We here at mmm-yoso!!! are all enjoying this remarkably beautiful weekend. Kirk is relaxing after a solid week of craziness, Ed (from Yuma) is enjoying all that Yuma has to offer and Cathy is writing this short post, so that you have something different and perhaps interesting to read when you stop by to visit.
Apparently, there are a couple of all you can eat Korean BBQ places around San Diego County named "Manna". That's not what this post is about. The Chula Vista Manna Restaurant is not only a place to get a great breakfast, but also a place to get Chinese fast food, burgers and sandwiches.
About the third paragraph on my Vanessa's Deli post, I mentioned that we went to Vanessa's the first time because there was a line of people waiting to get into Manna. Both of those restaurants in this small strip mall, anchored by a Liquor Store and Laundromat (with a gas station in the middle of the parking lot) are constantly busy.Possibly because of the prices, but also because of the unique food selection and proximity to the above mentioned Laundromat.The owner, an older Chinese gentleman, supervises in the kitchen but comes out in front greeting people regularly throughout each hour; you'll see him at least once on each visit. He is very nice.
Booths and tables, two televisions, part of the menu photographed and displayed behind the cash register (those three photos of teriyaki plates at the bottom right side are *not* the same), this local owned diner type restaurant has been in operation at this location since 2009. On weekends, only breakfast is served.After much trial and error, we have found the chicken fried steak ($8.99) with eggs, toast and home fries is our breakfast preference. The crispy coating is just right and stands up to the home made peppery sausage gravy.The pancakes here are made from their own mix of ingredients and are fluffy, a bit crispy on the edges and always so good. Above, the special on the window not photographed ($3.99) of two pancakes, two eggs and two sausage. Just right flavors, really nice sausage and more than enough food for a breakfast.
Here is the menu, just click to enlarge. The Chinese Fast Food Menu is the third one above.
There is a 'Combo A' ($4.99) and a 'Combo B' ($5.99) on the menu. Each has fried rice, chowmein and a choice of two items (of 13 choices). The 'Combo B' includes two (vegetable) egg rolls. Above, the two items chosen are the garlic chicken wings and Kung Pao Chicken. Amazingly good. Not salty, fried correctly, sauces made here and not from a bottle or a can.This is the teriyaki chicken plate ($6.99). The teriyaki sauce is not sweet, salty or sticky. It's really quite good. You can see the portion size is excellent. From the 'American' part of the menu. The bacon cheeseburger ($5.99) ($6.99 with fries or slaw) is pretty standard. The toasted bun and thick bacon are nice and the burger is flavorful. It's a good choice for someone who is not adventurous.The Top Sirloin plate ($9.99) is also pretty standard; I have come to prefer the chicken fried steak over this. The hash browns are a crispy excellence though and I must say the eggs are always perfectly prepared.
All in all, a nice, local choice. I was happy to have told cc and her family about this West Chula Vista gem that I'd been keeping my little secret. They've been here, twice now.
Manna Restaurant 600 F Street (at Broadway), Suite C Chula Vista 91910 (619) 425-9270 Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
I'd been wondering what was going with Dumpling Hut since they opened in June. During those visits, the quality control seemed lacking as was the service which was totally out of synch....all the "little things" seemed to have been missed. And while the folks here seemed really nice, they looked like they were totally out of their depth. I did make myself a promise to return to try the lamb jiaozi....so sooner was better than later, right?
Wow, this was really strange......while the place was quite busy during my previous visits; this time around the place was totally empty....during my entire meal! The state of Chinese cuisine in San Diego is quite interesting.....the old guard are loyal to the places that have been around a long time, even though the product is mediocre....but they have a problem with change. Other folks don't mind mediocre technique and products, so long the portion size is large. But it seems that everyone draws the line, and rightly so, at waiting 40 minutes plus for jiaozi, wrong orders, having to hunt down your own utensils and napkins (which I had to do on this visit though I was the only customer - my napkins were soiled by vinegar), and other problems, which is what I saw and experienced on my previous visits....though perhaps this visit was an exception and they do a booming business on other days (this was a Thursday 1115 am).
