Sunday, September 28, 2008

BBQ Chicken - Irvine

Ah, Diamond Jamboree. Nothing in recent memory has changed the Irvine dining scene like it has done, and in the way it has done: literally overnight. These past few weeks have seen a half dozen new Asian restaurants open there to flowery wreaths, balloon arches, and lots and lots of traffic. First, it was Tokyo Table and Chae Bahn. Then, this weekend, 85°C Bakery Café, Guppy Tea House and the return of BCD Tofu House.

And of course, there's BBQ Chicken, which marks the first time Korean fried chicken has made it into the city limits -- that is, if you don't count when its citizens smuggle it in from existing Korean fried chicken purveyors in Buena Park and Garden Grove.

Last night, after being refused entry to Tokyo Table (mental note for next time: secure reservations well in advance) we strolled over to BBQ Chicken to find that it, too, was crowded. Barely a week in and the place was already doing brisk business. Perhaps too brisk for us, who despite being fortunate enough to grab a table as soon as we walked in, had to wait a good half-hour for our orders to arrive.

Priority, it seems, is rightly given to its take-out customers. But also, there's this: When we ordered the Red Hot Drumsticks (5 pieces for $8.99), our server gave us two dire warnings. The first: "This is really spicy". The second: "This is going to take longer".

Only after thumb-twiddling, playing multiple rounds of cell phone games, and watching the sun go down, did we realize what "longer" meant. But when the Red Hot Drumsticks finally did come, our dour moods and growling stomachs were rewarded with what is possibly the best fried chicken in Irvine.

The drumsticks were wonderful, crusted over with a bubbled coat of batter and drenched in scorching red chili sauce that seemed to glow with radioactivity. Their raison d'être lies in that first quarter inch where skin, batter, and sauce gather to form a concentrated sucker punch of crunch and burn. Ralph Wiggum put it best when he said: “It tastes like burning!”

As your lips throb and your brow dampens, it will remind you of Buffalo wings, but much more memorable than that. In the sauce I tasted honey, kimchi juice and garlic. And even if you end up not liking them, you’ll still taste them over and over again, since long after your meal is over, the chicken will continue to produce burps more fragrant than CornNuts.

But as good as the sauce is, the chicken would be nothing without the crust. Like Kyochon's chicken, the skin is rendered of all of the subcutaneous fat -- so much so that it virtually disappears into the coating. But unlike Kyochon's chicken, BBQ Chicken touts a thicker batter and also the fact that their birds are cooked in olive oil. We did not, however, take that to mean that this was health food. Fried chicken is still fried chicken.

Their Teri-Q Gold Wings (10 pcs for $7.99) was battered with a lighter touch and soaked in a salty, soy-based glaze. And they were enormous, like they came from sort of gigantic, mutant hen. But somehow, they were less impressive than the drumsticks. “These are good,” I said to my friends, “but not Kyochon-good.”

But that was a minor complaint. As I mentioned, the service, during these formative weeks, is a bit uneven, and that’s being kind. They seemed to be struggling to figure out whether they want to be a quick-service fast-food take-out or a proper sit-down. Their biggest weakness is that their dine-in servers are also the cashiers, which is why no one offered us the pickled radishes until we asked. However, the fact that they were delicious and free was more than enough to make up for it.

The fried rice ($1.75) is another matter. It was, without question, the worst fried rice I’ve ever eaten. In fact, it tasted like bad Rice-A-Roni. Thank goodness for BBQ Chicken that their chicken drumsticks were light-years away from Shake n' Bake.

BBQ Chicken
2750 Alton Parkway #111
Irvine, CA 92614

Victory Bakery & Restaurant - Anaheim


At 7:31 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...


Looks awesome. will try this place.

Prices always seem high at these Korean chicken joints?

At 7:36 PM, Blogger Constance said...

My stomach is growling for their chicken...
Maybe on a 'cheat day' on my diet, I will have to go and try some :)

At 8:27 PM, Blogger digkv said...

Hey Elmo,
Sorry about my rudeness in last week's comment, I did not mean to be that accusatory and I am sorry. Thanks for this post though, your claim of "best fried chicken" intrigues me as i am madly in love with fried chicken though it does seem a bit pricey for fried chicken. And argh I've been trying to figure out what it was the Ralph Wiggum ate that tasted like burning.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi elmo,

Interesting post! The name is a little deceiving as it reads "BBQ", in which is different than Korean Fried chicken.

I wonder why the sauce for the spicy chicken was not completely coated around the chicken but actually more on the top side (where most of the meat is).

Just have a question, but what is the photo that is right of the fried rice? It looks like a dessert or tofu sort of thing...I don't really know.

Great photos as usual!

At 8:45 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Diamond Dog,

I also can't understand why Korean Fried Chicken's are always more expensive and Popeyes can do their chicken for $1.29 on Tuesdays. Though BBQ Chicken actually seems cheaper than Kyochon by a few cents. That would not be remarkable if not for the fact that Kyochon is in Stanton and BBQ Chicken (at least this branch) is in Irvine.


If you're going to cheat, you might as well make it fried chicken. And if it's fried chicken, it might as well be these!


I had to go back and re-read your comment from last week because I didn't, for a second, consider it rude. So no apologies needed! If anything, it gave me great feedback and confirmed that I did that post without stepping on toes (balancing the Obama reference with the McCain one).

And I was trying to find the actual sound clip where Ralph Wiggun said that, and unfortunately all I can come up with is a quote of it in text. I think he was eating paste at the time?

If anyone remembers, or better yet, has a sound link to the complete quote and its context, I'll appreciate it!

At 8:47 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah, I would've loved it if the whole drumstick was covered in sauce...but perhaps it was done by design, so as not to get any of the liquid on your hands, and then, accidentally in your eyes! Oh that would suck!

And good question: that pic to the right of the fried rice are the pickled radishes, cut into cubes. They're a must! SOOO GOOOD!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I love those pickled radishes!!!!!Does anyone know how to make them? I would die for the recipe. Come on Korean humans....step up please.

I told some Korean people how cheap they were at $1.00 for a container at kyochan. But they said 'What??!!! They are supposed to give those out for free. Most places do"

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I was hoping to check this place out for lunch but dang the price for such tiny morsels of meat and bone.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Bill said...

LOL oops I take that back I swore I saw hot wings for some reason or maybe I wanted hot wings.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

I live right by this shopping center and have seen it a bunch but finally decided to drive in one time and check out what shops might be there. Turns out it was the day Tokyo Table was having its grand opening (although I was still there a few hours before they would open their doors). I then drove around the rest of the place and saw BBQ Chicken and thought, "What a terribly creative name."

At 11:06 PM, Blogger edjusted said...

Now you've done it. After waiting in line for over an hour at 85 degree C Coffee in the same plaza, I swore not to go back to this plaza for at least a few months. Now I might have to break that promise to try BBQ Chicken. Argh. Thanks for the review!

(Also, someone might want to mention that in this case, "BBQ" is supposed to stand for "Best of the Best Quality", not "Bar B Que)

At 11:45 PM, Blogger dumplings said...


I just visited this plaza today. My girlfriend and I tried a few items at 85c. I've tried this bakery in Taiwan, and the baked goods I had today tasted similar to what you would find in the Taiwanese chain stores. The name "85c" explains that coffee taste best when it's prepared at that temperature. I remember that the store gets coffee beans from the volcanic mountains of Andes. I recommend you go and try their 85c specialty coffee and the maple syrup covered brick toast. I actually prefer the $1.20 price tag to the $4 - $5 tag at Guppies. Guppies really love their MSG's by the way.

We actually walked into BBQ Chicken at around 4:30pm right after when they reopened after a mid-day break. I don't know if any readers here noticed, but the entire restaurant smelled like bathroom. I am hoping that it was a temporary plumbing problem, but this place had a stench like none other. We completely lost our appetite when we walked in.

