Restaurant: BonChon Chicken
Last visited: September 4, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (Midtown West)
Address: 325 Fifth Ave
Nearby subway stops: 34th St – Herald Square
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 4 (based on what I tried, but 6 for wings)
- Since 2002
- Started in Seoul, Korea
- Few locations in New York
- Korean chain restaurant/bar
- Famous for fried chicken
- Organic chicken
- Modern Korean fusion menu
- Moderately priced
- Local favourite
- Posh/lively atmosphere
- Good for groups/snacks
- Good for the game
- Good for drinks/beer
- Open late
**Recommendations: BonChon Chicken Wings, Drumettes & Drumsticks
I didn’t get to explore too much of New York’s Korea Town also known as “K-Town”. It’s a great area if you’re looking for good eats at affordable prices, but you are limited to Korean cuisine. The street is lively and busy with Korean locals and tourists and it’s hard to determine what’s a good restaurant since they’re all pretty packed. But, I came in search for one specific restaurant, or one specific thing.
BonChon Chicken! This is a chain restaurant that started in Korea in 2002, and there are locations in the East Coast and a couple in LA, but this was my chance to actually try it. I know it’s a chain, but there aren’t that many of them… yet. They’re famous and successful for making one thing in particular.
It is fried chicken. This isn’t just any ordinary fried chicken though, this is a must try fried chicken. For me it’s equivalent to the Phnom Penh Chicken Wings we love so much in Vancouver, BC. They’re very different, but the love for them goes that far. I actually might even like these better if I had to choose. I hope that doesn’t make me a traitor… but traitor or not, I’ll gladly trade almost any other chicken wing for a BonChon chicken wing!
The restaurant is more like a modern bar and it’s great for watching the game or drinking. The style is of an upscale pub, or late night lounge, and the menu items are more fusion Korean than they are traditional. It is frequented by both Koreans and non-Koreans and everyone shares the same love for these fried chicken wings, drumettes, and drumsticks.
It may surprise you, but Koreans are known to make good deep fried chicken. I don’t feel like many people know that, as it’s often overlooked on the menu at Korean restaurants. They even make them well baked – see my visit to a baked chicken restaurant in Korea here. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d come here for anything else but the fried chicken. Every single table was just plates of non-stop chicken wings. These are magical chicken wings… they’ll make you fly higher than Red Bull. I can’t wait until the day we get BonChon Chicken in Vancouver, BC… on the west side of Robson Street.
On the table:
- Crispy double fried wings, drumettes and drumsticks with soy garlic sauce, hot garlic sauce, or both sauces.
- Small: 4 wings and 1 drum $8.99 Medium: 6 wings and 2 drums $12.99, Large: 12 wings and 4 drums $21.99
- This is the signature item and what made BonChon Chicken so famous. It’s in the name! This is a must try!
- Even if you come just for this, it is worth it.
- In case you didn’t know, I repeat, Koreans are pretty well known for making excellent fried chicken, but these are the best I’ve had them to date.
- These aren’t your normal chicken wings and it wasn’t just the marinade that was good, it was the execution that was impressive.
- They have a special recipe and I don’t know how they do it. It’s meant to be a “healthy” fried chicken.
- The chicken is fried in canola oil and it’s not greasy! It’s a non-greasy deep fried chicken wing! How does that happen? I don’t know!
- The chicken was extra crispy since they were double fried. They were very crunchy without the heavy batter and every bite made me go “wow”.
- The special house made marinade was very good, but it was something I’ve had before in Korean cuisine, so the highlight was the execution and technique for me.
- The skin was like a crunchy Miss Vickie’s Chip and it almost detached itself from the meat (look at the photo). It was the strangest thing ever and I loved it!
- Since there was a gap between the skin and the meat it was even crunchier! It wasn’t even heavily battered either.
- The skin was very thin, not soggy or chewy and it was hand brushed with sauce after the deep frying.
- It was sweet and savoury house made garlic soy sauce that was more like a glaze.
- There could be some honey, sugar and mirin in it, and maybe sesame oil, but it wasn’t too sweet or sticky.
- It didn’t taste like Chinese honey garlic chicken, but it was sweet and then savoury and the meat was incredibly tender, juicy and moist.
- Even the quality of the chicken was good and it’s organic too! I could taste chicken flavour. I know that sounds weird, but some chickens can taste very bland.
- The drumsticks were plump, juicy, healthy and quite large in size and I liked them more than the wings, but both were excellent!
- The spicy chicken marinade was just as tender and moist and it had a gradual heat and spice that would make your tongue tingle, but not burn.
- I think the spicy sauce was Korean chili soybean paste. It was either Bibimnaengmyung or Gochujang sauce, and I love both of these sauces.
- This fried chicken was one of my highlights in New York and I wanted to pack these home for people to try!
- Added note: These go great with beer, and I’m not even a beer drinker.
- Traditional Korean scallion pancake, lightly glazed with our soy garlic sauce and served with a house dipping sauce $10.99
- This was another “Staff Pick” on the menu, but it wasn’t really “traditional Korean”. Yes it is a very traditional and popular Korean dish, but the execution was more modern.
- I was not a fan of their pancake, although it was still good and edible.
- Just for reference, I prefer traditional Korean pancakes like these – see the pancakes from When the Day Comes in Korea.
- These ones were a bit chewy like a pizza and not very crispy on the exterior. It is usually a bit chewy and gummy, but this one was a bit plastic-like.
- I found it overcooked and too doughy and I prefer much more green onion, but it was well flavoured with the additional soy garlic glaze.
- There was also some carrots and onion in the mix and it was a vegetarian version of the pancake.
- It was served with a very thin house dipping sauce that could be what they used to brush their famous chicken wings with.
- It was sweet and savoury and slightly tangy, but not like vinegar. It was more sweet than acidic, but not too sweet and syrupy either.
- It almost tasted like a watered down plum sauce meets a honey garlic sweetened soy sauce. There may have been some garlic infused into it too.
- I’m used to the dipping sauce being heavier with sesame oil and actual minced garlic, sesame seeds and sometimes chili flakes floating in it as well.
- Marinated rib eye beef sauteed with scallions and onions, served in a warm soft tortilla topped with lettuce and spicy dressing $10.99
- Another “Staff Pick” and this was meant to be a main although I found it more of an appetizer.
- Of course this is Korean fusion and inspired by Mexican cuisine. It reminded me of the Korean BBQ Burrito at Coma Food Truck in Vancouver, BC, but I liked that one better.
- The taco was more like a burrito and it was very expected, but still saucy and good.
- It was warm with very tender, soft and thin slices of Bulgolgi beef marinated in soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and sugar. I swear everything is made in their secret house sauce which is some combination of the listed ingredients. The beef didn’t taste barbequed though, but instead sauteed.
- The beef was sweet, and the fat was very well marbleized, but I couldn’t really taste how good it was in the context of the burrito.
- I wouldn’t have minded a stronger marinade or sauce, or just more beef, especially for the price.
- It had sauteed scallions and onions for sweetness and crunchy fresh romaine lettuce, and I almost wanted some cheese. Okay, I did want some cheese.
- It was a medium spicy and the spicy dressing was almost like a chili mayo, but better and more dynamic.
- It had other seasonings in it to give it more flavour than a basic chili mayo, although it was similar. It almost looked like there was creamy Italian salad dressing mixed in it. It was really different, but good!
- The beef and sauce were the highlights, and it was enjoyed, but I found it overpriced. $8.99 I could see, being that it is rib eye beef, but I’d rather spend it on another order of fried chicken!