Restaurant Review: The Culinary Chameleon

Considering the name Culinary Chameleon and the giant, green food truck painted with bright purple and pink grinning chameleons, I was hoping for some interesting food. Most food trucks, like the infamous Grilled Cheese Truck and Buttermilk Truck in Los Angeles, offer unique and affordable food that people can’t find anywhere else. Instead, I got a sloppy burrito and a bland bowl of rice with that irresistible, just-out-of-the-microwave taste to it.

There were a few people standing in line when I showed up for lunch. The truck was big and dominated the area just outside of the physics 2000 building, its spot for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, the truck is parked behind the A & I residence hall. The menu consists of your typical Mexican fare: burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salad bowls for lunch, with breakfast burritos served until 10:30 a.m. The meal comes with a choice of grilled chicken, pork carnitas, shredded beef, kogi pork, and potato rojas for vegetarians. There are several sides to choose from, including chips and salsa, Spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas, churros and ice cream.

I bought a chicken burrito for $5.29 and a side of Spanish rice for $1.29, but I skipped a drink.
I’m on a student budget, and $1.49 for a bottle of water is a bit steep. After a few minutes of standing next to the condiments table, my number was called and I got my food and sat down.

The burrito was small and disproportionate. The three pieces of thinly cut chicken were hidden under globs of refried beans that bulged out the ends and left the center filled nearly empty with lettuce, and there was just a pinch of cheddar jack cheese sprinkled throughout. Although there wasn’t much, the salsa roja at least spiced things up a bit.

Based on the few pieces I did have, the chicken was okay at best. If the cook tried to make up for the lack of bird in my burrito by going heavy on the beans, he could have at least spread them out evenly. If I wanted an overpriced mess of a burrito I would have gone to Habanero’s. This burrito was not worth the money.

Next up was the Spanish rice. It was served in a small plastic container and gone in about five scoops. The rice was starchy and dried my mouth. I’m surprised I didn’t hear the microwave beep right before my order was called. I should have known that $1.29 was too good of a price to be true, especially for UC Riverside Dining. I left hungry.

Hoping to redeem the Culinary Chameleon, I gave it another shot. A few days later I returned to the big truck and ordered a kogi pork burrito that came with pickled cucumber, kim chee and Korean BBQ sauce. No rice this time.

The burrito was smaller than the one before but just as sloppy. The cucumbers, kogi pork and kim chee were smothered in the “Korean BBQ sauce,” which tasted no different than left over pork grease from the pan. It was messy and wet, and I could barely taste anything other than the supposed BBQ sauce.

The Culinary Chameleon should ditch the boring and bland and instead offer students unique dishes that food trucks are known for, or else it will fade into obscurity like El Sol. Well, it’s still not as bad as El Sol, but that’s not saying much.

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