Wings, Bulgogi, Kimchi, and Steaming Hot Udon Soup
By The BaldOne
In a town, especially a downtown that is full of restaurants it is important for a new place to stand out. You can give the place a funny name, or assign your entrees funky names. Maybe you can dress your staff as lumberjacks, or have them wear tight shorts.
Whatever works, but success is never guaranteed.
The one tried and true way is to serve something that is not already common to the area. We already have our share of seafood joints, Italian eateries, burger spots, and pizza parlors. We have Chinese and Japanese and Asian Fusion. There are three spots for tacos and burritos, and a venue for Indian offerings. Fast food is also well represented.
Peter Ahn looked at Salem and saw that something was missing. So he found a spot on Essex Street last year and brought to us Bon Chon Downtown Salem. Bon Chon is the first Korean restaurant in Salem.
The spot is next to the old Jerry’s Army & Navy in the old Michael Robert’s Hairdressing spot. It a mid-sized eatery for Salem. New, clean, lit well, with both floor and bar seating complimented by beer, cider and wine.
Most people familiar with Bon Chon will first tell you about the Korean Chicken Wings known simply as Bon Chon Chicken. You can order them bone-in or as strips and the you can get them hot, or not hot. They also give you an option for drums or wings.
There is more to the menu however, much more.
Potstickers, which are pork and vegetable dumplings, octopus dumplings called Takyoki, Edamame, Bulgogi (Ribeye) Sliders, and a Salmon Avocado Ball are featured as starters. Both a Salmon Sesame Ginger and a Tofu Sesame Ginger salad tempt you along with a Bon Chon Salad with romaine, edamame beans, scallions, kimchi, and a ginger dressing.
The featured main dishes are a who’s who of Korean classics. Japchae, glass noodles with vegetables and chicken, Bimbibap, white rice with seasoned vegetables, topped with an egg and red pepper paste, Bulgogi, ribeye beef with mushrooms and onions, and Bull Dak, spicy chicken stir fry with rice cakes all lead the way.
We were there however, for the Udon Noodle Soup. Peter had seen our Facebook post featuring local soups and apparently felt a little neglected. So he posted that Bon Chon had Udon. So, we felt obligated to go in a give it a try.
First however we chose a Samuel Adams Winter Lager from the tap to whet the appetite and prepare the palate. With it’s cinnamon and ginger touches it seemed to be the proper choice for a Korean lunch. It was indeed.
Starting with the chicken wings, spicy of course, we dug in. Eight pieces, evenly split between drums and wings came out. They look little different than what some of us are used to seeing for chicken wings. The wings are breaded a bit, and actually quite clean to eat. They don’t leave a lot of sauce all over the place. The breaded skin was crisp and the meat quite moist. Not a dry wing was to be found. The spice level was moderate for our taste, but you may think otherwise. It didn’t hit hard but did linger on the tongue.
A kimchi side was our choice to pair with the wings. Kimchi is a rarity around here. To our knowledge only one other Salem spot serves it. This small portion was very good and we found it tangy and delicious. There was enough red pepper involved to keep the tongue tinging for a few minutes.
Then it was time for Udon. Soup is a staple of the Asian diet, and there is nothing better on a cold New England December day.
The large bowl came out steaming and full. White wheat noodles in a spicy broth with vegetables, sesame seed oil, nori (seaweed) and toasted sesame seeds beckoned.
We really enjoyed the spicy, brown broth and probably slurped up half of it before touching a noodle. The noodles are thick and chewy and the vegetables stand up well to the bite. We used both spoon and chopsticks to finish up our Udon and then pushed away all of the plates and bowls.
The Bibmibap, seen in the bottom photo was also well worth the effort. Korean Red Pepper Paste knows no equal.
If you have not yet visited Peter and staff at Bon Chon then it is time for you to schedule a short trek to Essex Street. They are here, they are delicious, and they would like to meet you.