Back in February, I was just driving around and exploring one sunny weekend day when I noticed this place.
I'm pretty sure this place was fairly new......I recall it being pretty much a revolving door of eating places in the last couple of years. I am, of course, a garlic lover, so I just had to try the place out. I will say they really went with the "shack" theme here.
Nice and tight selection of craft beers and an even more interesting selection of craft sodas......looks lie Diet Coke is persona non grata here.
I was greeted by a bright smiling face when I entered; the folks here seemed very cheerful and helpful. The drill is order at the register; pay and have a seat. I really can't say the view was great, though there was a nice breeze blowing through the place and I counted two ambulances and one fire truck rushing through the neighborhood during my meal.
You know; this place IS named the Garlic Shack, so I had to try the Garlic Fires, right? It wasn't quite what I picture as garlic fries.
The fries were really nice and crisp, very hot....I really didn't care for the garlic seasoning which seemed like a bunch of granulated garlic dumped on the fries, which made the flavor somewhat bitter to my palate. That spicy ketchup was quite nice though....not super spicy, the tangy-sweet with a slight kick.
I ordered the "Spicy Porkaholic".
It was quite a hefty sandwich....which was appropriately wrapped in butcher paper. It should have had a "contents under pressure" label since it basically bursts at the seams. The bread didn't hold up for very long, the pork had a very strong paprika flavor and really didn't have a smoked flavor, at least to me. The bean sprouts were an interesting choice, which added some texture, along with the lettuce. The menu said grilled onion, but I didn't detect any of that.
There was no way that I could finish all of this....though it did seem more about portion over quality. I did enjoy the South Bay Seltzer; which wasn't overly carbonated and quite refreshing after all of this rich and hefty food.
And so things stood pat....but of course I really wouldn't have felt comfortable doing a post without another visit. Which I did a few months later.
Different folks, but the same very friendly and helpful service.
This time around I decided to stick with just a sandwich and went with the Korean Beefaholic. Which of course was quite hefty.
This was, as before, quite a messy sandwich as the bread didn't hold up for long. The generous portion of meat was kind of mushy in texture and a bit too sweet for me.....the milky flavor of the cheese just seemed to clash with the other flavors as well. The romaine lettuce saves the sandwich, but I think this needs a bit of pungency (onions) and acid (tomatoes) as this was pretty mundane in terms of flavor....but that's just me.
Perhaps if you weren't raised on teri beef sandwiches or W&M Burgers, this might seem really good. For me; not so much. Still, I enjoyed the variety of sodas, the folks who worked here are so very nice. You might want to give it a try yourself to see if it's a good fit.
We always try to plan at least one "special" meal during our trips. Lima, being one of my favorite food cities has some difficult choices, but Maido, without a doubt was the one place I just wanted to experience. The chef Maido Mitsuharu puts forward a "Nikkei" menu....inspired by Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Mitsuharu has a pretty good resume, having attended Johnson & Wales and even trained for almost three years in a sushi restaurant in Osaka. You can read his bio here. Being a Sansei from Hawaii, where we have our own spin on Japanese cuisine, much of it based on the lack of many traditional Japanese ingredients, I've always been fascinated by Nikkei Cuisine. And was really excited about our dinner reservations at Maido.
Located on the corner of Calle Colon and Calle San Martin, Maido was quite easy to find. The building itself is quite distinctive. It was 10 minutes before opening and there were folks lining up. Considering all these folks had reservations, it seems that I wasn't the only one excited about eating here.
The interior of the restaurant is somewhat austere, with a sushi bar area and tables. The one really interesting feature are the ropes hanging from the ceiling.....kind of cool and yet kind of strange. I believe it also helps to absorb noise since most of the areas are quite hard.
We had ordered the "Nikkei Experience" when making reservations. This is a 15 course menu of dishes, none of which are revealed until you receive them. You don't even get a listing of the dishes until your meal is complete.
But first, some cocktails. The Missus, in a genius move, ordered the Pisco and Tonic, a wonderful balanced, grown up drink. It was my favorite cocktail of the trip. In fact, I ended up ordering another later on in the meal! At a loss for what to order, I went for the Sakura; a Pisco, Sake, Strawberry, and Camu Camu juice. It was light, clean, refreshing....but was more of a "chick drink".
Lucky for me, the Missus really liked this and we traded. She was especially taken with the flowers in the ice cubes.
Soon enough, dishes started arriving. Things were really paced well, our Server described the basic dish, and seemed pleased when I recognized tastes, flavors, and even knew some of the ingredients in the dish. Service was very professional with nice, friendly touches....."un-stuffy" and perfectly suited to our taste.
Things started off with an interesting "snack". The stuff in the cone was delicious pressed and fried chicken skin dusted with shichimi togarashi. It was so very nice and crisp, with that wonderful "unfowl" flavor of chicken skin.
The other part of the dish were sausages, which seemed like a cross between a bratwurst and chorizo, layered on plantain, senbei (no kidding - senbei) with a sachatomate (tamarillo) emulsion. Nice, but nothing to really get excited about.
What really got our attention was that sauce at the bottom of the photo above. We put some on the chicken skin and cracked up! Pachikay Sauce......it's scallion, ginger, soy.....this tasted like the dipping sauce for for Kwai Fei Chicken! Basically, the sauce for what we call "Cold Ginger Chicken" back home. This had a more complex flavor, the ginger seemed to have been blanched or cooked taking the edge off the flavor, some smokiness, it was also a bit on the salty side as well. Still, we really enjoyed the chicken skin.
The next dish was simply called "Churos"....no not churros, but churos, an Amazonian land snail. The snail had been simmered in a soy based broth, with perhaps some sake and mirin. It was enrobed with a very tasty foam made of dale dale root, which I believe is a type of arrowroot and garnished with "chalaca", a basic topping made of corn, tomato, and onion.
The snail was so tender and full of flavor and the foam really tempered any strong flavors and refreshed the palate.
Next up, one of my favorite items of the evening; simply called Lapas Cebiche. Lapas are "limpets". So, the folks from Hawaii will understand; this is opihi! Really good opihi, served on what was described to me as aji-cilantro-lime juice frozen by liquid nitrogen.
Good lord, this was leche de tigre sorbet! I love leche de tigre.....when our Server heard me exclaim that, he came over, smiled, and said, "yes, it is frozen leche de tigre". Amazing flavors and textures.
Next up was the Paiche Sandwich. Paiche is the legendary Arapaima from the Amazon. It has a nice texture, delicate, yet slightly firm.
The bun, like a mantou was hard, crumbly, and not up to the task. The lulo criolla, strangely didn't register much flavor.
My friends know how much I love cuy (guinea pig)...but cuy gyoza? Well, that's a new one. The wrapper was decent, crisp, not gummy. The filling was interesting, like the filling for a croquette, very soft and mushy....give me this and tell me it's pork and I'd believe you. The sauce was delish.....soy sauce, probably rice vinegar...combined with the onions and chilies, this really tasted Chinese.....as did the Pachikay Sauce. It seems the strong Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine was in play as well.
Next up, well Sushi de Mar......An ika and hotate nigiri. Now, of course I'd never expect anything say...the level of Sushi Iwa or Urasawa....
But for me, the rice did this dish in. The gohan was hard, dry, and very cold. It really detracted from any enjoyment of the very nicely prepared seafood.
While the color of the dish screamed "bland" the "Amazonic Cebiche" was much better.
I loved the "Nikkei leche de tigre", which had some soy sauce in it. It tasted like revved up ponzu. I'm also a big fan of the shaved hearts of palm, which looked like noodles in this dish. That topping, which I was told was made of yucca flour was delish. I believe there was some garlic in here somewhere. There was also some very mild heat from aji charapita.
The next dish was also very good; Cancho con Yuca. This looked like compressed cubes of pork belly and yucca, wrapped up in some kind of dough based wrapper and topped with fried pork skin.
It was served with a "ramen reduction" which was quite salty.
Next up was another dish which just blew me away; Sacha Soba.
The noodles were made from sachapapa an Amazonian tuber. Flavor and color was added via the use of various chilies, and no, this wasn't spicy. But the texture of the soba was perfect; nice pull, that slight smokiness and mild spice from the chilies, balanced by the sweetness of the crab. My goodness, this was so delici-yoso!!!
We just had to have some drinks to celebrate! I got another Pisco and Tonic and the Missus gave in and had a Pisco Sour, which I thought was the most balanced, in terms of booze to sweetness to sour of what I had during the entire trip.
Next up were the Sushi Tierra (Earth). These fared much better than the seafood; possibly because the fat tempered the textures for me.
The A lo Pobre, a wonderfully beefy piece of meat torched, then topped with a quail egg. As a bonus, the quail egg had been injected with ponzu sauce, which added the nice salty-acid component which meant all the difference to this piece of nigiri. The mollejas (beef sweetbread) was nice and fatty which aided the texture, but this was a bit too tame in flavor compared to other piece.
The Missus really enjoyed the "Regional Beans", which had some nice flavor components, the quinoa crisps were very nutty and the Missus, who loves beans, also enjoyed them when mixed with the avocado cream.
So, the Missus has always preferred my misoyaki to everything She's ever had....even to pointing out the failings of what was served at Nobu's and Matsuhisa (!). Until tonight. On this evening, She proclaimed the Gindara to be the best She's ever had. Now I take a back seat.
