Moving on to the infamous bull dok, the waitress tried to warn me, but I said I had been to a lot of Korean restaurants and was okay with spicy. Well, if the hottest thing in a Thai restaurant gets three silhouettes, this would be about a seven. It also didn't behave like ordinary chili heat, which is oil soluble, and for which rice or bread are better defenses than water. Rice soup, which is plain rice in a lot of hot water, is provided, and it was worthless. I thought for a minute that one might swish a piece of bull dok around in the rice soup and then eat it. No help. A bowl of lightly pickled daikon radish cubes was better.
Cold water, frequently refilled for Anglos, is actually effective for a few minutes. Bull dok is edible and has a pleasant chili flavor, but one does cry, sweat, and reach for the water carafe. I got through about a third of it before the waitress came back and said the chef was curious how I liked it. I had her wrap it up and ate the rest cold for lunch the next day. It doesn't mellow with age.
What isn't spicy? Some of the simpler sushi and nabeyaki udon ($12.95) with a very nice light broth and three pieces of shrimp tempura, a poached egg, slices of fish sausage, broccoli, seaweed, mushrooms of a few kinds, lots of fat rice noodles, and some clams in the shell. House fried rice ($6.95/chicken; $7.95/shrimp) isn't too peppery, and does have some wok sear on the shrimp and squid.
Umeshiso maki ($3.50) aren't spicy, but they are weirdly sweet, as if a little raspberry syrup had been added to take the edge off of the pickled plum. Sweet hummus maki ($4.95) isn't as sweet, and it is surprisingly successful to make sushi wrapped around sticks of tempura-fried sweet potato with hummus and a little hotted-up brown sauce. In judging sushi, I try to rate the rice, and this rice was sticky enough but perhaps overseasoned with salt and vinegar.
There are no desserts at Bon Chon, but plenty of things to drink, from hot tea — allegedly made from corn but possibly from toasted barley — up to a variety of sakes. On a cold night, I had a small flask of hot sho chiku bai (meaning "pine, bamboo, plum"), the house sake ($5), served warm. It has a slight yeasty-rice aroma, but the flavor is like a very dry vodka martini without so many side effects. The beers are mass market, so you can get Kirin or Sapporo. Service is quite good, and there are only small plasma TVs tuned to American sports.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.