Friday, August 24, 2007
KyoChon Chicken - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I know my food. And you know that I know the difference between a drumstick and wing drummette. Except when I evidently don't know the difference.
Oh, you'll enjoy this story. As Henry Chan's Food Videos and I were retelling it to his cousin last night, I was laughing so hard my eyes teared.
I don't know if it's age or stress, but in the last few years, I get moments where I am extremely scatterbrained. Extremely. This day was one of them.
Cousin Q (fellow dumpling-lover who introduced me to Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl in Little Tokyo) and I were headed to lunch when Henry called asking if I wanted to chase down a taquito truck. I said I was going out for Korean fried chicken if he wanted to join us. He had never tried it before so he said yes and I swung by to pick him up. Little did he know what he was in for that day.
I am generally a creature of habit, especially when it comes to driving. I will take a possibly longer route as long as I know where I'm going. I prefer driving on major roads and freeways that I'm familiar with, rather than trying to find shortcuts. Add two backseat drivers into the mix, male ones at that, and I get very, very discombobulated! Cousin Q hates my driving, but he makes me drive most of the time and complains the whole way. Which only makes me drive worse! Grrr!
So as I left Henry's place and headed toward Fremont to get onto the freeway, he told me to turn left.
Me: What? But Fremont is that way (Up ahead.).
Henry: There's a shortcut. Go left.
Cousin Q: Just take Fremont.
Henry: No, turn left.
Me: What? But didn't I already miss the left turn? I'll just take Fremont.
Henry: No, this is faster. Turn left.
Cousin Q: Just take Fremont.
Henry: Turn left.
I turned left. Right before Fremont. But there was no freeway access and I had to go on some unfamiliar side streets before getting to the freeway on-ramp. And since when does the carpool lane have a traffic light to get onto the freeway? So I had to step hard on the brakes to stop in time. Which prompted Henry to ask if I was OK because I almost hit a car. No, I didn't. We both had to step hard on the brakes to stop at the red light too. Hmph!
Well, I should have written my own directions down instead of relying on cousin Q who told me to take the 110. But I never take the 110 and find it very disconcerting to see downtown L.A. to the left of me, instead of the right. And hey, didn't I used to go clubbing somewhere around here? This looks vaguely familiar?
Hey! Pay attention to driving, cousin Q admonished.
Finally! We arrived at KyoChon Chicken in Los Angeles' Koreatown. Parking in the lot was crowded and tight. So I dropped the guys off to finding parking.
I walked in and they already had a small bowl of pickled daikon on the table. A bit overly sweet, vinegary. This is to offset the spiciness of the chicken.
And wet paper towels.
All three tables inside were full so we ended up sitting in the shaded patio area. It was really hot that day. Ugh! I'm kinda wishing I hadn't suggested Korean fried chicken after all. But I've been wanting to try it for years when I first read about it on an expat's blog and he always wrote about the garlicky goodness and crunch of Korean fried chicken. And cousin Q had recently read about KyoChon in Korean-Am magazine and mentioned it to me the week before so it had been lingering on my mental "cravings" checklist. And the New York Times had recently written about them. And this was one of only 3 KyoChon locations in the whole country, the other two in Torrance and New York City. And well, sometimes I get craaaavings.
Although there is sit-down service, with so few tables, the restaurant is much more popular for take-out. The tables and chairs are pretty bare-bones.
Umm, I don't remember why I took a picture of the outside of the menu, except that Henry was taking a picture of this. And cousin Q was just sitting there rolling his eyes while the two of us had our cameras out.
We ordered cheese sticks. $1.99 for six pieces. These were standard, nothing special.
The chicken fried rice was $6.99. Pretty isn't it? The fried rice is red and had quite a kick from all the chili powder. The ketchup and mayonnaise drizzled over the cole slaw was a bit weird but I actually didn't notice when I was eating it.
OK, now we got to the chicken. From reviews on Yelp, I was expecting an hour wait so that's why we ordered the fried rice to tide us over. But actually these were ready right after the fried rice came out so I'm not sure how long that took. The chicken was very lightly battered and then twice-fried to give it that extra crunch. This was the original 15 pieces for $15.99.
Ouch! That's some pricey chicken. The twice-frying made the inside a bit drier than Chinese fried chicken, but then there's the crunchy outside. It's not like Southern fried chicken with its thicker batter to keep in the moistness. It wasn't as garlicky as I was expecting though.
The guys had also ordered 15 pieces of spicy chicken for $15.99.
OK, now we get to scatterbrained moment #2, or is it #3? Tell me that doesn't look like a bunch of wings to you? I was under the impression that they had ordered two sets of wings.
So I'm munching on this piece of chicken and remarking that they serve mighty big wing pieces. I'm thinking it's awfully meaty for a wing drummette. I think I even say it doesn't taste like a wing. Cousin Q is giving me weird looks, but then he does that all the time so it no longer registers. And then I get to the bone and realize, hey, I'm eating a drumstick, as I remarked out loud. And cousin Q just can't stop his laughter at that point. But then neither could I. Henry surprisingly acted like he didn't hear the whole exchange at all. Oh! Maybe he didn't hear and only cousin Q heard me being stupid, and that's nothing new.
But no, later Henry said he wasn't quite sure how to react, and that he and cousin Q were giving each other strange looks while I was making my "These sure are big wings. Oh! It's actually a drumstick" comments. And hmm, maybe it doesn't come off so funny in reading about it, but oh man, in the retelling I seriously had tears coming out of my eyes.
Oh? Did you want to hear about what the spicy chicken tasted like? Imagine all that chili powder that goes into kimchee sprinkled into the batter of fried chicken. That chili was insidious! The first few pieces were fine but then the chili lingers in the mouth and before I knew it, my lips were a bit stung and red. Whoohee!
Contrary to Yelp reviews, the drinks are not free. They're $1.50 but you get free refills. Anyway, with so much food, we wrapped the leftovers to bring home. I love the cute little boxes and tote bag.
So was Korean fried chicken worth the hype? Well, it was good but soooooo pricey! I mean, I realize they're factoring in the additional labor of twice-frying the chicken, but really! Lunch came out to $45, then add in tax and tip and well, I could have just gone out for Korean barbecue with loads of panchan for that price!
The chicken gets even spicier as leftovers. I don't know if the chili got a chance to settle or concentrate or what. But at 4 a.m., when lil' sis had late night munchies cravings, one bite sent her searching for the fried rice to offset the spiciness. And that was spicy in its own right. Then she proceeded to polish off the rest of the wing. Hey, we don't waste good food, spicy or not.
Umm, and yes, I really do know the difference between drumsticks and wing drummettes. Except when it's really hot and I have two backseat drivers confusing me. Feel free to laugh at or with me all you want. I certainly do. :P
Oh dear, did I just lose my food cred? But you know I'm generally on the ball right? Right? ;)
KyoChon Chicken (Several locations)
3833 W. 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA