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REVIEW w/ pics: Korean Chicken Smackdown - Kyochon vs Bon Chon

Kyochon Chicken, a Korean Fried Chicken chain, has been on my list to try for awhile now. With thoughts of hot and spicy, double-fried chicken constantly running through my head, it was getting harder and harder to resist making the drive to Koreatown just to see what the fuss was all about. However, when I heard that Bon Chon, whose specialty is also Korean Fried Chicken, opened down the road, I knew it was time for a Korean Fried Chicken Smackdown! Oh yeah!

So with a few hardy souls from my dining group, we spent an afternoon checking out both restaurants, one after another. Our first stop was at Kyochon. The first thing that surprised me was that I was expecting to order at the counter, but instead, we were seated and given menus. Even more surprising? A call box. I was definitely not anywhere near Kentucky Fried Chicken

At Kyochon, there are two kinds of chicken: garlic soy sauce chicken and their hot chicken. Chicken options also included ordering them just as wings, drumsticks (referred to as sticks) or as a whole cut-up chicken. We opted for the garlic soy sauce chicken wings and the Hot Sticks as well as rice, pickled radish and french fries.

While the sides came first, the chicken with a side of coleslaw that was topped with mayonnaise and ketchup, soon followed. In front of me was dream to reality so I was more than ready to dig in. I sampled the garlic soy sauce chicken first. Oh my! It was absolutely delicious. The crispiness and crunchiness of the chicken was out of this world. Thank goodness for double-frying! What I liked about this chicken were the subtle seasoning nuances, when combined really made for a flavorful chicken. Yes, I could taste the garlic and the soy sauce, but there were other flavors tripping along my palate that I couldn't quite identify. According to the menu, the garlic soy sauce chicken was made with 20 ingredients. Perhaps they meant seasonings or spices? All in all, it was pretty tasty.

Now let's talk about the Hot Sticks, which are basically drumsticks with the hot sauce. When I took my first couple of bites, I thought it was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. However, the more I ate into my Hot Stick, the heat slowly started spreading from the tip of my tongue towards the back of my throat and then kind of lingered there for awhile. What appealed to me about the hot chicken was the counter balance of sweetness to the chicken's spiciness because that interplay of sweet and hot gave Kyochon's hot chicken a fullness of flavor that I found appealing.

After a satisfying starter meal at Kyochon, let's jump to Bon Chon. Like Kyochon, there is tableside service. We were seated and given menus. Also like Kyochon, they had a soy sauce garlic chicken and a hot chicken on the menu and of course, we ordered both. Now comes the differences. First, at Bon Chon, we were served complimentary iced barley tea and pickled radishes Pickled radishes were $1 at Kyochon. Their coleslaw came out separately from the chicken and was topped with Thousand Island dressing. Also, while our chicken came out fairly quickly at Kyochon, we were specifically told at Bon Chon that our order would take 30 minutes to make and they were definitely right about that.

Half an hour later, our chicken wings arrived and when they arrived, we couldn't tell which ones were the soy garlic and which ones were the hot chicken. They looked absolutely the same. The only difference was the basket liner. One was green and white and the other was orange and white. So we went by the maxim that orange meant hot, which equated to hot chicken and it turns out we were right. Of course, for all we know, the liners weren't specific to the chicken and we were just lucky.

Since it's better to go from mild to hot, I tried their soy garlic chicken first. Like Kyochon, it was crispy and crunchy, but unlike Kyochon, it had a little bit of glaze to it. As for flavors, I actually felt that the soy sauce and garlic flavors were more prominent in the Bon Chon version and being a garlic lover, I couldn't help but applaud that.

As for Bon Chon's hot chicken, I can safely say that it was much hotter than when I experienced at Kyochon. My first bite of Bon Chon's hot chicken reminded me of tabasco sauce and a lot of it. In fact, my lips were even tingling a little bit. Like wildfire, the heat quickly spread from tip of the tongue to the front of my mouth to all over my palate. The spiciness itself was something I could handle, but food shouldn't be spicy just for the sake of being spicy. Bon Chon's hot chicken just seemed one note to me and I didn't really want to play along. By the way, if you have a palate that doesn't handle heat very well, be sure to partake of the pickled radishes that come with your meal, because that will help tame the beast for you.

