A bonafide smash since its Summer 2017 debut in Washington, D.C., Chiko opens its first West Coast outpost in Encinitas this Wednesday evening. Winner of Eater DC’s 2017 Game Changer of the Year award and member of the Eater 38, the causal East Coast restaurant was created by a trio of industry vets who call themselves the Fried Rice Collective.
With another location already in the works for DC, Chiko has been a breakout hit for co-chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno, who built the menu on their respective experience with Korean and Chinese cuisines. Lee also runs Mandu, a homestyle Korean restaurant, and Drewno spent over a decade doing Asian fine dining at The Source by Wolfgang Puck. A third partner, Drew Kim, co-founder of Matchbox Food Group, has relocated to San Diego and will oversee the 1,200-square-foot Encinitas eatery.
Lee says that Chiko is not about fusion or hybrid food. Though it’s rooted in traditional flavors and ingredients, there is some creative license taken with dishes including the bestselling “orange-ish chicken” made with candied mandarin oranges and the soy-glazed chopped brisket with a six-minute egg, furikake butter, and rice. For San Diego, they added vegetarian dumplings and noodles as well as beef skewers featuring Seaside Market’s famous marinated tri-tip, aka Cardiff Crack. Local seafood and produce will also be featured.
The restaurant will soon launch a popular feature from D.C., a reservation-only, four-seat chef’s counter offering a $50 tasting menu that takes diners through its greatest hits. The partners say they also want to start doing their After Dark series here, which invites in guest chefs for one-night-only, after-hours collaborations.