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Super Cocina? What's the big deal? (San Diego)

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  • Joseph E Jun 7, 2006 08:52 PM
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My wife and I were disappointed by Super Cocina the first time we went, about a month ago. She had a dark chicken mole, and I had a pork dish with green pepina sauce, among other things. The sauces were not as flavorful as I had hoped from my visit to Mexico city a few years back, and the meat was nothing special.

What do you order when you go there? I know there are several Super Cocina fans around here.

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  1. First, it's important to realize that guisados and moles have hundreds of variations from the numerous states in Mexico. So expecting the food to match what you had in Mexico City isn't really fair, since Super Cocina makes no claim of offering Mexico City cuisine.

    Super Cocina's guisado recipes come from all over Mexico, and the menu changes very often. They do let you taste any of the dishes before ordering, so if you got something that you didn't care for, you really only have yourself to blame.

    Next time, don't be shy about sampling until you find something you like. They have over a hundred recipes in their rotation, so I'm not sure which pork dish you're speaking of, however if what you're looking for is something very flavorful then try the puerco enchilado. It's in the short side of the display cases, in the center pan.

    The chiles rellenos are also very good.

    Still, the best stuff I've had I've happened upon by sampling what was on offer. I've had some great chicken and pork dishes, and I've never been disappointed by my meal. On the other hand, I also haven't dined in Mexico City.

    If Mexico City-style cooking is what you're after, you might want to check out Chilango's in Hillcrest.

    5 Replies
    1. re: JS

      I would drive a hundred miles for the Birria, Large bowl w/ fresh tortillas under 5 bucks.

      1. re: JS

        I love Super Cocina, but I think their chiles rellenos are not the best - when I had them the outside batter had a bad texture from sitting and the cheese filling was pretty bland.

        I do agree that the puerco enchilado is great, though.

        1. re: afinkle

          I don't mind when the chile rellenos having been sitting so much -especially so when a tomato caldillo is applied over the chile. Then again, anything fried that sits too long is not good. I am not fond of their enchiladas for the same reasons which I found to be dry and bland as well.

          1. re: kare_raisu

            That must have been a seriously off day for enchiladas if they were bland and dry! I've always had great experiences with the enchiladas there.

          2. re: afinkle

            I think chile rellenos are hard to do for restaurant service, they're really kind of an "a la minute" type of thing. In addition to the capeado getting tough, I think the chile gets mushy. Chile rellenos for me have to have a chile with a little bit of crunch and a batter coating that is light as air. You don't find that too often NOB.

            I love chile rellenos that are stuffed with something other than cheese. Picadillo is great and so are any of the many other meat and fish based fillings. I've had chile rellenos that have not been battered and fried, they are wonderful and I think they hold up better to the type of service that Super Cocina does.

        2. i am a loyal member of their fanbase...and i have to agree with what js has written. i too have not had the oppty to dine in DF, but I know that there is no better place for 'authentic' mex in san diego.

          what kind of place in df are you comparing super cocina to? (mind you this is comida casera...nothing fancy)
          i dont know why the sauces werent flavorful...elaborate?

          their mole is my second fav dish after their birria.

          1. I dream of their chicken gizzards in green chili....but I am with the other posters, I have never eaten in Mexico City. I have eaten in Guymas, Mexicali, Tiajuana, and other outposts, and I find their food wonderful, flavorful, and far from ordinary.

            Tasting is such a great option to find what you desire.

            peace, jill

            1. Thanks, folks. It looks like I need to give this place another try, and have some patience testing samples. We were pressed for time on our first visit and had to order quickly.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Joseph E

                If you go there during the week, there's a young man (normally with some facial hair) who works the lunch shift who's related (I believe) to the owner, and who is very accomodating of newcomers. I can see how you'd feel rushed if it was a busy day. Best approach there is to get your samples, then go back to the end of the line while you decide.

                Forgot to mention that the enchiladas rojas are incredible. There's nothing like real homemade enchilada sauce with that deep chile flavor to make you realize how lame most enchiladas are.

              2. Joseph, if you scroll back a couple of years you'll find the first post I did on Super Cocina, which I'm pretty sure was it's first appearance on this board as well. Unlike most of the posters who responded to you, I *do* travel frequently and extensively in Mexico and have eaten all over the republic (except Veracruz and the Yucatan) including Mexico City, which has some pretty incredible food finds(I post about my Mexican food experiences on the International Board). I also have spent time studying Mexican cooking and cuisine with Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, Susana Trilling, Marilyn Tausend, Ricardo Munoz, Roberto Santibanez and a couple of others. Super Cocina isn't the cooking of Mexico City, nor is it even close.