I'm just dying for Capital to open. I wonder if it'll parallel the one in Rowland Heights.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Pickled Radish - a recipe

At 7:28 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

...sigh...someday, I will learn..

Ingredients: Serves 4

1 strip of radish

2 tablespoons of salt

1 teaspoon of white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1 teaspoon of Korean hot pepper powder

Marinated ingredients to be blended together into a smooth paste:

30 g dried shrimps

30 g garlic, peeled

20 g ginger, peeled

15 g leek

1 teaspoon of dried shrimp paste

1 tablespoon of salt

3 strips of hot red chili peppers

½ piece of pear, skin and core removed

1½ tablespoons of rough hot pepper powder

1½ cups of kelp broth


Peel and cut radish into 3cm cubes and add 2 tablespoons of salt to mix well. Marinate for 2 hours, drain and discard the juice. Put the radish cubes into the prepared blended paste and marinate in the fridge in an airtight container for one day before serving. Before serving, remove the radish cubes to a serving dish or individual bowls and sprinkle some Korean hot pepper powder and white sesame seeds on top

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Christine D. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...


The recipe you posted is for radish Kimchi and not the radishes picture or like the radishes at Kyochan.

Please help!!!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

(Repost: Oops, the link I posted to the Simpsons episodes site seems to have a trojan virus.)

The crust sounds soooooo good. I can almost taste it, even though I've never had Korean-style fried chicken. So many new Asian restaurants are popping up in Irvine!

Haha, I love Ralph Wiggum! He's said that quote more than once, and the one I remember was from the "Lord of the Flies"-esque episode where he ate some purple berries. It's called "Das Bus" if anyone's wondering.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - There's one of these opening up on Friday in San Diego...after reading your post, I can't wait!

At 5:46 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD and christoofat,

I think it's just radish, white vinegar and sugar. I confirmed it by reading Wandering Chopsticks' recipe.


It's steep, but still not as steep as other Korean fried chickens. Though I think I'd avoid the place for lunch. I doubt you can get out of there in an hour, especially if you get those drumsticks. I heard you can call ahead though.


Regarding the name: See edjusted's comment below. Now do you think it's creative?! ;-)


I saw that line at 85 Degrees C. In fact, I took a picture of it for a Stick a Fork In It post. And for a while I thought they must be given free stuff out...but it's even more jaw-dropping to hear that they weren't. People were lining up to line up!


Ugh. If I smelled that when I was there, this post would not have existed. Luckily, the only complaint I had was about the service and that fried rice.


Thanks! And nothing tastes like more like burning than a trojan.

Another classic Ralph-ism: "I bent my wookie!"


Ah, I can't wait to see what you think. I kinda almost want you to try the fried rice even.

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read so much about these Korean chicken places, and you've definitely piqued my interest in them even more now. And sauce made from kimchi juice? That's the type of burning I'd like to taste!

At 11:05 PM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Thanks for delving into the new center. I haven't managed to make it out there, but I'm really lookig forward to it.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

"(Also, someone might want to mention that in this case, 'BBQ' is supposed to stand for 'Best of the Best Quality', not 'Bar B Que')"

Is there a way for customers to find that out officially because it's sure open to being misunderstood. Not that I care much but I'm sure most people will instinctively translate it to "barbecue."

At 10:13 AM, Blogger edjusted said...

ChristianZ: The "translation" for BBQ is on their web site, but I agree that just about everyone's going to think "BarBQue". Sometimes companies just get a bit too "cutesy" with their names.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

Thanks. I guess as long as they bring business in it doesn't matter much.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Nice post on this, E. I'll still head over at some point, but like I said, I'm tempted to do the BP location first.

Christine D. (who totally needs to move back to OC because I need her as a Yelp friend) beat me to the punch on reference and context for the Wiggum quote.

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post! How does this compare to the other Korean fried chicken place with also a goofy name called Pizza and Chicken Love Letter in Garden Grove?

At 9:58 PM, Blogger Lemony said...

