After issues with the installation of a ventilation system forced delay after delay at Viet Pham’s new restaurant, Pretty Bird, crews working there thought the space might be cursed.

Turns out, that was little more than superstition.

Since the Nashville-style hot chicken shop on Regent Street in downtown Salt Lake City opened in late February, it’s sold out every day.

And for good reason. Pretty Bird chicken isn’t just some fowl dredged in flour and fried — anyone can do that, Pham says. Instead, Pretty Bird serves complex flavors and textures all working harmoniously to deliver the perfect bite.

Anyone familiar with Pham’s background — “Iron Chef” winner, Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, former co-owner/chef of Salt Lake City’s Forage — would expect no less, even with the seemingly stark change of pace.

“With Pretty Bird, there’s a lot of fine dining technique that goes into it. … Fried chicken is a great vehicle to mask that because it’s so unpretentious,” he said.

Even with the construction delays and a bit of struggle naming his concept — inspiration struck while watching Utah-filmed “Dumb and Dumber” — Pham says the most difficult part of launching Pretty Bird was coming up with the four levels of spices: mild, medium, hot and hot “behind,” a nod to the phrase used in kitchens when carrying hot food.

“It’s taken me five years to develop,” he said. “The hard part is figuring out the ratios and harmony.”

His top seller, the chicken sandwich ($10.50, $15 with side and drink), speaks perfectly to that balance.

Stuffed within a soft yet sturdy roll custom made by Eva’s Bakery, you’ll find a juicy boneless chicken thigh battered, fried and seasoned to your preferred spice level, as well as pickles, a cider slaw and a buttermilk-based PB sauce. One mouthful reveals layers of flavor and texture, including a heat and sweetness in the unctuous and crispy coating, varying levels of sour in the crunchy pickles and slaw, and a bright burst of lemon in the creamy condiment.

Although most customers order the sandwich, Pham wishes more people tried the quarter bird ($9.50, $14 combo). His team prepares the portions — either breast and wing or thigh and leg — the same way as the sandwich, but the bone-in cuts help lock in some flavor and tenderness.

If you’re a purist, you’ll enjoy pulling the meat off the bones with your fingers, then licking them clean. And if you really want your mind blown, don’t forget to eat the bread that sits beneath the bird — it soaks up all the juices and spices into highly concentrated bites that rival the batter itself.

PRO TIPS

• Each piece of chicken is brushed with a flavored oil before it’s dusted with spices. You might be tempted to smell it, but don’t. Inhaling the powder won’t be pleasant.

• Long lines form quickly, so if you don’t want to wait and want a good shot at grabbing a seat inside, the best times to show up are 11 a.m., when the restaurant opens; 2 p.m., after the lunch crowd dies down; and 5 p.m., when it reopens for dinner.

Pretty Bird sells out every day. You can find out whether you’re too late via Instagram: @prettybirdchicken. Any specials also will be posted there.

As far as the heat levels, medium will satisfy your need for spice while not overwhelming your taste buds. Hot definitely kicks it up a notch — I couldn’t handle it, but a friend barely broke a sweat. And hot behind, well, let’s just say it’s not so much of a stretch from hot, but it might literally leave you hot behind the next day.

Pham figures Pretty Bird’s hot behind rates as a medium in Nashville circles — and that’s about as far as he’s willing to go. Anything else would sacrifice the flavor.

That’s also why you won’t see mac and cheese or potato salad on the menu. Instead, you’ll find sides ($3-$3.50) that counter the richness of the fried chicken, including seasoned crinkle-cut fries and the cider slaw spun from ribbons of red cabbage and a squash swimming in a lemony brown butter. As the seasons change, Pham anticipates using more local produce.

Those looking for adult beverages have two options: Pabst Blue Ribbon and Ruza Rosé in a can.

I’ll register only one complaint.

With only 16 seats inside, Pretty Bird quickly becomes crowded, with patrons often forming a line down the street waiting to order and then vying for space once inside. Pham knows that might frustrate some, but he says it all plays into the experience.

At 525 square feet, the restaurant poses challenges for the Pretty Bird staff, too. With room for only two standing refrigerators, Pham’s team isn’t able to prep days ahead; instead, they fill each one up and start fresh every day.

Next month, he hopes to open the patio, creating 25-30 more seats, and introduce other styles of hot chicken each month, drawing on flavors from different regions.

Pham says he is still refining the menu, “trying to make it better every single day.” By his estimate, he’s 90 percent there.

I can’t wait to see what 100 percent tastes like.

★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

Pretty Bird

Salt Lake City chef Viet Pham returns to the dining scene with an elevated version of Nashville hot chicken. The menu focuses on two cuts of chicken — seasoned mild, medium, hot or hot “behind” — and just a few sides. Medium delivers just enough heat for conservative diners.

Food • ★★★★

Mood • ★★★

Service • ★★★ ½

Location • 146 S. Regent St., Salt Lake City

Online • https://prettybirdchicken.com

Hours • 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Children’s menu • No, but you can request no spice

Prices • $-$$

Liquor • Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ruza Rose canned wine

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes, order in person

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

On-site parking • No, paid parking garage nearby

Credit cards • Yes