Friday, March 4, 2011

Modern Korea: Chicken Bonchon and Caffe Ti-amo

I was recently in Greenbelt 1 with my family to watch "Joy Luck Club," an excellent play by Repertory Philippines. We decided to grab some dinner afterwards and my aunt recommended Chicken Bonchon, a new chicken franchise from Korea that also has branches in New York.

After dinner, we had some gelato at Caffe Ti-amo, also another Korean chain. It was franchised by Jollibee and is now opening several branches around Metro Manila. They serve coffee, pastries, and of course, yummy gelato!

More under the cut!

So what makes Chicken Bonchon so special, other than its Korean origins? Supposedly, Korean fried chicken like that in Chicken Bonchon is deep fried twice. What, you ask, doesn't that make it even more unhealthy? Well, actually, no. Unlike the usual fried chicken that's fried only once, frying chicken twice causes the fat under the skin (the most unhealthy part of chicken) to melt away, resulting in crispy, tender, and fat-less chicken.

Once fried, the chicken is covered in sauce, of which you have an option of either soy and garlic (which was a bit sweet), or hot and spicy. We tried both but I only took a picture of the hot and spicy variant:

The chicken was very nice and crispy, however, I thought that the taste was lacking. Only the skin part had any flavor, especially from the sauce (which was very nice) but it wasn't coated evenly so some parts of the chicken were bland. It would have been better if there were more sauce, but I felt that the meat of the chicken was bland as well.

According to my aunt their quality is a bit inconsistent, which I hope in this case is a good thing, because if their chicken tasted consistently like the one I tried, then I don't think I'll be going back any time soon.

On a more positive note, their other dishes are quite good. :D

This one is calamari, which is quite expensive for a small serving, but it's very good, especially with the spicy dipping sauce.

Caesar salad, which was good although nothing special. It was also quite big.

The more unique "Ginger Tofu Salad" with tofu strips and ginger soy sauce. It was good as well.

Thick-cut fries

We also ordered rice but I didn't take a photo of it.

Anyway, basically Chicken Bonchon is pretty good but it could be better, especially since its main selling point, the chicken, didn't really wow me. I hope they'll improve though because fried chicken is huge in Korea and I'd love for more chicken franchises to come to the Philippines.

And so, moving on. After dinner, we went to Caffe Ti-amo for dessert. Of course I had some gelato, my perennial favorite. As I mentioned, Caffe Ti-amo is a Korean chain that was franchised by Jollibee.

As with every gelato store I've seen, they have a wide array of flavors such as banana, coffee, tiramisu, orange, etc. Some of the more unique flavors include pinacolada, milk cheese and rice. Yes, rice. I tried it, and it tasted like... rice.

(As usual, I'm really disturbed by the various things they put on top of the gelato.)

We ordered tiramisu, vanilla, blueberry cheesecake, and milk cheese. I especially love the milk cheese flavor.

Tiramisu - vanilla
The servings were pretty small though, so it was a bit expensive. The gelato itself is very good, but a little too sweet and not very creamy in my opinion. I still prefer Gelatissimo!

And look at this! They have rocking chairs inside the store! How cute is that?

They also have a little corner labeled the "Anything Area". And true enough, there was a girl there reading, wearing PAJAMAS. I guess that area is really for anything.

Aaaand, that's it. :) Overall, although I think Korea rocks and their food is excellent, I don't think these franchises are doing them justice. For Chicken Bonchon, I think they have the potential to really improve their quality and their service (as it was really slow), while for Caffe Ti-amo, they don't seem to put as much importance in preserving the freshness and high quality that the Korean chain is so famous for.

Actually, so far all of the licensed food chains here in the Philippines have never really been able to match the quality of that in the original. I guess if you really want to try great Korean chicken and gelato, you'll have to go to Korea yourself.

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