Restaurant review: Buffalo Wings and Bowl

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From the November 15, 2012 edition

There it was, sizzling in a stone pot before me, a zeitgeisty hybrid that might prophecy spicy American food trends yet-to-come. See, in an era when Korean culinary influences are prevalent and even fancy restaurants routinely offer hot-sauced wings, I was dining in a possibly prescient but certainly oddball establishment (and strong contender for strangest new eatery of the year) that boldly combines those popular things. Imagine, then, a better-than-competent version of bibimbap topped with boneless Buffalo wings and you’ll understand what-the-heck’s going on at the deceptively named Buffalo Wings and Bowl.

Replacing the not-much-loved Bollywood Bistro, BWB is practically attached to the discount cinema in the Carriage Place Mall. Given this proximity — and BWB’s futuro-mashup cuisine — I half expect “Blade Runner” to screen 24/7 in the cheapie movie theater.

OK, Asian fusion is nothing new, but fusing it with a sports pub? Yup, that’s sorta what BWB does in a smallish if spic-and-span, starkly red and black setting that also features blue teardrop lamps, generic wall decorations, TVs in love with ESPN, mundane radio hits playing through tinny speakers and a keep-your-coat-on approach to climate control.

It’s quite the head-scratcher, but hey, that aforementioned nutjob combo didn’t suck (Buffalo Chicken Bowl, $8). It was the authentic Korean classic — rice rapidly crusting-up in a volcanically hot pot outfitted with the requisite fixins (fernbrake, zucchini, sprouts, carrots, greens, a fried egg, etc.) — crowned with the junky contemporary Yankee favorite. Really, what’s not to like?

A different cultural collision was somewhat less successful — the Korean/Philly steak-like sandwich called Spicy Seoul Sub ($11). Its agreeable ingredients — crusty, toasted bun, lettuce, tomato, onion and tender, delicious bulgogi (sparingly applied) — struggled to overcome kimchi clashing with sweet mayo and melted cheese. Not an outright loser, it would’ve improved had it: 1) actually been spicy; 2) not been stingy with the meat; 3) come with handcut instead of frozen-bagged fries.

Served as an appetizer — and then in generous supply — BWB’s sweet and zingy, melt-in-your-mouth bulgogi was a highlight (Beef Bulgogi Skewers, $11). Three fully loaded sticks arrived on a bed of lettuce; the not-low price is more affordably halved during happy hours (ditto with most other starters; HH is 4-7 p.m.), when 22-ounce domestic drafts go for two bucks.

Another highlight was the frittata-like Korean Pancake ($12 for the “combo”). A huge, golden-brown beauty studded with a colorful array of veggies, tiny shellfish nuggets and iotas of bacon, it ate almost as great as it looked.

Also delightful was a super-sized and perfect-for-November Veggie Noodle Soup ($9). Its veggie-infused salty chicken broth was brimming with long, thick and fun-to-chew-on glutinous noodles.

Skimpy amounts of overcooked miniscule seafood bits diminished some of BWB’s many otherwise fine tasting, straightforward Korean preparations like Soon Du Boo Jji Gae ($9; gurgling hot bowl of spicy soup with tofu) and the bibimbap-y Osam Bowl. Warning: lunchtime “bowl” prices escalate about $4 during dinner!

When not partially chilled by a refrigerated sauce (chalk that up to another fixable inconsistency), BWB’s crispy and meaty wings were good (6/ $6; 6 boneless/ $7). From the dozen or so available flavorings, I tried and liked the Sweet-N-Hot (aka gojuchang) and a sweet/ tangy Zesty Lemon (more mustardy than lemony).

Moral of this story: For happy hour, lunch and/or coupled with a cheapie movie visit, BWB will come in handy.