*** Da' Kitchen is now Mo's Island Grinds, same great people, the food is also the same!
Every few months or so, I either hear of a new Plate Lunch or "Local"(Hawaiian) style restaurant in San Diego, either through the "coconut wireless" or Emails, that go something like this:
"I just wanted to inform you of a new Hawaiian place that my husband and I ate at that's soooooooooo good! they have the best Kalbi and loco moco I have ever had......." And while I really enjoy and appreciate the comments and recommendations (keep 'em coming folks), most of them usually end up being L & L knock-offs. Nothing wrong with L&L, but to me, a "real" plate lunch, has a certain vibe, taste, and character. While I do eat at L&L, I kind of equate them to the Starbucks of the plate lunch world. The closest we have to a plate lunch place here in San Diego, albeit mediocre, is Da' Kines, until now that is.
You see first of all the name of this place was Da' Kitchen, and years ago I ate at Da' Kitchen on Maui. So now you've really got my attention.
Getting out on the Carroll Canyon Road exit off the 15 Freeway I got to Da' Kitchen, and parked my car. First thing I noticed was just a simple sign over the entrance. Da' Kitchen had just been open 2 weeks. I looked over the grease board "menu", and the first thing that struck me were the prices. Kalbi for $9.95? Sheesh! But I went forward and placed an order. While waiting for my order, I had a nice chat with Jocelyn, one of the Owners, along with her Husband who runs the kitchen. If these plate lunches were as good as Jocelyn was nice and friendly, it was going to be a pretty good meal.
Here's the Kalbi ($9.95):
Well first off, there were 5 pieces of cross cut kalbi, 5 pieces! These were well marinated and fairly tender, which is what you want. Most times they are too tough and rubbery, or over marinated and mushy. The marinade was excellent, just slightly sweet, and the ribs were nicely grilled. The plate came with one large scoop of rice and a macaroni-potato salad, which was kind of bland, and in need of salt. Overall, a good example of "local style" Kalbi, which differs a bit from Korean style.
I also ordered the Hawaiian Plate($10.75):
As a whole this was just okay. The laulau was nice and moist with alot of luau(taro) leaf, but with very little meat. The Chicken Long Rice had too much ginger in it. The Kalua Pork on the other hand was very moist, with a mild smoked flavor, and was the best item on the plate. This plate came with rice and the macaroni-potato salad, which was put in a container of it's own.
The Fish Tempura($8.95):
Imagine five pieces of fish(I think it was Mahi Mahi??), yes the plate has five pieces of fish. What surprised me the most, was that the fish was still very crunchy and moist after the drive home. The tempura batter has what looks like furikake(Japanese Seaweed condiment) in it that adds to the taste. I wasn't too crazy about the tartar sauce, and ended up using malt vinegar, which made it delici-yoso!!!
But the plate that brought tears to my eyes was this:
Yes, it's a Loco Moco($7.75). If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I love "loco's". This was a good one! As explained by Jocelyn, a 10-12 oz. homemade patty, 2 extra-large eggs easy over, brown gravy, topped with mushrooms and onions, rice, and macaroni-potato salad. A true thing of beauty! And they sneaked in an extra scoop of rice under the Burger! So I thought I'd use the infamous Modified Rubio Scoring System developed by James of Big Island Grinds.
Here's how it measured up:
BURGER: Handmade and moist, and pretty huge. Maybe a bit too much filler, but nicely seared and seasoned. 4.0
EGGS: Cooked well, easy over, and yolks still runny. Could have been more crisp around the edges. But extra large eggs means bonus points. 4.5
RICE: Perfect, not dry. And those sneaky Bugga's wen stash one scoop unda da burga la' dat! You gotta love that. 5.0
GRAVY: Very nice color and texture, velvety, deep and dark brown. The taste was mildly beefy, but could have been better flavored. 4.0
STUFFS: Not enough flavor in the salad, actually tasted better with the gravy on it. And I really didn't think the mushrooms and onions brought anything other then a bit of eye appeal to the dish. 3.0
Overall 20.5 points, the most I've ever given a Loco (so far)! How I finished it, I'll never know.
Today I though I'd try the Chicken Katsu($7.75):
This was a "triple-decker" Katsu monster, fried golden brown, moist and delicious. And best of all, real Katsu sauce, not that runny sweet sour, garbage that L&L serves up. And the macaroni-potato salad tasted better today, just a bit of salt, that brought out the potato flavor. I only made it through 1 1/2 layers. As I was leaving, Jocelyn asked me how I did, so I showed her. She gave me a smile of pitying disapproval; sort of a "you're a girly-man" sort of smile.
I also got a plate of the Korean Chicken($7.75) to go:
These are pieces of chicken marinated in a sweet soy mixture, then battered and fried. It comes with a mildly spicy and sweet soy sauce concoction. Sweet, salty, crunchy, and slightly spicy, a nice combination of taste and texture(think almost mochiko); this is the Missus's favorite by far. In fact, I think I'll get the dipping sauce for the Fish Tempura next time!
The restaurant, though sparse, gives off a laid-back vibe. And I get the feeling that no matter how crowded it might be here, it would still feel very relaxing.
As you can tell, Da' Kitchen has been added to our rotation. So bring your appetite and give them a try!
By the way Jo, they have a branch in Mountain View!
9823 Carroll Canyon Rd.
San Diego, CA 92131
Open Mon-Sat 10am - 8pm