If Bulldog Bites has revealed anything so far, it is that Brandon and I enjoy Asian food. Savory pork dumplings and pho ga have and continue to make our nights, and the nights of Yale foodies and New Haven residents alike. I’ve appreciated the constant stream of restaurateurs promising bowls of pork sweet potato soup, or perhaps fried chicken baos, and the chefs who have poured their geniuses into each dish. Best of the Best Quality Chicken, or BB.Q Chicken, has no local genius. Instead, it has over 40 masters and Ph.D. researchers in South Korea optimizing flavors and pushing the boundaries of what we all consider to be the perfect piece of fried chicken.
Or more precisely, the perfect piece of Korean fried chicken. Unlike its American variant, Korean fried chicken is fried twice, first after being coated in a thin batter, and then again after the chicken is strained. The thick buttermilk crust that defines American franchises like Popeyes is ditched for a thinner, crisper and evenly cooked skin. Additionally, Koreans traditionally cook with smaller pieces of chicken, allowing the meat to become so tender that it slips off the bone with the touch of a finger. Korean fried chicken prefers a flavorful blend of spices over sloshes of buffalo sauce.
BB.Q Chicken boasts on its website that it cooks all of its chicken in olive oil sourced from northern Spain, and references a variety of health benefits associated with the oil. BB.Q Chicken claims its researchers create the most delicious and extreme variety of chicken for a global market.
The exactness necessary to prepare Korean fried chicken fits in nicely with the idea of the “best of best quality.” The cooks, in fact, ensure that the chicken is quality. BB.Q Chicken advises patrons to order chicken 25 minute in advance for an on-time pick up, and on both of our visits our waitress informed us that the cooks needed about twice as much time to get the chicken just right. I applaud BB.Q’s commitment to preparing finely double-fried chicken, despite the few rough patches in my experience.
BB.Q’s design — although, to be fair, the restaurant has just opened — is more reminiscent of a typical American fast food chain. Three posters of various BB.Q chicken wings line one brick wall. The wall opposite is a vibrant orange and has a TV suspended perhaps too high up its center. On it a waitress queues up a playlist of Korean hits on YouTube, and Brandon and I listen to them and the occasional 15-second ad as we wait for our food.
In contrast to the elusive flavors served at Steamed, nothing is subtle at BB.Q. The cabbage and carrots in my coleslaw are shredded to crispness, but the sweet mayonnaise dressing saturates the appetizer and masks any fresh flavor the vegetables would have offered. With each bite of kernel in the corn salad comes a cool and milky burst, but again, a dressing too sweet pervades everything, and after a few bites I opt to keep my hunger and wait for BB.Q’s main dish.
The chicken comes crackling on oblong wooden plates and is set on top of wrapping paper designed as if it were newspaper. Condiments are not necessary, not even for the bare original golden olive chicken. This chicken is the centerpiece of BB.Q’s boneless chicken entrees, and peeling it reveals strings of glistening white meat. The bitter olive flavor is immediately apparent, giving the meat an salty-tangy taste. After a only few bites, a mouthful of white meat and thin crust dissolves.
Slices of green and red pepper stacked on top of a pile of peppered fried chicken hint at the spice that awaits those who order the Gangnam style chicken wings. Unlike the olive oil chicken, the skin on the Gangnam wings is flabby; the sauce had softened it. The Gangnam sauce itself is not spicy but too sweet, which makes it harder to enjoy the chicken.
Some of the sauced-up entrees other than the chicken also struggle with sweetness. BB.Q’s Ddeok bokki, a rice cake soup and a signature K-food, features delicate chunks of cooked pork and morsels of earthy potatoes. While the sweet broth augments these bites of food, it itself is too sweet to drink. On the other hand, the kimchi fried rice comes steaming on a wide black plate, and the pieces of pickled cabbage and braised radishes have the same spice that is nicely distributed throughout the rice. A sunny side up egg on top of it all tempers the rice’s heat.
Others may not mind the strength of BB.Q’s sauces, especially given the chicken’s supreme tenderness. Brandon for that matter, appreciated the strength the dabs of sauce brought to the garlic wings. I did not, but I, along with a rush of diners, ate so much chicken that BB.Q ran out two hours before closing time. After a meal as filling as this, I tend to stare into space, mindlessly caught up in my fullness. As I gaze at the counter, I eventually notice three vintage posters, depicting Harvard-Yale competitions. For a mammoth franchise, BB.Q has made a crisp arrival onto the New Haven scene.
Kofi Ansong | firstname.lastname@example.org .