I have to say, the flavor of the miso sauce/glaze was perfectly balanced; not too strong. the nuts; which I believe were cashews and bahuaja (Brazil nuts if I recall) just placed another layer of texture and flavor. I thought the potato cream was much too salty to enjoy.
The flavor and texture of the Wagyu Shortrib, which they said was cooked for 50 hours.....I'm pretty sure via sousvide, was amazingly tender and the flavor was a nice balance of salty to sweet.....and the egg yolk just added more richness (as if it were needed) to the dish. We both found the Cecina (cured pork) fried rice wrapped up like a spring roll to be kind of odd as it was on the mild side in regards to flavor.
The Missus really enjoyed both desserts. The Cacao; 70% pure, with yuzu and all the nuts.....
And I even enjoyed the "Maduro", which had the odd combination of an ice cream made with plantain and shoyu!
All that really nice tapioca balls, water jelly, and rice milk.....along with some Amazonian fruits like camu camu really made for a nice way to end the meal.
We really enjoyed our meal at Maido. In fact, the Missus told me that this is easily one of the most enjoyable meals of Her life. Me? Well, I can easily say that my favorite dining experience is Suzunari, which we actually returned to on our last visit to Tokyo (I know...I'm really behind). But this was an amazing experience in terms of food and flavors. And while certainly not on the level of Azurmendi, there was one thing they had in common. While not every dish worked to our enjoyment, the "highs" were extremely high. We could relate to the flavors....the combinations of which weren't frivolous.....the cuisine and thus the customer was respected....you could detect the "soul" of the cuisine here, it wasn't some meaningless mash-up. And while I wasn't able to wrangle a reservation at Central; we were both very happy to have the chance to dine at Maido.
Maido 399 Calle San Martin Lima, Peru
This was a wonderful meal. We'd have to get up at 430 the next morning and get our ride to the airport. Next up....Santiago, Chile...even if it was just for a single night we were looking forward to it!
Man, they've really spruced up the place since I'd last been here. When I visited the place did mainly snacks and smoothies. Now it's a proper restaurant......
Let me first say that the folks here are wonderful. I had really nice Servers on all my visits, very friendly, efficient, just great kids.
An acquaintance of mine recommended the Kalua Pork, something I grew up eating, and of course I make a version for parties and friends. And so, I ordered it.
So let's start with the good....the rice was nice. The salad with the Maguro was a nice touch, even though it was "saku" fish and the whole salad was quite large, larger than the portion of pork. The dressing was way too mild.
I didn't care for the kalua pork prep. That teriyaki sauce was cloyingly sweet and just masked any flavor from the pork. I did taste the pork and felt it was under seasoned and a bit too greasy.
Still, the folks were so very nice that I decided to come back during happy hour.
Looking over the happy hour menu; one item was a no-brainer....the Spam Musubi, which was actually some kind of Spam Roll.
Much like the kalua pork, this was a bit too much. I would have been fine without the sauce which kind of blurred the entire dish. I thought the spam could have been seared a bit, which would have added that nice crisp texture. The rice was a bit too mushy for my tastes.
Sadly, the Chicken Karaage was even worse. Just look at the color!
The temp of the oil obviously wasn't hot enough; the batter was gummy and this wasn't very pleasant to eat. Unlike the other items I had, this was also very mild in flavor. Not good eats.
And yet, the service was so very nice....so I decided to give them another try. This time I ordered a favorite of mine; Chicken Katsu.
This came with some miso soup, which didn't have enough miso in it. It was quite weak and watery.
When the chicken katsu arrived, I noticed a problem right off. A pet peeve of mine....the breading was peeling off.
And while this can happen to the best of them, there really is no excuse for it. Also, I quickly noticed how thin the chicken had been pounded. Too bad because the breading was nice and crunchy, the Asian slaw went well with the dish, and the rice was cooked nicely.
So, what to say....I love the folks who work here, but the food? Well, call me picky, but each dish on my visits seemed to have one, or more issues. Too bad, because I really like the staff and the vibe of the place.
We decided to head back "home" to Oahu before heading to Japan. The Missus needed to visit Her parents....and I needed to recharge. I love seeing my in-laws, they truly treat me as if I'm their son. The one problem being, and no offense here, I'm a "townie" by nature....for me finding the kind of places and grindz I like is kind of hard in Ewa Beach and West Oahu.....things are getting better...but for the most part, it's trips to Tanioka's for us. And yet, I wanted something different and special for us....the family, to go out and enjoy. Somehow, I'm still not entirely sure, I came across Kahumana Farms and their Cafe, which serves lunch and....great for us, dinner from 6pm - 8pm Tuesday to Saturday.
