In my post mentioning that Great Wow looked shuttered; "GT" mentioned the Hillcrest spot, which I posted on back in November. At that time it seemed to me like Wow was expanding....after all, this spot seemed maybe one-third the size of the Convoy location. This weekend, I had to pick something up in Hillcrest for the Missus, so I went to check the place out.
Well whaddya know; the place had opened. In need of some lunch, I decided to check the place out.
They've really packed it in here! The tables and chairs looked exactly the same as the restaurant had on Convoy.
There's a small bar area here as well. The really nice young man manning the front told me that right now; "it's happy hour all day"!
The current menu looks quite temporary; a bunch of stapled together pages with photos......there were only three varieties of jiaozi available, 1 vegetarian, 2 with shrimp.
While looking thru things the older gentleman dropped by this for me.....
Man, when had I last seen this in San Diego? Seven Layer Meat Cake. Basically layers of thin scallion bread with a light sprinkling of seasoned, ground meat between the layers. The flavors were pretty good, on the rich side. Enjoyed the crispness, but this looked a bit over-cooked and was the exterior was on the hard side instead of crisp. Nice try though.
My hot tea arrived; which helped to balance out all that richness.
I went ahead and placed an order for the Shrimp and Chive dumplings.
And this was brought to my table. Wow; a Xian Bing!
This was deeply browned, but was nice and crisp with a light chewiness. Not a big fan of the filling though, it was just rather bland.
Meanwhile, since I was the only customer in the place, the nice young man dropped by and we had a nice chat. It seems that they've bought into the Trinitea franchise at this location. They are paring down the menu while trying some new items. I did mention how much we enjoy the radish version of Xian Bing; like we've had Beijing Pie House, though I'm not sure how that would go here in Hillcrest. They are trying a few more vegetarian options.
I had noticed that they were making my jiaozi to order....very nice.
I finally broached the question about the Convoy location and was told that yes, that shop is indeed closed. It is going to be (yet another) a hot pot restaurant.
Meanwhile, yet another sample....a hot and sour soup was brought to my table.
Man, I was getting full just eating samples!
I didn't think I'd be able to finish my Shrimp and Chive Jiaozi.
So, how did these measure up? The wrappers were a bit thicker and had less chew to them than I recalled. Very plump and moist....super moist. Like the Shrimp, Pork, and chive I had at Convoy, the chive flavor came through quite well, but the filling was quite salty.
Still, not bad.
I'm still wondering how Hillcrest is going to do with Xian Bing, Jiaozi, and items like that. I'm hoping they give them a try. The Trinitea take out window was doing good business though.
Trinitea & Great Wow 3865 5th Ave San Diego, CA 92103
I decided to visit when the weather was running on the cold side. The place had just opened their doors and I was curious.
Man, they've gone full bore with the wood paneling thing.
Though the light fixtures and the chairs are the same, the table tops look a bit different. There's now a noodle/dumpling making booth in the back corner, though I never saw anyone amking either on any of my visits.
Being a bit chilly; I decided on the Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles ($8.99).
Like Kirbie, I thought the noodles were quite good, a bit of spring to them, good chew, very nice texture all around. The lamb was decent, on the chewy side, and only fairly gamey. For some reason, I didn't enjoy the cabbage in this soup, which was perfectly scalding hot! The broth also had too much white pepper in it, causing it to be too bitter for me.
This was decent, the portion size generous....at least in terms of noodles and soup. So I returned a few days later with Calvin in tow. I'd first introduced him to Yang Rou Pao Mo at Xi'an Kitchen. Turned out he loved it. So he was eager to try out Noodle Hut.
While looking at the menu; Calvin noted that it really did resemble that of Xi'an Kitchen with a few exceptions.
We started with the Preserved Eggs and Tofu a bargain at $4.99.
While not as good as the version we had at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen, this was still decent. The tofu had been adequately drained, the earth-sulfuric tones of the pidan, matched with the scallions and Peppercorn Oil was vey nice. The tofu added a refreshing layer to the dish. I'd been trying to get the Missus to try this at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen, but She wasn't interested. Last time I went, they didn't have it on the menu. I took the leftovers home and the Missus really enjoyed it........go figure....when will She trust my taste?
