*** 168 Restaurant has closed
168 Restaurant, located in the shadow of the 99 Ranch Market sign, is a popular and inexpensive Taiwanese restaurant in the area.
The bare bones atmosphere, and "sticky" tables, along with the faint smell of vinegar in the air take me back to many of the Chinese "coffee shops" in the San Gabriel Valley. 168 specializes in homestyle Chinese and Taiwanese "grub" at very reasonable prices. Forget about atmosphere though, it doesn't exist at 168. We also ate with our "elbows up" and off of the sticky-tacky tables.
Many of the people during our visits were eating Fried Rice, Noodle Soup, or some other noodle dish.
We decided to try some menu items that we hadn't ordered before. Starting with the Smoked Chicken($3.75):
I really enjoyed this cold chicken dish, it had a mild smokey flavor, the meat had a slightly "cured" texture, and though it teetered on the edge of being too salty it was very satisfying on this very hot day.
Pan Fried Egg with Dried Radish($4.25):
This homestyle omelet had strips of dried radish in it. It is really nothing different from what I make at home. The eggs were very salty, though the radish added a nice crunch to the dish
Glutinous Rice in Bowl($3.25):
I enjoyed the gooey glutinous rice that surrounded a "filling" of chunks of pork and dried radish. Here's a look:
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, with a sauce with hints of......well, as the Missus put's it, "It's Five-Spice, okay, F-I-V-E Spice. None of this hints of anise stuff, it tastes like five spice". Okay??? This was not bad, I'd have it again.
I really don't know why I ordered the Xiao Long Bao($5.75), big mistake:
Really big mistake, the wrappers were a bit freezer burnt, and only two or three of the dumplings actually had "soup" in them.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves at 168 again. And in keeping with our previous meal, we decided to try items we'd never had here before.
Since we enjoyed the cold Smoked Chicken on our previous visit, we ordered the Wined Chicken($3.75):
The chicken tasted much better than it looked. The flavor of the chicken was neither too strong, nor totally bland like the version at Mei Long Village. The texture of the chicken was slightly dense and cured, with a slight salty-winey flavor. Not as strong in flavor as the version at Shanghai City, but still quite good.
Of course some Stinky Tofu(Cho Dofu - $5.25):
The Missus has a basic "rule" when it comes to Cho Dofu. If I can smell it, than eat it, it's probably not good. The usual foul, what I call a dark-deep-damp-acrid odor of decomposition was very tame and mild. In addition, the sauce was very mild and weak. I had 3 pieces of the Cho Dofu, which really tasted like fried tofu, with a slight acrid odor. So this brined than fermented tofu dish was not very good.
Goose Meat w/Bean Thread($5.25):
A light clear poultry based broth, had a nice quantity of slightly chewy bean thread. The broth was mild, and the julienned ginger added a very nice clean flavor to what would be a fairly weak soup. The "Goose Meat" tasted strangely like Duck Leg, it just wasn't as rich and gamey as goose is. We thought this was just okay.
Oyster w/"Thin Noodles" Soup($4.75):
This thickened soup was a strange mish-mash of conflicting flavors, and the lack of decent quality ingredients didn't help it in the least. I really like the slightly gooey soup, it had a nice assertive vinegar and white pepper flavor. The Missus thought it was too sour. I really enjoyed the chewy brown wheat based thin Taiwanese style noodles. There were 2 items that ruined the dish. First, the Oysters tasted very bad, like they had been starting to "break-down" with a fishy-bitter flavor. I fished all of them out of the bowl, no sense in spending the night sleeping the bathroom, if you know what I mean. The bamboo shoots had a metallic-sour flavor to them. I'm pretty sure that the bamboo shoots were old, and that when they were removed from the can, the shoots were not drained or rinsed. Too bad, I thought this soup had potential.
The menu at 168 is quite extensive, with everything from Squid Potage and 3 Cup Chicken(posted on he wall) to Fried Rice and Kung Pao Chicken. What 168 does best are Chinese Coffee shop and snack dishes. And those are still a "mixed bag" and quite inconsistent. The service is basic Chinese restaurant in style and quality, you usually need to ask for anything you need. Of course being open till almost midnight is a big plus.
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
Open 11am-1130pm Daily