Back in May when we were on vacation in China, Cathy did a post on Chamorro Grill. I hadn't had anything that could be remotely called Chamorro for a while, my last few visits to Islander Grill were less than stellar, so I hadn't been back in two years or so.
So naturally, after reading Cathy's post (and please check out her post) upon our return I dropped by Chamorro Grill.
The interior is spartan, but very bright and clean. During my visits I tried a couple of dishes that Cathy has already covered, so I didn't bother to take photos. I will say, that on my most recent visits, the Garlic Shrimp in Crab Fat Sauce has been replaced with Garlic Shrimp.
If there was one dish I had to try, it would be the Kelaguen Manok.... now it would be nice to have something like Kelaguen Katne (Beef Kelaguen), a dish I would liken to Koi Nua or Lao Beef Larb; basically beef "cooked" in lemon juice. Or perhaps, Kelaguen Uhang (Shrimp Kelaguen), which was described to me as being like ceviche the first time I heard of it, but would probably say perhaps even Aguachile nowadays. I was pretty sure that this Chicken Kelaguen would not match what a friend's Mom made for us over a decade ago, finely chopped chicken, a good amount of heat from red chili peppers, onions, scallions, and most interestingly, grated fresh coconut. All made wonderfully addictive with the juice of calamansi. See Santos' recipe as a point of reference.
Of course, after ordering the Kelaguen Rice Bowl ($5.99), I really didn't expect that, and of course that's not what arrived.
Here, as with Islander Grill, it is grilled chicken, or as it is called, "Barbecue Chicken", which has been chopped and mixed with scallions, and flavored with a mildly spicy and sour sauce. It was more moist than the last few versions I had at Islander Grill, but very similar. The red rice, calrose rice colored with annatto/achiote/achuete/bijol or whatever you want to call it, was well cooked. Many versions are too mushy, but you could count every grain. What really makes this dish for me is the Finadene, a salty-sour-spicy sauce that I could pour over cardboard and enjoy. While the dish is packed into a little styrofoam container, it ain't so little. I could barely finish 3/4 of this before having to call it quits, and take it home.... along with about ten little containers of Finadene.
While not stellar, it did fine by me.
A couple of notes; there are always specials written on the small greaseboard next to the cash register. Everything is made to order, so sometimes food takes a while.
6628 Mission Gorge Rd
San Diego, CA 92120