Of course we got the Yang Rou Pao Mo ($8.99).
Aside from the waxy, totally wrong bread (hopefully one day they'll get it right here in the states), which I've gotten used to; there were some hard pieces. The broth was too watery and bland. The lamb was nice and tender, but like the broth really lacked the "skatolic" barnyard essense that makes this dish so rich and hearty.
We asked the young lady for a recommendation and she suggested the Spicy Chicken Soup...so to her surprise we ordered the Szechuan "Pork Gut Soup in Casserole" ($10.99)
While there wasn't much intestine in this soup, and what there was didn't seemed to be prepared very well, it sure was spicy....though on the thin side and we both missed the "ma" (numbing) sensation that we enjoy from Sichuan type dishes like this. Again for eleven bucks, the portion size was quite generous.
And so, this would basically be it. Except for all the long days I've been working. At the end of one particularly long day, I told the Missus that I wasn't up to the task of making dinner....so She requested that Pidan and Tofu dish. Take-out on the way home.
The portion size was well worth the $4.99.......until I opened my big fat mouth and said that we could do better just making this ourselves. Sigh. So now it's organic tofu, preserved egg, scallions from the yard, and Sichuan Peppercorn Oil at home.
I also ordered the Cumin Lamb.
Man, this was a good sized portion. Though for my taste, there wasn't enough cumin, nor enough flavor overall. The lamb was thick sliced and rather tough. Thin sliced onion is a nice addition, but the red and green bell peppers seemed like filler. I also missed cilantro in this as well. This was more quantity over quality for me.
Which kind of describes Noodle Hut. I think most folks prefer that. Sorry to say; that's not our preference. Though I'm thinking I need to try the jiaozi here. One of these days.
I had been wondering what was going on with Dumpling Hut since they closed for a spell. While keeping the Dumpling Hut moniker, the Chinese "name" had changed. The folks at Sizzling Pot King told me they had changed owners, but I hadn't seen any change of ownership notice. Still, even though my meals at Dumpling Hut left something to be desired, I was still curious, so I returned soon after they reopened.
Man, they've really....really, brightened up the place.
Though looking around a bit you notice some interesting "features".....
The place was really quiet when I visited. I was the only customer....during my entire meal.
I got to thinking that I'm probably the wrong "demographic" when my water arrived....with a twisted straw.
As for what to order, well, the "new" Chinese name had clay pot in it.....
So deciding to play it safe, I ordered the Pork Chop Rice Clay Pot ($11.50). The young man working recommended getting it "spicy". It came out in a donabe style pot.....which I've seen at Daiso for four bucks....in case you want one.
So, not quite "pork chop", more like spareribs, very tough, very salty, very one dimensional in flavor. The best item was the over cooked boiled egg. The broccoli was basically a garnish as it wasn't seasoned at all. The rice was fine; I think I would have preferred the "regular" as this was basically chili oil on rice; it was very greasy, one-dimensional spicy, some anise, and not much else. A lot of rice though.
Well, perhaps these were new owners, but the end result of my meal was the same.......
It was interesting though, Calvin was kind of interested in the place. And one day, (it was Tuesday) we went to Village North which was closed. So Calvin, JohnF, and I headed on over to Dumpling Hut.
Like my previous visit, we were the only folks in the place for the entire meal. I'm thinking this place is targeting a younger demographic after more snack like food and drinks.
We started with the Shenjian Bao ($7.99).
Liked the nicely brown and crisp bottoms of the buns. The texture of the tops were gummy, chewy, and these didn't seemed like they were steamed right. The pork filling wasn't moist enough and was pretty darn bland.
Next up was the "Guotie", I put that in quotes. So these Pork "Potstickers" ($8.99).
Good lord, basically a wrapper enrobing ground pork, then put into a pan and cooked like basic pot stickers. This reminded me of stuff you'd have from the frozen food aisle. I mean, I really didn't expect, say QingDao Guotie, but this was worse than what I'd had here before. Greasy, too chewy, not good eats at all....
The best item we had was the Spicy Tripe Hot Pot ($8.99).
