Day: August 27th, 2007

BonChon chicken

Monday, August 27th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

I’ve had Korean fried chicken on my mind ever since missing my opportunity the night of JL’s birthday dinner last month and then driving past the Northern Boulevard outlets last weekend. So for tonight, as S, J and I were considering our usual K-town haunts, the choice seemed obvious: BonChon Chicken! (Not to be confused with Bon Bon Chicken downtown on Chambers.)

Shortly before 8PM, despite being armed with the restaurant’s address (314 Fifth Avenue), I very nearly walked right past it. BonChon rather unusually occupies the second floor of what appeared from the sidewalk to be an office building. (Throughout Asia, in cities where space is at a premium, such set-ups are not unusual at all; in Hong Kong’s Times Square, fully the top four floors of the high-rise complex are restaurants.) Once I established that I was indeed in the right building, I entered through a nondescript lobby, up a flight of narrow, rather dingy stairs, and opened the heavy door to thumping beats and a neon lit bar.

BonChon Chicken

BonChon Chicken

S and J arrived soon after I did, and the three of us co-opted a small seating area with a low table in front of the dining room window overlooking Fifth — more lounge than restaurant, really — as we waited for the rest of the party to show. Through the glass we could see directly across the street into the swankily-lit Third Floor Cafe, another similar hidden spot catering to a predominantly Korean clientele. ($12 AYCE/AYCD happy hours? Can that be true?) As we perused our menus, we were struck by how different it was from every other Korean place we’d been. Here, the offerings seemed better suited for grazing than for a full meal. The rather pricy drink menu (beer, wine, soju, cocktails) was extensive, and seemed to encourage heavy imbibing; the menu reflected that as well: to supplement our platters of fried chicken: dried fish and squid, rosemary fries(?), nachos(??) and spicy rice cake (dduk boki) with… cheese(???) That last, J surmised, is something like the Korean version of Chef Boyardee. We ordered it anyway, of course, and the plate that arrived did look to me suspiciously like baked ziti.

True to the bar food experience, the chicken is available as wings, drumsticks, or a combination of both, in a choice of either soy/garlic or spicy sauces. The accompanying cubes of pickled radish went a long way toward cooling our tingling mouths after hearty samples of the latter, which was probably our slight favorite of the night. Likewise, the steel bucket with which we were provided made a considerate vessel for the copious bones, picked clean of their deliciousness.

Despite not being nearly drunk enough to best appreciate this cuisine, we all found BonChon’s chicken quite good: crunchy, flavorful, and about as ungreasy as fried chicken can be. The effect is achieved by frying the lightly dredged pieces in two separate stages, at relatively low temperature, which renders the skin fat into a crisp, paper-thin coating.

The low lights made photographing our food nearly impossible without employing the ambience-destroying flash, so if you simply must get a visual, check out some other people’s shots on flickr.

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