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Jan 26, 2008 11:25 PM

Dinner Report - Chilango's SD!

Stepping into Chilango's I was overwhelmed by this incredible rush of happiness. The waitress remembers me and is the most geniunely pleasant person ever. I am immediately enamoured by the picture of the flowers and the women on the wall by Diego Rivera against the brick red coloured wall. Families are sharing meals together.

I was in the lucky company of my culinary cohort - who I hope will add to this thread!

Once we calmed down after out excitment in reading these amazingly composed dishes on the menu, we started off by ordering a Pacifico and a Sangria. The sangria was wonderfully mild in sweetness and included chunks of fruit. For our appetizer we were urged to get the ceviche.

On first bite, I yearned for some chile but as I continued to try it - I really started to appreciate the simple flavors and textures. Herbal cilantro chiffonade, bright citric lime element, buttery & nutty avocado set against the soothingly chilled delicate shrimp - all lightly spritzed with fruity olive oil. What a great light way to set the path for our main courses.

The salsa here is interesting - I suspect reconstituted chipotles, smoky and sweet.

Probably one of my favorite Mexican dishes is Enfrijolades and when I saw these in the Specials insert encasing grilled fish - I knew this was the one. The black bean sauce draped over the tortilla robed fish possessed this hard not to find comforting earthiness. I actually tought the flakiness of the fish went well with the full flavored sauce topped with salty cotija. The fish was either catfish or talapia - and had a bit of the 'muddiness' typiclal in these beasts - which turn some people off but I dont mind. A delicate flounder or sole would have also been nice. Though the bean sauce was quite good - nothing is quite up to par with Fiesta Oaxaquena's almost purple black bean puree.

EE choose one of the most hauntingly flavored dishes I have experienced in all my life. I can recall the exact name - but it was a non-battered chile relleno stuffed with plump shrimp and chicken and awash in a sauce made up of pears, tomatillos, and tarragon. Dios mio! What a flavor experience - the anise tinged sweetness of the sauce was amazing with the shrimp! It was hard to restrain my self from mopping up the sauce with the (actually really tender) warm corn tortillas provided. If you can handle sweet in savory applications this is a dish for you.

We ended with the flan - which though not the best I have experienced - was indeed light, creamy, and melted on your tongue. I enjoyed the blueberries with this eggy dessert. My only criticism would have to be the excessive drizzling of syrups.

Looking around to see gabachos just like me taking pleasure and experiencing a food that has won over my heart in all its beauty and diversity brought a smile to my face. As the waitress said to me: "We're Back!" - and so joyous am I for that fact!

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  1. This is my first post so be gentle on me.

    I was so excited to be there I went to the bathroom right after being seated in the corner of the room. It was a perfect spot right by the kitchen, so we were the first to see the food come out of the kitchen before the owners of dishes! I must report that the bathroom at Chilango's is nice, and the toilet has excellent flushing power (toilets that flush slowly or not at all has been a problem that I've run into several times over the past few days in many dining establishments in San Diego).
    Bathroom at Chilango's = GOOD.

    At the recommendation from the sweating waitress, we tried the ceviche. I enjoyed the fact that there were tons of avocados, but was not impressed by the shrimp that looked like it was thawed from out of a bag bought at Costco. For sure the shrimp did not taste like it! The marinade had an extremely overwhelming taste of lime. Over time the olive oil mixed well with the lime, and I was happy with it. The smoky chipotle salsa that came on the side was yum.

    For my dinner I had the Chicken and Shrimp Relleno with a Pear and Tarragon Sauce, which was a special for the night. The first thing that came to mind as I took a bite was..."this taste like some sort of Chinese food." Maybe it was the garlic. I was overwhelmingly ecstatic that the food came out PIPING HOT! Hot enough so that the flavors mended and melted on my tongue, but not enough to burn my taste buds. The housemade Mexican rice was fluffy; the blanched spinach with garlic was perfectly done to my taste. My perfect bite consisted of a sliver of the chile,with half of a shrimp, a piece of diced pear to go on top, covered in the sweet and savory pear tarragon sauce, with rice and the blanched spinach over everything piled on to my fork. mmmm. I ate everything on the plate, and was very happy.

    Chile Relleno stuffed with chicken and shrimp with pear tarragon sauce served with blanched spinach and rice = Love on a plate.

    We finished the meal with a flan dessert that had nice presentation. I ate the Hershey syrup drizzle on the plate more than the flan that was topped with blueberries. It tasted like blueberry flan.

    All in all, I had a lovely time at Chilango's, yummy food and sangria, wonderful service, nice bathroom, and functional toilet.

    1. I think a number of people on this board have had similar ideas ;-). I was driving down University with a friend on the way to Lucha Libre to check out the tacos yesterday about lunch time. There was a parking spot directly in front of Chilango's, and no traffic in back of me. Not being one to ignore omens or waste a good parking spot, and, as my friend is always quick to point out "you can parallel park better than any woman I know", I snagged the spot and we paid the meter. We ran into Jim Strain and his wife as we entered Chilango's, great minds think alike... for lunch at least.

      Red, white and black is one of my favorite color schemes and while the room works, I prefer the warm golden tones of the previous incarnation. I can live with the red, it's a beautiful, rich gem tone, but the gold was more inviting.

