A couple of weeks back, I ran into an acquaintance, it was nice catching up a bit, and of course the conversation eventually turned to food. He told me about his new favorite Chinese spot named Ma Noodles House. Now for some reason I had a slight malfunction, maybe flashing back to Mama's Lu, so I asked him what regional style of Chinese food this place made? And got the weirdest look.....mainly because he wouldn't know a "Baozi from Bao Bao".
This place did indeed make regional Chinese food, from that province 6600 or so miles east of Shanghai, "Ab-cee-dee". Yep, I should have known, Ma's is an ABCDE ("American Born Chinese Dining Establishment"). And he was more of a quantity over quality kind of guy. But he did mention enjoying the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings here, which is a weakness of mine. So I decided to drop by and check them out.
Ma Noodles House is quite the hole-in-the-wall, quite tiny, and except for the kind of odd out of place swap meet "art" on the wall, could have easily been named something like "New Eastern Pearl Royal Golden Phoenix Panda Garden Restaurant".
The fryer and wok stoves on one side, a lowboy on the other with all the ingredients. For some reason, this place brought back memories of the "old" Noble Chef.
There's a prep area in the back, but this was a one man operation on my visit. The prices are very cheap; figures why "da guy" likes the place so much.
I went with the Pan Fried Crispy Noodle ($7.95) and an side of the Salted (Salt and Pepper) Chicken Wings ($3.50). I felt almost guilty paying so little. The gentleman working here was very nice, though they served me my food with a fork and spoon and had to go scrambling when I asked for chopsticks.
Since this was National City, I had visions of a nice Upside Down Pan Fried Noodle. But while the dish was humongous, it really didn't deliver.
The shrimp weren't bad, they dump them in the fryer briefly so it isn't over-cooked. The chicken, as is the norm with these type of places is quite dry. The "crispy noodles" were more crumbly, powdery, with a rather strong floury flavor. And let's not leave out the bland, gloppy, brown sauce.
For those who prefer large chicken wings; rejoice. I'm more about smaller wings with a great skin to meat ratio. These were pretty large wings; but the batter wasn't very good.
Thick, hard, and crumbly, it just isn't my thing. The flavor was too mild for this sort of chicken wing as well......on the bland side.
Man, I barely made a dent in those noodles. All of this for under $12. Still, I'm more of a quality over quantity kind of guy. So, in spite of the nice service and the cheap prices, this was going to be a one and done. Until one of the guys bought me lunch.....guess from where? You got it...... I got this; the Yang Chow Fried Rice ($7.95). Good god; this was basically three meals for me!
Again, the shrimp were nice, the chicken dry, and portion size huge. Unevenly cooked; the color wasn't uniform, there was no wok-hey, thank god for soy sauce.
And before folks start sending me angry emails again, we do enjoy certain ABCDE/Chinoy dishes, but it has to be done well. Though the prices are good here, there are places that just do it better. I hope they do well though.......this place would keep all those starving students out there well fed.
Ma Noodles House 3108 E Plaza Blvd National City, CA 91950
I was quite surprised since I had just been there a few weeks before. I thought why not have some Mandu Guk, since in my opinion, that was the best item I'd had at Myung In. Strangely, it wasn't on the menu. Neither was any kind of mandu or dumplings! What the heck? ?I even asked and was told they are not currently making those dishes, but perhaps in the future?
Anyway, it's either a stir-fry, fried rice, or seafood soup.......
I went with the japchae, which was fairly reasonable at $7.99 and strangely, at least for me, came with rice.
In terms of being straight-up food court food, it registered as decent. The soup was insipid and the baechu kimchi and takuan were obviously bought form the market. The rice was on the dry side. The japchae itself was okay, the chicken was dry and chewy, though the dish as a whole had a decent soy-sesame oil flavor. I really didn't appreciate all the inedible dried chilies on the dish, though.
Myung In Dumplings (in the Zion Market Food Court) 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
A couple of weeks after returning from Seoul, I was wondering how Gala Chicken was doing. I decided to drop by and grab some chicken. I got the extra crispy, which is still priced at $7.99.
I was glad to see that unlike my previous two visits, that chicken hadn't been cut into during the cooking process. It did taste a bit off, sort of in a rancid oil kind of way, though the chicken was very moist. This time around, the coating was more like my first visit, really crumbly, than crisp like my second visit.
