CHIKO brings Chinese-Korean fusion to Bethesda 


Eve Titlebaum

CHIKO offers a wide variety of appetizers, entrees, and snacks, as well as vegetarian and gluten free menu options. I decided to order some of their most popular dishes to see if it was worth the hype. 

By Eve Titlebaum

On the corner of Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue rests an unassuming lot, which, for years now, has perpetuated a harsh culinary cycle: churning through artisanal restaurants, all of whom have searched for — and then struggled to maintain — success in Bethesda’s unforgiving high-rent market. Its most recent victim, Prima, a fast-casual Italian restaurant, closed temporarily in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, only to be replaced a few months later.

CHIKO, a fast-casual dining establishment with a Chinese-Korean fusion menu, turned the page on Prima’s shuttering and opened its own new location in that same spot last January. The newcomer’s Capitol Hill location won Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Casual Restaurant of the Year in 2020. CHIKO offers a wide variety of appetizers, entrees and snacks, as well as vegetarian and gluten free menu options. I decided to order some of their most popular dishes to see if it was worth the hype. 


Crispy Chicken Springrolls

These spring rolls are the perfect appetizer to warm you up to your meal. They are fried, stuffed with chicken, and come with Chinese hot mustard. The wrappers are flaky and salty and, luckily, lack the typical greasiness of an average spring roll. The hot mustard gave the rolls a spicy kick.

Pork & Kimchi Potsticker

A potsticker is a type of crispy dumpling fried in a pan. CHIKO served its potstickers with seaweed, kimchi and a sesame dipping sauce. Though they had a rich flavor and wonderful taste, I felt the pork was too heavy. The kimchi was also disappointingly sweet and lacked the tang I anticipated.

Wok-Blistered Green Beans

Cooked with toasted sesame oil and garlic and served with mushrooms, this dish is prepared using a wok, which is a traditional Chinese cooking pot. The green beans provided both a crunchy and soft sensation. Though they didn’t stand out by any means, they perfectly satisfied the need for a vegetable dish.


Orange-ish Chicken

CHIKO’s most well known plate is a take on the Chinese American dish orange chicken. The poultry is lightly fried and served with candied mandarin oranges and peppers. While most restaurant’s iterations of orange chicken are coated in thick sweet sauce, this version is defined by its signature crispiness and more savory flavor, punctuated by candied mandarins’ bittersweet taste.

Cumin Lamb Stir Fry

This dish consists of braised lamb, wheat flour noodles, caramelized shallots and mushrooms. The lamb was perfectly tender and the spices were warming but not overwhelming. It had a spicy and enjoyable aftertaste and was very filling.

Smashed Salmon

The salmon came with black bean butter, wild mushrooms, a soy citrus sauce and vegetables. The soy flavors in the salmon made this dish lighter than the other entrees, but the fish was a bit overcooked. My favorite part of the dish was the vegetables: the carrots, green beans and onions added a crunchy texture to counteract the softer fish and matched well with the sauce.

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

This hearty soup featured slow braised short rib, garlic bok choy and wheat flour noodles. The soup was filling, and added a deep umami flavour. There was just the perfect balance of lamb, noodles, broth, and bok choy to allow each food to be amply appreciated. However, the broth was quite salty and did not live up to the “spicy” in its name.

Closing Thoughts:

After my meal at CHIKO, the standout dishes were the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls, Cumin Lamb Stir Fry, and Orange-ish Chicken. While the entrees were filling and hearty, ultimately, most seemed average and even forgettable; I may not go out of my way to go there again. At the end of the day, however, I wish CHIKO the best of success and do hope to see the Elm-Woodmont location thrive again.