There were so many open parking spaces, and yet..... Go figure. Not even close to Paris Bakery, none of the other businesses open, just decided to park here. Actually saw the guy parked in the Handicap stall struggle a bit to get out.
Back in June, I noticed a shop in the former Fish Bucket location in Tierrasanta. The name of the place? Donburi Kitchen. In spite of the location I was fascinated; since I've long thought that a good Donburi shop making classics like Gyūdon, Tendon, Oyakodon, or Katsudon would be a great fit for San Diego. So a few weeks back I dropped by during lunch to see that they had just opened. Notice they still have awning from the Fish Bucket in place; "Seafood Market - Fish Grotto"?
Nice young man greeted me at the front door....looking around I kinda knew that my wish wasn't going to be granted here. The menu was confirmation. Poke Bowl; Ramen on the menu, spicy tuna roll, California roll (though there was Hamachi kama and Chirashi) on the chalk board. The only traditional "donburi" I saw on the menu was the Unadon. So, basically your neighborhood Japanese (in name only) jack-of-all-trades kind of place. Nothing wrong with that....but what the heck was I going to order. I asked the young man who suggested ramen; so I went with the Tonkotsu ($8) and some Chicken Karaage ($4.25).
I was a bit surprised at this as it was more "Toriten" (Chicken Tempura) than actual karaage. I quickly noticed that breast was used for this. Even though the batter quickly got soggy, the chicken was very moist and tender, with a pleasant flavor, like it had been quickly brined. Eat this quickly and it's pretty good. Not a big fan of the Sriracha Mayo though.
As much as the chicken was a pleasant surprise, the Tonkotsu Ramen was routine - except for the bok choy......first time for that in my ramen. The broth was quite indistinct, being more of a shoyu-tonkotsu kind of thing and really lacked the nice tongue coating feature that makes a good tonkotsu broth.
The noodles; standard issue, were a bit over-cooked for me. The egg was a bit of a mess, it looked like there was some trouble peeling it, but it was decent marinated and not ice cold. The one saving grace was the chashu, which was fairly tender, and had a nice flavor. This was perhaps a bit better than Izakaya Kanpai about par with Ototo, basically lower second tier ramen. Funny, a guy came in and also ordered ramen; tasted the broth, then requested Togarashi, Sriracha, and Vinegar for his ramen......
About a week later I returned, basically to go ahead and try one of the Donburi....but man; it was so darn hot. There was also one thing I wanted to try. I rather enjoyed the Chashu last time around so I started with the Ponzu Chashu, not cheap at $5.50.
This was actually pretty good, the ponzu didn't take away too much of the flavor of the chashu which wasn't particularly sweet, but had a nice shoyu-sweet flavor. It looked like the exterior had been torched/seared. Man, serve this with some negi and over rice and you'd have a decent Butadon. Chop it up and mix with negi and some of the cooking liquid and it would be a decent Chashu Gohan. Hmmm....I might request that one of these days.
I really didn't want rice on this day....but what the heck to order. Well, I gave in and tried the Poke Salad, which was priced at $7.
I gotta say; they did a pretty good job of hiding most the short comings of the fish, by coating it real well with the sauce. Lots of connective tissue, but it wasn't too tough or stringy nor was it overly mushy. The sauce seemed to use gochujang as the base; tasting like a milder "cho-jang", sweet-salty-mildly spicy. Decent amount of avocado, enjoyed the scallions, the greens not overly dressed. Would have liked a bit more onion and perhaps some tomato in this. But overall, not bad.
So, one more visit to finally try a donburi here. But first, I started with some Agedashi Tofu ($4).
The tofu had a nice molten interior but was too lightly dusted/battered as it really lacked crispness. The sauce tasted like a watered down "mentsuyu" (concentrated soup base) that had been cut with some wakame to add more flavor. It was a bit too mild for my taste.
I actually enjoyed the no-frills salad, the dressing was decently refreshing, the greens nicely dressed.
Not knowing which bowl to get, I went with the east way out and got the Teriyaki Chicken version ($7).
Fairly decent rendition of teri-chicken. The chicken breast was again nicely moist, the sauce a bit too salty for my taste, but not offensive. Dig the Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrots! Not a huge portion, but good enough for a decent lunch for me.
