Review: Chicken and Wine Bar, Mexx Chicken in Nonhyeon (논현동 멕쓰 치킨)

Soju is the unrivaled poison of choice for Koreans and it'll likely remain that way until the apocalypse but wine has made a strong impression on the Korean front in the past decade- which only skyrocketed higher with the various FTAs Korea has signed with the EU and South American countries. With growth for wine continuing to see a meteoric rise here, it was perhaps only a matter of time before it became paired with one of the favorite guilty pleasure foods of Koreans- the glorious fried chicken.

Fried chicken, however, is almost entirely and solely associated with beer in Korea which is how the colloquial term "chi-mek" or 치맥 came to be in the Korean vernacular. But Mexx Chicken (curiously named as it has absolutely nothing remotely related to anything 'Mexican') is in a different mold from other casual chicken and beer joints and prides itself on being a more upscale chicken and wine joint. And for a recent close noona's birthday, we started off the night here.

From entry, you can tell Mexx Chicken puts a lot of focus on creating a more refined atmosphere. Though fried chicken is the main draw here, this isn't your neighborhood chicken and beer joint with sticky wooden tables and plastic bowls of gangnaengi (popped corn-based snacks). Instead, lights are dimmed, candles are placed throughout and black is the color of choice for the walls and much of the decor. They even emphasize on their menu that they aim to create a 'classic European eatery like the one you can find in an alley of a small village'- whatever that means. The same description also goes on to say Mexx Chicken doesn't believe prices have to be expensive because of environment or special dishes nor does the quality in food need to suffer because of low prices. I could certainly see what concept they were aiming for in terms of atmosphere and decor and I appreciated its efforts without being pretentious- which many other similar themed eateries/bars suffer from in Korea much too often.

Another big draw about Mexx Chicken is their inexpensive but surprisingly extensive wine list (at least by standards in Korea). Their most expensive reds run about 65,000~ 70,000 while a Velada Moscato rounds out the other end at 11,000. Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and such are all offered with many of the wine seemingly South American based though there are wines from France, Spain, Australia and such.

Price wise... they are rather decent for Korean standards. But just so long as you don't think about what you'd pay for them regularly for retail. Their Gato Negro Chardonany, which is apparently one of their best sellers, goes for 23,000 here which would go for about 10 bucks in the states... the Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon? 48,000 at Mexx Chicken which is a little more than double the 22 dollars it would normally cost. So, it's safe to assume you're basically paying twice the regular price of wine at Mexx Chicken. But such is wine in Korea, right? Sigh. 

But by standards here, they're decent prices for ordering wine out and though the wine list isn't exactly riveting both in terms of selection or price you do have to remember Mexx Chicken isn't so much a wine bar as it is a "fancy" fried chicken joint. So obviously this isn't a place you'd want to take your oenophile friend to but how was the chicken? 

The chicken list features a number of chicken including fried chicken, barbecue chicken and such but their most popular chicken is their mexx chicken in which cloves of garlic, chopped chilies are cooked in a special soy sauce-based sauce with the fried chicken. So we went with an order of that as well as a bottle of their popular Gato Negro Chardonnay.

All food and drinks are served with a simple fried rice crunchies snack which come dusted off with onion powder. They taste exactly like the popular onion snack, Funyuns which made them quite addictive.

Wine come pre-chilled here and placed in ice buckets in front of you

The Mexx No.1 Chicken is the joint's representative chicken dish. The fried chicken goes through a sweet soy sauce glaze with spicy peppers, cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves. This is then covered with a mound of shoe string fries.

No 1 Mexx Chicken (17,000 won)

A planted flag atop the dish makes it a point to let you know their chicken is 100% Korean chicken.

The flavors of the chicken marinade was approved by everyone in our group. It has just the right balance between sweet, salty and just a slight undertone of spicy buzz. The crispiness of the batter was perfect and not soggy. I loved the mound of fries on top, which was quite generous, though a bit overcooked for my personal preference- but that's being nitpicky. It's great to chew on a cherry tomato or cooked garlic clove from the dish every once in a while too. Definitely a recommended dish if you pop in for a visit.

We also made an order of the beef brisket salad (차돌박이 샐라드) which is beef brisket and fixings with a side salad. With ssamjang, sesame oil and greens, it's essentially a deconstructed barbecue wrap. The greens comes dressed in a soy sauce dressing while the beef is cooked with mushrooms.

The beef was cooked well and it certainly wasn't bad but there was nothing special about it and definitely not worth the 22,000 won price. If there were some creative elements to it or even a bigger portion of it, I could perhaps understand its price but it's not something I'd order again here.

Beef brisket salad (22,000 won)

The third dish we ordered was the pork chop steak with garlic and soybean paste (마늘 된장소스 목살구이). It was decent if not unremarkable. On its own, the pork chop steak pieces were rather lacking in flavorf which is maybe why the ssamjang and shrimp paste was provided on the side but even with any combination of the two sauces it was a dull dish. The boiled cabbage leaves on the side didn't help the dish at all. Some sort of sangchoo (red lettuce) salad with a spicy sharp dressing (almost like a gut jeolee) would have benefited in making this dish more dimensional but alas, boring boiled cabbage was all that was offered.

Pork chop steak with garlic and soybean paste (18,000 won)

Mexx Chicken has some strengths including a moody atmosphere (the dark and luxurious seeming kind that Korean girls like), decent prices for food, and OK prices for wine (if you ignore the huge markup for the averages wines offered).The chicken was by far the best of the dish that night. We had a good time on our own but feeling the food and drinks were just a bit lacking, we took things over to a soju and beer bar for the rest of the night which brought about a better buzz for less of the bills.

3 out of 4 stars
The moody lighting, fanciful atmosphere, wine menu and dishes are clearly targeted towards women in their 20s-30s. If you want to have just a step above experience with your friend from your usual soju/beer bars then it might be worth checking out. But the wine and food isn't that great anyways making Mexx Chicken awkwardly caught between being a cheap dive and a luxury wine bar. Basically if you go with the expectation that it's basically a little fancier version of a Korean fried chicken restaurant and not with the expectations of it being a respectable wine bar, you'll be OK.

But for that same experience, you might as well invite your friends over to your place, pick up a cheap Yellow Tail bottle or two from your local convenience store, order your favorite chicken, and turn off the light (except for a few candles) and save yourself the Won and hassle of trekking out here.

서울특별시 강남구 논현동 141-6
141-6, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea

Come out of exit 2 of Nonhyeon station and immediately turn left into the alley with the Korea Exchange Bank. Walk about 40 meters until you get to a four-way intersection and turn right. Walk about 50 meters and Mexx Chicken will be on your left.



Wine, beer (draft and bottled), soju

A second branch is found in the Jongno-2ga vicinity, close to Cheonggyecheon. 

Mexx Chicken is seemingly always holding some kind of monthly deal or promotion such as a second mug of draft beer free before a certain time, free side dish with a dish order, etc. Check the menu or your server for the latest promotions.