Olives and Bon Chon

After initially thinking we wanted to take advantage of Restaurant Week here in NY, I decided I’d rather eat what I want to eat rather than whatever limited menu all these restaurants are offering at a discount for the occasion. So Twoin, Esth and I decided to go to our old standby, Olives. It was a full house which made it hard to hear each other across the table, but we were there for the food anyway. We were disappointed that they didn’t offer the carpet bagger’s oysters that night, and it became the running joke as Twoin kept badgering the waitress about them every time she came around to our table.

So forced to order from the apps that were on the menu, we started out with beef carpaccio which was super thin and delicate but supremely delicious. Could have used some capers I thought, but the flavor of the meat itself was about as good as I’ve ever had in a carpaccio. It was served with a nice hunk of bone marrow and a piece of grilled bread topped with caramelized onions. Nice. The tuna tartare was the same as always, which is very respectable at Olives, but since it’s one of the dishes I frequently make for myself, it has definitely lost some of its luster when I eat out at restaurants. The escargot flatbread was very good in a strange sort of way. The flatbread crust itself was delicious, the escargot as plump as you could want, the goat cheese fairly restrained, and the truffle oil drizzle not overdone. Each element was really good if considered individually, but somehow, the dish never really came together for me. A full bite containing a bit of every one of those components seemed a bit confusing to the palate. They never really came together in a sensible way. With each chew, you were kind of forced to concentrate on which ingredient you wanted to enjoy because if you tried to describe what the entire mouthful was like, you just couldn’t do it. A crunchy crust with chewy plump escargot, soft tangy goat cheese and an aroma of white truffle does not get any better as you chew it. But I have to say, I would definitely order it again. But now I know how to eat it; taking bites of the escargot with just the softened (not soggy) center crust, and eating the outer edge of crunchy crust with the goat cheese. It’ll be like two great eating experiences in one dish instead of a single one with an identity crisis. Meanwhile, Esth was eating all healthy and stuff, having ordered a salad app and a rather uninteresting sea bass for her entree. Too healthy and dull for me, I didn’t bother sampling either.

For my entree I had the scallops with bacon, although the bacon in this case was actually a slab of pork belly. Can’t beat that. The scallops were huge, sweet and perfectly seared. The pork belly had a braised texture but still retained a good smokiness. Twoin had the lamb porterhouse which was terrific, but as Twoin said, you can’t really mess up lamb like that unless you overcook it. To go with our meal we had another old standby, the David Bruce Petit Syrah although this was a 2005. Slightly more acidic, it probably was a better match for my scallops and bacon than the ’04 would have been anyway. Yes, I like red wine with my scallops. But then again, I like red wine with everything.

After dinner we went next store to Underbar to meet up with the rest of the crew. Chilled out there for a while before everyone decided they wanted to move onto another bar. I was going to go home at that point, until they said they were going to Bon Chon for some Korean fried chicken. Damn. I wasn’t really hungry since I had just finished dinner two hours earlier, but Kat convinced me that I had to go since Korean fried chicken has been the latest big thing on the local food scene and I still hadn’t tried it yet. She had a point there, so naturally I caved in and decided to go.

Bon Chon is on 5th ave bet. 31st and 32nd. You enter through a nondescript doorway at street level and then walk up a super narrow winding old stairway. It’s funny that the stairway to this mecca of Korean fried chicken is so narrow that no obese person could possibly make it all the way up without getting stuck. But upon reaching the top of the steps, you enter into a fully modern feeling bar and lounge. That’s what Bon Chon is, a Korean lounge that happens to serve great fried chicken. And great it was. We had the spicy wings and drumsticks instead of the strips. This being my first experience with Korean wings, I had no idea what to expect. Looking at them, I expected they would be heavy and a little sticky:

Bon Chon chicken

But in fact the skin is way lighter than it looks. I’m not sure how they make them, but somehow the skin/batter is crisp, thin, light and distinctly separated from the underlying meat. It’s as if the chicken wing is encapsulated in a bubble of delicious crispy fried skin. I really liked it. In fact, that skin texture is probably the best I’ve ever had on wings. The interior however was unremarkable. The meat inside the drumsticks wasn’t dry but definitely could have been juicier or more flavorful. I really enjoyed the heat level though. Since it used Korean chili paste, the spicyness hit a peak and didn’t get any hotter, so it was a real pleasure to eat and eat. All told, I’m glad I went to check it out and I expect I will be back. But first I’ll have to try some other Korean fried chicken places like Baden Baden since I’m told in their version they actually rottisserie cook the chicken first before deep frying it. That sounds brilliant, but we’ll see. One thing’s for sure, Korean Fried Chicken is the new KFC here in NY.

3 thoughts on “Olives and Bon Chon

  1. Funny you mention the David Bruce as I sit here wearing my David Bruce baseball cap. Beth is a member there although we find the wine to be overpriced now that it is so popular. Have a funny story about David Bruce and Beth. Ask me when you see me. Speaking of Petit Syrah, we had an excellent 2003 Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah 1.5 liter bottle Saturday night with the Osso Bucco our friend Gail made.

  2. Hi Steve~ this blog makes me want to head out to NYC for some good food!! But, I think you need a couple of west coast entries! Within a 75 mile radius of us– you can experience all kinds of great foods. French Laundry, Rubicon, Manresa… You need to come visit!!

  3. Mat- ok, cool; you can tell us the David Bruce story over pizza in AZ!

    Beth- if you can get us a reservation at French Laundry, I would be there in a heartbeat. Seriously!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.