Overall, a decent neighborhood "San Diego - Japanese" joint....I heard three people come in and ask what "chirashi" was. Very nice staff, decent prices, for some reason this place reminded me of Izakaya Kanpai (which I have to revisit one of these days) with a less ambitious menu. I was told that one of the owners was formerly part owner of Fish Attack....which kind of made sense. This was decent neighborhood food not to offend. I'd even order take-out if the place was in my neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that, right?
** Not much food in this one. But if you like Moai, you won't be disappointed!
The roosters were driving the Missus crazy. They started crowing at around 330am and never let up. Funny, they really didn't bother me. On the other hand, at least we wouldn't be missing the sunrise. The all important sunrise. You see, another item on the Missus's bucket list; Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. I was tracking the weather.....though the wifi is terrible on Easter Island and for some reason, our phones would sometimes switch between Easter Island time and Chilean time which is a two hour difference.
Finding Tongariki is supposed to be a pretty easy; drive past the airport, take a right at the sign and it's about another 20 minutes along the shoreline. Well, in the pitch black darkness we missed the sign. But we were headed in the right direction. Finally, I saw some signage, we took a right, and ended up at Ahu Tongariki; albeit in a bit of a roundabout way....but heck, it's part of the fun, right?
One look at the 15 Moai on this Ahu as the sun started to rise and I totally got it....
This is bucket list stuff......
The Moai face a large open area that was once the site of a village. Take a look at and remember that mountain in the background. It's important.
This is the largest Ahu ever built.
To say watching the sunrise here is spectacular is an understatement. It is a "must see" if you're ever on Isla de Pascua.
In 1992 the Chilean Government partnered with....now this is a great bit of trivia, the Moai Restoration Committee of Japan. A combined team of Chilean and Japanese archaeologists, Easter Islanders, and other technicians worked together to complete the project in 1996. You can see the timeline here. You can also read about why there's a Moai on Megi Island. People can do great things when we work together......
It kind of looks like we're alone, doesn't it? That's not quite the case....there were several groups of folks; including the inevitable "selfie girls troupe".
Still, probably because of the forecasted weather, there weren't too many people. Speaking of weather; remember that old adage "red sky at morning, sailor take warning"? Well, I saw clouds in the distance and the occasional flash of lightning......
And while it seemed to pass quite quickly, it was time to be on our way.
We turned around and headed back to the main road the way we came. Things looked different in the light of day. Specifically, we could some of the other residents of the area.
The rugged terrain and colors made the horses and cows; which seem to run free, looked stunning....like they jumped off a postcard.
And other than a curious look, they pretty much went on their business.
Along the coastal road toward Anakena we saw a sign and stopped here.
Known as Pu O Hiro - Hiro's Trumpet. Because the name sounded so strangely Japanese, I was curious as to who "Hiro" was. Turns out Hiro is the ancient God of Rain, though there's even more interesting research with ties to the Society Islands. Apparently, you could blow into the main hole and it would make a loud bellowing noise which is thought to attract fishes.
Papa Vaka has several distinctive petroglyphs along a short walking trail.
Some of them have fish, the one above clearly has fish hooks and other implements on them.
In the Rapa Nui language "Papa" means large flat stone and "Vaka Ama" means outrigger canoe. This site was named after the large - 12 meter long canoe carved into the stone.
We made one more stop before getting to Anakena. We saw the sign Te Pito Kura and the Missus read that the Moai which lies here was the largest ever built at the Rano Raraku site.
Nearly 10 meters tall this Moai was last seen standing in 1838 by French Explorer Abel Aubert Dupetit Thouars. The topknot on the ground was huge. Just to the left of the Ahu is supposedly (as it was blocked off during our visit) a group of rocks, with several polished rocks and one large one in the middle (photo can be found here) named "Te Pito Kura". I asked Vero what this meant and she told me it was the "navel of the world". I had started noticing some similarities between the Rapa Nui language and the very rudimentary Hawaiian that I recalled from school. Piko is navel in Hawaiian, Pito in Rapa Nui. Mana is divine magical force in Rapa Nui, while it basically means the power and spirit of life in Hawaiian.
