You say to yourself, "I've eaten spicy foods before. I can do this."

And so, in defiance of all common sense, you dive into a basket of Pollo Pollo's hottest variety of fried chicken, which has earned the name Kill Me Spicy.

Fifteen minutes later -- when you can see and breathe again -- you have a conversation with your server ... about how the brain will sometimes release chemicals in order to tell the body, "Look. You've made a terrible mistake."

Still, you look at the mound of fiery-red chicken left in your dish and think, "Maybe just one more piece."

That's a sign of success, and Pleasant Hill's Pollo Pollo has a winning formula: Korean-influenced fusion cuisine, generous portions and solid service. The restaurant is the latest project for Micha Oh, who is quietly building a small empire of Korean restaurants in the Bay Area, with Ohgane BBQ in Oakland and Dublin, Bowl'd in Oakland and Berkeley and Spoon in Berkeley.

Specializing in fried chicken -- thus the name, which means "Chicken Chicken" in Spanish -- Pollo Pollo offers six different varieties of its signature dish. In each case, it starts with a thick, crunchy batter that, in the basic flavor ($16), has just a touch of maple-ish sweetness. Each portion is big enough for two people to share, though the whole chicken is used, meaning you'll find some necks and bony back pieces mixed in with the drumsticks and wings.

BBQ chicken ($18.50) features a sticky-sweet sauce, while the Soy Chicken ($17.50) adds oyster sauce and garlic, but also has a tart mustardy flavor that I really enjoyed. Can't decide? Mix two flavors together in one Half and Half dish.

If you're feeling bold, try the Spicy Chicken ($18.50); if you're feeling crazy, try the Kill Me Spicy ($18.50). A fiery sauce with bits of hot chili will put your taste buds to the test, though.

A simple but tasty starter is the Roll Addicts ($5), seaweed and rice rolls with pickled radish, served with a mustard sauce that had just a hint of horseradish. We tried the Fried Baby Back Ribs ($10), served on a basket of crinkle-cut fries, but the deep fryer robbed the ribs of their juiciness and muted the flavor of a soy sauce, garlic and ginger marinade. A better small plate option is the Fried Chicken and Sausage ($8.50), sliced sausage mixed with soft onions in a mildly spicy chili paste, served with a bounty of bite-size boneless fried chicken bits.

Pollo Pollo also offers a dozen noodle and rice bowl options. The Spicy Chewy Noodles ($7.50), served cold, could have used a bit more of the promised shredded cabbage and bean sprouts, but the spicy sauce had a pleasant, if docile, bite. A Kimchi Fried Rice bowl ($8.50) was delicious, topped with a fried egg with bits of seaweed sprinkled throughout.

Pollo Pollo features a shortlist of Korean and American beers, on tap and in bottles, as well as black raspberry wine and a variety of fruit cocktails featuring soju, the Korean distilled liquor made from rice, barley and sweet potato.

The service changed quite a bit over two visits; the first time, our server was very friendly and our food arrived promptly, but things felt a little overwhelmed in the small dining room. Several large groups finished and left while we sat, and their tables were covered in dirty dishes for quite a while after their exit. On our second visit, every thing was clean and in order, and our meal proceeded at a good, casual pace.

There's no shortage of Korean barbecue in the Bay Area already; with Pollo Pollo, diners can try another variety of Korean cuisine made by expert hands and find a flavor that suits them best.

Just don't say I didn't warn you about the spicy stuff.

POLLO POLLO
H **
WHERE: 508 Contra Costa Blvd., Suite N, Pleasant Hill
CONTACT: 925-680-8228, www.pollopollo508.com
HOURS: 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
CUISINE: Korean fusion
PRICES: $-$$
VEGETARIAN: A few options, including Cold Ramen, Spicy Chewy Noodles, Sweet Potato Noodles
BEVERAGES: Soft drinks, Korean and American beers, black raspberry wine and soju cocktails
RESERVATIONS: Not accepted
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Ample shopping center parking
KIDS: No kids menu
PLUSES: Crunchy, flavorful Korean fried chicken; big portions, good value
MINUSES: Small dining room can get busy quickly, overwhelming service
DATE OPENED: August 2013
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Ratings
Restaurants are rated on a scale of one to four, with four representing a truly extraordinary experience for that type of restaurant.
Price code
$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Most entrees under $20
$$$ Most entrees under $30
$$$$ Most entrees under $40