Anyway, my lamb jiaozi. As before, the jiaozi wrappers were decent.....
The attitudes, like before was very cordial and nice....though the execution of small things...like having napkins was lacking. It seems like there are no systems in place here. Too bad....... I'd hoped that they'd improve.
Dumpling Hut 8046 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
I should really know better....after all of my visits over the years. I won't bother you with too many details, but will leave you with a simple rule....
Kwai Fei Chicken makes for a nice lunch.
Adding Macao Roast Pork shows lack of self control.......
And can lead to meat sweats and problems staying awake for afternoon meetings......
Bad move on my part....
Golden City Restaurant 5375 Kearny Villa Rd. San Diego, CA 92123
I was taking a weekend morning drive along ECB, checking things out when I noticed that Nhat Vy was gone and replaced with "Asian Noodle House"....talk about a generic name......
It was just past 8am and I was contemplating checking the place out when the car in front of the shop left....giving me a perfect parking spot. This must have been some kind of "sign" right? So I pulled a U-turn and parked.
The place looks totally Spartan and generic....
The older gentleman working here was very friendly. I was handed the menu and had that "deja vu" feeling. I knew I'd seen this menu somewhere before....... Yeah, strange, kind of weird. And then it came to me; it looked just like the menu from the now defunct Hao Vi. So of course the first thing I did when I got home take a look at my Hao Vi post. Take a look and tell me what you think.
If I had any doubt in my mind; that was erased when the Hu Tieu Nam Vang ("kho" - dry - $6.50) arrived.....
It was the soup that sold me...instead of a leg bone, it was a couple of ribs. The soup was just like Hao Vi's porky, with a slight sweetness from the MSG.
The Hu Tieu was a bit overcooked and mushy, though it was nicely seasoned....the rest was routine, shrimp tough, ditto the pork, though that chicken was nice. The portion size a on the smaller size, but perfect for breakfast. I think the version at Ly Heng while being on the salty side is better and cheaper.
I did decide to return the next morning since the Missus was sleeping. This time I got the Beef Sate Egg Noodle "dry" ($6.50).
Again the noodles were on the overcooked side. This was pretty spicy though. The sate sauce was quite strong, it obviously wasn't diluted down, but it had a powdery texture to it. The beef was nice and tender. It was fine, but it won't make me forget the version at Minh Ky.
In regards to Hao Vi; the nice woman working here seemed not to understand when I asked. That's ok, I'll find out one of these days. Really nice folks here..... I'll drop by again in a couple of months. I like that they open at 8am; it does give me another option for breakfast in the area.
Asian Noodle House 4595 El Cajon Boulevard San Diego, CA 92115
I won't deny being pretty excited when I found out that a restaurant named Tasty Noodle House was taking the place of Yu's Garden. Could it be? THE Tasty Noodle House, home of my favorite Tianjin Baozi! I drove past on Monday and saw the Grand Opening sign was up, but the place wasn't open.
As luck would have it, the next day Lily, whom I hadn't seen in a while asked me if I had some time for lunch. So I mentioned checking this place out to see if they had opened yet.....it would be great to have someone fluent in Mandarin. Lucky us, they were open...their first day of business as a matter of fact. After this....my luck basically ran out.
Turns out that this isn't "that" Tasty Noodle House. Instead the menu here was basically Shanghai style dishes with a strange smattering of Sichuan. Well, in truth we could use a good Su Cai or Shanghai style place and the tea was nice....loose leaf, served in a coffee press.
I saw a favorite dish of mine; Wined (aka Drunken) Chicken on the menu. Unfortunately, the dish wasn't available. Since we still weren't quite sure what the exact compass of the cuisine here was, we went with the pig ear and tripe "ma-la" (numbing hot).
