#267: Chaodown Poki

12:15PM / 12/18/2021


Today’s lunch is Poke at Chaodown Poki. They are located on Douglas in the small center with Sunrise Natural Foods and Mario’s Early Toast. I arrived at 12:15 and this parking lot was jam-packed. I’ve been here just once before, back in July 2020 when take-out only was in full force. As is the case with many of my recent posts, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to dine in.

I stepped inside just behind a family which gave me plenty of time to review the space and the menu. Although they had some tables stacked up in the back of the dining room, a row of tables along the bench seating was available to sit at. It’s a nice clean and modern space with much of the kitchen open to view.

Looking at the menu I was slightly disappointed at first to see the # of scoops per bowl seemed low. They start at two with the regular bowl and top out at four for the largest size. I usually get the largest option so I peeked over to watch for the size of the scoops as the family was being served. They looked about the same size as my regular lunch Poke place in Rancho Cordova (Poke Cube). Seeing that I decided to just stick with a regular bowl ($12.50), because the 4-scoop bowl was sort of pricey at $17.50. I decided I’d order a side item to round out my order.

(click/tap for full size image)

When my turn was up I started by asking about the Chaodown Fries. They were described as seasoned fries with a couple of sauces and topped with green onions. I decided instead to get the tempura shrimp (4 for $9 – well the menu says $9 but I was charged $7). On with my bowl, I chose a base of white rice and salmon for both scoops of protein. For sauces I picked ponzu and a wasabi cream sauce, with a little extra ponzu over the rice. Asked if I wanted any other sauces I asked for recommendations and went with the suggestion of a sesame shoyu on the side.

Moving on to the toppings I chose egg, edamame, corn, crab salad, two types of masago (regular and a habanero flavor), then finished it off with some roasted sesame seeds, crispy onions and chopped peanuts. I would have added avocado as well (+$1.75) but totally forgot. With a $2.50 fountain drink my total came to $23.71 after tax.

I took a seat and dug in while my shrimp were finishing up in the deep fryer. There’s always a lot going on in these bowls, flovor and texture-wise. My usual spot doesn’t offer peanuts and I really enjoyed that little crunch and taste with everything else. I’ve seen two different types of crab salad, one that seems to stick together well and the other, which is used here, that seems a bit more coarsely sliced, a little dryer and scatters easily when stirred in the bowl. I’m not super crazy about this type but it’s a minor complaint. I was hit with a powerful wasabi aroma as I took a bite of the salmon. The flavor was much less pronounced and faded quickly. The egg was a new addition for me. While I enjoyed the soft texture it did not overcome the other flavors to be very noticeable. The habanero wasabi seemed more like a colorful variation than anything that supplied a detectable heat. I decided to check out that side of sesame shoyu about 1/3 into my bowl. It smelled incredible of strong roasted sesame. I poured the whole side over my bowl. It added a saltiness that I didn’t realize I had been missing. This was the missing flavor that took it from OK to Good. I would not omit this in the future here.

My tempura shrimp arrived within a few minutes and were very hot and crispy. They had a perfect, golden flaky batter that was a delight to bite into. They were a smidge on the greasy side and were the only thing I really needed napkins for. For the $7 that I was charged I was pretty happy with these. For $9 I might reconsider. It’s interesting to note that they offer these as a protein option for the bowls themselves.

I’ve found many poke joints to not quite hit that threshold where I return and I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is, especially given the ingredients and construction are largely similar. It feels exactly the same way with Mongolian BBQ, a connection I made today as I was eating and thinking about the flavors. With Mongolian BBQ, at least for me, their sauces are a key factor. If they aren’t rich enough or if I can’t add it myself (looking at you, Galleria’s O Tasty Mongolian) I find that I don’t return often, if at all. There is a flavor intensity to the sauces here (those that I’ve tried on my two visits thus far) just didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Other than that, the service, the dining space, and the ingredient selection here is honestly pretty decent. It’s hard not to mention the price feels a touch on the high side, but that’s going to be the case at so many places now and I doubt they’ll return to the levels we’ve enjoyed for so long. Although it probably sounds like I’m being kind of hard on this place, it was good, I’ve just become picky with my poke (that is a silly sounding phrase). I think a score of 4 of 5 is fair here.