Over the last 10 years we've been doing the blog, things have changed, we eat less, still enjoy food, but temper things with more healthy choices. Plus, there's just a sort of "hippie" side to the Missus that has come out the last couple of years......let's put that "high maintenance hippie", have you seen the prices of dried mulberries? Yikes. However, there was just something about this place that seemed right.
The whole Kahumana Farms thing was established by Father Phillip Harmon back in 1974. The farm and cafe reside "out there" down the unpaved roads of Lualualei Homestead Road. The land is fruitful, I've been told that there are more than few archaeological sites in this valley. And the Kahumana Organization supports transitional housing and programs for those with disabilities. A big plus, you're getting "stuffs" grown right on the farm. You can read more about this here at their website and otherarticles.
I called and made reservations......
Like they say, getting there was half the fun. From what I recall, a lot of the area is Hawaiian Homestead land. I haven't really been down to Waianae in almost 30 years or so.....once upon a time, I drove here weekly for work, but it had been almost forever....ok, let's just say a lifetime. We arrived and walked in the door, past the shop area......the place was doing some decent business. Finding that we had reservations....we got a table in the covered lanai area.
The staff here is very friendly....not polished mind you, but they make up for things with their warmth and friendliness. The menu is written on a chalkboard, one of which is delivered to your table. It's an interesting aggregation of dishes...hummus, Pacific Rim, Indian influences.....
We started with some Kabocha Soup.
The Missus loves Kabocha, so choosing this was a no-brainer. Smooth and comforting, a slight heat, herbaceous, perhaps a little too sweet for our taste, this was still quite nice.
The dish we enjoyed the least was the chicken stir fry, which, in spite of the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, had severely over-cooked the chicken.
The Chicken Masala on Brown Rice (yes, brown rice) and stir fried vegetables was very good.
No, I wasn't expecting Punjabi Tandoor, but this was quite good....can I go on about the greens? The "masala inspired" sauce had a bit of zip and nice balanced spice profile....good enough that I actually ate a good bit of brown rice! The chicken was nice and moist on this one.
The Macadamia Nut Pesto with Mahi Mahi was solid.
Call it the "Shandong" influence, but I was not a fan of the noodles, which were kind of brittle and lacking in texture. The "pesto" was very nice, nutty, with a good herb flavor. I'm kind of leary about Mahi Mahi, having worked with it quite a bit in one of my former lives. You need to get it really fresh...it attains a "sour" flavor when at less than optimal freshness. Plus, too many folks just cook it to death....and this one looked unimpressive....until I had a taste...nicely seasoned, moist.....very good! A nice piece of fresh fish prepared simply, but well.
I think it might be hard for folks to understand how a simple salad could be the best dish......
It is, after all, a plate of vegetables.....but let me say, the Missus and I enjoyed this the most. The cucumbers sparkled, crisp, with the flavor of melon...the greens, bitter, herbaceous, taste each separately. The tomatoes were good....but you have to understand, my Mom was from Maui....I still have the flavor of ripe, Kula tomatoes on the brain. The flavor that really got our attention were of the shaved beets, so sweet, so much flavor, I had to ask if they marinated it in any way......the answer? No.......
The Lilikoi Cheesecake....well, I don't do desserts, so you'll have to ask.
As I was waiting for everyone to finish "potty duty" after dinner....a gentleman walked up to me and struck up a conversation. He introduced himself as "Robert"...so in retrospect, I assume he is Robert Zuckerman, the Manager/Chef of Kahumana Cafe. He asked us where we hail from.....it was quite obvious, there are the regular customers, and then there were us. It was a wonderful 15 minutes; we had seen kids....well, teenagers eating in the dining room. We were worried these were homeless kids, but no....kids on a 10 day program learning about farming. The young folks we saw gathering a bit later on were the workers, some of which were Woofers, basically a program by which food and housing is provided in exchange for work on the farm. I thoroughly njoyed our conversation and promised to return.
I hope to keep that promise........I'm looking forward to my next salad!
Kahumana Cafe 86-660 Lualualei Homestead Rd Waianae, Hi 96792
It's actually more like spinal fluid/disc material...but who's keeping score, right? I had been curious about it for a while and I gotta say, I really love the texture and the mild briney.ocean flavor of Swordfish Bone Marrow....think of the mildest oyster in flavor, clean and crisp, combined with the texture of Liangfen 凉粉 - starch jelly noodles. Man, this stuff was really good!
I have to thank Tommy of Catalina Offshore for having Candice and I as his guests, along with Maria and Jonathan for being such great company!
Tommy had been trying to get Candice and I over to Wrench and Rodent for a while for a blow-out Omakase. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant since, like Candice warned Tommy, I'm a bit of a "traditionalist" when it comes to sushi and sashimi. But you can't forget that I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, Hawaii....which is why I hate slapped together con "fusion" dishes..... After reading Faye's post, I thought at the least, this would be an interesting meal.
