When it comes to business strategy, there’s a maxim that applies near-universally to just about any industry, and it goes: do one thing and do it well. Sage advice for those seeking efficiency, optimization, and just about all things antithetical to having fun and going-with-the-flow, which is likely why it’s advice that Chef Kenny Gilbert has obstinately ignored with each new restaurant, including his latest endeavor, Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar, tucked away on an otherwise-quiet corner of Springfield.
To be clear, Silkie’s is a fried-chicken-and-champagne spot, insofar as you can in fact, procure some of the most flawlessly fantastic fried chicken in town and wash it down with a glass of sparkling wine, but it’s also a whatever-the-f***-Kenny-Gilbert-feels-like-cooking kind of spot.
While the core menu adheres faithfully to the chicken and biscuits theme, the daily specials are a dizzying, genre-defying, and dare I say delightful potpourri of flavors, cuisines, and fusions you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find alongside such fare. Shawarma-spiced lamb shoulder, chicken tikka masala, garlic shrimp boil, jerk chicken tostadas–nothing and nowhere is off-limits.
This is classic Kenny Gilbert at his best and most unapologetic self and it doesn’t stop there…
Does the mere mention of the word truffle make your heart flutter? Well get a load of Sillkie’s Spring Chicken & Biscuits Date Night Special. In addition to a healthy helping of 24-hour brined fried chicken, two sides, dessert, a pile o’ pickles, and a bottle of house bubbles, the special features truffle gouda biscuits, something called Truffle Triple Threat Sauce, and you guessed it, Truffle Mac & cheese.
Decadent drop biscuits occupy a prominent position second only to the flagship fried chicken. Dense and cakey rather than layered and flakey, these are not your grandmother’s biscuits, unless you’re going to sit there with a straight face and tell me your nana was whipping up truffle-gouda or plantain-ginger biscuits on Sunday morning. And yes, of course, because there are no rules, you can absolutely get a slab of seared fois gras on your biscuit.
While all of it sounds intriguing, I chose the Market Street Sampler for my introductory Silkie’s experience, featuring a mix of fried chicken, jerk chicken, and chicken salad with a couple biscuits, a trio of sauces to sample, and pickles. Sized for “one to two,” it easily pulls double-duty with a few additions from the sides menu, which stand strong on their own merits and are sure to satisfy even the pickiest vegetarian sensibilities. Pesto and sea salt gently cling to verdant, snappy green beans and turnips steamed just until tender. Baby bok choy gets a funky, spicy Korean treatment with fermented black bean paste and a sticky gochujang honey sauce. But whatever you do, don’t pass up the watermelon-lychee salad, a savory-sweet textural masterpiece that serves as a nice palate cleanser.
If I didn’t already know Chef Gilbert’s pedigree or his reputation for bucking expectations with consistently flawless results, I’d take one look at Silkie’s menu and insist that there’s no way that such a restaurant could function, much less be any good whatsoever. But such is the genius of Kenny Gilbert. Toques off, once again.
This Bold Bites feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s June 2021 issue.