Allston fried-chicken place cleans up act, re-opens after being shut for several health violations

City inspectors shut Bonchon Chicken, 123 Brighton Ave. last Wednesday after finding a host of violations, most notably, a dripping sewage line in a kitchen ceiling and improper pickling and storage of cabbage and radishes, both of which were the sort of thing that could easily spread food-borne microbes:

There is a smell of sewage in the basement and a waste line in the ceiling is leaking in the prep kitchen. ... They are making pickled cabbage and pickled radish at room temperature. This fermentation is a specialized process and requires a HACCP plan and variance. ... Manager needs to cease operations when there is an imminent health hazard.

Also, no kitchen sinks had soap dispensers.

ISD yesterday cleared the restaurant to re-open after a re-inspection found all the problems had been fixed, including training workers to wash their hands properly.

Via Boston Reddit.

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Whoof!

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How can people who own a business that regularly serves food to the public be allowed to go for so long a period of time being in violation of health and sanitation laws that they're finally made to shut down until they clean up their act? Were they given warnings by the health and sanitation department to clean up their act or be forced out of business? It's good that they cleaned up their act, but, imho, any owner(s) of a business that serves food to and caters to the public that have to be absolutely forced by the department of health and sanitation to shut down until they clean up their act isn't a business that I'd trust.

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A Safe Kitchen Begins With Hand Washing

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Of all food safety rules, proper hand washing should be foremost. When a restaurant fails to provide basic soap and hot water for employees preparing food, how can it be trusted to keep anything in the kitchen safe?

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Inconsistent inspections are a big problem

Massachusetts leaves it all up to the cities and towns, with varied results. In fact, Boston's public health department got in some hot water some years ago when they were trying to keep inspection reports secret.

California eateries are inspected regularly, and given a report card that they are required to post in the window of their establishment. The bar for passing the exam is very high, and they have to fix anything they fail very quickly, too.

New York City just instituted a letter grade system for sanitary inspections as well.

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California and NYC seem to have the right idea, then.

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In this instance, it sounds as if the State of Massachusetts is making a major mistake by simply leaving inspections/grading, etc. up to cities and towns. Inotherwords, the Bay State has not been putting enough force behind the rules regarding inspection and grading of public eateries, or getting tough enough. Having said that, I believe that the state should get tough and grade across the board, instead of leaving it up to the cities and towns here in the Commonwealth.

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that's too bad..

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I love this place. The harvard square location has a different owner so maybe I will start going there instead..

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Meh...

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they're just keeping it real.

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Bon Chon Chicken is the best fried chicken in town

when they fry it fresh to order, which takes a good half hour of waiting. The technique is like that used for Belgian pommes frites: a lower-temperature fry to cook the chicken through, then a second higher-temperature fry to crisp the skin. Then they hand-paint on sauces; both the soy/garlic and chili sauces are awesome.

I think they decided the lag time of to-order frying was too much for their itchy college-kid customers to bear, so they started frying ahead of time, and the result is far less compelling. I've given up on it after two successive visits where my chicken came out five minutes after ordering, obviously cooked ahead of time: really a shame. (I wonder if the new location in Harvard Square is any better; it is a franchise operation.)

I have to laugh at the notion that making kimchi requires a hazard analysis. Fermentation is going on in everyone's fridge leftovers: it's not like they're handling U-235 there.

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I think kimchi might be one

I think kimchi might be one of those foods which if prepared traditionally violates several food-safety rules. Still, I'm willing to take the risk: I love the stuff.

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Controlled fermentation

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Sure, and fermentation in your fridge leftovers can give you food poisoning or botulism. Most people throw out food that's undergone fermentation in their fridge. Also, there's very limited fermentation going on in your fridge because the temperature is lower than most dangerous bacteria prefer for good growth conditions. That's the opposite of kimchi which is fermented (and warmed by the fermentation) at room temperature.

What kimchi has going for it is a very acidic pH level. This can also be a control against bacteria. However, it means you have to check the pH to make sure you didn't screw up something and now you're just fermenting Clostridium botulinum (agent for botulism) along with whichever benign bacteria you thought was making you tasty fermented cabbage instead.

Having a plan in place that says "I don't have to follow the refrigeration/cooking rules because my pH is sufficiently low" is a very reasonable safety procedure to ask them to follow in my book. I'd actually rather have them handle U-235 than cook kimchi without a safety plan in place. The alpha radiation emitted by U-235 can't penetrate your skin, so they'd have to be shredding it into the sauces as a secret ingredient to present much of a danger to you by ingestion.