This was nice and crisp, a bit too much sesame oil, but ok. This wasn't what I would consider Sichuan..... it was "ma" as in there was a slight tingle and very little "la" (spicy). This kind of reminded me of how (Beijing) Spicy (less) City was when we moved to San Diego in 2001.....a regional (non-Sichuan) representation of Sichuan food.
Of course we had to try the Pork Xiao Long Bao.
I can forgive the two XLB leaking malfunctions - you can see on the paper liner the "leakers", after all this was opening day. The wrapper was on the thick side, which would be ok if they had enough of a "pull", but these were too hard. There was not enough soup, though I thought the flavor was pretty much by the book for XLB. Not too sweet and the filling was tender enough.
The pork in the Hong Shao Rou (red braised pork - $10.99) was a bit under cooked, though I do love my bean curd skin.
And as you can tell by the lack of the red lacquer color, the flavor was a bit too mild for my taste. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't Hong Shao Rou as I like it.
Still, the folks here were very, very nice. As you can see, the portion sizes were good......though as is the norm with regards to Chinese food here in San Diego, it's more about quantity than quality.
I also did learn one thing, the XLB and Sheng Jian Bao take at least 20 minutes here.
Being that I wanted to try the place one more time before doing a post, I returned. As soon as I entered the door I ordered the SJB.
And the Drunken Chicken ($6.99) of course. This time they had it. The portion size was quite large and it was much more meat than bones.
The wine flavor was quite strong, which, while not everyone's cup of tea, I like. The chicken was meaty, though a tad over-cooked and while it was on the salty side I kind of liked it. For me, it was the best item I had here.
About a good 20 minutes later; out came the SJB.
Something must have gone awry during the cooking of these as the dough was gummy and rubbery. There was also too much oil brushed on these making adding a layer of greasiness. To add insult to injury, these were also somewhat burnt and the bottoms bitter. The filling was too mild in flavor as well. Look at the poor deflated looking baozi at the ends....
You know, for now, since they just opened, and the folks look like they're trying hard I'll give them a pass. I'll return in a couple of months and see how things are doing then.
Tasty Noodle House 4646 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Back on May 26th, 2005 mmm-yoso came into existence and China Max was our first post. It's strange reading those old posts. In the beginning, I tried what many are better at.....all the "butterflies and puppy dog tails" stuff. But after a couple of weeks I realized that I wasn't doing myself nor anyone who read these posts any good. It was started to be kind of an eating, cooking, and travel journal. Plus, I noticed that I was my worst enemy when not giving my honest opinion. It's made thing much easier over the years.
Another thing about that first post....Ed from Yuma was there to join me for the meal.
So it's only fitting that we all get together at China Max for this wonderful 3000th post. Ed form Yuma, Tina, Cathy, and the Mister were present. The Missus has been kind of down on CM over the last couple of years so She decided to work instead.
Anyway, I thought that since everyone had a seat at the table, each one should have say as well. So here goes.
As with that first visit, we had the Peking Duck. It seems that the duck was lacking the dark and lacquered color I was used to.
Ed from Yuma: I liked the duck very much - specifically the skin and duck on the pancakes. Sometimes the sauce was not evenly spread, but the skin as always was tasty.
Tina: I liked all the dishes but my favorite was the duck in the bun pancakes. I liked that it had the duck skin and a little bit of meat.
Cathy: I could eat the little duck skin in steamed pancake forever
The Mister: Liked the lettuce cups, with the duck, best. He said each flavor in the mix was distinct along with the still warm duck.
What's usually my favorite dish at CM; the Seafood Pan Fried Noodles....the flavor is mild, but the sauce/gravy usually has a wonderful texture and the flavor of each different type of seafood comes thru.
Ed from Yuma: I loved the mixed seafood on the panfried noodles; that has been one of my favorites over the years for lunch there.
We needed a veg dish so I went with the Egglpant with Pork. A rather routine send-up.
Ed from Yuma: The eggplant and pork dish was tasty, but the prep is fairly standard - it's something I can get even here in Yuma.