Not very much tripe in this one; but it was prepared decently; perhaps a bit too hard, but properly cleaned. The broth, while rather singularly spicy, with no numbing tones, looked to be bone broth based.
It was back to the "the norm" with the next item. Calvin grew up in the SGV, a mere short walk from 101 Noodle Express....so of course we had to try the Niu Rou Chuan; the Beef Roll ($6.99), which was just plain tragic.
Very dry, not pan fried enough, with a cardboard like texture; the "da bing" was terrible. What's with the lettuce? Smeared with standard issue hoisin, the thin piece of beef was fine...what there was of it.
Check out the "photo" of the beef roll in the front of the restaurant. Does not even look like the same dish.
And to add insult to injury; we liked the look of the Sam Sun Dumplings on the window.
This is what we got ($11.50).
These were very unsatisfactory; the wrappers were too hard and seemed to be typical store bought wrappers. The 1/3 piece of shrimp was fine, but this was underflavored. definitely not what I expected from a place like this....well based on the meal, I should have expected this.
I think this visit was worse than my previous visits under the "previous management". The food was quite underwhelming. I probably won't be going back.
Dumpling Hut 8046 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Except for some additional decorative lamps and paintings of Biàn Liǎn, those "face changing" masks, the place looks the same as on my last visit. Though, those masks are usually found in Sichuan.....so maybe they were just leftover from the previous restaurant?
Speaking of Sichuan....the menu has a mixture of Sichuan, Hunan, some oddball dishes like Lion's Head Meatballs and Egg Foo Young (?!?), and a whole column of totally "ABCDE" (American-Born-Chinese-Dining-Establishment) dishes.
Go figure. There's one soft-spoken, sweet young lady who works here, but everyone....I counted a total of 9 staff on one of my visits is very nice.
On my first visit; a solo affair, I waned two dishes. I went down looking for typical Hunan dishes and they were out of just about everything. I did get something with La Rou. Though it wasn't my favorite La Rou with Suan Do (or even the three smoked meats - La Wei He Zheng ) which is on the menu, but a version with dried bamboo shoots.
In terms of flavor this was much better than what I've had from Village Kitchen. And while some of the pork was on the chewy side, the flavor was spot on; smoky-salty, the rehydrated bamboo crunchy. Peasant food, I took this home and it reminded the Missus of Her grandparents in Hunan.....a bit of salty, slightly spicy La Rou with a lot of rice. The spice level left something to be desired....though we tend to enjoy the heat level at places like Hunan Chilli King.
So I had worked my way through some of the dishes and struck out; so the nice young lady told me to order something called "Pork Belly w/ Preserved Napa in Brown Sauce" ($11.65). Not sure what this was going to be; I chuckled when it arrived at the table....it was Mei Cai Kou Rou; which, correct me if I'm wrong, is more of Hakka dish.
There was one thing fairly true to the Hunan taste. This lacked any sweetness at all. Not much saltiness either....just kind of bland and the mei cai was too hard a chewy. The pork belly had been done decently, it was "chopstick tender", but this was quite bland for my taste. I thought that even Facing East made a superior version of this dish.
Anyway, I took the Smoked Pork dish home and the Missus really enjoyed the left-overs, so not feeling like cooking one evening, we headed back. Looking over the menu for dishes we struck out again. The Missus wanted some Liang Cai - cold dishes, and it was no Bueno; no pork ear, chicken feet, duck tongue....so we ended up with a total routine Bean Curd Skin.
Basically bean curd skin, nice and crunchy, in a decent Chili Peppercorn Oil. Though this tasted like something I'd make at home.
We tried to order the La Rou with Dry Beans again, but still no Bueno and got the version with bamboo, which ironically, is not on the menu.
We wanted a vegetable dish, but after trying a couple of items from the menu that wasn't available; we got the Leek with Shredded Lotus Root ($8.65).
We both enjoyed this simple dish; the lotus root nice and crunchy, though the pungent chives gives the Missus heartburn. I'll probably end up making something similar at home in the near future.
One weekend afternoon, needing a late lunch; like 230pm, Village North was closed so we decided to head back to Beauty Hunan. Where we tried for the Smoke Pork with Dry Beans again....and again ended up with the version with Dried Bamboo, which the Missus enjoyed anyway.
