Bay Area Bonchon Fried Chicken Opens in Sunnyvale
I LOVE MEAT. This is an undisputed fact.
As much as I will have a knock down drag out brawl over beef – - my real true love is probably chicken. I don’t know many people who have dined in fancier restaurants around the world more than me, but about once a week, without fail, will come a night when, “What do you want for dinner?” leads to the following answer:
“Sheekin and rice please!”
Love chicken. Boiled, fried, baked – whatever. Love it. Bubba is to shrimp what Grace is to chicken.
There was one trip to NY a couple of years ago in the middle of winter when a group tried to convince me to go to Bonchon to have “the best fried chicken” — and I was all over that like white on rice — until they added — “It’s probably a 2-3 hour wait, though.”
They lost me right there; this girl does not WAIT for her food.
My loss, apparently, as last night, we drove down to Sunnyvale to eat at the newly opened Bonchon Chicken. God, Zeus, or someone was looking out for us because there was ONE table available when we walked in — like it was just meant to be.
The decor works perfectly in here.
Want to watch the game? They have plenty of screens to show it to you from every angle — and combined with a pitcher of Blue Moon, Sapporo, Fat Tire, or whatever other kind of beer you like, it made even ME want to be a man to enjoy the “fried chicken, beer, and the b-ball game (hooga hooga)”.
We tried the fried dumplings w/ spicy sauce, an order of 10 chicken drumusticks w/ half soy and half spicy sauce, a bowl of rice, and an order of this “kimchee coleslaw”. We each had a glass of beer and a pitcher of mango soju.
First to arrive was the dumplings w/ hot sauce.
The dumplings are first fried to a perfect crisp, and the Bonchon spicy sauce is brushed onto these little creatures of perfection. The sauce has a real kick — enough to awaken me, and make KK start panting. I make some pretty beautifully fried dumplings myself — but I can’t get this type of crisp on them.
Trying these made me anticipate the fried chicken even more. We downed all the dumplings and waited.
So one thing you HAVE to understand prior to eating at Bonchon is that the chicken is not pre-made.
They don’t even bring out your chicken drumsticks until your order reaches the kitchen, and a fresh batch of this free-range chicken is made FOR you. Hence, there is a wait, and if the line is out the door as it has reportedly been on some nights — the wait will be considerably long.
But the reason *I* was able to wait at Bonchon patiently was because I’m all about fresh food. If I merely wanted “good fried chicken” that’s a bit soggy but tasty — I could have hit up a dozen different places in San Francisco without traveling near 50 miles to come to Bonchon.
It took about 20 minutes for our plate of 8 large drumsticks to arrive.
It was accompanied by a small bowl of the rice, pickled daikon, and a small bowl of kimchee coleslaw.
Respectively, one side was for me (refer to the aforementioned “sheekin and rice”), one was for the Koreans (pickled daikon or moo, as the Koreans refer to this necessary accompaniment to fried chicken), and for the western hemisphere KFC folks who prefer coleslaw (but with a barely discernable Asian kick). I can’t quite say I liked, but it wasn’t bad either. I’d have preferred just coleslaw, or just kimchee.
I tried the garlic soy chicken first.
Let’s put it this way. My experience being in marketing — if I were to create a radio or television advertisement about Bonchon, it would involve the SOUND of the crispy skin being bitten into or sliced into.
This sound isn’t easily described in a blog, but you get the drift. CRUNCH — and the sauce on the outside with the juiciness of the meat on the inside hits your tastebuds as you get your first taste of perfectly fried chicken.
But then I have to explain that this is not the thick crunch of regular fried chicken with batter being bitten into; this is the sound of truly well-CRISPED chicken skin, nearly void of all fat and grease yet retaining all taste and just hard enough to retain all juices. Close your eyes and listen to it: CRUNCH.
Accompanied by a cold pitcher of beer — this chicken is made for massive consumption. Another noticeable difference is that for my tastebuds, unlike other fried chicken, Bonchon chicken is just seasoned enough to not need rice or another carbohydrate source to balance out the saltiness. It’s actually quite perfect just on its own, with a swig of beer.
No wonder people wait in a ridiculous line, coast to coast, for this stuff.
The location is not large, but it’s not small either. There is a nice granite bar in front w/ the cash register — and it leads to the kitchen where these crispy-fried miracles are cooked. The seats are comfortable, and everything being so new, it’s clean and organized. Service was terrific — the manager, owner, and our server were all friendly and welcoming. The mango soju suggestion that we ordered was the staff’s idea — and I’m glad we ordered that as it added a nice sweet balance to the meal and definitely “affected” us more than just a pint of beer.
All in all – the place has now been opened five days and things are falling into place. While the location leaves a little to be desired as it’s hidden in a corner — if you can find it, there is plenty of parking and a nice comic shop next door where you can read Batman while waiting for your turn to be seated. With the perfectly crispy chicken, great service, and fabulous beer selection (along with those mandatory TV screens), I’d say Bonchon will do well in the Bay Area.
I, for one, will be back. Overnight, I find that I’m just a little bit hooked on that sound: CRUNCH. Next time, I want to go to the kitchen and see what kind of fryer they have back there; it’s ridiculous how crunchy that skin became without overcooking the meat.
Bonchon is located at 572 E. El Camino Road in Sunnyvale. It’s about two doors to the right of the large CVS. Visit their tastefully designed website for the full menu and hours of operation.
Addictive Factor: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8.8/10