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Choong Man Chicken - Local Korean Fried Chicken Chain in Centreville, and the Former ABC Canteen Space in Fairfax

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So it seems I've been ~shanghaied~ into writing a new thread (for the first time in a while <_<), I decided to give this place a try tonight with a friend.

The space itself is nice - very resplendent of Bonchon's decor - right down to the same slippery floor tiles.  Their HVAC system certainly works well, as it was almost chilly in the restaurant.  Notable annoyances of the space were: NASCAR on TV (it was NBCSN, but still) and Korean pop/rap playing at a volume that noticeably impeded conversation.  I don't mind music I can't understand (I've lived abroad), but when it's at a volume that makes conversation difficult (it wasn't painfully loud, just 'too noticeable'), that's something different altogether.

A nice touch was after we'd ordered, they came out with a plate of ~6 free tenders glazed in their soy garlic sauce as an "on the house" appetizer of sorts.  Their product is much more enjoyable and 'meatier' than Bonchon's boneless offerings, retaining enough juiciness that it isn't like trying to eat leather if left to sit for more than ten minutes.  As for an entree, I ordered their spicy garlic sauce while my dining companion ordered their "snow onion" chicken.  The Spicy Garlic was "just spicy enough" for me, and by the end, my eyes were slightly watery and I had that phenomena where everything that touched my tongue reactivated the latent spice.  The "Snow Onion" chicken (in tender form) is a mass of pre-cut tenders smothered in a white garlic-based sauce and *buried* underneath a bed of slightly-pickled onions.  You go 'bib-less' at your own peril in trying to eat it with a nice shirt on (makes you wonder if there's a reason they opened so nearby a laundromat).

They also talked up (and down) their "Tikkudak," which they said has a 'smokier' taste that some either prefer or dislike.  Not exactly a stirring recommendation - and it also sounds like it would increase preparation time, as it's cooked twice - both fried and oven-baked.

There were a few negatives, which might just be chalked up to it being a new place:

1) The serving staff were very disorganized and a bit scatterbrained.  Anyone who's been to the ABC Canteen knows it's *not* a large space - at all.  To get refills, and I desperately needed mine to curb the heat in my mouth - I had to bring our glasses up to the bar and have them refilled.  They also didn't know off the top of their heads if they had iced tea (they do, unsweetened).  One of the servers spent the majority of her time on her phone and/or laptop in the back (so in addition to the music, our dining experience was punctuated by the default Verizon ringtone multiple times).  Granted, it wasn't very busy, but it still was a bit of a put-off, even though she wasn't our server.

2) The food was brought out one entree at a time, in a slightly haphazard manner.  Our surprise "on the house" Soy Garlic tenders came out first, followed about 5-10 minutes later by my friend's Snow Onion entree, then another 5-7 minutes later by my Spicy Garlic plate, and finally, the curly fries we'd ordered to be the 'appetizer' of sorts (not knowing we were going to get free tenders) came out last, when both of us were on our last legs hunger-wise.  I found myself having to practically choke a few fries down at the end of the meal simply to feel as if I was getting some value out of the five dollars the side cost.


It's kind of funny - every "KFC" place in the area has a caveat against it: Bonchon has spotty quality but nice decor/seating, BB-Q in Falls Church has a tasty product but an unattractive setting (not to mention you having to know it's there to know it exists at all), and this place has a tasty product and 'okay' decor/surroundings, but service that leaves a bit to be desired.  No one's gotten it quite right yet.

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Went to the Fairfax Branch after a day's play. We ordered the wings curry snow, chicken skin, corn slad. The food took a while, nothing excessive , but they gave us a coleslaw service {free that is} because we had to wait. Looks like the place filled up all at once with a large to go order. 

The good: the frying was super crisp and not oily. The corn salad was tasty: frozen corn with a bit of onion, red pepper and miracle whip or some type of vinegar spiked mayo. The mayo also showed up with the cole slaw but the vinegar kick was higher and the cabbage nicely sliced and very crisp. The fried skins were again super crisp and not greasy at all. The pickled daikon was superb.

The not so good was that the coating flavor dominated. The wings were small so the coating to chicken ratio was high and after finishing he generous portion,we were left feeling like we mostly ate coating. The skins posed an even worse ratio. 

A couple of Hite 21 oz and the total was $43 including tax before tip.

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