Bonchon – Asian Fusion Comfort Food

Bonchon specializes in Korean-style fried chicken with a variety of Asian fusion dishes drawing roots from Busan, South Korea with a heavy New York City vibe.  Their Charlotte location sits just off Woodlawn in the ParkTowne Village shopping center.  This area is bustling with many other boutiques and eateries, but head down to the lower level to get a taste of what Bonchon is cooking up.

We started off with Takoyaki ($6.95), fried octopus dumplings with a slightly crisp exterior with a sweet and gooey interior, almost as if the batter wasn’t cooked all the way through.  There was a lone morsel of octopus inside, so it wouldn’t be enough to scare off someone who doesn’t like octopus.  The takoyaki came with a duo of sauce drizzles; Japanese mayo and katsu.  These were mild in flavor, but the heavy hand of bonito flakes on top made this a decidedly fishy dish.  Without the bonito, this would be a great introduction for someone who isn’t as familiar with the dish.

Bonchon - Takoyaki

Bonchon – Takoyaki

There’s fried chicken and then there’s Korean fried chicken.  Korean fried chicken, the other “KFC”, is what fried chicken wants to be when it grows up.  Bonchon’s popcorn chicken ($9.95) was just that – seasoned well with a touch of heat and crispier than all get out.  The side creamy chili sauce had just enough heat to kick it up a bit if you prefer to walk on the spicy side.

Bonchon - Popcorn Chicken

Bonchon – Popcorn Chicken

Bulgogi sliders ($10.95) were not at all what I was expecting.  I figured the sweet soy marinated beef would be cooked then put into a burger bun and call it a day.  The ground meat itself was well seasoned and shaped before being caramelized and cooked to a juicy well done.  The sweet burger roll had a few chopped onions, pickle slice and a creamy cole slaw that really rounded all the flavors out.

Bonchon - Bulgogi Sliders

Bonchon – Bulgogi Sliders

Their Japchae ($13.95) is what I remember growing up on.  Glass noodles that have soaked up the sweet soy and sesame flavors before having some crisp veggies stir fried in with tender slices of marinated beef.  They even allowed us to up the heat level, too, with two spice profile options.  House Fried Rice ($10.95) was standard, nothing really stood out as different than any other place stir frying rice with veggies and a protein.  I would choose the Japchae over the fried rice, since it’s a similar flavor profile but more interesting with the glass noodles and hints of sesame.

Bonchon - Japchae

Bonchon – Japchae

Bibimbap ($12.95) was one of the best presentations and executions I’ve ever seen.  Served in an earthenware bowl, this vessel and food itself was still piping hot as we were scooping leftovers into to-go containers.  Check one.  The bibimbap came with a raw egg yolk (yes, raw), that mixed and cooked into the rice and veggies as we served it.  Check two.  The gochujang sauce on the side served as the perfect flavor accelerant to develop those crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the bowl.  Check three.  You’ve hit the Bibimbap trifecta.

Bonchon - Bibimbap

Bonchon – Bibimbap

Bonchon offers enough Korean dishes that can please every spice palate and comfort level.  If you’ve never eaten Korean or Asian fusion dishes, the menu items are described and presented in a way that is familiar and approachable.  Many restaurants struggle to achieve this in a casual dining setting and Bonchon does just that.

Bonchon - Fried Rice

Bonchon – Fried Rice

Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @ChefTessaRD.

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