and tasted the real thing yet though.

    My impression so far is if you do go to Singapore, chicken rice isn't anything sosyal at all :p Most of Singapore's signature cuisine started out as blue-collar workers' fare supposedly.

    Maybe Kenny's saw it as a "natural" market to branch out into as it's also a chicken place? Seems like the most logical explanation to me...

  5. It's too bad, their chicken didn't live up to your expectations :( Actually, Kenny's has been disappointing me throughout all these years. Their food pics look absolutely great on their ads and on the tube. Unfortunately, I have never been impressed with the taste of their chicken :( baka iba lang talaga ang type ko.

  6. @JM: yeah in SG, chicken rice is nothing sosyal but really yummy :) my friend said the best chicken rice is the one you order in makati. i think 1 whole chicken (w/ sauces and rice) is around P900 but really sulit! i think we're trying that out when we have a family gathering since it's big daw.. and you order in advance i think.

    anyway Shiok (the fort) serves good chicken rice also.

  7. hhmm daming tataas kilay sa HCR, pero at least very convenient na din if youre craving for one ;)


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