Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bonchon, Winchester VA

Bonchon, the South Korean fried chicken and beer phenomenon, has just come to little old Winchester and Ann and I went to check it out on Sunday. I wasn't sure what to expect from the menu that is pan-Asian and not traditionally Korean. I generally prefer restaurants that stay in their lane, do what they do well, and not try to be all things to all people. Still, I have been hearing about the other KFC—Korean Fried Chicken—for a few years and was eager to try it.

Takoyaki and Onion Rings
We started with an order of onion rings and an order of the classic Japanese streetfood takoyaki, octopus encased in batter, topped with Japanese mayo and hanakatsuo. We figured that a place that can make good fried chicken can make good onion rings. We figured wrong. The onion rings were miserable, machine-formed rings of reconstituted dried onion. This is what real onion rings look like. The takoyaki sure looked like they were going to be awesome, but the batter wasn't cooked through leaving them mushy and unappetizing.

Fried Chicken, Kimchee, Daikon Pickles
The fried chicken arrived as we were about done with our appetizers, much of which went home to Carter to eat. The chicken is stellar and is reason enough to go back to this place. The crust is crackling and infused with just the right amount of really spicy sauce while the interior of the chicken is moist and tender. It is hard to imagine better chicken.

I really appreciated that the spicy sauce wasn't particularly dumbed down for Americans. Although I would have liked it spicier, it had plenty of kick. I also ordered a bowl of kimchee (because it is one of my favorite foods) and the chicken comes with a sweet daikon pickle that doesn't seem to be fermented in any way. As banchan go, these were pretty weak, but then, this isn't a traditional Korean restaurant.

Wheat Beer with Orange
None of the plates were wiped down before going to the dining room: each came to the table with extra drips of sauce, showing a real lack of care in the kitchen. Our server was pretty lackadaisical, more intent on watching TV than keeping an eye on her tables. I'd go back for the chicken but would skip the appetizers and I'm curious to try some of the other Korean dishes on the menu and on the special board.

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