I gotta say, some of the stuff Davin Waite puts out was so very creative, risky, but still trying to capture the essense of the product. I really enjoyed this meal, even though it was enough to feed an army, or at the least, one hungry Tommy.
My preferred way of having the bone marrow was plain, in the shot glass; there was something so pure and refreshing about it.
I have to say, some of the dishes were just wonderful; the bluefin collar was just out of his world....moist, fatty, like eating "buttah".....it was well seasoned without killing the product.
I thought this pseudo gunkan maki of toro was a wonderful combination of textures. The cucumber crisp and refreshing, the masago added crunch and the flavor of the ocean, the gari, which I usually have between bites to refresh and clear my palate actually did well here.
Of the nigiri; it was the anchovy with a dengaku style miso paste was my favorite.
The Hamachi Kama was just wonderful as well.
Don't let all this fusiony stuff fool you; Davin makes a decent nigiri......
I quickly found out that Davin's sauces tend to run on the fruity/sweet side; which goes well with a pristine scallop; though I could have just eaten this plain....
I did think there was a bit too much mirin action in his nikiri for the maguro.
His pesto type concoction works relatively well with salmon.
There's no denying there's a good amount of creativity going on here. Davin takes risks and has some chops as well.
When it works, like this wonderful Opah, or was it Monchong cheek, BLT dish, it's quite delicious.
When it doesn't, you can't blame him for trying......
You'll notice, not a single Gringo roll....and only one item I say that belonged on another table.
No mayo, surimi..... though I did see a good amount of tempura/mayo/cream cheese rolls going out.
I really need to thank Tommy for arranging this; and for being a fantastic host.....and keeping us entertained as well. You can tell that Davin loves food and creating, it was a blast talking about different ingredients, products, and techniques.
And I got to cross an item off my bucket list as well.
Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub 1815 S Coast Hwy (inside of Bull Taco) Oceanside, CA 92054
W&R isn't the only little treasure hidden in Bull Taco. Brewmaster Havin Harris has opened a little microbrewery named Beer Brewing Company in the back of W&R.
I had a taster of the beers available and my favorite....well, I'm not so comfortable writing this; was the, ahem..."breast beer". Apparently, Havin did a ton of research and developed a beer that is supposed to aid in lactogenesis. As strange as it may seem, this was the breast, um, best beer I tasted and Candice agreed. As to it's effects on lactation...well, you're asking the wrong person!
Overall, it was an amazing night of new experiences; from swordfish bone marrow to breast beer!
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog. Centered mostly around food, we (Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy) write about various places, recipes, ingredients. Here's a post about a place, written by Cathy.
As mentioned in another post, frequently I meet clients for an exchange of paperwork and often they offer to buy me lunch. I let them choose the location, asking them where's a place they enjoy- knowing they might not be as adventurous as I- and also they are aware of the price point, since they have offered to pay.
Chopsticks Inn has been in the corner of this storefront area in La Mesa since 1988. It's the same corner and shares the same parking lot as La Mesa Bistro & Bakery . The owner of Chopsticks Inn was born in SouthEast China, moved to Hong Kong where she grew up with her Grandmother and eventually moved to the US, learning Japanese and Thai cooking along the way. As you can see from the signage, a multitude of Asian cuisine choices are available.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated in a higher end Asian look. The waitstaff is friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.
We both ordered lunch specials, which came with a choice of soup. Hot and Sour and Egg Drop were our choices. When we were first seated, the fried wonton strips and small plate serving of a sweet/vinegar 'duck' sauce were brought to the table.
The Red Curry Chicken lunch plate ($7.55)- came with the soup, an egg roll (all vegetable), cream cheese fried wonton, steamed rice and a very good size serving of red curry chicken-made with fresh mushroom, red and green bell peppers and celery. Yes, celery, which was very complimentary with the flavors.
The Kung Pao chicken ($7.25) was also accompanied by the same sides, as this was also a lunch special. You can see it also had fresh mushrooms, celery and is topped with peanuts. It wasn't very spicy-hot, but was made with very fresh ingredients and tasty...had just a bit of heat, which was nice.
Fortune Cookies were brought out with the bill. I haven't seen packaged Fortune Cookies in a long time and it was fun reading and exchanging our predictions. (Hot tea was $1 each).
This was a very nice, quality meal. I noticed the Dim Sum is a la carte as well as available as platters, that Bento boxes are available at lunch and dinner prices and many noodle and rice dishes are available along with Chinese "Family" meals (priced per person). A new item they were promoting were Boba beverages.
A very interesting restaurant in an unexpected location.
