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LaBan Drops Zero Bells on Much-Hyped Bonchon

Plus, the critics check out a Vetri alum's South Philly taqueria and more.

Sari. A/Yelp

Based on the meals he endured for this week's review, Inquirer critic Craig LaBan "just can't fathom why" Philly's first Bonchon franchise has been playing to a packed house and going through a reported 4,800 pounds of chicken each week. Doling out a rare rating of zero bells, LaBan warns that "Bonchon corporate should be concerned about consistency."

There were a few decent dishes on the menu, including almost-there bulgogi beef sliders, spicy tteokbokki, and the salmon avocado ball, which was "unexpectedly delicious" despite looking "as though it had been dropped onto a plate from the mezzanine."

But the chain's signature item, Korean fried chicken, suffered a host of issues, beginning with "stringy, bland, and dry" drumsticks and ending with boneless tenders that failed to hold onto their deep-fried coating. And many other Korean specialties badly missed the mark, too, which LaBan attributes to the fact that "there isn't a single Korean in the kitchen at this Bonchon."

That angle led to a bit of discussion on Twitter (which promises to continue during tomorrow's live restaurant chat, hosted weekly by LaBan):

But even setting the food aside, LaBan was turned off by Bonchon's "pulsing flat-screen overload," soju shots reminiscent of "kiddie medicine," and the "nonsensical chaotic rush" of service, leaving not much to earn the place even a single bell.


Elsewhere:

· City Paper critic Adam Erace checked in at Los Jimenez, the South Philly taqueria opened last month by Vetri vet Justino Jimenez. And while there were high points ("amazing" cucumber-lime aqua fresca, suadero tacos, and "fantastic" squash blossom quesadillas), the house specialty tacos al pastor didn't quite hit the mark.

· In lieu of a full review, Philly Weekly gives the quick-hit treatment to Square 1682 at the Hotel Palomar, where "virtually every item's a masterpiece" — truly a feat. The highlighted suggestion here is the new spring menu's selection of appetizers, boldly recommended for "those who prefer small bites."

· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack again forewent a true review this week, but took the opportunity to reminisce and name-check some of her favorite shops and restaurants in and around the Italian Market, in honor of its 100th anniversary and this past weekend's festival.

Bonchon Chicken

1020 Cherry St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (267) 639-6686 Visit Website

Los Jimenez Mexican Cocina

2654 S 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19148 (267) 773-8440

Square 1682

121 South 17th Street, , PA 19103 (215) 563-5008 Visit Website

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