This being the mmm-yoso banquet we needed a centerpiece dish. I wanted the steamed spot prawns but they were out. So I went with the steamed sablefish (black cod), which was nicely steamed, great richness, a bit boney, but the flesh just melted in your mouth. Mild flavor, but just cooked perfectly.
Ed from Yuma: The sablefish was rich and delicate, but a bit bony.
Cathy: I really liked the sable fish; never had it prepared that way, it so nice...and the bones were almost edible-so soft.
The last time I had the Shing Do (sweet and pungent) Chicken was back in maybe 2003? So I decided to order it....when did China Max become Panda Express? It wasn't this bad back then.....
As I expected, from how much of this dish we had leftover......I got no comments from "Da Gang".... You can fill in the blanks.
It was a fantastic evening. I'm thinking we'll be doing this again soon.
Ed from Yuma: The conversation might have been even better than the food.
As it usually is when good friends get together! Thanks to all for being available for dinner, it's been too long.
China Max 4698 Convoy Street #C101 San Diego, CA 92111
Also, I think I'll be revisiting some of those places (that are still in operation) from the first couple of months over the next few weeks.
And thank you for joining us for this milestone post!
Anyway, I got my order to go after the usual perfunctory service from the two women who work there, in addition to the guy who's a jerk. Before he passed me my order he asked, "what did you order....huh...huh...huh...." Without giving me a chance to answer. Meanwhile, I had already paid for my order and had been standing there for 15 minutes. One of the women told him something along the lines of "I'd already paid"...but he dismissed her and proceeded to practice some kind of interrogation technique on me. Finally, having a chance to answer I went, "Sichuan liang mian, ko shui ji....." He was shocked that I could pronounce the items in Mandarin. I added on "da fei zhu" grabbed my packages and left.
Actually, the joke was on me as the Sichuan Liang Mian was terrible.
The noodles were fine, but the sauce was horrendous. It was basically thin, salty chili oil.....no depth of flavor. Missing were the components that make the dish for me; a dash of black vinegar, a slight sweetness, a touch of sesame paste, all the umami had been sucked out of the dish. The Missus was eating Her salad, but tried a bite and all She could say to me was, "oh, man, I'm so sorry....."
The Ko Shui Ji on the other hand wasn't bad. Quite spicy, with some of the "ma", the numbing flavor of Sichuan peppercorns.
The portion size was quite large, it was missing some of the complex flavors of aromatics, like ginger, garlic, scallion, and five spice. It also lacked the sugar - sesame paste - vinegar tones as well. Still, it was passable.
So a partial fail for the food, total fail for the service.......... Sadly, I don't think there's a fix to this craving in San Diego.....
Spicy City Chinese Restaurant 4690 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Don't want to bring too much attention to it....just in case you hadn't noticed. But man, it's still some kind of humid isn't it? On the good side. Well, I've been getting a nice amount of recommendations recently. Here are two of them.
あまりにも多くの誇大宣伝の家 aka RakiRaki:
That would be "Amarini mo ōku no kodai senden no ie". You can kind of figure out what I'm referring to based on my previousposts. It just seems at times that RR's biggest fan is themselves. On a good note, I think the product, while still far from great has been getting better over the last couple of years. And I received an email by "one who wants to remain anonymous" with two rec's. The first telling me that the Rikimaru Miso Tonkotsu Tsukemen was the way to go. So it's the way I went.
First, some housekeeping items...I ordered my noodles cold, but I guess the kitchen didn't get the memo and over-cooked them instead. Maybe to teach me a lesson for being a pain and ordering them cold? That egg was tragically over cooked, dry, and quite bland to boot.
I usually avoid miso based ramen broth because it's either much too salty, or all you end up tasting is the miso base. In this case it worked out quite well. Not too salty, faint miso flavor, the broth's almost citrus like "bite" tempered a bit. Decent amount of pork in the soup. This might be the way to go for me in the future...... In spite of the $13 price tag.