Looking at the menu, I noticed something called "Preserved Egg and Eggplant with Jalapeno" ($11.65). I asked the Missus and She said that yes indeed, this is the same dish that we enjoy at Village Kitchen. Hmmm....I'm wondering.....
This was a fairly large portion size, and while spicier than the version at Village Kitchen, it is not as well executed. Not nearly as creamy, some of the pieces of eggplant were huge and not as tender, and without that nice earthiness of the eggplant and light sulfuric touch of the preserved egg.
Pretty much at a lost, we decided to just get the Dry Cooked Pork Intestine ($12.65) which was much to salty and not very spicy.
The intestine was not cleaned very well and was too rubbery and we did without a doubt miss the "ma" (numbing) sensation of the Sichuan version of this dish. We did enjoy the Chinese celery in this, but that's about it.
So, I'm not sure if or when Beauty Hunan will have it's full on menu. right now it's a "one-trick-pony" for us. The customer demographic is kind of interesting; a lot of guys ordering the "ABC" dishes during my lunch visits, interspersed with young folk ordering stuff like the Dry Pot items. We thought the service was nice, not perfect, but really nice young folk. I'm not sure when I'll be back for a full meal....though I think the Missus is going to want the La Rou from here.....in whatever form the have it.
Beauty Hunan Restaurant 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Almost two months since I first visited Village North, it remains a somewhat quirky enigma. I've visited and they've been closed....seems they are closed on Tuesdays. They don't have hours formally posted.....just scribbled on the portable grease board. And what's with the "Soft Opening" sign still up? I asked if they were still in their soft opening period and got an interesting answer; seems that their permanent sign hasn't arrived yet....so they are still air quotes, in "soft opening" mode.
Still, I really like the young folks who work here....they are friendly and very nice. And the décor is no shrinking violet; though the Chinese Rap music can be a bit much and there was the time one of the guys was on the small stage trying out VR gear.
After having me pick-up the Suan Cai Hot Pot to go a couple of times, the Missus finally decided we should drop by for dinner.
Which turned out to be a nice meal. This time we ordered the Stir Fried Version of Suan Cai and Pork; simply called "Sour Cabbage" ($12.99) on the menu.
Man, this was good. The textures and seasoning; with garlic and star anise was just the way the Missus likes this dish. It was pleasantly slightly gooey and comforting. These guys really know how to stir fry. The Missus had a new second favorite.
I say second favorite because She really enjoyed the Pork Intestines in Dry Pot ($12.99).
I really hesitated in ordering any Sichuan here; but man, this was really good. Every ingredient had been nicely prepped and seasoned separately. The intestine had been expertly cleaned and even had that inner "fatty" layer. I've never had them ask me "how spicy" here; something I like and respect. This was nicely "ma-la". The Missus immediately said that this was a level above Sizzling Pot King in prep and execution. I've now had this a couple of times with other folks and they all agree; this version is quite good.
Lily and I decided to take "YZ" out for a celebratory lunch and they (as usual) let me pick. My choice....Village North. We had some of the usual suspects; but also ordered a couple of more traditional Dongbei style dishes. Starting with one of the classic dishes; Dongbei La Pi; mung bean sheets in sort of a salad, Multicolor Clear Noodle ($11.99) on the menu.
Again very nice prep; everything from the thinly sliced vegetables to the pork and egg was seasoned separately. The dressing; a sesame paste black vinegar concoction; with a touch of wasabi tasted like a lighter version of what I make at home; though without as much sesame paste. It's a nice combination of nutty-sour-sweet. Pretty good overall; this will go well during hotter weather.
We also tried something simply called "Stewed Assorted Delicacies" ($18.99 - 农家一锅鲜) on the menu.
Basically a dish of stewed/braised pork ribs; which is then stir fried with corn, potatoes, and green bell peppers. This wasn't very good; it was basically too salty; the pork ribs were on the tough side. The best items were the corn and potatoes.
Still we'd had some of the other dishes and both Lily and "YZ" really enjoyed things....especially the suan cai.
