The East Wing


KyoChon Chicken | 350 5th Ave. (on 32nd St.), Manhattan | 212.696.0150‎ | kyochon.com/usa/us/ny

“BACK ON THE chain gang!” That’s how I felt once I decided to—having just plowed through a pizzacone, from a store that’s part of a chain—wait over an hour for the grand opening of something called KyoChon Chicken, a Korean chicken place with stores all over its homeland as well as China, as well as having posts here in the U.S., including LA, and now, as of this particular evening, New York City.

They provided enough fanfare, having their nattily-uniformed staff play barkers as the handed out menus to the passerby on the street and announcing their eventual official opening at 6 that evening. They seemed to also have hired their own camera crew, since once they were done interviewing the owners, they packed up their gear and jumped into a KyoChon Chicken van and drove away.

But not before filming the stores door opening, and allowing the people who had been queued for over an hour—by this point, 6:30 p.m.—to finally be greeted by an overwhelming number of staffers affected sartorially in a prep school/barbershop quartet hybrid.




The interior space’s design and decor can best be described as a cross between a futuristic Stanley Kubrick set and a set for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, while I was led upstairs to the official dining area which, without the pictures of food on the walls, could have been mistaken for Austin Power’s bar and lounge.




But I was there for the food, and after two different waiters took my drink and food orders separately, and being explained that the $6 for 5 wings special—that was listed in the menu they had handed me outside over an hour earlier!—was just for lunch and I could only order an $18 or $21 dollar platter of just one of their two signature types of wings (Soy-Garlic or Hot and Sweet), I opted for an $18 platter of the Soy-Garlic Wings, figuring I could get through about half of them and take the other half home.




I was wrong. The wings were the size of my thumb, and the flavors were passable at best. Especially if part your marketing is to appeal to people’s taste for the exotic, these were very pedestrian. The soy sauce was more salt than soy in flavor, and the garlic was to subtle to be of any real impact. I started to doubt the argument that the basting of the wings with their “secret recipe” sauce would make them take longer to get to my table and suspect that the only “secret” to this sauce was that it wasn’t anything more packet soy sauce and non-brand garlic powder. They wings remind you that you’re eating in a chain restaurant, where flavors are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, and they reminded me that if I were in Korea, I’d be eating at the equivalent of a Popeye’s. Except I think even Popeye’s could make these wings better.

I completely understand that in this neighborhood, your food options are limited to $20 bucks and under or $50 and over, and that’s just for lunch, which I see this place getting most of its business from. (There are plenty of businesses but very little residential.) And, don’t get me wrong, if you’re in the mood for quick, cheap wings, you could squeeze out some contentment from these; I did actually finish mine.

But I would never pay $20 for these again, aware of the fact that I could easily make bigger, better, tastier wings myself at home for half the cost of a platter. The unjustifiable price point is the lasting impression I was about to leave with. Was I paying for the staff who, even with the place starting to fill up with other curiosity seekers, outnumbered the customers by at least 2-to-1, or their frilly, layered clothing and hipster berets and fedoras.

Then, as I was finishing up and bitterly signing my name to a credit card receipt of over 20 bucks, a video starting playing of former American Idol contestant, Jason Catsro. I liked his signing on the show, and I didn’t mind his easygoing voice during the typically user-friendly, adult contemporary tune. However, would I venture to buy his album? No.

But leaving KyoChon—and passing the customers who were unwittingly ordering takeout on the ground level—not only did I feel like I bought his album, I felt like I was duped into paying twice as much as they should ever charge for it…!




Bun Apple Tea!

.kac.

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KyoChon Chicken | 350 5th Ave. (on 32nd St.), Manhattan | 212.696.0150‎ | kyochon.com/usa/us/ny



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