The place looked open one morning at a bit after 10am. With my scheduled booked through the normal lunch hour, I was headed to Nijiya, but decided to stop here instead.
The menu seemed very "street-foodish" with a variety of noodles and curry, you know, the pick your protein thing. The setting wide-open and fast casual, much like J&T. You order and pay at the counter and such. I really like the setting and seating arrangement.
I ended up ordering something I will usually order when faced with a typical noodle menu to check the kitchen's stir fry skill and something I hadn't seen in a while.
If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that my test of a Thai cooks stir fry skills is the simple Pad See Ew. At it's most simplest, rice noodles, soy sauce (light and dark), egg, Chinese Broccoli, garlic, and perhaps palm sugar. All the same ingredients. It's up to the cook to make it right. So how was this?
In terms of flavor, this was pretty good. A bit more garlic than I'm used to and not as sweet, but you couldn't say it was bland. Shrimp was also prepped decently and quite moist and tender. The wok skills weren't quite what I consider top-notch as the noodles were too mushy and some of the pieces of the gailan were too hard while other pieces were too mushy. It was, however, far from being bland. The rest of the "stuff" was just filler....the really bad pre-frozen bulk gyoza and the totally insipid soup.
The item I really enjoyed, maybe because I haven't had it in years....I just don't recall seeing it on menus is the Tod Man KhaoPod - Fried Corn Fritters. Talk about Thai Street Food...... Not cheap at $3 a pop, but I really enjoyed these.
The sweet corn, the batter, crunch and slightly doughy, with a mild sweetness....I believe the classic recipe uses rice flour. While not quite as savory....versions I've had seemed to have garlic, perhaps scallions, and sometimes even a bit of curry. This was simple, but I enjoyed it. And it displayed the kitchen's ability to fry..... I found the sauce provided a bit too sweet for my taste and pretty one-dimensional.
So, of course I returned, with my co-worker CF in tow for an early quick lunch....we were headed to a meeting that would span the normal lunch hour. On my way out the door on my previous visit, I asked the really friendly young lady for some recommendations. Which I ordered on this visit....along with those corn fritters.
Spicy Noodles with Chicken.
While the stir-fry job was much better this time around, I gotta say this was pretty bland. It lacked sweetness, spice, and the chicken....breast of course was dry as heck.
The corn fritters were nice as before and I also got the Larb Moo Tod...basically deep fried larb. It' seems to be a problematic dish, as when I've had it before, the meatballs, let's not kid ourselves, really just tasted like deep fried meatballs, without the wonderful flavors one would associate with larb.
Now these little orbs were $4....for basically 4 rather small meatballs. And unlike the Tod Man Kha0 Pod, this needed a sauce as other than a nice lemongrass flavor, I found it lacking. I thought it really needed a citrus-sweet-spicy "punch".
The Nam Tok was also just ok.
I was happy when they didn't ask us for a "heat level". not so happy when we got "gringo'd" Not enough of that nutty rice powder, not enough citrus, too sweet, the beef was a bit too tough, no pungency from garlic, and kind of bland (really lacking in fish sauce) overall. I guess ok as a basic "salad" but not even close to what I make at home.....not that I'm expecting that.
Not sure what CF really thought, though he did bring his wife there for those corn fritters and a taste of Beer Lao which they serve. I'm thinking it might be a nice snacking option when visiting Common Theory next door. On my way out the door, the very warm and friendly young lady told me the cook is from Bangkok, so I'll probably revisit in the future....to see if any of their other fried items are as good as the corn fritters.
4813 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111