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Pacific Grove has a genuine Korean fried chicken (KFC) place! My first visit to Ttobongee was July 3. It opened in March just as the pandemic restaurant restrictions started.
Chicken is fried to order, taking about 30 minutes. Rather than calling ahead as recommended, I showed up to order in person because I wanted to take delivery as soon as my chicken was out of the fryer. Given the half-life of most fried foods, I planned to eat it in the parking lot. Eating off the hood of my car was made easier and less messy by the complimentary plastic finger cot provided.
The chicken can be ordered as a half or full order, and are available as all drumsticks, all wings, boneless chicken, or a combination. The number of pieces in full orders is slightly less than the sum of two half orders. Marinated for extra juiciness, then double-frying creates the thin, delicately crisp batter. KFC orders come with a side of pickled daikon radish.
I ordered the Half & Half (Original fried chicken + Yang Nyum chicken) with a combo of drumsticks and wings, $26.99. Each half had three drumsticks and six wings (a mix of flats and drummettes). Fresh from the fryer, the drumsticks were so juicy, they squirted on first bite. A better job on timing on the drums than the wings that were a little overdone. The original came with a packet of hot Korean mustard for dipping, but I didn't use it. On the Yang Nyum, the sweet chili sauce was fairly mild in heat, masked by the balancing sweetness, but it did start to build up midway, and could have used a bit more acidity.
Next visit was August 31 when a chowpal was in a vacation rental in PG. This time the order had to hold almost a half-hour while we returned to her place and got settled outside in the backyard. This time I tried a half-order of the Green onion KFC, $14.99, lightly dressed with a sinus-clearing mustard sauce and a blizzard of shredded scallions. Of the three versions, I liked this one the best, though my friends preferred the Yang Nyum with sweet chile sauce. The batter held up well during the wait staying remarkably crispy. So the good news is that this fried chicken can travel with minimal loss of quality.
We also tried the Fried mandoo, $7.99, dumplings filled with ground pork. These were fine, but I still prefer the boiled version of mandoo in soup.
Not recommended would be the Dduk bok gi (sauteed rice cakes with spicy sauce, $12.99) despite the generous amount of odeng. Spicy indeed, however, the saucing was too simple. The owner tried to talk me out of ordering it, saying it would be too hot for me, and then I'd hate him. When I retrieved my order (30 minutes later), he insisted that I take a (free) bottle of water just in case.
Pricing is a bit higher than at my favorites in Santa Clara and San Francisco. Worth it though, as Ttobongee's version ranks with the best of them. I'll be back to try the other seasoning options.
Ttobongee - Korean Style Fried Chicken
1184 Forest Avenue, Space E
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(In the small shopping center between Safeway and Trader Joe's)
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