                Super Cocina is homestyle cooking and is what you would be more likely to encounter in someone's home, and even that is becoming rarer. It is not restaurant syle cooking, and that's it's hook. The food at Super Cocina is very good, but it doesn't transcend to "great". IMNSHO, it tends to be on the heavy side and lacks the light touches and nuances that are typically found in the food in Mexico.

                This, however, is the difference between home cooking and professional cooking. Home cooks don't always have the same resources, access to products or equipment as the professional cook/chef does, which can have a direct impact on the final dish. Rustic is probably a better word to describe the food at Super Cocina. There is nothing wrong with that, it is one aspect of Mexican cuisine, and Super Cocina does it very well. Just remeber even Mexicans don't eat rustic every day and especially not in Mexico City.

                Like the U.S., Mexico is a very large country. Also, like the U.S., there are probably more variations and styles of regional cooking in Mexico than you can count. My experience with the cooking of Central Mexico is that it tends to be lighter than in other parts of the country. But in almost any location in Mexico, the meal will be based more on beans, vegetables and fruit than on protein. In most dishes it's the sauce that is the focus, NOT what the sauce is served with. In the traditional Mexican kitchen an entree is served with voluminous amounts of sauce and only a small portion of protein, and often times with no protein, simply a melange of veggies.

                Most Americans have no clue that there was a stong French influence on Mexican food dating from the mid 1860s when Maximillian and Carlotta were installed as Emperor and Emperoress. Think sopa secas, bolillos or teleras. The cooking of Mexico City was most profoundly affected because it was, and still is, the seat of power. Up until very recently traditional "continental" cooking was the perferred cooking and dining experience in D.F. When Defenos dined out they typically went to a restaurant serving continental food, not Mexican food. What they ate at home and what they ate out were two different things. Super Cocina would be far closer to what was eaten at home.

                The sad fact of the matter is that for as close to the border as San Diego is, the Mexican food is really rather dreadful. Truthfully, in comparison to Mexico and especially Mexico City, the Mexican food here sucks. Super Cocina and Chilangos are probably two of the better bets when looking for "authentic", whatever that phrase really means. If you're willing to frequent the dives along El Cajon Blvd., University Ave., Imperial, National City and San Ysidro, you'll uncover some gems. They may not be uniformly good or consistent, but you will find you can satisfy specific cravings at specific places.

                Give Super Cocina another shot. Next time just ask for "una prueba", a little taste. JS is right on this one, it's the best way to figure out what to order. Just don't expect it to be as refined as what you ate in D.F. The food at Super Cocina rarely knocks my socks off, it does, however, satisfy the cravings for good, solid (literally in some cases) Mexican cooking. It is what it is. Some folks will love it, some won't, and if you don't there's nothing wrong with you, or your taste buds. You probably just perfer one of the many different styles of Mexican food.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Gayla

                  Always a pleasure to read one of your posts. Very informative.

                  ed

                  1. re: Gayla

                    Why aren't you writing for City Beat?

                    1. re: JS

                      Uh, not been ask to - or - didn't know they were looking?

                      1. re: Gayla

                        Well, they were looking when I left. They have a replacement now, Marcie Rothman. You might want to submit something though, she won't be there forever.

                        1. re: JS

                          Send me private e-mail with the contact name and I will consider sending them something. Thanks for the suggestion.

                    2. re: Gayla

                      Gayla, thanks again for broadening my knowledge base! I love it when you post!

                      1. re: Gayla

                        Thank you Gayla! My post hardly deserved such a reply, but I love to learn about these things. Seriously, why aren't you writing a column for a local paper? We could use some good food writing in this town... or perhaps another good blog.

                        1. re: Gayla

                          Sorry to renew this old thread, but I was doing some research and just wanted to add a little note to this. It's a largely correct and informative post, but it is wrong on one very significant point. Tacos de guisados is probably the second most popular style of taqueria or puesto in DF next to the suadero/misc carnes taquerias/puestos. I'd say tacos de guisados are more popular in DF than just about anywhere else I've been in Mexico.