I went here for lunch today bearing your post in mind--

I got the $5.99 2 pc combo; fries and coleslaw were pretty tasteless and scant. While the chicken was good, it wasn't stellar. I double-dog dared my bf to get the redhots and he wasn't particularly impressed with the sauce. Oh well.

I'm not sure if I know how to fully appreciate Korean fried chicken as you do, but I thought the options were woefully overpriced. :[ I think I'm going to have to stick with my Wingstop.

At 10:48 PM, Blogger ila said...

hey elmo,

i went here today and tried the extra spicy seasoned chicken and deeply regret it (okay, only a little). it was soooo hot that my lips swelled up to twice its regular size.
the teri golds were really enjoyable though.

At 6:12 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I'm not 100% positive it's kimchi juice, but it sure tastes like it! But for your first taste, you might look for Kyochon in Stanton (or one that is closer to you). I'm not sure if it was because it was my first Korean FC, but so far it's impressed me more than BBQ Chicken.


As Vincent said to Jules in Pulp Fiction "Yeah baby, you'd dig it the most!"

Christian and edjusted,

To make even more confusing, they also DO serve BBQ chicken (as in barbecued).


Yeah, I wish I tried the BP location before this one. This one's just getting its sea legs. I'm sure that one also tastes like burning!


I've yet to try Chicken Love Letter. One of these days I will. That one, it seems, is the only independent.

Pomegranate Girl,

Well then, I'm sure glad you took my advice and stayed away from the fried rice...then you would've really been disappointed! Everyone's right though, it's mind boggling that Korean fried chicken places charge what they charge. Or perhaps we should be asking how Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeyes can price so low!


Oooh...the extra spicy seasoned chicken sounds like my kind of bird. Though I may need to bring a towel. I'd be drenched in sweat!

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also a big wingstop fan but loved the red hot. They were somewhere between Wingstop's original hot (not nearly hot enough) and atomic sauce (I can do exactly two before stop-drop-rolling desperately) which is about perfect for me.

So thanks for the rec.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Roger said...

I was literally salivating when looking at the wings and imagining the heat...

At 7:23 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Glad you liked them! I've never actually gotten around to trying Wing Stop, or even Wing Nuts. Funny enough, I felt those joints were too expensive in what they charged for fried chicken!


As was I when I wrote about it. I relived the heat by describing it.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This place was horrible. We ordered the chicken balls. Looked like orange chicken on the menu...but when we got it they were like chicken mountain oysters. The fried rice was bland and the waiter had ZERO personality. He even poured water in my sierra mist to top it off. I was so over it at this point that I didnt even say anything. AVOID THIS PLACE AT ALL COSTS

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


You need to try Chicken and Pizza Love Letter. The chicken is pretty good and the pizza is great! That's the only place I've had sweet potato pizza. They also have a Bulgogi pizza.

I haven't been to Diamond Jamboree yet. I'll have to check out the various places there sometime soon.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger ODEN said...

My coworkers and I went to this restaurant for lunch this afternoon because pretty much everything around this food complex wasn't opened yet. When you first go in there you will be greeted by a smell of what i can only describe as sweat and sour armpit. we looked over the menu and nothing really looked that good but we were already there and into our lunch hour so we had no choice but to order. I ordered sweat and sour chicken and what came out scared us all. The plate had 8 large baseball sized red balls, the smell was so bad it still is in my noise 4 hours later. I cut this mutant meat ball and what was inside had to be last remaining unwanted parts of the chicken. It was a fried ball of just wrong and i felt like i was on a episode of fear factor. I have never hesitate to eat something in my life but this i did for at least two minutes. After being challenged...i closed my eyes and took a bite and I'm still trying to block that memory out of my head.

I never write reviews of food but i felt it was my humanly duty to report my findings to you, so no other mouths have to be ravaged like this again. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!!!

At 3:23 AM, Blogger V said...

had the chance to eat here this weekend. They were packed. I did takeout. They said it would take 20 minutes, more like 35. (That's OK, got a walking tour of the other shops in the center). They still have an issue of having the cashiers be the wait staff. Ordered the fried chicken. Juicy and succulent. Phenomenal!


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