When: January 18, 2016, 11:55 AM
Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill is a counter-service restaurant in the Pacific Wharf area of California Adventure. It’s one of the larger restaurants in the area, and hard to miss; look for the Karl Strauss beer truck, and swivel your head to the right. There you go.
In all the years I’ve been coming to California Adventure, I’ve never tried Cocina Cucamonga. The restaurant concept didn’t connect, for some reason, so I’ve eaten somewhere else.
Today, that changed. And: I’ve been missing out.
For my inaugural dish, I ordered the “Fire Grilled Citrus Chicken.” I didn’t really know what to expect. The menu describes it as “1/2 chicken, seasoned in a savory marinade of garlic, cilantro, lemon and lime served with warm flour tortillas.” Mentally, I couldn’t picture how this was going to come out – a literal half-chicken? Shredded chicken, presented alongside tortillas? Or something else?
The answer: it’s a straight-up, roasted half chicken. The chicken is served with a side of rice, a side of beans, a couple of tortillas, a scoop each of sour cream and guacamole, and a small amount of pico de gallo. The idea is that you carve off chunks of chicken, put them inside the tortillas, add the beans and some guac. Go crazy.
This is super, super good. The chicken is moist and incredibly well-cooked; each bite had a strong pop of flavor, and I kept marveling that something this yummy had escaped my attention all these years. Everyone at the table was impressed with it.
In terms of the sides: the beans are OK – standard refried beans. They have a small amount of cheddar cheese mixture on top, but it’s not helping very much. The rice is just filler. And the tortillas aren’t exceptional. None of these sides are bad, but it’s clear that the chicken is the star of the show.
I absolutely recommend this dish. It’s one of the better, fresher, and more delightful things at California Adventure. I’d eat it again, and gladly.