Food Review: Chipotle’s Pollo Asado

I like candles.

I haven’t done a food review in a while, and I haven’t been to Chipotle in a while, so I’m chalking today up to a happy marriage: I tried Chipotle’s relatively new Pollo Asado today. And I have to say, sometimes when I eat bad, I regret it almost instantly after the last bite, but today, after the last bite, I felt happy. Yes, happy! It helped that Chipotle’s chips were on point today; sometimes, those can be hit or miss.

Lately, I’ve been oscillating between, I’m going to be good and eat the chicken in my freezer, and, I’m going to be bad and eat whatever is closest to my house. The worst is when my dumb brain whispers to me on the way home from the grocery store, “What if we stop for fast-food?” Sometimes I relent, like today. The struggle is real, folks.

The last time I reviewed a Chipotle item was their new at the time smoked brisket in November 2020, and I actually gave it a bad review, which is rare for me. I’m easy to please! Especially when it comes to food and particularly when it comes to Chipotle. However, the smoked brisket, as I wrote at the time, was overcooked, and overcooked brisket defeats the whole point of the promise of juicy brisket.

Pollo Asado, which they rolled out in March of this year, is Chipotle’s “first chicken menu innovation in its 29-year history.” Interestingly, chicken has been my least favorite of the protein options when I go to Chipotle; I almost always go for the shredded beef (aka barbacoa) or steak. The chicken isn’t bad, but it is definitely the third-best of the three. I wanted to give Pollo Asado a shot, though, since I’ve seen the marketing for it, and if I’m anything, I’m a sucker for food marketing. I’m in the minority, apparently, because Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the chicken is the most popular protein item. Go figure.

According to Chipotle, with Pollo Asado, the grilled (that is the “asado” part of its name) chicken is “tumbled” in a spice blend — they make it seem so fancy! — before being seared on the plancha (a griddle), hand-chopped, and “brought to life” with marinade, lime, and cilantro. In other words, it is zombie grilled chicken.

There are quite a few ingredients going on here:

  • Garlic.
  • Guajillo peppers (I’ve never heard of these, but apparently, this is a dried chili that has a “sweet, fruity, tangy, smoky flavor with notes of berries and tea,” which, I don’t know how one pepper does all of that, but good on it!).
  • Lime.
  • Cilantro.
  • Coriander (this one is like a lemony flavor, Google tells me).
  • Cumin.
  • Black pepper.
  • Oregano.
  • Onion.
  • Paprika.
  • Red chili peppers.
  • Red bell pepper.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt.
  • Vinegar.
  • Sunflower oil.
  • Water.

I “tumbled” it into a burrito bowl trying to be mildly “good” compared to getting it in a tortilla, albeit I ruined that immediately by double scooping on the meat, and adding guacamole. So, your mileage may vary on my goodness.

Whomever is the magician in the kitchen behind this came up with a winner: If they keep Pollo Asado on the menu, I could see it becoming my go-to protein item, even more than my beloved barbacoa. It was that good, thanks to its promised “elevated flavor profile.” There is no doubt about it. It was tangy. It was salty. It was mildly spicy. There was some of that lovely cilantro taste. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that compared to the smoked brisket, it was delectably juicy. It had a little bit of everything. Or, let me put it another way: Whenever I get the burrito bowl, I almost instantly raccoon it up with the cheese/sour cream mix, but I ignored that to devour the double scoop of Pollo Asado.

If you are in the majority of people who already prefer chicken as your go-to protein at Chipotle, then the marketing folks are right: This is a new take on your go-to order, and a winning take at that.

Here you go, a professional photo of it from Chipotle.

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