Friends, among the many flaws that I possess, I also have an addiction problem. Now, I don't chase the dragon, nor am I a sketch monster. I don't play the ponies, and while I do enjoy the occasional poker or craps game, extricating me from a casino is never a problem. No, no, my dealers go by names like Living Social, Groupon, Blackboard Eats, and Class Coup. It's gotten so there's a high level of anticipation every morning when I open my email account to see the deals of the day, and at any given moment, I've got something like 3 or 4 coupons in my trusty shoulder bag. I love any and all deals. I have also recently developed an addiction to fried chicken.
So imagine my excitement the other day when I discovered that the Groupon deal of the day was for Kyochon, a place we had already planned to go with our frequent LA food guide Christina. I immediately snagged two of the $7-for-$15 coupons, as did Christina, and made plans to meet for a fried chicken feast.
Kyochon got its start in Korea twenty years ago, and has expanded its Korean-fried chicken empire across the world, with a branch conveniently located at 6th and Serrano in Koreatown, just blocks from my office. We had heard tell of Kyochon's infamous "hot and sweet" wings, and my spice muscles were flexing in anticipation.
We walked into the modern-ishly decorated chain on a Tuesday night, and it appeared as though the Groupon deal had been a little too successful - the few tables that weren't occupied went uncleared for upwards of 10 minutes, and the staff looked really frazzled. After about 25 minutes, we were seated and our orders were taken (be warned, the menu might list beer, but they don't actually serve any at the Koreatown location). Despite the chaos, we weren't deterred from our quest - we would put up with a lot more to sample what Jonathan Gold called "the best fried chicken in Los Angeles." That being said, any future trips we make will probably be during non-peak hours or for take-out.
First to arrive was our order of pickled radish (below, right). Great start - everyone at our table really liked the sweet, tart and crunchy side order, and it would serve an important purpose once we got into the spicier stage of our meal.
We also decided to get a couple of orders of the bi-bim-bap rice ball (below) - you may ask why we were messing around ordering anything that wasn't fried chicken, but when you have $60 dollars to spend at a fast food joint, you gotta spread that out and order a lot of different things. The rice ball was interesting and nice enough - the slightly sweet sticky rice and vegetable shell protects a chicken-y center - but I didn't like it enough to cede precious stomach space for it.
No, I was saving room for the main attraction(s). The bulk of our table was soon taken up by heaping plates of Kyochon's signature wings, both soy garlic (below, left) and hot and sweet (below, right). Both were pretty darned amazing. The key is that the wings are unbreaded (just a thin coating of flour) and double-fried, yielding exactly the kind of shatteringly crisp skin and moist, juciy meat of which fried chicken aficionados dream. The hot and sweet wings were as advertised - gooey, spicy and on the verge of overwhelmingly sweet. The heat is not the kind that has you gasping for breath - at least, not for me - but the kind that burns so good on your lips and your tongue (and later, in your stomach). Both the spice and the sweetness of the wings limited the number I could consume, so I turned my attention to the soy garlic wings. These are not at all sweet or gooey, but full of salty, garlicky goodness, and were probably my favorite of the night.
While we were tearing through heaps of wings, we nibbled on an order of the Sal Sal chicken salad (below), a bowl of greens with fried chicken strips covered with breadcrumbs and puffed rice. Again, decent enough, but after trying the flavor explosion that was the wings, the chicken tenders topping the salad could've benefited from some dressing or dipping sauce. They seemed a little bland and dry.
Our final chicken selection was an order of the honey wings (below). Here, you get the gooey sweetness of the hot and sweet wings, without the hot. If possible, the skin on the honey wings was even crisper than the other versions. Again, after a couple of wings, I got a little overwhelmed by the sweetness, but the ones I did manage to eat were phenomen-tastic.
And with that, a new addiction was born. I think about Kyochon wings day and night now, but I'm scared to go back - I'm fairly certain I ate my weight in fried chicken, and any additional trips will guarantee that that number will increase drastically (hell, I'm pretty sure I gained 5 pounds just from the one visit). While Kyochon's offerings are a bit pricier than you might find at a KFC (without a Groupon, an order of 20 wings will run you $15.99), it's still cheaper than other addictions and four times as rewarding.