Anakena is the only white sand beach we saw. It was starkly empty when we arrived. Probably because it was fairly early in the morning (about 830), but also the forecast of rain didn't help.
There's a nice beach; palm trees, which I read were brought in from Tahiti in the 60's, various picnic areas, food and drink stands, restrooms....you got it, right?
As you can tell, it was blowing pretty hard. We really didn't come here for the white sand and palm trees. Though learning that this is where Hotu Matu'a, the Founding Father and first king of the Rapa Nui people was quite impressive.
No, we were here for the Moai. There are two Ahu here; the picturesque Ahu Nau Nau, which according to the linked site (a very nice one too) were protected from the elements when they were toppled, falling onto the soft sand and then being covered by it. They were restored in 1978.
The beach makes an interesting backdrop for these Moai.
We met the only person in the area at the time; a very friendly Park Ranger, who spoke perfect English. He told us he had lived in New York City for a while.
The other Moai was the one I was really interested in. While in Elementary school, I became a voracious reader. Yes, basically a "bookworm". One of the books I remembered reading; it was one of the few items that made its way to me from my Grandparent's home in Honolua. I think it belonged to my Uncle. Was the book Kon-Tiki, written by the Norweigan Explorer Thor Heyerdahl, about the Kon-Tiki Expedition.
Well, this Ahu and Moai, was restored with the help of Thor Heyerdahl during his visit in 1955-56. It was the first Ahu and Moai restored.
It stands stoically looking to what was a village at this location.
Our last stop on the so called Northeastern Circuit was Rano Raraku. It is one of the areas that where you need to have proof of admission. It was still quite early in the day, so there weren't too many visitors when we arrived. Folks call Rano Raraku "the Nursery", it is estimated that 95% of the Moai were carved from the volcanic rock known as tuff on these very slopes. There are two main trails up the slopes; the one on the left goes to the crater, the one on the right, the "quarry". We decided on going right.
You get kind of an eerie feeling walking along the trail; especially when you're alone.
Everything looks strangely random...... Moai in different states sprinkled along the hillside.
Like the workmen just left for the day......
Further up the hillside you'll come across the other Moai that were still in the process of being carved.
There was even a Moai that was to be the largest ever, being carved.
It's like someone just pulled the plug on this and everything stopped, a snapshot in time.
Right around a bend is my favorite Moai; named Tukuturi. It's quite different in several ways; first, the Moai is in the kneeling position, a posture assumed by folks participating in a singing competition known as Riu. Second, this Moai has facial hair. Third, and most fascinating for me, this Moai is made out of scoria, which is what the typical top knots (pukao) were made of.
Recognize the view over the left shoulder of Tukuturi? Yep, that's Tongariki.
This is the mountain in the third photo in this post.
According to this post, Tukuturi was unearthed by Thor Heyerdahl in 1955. When it was discovered, even the local folks didn't know of it.
What an interesting story this Moai could tell......
Or any one of these......
There are quite a few Moai that are broken littering the mountainside. According to what I read when a Moai fell and broke during the trip down the volcano, it was thought to have lost its "mana" , and left in place.
We had considered taking the other route to the crater of the volcano; but the winds had picked up and it was drizzling off and on. We decided to head on back. Rano Kao (in an upcoming post) and Rano Raraku were my two favorite places on Easter Island. I'm glad we were able to visit.
We headed back to Hang Roa, to grab some lunch. This time we took the road that we should have found in the morning which was along the ocean.
We weren't super hungry when we got into Hang Roa, so we decided to head on over to Casa Esquina, which was closed on this Tuesday as well. I seemed quite busy along Atamu Tekena on this day, so we just headed in the direction of the airport, found parking and started poking our head into places. Next to one of the markets was a little shop making Empanadas. These were baked, not fried, so the Missus got the Pollo Queso. I'd read that the one that was a "must try" was the Atun, tuna, so I got that.
As you can see; these were quite large. The Missus thought the chicken was decent, a bit on the dry side, but not bad.
She had a tiny bite of the tuna empanada and just could not swallow it! It was pretty dry and somewhat fishy. The cheese did this no favors. The pastry shell was nice, but the Missus had gotten Her fill and I promised that there'd be no more empanadas in our future.