Overall, what I truly appreciated about both Kyochon and Bon Chon was that their chicken wasn't greasy and also that that the chicken skin was fried to a thin, crackly goodness as opposed to having that flabby layer of skin remaining intact, when chicken is deep-fried, the traditional American way, with batter.

So what are the smackdown results? In regards to the soy sauce garlic chicken, while I enjoyed both, I'm giving a slight edge to the Kyochon version because I enjoyed the different flavor nuances, but I'd also be just as happy with the garlicky goodness that I experienced at Bon Chon. When it came to the hot chicken version, hands down, Kyochon does it for me. Bon Chon's hot chicken just wasn't a hit for me. In regards to the rest of my dining group, the overall consensus seemed to go by way of Kyochon Chicken.

By the way, with all these myriad of spicy, garlicky, savory flavors in our mouth, we ended our foray with Korean Fried Chicken with the refreshing Korean shaved ice desserts at Ice Kiss, right next door to Bon Chon. Fire followed by ice in Koreatown. What a perfect ending!

By the way, to get more detailed info about the Korean Fried Chicken method, click the link below:

http://tinyurl.com/2cah4r

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

Kyochon Chicken
3833 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA, 90020
(213) 739-9292

Bon Chon Chicken
3407 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA, 90020
(213) 487-7878

ADDENDUM: Since having visited the two places above, I also had a chance to visit the Rowland Heights location of Kyochon Chicken. At this location, it's more of a food court atmosphere You order at the counter and either eat at the outside tables or take the food to go. What I found interesting is although they're part of the same chain, the chicken tasted different. At the Rowland Heights location, their hot chicken was actually even hotter than Bon Chon's hot chicken. and their soy sauce garlic chicken was a little saltier and lacked the depth of flavor I found at the Koreatown location. So although the Rowland Heights location is a bit closer to me, I'd rather make the trek to Koreatown.

Thanks,
Abby
http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/

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  1. Another great review, Abby. Every review of these places sends a pang of regret through me for not getting to either one of them yet. Did you find the order to delivery of your food to take a long time? That has been one of the common refrains for other posters.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Kyochon took about 15 minutes, but Bon Chon took 30 minutes. I was actually fine with the wait. Food cooked to order, even if it takes a little more time, is usually better than food that has been re-heated.

      1. re: pleasurepalate

        Abby, I was talking to a Korean friend today and she said that she and her boyfriend have been going to a place called Kododon, basically at 7th and Western (705 S Western). There wasn't much about it online, but this link was the best of the info I could find. Maybe another contender for the lastest Korean chicken craze?

        http://losangeles.metromix.com/restau...

        1. re: Servorg

          Oh, thanks for the update...maybe, I can do another Korean Chicken Smackdown, but this time with two lesser known places. :)

    2. Fantastic review, and exactly what I think after trying both - KC-KFC is better (and hotter) than BC - KFC.

      1. Hi Abby,

        Wonderful review and comparisons. :) I've been to both of the Kyochon locations you talked about and totally agree: I like the K-Town branch better.

        I still have to try Bon Chon one of these days, but after your review I'm in less of a hurry. :)

          1. I've always gone to the Torrance location of Kyochon, so I'm not sure if it's the same at the K-Town location, but they changed some things like 6 months ago. They used to use really small wings and sell them in just "small" or "large" sizes. Now they use more normal sized wings and sell them by the number. The 20 box is roughly equivalent to what their large used to be.

            Also, the spicy sauce at Torrance is noticeably less hot than it used to be. Still plenty spicy, but not the scorcher it was when that location first opened. I'm wondering if only specific branches toned down their sauces.

            5 Replies
            1. re: huaqiao

              ktown branch also toned down their hot

              1. re: ns1

                Thank you Abby for the great review and ns for the clarification! We were WOWED by the Torrance version and were a little let down a couple of weeks ago when we went with to the K-Town branch. The other thing that we were not impressed with was that their raddish seemed industrial (With an aftertaste even!) while at Torrance, we remember them being served in actual bowls not pre-portioned and sealed trays...

                --Dommy!

                1. re: Dommy

                  Yes, I think before it was straight up HOT, because a whole chicken lit my mouth on fire. Then after they reorganized their menu, hot because more of a sweet/spicy glaze and not so fire like.

