After taking my math midterm, I realized that my GPA may have taken a severe beating, so I needed to take a generous break to destress. Being a Yelp aficionado and foodie fanatic, I decided to opt for a nice meal out. After scrolling through Yelp all during class —I am not an academic weapon, sadly —and taking into consideration that my friend had developed intense munchies for Asian food, I settled upon Chiko, a Chinese-Korean fusion restaurant based in Encinitas, California.
My friend and I bussed ourselves an hour up north. We missed two stops along the way because I accidentally fell asleep due to my atrocious sleep schedule, but we eventually found the place — albeit 15 minutes behind schedule. It is located in a small spot next to the side of a busy street. Both the exterior and interior were well-designed, featuring heavy use of wooden elements and a distinctive black and yellow color combination. We were directed to order online, and we opted for the spicy ribeye and rice cakes ($19), pork and kimchi potstickers ($10), and the galbi beef skewers ($12). Unfortunately, the estimated wait was a shocking 40 minutes. Oddly enough, I saw very few customers (mostly pickup orders), and several staff members lounging around which begs the question: Why was the wait that long? Despite the slight nuisance, time flew by as I browsed through my Instagram feed, engrossed by Ye’s latest shenanigans.
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 foodie pics, we dove into the skewers first.
The skewers were extremely flavorful with the marinade having worked its magic. The short ribs featured a heavy soy sauce component, accentuated with hints of sweetness. While the meat was easy to chew, it could have been more moist. Additionally, it came with a savory gochujang sauce with a slow-creeping but enjoyable heat. Paired 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 filling was quite good; although, once again, slightly dry. While the skin was crispy, it was unbelievably thick, throwing off the golden dough-to-meat ratio. Additionally, they decided to dress up the dish with a pile of bright green scallions and a smattering of apple kimchi. Frankly, I was unimpressed. Their approach felt extremely forced, adding something completely unnecessary like apple kimchi in order to achieve that “modern flair.” The apple kimchi was also mushy and quite bland, offering nothing toward the textural or flavor profile.
We ended off with the spicy ribeye and rice cakes — my favorite dish. It was composed of perfectly cooked tteok (Korean rice cake), sweet caramelized onions, a handful of cremini mushrooms, and bite-sized chunks of bulgogi ribeye. All of these components were bathed in a fiery broth, creating a cohesive and mouth-watering dish. While I have nothing but praise, I do think it’s a bit spicy as I was already tearing up midway through.
Overall, I give Chiko a 6/10. I like their idea of fusing different cultures and playing with experimental techniques, but their execution was off. Additionally, their prices were quite high, considering how little food we received. My friend and I weren’t even halfway full, and my tummy was making demonic noises in protest. I ended off my night by completing — or attempting to complete — my Mount Everest-sized pile of both late and not-late homework.
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 Beef Skewers ($12)
Photo by Jonathan Zhang of the UCSD Guardian