I can see the potential here and the guy working here is very nice, but the place just can't seem to get all the planets lined up. Though I don't get the grumbling from some folks I know about having to wait 15-20 minutes for the chicken. Hey, at least they are making it fresh and to order......
Gala Chicken 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd (Inside of Zion Market) San Diego, CA 92111
I'd had K Cuisine on my list for a while, even when the place was "Gorilla Korean Fusion Restaurant".....really. The last time I was here, the place was still Korean Hometown Restaurant ages ago. So when an acquaintance said that the place made some really good mandu, spicy chicken wings, and haemul pajun, I had to check them out.
I'd just returned from Seoul and wanted some straightforward Korean food. So I decided to give K Cuisine a try. The shop was pretty quiet on both my visits, spaced about 5 months apart. The place has a mom-and-pop feel, real down home, unpretentious with the smell of sesame oil permeating the air.....
You do need at least a beer (perhaps more) with food like this, and I'm not a big makgeolli fan, so I had a Hite. Strange, but it tastes much more dry and bitter here in the states than Korea.
I'd ordered quite a bit of food, beyond appetizers, so I got some panchan.
Nothing amazing, and yes, those are pickled forcemeat sausage, much like hot dogs. While I'm a big fan of pickled sausages like utopenci, this was way too salty. The baechu kimchi was taken out of a plastic container....like you'd get at Zion or H Mart, but actually wasn't bad. So perhaps they do what we do......I let the kimchi ferment in a cool hallway for about a week after buying it.
The Fried Mandu ($6.99) wasn't bad.
Light and crisp, the wrappers weren't overly gummy like other versions. The filling was rather mild in flavor, but I thought this was a decent version.
I wanted something hearty so I went with the Gopchang Bokkeum ($16.99).
Basically a stir-fried small intestine dish, with perilla leaf, onions, and other veggies. This was surprisingly tame in flavor, at least it wasn't salty, nor was it very spicy. The intestine could have been cleaned better as it had a good bit of musty, dank flavored, "grey matter" in it. Quite a strong offal flavor. It actually smelled even stronger the next day when I took it out of the fridge.
I fully intended to return to K Cuisine, but somehow the place just slipped my mind. Five months later, I returned. I decided to order the other two items recommended to me, starting with the Haemul Pajun - the Seafood Pancake ($7.99).
In terms of texture, this was the best version I've had in a while; light and crisp. It was a bit short in the seafood department and perhaps in flavor, but the salty, soy-sesame oil-onion-scallion dipping sauce handled that. Not bad, I'd have this again.
I also went with the Spicy Fried Chicken Wings ($9.99).
After having versions of this in Seoul, I should have known that it would be more sweet and sticky than spicy. I really needed that pickled radish to revive my tastebuds. The batter was on the thicker side, but decently crisp, the chicken seems to have been fried a bit too long as the meat was dry. This was just too sweet. I think I'll need to return and try just the plain fried chicken wings one day.
So there you go. Two visits over 5 months....I took long enough. Nice folks working here. Things tend to take a bit of time, which I find rather nice in these type of places. it ain't fast food. K Cuisine is only open during dinner to the wee hours of the morning (I think like 1-2 am). So next time you want some makgeolli, or perhaps a Hite and a bite to eat, you might want to check this place out. I'll probably return to try the straight up fried chicken wings and maybe even some kimchi jigae sometime during the winter.
This place sure took its time opening. I first noticed the place back in September of last year. Since the build out was taking so long, I got into the routine of passing the place without taking notice. Unttil one afternoon, seemingly overnight, the Grand opening sign was up.
I guess orange and green is replacing wood paneling as a design preference? I do like the old style Vietnamese black and white photos on the wall though.
The menu was quite interesting. True to the name, Char House was serving up grilled items, and there were items like Banh Khot of the menu as well.
I was curious about the Fish Sauce Chicken Wings ($6.95), so I started with that.
Man, those were some pretty hefty wings. Personally, I'm more about smaller wings with a nice skin to meat ratio, but these were quite moist, and the glaze wasn't too sweet or salty. This was obviously deep fried, then sautéed, a bit too long in my opinion, which caused two of the drumettes to burn, thus making it a bit bitter....another product of taking a bit too long was that the crispness of the wings suffered a bit as well. Not bad though....I should get around to trying the butter wings in the future.
