"Our new Specialty Chicken is one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had," said Russell Weiner, Domino's Pizza chief marketing officer. "Our pizza chefs have taken chicken to a whole new level, using our unique ingredients to create these four bold flavors. There's nothing quite like Domino's Specialty Chicken on the market today. We are proud to be known as a pizza company, but Specialty Chicken shows we are not afraid to step out of our comfort zone and take risks – something that is truly part of our brand fabric," said Weiner. "Not every risk we have taken has turned out to be successful, but as a brand we have learned that sometimes you have to fail in order to be great."
xoFOOD: A Review of Domino's New Specialty Chicken
By now you've all been made aware of Domino’s newest creation, the ambiguously named “Specialty Chicken.” Described as “our boneless chicken covered in toppings, sauces, and cheeses,” this product raises the question “WHY?”
According to the press release, it has something to do with “not being afraid to fail:”
If you’re thinking “So it’s just chicken nuggets with stuff on them?” you get it completely.
It is just chicken nuggets with stuff on them.
I get where they’re coming from, it’s kind of like the pizza version of the (once again available) Double Down, but if I’m not going to order pizza from a pizza place the thing that I do order should be better than the pizza. Because even crappy pizza is better than mediocre other food.
Anyway, I ordered all four flavors (Crispy Bacon & Tomato, Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple, Classic Hot Buffalo and Sweet BBQ Bacon) because that’s what I do and hoped for the best. I almost added an actual pizza to the order as a backup option, but thought that would just be too ridiculous.
It would not have been, as it turns out, too ridiculous.
First of all, the chicken itself was not good at all. It tasted like frozen, grocery-store chicken nuggets that had been reheated in a not-quite-hot-enough oven. They weren't crispy and the breading was bland. If you are going to take away my pizza dough, you had better replace it with something that doesn't taste like it came out of a resealable plastic bag.
Let’s talk flavors.
Crispy Bacon & Tomato
The twelve all-white previously frozen chicken bites are ostensibly topped with garlic parmesan white sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, crispy bacon and tomato.
I didn't really pick up on the sauce at all. Besides being super salty, everything was pretty bland. Later, when I was just peeling off the cheese and bacon and eating that, I did notice some sort of white residue. It didn't really contribute anything, flavor-wise, but it did make the breading a little soggy.
Classic Hot Buffalo
Ah yes, the “classic.” I actually would have enjoyed this if the chicken had been better, if there had just been some crunch to the breading it would have made a huge difference. With every bite I was reminded of dino-shaped chicken nuggets, and it was frankly very distracting.
Not that I hate dino-shaped nuggets, they’re fine I guess when you’re expecting them. But I was not expecting them. I was expecting some crispy chicken with delicious pizza-like toppings!
But I digress. This one was topped with “classic hot buffalo sauce, ranch, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, and feta.” I actually got most of, if not all of those flavors. The ranch was the least noticeable, but I got a nice amount of heat and thought that the feta was a nice touch.
Spicy Jalapeño – Pineapple
I was very excited about this one. I’m a huge fan of pineapple on pizza (HATERS TO THE LEFT) and thought that this could be a wonderful spicy/sweet combination.
This flavor is described as being“topped with sweet and spicy mango-habanero sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, jalapeno and pineapple.”
I totally missed the sauce. Did not pick up any mango or habanero. Maybe it contributed a bit of heat, but any of that was covered up by the spiciness of the jalapeño. I did love the combination of pineapple and jalapeño, though. I will be ordering that on a PIZZA soon.
Sweet BBQ Bacon
I feel like Domino’s thinks that every sauce needs at least two adjectives, whether warranted or not. For example, this Specialty Chicken is topped with “sweet and smoky BBQ sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, and crispy bacon.”
The BBQ sauce was indeed sweet (though not overly so) but I detected none of this “smoke” they speak of. The rest of it was pretty predictable. It was cheesy and salty and the bacon tasted like bacon.
Did I mention the chicken was terrible? Because the chicken was terrible.
I guess these weren't the worst things I've ever put in my mouth, but as far as stunt foods go, they were pretty disappointing. The stunt food market is very competitive. If you’re going to go against the Doritos taco, you better have something truly innovative to contribute. And if you want to show the world that you're a "legitimate player in the chicken business," know this: KFC has a goddamn CHICKEN CORSAGE. That’s right, fried chicken you can tie around your wrist like the flower that it is.
So maybe just stick to pizza, Domino’s. I enjoyed Pizza Hut's last little stunt, but that’s because it was pizza with little alcoves full of MORE CHEESE. Maybe explore "more cheese."
In the end, after eating about two pieces of each flavor, I felt pretty terrible. Not even that good, over-full, greasy but satisfied kind of terrible. I felt just plain terrible. And I felt unsatisfied, because the whole time I was eating Specialty Chicken, I was thinking “This could have been pizza, Claire. This could have been a PIZZA.” Eventually I just started eating the toppings (the most pizza-like part).
I guess it's good you're not afraid of failing, Domino's.