I heard through the grapevine that RR had purchased the lease to the A Cafe space, so it will be interesting to see what happens here.
RakiRaki Ramen and Tsukemen 4646 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Pho Ha Noi:
There was a second recommendation in the email. I was informed that the best item on the menu at Pho Ha Noi was not the Pho, but something called Spicy Beef Salad, which just sounded right on one sweaty day.
Pho might not be the way to go here; but it sure didn't seem that way since the other three folks in the place were all getting pho.
The young man serving me was very nice and friendly. He also asked me twice if I could eat "spicy" when I ordered the spicy beef salad.
This is an interesting riff utilizing the typical stir fry beef which has been flavored with soy and fish sauce; a little sweet of course, but a bit under flavored for me. It was adequately tender and there was a fairly generous portion of protein. The "salad" is basically cabbage (aka coleslaw) mix with some, a bit too little slices of herbs mixed in. The "spicy" wasn't very spicy at all, basically a watered down nuoc mam cham with chili paste mixed in.
As a pseudo fast food dish, this wasn't bad. And I got my veggies....... Still, I'm not sure I'd have this again.
Pho Ha Noi 6904 Miramar Rd San Diego, CA 92121
Our "FOY" (Friend of Yoso) really wanted my opinion on these two items. So there you go! Thanks so much for taking the time out to email me!
So there I was, Dumpling Hut had just opened and I walked in.
A few things became quickly apparent. First, these folks were very nice, unlike another recently opened shop who just seemed to want to do as little as possible for you, the folks here were just plain nice. Second, there's not much English here, something I kind of appreciate. Third, I don't think these folks have any restaurant experience at all. There were four tables of customers when I arrived and two parties came after me. I saw forgotten place settings, bowls, people seated with no menus for like 10 minutes, food sitting around....well when food did come out. My order actually took 40 minutes to arrive. Everyone, including the folks who came after me got served first.....I'm pretty sure the folks who came after me got my Guo Bu Li Baozi, you know, the stuffed buns that "even dogs would not eat". Something that was on that sign I saw back in May. I love all the styles of Tianjin Baozi....except this one particular model.
On the menu as Steamed Pork Buns ($4.99), these, like much of the menu is pretty well priced. I'm pretty sure there was something going on with the steam process on this day as the parts of the bun were hard, as was the filling; two of which had pieces of bone in them. The flavor was pretty bland as well.
I also ordered the Pork and Celery Dumplings ($6.99).
I could tell that this place has potential; the wrappers were nicely made, though on the thick side had that tender, yet mildly toothsome texture, that I love in jiaozi. However, were some problems; the filling was on the bland side, I know, jiaozi is fairly mild in flavor, but these are bland. The filling is too hard. I'm not expecting them to stir the filling with chopsticks for two hours like the Missus's Fifth Aunt did in Qingdao, but I expected better. Also, notice the scum on top of the jiaozi; one of the dumplings had a leak and the scum had coated some of the jiaozi. Poor quality control, as was the pool of water on the plate, these weren't drained well enough. Still, these were better than MyungIn which made them significantly better than Dumpling Inn.
As for the service glitches? Well, I gave them a pass. It was only their second day of business.
Still, some of my friends were excited; especially those who had gone to high school and college in China...there was Jianbing Guozi on the menu. And yet, those that I saw coming out didn't look inspiring. Which is why I discouraged Xiāngjiāo from ordering it when she, Candice, and myself had lunch here two days later. On my first visit; I had run into a good friend's dad. On this visit, I ran into Faye! You can read her post about Dumpling Hut here. Nice seeing you Faye, though I didn't recognize you at first!
Again with the glitches, not enough chopsticks, no napkins, where's our bowls, one menu for the whole table.
We started with the Northern version of Sheng Jian Bao (Pan Fried Bun - $5.99)
This does look like the Northern version of SJB, much like what my MIL makes. It does have a bit of "soup" in it, if a bit too tough, but the steaming wasn't up to par as the unfried part of the bao was not springy and soft as it should be.