Chopsticks Inn Restaurant 8687 La Mesa Boulevard La Mesa, CA 91942 open Tues-Sun 11 a.m-9 p.m. (619) 466-4470 Website
I had promised myself a return visit to Raki Raki to have the Tsukemen back in November when the weather got a bit warmer.....well, if the record heat we had recently wasn't a sign from some divine being....in short, it was tsukemen time.
But a funny thing happened on the way to my noodles. I believe I'm usually hype free and don't really follow fads. Yep, I'm just your usually fuddy duddy, boring kinda guy. But in a moment of temporary insanity I ordered this:
A ramen burger.......or should I say a "Dream Come True California Ramen Burger" ($9.75)
Even I have those moments it seems....after eating this I mumbled "what was I thinking" to myself as I walked into the psycho parking lot on Convoy. Hopefully not too loud....
The burger is 100% angus beef, over-worked and cooked to death as it's tough as leather. The flavor is nice and beefy. All of the juices from the burger seemed to have collected in the greasy, bland, flaccid, mushy bunch of noodles used as a bun. The fry job on these was lousy as it fell to greasy pieces after two bites. I had imagined something like crispy "cake noodle" like I get back home, this was not very good. The "crisp" rolled pork slice they call "underbelly" was more like hard and the edges burnt and bitter.
The sweet potato fries were light and mildly crisp, with good flavor.
But man, who you gonna sue for this oil spill?
This was like something dreamt up in a college dorm room after a couple hits of the cash crop. For a more mature point of view, perhaps you should read Kirbie's post on the ramen burger.
I sent out texts and photos to my friends, then had a moment of paranoid reflection.......first Yes! Pingo and now a ramen burger...what's going on? What next...a Harley, porn 'stache, and a couple of tats? Maybe this was that male menopause I'd seen my friends go through? Yikes!
I needed to fix this......which I did by returning for the Standard Tsukemen ($8.75).
It was as before, noodles with a nice texture, perhaps a bit over-priced for what you get, and the broth edged on the too salty side.
But most importantly, this seemed like a return to normalcy. At least for now....
RakiRaki Ramen and Tsukemen 4646 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
I get some pretty interesting emails at times.....and as many of the other food bloggers can attest, about a good third of them are press releases, free stuff (which really isn't free if you think about it), and all of the other PR driven spiel. I even get my share of emails from folks.... whom I shall affectionately call "shills". Don't take this the wrong way, some of these folks are endearing as heck...and others, well, I'm thinking it's a single, or perhaps a small group of folks are plain persistent. I'd been getting emails for almost six months, at a pace of about one every two weeks, from different email addresses, all with pretty much the same writing style, telling me about their "favorite place".....with the rather strange name of Bentowich.
Yes, I get it.....bentos and (sand)wiches. I thought the location a bit odd; at the outskirts of Old Town....but in retrospect, I think it's a pretty good idea, Japanese Fast Casual among the scores of Cantinas and tourist traps.
So I finally made it down on a bright (and hot) Saturday, finding parking on a side street. The interior looks efficient and spartan.....
The outdoor seating area is quite nice and bright, if a bit too hot this time of the year. Still, when things cool down it'll be a great place to have a meal.
The concept is a lot simpler than the name would suggest; you pick your protein, determine the context (bento, sandwich, yakisoba, salad), add a couple of toppings/sides, sauce, soup or salad(and dressing), and your on your way.
The assembly is pretty much fast-casual, the food is already prepped/sliced, you deep fry or saute adding some sauce, take it to the Kelvinator where it's put together, and you're done. The key high lite of all of this is that everything is made fresh to order, a key component of "fast casual" type places. There are some unique touches, like having my bento served in a nice bento box.
As you can see, I went with the Sliced char Siu Roast Pork ($8), bento style.
You can chose white rice, brown rice, or onigiri, which is what I choose. You might as well go with white rice as this onigiri is truly white rice scooped into an onigiri mold, other than some furikake on one and some nori on the other, it's not really flavored (i.e. I grew up with onigiri seasoned mildly with salt.
The two "sides" I order were the pickled daikon and carrots and the Asian cole slaw. The pickled daikon was way too sour and salty, while the cole slaw was rather unremarkable. I selected the green salad with Miso Caesar dressing which was watery and weak.
Having seen that the pork was pre-sliced and portioned off, I expected it to be dry and tough, but it was cut thin enough for it to be tender and sauteed quickly keeping it moist. The "teriyaki" sauce was very mild, a hint of sour, more of a glaze, without much sugar, which actually worked in its favor as the flavor of the pork came through nicely.