                          I'm coming down to Southern California at the end of the month to do some research without the expense of going back to Mexico again this summer. Besides Super Cocina, are there any other good places that specialize in guisados?

                          1. re: extramsg

                            The only other place I know of in San Diego with guisados is Ranas Mexico City Cuisine in Spring Valley.

                            1. re: DougOLis

                              Thanks for the tip.

                              btw, carnicerias often have guisados, but I would doubt any would have the sort of selection that Super Cocina has. But if any of you locals are out exploring, you might want to see if the carnicerias have a hot deli counter. You're likely to find birria, barbacoa, cochinita, chicharron en salsa verde, etc.

                              -----
                              Super Cocina
                              3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

                              1. re: extramsg

                                Is the "Farmers Market" building on Imperial still open? if so there were several vendors in the food court with Guisados. Last time I was there it was a mixture of condemned building, food court and construction site. In its heyday we used to refer to it as Mexican UTC as you could get anything from tacos to tuxedos.

                            2. re: extramsg

                              Mama Testa has tacos de guisados.

                              -----
                              Mama Testa
                              1417 University Ave Ste A, San Diego, CA 92103

                          2. Give it another try. When we go, we almost always get the carnitas, chile rellenos, and the chile colorado. The empanadas are also good when they have them. Their Chile verde type dishes are average, but always satisfying. I've been dissapointed by the pozole which doesn't have a very rich broth and their mole, which is too sweet.
                            Overall, a great place to get a satisying home cooked meal.

                            1. I just got back from Super Cocina. Boy were you guys right about this place. I've definitely never had better homestyle Mexican food in San Diego. I had the enchilado de puerco, which may be the tastiest Mexican dish I've had in SD, and the chicken mole. I really enjoyed the mole, although I do think it was rather one-dimensional...I wouldn't say it's the best mole I've ever had. Overall though, I thought Super Cocina was a great find and I will definitely add it to my "rotation." Thanks to everyone for recommending it.

                              1. just tried super cocina for the first time and really enjoyed it. my friend and i must've looked lost because the gentleman behind the counter asked "first time?" we nodded yes a little apprehensively and then he offered a taste of each item. just a nice welcoming touch that was much appreciated. i tried the chile coloarda (i think) and the carnitas. i like the chile colorado more, but mainly because i like guacamole with my carnitas. do you know if i can ask for it? another thing i noticed is that there was no hot sauce or salsa on anyones table. i assumed because most of the dishes were "stew-like", but i wanted to ask for some for my carnitas. i didn't however because i though it might be like asking for ketchup at a steak house! any thoughts?
                                anyhow, i really liked this place and will be going back very soon.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: daimyo

                                  I've never seen guacamole there, but hot sauce is kept in the fridge. You don't need to ask, just help yourself. Most of the food is so heavily seasoned that it's not really necessary, but I've seen it used there plenty of times on things like empanadas and carnitas.

                                2. I ate there yesterday, had some sort of stewed chicken in a cilantro/poblano sauce. Very good. I also had their beef empenadas for the first time. topped with a little lettuce and crema, these were some of the best i have had.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                    MVNYC - Any discernable spices, veggies in Empanda?
                                    Was it poblano strips? in a cream sauce? any heat factor?

                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                      The empanadas had a roasted shreds of beef in it, probably a tomato chili mixture. They were really tasty and the dough definitely had that good lard taste to it.

                                      The poblanos were in strips and it was a cream sauce, very mild heat.

                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                        Did you happen to notice any other unusual items? Was it busy?

                                        1. re: kare_raisu

                                          The usual items, i had never had their empenadas before. I am not that familiar with mexican cuisine to be able to rattle off thenames of what was there. It wasnt too busy, i was there around 1pm

                                  2. I second the puerco enchilado. Spicy, some chewy bits, but overall fantastic.

                                    And I liked the mole a lot, though I'm not a mole person usually, I thought it was well balanced with its spice and sweet.

                                    -Stan
                                    san diego food blog
                                    http://www.sandiegofoodblog.com

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: stangoldsmith

                                      I gave the mole a try for the first time, but in a mole chicken enchilada version. It was interesting, but their mole is extremely sweet and not my favorite. That being said, I love this place and am totally addicted. Its great how they have their daily staple dishes along with "choices of the day". It keeps things fresh and interesting!