If the idea of warm, freshly made empanadas gets your mouth watering, we’ve got good news for you.
The team behind Ki Ramen, Chefs Roger Li and Domenic Branduzzi, plans to open a new eatery called Ki Pollo later this month. The new venture, a quick service casual restaurant, will feature fresh-made empanadas and Korean-style fried chicken.
Ki Pollo will open at 4407 Butler St. (formerly Restaurant Hana) just two doors down from Ki Ramen which launched in August. The new space, currently under construction, will have seating for 30, as well as a service window that opens directly to the sidewalk.
Li’s wife, Claudia Moyano, who currently runs the kitchen at Umami (Li’s other restaurant), will be the managing partner and head chef for this new project. “I love the vibe of this place already and we haven’t even opened yet,” she said as she gave us a quick tour of the interior which is still taking shape.
Diners will place orders at the counter and then watch through a glass partition as empanadas are being made. Six kinds of empanadas will be featured including three with meat and three vegetarian (made with a vegan dough). Each will be shaped differently depending on what’s inside.
Instead of Southern-style fried chicken, Ki Pollo will offer Korean-style fried chicken made with gochujang red pepper sauce and soy. Korean-style chicken — typically juicy inside with a thinner crust — will be available as two, four and six pieces with other sauce options. For those who want it all, there will be a combo platter with both chicken and empanadas. Instead of biscuits, Ki Pollo will serve scallion bao buns on the side.
“We buy local as much as possible and everything will be made in-house including the dough for the empanadas,” says Li, noting the similar concept behind Ki Ramen where noodles are made from scratch on the premises.
The fried chicken will come with the option for additional sauces like chimichurri and tamarind BBQ, both house-made.
The busy chef-owners cooked up the idea for Ki Pollo during the construction phase of Ki Ramen when the neighboring space became available. Moyano, who is Argentinian, previously made empanadas for Adda cafe in Shadyside in addition to her work at Umami. Now she will focus all of her effort on the new restaurant.
Li and Branduzzi will continue to oversee Ki Ramen as well as their individual restaurants on Butler St., Umami (Li) and Picollo Forno (Branduzzi).