I saw Pho Filet on the menu, but went with the Dac Biet, not cheap at $8.25 for a small....we're starting to head into ramen pricing here.
The bowl was quite fragrant and the flavor of the broth was very, very, familiar. There was some nice anise, with a sweet edge to it, so I had to ask.....yep, same owners as Pho Fifth Avenue. This was actually the best pho broth I've had in Kearny Mesa in ages! Perhaps a bit too defatted; but very clear, bright flavors, and not too much MSG.
As you can see; like Pho Fifth Avenue, things were kind of light in the Sprouts and Basil area......I will say, because of the flavor of the broth, I didn't need to add any lime.
The proteins were really good; even the rare steak, while a bit overdone by the time the bowl reached the tableswas still fairly tender. The tripe was clean tasting and crunchy, the tendon adequate....nice beefy flavors from the flank and brisket as well.
There was one rather humorous instance. My bowl arrived with a regular metal spoon! I thought this was kind of odd......the thing is, it's just not the right tool for the job. So I walked on up to the counter and asked for a soup spoon. Grand opening hiccups and all that, right?
One other thing....I went to pick-up some noodles, which were in the typical clump at the bottom of the bowl and the entire bunch of noodles, in the shape of the bottom of the bowl arose! The noodles were well prepared, but it seems to have been sitting around in that bowl for a while because it wasn't very hot.
A few days later, I took two of my crew, Calvin and JohnF to lunch and thought it would be nice to try Char House again.
On my previous visit, I saw the grill set-up, so we decided to order some skewers. The nice gentleman, who I believe kind of manages the place told us that some of the items weren't quite ready for prime time. He told us since they didn't quite have what we wanted; he'd give us three filet mignon, three octopus, and four shrimp for $8! How could we say no?
The filet was tender and reminded me of Bo Luc Lac, though it was very mild in flavor. It came with a nice salty-sweet-savory dipping sauce that was a good accompaniment.
For JohnF, it didn't get much better than the grilled shrimp. It was prepped simply, but was very tasty, moist, head-sucking goodness. Very pure shrimp flavor.
Both Calvin and I enjoyed the Octopus; which were baby octopus a lot more.
Nicely grilled, great flavor, especially if you like baby octopus, toothsome without being tough. Make no mistake about it; this ain't refined and grilled over bincho like Taisho, but it's simple and good, street-side fare.
We also decided to try the Banh Xeo ($8.25).
More hard and lacquer than light and crisp, this could have used a bit more color. Not enough pork and shrimp and the bean sprouts were still slightly cold as well. Not even close to the version at Pho Ban Mai that we enjoy, though I've heard things have changed there recently. We did like the Nouc Mam Cham as it wasn't too watered down and not overly sweet.
There is the option to create your own bowl of pho here ($7.25), where you can add three proteins; so I chose Brisket, Flank, and Tendon.
This being the sister restaurant to Pho Fifth Avenue, I decided to add a plate of the filet ($5) as well. The broth was even better this time around, still quite sweet, but a bit more beefy. More sprouts and basil and the noodles, while still in a clump wasn't sticking all together.
The one nitpicky thing I experienced on this visit was that the temperature wasn't hot enough as it took quite a while to lightly "cook" the filet...which caused some scum and cloudied up my broth. Still, the beef was very tender.
I noticed something quite interesting....most of the customers were older Vietnamese folks. I guess they were trying out the new place in the 'hood. Also, we recognized the guy working the grill as formerly working at Pho T Cali. And no "pho-pas" with the spoons this time either.
The Boys enjoyed Char House so much that the both took their wives here that same weekend!
Meanwhile, I returned for lunch during the week to try the Cơm 7 Món ($12.95). My favorite part of the whole meal was the broth, which was quite flavorful.
The rice was really good, nice and fragrant, the shrimp plump and tasty, the "cha" (Steamed egg "meatloaf") moist, but quite mild in flavor, lacking the "porkiness" I enjoy. There wasn't much grilled pork or grilled chicken which were fine but nothing special, the "bi" (shredded pork skin") was under represented and bland as well, not enough rice powder and a bit dry. Was not a big fan off the shrimp paste in egg roll wrapper; I prefer the versions that use bean curd skin.
