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.
· 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.