Monday, July 30, 2012

Bon Chon Is Open: Korean Fried Chicken Soft Opens, Offers Up Crisp, Juicy, And Tons Of Fun

Fried chicken at Bon Chon
Bon Chon has fired up the fryers for chicken and Korean food, soft opening in Ellicott City and bringing a trend from Seoul to Howard County.

This is Korean fried chicken -- a real variation on even the great bird you can buy at Chick n' Friends.  Moist meat with a thin crust.  Crunchy, even after it's been coated in a salty or spicy sauce.  This is a treat -- or a diet cheat -- worth checking out.  Henry Hong nailed the description a few years ago, and I quote rather than plagiarize:

Its product is pretty typical, with an aroma that slaps you in the face with garlic (definitely powder and fresh, in my opinion); a glaze that possesses a pretty straightforward combo of salty, sweet, and in the case of the “spicy,” a fast-acting, mouth-filling heat; and an exterior that although is often described as “shatteringly crispy” is more accurately somewhere between crispy and crunchy, with just a tiny hint of chew. The meat itself is unseasoned, but extremely moist, protected from drying by its cornstarch cocoon.

The bottom line is that you need to go try this chicken now.  Don't wait for the "grand opening" in a few weeks.  We already had the Korean fried chicken at Tian Chinese Cuisine, which does great chicken and offers black bean noodles and other dishes.  Those house-made noodles pair beautifully with Tian's crunchy chicken.  But Bon Chon really kicks it up.

Bon Chon's chicken comes in spicy or a soy-garlic.  Order radishes and maybe white rice.  You'll get a bowl of pickled white radish cubes.  Pop one after a spicy bite.  The crunchy vegetable cools your mouth.  We ordered wings and "strips" -- which are thin slices of white meat.  Those are my favorite ratios of meat to crunch.

Bon Chon is a Korean chain with franchises in near New York, Boston and the Virginia suburbs.  Reading around the Web suggests some variation between locations.  On Yelp, Edward suggested the sauce was spicier and the servings were smaller than the Chantilly location.  We ordered two small orders, and we left stuffed.

The restaurant has a modern, clean design.  Most tables, some high tops, some seats at the bar.  At even the first dinner service, it was bouncing with a 20s crowd -- salted with a few tables of salt-and-pepper hair.  It's a casual vibe.  Noisy enough that kids are clearly welcome, and Bon Chon an enormous projector that will make this a spectacular spot for wings and Ravens games when fall Sundays come around.

On top of the chicken, they have a small menu of Korean dishes.  You could alternative chicken with bulgogi, bibimbob, or scallion-seafood pancakes.  We gorged on chicken on the first visit, so w can't report.  Expect an official grand opening in a few weeks.  But they're serving the full menu now so nothing should hold you back.

Do any Bon Chon regulars know if is it possible to get a middle sauce?  I loved both the spicy and the soy-garlic, but the hot was just too hot for Mrs. HowChow.  She likes the salty soy.  But she'd love a spicy option too.

Bon Chon
3419 Plum Tree Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR: Bon Chon is a block south of Rte 40 and just west of Rte 29.  Turn south onto Plum Tree Drive, and Bon Chon is in a shopping center perpendicular to Plum Tree.  It is next to Serafino's.


Stephanie Hughes said...

Can't wait to try it out. You made it sound wonderful.

Ed L said...

There is no middle sauce, only soy garlic (Regular) and Hot.

Anonymous said...

Do they do takeout?

Anonymous said...

They do takeout and have a great lunch special... 8.95 for 8 wings (or 6 strips I think) with two sides. I used to get this for lunch all the time in NYC.

The chicken is just as good as other BonChon locations I've been to.

victoria@thesoffritto said...

Our NYC friends adore BonChon. Can't wait to try it!

Samantha said...

Yay! I've been waiting since January 2012 for them to open up. First had them at the Annandale location & got hooked on the garlic wings. Prefer them over the spicy because they seem to have more flavor. The spicy just seems to have a kick.

Anonymous said...

Feels like this was a little disappointing compared to the stores in Annandale and Fairfax. It was a soft opening, but the wings seemed smaller and a little more wet/messy. I'll go back to give it another go down the road as that drive to VA is hard to do on a whim.

Anonymous said...

Hey! this number is for the guy's cellphone! He says they can be reached at 410-465-0515

Anonymous said...