I can't really give this my seal of approval....it's kind of on the fence.
On my last two visits, I'd noticed a lot of folks getting the Banh Khot. I wasn't sure if I should check out the Banh Khot ($7.25), but what the heck. Plus the folks here are so darned nice. I decided to hedge my bets with a bowl of the Pho Filet (small - $8.95).
This really wasn't ready for prime time. And while the shrimp were really delicious, the "mini pancake cups" weren't crisp enough and the centers still doughy and gummy. I prefer versions that are more like what you get at Brodard:
Also, I think they need a bit more perilla and mint as well. The nuoc mam cham is pretty good. Nice try, but no cigar....yet it was still better than the last version of the dish I had in San Diego, which was terrifyingly bad.
The Pho Filet however, was quite good.
The broth had a bit more fat this time around; was less sweet, more anise and beef flavor. And most of all, perfectly hot.....you want just enough of a boil as to not agitate the broth making it cloudy. It got the tender beef to the desired doneness in perfect time.
So after almost 1480 words, it comes down to a simple, "I'm glad to finally have some decent pho in Kearny Mesa".
It's been really nice to see a lot of older folks checking this place out. I'm sure they're going through some growing pains here, but hope they keep getting better. I have a feeling the broth might be a tad too sweet for some. Really nice people working here, friendly and accommodating. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Char House Saigon Grill & Pho 7765 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
It's almost spring, so time to start clearing out that memory card. Here's threesome from several months back. As with these posts, it mostly photos.
For some reason the Missus actually wanted to go on my typical Saturday "rounds" on this morning....I think it was because She was hungry. We had eaten at Zen Peninsula the week before and I guess She was wondering how a place like China Max would line up.
Short answer? It doesn't.......
Chicken feet looked good, very tender, but lacking in flavor.
The sauce/soup for the tripe was good, but it hadn't imparted flavor to the tripe.
The wrappers for the shrimp and spinach dumplings were too thick and this really lacked flavor.
Even my old standby here, the pan fried shrimp and chive dumplings weren't spared. Greasy and portions of the wrappers were splitting and burnt, making this bitter.
We've always thought that the gailan at China Max was done pretty well....this time it was over cooked.
I admit that it's pretty slim pickins' with regards to Dim Sum in SD......
The Smoked Wings is one of the two items the Missus comes for; they can sometimes be too salty, or not fried right, but on this visit, things were right.
For some reason the Missus likes the Rib Tips here......I'm not a fan of the sauces at Iron Pig, so we get them without sauce. Now a good rib tip...crunchy cartilage, fatty tissue, man, it can be a thing of beauty. This was very close; it had been smoked perfectly, was moist and tender. The only (big) minus? It needed a more aggressive rub. This was nicely porky, but lacked seasoning.
Nice smoke ring though.......
Iron Pig Alehouse 1520 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109
Yes, time hasn't been very kind to the place; the lamination on the menus are peeling off and the tables have attained a robust amount of stickiness, but I still drop by every so often, mainly for breakfast, to see what's going on. A simple bowl of Wonton and Dumpling Egg Noodle soup for me on this day. It's gone up 50 cents since my visit last year.
For some reason the charsiu really struck me as not being as good as in the past.....not sure why that's what stuck in my head.......
Tan Ky Mi Gia 5237 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
While having our drinks at Albie's, it became quite clear that there was no way we'd be getting a table. But we did need to get something to eat. I recalled that the High Dive, always a favorite for beer, never for food, had a new chef, and had elevated their menu a bit. I say a bit because this is my 'hood, be it ever so humble, Bay Park, and tastes around here run rather pedestrian. Still, why not give the High Dive another try?
The menu did indeed have some different things and Candice and I tried a few. Starting with the Chicken Chiccharon ($7).
This was crisp and light, though some pieces were over-seasoned and salty, overall a nice starter.
The item I enjoyed the most were the Chorizo Croquettes; called "Chorizo Potato Ballz" on the menu ($8) - I wonder why they just don't call them croquettes? Are they afraid folks won't know what they are?
