Ipo BBQ (pronounced “ee-po”) replaced Maui Express earlier this year. I had known Maui Express was up for sale and was glad to see another plate lunch takes its place since it is the only plate lunch establishment in Poway. We were hopeful that Ipo’s food would be better than Maui Express, which wouldn’t have been hard to do (enough said about Maui Express). I’ve only found one other review for Ipo here (with the exception of yelp). Notice how dine-in meals are served on plates and not paper or styrofoam?
So while the Mister is in Hawaii, working supposedly (he better be bringing back lots of crackseed for me if he knows what’s good for him), I thought I’d stop by and give them a try. The interior has changed a bit since Maui Express, much nicer and there’s even a flat panel on the wall. Some kind of Polynesian dance performance was being shown when I was there. Apologies for not taking any pictures of the inside since I was in a bit of a rush and forgot my camera on my desk.
I did, however, pick up a printed menu. You can find a much better and clearer version of the menu online here.
The menu offers a decent variety of selections. A very nice lady behind the counter (one of the owners) asked for my order. I looked over the menu board trying to take in everything and decided on the regular BBQ Short Ribs ($7.49) since that’s my usual go-to at new places. I also figured that since Ipo has a Korean influence, the short ribs would be a safe bet. A mini version is also available for $5.49.
While I waited for my to-go order, I could hear the sounds of food cooking coming from the kitchen. When the lady brought out my order, I asked her if she was from Hawaii. She said no but that her sister lives in Hawaii. She mentioned that she was Korean and that she lived in New Zealand for 6 years with her family. We chatted a little more about New Zealand and she mentioned they moved to San Diego so she can support her son’s interest in golf. I thought that was very cool.
When I opened my styrofoam box, I was pleasantly surprised by the ribs. There were 4! very good sized and thick cross ribs that looked nicely grilled without being burnt with a nice shiny glaze. For the price, I had expected somewhat of a lesser quality of ribs, you know, the kind that have a strip of grizzle running along the length of the rib. But these ribs lean, what I’d expect from ribs I buy from Zion Market. The thickness of the meat were easily 1/4″ thick. Nice!
The standard 2 scoops of rice with a bit of black sesame seed on top of each scoop. I don’t know why but I really like this little bit of touch. A scoop of macaroni salad comes with it also. The servings of rice and macaroni are a wee bit on the small size but I’d take that for the amount of ribs they give you! So what about the taste?
The macaroni was good without being overly mayonnaised. It did need a little bit of salt and pepper for my taste to round it out. The rice was perfectly cooked, sticky and warm. The ribs, as I suspected, wasn’t overly sweet and leaned towards more Korean style rather than Hawaiian BBQ sweeter style. I thought it was really good, especially for the thickness. The meat had good smoke flavor and tender, grilled perfectly for my taste. In fact, this is probably the best BBQ short ribs plate I’ve had in a very very long time.
When I was telling the Mister about it later that night, I realized that it was at least 20 minutes after I got home before I ate my meal. What was interesting was that the ribs did not need to be reheated (still warm) and it lacked the usual sheen of congealed layer of fat from lesser quality ribs after sitting for awhile. I hope that makes sense. My point is, the ribs were lean and higher in quality than other joints I’ve been to. I know, I’ve never met a plate of short ribs I didn’t like but there are some that I favor more than others. Ipo BBQ just made the list! I hope Ipo BBQ does better and stays around longer than its predecessors in that location. I’ll certainly be back to try other offerings.
12370 Poway Road
Poway, CA 92064
Corner of Poway & Pomerado Rd
(same side as Big Lots and right next door to Winchell’s Donuts)