Hopefully everyone knows that it usually takes a while to get your chicken. I've waited several hours at the VA locations but it's worth it!

K8teebug said...

They are only open for dinner at this time, according to their facebook page, FYI :)

Steffi said...

I got takeout from there last night. Absolutely wonderful! I had a mix of the soy garlic and the spicy, and while I prefered the spicy, I had no complaints about the garlic, either. I will be going back!

dzoey said...

This is one reason I really like this blog: the early notices of new restaurants in the county.

The kids and I tried Bon Chon this evening - it was packed at 7:30 and we had to wait about 15 min for a table. The waitresses were very nice and once we ordered the chicken, she warned us it would be about 35 minutes. So we ordered some edemame and the seafood pancake to tide us over during the wait. I got the spicy combo, my son got the soy/garlic strips, my daughter got the Chicken Katsu.

As 8:00 rolled around they put on Olympic soccer and we all watched Korea v. Gabon - it was a good crowd pleaser and it distracted us from what turned out to be a long wait for the chicken. The Edamame was OK - typical from-a-frozen-bag stuff, but they salted it well. The seafood pancake was fried crispy which was different than I've had at other Korean restaurants in the area. I prefer it not as heavily fried.

The Chicken Katsu arrived about 10 minutes after we ordered, the seafood pancake about 10 minutes after that and the fried chicken about 30 minutes after the seafood pancake. The Chicken Katsu was good with a good crispy crust with a nice flavor and not dry at all. My daughter ate as much as she could and then gave the rest to my son to finish as we waited for the chicken and watched the Olympics.

Was the chicken worth the wait? No. It was good, I really liked the flavor of the spicy sauce, but would get carry-out next time. The soy/garlic sauce on the strips were OK, but nothing special and I wouldn't get that again. The crispiness of the skin and juiciness of the meat in both preparations was outstanding.

Both kids said they'd come back, or rather, they'd want to get carryout. They really liked the Chicken Katsu and I very much enjoyed the spicy wings. The pickled radish that came with the chicken strips was a great foil to the spicy wings and worth ordering separately if getting the combo wings/drumsticks which doesn't include the radish.

David & Diane said...

We took the family to Bon Chon for dinner tonight. We arrived around 6:30 and easily got a table. By 7:00pm however, a line for tables had formed.

We started with a plate of the potstickers with the Soy Garlic sauce on them. They were delicious!

My son ate the Dolsot Bibimbop with bulgogi. The bowl had plenty of meat and vegetables. My son enjoyed it and ate the whole bowl.

My husband and I split a medium sized strips. We tried both sauces, which were flavorful. I thought the spicy sauce however, was just a little too hot. Unfortunately, the temperature of the pieces of chicken varied. Some pieces were hot and obviously just cooked while a few others were just lukewarm.

We enjoyed our meal and plan to go again for both eat in and take out.

Anonymous said...

Went tonight with a group and we had a great time. We went at about 6:15 and got a table right away. Not too long after that, a wait formed. Here are my take aways:

I called before going in to see if you could do call in orders. They told me they weren't accepting those type of orders just yet.

Our server was a bit slow to get to our table, but once he arrived, we saw him frequently and he was great about getting us everything we need.

He mentioned something about their chickens being organic, which is why the portions were smaller.

Alot of people were BYOB. Not sure if there was a charge for this or not. Its possibly only until they get a license. Luckily, Jason's is within walking distance if you want to do this.

We had the edamame and potstickers while waiting for chicken. The potstickers were delicious.

Both flavors of chicken are great and getting a half and half order is what I'd advise. We got 3 large orders of wings and legs and all were hot and fresh.

The wait for the chicken was about 45 mins and they gave us a basket of free french fries while we waited. The fries were crunchy and good to snack on.

We really enjoyed our visit and look forward to going back, especially when the bar is open. We even look forward to carry out service so we can pick the wings up for football games!

Anonymous said...

We went there at 5:45pm on a Saturday night, got a table right away, not too bad. Then ordered chicken wings and drumsticks, finally got the food at 7:05pm after several enquiries. My 5 years old son was really tired of waiting.

The food was not bad, but none of us think it is worth of the waiting. I don't think we will go back again.

P.S. the air in the restaurant is greasy and smokey, after being there for 1.5 hours, both my husband's and my eyes were burning, I guess it is because of the spices in the greasy air.

Anonymous said...

Went there tonight. Arrived at about 5:30 and got a table right away.
As others mentioned, there is a wait for the chicken, and our server told us so.

