A short while ago JeffL emailed me, telling me that a little shop in PB made the best lamb tacos he's had in San Diego. So of course I had to check them out. The address on Emerald Street sounded kind of familiar......as it should have. It was right across the street from Mad Dog's Cafe and right around the corner from Bare Back Grill.
Jeff had advised me to call ahead to make sure they were serving lamb that day. Which is what I did.....and got an affirmative from a very friendly gentleman. I'm assuming the same guy who mans the counter. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that the menu consisted of standard San Diego taco shop (i.e. CABs and California Burritos) fare. Not complaining mind you, but I was in search of borrego. I also noticed that all the customers seemed to come from the hostel next door...filling up on calories and carbs. Sadly, the guy at the counter told me they were out of lamb on this day. But hey, I was here, right? So I ended up ordering a variety of tacos all priced between $2.25 - $2.75.
It ended up being a Al Pastor (adobado), Carne Asada, and a Carnitas. The worse of the bunch was the Al Pastor which had a nice texture, but was terribly bland. The carne asada was decent, but also under-seasoned, the two standard salsas were also pretty mild. These were not "street tacos" mind you, but pretty hefty in size. I quickly noted that every table was going to town with the salt shaker as well.
It was the carnitas that caught my attention. While it too needed a bit more seasoning for my tastes, it was super tender.
Based on the lack of caramelization, I'm thinking these are steamed in their own juices. Though I prefer some crunchy bits with my carnitas (and just about everything except cabeza and lengua), the texture was very nice.
The front desk guy apologized for not having the lamb and promised me they'd have it next time. And so I returned. This time I noticed the availability of lamb on the board outside and got my Barbacoa de Borrego tacos.
I was informed that the lamb is indeed steamed in it's own juices. The texture of the lamb was not quite as soft as the pork, but it was indeed tender. Loved the gamey flavor, but I think a bit more seasoning would lift the flavor up a bit. As it stands, in my opinion, it's a good taco that could be great with a bit more.....also, I ran into a couple of hard bits that need to taken out, especially if being served in a taco. Crunchy is ok, but hard can take your teeth out......
I found that the owner, who also runs the front counter is from Toluca, so if I recall (my geography sucks), this is more Barbacoa.
Still, these were good...
La Perla Cocina Mexicana
745 Emerald St
San Diego, CA 92109
Thanks for the rec Jeff!