Lunch at UFC (Unidentified Flying Chicken)
After having read the recent review of Korean fried chicken places on the NYT, and having had a pretty good fried chicken experience at the Cheogajip branch in Virginia some time ago, I decided to try out UFC for lunch today. It's located at 71-22 Roosevelt Avenue right under the elevated line, in a small storefront shop. When I got there, at around noon, there was no one else in the place, and I was able to chat with the owner, a very friendly guy.
There are not really any portions that scream out "have me for lunch when you're eating alone", but the owner helped me to select the small ($8.99) order of wings, which he suggested I try with two toppings--soy and garlic, and sweet and hot. After around 15 minutes of chatting the wings were ready--12 wings, six of each type, hot from the fryer, along with a portion of pickled daikon radish.
The wings were fantastic; very moist and succulent meat with crispy not-too-thick batter and great tasting sauce. I had a hard time deciding which of the two sauces I preferred, but if I had to decide, I'd go for the sweet and hot, most likely. But maybe I could go for the soy-garlic instead. They were both really good.
According to the owner, the place is more crowded in the evenings, and I could imagine they'd be GREAT with beer. Definitely worth a try.
the fried chicken at ufc has definitely been pretty good on my two visits. i think the best korean-style fried chicken in queens is at bon chon on northern blvd, followed closely by ufc. there are a bunch of other korean chicken joints that have opened up fairly recently, including cheogatjip on northern blvd (the sign says in english "my favorite cheo ga jip", but it should actually be pronounced "chuh gaht jeep", based on the korean writing on the sign) and "very well" on 162nd street just south of northern blvd. like bon chon, cheogatjip and very well are korean chains that have recently set up ny outposts.
i've said this before, but the manhattan branch of bon chon is solid, while the fort lee bon chon branch, called boom boom chicken, is the best in the entire region.
went again to the manhattan branch of bon chon last night and was a bit disappointed. besides taking almost an hour for our chicken to arrive (which i can kind of forgive because the food is prepared to order, although it shouldn't take that long), it was drier/less juicy than previoius visits and overly spicy without necessarily being more flavorful. not terrible, but definitely disappointing. even the cubed radish (moo oo) was off - a little too sour, and not as nice and crisp as i'd like. while the radish is not the focus of the meal i was a little bummed out by this as well.
this was pretty similar to my previous experience here. on the first visit things were definitely better, but since then the food has been a little disappointing. not bad, but it hasn't met my expectations.
i guess that's the problem with franchises - even if the recipe is the same at all the branches, in less capable hands it can still be difficult to consistently produce a high quality product.
after having tried all of these different fried chicken places multiple times, i have to say that ufc and the flushing bon chon are definitely better and more consistent than the manhattan bon chon.
"... and I could imagine they'd be GREAT with beer"
Good call. This is actually a tradition in Korea: to hunker down with a whole chicken and some beer. Some of my best times in Seoul have been spent in two-by-four crawlspaces doing just that. Don't know if UFO has a BYOB policy, or if they have a liquor license, but I definitely recommend that you have some beers next time.
Surly, I concur on the Northern Blvd branch of Bon Chon. It is my personal favorite since Mani Mani, which was a few blocks east, closed up shop.
Read a glowing review of Boom Boom - the storefront apparently having previously housed a Bon Chon branch - on Jason Perlow's site. I look forward to trying it.
I went last night, and got the soy-garlic and sweet and spicy. I liked the soy-garlic tremendously better; I found the sweet and spicy sauce to gooey and syrupy. I had the sweet potato fries, which were cold and tasteless and the 'slaw which was standard coleslaw.
The soy-garlic pieces were wonderful though -- I loved the crispy skin and generous pieces of chicken. I'd like to try the mustard and spicy though -- has anyone tried those?
Interesting that you say the sweet-spicy was gooey, since mine was definitely not that. In hindsight I recall that the owner called the sauce something other than sweet and spicy, though that is precisely how the wings tasted. And I thought they had alcohol available, though I did not go for any.
re: James G
Haven't tried UFC yet (on my list). But gooey-syrupy does seem to be one of the style options for Korean chicken. Cheogajip's stuff leans more that way. Their spicy chicken is spicy - they don't stint on heat - but it's also sticky-saucy.
Like surly I much preferred Bon Chon on Northern (after a head-to-head throwdown against Cheogajip), more dry but loaded with flavor.
Also on my list: Bon Chon (Manhattan) and Boom Boom (Fort Lee). My dream itinerary: Bon Bon! Bon Chon! Boom Boom!
My husband and I went there this past Sunday afternoon. We expected it to be crowded, with all the recent press, but it was almost empty (this was the downstairs part). We loved the chicken--the soy garlic and spicy--because it was so flavorful and crisp. Didn't love the fries--really oily and no flavor. Next time we'll get one of the salads, maybe.