I often f ind myself drawn to the peppery fried chicken at Bertha’s, a soul-food café not far from Watts, and the crackly skinned fried chicken with fermented tofu at Mission 261 may be the best dish in that formidable Cantonese restaurant. The Buffalo-style fried wings at Ye Rustic Inn and the Japanese-style fried wings at FuRaiBo are exemplary. But it has become evident in the last year that Korean fried chicken really is an evolutionary leap forward — marinated in a cabinet full of spices, saturated with garlic, double-fried to a shattering, thin-skinned snap dramatic enough to wake a sleeping baby in an adjoining room. It is not accidental that fried-chicken parlors have been opening in Koreatown almost as ferociously as frozen-yogurt stands. Kyochon, the first of the Korean chicken joints, definitely has some problems. The chicken is cooked to order, so even a simple to-go box can take an eternity to prepare, and the only real appetizer is marinated cubes of daikon, a conceit that is amusing for about five minutes. Somebody really needs to learn how to set the carbonation controls on the soda machine. Beer would be nice. But then the chicken comes out, hacked into random pieces, all garlic and juice, heat and crunch, and finishing every last femur and scrap of rib meat becomes the most important thing in the world. Bonchon, Chicken Day and the oddly named BBQ all serve good Korean fried chicken, but it’s the Kyochon birds that you dream about the next day.

3833 W. Sixth St., L.A. (213) 739-9292.

Also at 2515 Torrance Blvd., Torrance. (310) 320-9299.

LA Weekly