naked chicken chalupa from taco bell....bauer was wrong and you missed it...probably
Welcome to missed opportunities week! In where I review a couple things that are no longer available for one reason or another. Now I know you are asking, why bother? Well, the reasons are purely selfish. I need to post some reviews, I made the effort of going out to try these things, I took the pictures, these things were supposed to be around longer, I'm running out of stuff to write about and on and on. Plus, it seemed like a good idea for a theme week! (I just now thought of that one and threw it in.)
If you have read me frequently, you know I am all about the cheap eats and many a time, the not necessarily healthy eats. I like to consider it my thing. Thus, I was mildly amused last month when The Chronicle talked that Bauer person into slumming down and reviewing the naked chicken chalupa from Taco Bell. I thought, hey now, that is my territory! It was what spurred me to do last weeks wrap up. If he can do Taco Bell, I can do Atelier Crenn. Our perspectives are different for sure, I revel in the "did it taste good, did it fill me up," realm. He is in the, ummm...okay, I'm not really sure where. But when he decided to declare it "a winner," I'm all, really? I was going to try it anyway, but now, I made a special point to hurry up and get there to try it.
Lucky for me I did, as last month they made the announcement this was not a permanent addition to the menu but a limited time only offering and, while not giving a specific date, it would be gone some time in March. Though note, they did say due to its popularity, it could make a return visit, so not all hope is lost for you yet. With that in mind, here I give you--THE NAKED CHICKEN CHALUPA!!
Isn't it lovely in its semi-orange state! But let me leave the description of it to the official release:
"The shell is made with four ounces of marinated, all-white-meat, antibiotic-free* chicken kicked up with bold Mexican spices and seasoning, and is packed with fresh shredded lettuce, diced ripe tomatoes, cheddar cheese and creamy avocado ranch."
It always sounds better when copy is written by professionals. But is it a winner? I think I fall firmly in the category of, it was alright. It reminded me of a Tyson's breaded chicken breast, just thinner. It still had that ground frozen chicken texture thing. Not unpleasant by any means, just not like an actual chicken breast. It also was not as crunchy as I thought it would be. I figured it would be deep fried, but it looked like they put it in some kind of quick cook steamer convection oven type contraption. It comes out soft-ish and not the crispy I was hoping for since it is taking the place of a shell. Though, it did have a nice spicy kick, something that was the probably the bet thing about this.
While you do get almost enough lettuce and tomato, I feel like I was shorted on the cheese bit, and I do like me some cheese. The lettuce is actually where you get a tad bit of crunch, at least it was fresh enough to give that. Weirdly, when I was there, they were out of regular diced tomatoes and only had the picante stuff, which I think I preferred better than just tomatoes. The creamy avocado ranch was more like a light dusting along the bottom and it was way too runny. I feel like I missed its flavor as it was overwhelmed from the spicy coating on the chicken.
I am sure they did loads of lab and market testing to get just the right mix, but I think they should have reversed the order and put the cheese on the bottom, then the tomatoes, then the lettuce and drizzle the sauce over the top to let it seep down through the lettuce. And of course, whatever specific measures they come up with in testing usually fall by the wayside when a place gets busy like they were on this day. When that happens, carefully curated flavor profiles collapse and everyone is not going to get the same thing, no matter how hard you try.
It is why I made a point to go back and try again! It wasn't all that busy and they had tomatoes. Though, again, I felt shorted on the cheese, the sauce was still too thin and the breading didn't come close to crunchy. So maybe there was some consistency there.
In the end, this really was more marketing gimmick as opposed to something that was wow, that's good. It wasn't terrible by any means. But at roughly 440 calories a pop, not to mention whatever fat there was, it is still fast food and more flash than substance. I'm not sure what Bauer was having, but I won't say this was a winner. Maybe he felt forced to praise it just so he could show he was "with it" or something. I think in the end, it doesn't really matter. When you go to Taco Bell you aren't really there to ponder the nuances of flavor in your food. You are looking for something fast, cheap and taste good enough. If those are the parameters he was judging by, then sure, it is a winner. If he was trying to make it more than it is, well, that is just silly. It's Taco Bell, not Saison.