Ordered the house salad myself & the dining partner had the crispy salmon salad. Both were wonderful!

The chicken, however, was a MAJOR disappointment.
Not only did it take over an hour from the time of order until it came to table, it was lukewarm in temperature at best and it was dry & overcooked to the point of being like leather inside.

Completely unacceptable. Especially for what they charge.
With all the other options for good ethnic food in the region, they had best step up their game significantly if they expect to be around.

Unknown said...

We arrived right after they opened last night (Saturday). We were seated right away and the place quickly filled up.

Our server told us that the chicken would take about 30 to 40 minutes, so we ordered several appetizers. Everyone loved the popstickers and the seafood scallion pancake. The shrimp shumai was a bit bland in comparison, but we ordered them steamed.

We shared the combo chicken and had it split between hot, soy garlic and plain. We ordered plain for the kids, which in hindsight was a mistake, next time we will give them soy ginger. Everyone loved the chicken but it definitely took awhile to get.

Our overall experience was good; however, our server was definitely overwhelmed and slow to refill our beverages, bring napkins, ect. And we all agreed the overall temperature in the restaurant was warmer than is typical, but nobody was uncomfortable. As we left there was a line of at least 30 people waiting to be seated and we realized we all smelled like fried chicken.

We are looking forward to going back and trying other items, to include the chicken strips.

Trip Klaus said...

After a couple of weeks they are still working out the kinks. They now are serving lunch and the lunch special is a great deal for the amount of food they give. However, don't wait the 30 minutes quoted to pick up carry out because they are not busy yet at lunch and the chicken/fries will not be at their best. Gladly they are well enough made to not turn into soggy messes, however, the crunch is definitely lessened. Love the spicy sauce very Kung Pao like. Not a fan of the pickled radish.

For dinner I've found the best thing to do when there is a long wait is to run next door and have a beer at the great new craft beer bar at Serafino's.

Anonymous said...

We've been there 3 times for takeout and each time the chicken was perfect, but the last time the spicy seemed to be lacking in sauce. Our wait was anywhere from 30-45 minutes, but like I said I ordered it for takeout so I didn't have to wait long in the restaurant.

A lot of people on yelp are slamming it for higher prices, but if you compare the VA locations and the MD location you get more chicken at MD for a obviously higher price whereas in VA you get less and pay less.

SC said...

My friend and I went here on a Thursday evening, and managed to get there before 7. We waited for about 25 minutes for our food after ordering though. We both got the soy garlic sauce, and I got a small combo, which was more than enough for me. My friend got the medium combo, and he didn't manage to finish all of his either. We agreed that it was tasty and the prices reasonable, despite the long wait time.

The large screen is nice for events, but sitting under it with my back to the wall was a little awkward. Also thought the TV was a slight bit too loud.

At any rate, I'll definitely be going back. I've had Korean fried chicken before, but that was in Boston a few years ago, so it's nice to have a place near home.

Something weird I noticed - Korean girls picking at the chicken wings and drumsticks with chopsticks. As a non-Korean Asian I find that incredibly weird, because you're missing out on so much deliciousness!

1ltkls said...

We ordered carry out here Sunday, 14 APR. We got a mix of spicy and regular including wings, legs and strips. We got the coleslaw and fries side dishes. The spicy chicken absolutely rocked (still buzzing my lips now after polishing off the last leftovers today.) I can't get enough of that! Soy Garlic was also good, but not great. It does make a nice balance with the hot. Fries (I asked them to burn them a little, as I like mine on the crispy side) were very very good. The coleslaw taste starts out great but before you can tell your dining companions how much you like it, the HORRIBLE CHEMICAL aftertaste comes on strong. I called the restaurant today to find out if we got a bad batch and the manager said that the franchise issued recipe includes artificial sweetener. If you hate diet soda, you'll hate the slaw. I couldn't finish the bite and the taste hung in my mouth for several long minutes (bring on more Spicy chicken!) The manager also said that the kimchi coleslaw (which we did not try) also has this sweetener. He said some people love the kimchi slaw so much they just come in and order that. Some people also guzzle 6 or 12 Diet Cokes per day, but not this dude.

Next time we'll go with the radish side dish. We will be back!

BCF said...

@1ltkls What kind of artificial sweetner was used in the slaw? Aspartame, stevia, etc? Have a friend with an aspartame allergy....