Light and crisp breading, creamy and light filling, this was pretty good. The chorizo had a nice smokiness and almost came across with a nice almost beefy flavor. It wasn't too rich, nor was it over-seasoned. Now, if only they'd "86" the runny ranch dressing and replace it with maybe a garlic aioli?
The Naked Spicy Garlic Wings ($10) looked the part, but didn't deliver.
Other than the flavor of bitter garlic; this was very, very bland....as in we had to ask for a bottle of hot sauce to actually eat these. Also, the skin was slightly more gummy than I'd like and it didn't have any spice at all.
The Smoked Pork Tacos ($9) also fell short.
The tortillas, while generic were prepped well, the toppings, the pickled onions, cilantro, cotija cheese were spot on. The pork however, was too dry and had a texture of cardboard, to the point that I really couldn't tell the difference in texture between the pork and tortilla. It was also a bit low in the flavor department; much too mild (I even tasted just the meat), overshadowed by all the other flavors.
So it was pretty much a 50-50 thing. And yet, I felt quite happy with what I had. The High Dive seems to be making strides and with some additional menu upgrades I heard about, may one day really be a place for more than just having a beer and hitting the road for us.
And heck, deciding that I needed to do something different as well, I asked the bartender, who happened to be Mixologist Ryan Andrews to make me a cocktail. He brought me something called the "Mariner's Revenge".....man, it was great! Great guy....great drink!
Hope springs eternal.....
High Dive Bar and Grill 1801 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Baguette Bros soft opened to a bit of hype a couple of weeks ago. Since it was fairly close to work, I managed to visit a couple of times.
Located in the same strip mall as China Max, Xi'an Kitchen, et al, the menu features twists on Banh Mi, chickens wings, versions VN coffee and drinks, and some Craft Beer (too IPA heavy - not my favorite match for Banh Mi). For some reason this seems to be a Food Truck menu in a brick and mortar shop......after all the NRA (no, not that NRA - the National Restaurant Association) says that the latest trend is from Food Truck to Brick and Mortar.
I like the nice, wide open set-up, very much the norm in places that want to attract the demographic that would want "Fusion Vietnamese Sandwiches"
I decided to go straight for the coronary artery and went with the Belly Flop ($8). The sandwich took a while, which didn't bother me. First this is the soft opening period and systems are still being put in place. Second, it means that my sandwich is being prepped fresh.
As the name indicates, this is a pork belly based Banh Mi. First off, the bread is standard issue. Probably from Le Chef. Because of how "stuffed" the sandwich is, it didn't hold up too on the short 10 minute trip back to the office, the bread had gotten gummy and for some reason, even though it was toasted, wasn't crusty enough.
The amount of pork belly was quite generous and along with the "sweet chili sauce", which seemed like a hoisin based sauce seemed the biggest deviation on what you'd consider something other than a super-stuffed banh mi. The classic cucumber, pickled veggies, and cilantro were nicely done. I loved the jalapenos which helped to cut the sweetness of the sauce.
One complaint would be the belly skin, which, if not fried properly is like eating plastic.....a rather unpleasant surprise.
Things come bundled with Shrimp Chips.
I thought my sandwich was pretty good so a couple of days later I returned with Calvin. I just can't put away food like I used to so having Calvin along would mean we could try a variety of items. Plus, MrC, who is originally from the SGV, his wife from Little Saigon, has had his share of Banh Mi.
My favorite sandwich of the three I had was the "Broguette" ($6). Loved the pate in this, wish they had put jalapenos on it and gone a bit easier on the Maggi, or whatever sauce they used as it was on the salty side. The head cheese was really mild but added texture, as did the Cha Lua, and the bread did well minus the travel time to my desk. As a whole, this was pretty much all about the pate.
We also ordered the "Grasshogger" ($6) - basically a Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi.
Calvin and I had the same reaction upon taking a bite of this; "whoa....too much salt...too much lemongrass". It needed something to balance out the flavors. The pork was actually fairly moist.
There was one other item I wanted to try. The Fish Sauce Chicken Wings.
Calvin liked the rather large sized wings, whereas I'm more about skin to meat ratio. We both agreed that the wings were fried perfectly, but that there was too much fish sauce in this...again, making it a bit too salty. The garlic was good, not too bitter, but this had me missing Que Huong.
