I felt a great sense of accomplishment today as I finished installing my new satellite radio in my car. I admit that the antenna was installed by the nice people at Circuit City, but the wiring and dash prep were at my hands and I felt great snapping in the faceplace and hearing pure digital, commercial free music on over 150 channels.
Some of the music just made me laugh because it brought back memories. How can you not smile while listening to "Kung Fu Fighting" or "Feelings"? Thank goodness the photos of me in a lime green leisure suit and afro have all been destroyed. Still, the music was funky and fun and now I have 150 channels where I can brounce from rock to pop to disco to country. A very odd mix indeed.
Finishing my radio install, I talked my friend Dave into joining me for lunch. I guess since the music mix was odd enough, the idea of lunching at Chino Bandido popped into my mind. After all, what could be more odd than the fusion of Asian food with Mexican food?
So, Dave and I got into the satellite radio toting car and headed to the East Valley to find Chino Bandido. All along the way, I was torturing my friend zipping back and forth between the 70s station, the 80s station, the disco hits station and anything else that made him roll his eyes. We cruised down Chandler Boulevard and zipped right past the place but Dave caught it out of the corner of his eye and we made our way back. The problem is that this place is pretty far back from the street. It is, roughly, on the southeast corner of Chandler Blvd. and Dobson, but a bit further each and somewhat hidden behind a gas station. Once you make your way to it, the parking is even more bizarre. It is hard to describe, but it does set the mood for your dining experience.
We wandered into the restaurant. The place is huge inside. It is spartan, but spotless, and you are going to be dining at plastic tables and IKEA-like chairs. We walked to the order station to review the menu and place our order. Dave and I were both a bit unsure of what it would all be like. Imagining Egg Foo Yung as a burrito filling was too much for my brain to handle. Suddenly, things took an interesting turn.
An older gentleman asked if we had dined at Chino Bandido before. Of course, we hadn't, and you could see the sparkle in his eyes as he plotted his moves. Then, he broke into a very humorous monologue introducing us to his restaurant. As a new customer, he moved us over to a mini steam table complete with samples. He gave a brief description of each and then gave us each a little paper cup of the item described. We tried the Cuban Black Beans, the Carnitas, Jade Red Chicken, Emerald Chicken, Pork Fried Rice and Jerk Rice. All were good, although I wasn't particularly fond of the Jerk Fried Rice.
He then told us about how we should each order a combo platter. This would give a choice of beans (Cuban black or refried), a choice of rice (Jerk, Chicken, Pork or Plain) and then a choice of two main dishes (such as Egg Foo Yung, Machaca, Chinese BBQ Pork, Teriyaki Chicken, etc.). In addition, we could have the main dishes as is, made into a quesadilla or made into a burrito. It was just so odd thinking of biting into a hot Teriyaki Chicken Burrito. Still, I wanted to be a good sport and made up my mind.
I chose the Pork Fried Rice, the Refried beans, the Chinese BBQ Pork (plain), and the Jade Red Chicken in a quesadilla. This set me back all of $6.25 and I had a drink as well ($1.25). Included in the meal was also a cookie. I chose the Snickerdoodle, because if there was anything that would round out a Jade Red Chicken Quesadilla, it would most certainly be a Snickerdoodle.
Dave's order was a little different from mine. He chose the Cuban Black Beans, the Chicken Fried Rice, a Carnitas Quesadilla, a Chinese BBQ Port Burrito, and a drink. He also felt that a Snickerdoodle was crying out to be ordered.
We filled our drink cups and took a table in the back and talked about our dining experience. I really was apprehensive. This was either going to be great or I was going to be ill. In about 5 minutes or so, our meals arrived. The combos were served in disposable tins and the portions were quite ample for our lunch appetites. I took a bite of the Pork Fried Rice. It was very good. Flavorful, not mushy and heated through. The refried beans were plentiful, tasty and covered with a nice amount of cheese. Then, I took a chance and tried a spoonful of beans with rice. Okay, let me just lay it on the line: Pork Fried Rice and Refried Beans are perfect together. This was a great marriage and I only wish pork fried rice was available at every Mexican restaurant in Phoenix because it complements refried beans better than the standard rice served.
My apprehension had faded and I tried the BBQ pork, which was a stand alone dish with nothing but meat in a small pile in one quadrant of the serving container. The pork was excellent. Moist, juicy, tender and that bit of sweet and tangy sauce on the edges of the meat. I was pleased.
Now, the moment of true was at hand. I looked at the large pieces of Jade Red Chicken Quesadilla that sat in the container. I was pleased to see the quesadilla had been cooked in a way to make the tortilla extra crispy and golden brown. I picked up a piece and took a bite. The Jade Red Chicken was similar to Sesame Chicken without the seeds. Mixing that with melted cheese and wrapped in a tortilla, I finished my first bite thinking that who ever actually thought of putting them together was either inspired or quite mad. It simply works. The taste was novel and also quite addictive. I was very pleased with this dish.
Dave was also happy with his choices as well. His Carnitas Quesadilla, while not novel, was still quite good. He really liked the spicy kick to the beans and thought his Chicken Fried Rice was great. He then tried his Chinese BBQ Pork Burrito. He took a bite, then another and one more before saying that the tastes melded together quite well. He couldn't say enough good things about his meal.
After our meals, we both started on the Snickerdoodles. This were very good. Light, puffy, with plenty of cinnamon and sugar. A bizarre dessert for Mexican and Chinese fusion, but it wasn't any more odd than anything else we had.
We finished our meals and drinks and were both just stunned that the mix of Mexico and Asia could wonderfully co-exist. I am still a bit overwhelmed by the experience because, in most of our minds, you don't shove an Asian chicken dish into a tortilla.
As we left, I mentioned to the manager that the only thing missing in the place was some music, and I suggested either some Big Band music or Disco. Considering that my taste buds were turned upside down at Chino Bandido, music having nothing to do with Asia or Mexico might just be a perfect fit for this place.
For our two lunches, we paid $17.00 and change which included drinks and tax. We thought it was an exceptional value and the food is hot, fresh, delicious and unique.
We got back into my car and headed off to do Saturday errands. Somehow, my satellite radio choices didn't sound so odd after all.
1825 West Chandler Boulevard
Chandler, AZ 85048
Notes: There is a second location on the Northwest corner of 19th Avenue and Greenway in Phoenix.