The Liang Cai we ordered; PigEar (Seasoned Pork Ear - $6.99), was fine if nothing remarkable.
Even though I know the owners are from Northern China and not the Shanghai area, we still needed to order the Xiao Long Bao ($6.99).
Dough too thick and without enough pull. The filling had some soup, but was much too sweet. No shredded ginger.
Like before, the best part of the meal was the jiaozi, this time the Pork, Egg, and Shrimp ($7.99) version.
This was better than the last time in terms of being drained and such. I still think the flavoring is a bit too mild. I know, I'm kinda psycho about this, but I think regular readers understand why.
Meanwhile, things were falling apart. The place had filled up and it was chaos. Folks ended grabbing their own menus, plates, chopsticks.....a table kept looking for soy sauce and was so desperate that I gave them ours. And we were waiting for our Guotie (potstickers)....there were tables who came in after us getting guotie, so were those ours? The place was totally in the weeds; Xiāngjiāo wanted to go ahead and help them....there was a serious disconnect between the kitchen and the dining area, food was coming out and just sitting....no one seemed to have assignments. They guy who took our order suddenly disappeared. I later saw him helping in the kitchen, which didn't do us any good. Candice had to leave, so we sent her a photo of the guotie when it finally arrived.
Wrappers too thick, gummy, not crisp enough, filling too bland. Honestly, I'm not expecting Qingdao Guotie, but these weren't very good.
And this would usually be enough. But I mentioned Jianbing Guozi to YZ. Now, coming from the same generation as the Missus, though in a different city (Shanghai versus Beijing), like my wife, she has a special place in her heart from Jianbing. She just had to try it. So there I was, back at Dumpling Hut. Sadly, they were out of the Jianbing that YZ recalls, the version with youtiao, instead we settled for the more modern version we saw in Beijing (I call it Xiāngjiāo's version since this is what she was used to when she spent 6 months in Beijing). The one with the cracker in it.
It was as the Missus would call it; "dead", limp, lacking in flavor, and obviously made ahead of time as it amazingly arrived in less than 5 minutes. Even the smear of bean paste seemed tasteless. So sorry YZ; all those memories down the tube.
They were also out of other items we wanted to try GuoBa Soup, Chicken Gizzards, Spicy Pork Stomach, Pig Ear, Braised Beef Shank, so we settled on Braised Pork Knuckle ($4.99), which lacked any significant connective tissue.
This was way too bland in flavor.
Regrettably, so was the Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodle Soup $6.99).
While I appreciated the noodles, which I was told is made inhouse and had a nice al dente texture; the beef was cold and very salty, so it had obviously been made separately from the broth since the soup, to quote the Missus, "tasted like someone had waved a beef bone above it". Sad.
Like before, the jiaozi, this time Pork and Napa was the best item.
Though like my first visit, though not as water logged, it wasn't drained well. This time I took a photo. Boiled dumplings, or specifically shuǐjiǎo...literally "water dumplings" really depend on basic steps being carried out and simple flavoring and texture carry the day.......of ocurse I do like the Qingdao Black vinegar with pounded garlic.
I really like the folks here. I hope they make the adjustments necessary in terms of service and procedures to get things running efficiently. I'm not totally sold on the food, though I'll probably return in a few months to try the lamb jiaozi....hopefully they won't be out of them.
Dumpling Hut 8046 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Remember this place from a post last year? This is a location of the former; horribly bad VIP Oriental Buffet. Around July - August of last year, the place turned into something called Gourmet City. I pass here almost every day and have rarely seen a car parked in front of the place. I brought the Missus by early one evening; She took a look in the empty restaurant, turned to me and said "no effin' way....." The place really looked like a front for some nefarious operation. Money laundering? Human trafficking? In the end, and you will have to stay to the end, we found out how this place stays afloat.
Anyway, I queried my friends and found two takers who were up for a visit; Xiāngjiāo has been missing China, and John who I kid quite a bit about his questioniable taste, but never his good nature and friendship.