I was rather pleased with what BB offered (i.e. the menu), though the execution and flavors were not quite there. I am looking forward to visiting again after the Grand Opening period. Nice folks, service a bit slow, but that's to be expected as they get their systems down.
After having the hottest October on record, we've kind of settled into milder weather. Which means pho and ramen can be shoe horned back into lunch.
** Note: Pho Paradise has closed
When Pho Paradise first opened, I thought it had some potential, even thinking that we'd finally get some decent Pho on Convoy. Even though my follow-up visit wasn't quite as good, I still believed they might have been the best pho in the area. So now, over six months later, I was wondering how things would be.
I started with the chicken wings, which looked very pale.
This wasn't too bad, the wings were fairly light and crisp, though sogginess set in rather quickly. A bit too much MSG for my taste, with that strange very salty edging on sweet taste and tongue sensation.
The pho was a disappointing.
This reminded me of the stuff Pho T Cali puts out. Barely any flavors other than being very salty with a very mild hint in the background. It was much too low in fat, the noodles, of which there was a healthy amount of, were over cooked, the proteins had no flavor and the tendon was too hard.
Well, at least the basil and bean sprouts were fresh, right?
In case you have doubts. Here's a bowl from Pho Paradise back in February.
Pho Paradise 3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori:
I needed a break from the office one Friday and ran over to Yakyudori for an early lunch before the place got too crowded and the Servers too surly. It had been a while since I'd had lunch here and I went with the Friday combo. Chashu Gohan with a Shoyu Ramen.
The pork and rice came in a medium sized miso soup bowl....lots of rice in this though the chashu was good in comparison to what I'd had recently at Okan during lunch. It was tender, had some flavor, and was lukewarm rather than cold. The corn and bean sprouts added texture....but this was mostly a whole lot of rice.
I hadn't had lunch here in a while so I was surprised at the size of the "mini-ramen"....it was more mini that I recalled.
Not that I needed more carbs, but there were maybe three bites of noodles and I really wanted more soup. Overall, this was a decent bowl, just edging on too salty, but quite satisfying and the noodles were prepped well. I should have just gotten the ramen instead of the lunch special.
Since I did it with Pho Paradise, it's only right I do this here too. Here's what the mini ramen used to look like.
No wonder they give you so much rice now. They need to fill you up somehow.
At least they were a bit nicer here than on my previous visits.
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori 4898 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
The funniest little discussion I had about this place was with a Midwesterner, who thought Quality Taste Pot, was well, something totally different. No, not quite, though good hot pot can be addictive.
It took a while for me to talk the Missus into coming here. She's been down on the Chinese food in San Diego for a while. Plus, the weather has to cooperate. We're not "hot pot is a way of life" kinda folks and have to be in the mood for it.
But since the place has the blessing of both Kirbie who has made multiple visits and Faye we had to get here eventually, right?
This shop was home to several iterations of China Chef, which, in spite of having a menu that was all over the place did have some decent dishes. I guess Hot Pot is the way to go these days.
The interior has been redone; understated, clean, and bright. I recognized the woman here as a former long time employee at Little Sheep. She was one of the really nice women who worked there.
Of course we came for the hot pot......but Kirbie raved about the Salt and Pepper Chickens Wings. And you know me and chicken wings, so......
The texture of these were outstanding, light, crisp, and very moist. A little short in the flavor the two times I had these, but quite good. One key point; eat them right away, don't get them to go. These get soggy and take on a greasy texture fairly quickly. Very nice.
DO NOT get the Yang Rou Chuan. In fact, I'm not sure why I ordered it.
Tough, dry, and short on flavor. 'Nuff said. We were really here for the hot pot, right?
We got the Special Tasty Pot - $14.95 for dinner. The Missus got into "Chinese" mode and quickly complained about the portion size....which ended up being enough for the two of us with the Chicken Wings.
I quickly mentioned that one of biggest complaints about the state of Chinese food in San Diego is the emphasis of huge quantities over quality, so we needed to give this place a chance. As you can see, this is not yuan yang guo, but a straightforward broth; decently flavored, quite low on scum. The proteins were passable, though only three slices of pretty good intestine and three slices of beef which for some reason dries out quite quickly. The dipping sauces were also passable, but not outstanding, the sa cha sauce was my favorite. The Missus hates fishballs, which were fishballs. She quickly got the half boiled egg, which She said was Her favorite. Too much udon noodle overall.
