Of all the trendy foods to hit L.A. recently, nothing has intrigued me more than Kyochon Chicken, fried chicken as done by Koreans. Jonathan Gold's Pulitzer-prize winning taste-buds swears by it (“Current fried chicken mecca“, he writes), while food bloggers, Chowhounds, and Yelpers alike have gone ga-ga, typing out countless testimonials of its greatness.
The buzz has been so loud that it's even spurred the predictable backlash, a signal that the hype has run its course, at least in L.A.
Sounds like Pinkberry all over again, doesn't it?
And just like during the fro-yo frenzy, Orange County stood idly by, removed from the excitement, but left hungry in its wake.
There were substitutes that popped up while Kyochon stayed exclusively outside of the Orange Curtain. Most notably, a place called Pizza and Chicken Love Letter served to quench our Korean fried chicken jones. But look out fellow O.C. dwellers!
The chicken has landed.
I repeat: The chicken has landed. In Stanton.
You heard that right. Stanton — long the butt of trailer-park jokes — is now the home of the first Kyochon Chicken in O.C. Some may remember that the city is also headquarters of Thai Nakorn, the best Thai restaurant in California. Add this recent development, and things are looking up for this humble burg.
But apparently, its newest resident still wants nothing to do with it. On its brochure, Kyochon prints in bold type face that this is the “Garden Grove Store”, even as the address clearly states that it's located in Stanton.
My friends and I shared an order of 20 wings ($16.99) for dinner and it was everything I hoped it would be. We could've opted for the “sticks”, which are chicken leg drumsticks sold in multiples of two, or traditional fried chicken pieces; but the wings are best suited to savor the chicken's most-written-about quality: the skin.
It's crispy, finely bubbled and crackly like the caramel crust of a creme brulee.
Utilizing just the thinnest whisper of coating, the rest of the crispiness is a result of a double-fry that renders all of the subcutaneous fat off, leaving nothing but a thin strata of concentrated crunch and flavor between your teeth and the meat.
There are two flavors available: “garlic soy sauce” and “hot sweet sauce”. Both are wonderful. The “garlic soy” feels sticky, like its glazed in honey or nectar. Those lubed in the “hot sweet sauce” unleash a sour, stinging burn that subsides quickly, but leaves a lasting impression of kimchi and spice.
Either way, between bites of chicken, I alternated between rice and Kyochon's radish pickles, cubes of refreshing sweet/sour palate cleansers sold floating in vinegar, sealed inside a plastic box. The latter is required for every meal and costs just a buck.
The chicken has landed. And it's one small step for O.C., but a big, giant leap for Stanton.
Kyochon Chicken (inside Freshia Market)
12840 Beach Blvd.
Stanton, CA 90680