Chinese New Year and Restaurant Review: Sammy Chon’s K-Town BBQ

In case you haven’t heard, the Chinese Year of the Dragon began last week. Everyone seems to be all about it, probably because it’s the luckiest year of the Chinese Zodiac, and I’m pretty sure that most of us can use a little good luck these days, right? Chester was born (many years ago) during the Year of the Dragon and claims to have always have good luck in dragon years. So, I’m hoping this will be the year that he hits the Mega Millions or something—we’ll just have to start playing first.

This past weekend, the Lunar New Year Parade was held in Chinatown, and my mom, aunt, Chester and I went to check out the festivities. I really love a Chinese New Year Parade—much more than Mummers. I know, that’s the kind of thing that can get you kicked out of South Philly. You still get festivity, fireworks, music and dancing, but there’s no public drunkenness and/or physical violence. I seriously thought my mom was going to freak out over the loud noise and smoke and want to leave in fifteen minutes, but I think she probably had the most fun out of all of us. She danced around pretty much the entire time, and probably would have gotten into a lion costume if they let her.

I’m slightly afraid of firecrackers, but Chester is not. So, he got close enough to the action to get a bunch of fabulous photos:

As the parade started to wind down, we got pretty hungry. So, we decided to check out Sammy Chon’s K-Town BBQ, which recently opened in the neighborhood (I just learned that there is also a location in Cherry Hill that’s been around for about four years). The menu is pretty extensive. There is of course, beef bulgogi, the staple dish of Korean BBQ, but there are also grilled meat, seafood and noodle dishes to choose from, too. For most dishes, you can choose your level of spiciness.

While we waited for our food, we watched what seemed to be a Korean MTV (complete with Justin Beiber and Katy Perry look-a-likes) and munched on banchan, including kimchi, spicy cucumbers, black beans and vegetables, and chicken wings. The wings had a nice crunch and a sweet honey-sesame flavor, but I just thought they were okay. If I hadn’t tried the Federal Donuts variety just a couple of weeks ago to compare to, I probably would have been more impressed.

We all ordered a dolsot—chicken for me and my aunt, mushroom for my mom and octopus for Chester. This dish consists of rice, vegetables and meat, cooked in a hot, clay pot and topped with egg. The dishes came out of the kitchen hot and sizzling and took quite awhile to cool down. It is a flavorful, hearty dish that is enhanced by the fact that the heat of the pot makes the rice at the bottom slightly burnt and crunchy (I recommend ordering brown rice for its nice, nutty flavor) and cooks the egg on top to a creamy consistency. This was the first time I had this dish, and I think it might be one of my new favorite things.

They gave us these little yogurt drinks for dessert. They had a slight citrus flavor, which. I didn’t mind at first, but decided I didn’t really care for a couple of sips in.

I would definitely go back again. On my next visit, I would like to try the Koagie: Beef Bulgogi or Spicy or BBQ Chicken served on a Sarcone’s sesame roll. It might not be a traditional dish, but it sounds like a winner to me.

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