The last time we were at Kichin, the bartender told us about a double IPA made with peach, blackberry, and mosaic hops. A photo installation with a tiny, metal animatronic person sat at the end of the bar, and a song from 1965 that Kanye West had sampled recently played on the stereo. The beer came in a wine glass and tasted like summer. It was a typical night at Kichin.
Kichin is cooler than you are. We don’t mean to be offensive - it’s just that if you and this Korean spot in Bushwick went to high school together, it would probably do donuts in the parking lot while you tried to gain a teacher’s approval with a Marxist reading of Wuthering Heights. It’s a casual space with a two-floor dining room that stays about as dark as a VMAs afterparty, and it’s somewhere you’ll inevitably be able to try something new. This might be a double IPA from the Hudson Valley, or it might be a chilled egg custard with cucumber gazpacho. Either way, it will almost definitely be great.
photo credit: Kate Previte
The menu at Kichin is only about 15 items long, and it’s equal parts modern and traditional Korean, with some Japanese influence thrown in. There’s a straightforward version of jjajangmyeon (wheat noodles with pork in a black bean sauce), for example, but there are also rice cakes with melted chunks of halloumi and some toasted sourdough covered in anchovy butter. And most things cost less than $20. You can’t go wrong - but you can go very right, as in the case of the crispy fried chicken or the incredibly rich kimchi fried rice.
At some point during your meal, you might look over and notice a small rectangular enclosure filled with electronics. It’s called a “DJ booth” - and, while a DJ booth in a restaurant is typically a red flag that you’re about to drink a lot of vodka and make your friend cry by telling her that she isn’t a good dancer, here it just feels natural. Next to this DJ booth, you'll find a lofted dining area with eight tables, a few plants, and some bright orange walls that’ll match any Off-White sneakers you’re thinking about buying.
If Kichin were in Lower Manhattan, it would cause significant defections from the crowds at places like Kiki’s and Dudley’s - but, fortunately, it’s hidden in the shadow of the JMZ tracks, and getting a table isn’t too difficult. So if you’re looking for a fun spot for an interesting meal that won’t force you to drain your bank accounts and learn how to sell things on Etsy, come here. Bring a friend, drink some natural wine or a beer made from various fruits, and - if it’s the weekend - stick around until 11pm. That’s when the DJ shows up, and it’s when you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that if your life were a John Hughes movie, you wouldn’t be Ferris Bueller. Kichin would.
If you only get one thing at Kichin, this fried chicken should be it. It has a thick, crunchy crust, and it’s covered in a sauce that’s equal parts sweet and spicy.
The fried chicken and the wings here are actually very similar. They’re both crispy and delicious - but the wings don’t have any spice to balance out the sweetness. So if you’re choosing between the two, go with the fried chicken.
Kimchi Fried Rice
A sizzling bowl of some of the best fried rice you’ll encounter. It’s salty, tangy, and extremely rich with chunks of sausage mixed in, and the steam will rise up and make your face smell better than it usually does. Have this on your table.
The pork belly on this plate is immaculate. It has an incredibly thin and crispy layer on the outside, and the inside is perfectly tender. Wrap it in some lettuce or a perilla leaf, and you have a very good bite of food. That said, the sauce on the side is a little too salty, and we prefer the kimchi fried rice as an entree.
In theory, this dish sounds amazing. And it is pretty good - but not quite as good as rice cakes with melted halloumi mozzarella should be. (The sauce is just a tad too sweet, and we’d prefer more cheese.) Still, we’d gladly split this with two other people.
A satisfying bowl of chewy noodles with cubes of pork in a thick sauce made with black bean paste. This jjajangmyeon is one of our go-to orders at Kichin, and it’s a solid one-dish meal.
Despite the fun, pink color, this japchae is a fairly normal bowl of glass noodles with a few vegetables tossed in. It’s a decent vegetarian option - but if you eat meat, just go for the jjajangmyeon.
Kichin gets its sourdough from Ops, which means that it’s wonderful and something you want to own. For $3 you can get two thick slices coated with a thin layer of (surprisingly mild) anchovy butter, and we suggest you do this.