Saturday, 10 May 2008

WINGSTREET ~ Ottawa

Question: Can a commercially developed chicken wing be as good as a fresh, specialized wing from a pub?



Is WingStreet really an intense taste zone? Actually, WS is a bit of a mystery, at least here in Canada. Well, at least to me. One day I was on a street car in Toronto, and I saw a Pizza Hut with a new sign and a symbol of 3 buildings on a street. What was this place? I went to Pizza Hut's website, but found nothing. I've had PH's wings before - tiny tiny pigeon wings with a baked in sauce . . . so were they trying to market these, or was this WS a whole new breed?

Flash forward probably a year of more, and more of these mysterious Pizza Hut/Wing Street (WS) combo have popped up. People have asked me if I had tried it, but I never knew one near me. To make matters worse, I couldn't find them via Internet. What I did find was the American website. It's a bit annoying, telling me constantly to "Do it - it's intense" "Do it . . . DO IT!!!", as in to order online. But there was no information about WS in Canada; what's the deal with PH/WS, what it was doing there, where to find it, and what I could get there.

For a wing aficionado, this was extremely frustrating.



Well, in Ottawa I've passed 2 PH's in my travels, and one evening, my curiosity got the better of me. Inside, in the take-out area of PH was a big WS menu, and a large poster by the bathroom advertising WS. Aside from the signs on the restaurant itself, I have seen no advertisements for WS here - no flyers, tv ads or even word of mouth. A sign by the bathroom is not enough in my opinion.

This particular location was busy. Actually, this location has some timing issues - even though there are lots of staff, the food is slow. While I was there, I overheard Courtney, the server, trying to re-assure people on the phone that their delivery orders were on their way. I asked Courtney about WS while I waited. She explained to me that the reason Pizza Hut did not advertise WS on their website was because not all PH locations had WS. They were also owned separately by a group called 'Rose' something (can't remember now).



I later contacted PH. While they were very quick in their response, they were pretty sparse in their information. "The Canadian website is not yet set up to reflect any information about Wing Street. The reason behind that is that not all Pizza Huts have Wing Streets attached with them and information is limited." But he didn't explain why there was no specific website for WS in Canada on its own, only stating that they would "forward your interest in Wing Street to our Pizza Hut marketing team for future consideration." Said Mr Munshaw of Customer Communication Representative of Yum! Restaurants International (Canada) (who own PH). PH's website is bad enough in not giving much information either.

I wanted to find out about more locations and what was served but that was all un answered. Courtney had given me the take-out menu which had pricing and sauces etc. There wasn't a whole lot to choose from, but definitely better looking than the old PH wings (which they still serve).

They come in 3 styles: Traditional (which is a simple deep fried wing), Bone-In (breaded then deep fried wing) and Bone-Out (basically a chicken finger dipped in sauce). I went with Bone-in, as this seemed to be the specialty, or at least what they showed in all their pictures.

I got an order of Heat Seeker (I asked for their hottest sauce, this is what Courtney suggested - although the receipt said Burning Hot . . . which is what I think it used to be called) and an order of Spicy BBQ. I meant to get Honey BBQ to get a bit different flavour, but Spicy came out and I didn't bother correcting myself. After waiting for at least 30 mins (I told you this location was slow) I had my wings, and I was off to home to enjoy my wings and a little Battlestar Galactica.

2008 THE SCORE 3.0: WingStreet (linked with Pizza Hut) Ottawa (Napean)

STYLE:

  • ‘traditional’ – non-breaded, deep fried wings
  • ‘bone-in’ – breaded, deep fried
  • ‘bone-out’ – chicken fingers sauced

a pizza wing

PRICE:

$8.99 for 10 (regular)

$16.99 for 20 (family size)

$32.99 for 40 (party size)

SAUCES:

  • Mild
  • Heat Seeker
  • Honey BBQ
  • Spicy BBQ
  • Totally Teriyaki
  • Cajun

0/1

HEAT:

Heat seeker gave a bit of a tingle, caused more of a cough

SIZE:

Medium-large for a pizza wing

2/3

WETNAP FACTOR:

drowning

1/3

CRISPINESS:

Chewy – but surprisingly crispy despite the bath

1.5/3

FLAVOUR:

Strange – not overly welcoming, syrupy

1/3

SIDES:

n/a although you could add 1lb of taters for $3.99

CLEAN UP:

n/a

WING NIGHT:

n/a

OTHER:

TOTAL:

I’d be willing to try again, but definetly sauce on the side . . .

5.5/13

The size of the wings were good - they were a medium to large wing with breading. The meat was relatively tender, but I was very confident they were a frozen wing. The breading was surprisingly crunchy/chewy - despite the lake of sauce they came in. Even the leftovers the next day still kept their solid texture. It reminded me of the sweet and sour pork you get at Canadian Chinese buffets - it sits in that sauce all day and night, but the structural integrity remains strong. This was definetely the highlight of the wing.
After opening the container, the smell of the wings was strong. Both flavours. There was so much sauce, and they were both dark and very very syrupy.


HEAT SEEKER: (See picture above)

First, this sauce name is trademarked. That's right. Not that I don't understand, I like it as a wing sauce name and I'm surprised I've never heard it. Again, the reciept calls it Burning Hot, but I know its official name is Heat Seeker.

I dove into my first wing quickly, I didn't even savour the wing. The second one I took in the aroma, tasted the wing with a little more sophistication. I took a bite and the sauce hit me in the back of the throat, right at the top - burned a hole like I have never felt before. I had a caughing fit for 2 minutes. Not that it was so spicy, but just a burn in it. Now I did have a tingle from some heat, but every time I take the sauce, I begin to caugh and my throat scratches. As for the flavour, it was strange. Syrup but not sweet - I couldn't identify a single ingredient. But I would definetely pass on this sauce.

SPICY BBQ:

This was a typical BBQ sauce with a bit of a kick. It was basically a Bullseye type BBQ sauce, with some capiscasum added to give it a little burn. The pain was the same as Heat Seeker, mild numbing that didn't last a long time. While it was like Bullseye, it too was very syrupy in texture. A decent sauce, but I don't see why it won the 2007 annual Atlanta Wings Festival, Best BBQ Sauce. Granted the American WS might have a different sauce, but this wasn't anything unique.



I would eat one or two of the Heat Seeker, get sick of them, then switch to the Spicy BBQ, then back. I didn't want them so badly that I would eat a whole order. I was more interested in the Cylons on tv than I was eating the wings, and that says a lot.



FINAL SCORE: The sauces I would pass on. Mmm, maybe I would go for Spicy BBQ, but I think I would try the Honey BBQ and Cajun, if I were to get them again. I would also get them with sauce on the side - as I couldn't even try the wings on their own. I think the breading and chicken was decent, but I don't plan to go to WingStreet in Anytown Canada any time soon. Maybe WingStreet USA is better. I won't be going down this street any time soon.

The answer to the question: no, but keep on trying WingStreet, keep on trying.
5.5/13



Wing Street / Pizza Hut
1550 Merivale Road, Ottawa (Napean)
pizzahut.ca / wingstreet.com (USA only)

1 comment:

London's finest said...

I just had some wing street wings today. I agree with your description of being a weird flavour, looks, smells like chicken wing, but it could actually be deep fried cylon meat..

SO, you have time to call up Pizza Hut Corporate, but you can't call your friends in London.... wow. Really?

In case you're wondering, yes, Randy is alive. did you hear about the earthquake? More importantly, do you care?

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