In comparison, all they have to do is get the pH wrong (an unseen error if you're not testing for it) and the whole process of the fermentation would be working against you. And just "adding enough vinegar/acid" isn't always going to be certain your pH is where you think it is. Depending on what else is in the solution/recipe, you could easily create a buffer situation where pH does not act linearly with volume of acid.

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Don't get me wrong: as a professional eater, I'm all for

scrupulous food safety training, inspection, and enforcement, including basics like encouraging hand washing and not having dripping waste pipes in the ceiling of your prep kitchen. One thing I am not worried about is getting food-borne illness from kimchi prepared by Korean restaurateurs. I'll speculate that I've suffered more traveler's discomfort that originated in fine-dining kitchens than from humble Asian joints in Allston and Chinatown.

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Appreciated

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But I don't know the scruples or "secret family recipe" of every humble Allston Asian joint that's peddling street cuisine. That's why it's nice to know there's a common outline that they all have to follow in order to safely serve me food. I'm never expecting ANY restaurant to give me an illness...however, whether it's a fine-dining spot or not, there needs to be an accountability when they do (or have conditions which easily lead to it).

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Agreed on the importance of inspections for this purpose

Unless there's a major outbreak, say, 17 ER cases in the same day, it's often difficult to trace the sources of food-borne illness, which is why boards like Chowhound don't allows posters to say, "That place gave me food poisoning." A lot of such illness is slow-incubating; the place you ate a week ago might be the source of it, or something you brought home from the supermarket deli last night.

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Glad I don't eat there

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I love Korean food. There's so many good Korean restaurants in Allston to choose from. I don't understand the obsession with BonChon, even without the sewage.

I remember when they opened in NY and NJ and I was not impressed then, and I am not impressed now. Korean KFC indeed. I remember one shop in NJ that even looked like a fast food restaurant, plastic chairs and all.

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Where else are you buying your fried chicken?

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It is what it is: fried chicken.

I haven't been in that KFC near Twin Donuts for over a decade because it is a disgusting grease trap dressed up like a drive-thru. Wings over Brookline used to satisfy my hot-oil dipped breaded chicken cravings but the quality of service there has steadily gone way down hill. I could cook my own but I'm probably healthier by relying on going to others.

I got a taste of Bon Chon a few years ago at a Taste of Allston festival and it was really good (first time I learned about the awesome Garlic'n'Lemons take-out joint too). It's just fried chicken...but it's probably the best to-go fried chicken in the area...and you want to give me other awesome Korean foods at the same time? Bonus.

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I guess I just don't eat much

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I guess I just don't eat much fried chicken. I wouldn't go near that KFC either.

Funny thing, last time I gave BonChon a chance was at the Taste of Allston, as well, and I could barely stomach a bite. Sickly sweet IMO.

If I really had a hankering for fried chicken, I would go to Soul Fire. Although, their wings are good enough that I'd probably divert to that.

There's also the Coast Cafe just across the river in Cambridge. Hmm, now I'm thinking to run over there and get some jerk wings.

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I wonder if Bon Chon did something different for

the Taste of Allston, maybe dumbing it down a bit for the mob. Normally, neither of its two sauce options are sweet. Soy/garlic: not sweet. Hot: gochugaru based, so a hint of sweetness, but more than balanced by umami (it's sun-dried), subtle smokiness, and pretty fair heat from capsicum chilies.

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Dunno

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And now I don't think I'm going to try and find out. But as I've had it before in NY, many years ago, I don't really recall it making a lasting impression on me.

It could be that I'm just weird. I also think Sriracha is sickly sweet, and not spicy at all, for instance.

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I'm glad we cleared this up

I also think Sriracha is sickly sweet, and not spicy at all, for instance.

Most people, even folks like me with an above-average chili-heat tolerance by American standards, would not remotely describe the ubiquitous Huy Fong brand of sriracha this way. It's not us; it's you.

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Maybe

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My girlfriend agrees with me about Sriracha however!

We're both big fans of the Huy Fong chili garlic sauce, instead.

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I had this chicken 4 years

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I had this chicken 4 years ago and don't really remember much except that it wasn't great. I'm gonna talk down on the restaurant anyway because I'm a negative loser. I don't think sriracha is spicy because I'm an individual. I'm so unique and cool. I only eat the finest of fried chickens. Did I mention I haven't eaten at this particular establishment ever? Also, I don't like sriracha which is a very popular condiment, I guess you could say I'm ahead of the game when it comes to condiments. I haven't even touched ketchup in years while you plebs slather it on your burgers daily.
Anyways, peace

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Wow

He must really get under your skin, huh?

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