There’s a new kid in town and we got here just in time to get the skinny on them. Usually when I blog I get, “What do you mean you have never been there before?” Like to VG Donuts, Angelo’s Burgers and The Kraken. Places that have been around forever and a day, yet they have all been new to me, someone who never got out much. But this time, I’m at a new place before many of you even know about it and I feel so hip and cool. Until I just read that back. Nope, I’m still a dork.
Chiko is located on the east side of the 101 next door to Encinitas Surf Shop. I love the Encinitas Surf Shop but I hate going there because of the parking. Pulling in is easy enough, right off the main highway, but trying to leave is nothing less than hellish. Trying to back out onto oncoming traffic is very scary. I was a bit nervous going to Chiko for dinner. In the dark.
Before Chiko opened last November, this location was Shibari Organic Ramen that was there for about five seconds. Nope, never made it there. Before that it was Bull Taco for a short run. Prior that is was Jamrock and before that DB Hackers. Before that there wasn’t an internet so who the heck knows.
The place is small and elongated. You order at the counter and then can choose from a few tables to the left or right. There is a nice outdoor patio but it’s pretty small. I bet it’s great to eat outside there on a warm night. They were very accomodating to our “large” group of 8 and put some tables together for us inside. It was actually really nice and we could have the kind of restaurant conversation you can hardly find anywhere. We could hear each other!
I like that the menu isn’t too large. They carefully picked their dishes to be unique and clever. They don’t need a ton of them.
We ordered a bunch of things to share and they had no problem keeping things nut-free for Oldest’s girlfriend.
Andrew Kim, the owner, was there and came over to talk to us. He is very excited to have opened this Encinitas location to add to the two he has opened in Washington DC. He also let us know that as of tomorrow (which is now today) Chiko will be opening for lunch. He was practically giddy about the sandwiches on the new lunch menu. Kimchi + Cheese = Kimcheese!
Our food arrived quickly on family-style plates. You get to serve yourself in these cool, little metal bowls which makes sharing and eating more fun. I’m not really sure why, but it does.
Mary sat down with a small can of Sac-Sac. What she was hoping for was something refreshing with a light grape flavor. What she got was a redo of the pregnancy glucose drink. Moms, remember that sickening sweet, syrupy thing we were forced to drink to see if we had gestational diabetes? Yep, that!
The Wok Blistered Chinese Broccoli was a very nice portion for $8. It included sauteed shiitake mushrooms and crispy garlic. D-lish! I really like that it was chopped up into bite-sized pieces. It was great to add to all of the other dishes we put into those cute silver bowls.
The San Diego Spice Bag had crisp shrimp and tater tots “Honoring DB Hackers” (it states on their menu) for their well-know fish and chips from back in the day. Nice touch. These fried shrimp were honestly the best I’ve ever had. This batter is superb! The Chili Miso Aioli (on the side) disappeared but they brought out more for us to use with the rest of our meal. Oldest ate most of it. He’s a Spice Bag.
I heard rumors before coming tonight that the Pork and Kimchi Potstickers were great, so we had to get some. Who can say no to crispy yet soft Chinese-ish dumplings filled with yummy stuff? Not us!
Jen and Greg ordered the Asparagus Special. Here’s Jen’s review, “Scrumptious. Tempura”ed” the perfect amount. The sauce was flavorful without burning your mouth or clearing your sinus. ” And I will add, beautifully presented!
The Smashed Salmon with Wild Mushrooms and arrived and this was my favorite thing. The salmon was cooked just right, not a second longer than necessary. It melted in our mouths.
Next came the Fried Rice that Mira told me was so good when she was last here. Ok, so some people have made it here before me, but not that many! Does Mira know her stuff? Can fried rice really be worth recommending at a place like this? The answer is hells to the yes! Best fried rice we have ever eaten.
And finally came the Orange-ish Chicken. Again, the batter they use for frying is out of this world good.
Andrew Kim came over to check on things and we raved and applauded our meal. He was very pleased and then told us we had better not be too full for dessert. We were, but come on. What does being hungry or full have anything to do with ordering dessert? He was really talking it up, and I wouldn’t be doing this blog any justice without at least trying it, right? It is a “Sesame Custard” with caramelized dragon fruit, blood orange sorbet, candied almonds and rehydrated basil seeds. It was cool, fruity, creamy, textured and wonderful. When you have a dessert this good, there only needs to be one on the menu.
Time to leave and my palms started to sweat. I had to back up out of the spot, in the dark into oncoming traffic. Hubby offered to get out but that wasn’t practical. If there is an opening without cars coming, there is no time to get him back in the car before I would have to high tail it out of there. So I took my chances, backed out blindly but really slowly, saw lights bearing down quickly on me, and I lead-footed the gas pedal, burned tires and raced the car forward. One car had to swerve out of my lane to miss me and there were lots of horns blazing. Someone may have screamed. But we made it out of there alive. Not the best part of the meal.
Not only did we love the food at Chiko, the service was exceptional. Although the restaurant is small, the seating arrangements worked out great and we had actual conversation with each other without yelling. (Isn’t this something only old people talk about? Shit.). This is the finest dining you will find at a walk-up counter. This unique, funky, tasty little spot is exactly what Encinitas needs on the 101.
We didn’t just have a great meal. We had a great night. Come here with friends. Try something new. Order the desert. Come for lunch, because of the new sandwiches and because there is daylight for when it’s time to leave.
Chiko= Chinese + Korean
CaWaToCoB= Can’t Wait to Come Back
Sunday, April 7th at 11:30 we will be heading over to where it all began: