Restaurant Review: Chiko – UCSD Guardian

After taking my math semester, I realized my GPA could have taken a serious beating, so I needed to take a generous break to de-stress. As a Yelp aficionado and foodie, I decided to opt for a good meal. After going through Yelp throughout the class —I’m not an academic weapon, unfortunately —and since my friend had developed strong cravings for Asian food, I decided on Chiko, a Chinese-Korean fusion restaurant based in Encinitas, California.

My friend and I traveled north by bus for an hour. We missed two stops along the way because I accidentally overslept due to my atrocious sleep schedule, but we finally found the place. — albeit 15 minutes late. It is located in a small place next to a very busy street. Both the exterior and interior were well designed, with heavy use of wood elements and a distinctive black and yellow color scheme. We were directed to order online, and we opted for the spicy ribeye and rice cakes ($19), pork and kimchi potstickers ($10), and galbi beef skewers ($12). Unfortunately, the estimated wait was a shocking 40 minutes. Oddly enough, I saw very few customers (mostly takeout orders) and several staff members loitering, which begs the question: Why was the wait so long? Despite the minor annoyance, time flew by as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, engrossed in Ye’s latest antics.

I guess the staff didn’t understand that we were eating in the store because they presented our food in plastic containers and drab brown bags. I would have loved to give an honest critique of the presentation, but that was clearly not possible here. After forcing my friend to wait for me to take my gourmet photos, we first dove into the skewers.

The skewers were extremely tasty with the marinade working its magic. The short ribs featured a strong soy sauce component, accented with hints of sweetness. While the meat was easy to chew, it could have been more moist. Also, it came with a tasty gochujang sauce with a nice but slow spiciness. Together, the combination was truly an umami bomb to remember.

Next up were the potstickers, easily the worst of the three dishes we ordered. The pork stuffing was pretty good; although, again, slightly dry. While the skin was crispy, it was incredibly thick, taking away from the golden ratio of dough to meat. Additionally, they decided to garnish the dish with a pile of bright green scallions and some apple kimchi. Frankly, I was not impressed. His approach felt extremely forced, adding something completely unnecessary like apple kimchi to achieve that “modern look.” The apple kimchi was also mushy and quite bland, offering nothing in the way of texture or flavor profile.

We finished with the spicy ribeye and rice cakes, my favorite dish. It was made up of perfectly cooked tteok (Korean rice cake), caramelized sweet onions, a handful of cremini mushrooms, and small pieces of bulgogi ribeye. All of these components were bathed in a fiery broth, creating a cohesive and delicious dish. While I have nothing but praise, I think it’s a bit spicy because I was already in tears halfway through.

Overall I give Chiko a 6/10. I like her idea of ​​fusing different cultures and playing around with experimental techniques, but her execution was off. Also, her prices were quite high, considering how little food we received. My friend and I weren’t even halfway there, and my tummy was making demonic noises in protest. I ended my night completing, or attempting to complete, my Mount Everest-sized pile of late and non-late tasks.

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Cuisine: Chinese-Korean fusion

Address: 101 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Highlights: Spicy Ribeye and Rice Cakes ($19); Pork and Kimchi Potstickers ($10); Galbi meat skewers ($12)

Photo by Jonathan Zhang of UCSD Guardian

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