“Did you hear about the new Mexican-Chinese fusion place?”
My introduction to Chigama was tainted, I’m sad to say, by a much-less-successful version of the same concept at a spot called Chi-Mex. Because when people asked me about former, I thought they were talking about the latter and I was like, “Uh, no thanks.”
Chi-Mex doesn’t actually do fusion. It’s kind of a free-standing mall food court Chinese restaurant. I went there with friends. It was fine, but not something I was raring to try again, much less review.
Finally it penetrated my thick skull (which is already hard to access, thanks to my thick hair) that these were not only two different restaurants, but two entirely different mindsets.
Chigama truly does find great ways to combine Mexican food with Asian cuisine, which kind of stunned me. By combining a few key ingredients and concepts, they’ve engineered a menu that is both comfortable and intriguing.
I have trouble not ordering elote ($4) anywhere. Elote is a Mexican street food of roasted corn (usually on the cob) smeared with mayo and chili powder and cotija cheese and it’s an absolute delight. Not everybody does a great job with it, I’m sad to say, but Chigama knocks it out of the park.
Is $4 a bit much for two kind-of-small pieces of corn on the cob? Maybe. Would I order it again? Almost certainly. So I guess I’m not a great judge of this, because I’m literally salivating right now thinking about those elotes.
If you need more, and I’m going to guess you do, then the Szechuan spice chicken wings (8 for $8) are pretty outstanding.
The skin isn’t super crispy, thanks to a slathering of sweet sauce, but they’re not too fatty. I recommend you get the red Hatch chili sauce for dipping, because red Hatch chilies are delicious and this sauce could legit be paired with almost any food and I’d like it.
A side dish that might as well be an appetizer, the scallion pancake ($3.50) is just a perfect thing. It’s thin and chewy and a little crisp with scallions cooked into it and I honestly think my friend Kevin and I would be enemies now if there hadn’t been an even number of these to split between us. Yes, I will end a friendship over food. Look at me. I am a monster.
The sweet corn risotto ($5) is a must-have, which is unfortunate, because when we were there, our waitress rushed to put in the order to make sure we got the last one. It was noon. They are going to have to start making a lot more risotto when people realize how good this stuff is.
It’s slightly toothsome, as risotto should be, with a buttery, creaminess that is instantly comforting. I’m pretty sure a therapy session where you slide into a tub of sweet corn risotto would cure 90 percent of my problems. There’s a mild corn sweetness to it, as well, which is a nice balance to all the richness.
Tacos might be the perfect “fusion” food, simply because it’s a form factor that is friendly to almost any cuisine. Indian/Pakistani tacos? Yes. Sushi tacos? Double yes. Italian tacos, with a bun made of baked spaghetti and filled with pork ragu? A thousand times yes.
We tried both the shrimp taco ($4.50) and tuna tataki taco ($5) and were generally pleased. Kev favored the shrimp, which was kind of sweet-and-sour style with nice, plump shrimp and a bit of shredded cabbage and pine nuts for crunch.
I thought the tuna tataki taco (which is just really fun to say) was the winner. Seared fresh tuna is always tasty and the addition of a kimchi aioli really made the flavor pop.
We also split an entree of pulled pork fried rice ($13) and I need to apologize. I was so excited when it arrived, I didn’t take a picture. So I took one after we’d mangled it and, you know, it’s at least an accurate portrayal of what happens when you are delicious near my mouth. Bad things.
I thought the dish was great and pulled pork as a stand in for the usual roast pork in fried rice was a novel twist. That said, I did let the server know the rice was missing a hit of salt, which kept the flavors a bit more muted. If you get it, test it out for yourself before adding in salt, but I found a few shakes really made the dish irresistible.
For dessert, because when have I ever said no to dessert, we got the churro with coffee fondant ($7), which should not be confused with fondant icing. This coffee fondant is a sweet chocolatey dipping sauce that I want to drink every morning, whereas fondant icing is like sugar dough that bakers use to make cakes look pretty and taste terrible.
The churro, the ice cream, the diced strawberries and the coffee fondant made for a really perfect bite. The mix of hot and cold, sweet, tart and bitter and the chewy center and crisp exterior was kind of the perfect end to a fusion cuisine lunch. It was everything all at one and I loved it.
Look, fusion cuisine gets a bad rap because lots of people doing it have no handle on the foods their fusing. But Chigama knows their stuff and the food is so good and so effortless that you’d be forgiven for not realizing the crossover of elements. OKC, we’ve got a winner on our hands.