                  I was a sad panda that day. That said, I think ktown's hot blows away their original by FAR.

              2. re: huaqiao

                Where in Torrance is this located please?

                1. re: JEN10

                  Inside Freshia Market on Crenshaw and Torrance. Bon Chon, the Dol Sot Bim Bim Bap from the stand next door is an AWESOME lunch. :D

                  --Dommy!

                  -----
                  Torrance Freshia Market
                  2515 Torrance Blvd, Torrance, CA

              3. Went to Kyochon out of curiosity this afternoon. Ordered the 2 flavor wings plate. First of all I've never seen wings that small and didn't quite understand the shredded cabbage topped with mayo and ketchup. The wings double fried and small didn't give you a much to sink your teeth into except a good flavor and crunchy batter. My advice is to stay away from the wings and order the sticks. The service was good. They brought us a complimentary order of fries and chocolate ice milk dessert. I liked the flavors of both the soy/garlic and sweet/hot, but next time I'll try one of the combinations and get the sticks (more meat) and chicken bulgogi. I saw another table with it and looked pretty good.

                1. Great Review!
                  I love both these places and try and get my KFC fix at least every other week.
                  I tend to rotate between the two, as they both have the positives and negatives. However I have noticed that the chicken wings are much meatier at Bon Chon than Kyo Chon.
                  But I like to switch up the flavors so I can't really stick to just one of them, because they are both just oh so good.

                  1. Great review, I like Kyochon, but have yet to try BonChon to compare.
                    Also could you talk a bit about that desert that was in your pics??

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LakerFan

                      The Ice Kiss dessert is basically very finely shaved ice topped with ice cream and various ingredients with milk and/or some type of syrup. Depending on which one you got, the ingredients may vary. So the Green Tea version had green tea ice cream, mochi, strawberries, bananas, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. The Red Bean version, of course, had red bean, but also fruity pebbles, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and other ingredients that I can't remember. Hope that helps.

                    2. Great review, Abby. After my visit to Kyochon, I was in a garlic coma. Will have to return for the spicy version as I am kind of scared of spicy, but sounds like it's (now) spicy in a good way. I really dislike their cabbage w/ ketchup and mayo. First I thought the ketchup was some sort of hot sauce, but one bite and no, yuck, it was ketchup. And I agree w/ Dommy! above re the industrial tasting radish.
                      Sounds like the sides at Bon Chon are much better, and I will have to pay them a visit anyway!

                      Unlike others, I like the so-called "small" wings. The larger wings makes me believe the chicken consumed too much hormones.

                      1. Sorry I missed this one Abby, but thanks for taking one for the team.I wanted to try these places, but will head to Kyochon in K-Town thanks to your groups informed concensus.

                        1. Nice review and love the pictures! Thx Abby. I tried the Kyochon in Rowland Heights... not liking it much. Maybe its just the location problem. Now I got more to try.... Bon Chon and Kododon that Servorg suggested!

                          1. Where's the one in Rowland Heights?

                            Thanks

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: SeaCook

                              It's on Fullerton Rd just south of Colima in the YES plaza. I've tried the chicken at the Ktown and Rowland Heights locations. Ktown is a lot better for some reason.

                            2. Great review! you definitely answered some questions for me. I've always thought about doing what you did, but thanks for the heads up.

                              1. Seems like these franchise Korean chicken places like Kyochon and Bonchon twice fry to get that extra crispiness.
                                I am seriously addicted to the spicy wings @ House of Joy in Glendale, a Korean-style Chinese restaurant across from the HK Market on Pacific just south of Glenoaks. Eating a plate of the House of Joy's wings is like eating candy; takes some serious willpower to stop. The orange stain around my mouth is now permanent, baby!

                                1. I'm a big fan of KyoChon so last night I had to try BonChon. I'll do a little comparison.

                                  K has a busy parking lot
                                  B has no parking lot but a pay garage around the corner on Catalina

                                  K looks like a nice but typical fast food place
                                  B looks like a Pinkberry

                                  K serves the chicken very very crispy. The meat is just crunch.
                                  B has a nice skin that smells oddly like frydough and the chicken meat is juicy

                                  They are both good. Just depends what you are in the mood for. BonChon tastes healthier because the meat is juicy.

                                  I have tried KyoChon's grilled hot wings and would recommend them.

                                  1 Reply