I thought this was decent in terms of value and quality, so I decided to drop by again when driving back from a meeting in Hillcrest. The pickled daikon came to mind. While being way to sour and salty eaten solo; I thought it would be a great compliment to a sandwich. So I decided to get the Yakiniku Sliced Prime Rib in a sandwich, one of the more expensive items on the menu.
This was a nice sandwich. The roll held up well. The sauce, which tasted the same as what was on the pork kept things moist. The pickled daikon and carrots really added a nice refreshing component to the sandwich, a la banh mi.
I got the green salad again, this time with the wasabi ranch; which was again very runny and lacking in flavor. Sadly, it seemed that the dressings here are watered down.
Overall, the prices were decent, the folks working here, the low-keyed, efficient, and polite young lady, along with the very polite young man.....I'm still trying to pin down the exact time in my life when I became "sir", were very pleasant. So a few weeks later I decided to drop by on a Saturday.
I ordered a Chicken Katsu sandwich, something that I like, though will not get at most bento places because it's that awful combination of dry (the katsu) and mushy (the bread). But since they make the stuff to order at Bentowich, I really couldn't go wrong, right?
When it arrived I thought two things; both of them incorrect. First, the portion size looked quite small, but after opening the sandwich, the portions looked decent, if not especially large. Second, the breading looked really dark, so I thought this was going to be very dry, which it was not.
After my previous experiences with the salads...well, to be more precise, the salad dressing, I was going to get miso soup even though it was hotter than the sun's surface on this day. But after seeing the not so great looking soup on another customer's table, I relented and went with a salad again.......and finally found a dressing that I liked here, the Jalapeno Cilantro. Just enough zip and flavor for my taste.
Frankly, I'd be eating at Bentowich every so often if they were in my neck of the woods.....even though they won't make me forget about my favorite Japanese lunch places, I still prefer this to Chi-poodles and Ba-HA Flesh. The staff here is nice; even to the kind of "ticky" woman who I've seen here on two of my visits, who sits on the table right in front of the counter and has the kind of stare that gives me the creeps. I'm wondering, could she be the one who is...nah, couldn't be.
Bentowich 2367 San Diego Ave San Diego, CA 92110
Ok, whoever you are, you can quit with the emails now!
Yes, i'm finally getting around to doing this one.....which I promised with "part 1" on fuze. I had actually stopped and looked over the menu when JJ first open, some Korean standards, fad following Korean tacos......a carne asada fries knock-off, which is kind of redundant because CAFs are a knock-off itself....so what is a copy off something that's a copy? My friend Candice even mentioned the place in a text, to which I replied, the "the name and the menu makes me giggle giggle".
And yet, there were a couple of folks I knew who liked the place. My usual query would be the one where I asked whether it was a location thing (Midway) or not. Several folks assured me that wasn't the reason. They also told me the Korean tacos were ,"the bomb". And even faced with the fast-food looking facade who am I to judge. If this place could be half as good as....say Gina's BBQ in Honolulu, I would be happy. Sorry to say, it ain't quite that......so if you decide to stop reading here, I wouldn't hold it against you.
On my first visit, I did order "the trio" ($8), one each of the kalbi, dak bulgogi, and daeji bulgogi.
It was a bomb all right; a gut bomb, a lettuce and spicy mayo-fest. I gotta say, if it's pure capacity you're trying to fill, then these might do it. The tortillas were the worst this side of El Pollo Loco, as they just fell to bits and had almost no flavor. I tasted each protein separately and the kalbi was by far the worst, pale, flavorless, and really tough "LA Kalbi" type shortribs. The pork was tough, but at least it had some heat, but all was really lost in the wilderness of lettuce. The chicken bulgogi was probably the best of the trio, decent, but again just covered with "stuff". Let me say however, if you're looking to fill yourself up....this might do it.
So I figured that would be pretty much it......but, the folks running the place were really nice, so I decided to visit one more time. This time I started with the Yaki Mandu ($4).
I really liked the way these were fried....light and crisp. The dipping sauce was a bit watered down and the filling really bland, otherwise this would have been a winner.
My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try the Korean Fries, which, priced at $5.50 are really worth it. But man, this was a mess......
On the good side, I enjoyed the interplay of the kimchi and the fries. On the bad side kimchi and nacho cheese.....that's a bad partnership. I did wonder why the menu said Spicy Mayo and Korean Aioli, which seems to be somewhat redundant. Too much mayo and cheese for my taste and the bulgogi....well you could see it, but not really taste it. Though I did have sort of an epiphany while trying to eat this....if we had a category on the blog for "stoner food", this would be right up there! After all, it was salty, tons of fat, interesting textures.....hmmmm...
