I was strolling through Manhattan yesterday after finishing some work. I was quite hungry since I didn’t eat all day, and was trying to located a proper meal. I just happened to be around 5th avenue, when I noticed a small group of people standing in line for something. As I approached closer, I realized that this was the new Korean fried chicken joint, Kyochon… and it looked like it was about to have it’s opening. I read about this place at midtownlunch, so I figured why not give it a try since I was starving anyway. I got there at 5:30 and was quickly told that the place would officially open at 6pm. I noticed the team inside trying to rush things, and doing some last minute touch ups and cleaning up. There was a definite sense of panic inside. A professional videographer and a photographer also waited outside to shoot some footage, which I’m guessing will go on their website. Since I had nothing to do but wait, I took out my camera and snapped an image of the outside. I gotta admit, the location is pretty prime, as it’s located right across from the Empire state building.
A Korean man next to me started talking to me about my photography, and eventually, I told him that I was a professional photographer. After a bit of talking, I found out he was the designer of the restaurant, and pretty much the man responsible for the overall decore of the place. I gotta admit, he did a really good job, and the place looked fantastic. It’s somewhat ironic though, because I asked him for food recommendation from the place, and he had never tasted the food. For one reason or another, the man wanted me to get him some images, so he took me inside before the opening, and asked me to take a few pictures to email him. I had nothing else to do but wait anyway, so I went in and took a few shots. Now I’ll be the first to say that these are not the best images (given I only had my camera and a lens). However, it should still give you an idea of how the place is inside.
I’m not gonna lie, KyoChon looks great. Downstairs seemed very clean and contemporary for a “to go” area. The place was lit well, smelled fresh, and the employees were friendly. A long winding red stair takes you upstairs, which is the dine in area. Upstairs had a more lounge vibe to it, with a few tables, as well as a very long booth that went around the restaurant. The decorations upstairs were nice, and they had quite a few plasma tv’s to give it a modern feel to it.
Ok, the place looks pretty nice, but how’s the food?
I wouldn’t find that out for another half an hour. Apparently, they needed to get the video right. This meant that the customers would wait outside in the cold, while the video guys went in an and did their thing. They had to do a few re-shoots because the employees would forget to smile, or the girls opening the door wouldn’t open them both at the same time. I just wanted some fried chicken, and I was getting tired of waiting.
The place finally opened around 6:30pm, and I was one of the first customers there. The man who asked me to take the pictures was going to buy my meal, but I could not find him anywhere in sight. Oh well, I planned on paying when I initially got there anyway. I thought about dining in, so I went upstairs. However, since I didn’t have a date, and the prices being double of the take out menu downstairs, I quickly decided to just go back down and get it to go. I ordered the medium 10 piece wing deal for $9.99, which I gotta say, is pretty expensive for wings. I asked to get them split between the soy garlic and hot & sweet, and they made it happen. It took about 15 more minutes to get the order in hand, but it was the first day, so I kind of expected that. While I waited, I noticed they had 4 sauces at a sauce station across from the register. Your choices are soy garlic, jambalaya, honey dijon, and good ol ketchup. I decided to get a bit of soy garlic, and the jambalaya to try out.
The meal came with a packet that had chopsticks, napkins, one of those wet towels, and some white pickled daikon radishes.
I’m afraid my experience at KyoChon was not as great as I had expected. The chicken wings were very tiny. In their menu, they state that they use young chicken for the freshest meat, but I mean these things were the size of my pinky finger. Also, they were definitely not as crispy as advertised. They may have pre-made a batch, and had it ready to go… so over time it got soft and soggy. The wings I had felt overcooked, and not really crispy as I expected. The meat wasn’t really dry, but not that great either. I’ve had both crispier and juicier chicken wings before from many places, and even popye’s wings seemed bigger and better in comparison. As I mentioned, I asked to get the wings split in flavors. The Soy Garlic flavor seemed kind of bland to me. I wasn’t very impressed with that flavor, and had to pretty much rely on the side sauce. I had these with the side of soy garlic sauce, and I didn’t like the side sauce much either. The sauce seemed to have a strong garlic taste, which overpowered the chicken for the most part. The hot and sweet wings however were quite nice in flavor. They definitely had a kick, and were more hot than sweet. If you tend to not like spicy food, than I wouldn’t get these. I tried it with that jambalaya sauce, which had a unique taste to it. It’s hard to describe, but it tasted a bit like sweet and sour sauce with 7up soda mixed into it. Anyway, the hot and sweet wings were definitely better in terms of flavor I thought. I thought about cleansing my palette with the pickled radishes after the meal, but it had a sour vinegar smell to it, and I wasn’t that big of a fan of that either.
All in all, the place is nice decor, and a place to maybe bring a date to for the ambiance. However, for food, I would probably go somewhere else. After my meal, I was still quite hungry, and I kept kicking myself for just not getting some pizza slices from littly Italy around the other corner (I could’ve gotten 4 slices for the same price). Still, it was quite the experience. I noticed that a BonChon is opening up only two stores down from them. Though I haven’t tried BonChon yet, it would just be kind of fun to watch the competition between the two Korean fried chicken places. If you have any thing to add, any comments, or want to correct me if I’m wrong, feel free to leave a comment below.