Whew, this post has taken me almost five months to get together.... talk about a flocking long time. A while back I thought it would be fun doing a post on some of the different variations of grilled and roasted chicken in San Diego. So here goes..... oh, and why did it take me so long? The answer is at the end.
Pollo Asado from Internacional 2000 Taco Shop - Bargain City:
On one of my previous posts on Internacional 2000, I mentioned the plumes of smoke rising in the air from the chicken being grilled over mesquite in the parking lot. I also noticed that the chicken was mostly precooked, and moved from the taco shop to the grill for reheating. That just didn't sound promising. But once, while doing part of my South Bay taco crawl, MrQ decided to purchase the Pollo Asado, since it was just $8.50, for a whole chicken a fixins'. The chicken was better than I thought it would be, so on a later visit, I decided to get it.
I had thought the chicken would be dry and tough as heck, but it wasn't. Also, because the chicken didn't have much of a salt flavor, I'm thinking that salt use was minimized to ensure that the bird wouldn't dry out. The chicken did have a wonderful smoky mesquite flavor. The tortillas, once warmed a bit was decent, the rice was quite dry.
But the beans......
We did use a sprinkling of Tajin Classic Seasoning.... the stuff we call, "This is not a candy" seasoning:
The verdict? Not the most fantastic pollo asado I've ever had, but pretty good, and for $8.50? Bargain city!!! Just as a reality check, to the right is about seven bucks worth of food from the local "Crazy Chicken" joint.... which includes some of the worst tortillas I've ever experienced. In all honesty, I don't mind the chicken......
Internacional 2000 Taco Shop (Window in the parking lot of Mercado Internacional 2000)
1415 3rd Ave
Chula Vista, CA 91911
Pollo Asado from Casa de Pepe - No thank you:
On one of my "Sunday Stuffs" posts back in January of 2008, I mentioned seeing Pollo Asado being grilled in the parking lot of a taco shop on Imperial Avenue. This bright, colorful, and possibly luminous restaurant is called, Restaurant Casa de Pepe:
If the bones of this place look familiar; it because this used to be the location of El Comal, before they went "uptown".
Almost every weekend, I've seen the guy in the parking lot grilling chicken.
I crossed the street and took a look at the chicken, which looked pretty good. So I told the guy that I'd be going into the restaurant to pay, when the guy held up a pot full of kinda gross barbecue sauce, and told me; "you want BBQ on chicken, right?" I should have taken this as a bad omen and high-tailed it out of there, but instead I just said "no thanks" and went into the restaurant and paid my $7.95.
Maybe I shoulda gotten that barbecue sauce, huh?
Restaurant Casa de Pepe
2822 Imperial Ave
San Diego, CA 92102
Pollo ala Brassa from Nazca Grill - getting better all the time:
In my previous post on Nazca Grill, back when they first opened, I indicated that though the chicken was moist, here was something left to be desired with regards to flavor. I'm glad to say that the last time I ordered it, the chicken was very good. Still moist, and more balanced in flavor. You could tell that even though it wasn't cooked over hardwood, it had been finished with it.
I do wish they'd just sell the chicken ala carte. Anyway, a picture is worth a few paragraphs......
I still think the Aji Amarilla (yellow chili sauce) is too mild, and needs some zip. But compare that chicken to my previous post......
4310 Genesee Ave
San Diego, CA 92117
Rotisserie Chicken from Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken - I could never figure out why.....
This place is so popular. When I first ate the chicken from here back in 1998, the first thing that went through my mind was "huh"? To me the chicken here isn't "Thai Rotisserie Chicken", it ain't even close to Kai Yaang. Those were my thoughts back in 2006 when I did my last post on Saffron.
And after eating Kai Yaang in Thailand twice, this ain't even close. The chicken from Pok Pok might as well be in another universe. Another sad thing is, I really enjoy Su-Mei Yu's book, Cracking the Coconut. There's even a Kai Yaang recipe in the book, which features her "Big Four Paste" (coriander seeds, garlic, cilantro stems and roots, white peppercorns), minced ginger, cumin, tumeric, and caraway(strange, no lemongrass). Not even a whiff to be found on this chicken.
I didn't think you'd be happy with this, a two leg plate ($4.99):
Instead of my usual Sriracha ($1.29 a bottel at 99 Ranch Market, BTW), I went with the red pepper sauce, which was too sweet, like simple syrup, and the peanut sauce, which was too much coconut and sugar, and not enough peanut.
The best piece was the thigh which was passably moist. The leg however, had been sliced, possibly to check "doneness" and was, as a good FOY once described the chicken here as "petrified". The breast was worse.
The skin was tough and too chewy. To be honest, that two leg plate I had earlier was better. I'm thinking the earlier in the day you go, the better your luck may be. Someone once told me it's the sauce that makes this "Thai", so I asked this person, being of Italian heritage, if I got a supermarket rotisserie chicken, and gave you a teensy container of marinara sauce, if I could call that "Italian Chicken"? And to add insult to injury, I once bought an entire bird from Saffron and a rotisserie chicken from Costco, and provided a bottle of Sriracha. I asked some friends which bird they enjoyed better..... guess which? Well, enough of that. I was told that the chicken here back in the late 80's and early 90's was great, but something happened.
I do still enjoy the "Cambodian" salad:
I believe the success of Sab E Lee displays that San Diego does want "real" flavors. So maybe someday........
Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken
3731 India St.
San Diego, CA 92103
Speaking of Sab E Lee (2):
Here's the Kai Yaang from Sab E Lee 2 .
Not amazing, but solid. Since the chicken hadn't been sliced into parts and held on trays it was very moist. Nice salty, mild garlic and lemongrass flavors. The sauces, one tamarind and palm sugar based, and the other a nam prik (fish sauce and chilies) were serviceable.
I need to go back and take better photos.
Sab E Lee 2
9159 Mission Gorge Road
Santee, CA 92071
So why did this post take months? Well, back in November, the Missus saw this commercial and was traumatized.
So now the Missus won't eat chicken or turkey.... but will eat duck!
I guess I'll just have to:
"keep on dreamin'
The thoughts that are in my brain
You just keep on being
The lady I can't explain "
"Lady I Can't Explain" by Jimmy Buffett