It was time for a short nap, then we hoped to beat the rain and do some more exploring.
A few months back I noticed that Corner Sandwich & Café was gone and being replaced by Bale. I then plumb forgot about it, until I recently passed the shopping center again and took a glance. It appears the place opens rather early so I dropped by for a Banh Mi.
The place looks somewhat cleaned-up, in a somewhat typical VN restaurant kind of way. Instead of hordes of men having coffees and smoking cigarettes in the place, there's now what looks like two outside tables and things seem a bit more quiet. Only 8-9 guys, wonder where the Vietnamese Coffee/Beer/Cards social club moved on to?
I simply ordered a Banh Mi Dac Biet to go ($4.50). It felt kind of hefty and it was......
I've been mostly going to those places that pretty much make their own banh mi these days, so the bread seemed a bit of a shock. It was fairly hard, mostly crust, and the bread hadn't held up well. At least it wasn't as mealy as I recalled the bread being at their other location in Mira Mesa. Man, those were some thick slices of meat! There was also a huge smear of pate on this; which pretty much dominated the entire sandwich. Also, the pickled carrots and daikon here are thicker cut, which I don't mind at all. This seemed really rustic and was quite filling.
A few weeks later, I was in the area at around 830am. I was a bit hungry, but instead of heading to one of my usual suspects, I drove a bit further up Mira Mesa Boulevard and ordered a Banh Mi Op La from Bale. Fewer guys hanging out in the front on this morning; probably because it was a Sunday.
This must be the most pickled vegetables I'd ever had in a banh mi! Good lord......also loved the jalapeno which was nice and spicy. The eggs were a bit past the point of what I prefer in my easy over egg banh mi, but it was still good. The sandwich was warm, almost hot to the touch when I was given it, so I thought the best move would be to have it here. The bread was nice; crusty/flakey exterior, the interior hadn't been turned to mush; it wasn't overly toasted, yet so nice and warm. This is comfort food.
Once the gentleman working the front saw that I was going to have my sandwich here; he brought me a glass of ice water; nice touch. The sandwiches here are a bit more filling than what I'm used to, but it's good to have another option in the area. There's a number of various items; like Banh Beo and various noodle dishes on the menu, so maybe I'll try one of those next time....or maybe I should just have the Banh Mi Op La.
Bale Sandwich & Deli 9005 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
As much as I enjoyed staying at the Lastarria Boutique Hotel, there was one little problem. The floorboards creaked quite loudly when walking on them. I was always worried about waking folks. Then the folks staying in the unit above us got back at about 2am; slamming the door and stomping about. I couldn't get back to sleep! Our shuttle came to pick us up at 5am and I was exhausted by the time our flight left at 750. In what I would consider a great stroke of luck, when I booked our flight to Hanga Roa, I noticed how cheap the business class fare was, so I just jumped on it. The prices for business class on the return was somewhat prohibitive, so that was a no-go. I was just glad to be able to sleep for a couple of hours during the 6 hour flight to Hanga Roa. LAN has fairly new 787s which are quite comfortable. There's one flight a day; to and from Hanga Roa. Five days of the week from Santiago and two from Tahiti; that's it. So it seems like quite a big deal when a flight arrives.
The place we were staying at had arranged for a shuttle from the airport. First thing you do after going down the stairs and walking off the tarmac is to go and get your tickets for Parque Nacional Rapa Nui. Most of the island, other than Hanga Roa is a National Park and you need admission for two of the sights. The tickets are good for 5 days from the first day of entrance; though you're only allowed one visit to Orongo and one visit to Rano Rarako. Also, there seemed to be random checks at various sights.
Having checked no luggage meant that we got to our shuttle quickly as the exit mob soon formed. It might look like a lot of people, but there really weren't any crowds at any of the sights we visited. Everyone else in business class on the flight (it was a Monday morning) seemed to be construction folks....I guess they've made this journey many times and have a nice stash of miles.
Funny thing; the place we were staying at; the wonderful Marae - Cabañas Premium was maybe a 15 minute walk from the airport! We could have walked over! The woman running this little compound of 3 cottages; named Vero was just fantastic. The cottages were huge! She also coordinated a vehicle for us; the Missus didn't want a tour, so we got a little Daihatsu Terios which was just perfect for our needs.