Overall not bad. The broth was probably the best thing about the hot pot.
So, I decided to return with YZ and Lily for lunch where the hot pot is $4 cheaper. YZ just loved the chicken wings and we thought the Special Tasty Pot was....well, they had the same opinion as I did.
We also tried the Lamb with Pickled Vegetable.
This was quite good; except for the shellfish which were past their prime. The lamb was nice and gamey, which I love. The suan cai was kind of weak, though perhaps I'm kind of picky since we make this at home; about 7 batches a year. This suan cai didn't quite have the nice, deep fermented flavor of good suan cai. Still, this was decent, and we'd probably return when the weather gets a bit chilly....though I do prefer mala yang yuan guo.
Service was decent, not overly friendly, not terrible. Perhaps worth a try.....
QT (Quality Taste) Pot 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Then other news came trickling in....the kitchen was going to be run by the original chef of Common Theory. 'Nuff said. So I held off on coming for a bit, but finally decided to give it a go a couple of weeks back.
It was a Sunday and the bar was full and the really nice patio area was half full....and there was one poor guy running the bar and the dining area, a really nice guy named Danny.....I felt for him.
The beer selection was a bit limited, but had 2-3 items I was ok with. I went with a Port Brewing Shark Attack Red Ale, then turned it down when my food arrived.
The menu seemed a bit pricey, but it's hard to make that determination when you haven't tried anything, so I went full steam ahead. And of course, being from Hawaii, I love my poke, so I thought it would be a good place to start ($9.50). I think for most, this would be ok. Me, well, I'm not a big fan of saku fish....that boned, skinned, pre-cut, vacuum packed, and frozen stuff has a texture I don't enjoy.
I would have appreciated a bit more shoyu and less sesame oil. And I thought the "wasabi pesto" needed more wasabi.
I went with the Garlic Parmesan Wings, which was basically simply fried wings with a dollop of a garlic-cheese paste on them.
Man, that was a not so great first visit. Still, I decided to visit again. This time I saw the sign for $1 off draft beer during "Happy Hour" - 4-6pm. It's nothing like, say, Iron Pig's half price happy hour. It was also kind of a bummer when I was told that Sculpin and the Shark Attack Red were excluded from happy hour pricing.....it's only a dollar, but really......
This time around I asked for a recommendation with regards to one of my dishes. Queried about my tolerance for "heat", the Habanero Calamari ($8.50) was recommended.
And this was probably the best item I had at Coastal Crave; tender, nice spice, cooled by a decent aioli. It was on the greasy side....but this is pub grub, right?
I also decided to try the Bone Marrow ($15).
This seemed a bit over-priced and the marrow looked really black. It wasn't too bad, but in spite of the color, there were quite a bit of red, under done parts. This actually made the Wagyu Bone Marrow at Copper Onion seem amazing.
Pretty uneven, almost like the place is over-reaching a bit. I'm glad that it seems the neighborhood folks are coming out and supporting the place, but I wish the food was a bit better and the beer selection more interesting....though I saw most people drinking Bud Light, Corona, and Shock Top......
As you can tell. I was ready to call it quits....but for some reason, I decided on one more try. I saw a nice looking sandwich go out on my previous visit, so I thought I'd order it; the Duck Melt ($13).
I really enjoyed the melted Havarti cheese, slightly milky, creamy, it really added to the sandwich. I thought the duck confit needed a bit more flavor, and the whole thing was super rich. I wish the pickles were a bit more assertive; it would have been just enough acid to cut the richness. The habanero aioli actually detracted from the overall flavor and seemed out of place. Also, the bread had been griddled a bit too long and some of the areas were bitter. The fries were nice and for some reason....maybe the acid component, the ketchup tasted really good.
The folks here seem very nice, though the service can be a bit slow.
I'm glad that places like this are opening in the neighborhood. Like I said about Luce's, I'm not the kind of guy who is just "happy to have xxxx in the neighborhood". And while the menu seems "interesting" (extra " " on this) with stuff like "Gator Cakes" on it. I'm just going to have a burger next time. I'll probably be better off. I hope.....
Coastal Crave 3065 Clairemont Dr San Diego, CA 92117