Albert Tseng, a Mountain View resident, has taken over the space at 260 Castro St., formerly occupied by Midtown Cafe. Tseng owns two other Bonchons in the Bay Area (Sunnyvale and South San Francisco). He said he's always wanted to open in Mountain View, where he has a strong catering business and customers who frequent the Sunnyvale location.
Tseng, who used to be a self-described "burger guy" rather than "fried chicken fan," first tried Bonchon's Korean fried chicken in New York City. It was "amazing," he said.
In 2010, he opened the first Northern California Bonchon in Sunnyvale. South San Francisco came four years later.
Bonchon (which means "hometown" in Korean) first started in Busan, South Korea, and has grown to dozens of locations across Asia and the United States.
Bonchon's fried chicken starts with Mary's Organic Chicken, which is non-GMO and hormone-free. The chicken is double fried; in the middle of the frying process, it's taken out to get some air, which "harden(s) the shell of the chicken," Tseng said. Instead of drenching it in sauce afterwards, employees uses brushes to individually hand-glaze each piece, according to Tseng.
"What you find is the chicken stays very moist, there's a crunch to the outer shell and the sauce is on point," he said.
At Bonchon, diners can choose from soy garlic or spicy fried chicken wings, strips, drumsticks or a combination. Sides include pickled radish, coleslaw, kimchi coleslaw and steamed rice.
There are also Korean and Asian-fusion dishes on the menu, like kimchi pancakes, bulgogi, bibimbap, Korean tacos and the "Bonchon wrap" (chicken strips with lettuce, avocado, buttermilk ranch dressing and spicy mayo wrapped in a flour tortilla). View the menu here.
In Korean culture, Tseng said, eating fried chicken with beer and soju is almost like a "national pastime." (He compared it to when the group on hit TV show "Friends" gathers at a coffee shop to hang out.)
He hopes the new Bonchon in Mountain View will provide just that: "food in a comfortable, non-pretentious environment, paired with beers and soju."
Tseng is eyeing an early 2017 opening, tentatively in February. And there will likely be more local Bonchons to follow; Tseng said he's hoping to "gradually grow" the concept.