Of course, as soon as the vehicle arrived, the Missus just needed to see some Moai! So, to get adjusted to the vehicle, I drove thru the single main street of Hanga Roa, Atamu Tekena, and went to the North end of the town. I was told to look for the "cemetary". I found some parking on the street.......
Just north of these replica Moai along the rugged shoreline is the area known as Ahu Tahai.
There are three "Ahu" (shrines) here.
"Vai Ure" has five Moai of various sizes and in various states. Right to the north is Tahai. Worn and eroded; this Moai has a gaunt haunting look. Right past Tahai is Ko Te Riku, with the traditional top knot called a Pukao, which were carved from a reddish volcanic stone known as scoria. We'd actually visit the single quarry that produced the pukao later on the trip. For some reason, the eyes, which were painted based on a replica found during the 70's kind of creeped me out.
Easter Island had always been on the Missus' bucket list and She just couldn't take enough photos of the Moai......she'd take nearly 800 during our short time in Easter Island.
After the Missus had Her fill of photos, we decided to grab lunch. So we headed back to Hang Roa proper. Unfortunately, this being Monday, lunch option #1 was closed (named Casa Esquina they'd also be closed on Tuesday), as was option #2. We had parked the car along the main street on Hanga Roa.
We saw that this place was doing some pretty good business. A shop named "Club Sandwich".
The place had an interesting mix of tourists and locals. I'd come to find out that this was one of the more affordable places to eat in Hanga Roa.
So we decided to order a couple of things....I saw a couple of huge burgers being delivered to tables....it was just too much. So we ordered two empanadas and I was curious about the Hot Dog with Egg....Chileans love their hot dogs.....man, this was pretty over-the-top.
The bun was toasted, but really nothing special; nor was the hot dog. The best thing about this were the eggs......good eggs on Easter Island.
Not having really researched the empanadas, we were surprised at how large they were. The Missus got a cheese, which we ended up having for breakfast the next day.
I got the sausage version.
The good? Well, the salsa like condiment, which is basically Chilean "pebre" was really good, nice balance of spice-acid-salt. Think of this as a "pig-in-a-blanket" enrobed in an empanada shell...with cheese, lots of gooey cheese.
The meal was quite inexpensive; but not quite what the Missus thought we'd be having on Easter Island. Me? Well, this was island life.......especially walking into the markets.....it reminded me of visiting my grandparents; both in Honolua and Lana'i during the 60's and early 70's. And even growing up....Vienna sausage, Hot Dogs, Spam.......not very much in the way of "green" going on unless it was from your garden. It was all quite familiar.
Club Sandwich Atamu Tekena Easter Island, Chile
We did some quick shopping and headed back to our home away from home........
We had a nice nap, then headed back to town, taking the round about way along the ocean side. It was time for dinner, but unfortunately option #1 was closed the entire time we were there....and for some reason, due to darkness, I couldn't find option #2, which was the same option #2 we looked at for lunch. By now, the Missus was frustrated and told me, let's just head back and have the cheese empanada....talk about desperate times. Along the way, we passed what we thought was a little restaurant. Turned out, this was a sports/karaoke bar......man, just like home! Named Piroto Henua. Since we were along the main road right across from the airport, I just went to the side and the Missus ran in and asked about parking....which was in the lot behind the place.
This being a Monday night, not much was going on.
But he made the Missus a Pisco Sour to Her standards (not too sweet).....
And I got a bottle (I already had a six pack in the fridge that I hadn't touched) of the local brew; the Mahina Pale Ale.
Typical; light, nice, white head, slightly fruity, easy to drink.
Looking at the menu, I decided on what I thought would be a typical bar dish.....and decided on the Chorrillana Classico. The origin of which is subject of debate; it's either Peruvian originating from Chorrillos or classic Chilean pub grub. But at this moment, we really didn't care.
Loved the flower presentation by the way. For me, this tasted like Lomo Saltado...with much more fries, crowned with fried eggs.....so for a San Diego; think of it as thick cut carne asada fries topped with an egg. Talk about classic bar food.
