New K-Town Bon Chon is More Than Just Fried Chicken
Now that the newish Koreatown location of Bon Chon has had a couple months to settle in, it’s time to really give them the once over. The opening was much more low-key than Kyochon’s, there haven’t been any lines out the door or anything, which is a good sign. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some long waits and service confusion. See what we’ve found after the jump.
The biggest problem with the new location is that they seem understaffed. Three people deal with seating dine-in customers, taking orders at the counter, providing table service, bussing tables and getting the food from the kitchen. It can get hectic quickly and often leads to long waits. That said, the staff is very friendly and helps as much as they can.
Really, what keeps me going back is the food.
The chicken is still as good as ever and is definitely coming out faster than I’ve ever seen it. I got this small, mixed, spicy order ($7.99) in maybe 10 minutes. At Mad For Chicken across the street, the same order of what’s basically the same chicken would take easily twice that time.
The shell is still a crispy, spicy candy coating and the flesh is juicy and delicious. The small, mixed order comes with one drumstick and 4 wings.
What really interested me from the initial reports was a more expansive menu (beyond the fried chicken.) I can’t say I’ve ever paid a lot of attention to what other food is on the menu at the other Korean Fried Chicken places. Given the ordeal usually involved with ordering and waiting, I typically only go when I’m craving that tasty tasty fried deliciousness.
Now that the chicken is so much easier to get, it’s time to explore the other options.
First up are the fabled bulgogi tacos. I’ve pined after these ever since I got had my first Kogi Taco in Los Angeles. We’ve seen them pop up at Sagaponack in Flatiron, and Chris H. has been investigating at Pro Hot Korean, Cafe Duke and Bann Next Door.
I don’t know that they quite fall under what I’d call a taco. narrow and fully wrapped, it’s sort of more like a skinny burrito filled with beef and aioli with a little lettuce thrown in. The tortilla is flour, which I’m not so into and the aioli is a little heavy, but it’s a step in the right direction.
One of my biggest complaints about the new Bon Chon is that they seem to be perpetually out of certain items on the menu. On no less than three occasions, I ordered the Pork Katsu and was told that they ran out. The first time that happened, I tried the Chicken Katsu, but it’s just not the same. I mean, katsu is schnitzel is milanese and at the end of the day it’s just going to be better with pork. This is no different. It was fine, if a little dry, but certainly not anything to get excited about.
On a later failed attempt to get Pork Katsu, I was recommended the scallion pancake by my waitress. I’d read plenty of commenters in the forums talk about scallion pancakes, but never tried them before. With no frame of reference, I can’t say how it compares to others’ but I certainly enjoyed it. Thick and cakey, it was filled with chili peppers, scallions and carrots adding spice and crunch to each bite. It’s more than likely the first vegetarian lunch I’ve had in years and I walked away surprisingly satisfied.
The waitress also offered me a couple other dips in addition to the sweet soy sauce that came with it. The chili aioli and the wasabi mayo were both tasty, but given how heavy the pancake was, I thought they were a bit much.
Bon Chon also serves beer, which may be just the right tension breaker on a particularly hectic day, but be careful which you order. They’ve got a mix of good craft beers and mass market stuff, but, like the katsu, they often seem to be out of the things on the menu. Worse, while they have happy hours selling $2 buds, the good stuff like the Hawaii’s Kona Longboard Lager costs a whopping $8!
Overall, the new Bon Chon still needs to work out some particulars, but has jumped a major hurdle with the speed of cranking out the chicken. The rest of the menu is pretty good and makes for a good alternative or addition to the fried chicken, but some consistency in what’s available would really help.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Korean Fried Chicken in 10 minutes? I’m there!
- I have to have a bulgogi taco even if it’s a burrito.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- The staff is small and can get really thrown off when they get slammed. Give these guys some help.
- Well over a month in, they’re still regularly out of dishes. Either stock enough or take them off the menu!
Bon Chon, 325 Fifth Ave (btw 32+33rd), 212-686-8282