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Bon Chon Chicken

All this talk of wings inspired me to finally check out some of the Korean fried chicken that I've been hearing about recently. I first read about it when The New York Times wrote about it. After writing the last post, I had a craving for more chicken wings, so I IM'ed Eric, who was down, obviously.

It's just around the corner from the main strip of Koreatown, 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. I knew it was on the second floor, so I was expecting a non-descript side door to get in. It was definitely non-descript - and totally sketchy. There was a hand-written sign next to the elevator that said, "Elevator was broken, use stairs. Bon Chon Chicken." I walked down the hall to the dark stairway with a broken first step and wondered exactly where the hell I was going. The second floor landing was unlit, all that was there was a single, unmarked door. I had no idea if this was the right place and sort of wondered what sort of hole it was going to be.

When I opened the door, the contrast couldn't have been more stark. There is a long shiny bar directly across from the door. The decor is industrial chic, looking more like it belongs in a giant loft space rather than a shabby office building. The walls are exposed brick and faux poured concrete. Iron work and plate glass divides the space and colored fluorescent lights hide in crevices in the walls and ceilings.

Eric and a co-worker were already there when I got there. We chit-chatted about the hidden entrance while we figured out what to eat. That took all of a minute.

The menu itself is very simple. At least the one that mattered. The chicken menu was a glossy postcard with photos of the food and a list of how it's served in English and Korean. The other menu had drinks and other dishes. We pretty much ignored that. Our waiter, seemingly the only one working there, was a young guy who sauntered over after a bit to see what we wanted. I had heard that the service was not so great and that the food took forever to show, but we had no problems at all with the 'relaxed' pace of things. The food showed up within 10 minutes, which was more than acceptable.

The chicken comes in large or medium sizes of wings, drumsticks, breast strips or the special, which is a little bit of everything. We ordered mediums in spicy and soy garlic.

First off, the medium is huge, a mountain crispy goodness. And I mean crispy. The breading was like a hard shell coating the meat with herbs and spices. I started with the spicy chicken which started hot and just got hotter after each bite. It wasn't numb your tongue hot, but I think it may have ruined my palate for the more subtle flavors of the soy garlic.

The texture is the most memorable part, though. Every bite had a gratifying crunch that resonated in my mouth. As we made our way through our piles, we all realized that we had gotten way too much food. Any reasonable person could have split a medium with someone else. Maybe we should have split two mediums between the three of us. I don't think I want to know what a large looks like, although I will be dreaming about it tonight.

We managed to polish off the majority of our monstrous portions without hurting ourselves. Getting anything done when we got back to work was going to be a whole other challenge.


BON CHON CHICKEN -- 314 Fifth Avenue (32nd Street), second floor, (212) 221-2222;

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Dear Mr. Ultraclay,

You just wrote a 9-paragraph food review that only spent five sentences talking about the taste and feel of the food. That's like describing a porno movie by talking about the set design.

What WERE the subtle flavors of the soy garlic? What kind of spicy were the spicy wings? Vinegary? Peppery? Did the heat playfully tickle the back of your mouth like a mischievious tiger gamely batting at the broad, overgrown leaves of a low-hanging jungle fern? Or was it a castigating, firey heat, passionate and forbidden as the love that enflamed Hester and consumed Dimmesdale? Or was it a vexing and scratchity heat, like when one wears a pair of woolen knickers in the middle of the afternoon on a humid summer's day?

Please, spend more time on such matters in your future writings.

Yours Truly,

Stank Butter
The Ambassador of Good Taste.

Nice. You make good points. I'm not sure I'm not sure if "mischievious tiger" is quite my style, but I get your point. I'll try to keep more focus on the food in the future.

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