We got there at 545 and the place was empty......a huge empty restaurant.
Looking at the menu, it became apparent that this place was mainly for hot pot, with a good amount of Sichuan with some miscellaneous dishes thrown in.
So of course we went with hot pot....with some miscellaneous dishes thrown in.
If I can recall their prices since it's been awhile, the costs here are a bit lower than Little Sheep. Also, they have a larger variety for their Yuan Yang Guo - Split Hot pot.
Also, unlike just about every hot pot place in San Diego; there's a huge condiment/sauce bar which totally reminded me of China. All the usual suspects except fermented shrimp paste....there was sesame paste, fermented tofu, leek sauce, sa cha sauce....though some of it was rather watered down like the fermented tofu.
We chose the "Chongqing Old Spicy Pot", basically an extra spicy Mala Guo, and the "Oxtail Tomato Pot" which actually looked kind of greasy.
The Oxtail broth was quite fatty, but very mild. The spicy broth was better. It was full of Sichauan peppercorns making it nice and numbing, but lacking heat and complex flavors. We went to the condiment bar and got a half bowl of chili oil adding it to the broth which at least brought the heat.
The meats were nothing to write home about. Definitely not in the same league as other places.
The rest was a n interesting combination of items; Xiāngjiāo staple which took her back to her favorite hot pot shops in Beijing, the potato. The most interesting item was something I hadn't had before; the pork rinds. Placed in the broth for a few second; they absorbed flavor and attained a strangely pleasant texture that was soggy-crispy-chewy in spots. My usual favorite, the spongy frozen tofu was fine, though the broth just wasn't lively enough when absorbed into the bean curd.
My favorite moment was attained near the end. The spicy broth had reduced by about half into almost a gravy like texture. The young lady was going to refill our broth but we stopped her. I put the noodles into the potage and it sucked up all the Sichuan Peppercorn-Chili-meat flavored broth. Poor JohnL. He almost put the noodles in the broth at the beginning and both Xiāngjiāo and I raised our voices in protest. Such are the unwritten rules of huo guo.
In the end the hot pot was ok, nothing amazing, but perhaps I'll try it again.
Of course we ordered some other stuff. The Chengdu Taste copycat "Toothpick Mutton".
This could almost be the perfect beer dish. But in this case, the meat was too tough, it wasn't salty enough, nor did it have enough cumin to satisfy my preferences.
The good; I loved the cut, nice slices, crunchy tendon. The flavor left much to be desired, it was, well, bland....like really bland, no heat, what ever happened to suan tian ku la xian?
Lastly, and sadly, another item I basically forced down the throat of Xiāngjiāo and JohnL was the Shenjian Bao. I felt bad guys, my apologies.
You know. I've had some good SJB in China, even some decent versions in a food court in Alhambra, to this day JohnL's sister claims it's the best thing we had on our food crawl. Heck even my Mother In Law got in the act (we need soup next time). You could tell these were hand made.....though sadly so. The sizes were grossly disparate. The dough was awfully gummy, a problem with the steaming process; the filling too tough and without flavor. So I committed a sin. I poked holes in the SJB and dumped them in the mala broth.
Quickly pulling them out and dumping the vinegar on them.
The service......well if you like SGV like service you'll get it here. It's typical.
As for the secret to this restaurant's existence I noted in the first paragraph? Well, we were getting ready to leave at 730. The place was empty except for one other table. I was still at a lost as to how this huge property could exist for a year with business like this. When 30 people walked in the front door!
We walked outside and saw a bus parked in the corner. My goodness...this was THAT restaurant! In our travels, the Missus and I always note the xxxxx (fill in the blank) tour group restaurant. Whether in Portugal/Spain/Greece/Turkey there was always THE place that served the Chinese/Korean tour groups. I had always wondered where that place was in San Diego. At least for this day, I knew where the Chinese tour groups were being fed in "America's Finest City". It was Gourmet City.....
Gourmet City 5541 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
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