To me, the food at fuze is executed better, with higher quality ingredients. Still, the prices here are reasonable and if anyone could give me a recommendation that's not kalbi, spicy pork, bulgogi, chicken bulgogi, or mandu oriented, I may just check them out again. Though I might recommend Jiggle Jiggle to you at the end of a hard night of drinking a la "grease-berto's"....but JJ closes at 9 during the week and 10 on Friday and Saturday.
Jiggle Jiggle Korean Grill 3146 Midway Drive San Diego, CA 92110
I'd gotten a couple of recommendations for this place, but really hadn't given it much thought. The menu seemed, well bulgogi sliders and kalbi tacos, it just smacked of a fad-following restaurant. Heck, I really never bought into the food truck thing (has anyone seen Roy Choi actually in one of his trucks recently?)....I mean, I love loncheras and all, but most of them seemed more hype than hope. So I really didn't get too excited when a couple of places opened up selling kalbi tacos and such. Still, after reading FOY (Friend of Yoso) and super food blogger Kirbie's post on fuze (yep, that's how they spell it....little 'f'), I thought why not? Heck, I'd even make it a twosome and do a second part on the other place that folks had mentioned to me......"Jiggle Jiggle". After all, I can claim to have eaten kalbi tacos back in the late 90's....of course, it was Alan Wong making those tacos......
If I recall, this place used to be Mr Wasabi, right?
The interior is still rather spartan.
There was no one around when I first visited and the young man was very nice. In fact, on both visits I thought the service was decent and the guys quite friendly. The menu seems an amalgamation of straight ahead dishes Kalbi Jjim, Pajun, and Kimchi Jjigae. Combined with some fusion-ny dishes, Fuze Pajun, Bulgogi Philly Cheesesteak, Dduk Bok ki?
I decided to start things out with the "Fuze Pajun"($7.95), supposedly a riff on the traditional Korean savory pancake.
Overall, a mixed bag. The mayo, katsuobushi(bonito flakes), and sauce made this seem more like okonomiyaki, which suites me fine, since okonomi pretty much means "as you like it". The pancake itself could have been browned a bit more, it was pretty gummy. I believe there were three shrimp in the whole thing....but in a really gutsy move, this was a pretty sneaky pajun/okonomiyaki. There were strips of roasted jalapeno in it, giving it a bit of a sneaky heat....you never knew what you'd be getting in your next bite.
I also ordered the Kalbi Tacos ($7.95).
So, of course the first thing I did was fish out the kalbi to see how it tasted. It actually had some flavor....what we in Hawaii call "local kalbi", more sweet and closer to teriyaki than kalbi. Of course at this price point it was "LA Kalbi", cross cut beef ribs and on the tough side.
Didn't care much for the tortillas which were I believe were white corn. They had been either grilled and griddled, but with no fat attaining a rather dried cardboard like texture. The kochujong based aioli was mild, but did no harm, ditto the tasteless and toothpaste textured guacamole.
The fact of the matter was that I could still taste the kalbi, even though there didn't seem to be much of it present.
The cabbage provided what I thought to be a decent counter-point.
The meal turned out to be decent....enough so, that I decided to return, just to see.....
On this visit I went with the dish that Kirbie enjoyed the most, the Bulgogi Sliders ($9.95). Just a word of warning; if you're expecting a meat-fest, this ain't it. The sliders are two (or perhaps even one for some of you out there) bite deals. The amount of fries dwarfs them......
But I'll tell you what, the beef is very tender......still tending to the sweeter side, but very tasty. The scallions add a very mild pungency, the aioli, well, I could just do with a good mayo. The rolls are typical store bought deals and ended up getting kinda soggy.
If I were to have this again (and I very well may), I'd tell them to pass on the crumbled dry herbs...I believe it's thyme, which just adds to much to the flavor of some perfectly decent natural fries. As for the ten buck price tag....I'll let you decide on that one.
Speaking of price tag, I also could not resist ordering the Chicken Wings ($8.95), the sweet and spicy version.
Well, let's just say, Kyochon this ain't...though at over a buck a wing (8), they sure are charging that way! Heck, this ain't even the napalm like wings from BBQ Chicken. Compared to those two....this would be, well, almost bland. The batter was also a bit less crunchy than I would have desired. It seemed dipped into sweet chili sauce with a bit too much sesame oil for my taste.
Overall, my impression of fuze is a fairly positive one. I didn't expect haute, or even great food, but a couple of the items were fairly good.
The kalbi may be beat suited for tacos because it is on the tougher side, though I may want to just have the bulgogi straight up. The young men were quite nice.....but of course my meals were during slow periods, but they seemed like pleasant guys.
So fusion or confusion? One thing I'm pretty sure of, the person heading up the kitchen can cook, though I'm thinking some of the dishes were kind of "just thought up". The price point for lunch may be high, but if you're having drinks and pub grub this might do the trick.
fuze restaurant and lounge 9379 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126