I believe this was 11,000CLP; about $16.50. This wasn't bad at all, except for the papa fritas which were a bit on the cardboardish side. Still, what do you expect? We quickly found that the eggs on Easter Island tasted really good. I'd take this over TGIFriday's any day of the week.
Piroto Henua Hotu Matua Easter Island, Chile
Funny thing, we were now on the road in front of the airport. Our cabanas was close by. The Missus had some landmarks in mind as to where to turn....unfortunately, the landmarks were statues alongside the airport. Remember that I mentioned that the airport features one flight a day? So what happens after the flight leaves? Well, they close down the "International" Airport of course. So that side of the road was completely dark. Still, this is Hanga Roa.....I had recalled a stone wall and some shrubs and turned there. Island life remember? As in typical instructions when I was growing up...."go mauka, turn left befoa' da long stone wall....wen' you see the white wall on your left and the beeeg hedges on the right, you dea', ok"?
You all know this one......after yesterday's mention of Shake Shack, these guys requested equal time (just kidding - it was actually "Billy"!). This was my first Double-Double of the year, from after we returned from Lima/Santiago/Easter Island. Since I had meetings during the lunch hour; I headed out to grab a bento from Mitsuwa at 1030, since they looked to have stepped up their bento game. I was waylaid; not by the sight of, but by In N Out's unique "scent of a burger".
And I was rewarded, just as on previous visits (if you'd like some funny In N Out ruminations - read that ancient post).
I'm still not big on the fries here though......it's mostly a texture and moisture thing as the potato flavor is good.
But it had been a while; so I decided to do the easy thing and order Combo #1.
So I got my fix....until the next time the fragrance of In-N-Out catches me with a growling belly. Imitators need not apply.....
Since we travel a few times a year, we do spend quite a bit of time in airports......though not as much as in my consulting days. During most trips we plan rather well with regards to bring something to eat (i.e. Jamon Bellota Sandwiches in Spain, nuts are always good) to the airport. But there are those times we do grab something. And then we get to relax and people, or even puppy watch.
So here are a couple of places we've tried at Airports.
Eat at Joe's (Philadelphia International Airport):
I'm not sure why we ate at Joe's. I do remember that for some reason I was starving....and hey, in spite of this being the airport; it's still Philly, right?
So why not get a Cheesesteak?
I've had some nice Cheesesteak's in Philly....the last time back in 90's, having tried both Pat's and Geno's, though my favorite was Rick's in Reading Terminal Market. This one, won't make me forget any of those.
A bit on the dry side. For some reason the texture reminded me of shipped beef. The flavor was nice; the Amoroso roll was ice cold. The fries, hot, but routine.
The dining area was a mess. First off, shame on the customers for not cleaning up after themselves. But there were also four airport employees who were just standing around goofing off, until their supervisor came along. They'd start cleaning. When the boss left; it was back to monkey business.
Eat At Joe's Terminal B, Philadelphia International Airport
Shake Shack (JFK International Airport ):
During a long layover at JFK, I just couldn't help myself.
Other than the bun, which seemed a bit past its due date; this was quite a nice burger; great char, good seasoning...very moist, and a nice beefiness.
The Missus also enjoyed the burger and said basically what I was afraid to say out loud; "if they come to San Diego; In N Out might be in trouble". Of course, I'm not sure what the price point on that would be, but still, blasphemy! And then of course, I read about the possibility of Shake Shack opening in San Diego on Eater. Check out the comment; it says that they've signed with UTC Redevelopment; which I believe is in charge of Westfield UTC......now those will be some major lines!
A few weeks ago; I was in National City and decided to check out what was going on with Point Point Joint. When I drove into the parking lot I was shocked to see PPJ was gone! Wow, first Conching's and now Point Point Joint! I guess I really don't get down here near enough these days. The other thing I was surprised to see; though I probably shouldn't have been, was a place name Poke Etc had taken PPJ's place.
I was just going to get into my car and as we say back home; "hele" to somewhere else. But I decided to take a peek inside; which was kind of interesting. The lay-out seemed very much PPJ; in spite of the freshening up, it still looked a bit worn.