      We started with Quesadilla Criollas because, well because I love authentic quesadillas, one of the most satisfying items in the corn kitchen. Unfortunately, I was seduced by memories of Mexico and not by what was on the plate. This is about the 2nd or 3rd time I've made this mistake at Chilango's, will I ever learn? What I was expecting were 3 small masa turnovers filled with assorted goodies and griddled to produce a crisp crust with soft, plushy masa just underneath the surface. What I got were 3 processed corn tortillas filled with assorted goodies :-(, the nopal filling was probably the best of the 3, the mushrooms were rather sad over cooked specimens and the tomato, cheese and chile filling was too astringent with lime juice. It's not a bad plate at all and for only $6.95 it's actually a pretty good buy, but it wasn't what I wanted my quesadilla to be <sigh>.

      My dining partner ordered the Ensalada Yucateca con Pollo Asada (also available with pork or fish) and I the Ensalada de Bistec con Rajas. Both salads were pretty well executed. Ensalada Yucateca arrived with a veritable fruit salad atop a nice handful of greens and hot, grilled chicken breast. At first I was a little taken aback by the canned fruit - mandarin oranges, diced pears and pineapple tidbits - but then I remembered that canned fruit usage is very much alive and well in Mexico and set aside my American food snob sensibilities that say everything has to be fresh. Besides, the green apple on the salad was perfectly fresh and my friend enjoyed the salad tremendously and said it was light, delicious and refreshing. The perfect choice for lunch.

      My steak salad was also successful. There were flavorful hunks of thin, grilled carne asada along with sauted onions and rajas. It was all pulled together with cilantro dressing and the requisite shower of crumbled cotija. Both plates were garnished with amazingly ripe slices of roma tomatoes. Where they found them in January and what price the kitchen had to pay, I shutter to think, but they were good.

      Yesterday entrees were half price with the purchase of a beverage. I suspect they'll run this special for a couple of weeks as word gets out that Chilango's has reopened. Also, it was cash only at lunch. I am glad Chilango's has reopened and hope that whatever caused the original closure has passed. The menu is the same as it was before the conversion and the kitchen is only a little rusty. In a town dominated by taco shops and burritos, it's nice to have a casual Mexican option turning out interesting, unique and sophisticated Mexican food that tastes good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DiningDiva

        DiningDiva, if you haven't been there yet, you should plan a road trip to LA to check out the quesadillas at Sabor A Mexico!

        Thanks to all of you who have reported back on Chilango's re-opening. I look forward to trying it soon!

      2. Thanks for the great report... it sounds like we might have a real Fonda in town? Do they offer Comida Corrida sets?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Not sure - didn't notice an offering for a set on the menu, but it may be different for lunch. There are two place on Imperial Ave. which offer corridas - not sure how good they are.

          I am interested to compare them to Frida's. You'll have to tell me where you want to go.

          1. re: kare_raisu

            Isn't the Frida's a relative of the one in Beverly Hills? If so, I am guessing they actually aren't that comparable. (When I went to Frida in BH they used top level ingredients but the actual offerings were more standard stuff you can find anywhere than anything I've seen described in these Chilango threads (except for perhaps the quesadillas).

          2. Do you know their hours? I can't find a website for them yet. Thanks!

            1. Finally made it to the reopened Chilango's, full of hope. I loved the changes to the decor. The service was excellent-- but our food did not have the same sparkle I remember. I was worried immediately by the HUGE menu, trying to be all things to all people. The old menu was fairly straightforward. I ordered the Chilis en Nogada, the one with fruit. It was a plateful of lukewarm mushiness. My man's pork in chipotle sauce was stringy, and the sauce one-note-- whereas I remembered Chilango's sauces singing with subtle undernotes and sidenotes like complicated wines. The day before we had eaten at Super Cocina, and there we had had a perfect Chili Releno and an unusual and delicious Chicken in Parsley Sauce (I think it was.) We'll give Chilango's another chance; and NOT go on a Saturday night. But if the Chilango's family were my friend I'd tell them, please, keep it simple.

              4 Replies
              1. re: pickypicky

                Chile en Nogada is served at room temperature, it's not a hot or a cold dish. Lukewarm/room temp *is* the correct temperature for the dish. It's also really a seasonal dish, served when walnuts and pomegranets are in season, which isn't right now. Fresh granadas (pomegranets and easier to spell correctly) should be beginning to show up in Mexican markets right about now, not sure when walnut season starts, but I think it's Fall. In any event, chile en nogada shouldn't be mushy.

                The original owner, Victor, is not involved with this venture, it's his brother.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  they should really mention this on the menu, helps to educate people as well as keep them from being disgruntled ha ha

                2. re: pickypicky

                  The chicken dish at Super Cocina is one of my absolute favorites. Its actually a cilantro wine sauce and a specialty of Queretero State according to my friend Eat Nopal.

                  Interested to hear if the filling of the chile was mush or the pasilla or both. Was it ground meat or shredded?

                  Sorry to hear about the experience but glad you had a good meal at cocina

                  1. re: kare_raisu

                    Yeah.... that is a damn good Chicken dish! Probably better with Squab... but hey at $7 per dinner plate... who is going to complain!