#266: Vons Chicken

11:15AM / 12/12/2021
https://www.vonsroseville.com (local site)
https://vonschickenusa.com (corporate site)

Today I returned to one of my new, top chicken places in Roseville. I discovered Vons in early 2021 and have ordered from them a couple times since then. Today is the first time I dined in.

Vons is a Korean Fried Chicken franchise that seems strictly based in northern CA so far, with most of their <30 locations in the Bay Area. Just 3 that I can see, including this one, are in the Sacramento area. Some more reading on the main website reveals that it originated in South Korea itself.

They offer 2 main varieties of chicken – Roast Oven and Crispy Fried. For each type they have a variety of flavors to pick from, and you can get boneless, drums, wings or a combo of drums and wings. Sides include fries (some flavored fries as well), kimchi fried rice, fried shrimp, man doo (pot stickers) and rice cakes. Previously I have tried the honey butter French fries and the cheddar French fries.

I arrived a little after opening to an empty dining room but a busy sounding kitchen. I took some time to go over the menu and placed my order at the register. This time I went with a combo ($11.99), a mix of drums and wings, and chose the Crispy Yangnyeom flavor. This comes in a choice of mild/medium/spicy. I asked how spicy the spicy was. The cashier said that it will leave a slight burning sensation on your lips. I went for it.

My combo came with a choice of coleslaw or radish (I chose coleslaw) and steamed rice or French fries (I chose the rice and spent $1 to upgrade it to kimchi fried rice). I finished off my order with original flavor soju ($9.95). The cashier grabbed my soju bottle from the cooler near the entrance and also gave me a small glass for it.

I sat down and cracked open the bottle while I waited for my order. I remember drinking Soju (or what I believed until now was soju) in a cave bar in Busan on one of my first international trips. I remember it being cloudy and having a sweet fragrance and flavor. I haven’t had it since. A little googling is leading me to believe what I had that night was actually Makgeolli, which has a much lower ABV, and is much easier to drink, in my opinion. Here’s a couple photos from that cave and one of my hosts pouring a cup with a ladle.

This Soju had little to no aroma, was perfectly clear, and you could taste the 17% ABV. Somewhat similar to vodka it had an astringent flavor to it, while not being quite as “hot”. It was alright but would be best to share given its high alcohol content. I am curious to try the two other flavored variations they have available (Peach and Yogurt).

My food came out very quickly, it had probably been less than five minutes. Served on a tray and in one of the take out boxes with the top opened up I could see the pile of chicken leaning up against the orange-red kimchi fried rice. As with my previous experiences here, I was treated to a more favorable mix of chicken than the menu suggests. I received three drums and one wing rather than 50/50. My other orders have been generous not just with the wing to drum ratio but also with the total quantity, as I received 1-2 additional bonus pieces on those earlier visits.

First I tried a bite of the rice, which I’ve now decided is the gateway food I needed to fully embrace kimchi. It was mildly spicy and did not have the strong vinegar flavor that I usually associate with kimchi (and dislike). I picked at this throughout the meal and made sure to keep some to soak up any remaining sauce left by the wings in the box at the end.

The slaw was a tiny little container of a creamy, delicious and crunchy mixture. I do wish the serving size was a bit larger. It was about 4 bites worth.

On to the chicken. I had hoped to avoid repeating a previous flavor selection but didn’t remember that I had already tried this one before. As before, the drums were a good size and had loads of incredibly tender, juicy meat on them. They were coated with an exceptionally crisp fried batter and then drenched in a viscous, bright red sauce. The sauce was a bit sweet, a bit spicy and a bit garlic-y. Exactly as described, I noted a lingering, but not unpleasant burning sensation on my lips once I had finished everything.

I thought I’d mention the fries here, which I had previously. I was very curious about the honey butter and the cheddar flavored options and tried each one on different visits. Both consisted of a heavy powdery coating. The cheddar flavor was fine but felt a bit synthetic. The honey butter was really unique and bizarrely delicious. I never would have imagined a sweet French fry flavoring being so good. It really did have a sweet buttery flavor to it with a hint of honey. I think this would be interesting to try on the wings (both cheddar and honey butter are available options).

I have yet to check out the oven roasted side of the chicken menu. It’s way too hard to turn down known delicious fried chicken when presented with the choice. Maybe next time (I said that last time). Here are some more photos of the chicken I’d ordered before:

I love this place. I think the chicken is incredible, the sides are pretty great, and the prices are reasonable (especially now-a-days). This is an easy 5 out of 5 for me. I wish there was one closer to work!