I really wasn't interested in the poke....more interested in the "etc".....stuff like Shoyu Chicken, Lau Lau, Kalua Pork, Teriyaki Chicken....I'm not sure when I last had Ilocano Longanisa. My friends growing up were Ilocano, so I was kind of used to the vinegary; garlicky longanisa. The first time I had Longsilog in San Diego I was rather shocked at how sweet it was. But over the years I've come to enjoy it.
There a collection of "stuffs", an almost random collection most of which you can get from Marukai, and a reach in fridge with Hawaiian Sun, haupia, mac salad, Portuguese sausage (sorry not "my" brand")...you know, etc....
I'd had enough "Mainland poke" for a while so just went with the Lau Lau Combo ($9.95)......not really expecting much.
You know; the lau lau wasn't bad....I mean, it wasn't "really" lau lau if you know what I mean; it was missing the very important salted butterfish, which adds an awesome salty-savory touch to lau lau and is all important. The difference between this and what I typically get here on the mainland is; and it pretty much holds true for most frozen lau lau, is that it was moist, not too salty, it had quite a bit of luau leaf, but I love the steamed taro leaves, which have a smoky, flavor. Again, not really lau lau, but the pork shoulder was moist, tender, and not too stringy. What really put a damper on things is the lack of "chili pepper water"....bummer. The rice was on the dry side foe my taste; especially when eating local kine food.....
I hadn't read the menu very closely; instead of the usual mac salad, this came with a scoop of poke. Oh-oh....... There's basically 8 different poke, already made; over ice, just like home. I'm a purist, so I decided on the Ahi Limu and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the fish was decent quality; think basically Safeway or Foodland on Oahu. The limu was actually the fine Limu Kohu.......not the hard branches. Some not so great pieces, but mixed and coated evenly, not too salty; a bit of shoyu; this wasn't bad at all.
So I returned and decided to see how the loco moco ($8.95) was. I should have probably just gone with maybe some poke and rice.....
This wasn't good eats, from the very gluey, tasteless gravy; which had the same viscosity as the egg yolk. They just kind of oozed into one another. To the burger which was pretty darn tough, to the rice which was again on the dry side. I just didn't care for this.
The onions might have added to the dish; in this state they added some flavor; but just think if they'd been caramelized a bit more; it would have added some depth.
So, I decided to come in and just get a poke bowl......I got the "Create your own bowl" which was reasonably priced at $8.95. Of course I hot the Ahi Limu and this time added the Kimchi Poke.
On this day the Ahi Limu wasn't right; the fish wasn't coated well, there were too many pieces with tough connective tissue; and in spite of the Limu Kohu, this seemed off. The fish in the Kimchi Poke was slightly better, but not by much. Not a big fan of the flavors which was more salty than spicy. It just wasn't very interesting. To make matters worse, the rice was even more dry than before.
I mean, it's ok to have some pieces with "sugi" in them; but not so many......
Poke Etc was starting to be a bit of enigma; I just couldn't put my finger on what this place did consistently well. I decided to pay one more visit. I was going to order the Shoyu Chicken; but it didn't come with poke and I wanted to give that one more shot. So I decided on the Island Bento ($11.95) to go. The menu states Teriyaki Chicken, Tonkatsu, and Poke. This is what I got.
I have no idea what this was supposed to be, but I don't think it's what I ordered. That tonkatsu was pounded very thin, breaded, then fried to a dry, stringy place that can only be described as death. What's up with the bland sautéed onions and the frozen peas and carrots? Kind of sad because the Ginger Ahi was nicely flavored, not too much ginger, good soy, not too salty, the fish was nicely mixed and coated well, and there were only a few pieces with too much connective tissue. I'd easily have that again.
After this....four visits in the can; I decided that I need to give the place a rest. I'm still not quite sure if they can put out a consistent product; though I do like the "old school" style poke....when it's on. If one of those "Chi-Poke" places (i.e. San Diego Poke Company, etc....) could get it right, it would be great. The woman who works here is really nice and friendly....and heck, I saw boiled peanuts for sale; I need to bring my own chili pepper water though, and there's still that Ilocano Longanisa I have to try one of these days........one of these days.
Interesting to note that Poke Etc is a chain of (currently) four shops, two in Long Beach and one in Carson. I'm sure we'll see more pop-up here in San Diego.