Hearing that this place had the Missus's approval; my "Food Gang" decided we should have dinner here. We ordered a bunch of stuff I'd had from previous meals; the suan cai, intestine dry pot, guo bao rou, di san Xian, and a couple of new ones. Our young server recommended something simply called "Flank Steak" ($15.99) on the menu. It arrived looking all the world like Chinese Black Pepper Beef.
The was another winner. The beef wasn't tender per se; it was toothsome without being tough, with a nice display of the stir fry skills, which in this case seems to be velveting.
We also ordered some chuan'r (skewers), which were fairly sub-par.
The lamb really needed much more cumin....the mantou....was topped with sugar...if this were Beijing; I think it would be brushed with a sweet bean sauce. I know this is what Xiāngjiāo was hoping for. Alas, it was not to be.
During one of my take-out visits; the really nice young man who works here named "Victor" told me his favorite item on the menu was the Fried Shrimp with Dried Red Pepper ($14.99). So when I recently dropped by for lunch; I ordered it.
This was pretty good; crunchy shells, the whole numbing-hot ("ma-la") thing going on. Nicely prepared....like I said...these guys do real well with a wok.
Though in terms of seasoning; the Zi Ran Yang Rou - Cumin Lamb ($14.99) left much to be desired in terms of cumin-spicy-salty tones.
So, in the end, we have a nice new option. I'm still not quite sure of everything on the menu.......but perhaps that's the fun of exploring. I think there are dishes on the menu to entice the beer-drinking, young crowd.....but then again, there's some serious cooking skills on display with some of the dishes.
All this rainy weather meant.....well lots of noodle soup. Here's a short round-up of revisits.
Green China Grill:
Heavy drops were coming down and I was dodging pot holes on Convoy. I just decided to give up and turned into ever evolving Plaza del Sol (BTW Tasty Pot is now open). It had been over a year since my last visit to Green China Grill, so I decided to drop in. Looking at the dining area; this place should be called blinding green China grill. I was the first to arrive but withi minutes, the dining area started filling up. That woman sitting with a group seems really familiar too.
They now have a rather large menu with grilled items; various noodles, liang cai (cold dishes), and even yang rou pao mo? Go figure.... I went with the Beef Noodle Soup with Sour Cabbage ($9.99).
Man, that broth was blasting hot, which was good thing on a cold and rainy day. It was also deceivingly spicy and was quiet numbing (ma) as well. The amount of MSG has been toned down a bit since my previous visits; though I think it could still use a bit more beefiness. The preserved vegetable was your basic standard issue xue cai; like what you get at T&L. The noodles were nice a slippery; but is still missing that little bit of pull I enjoy in good "Lamian" (牛大碗). It has gotten better though.
The soup warmed me up and the spice had gotten the endorphin thing going and a nice sheen on my forehead. From that point of view, the noodle soup did its job. I need return more often.
Green China Grill 4688 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111 Open Wed - Mon 1130am - 3pm, 5pm - 9pm
Last week it was raining cats and dogs....and I almost stepped into poodle! Ok, not funny....though that one is so bad the guys at work cracked up. I really didn't want to head out too far, so I decided to check into Pho Kitchen to see how they were doing.
The kids who work here are really nice. Looking over the menu I noticed they had Bun Bo Hue....hmmm....what the heck; it was pouring outside. I went with the "regular" ($8) bowl of Bun Bo Hue.
Pho shop BBH is a crapshoot and I let out a sigh when the typical pho sprouts and basil arrived.....
And just as quickly, they were removed from the table and replaced with this....ooh psych!
Purple cabbage? Not quite legit, but better than what it replaced.
So what to say? There was lots of shredded lemongrass, though not too much of that flavor in the broth. You could make out the slight, funky taste of mam nem, which added a bit of savories to things. The spice was pretty basic, all front of mouth heat. At least it was steaming hot. The noodles were done adequately, though for once there didn't seem to be enough of it in this bowl. The meat was quite good. The thick cut beef shank had excellent flavor and there was a good amount of it, the tendon was decent as well. Nice thing about the pork hock; they'd removed the bones for easy eating. Though sometimes sucking on that bone is one of the best things about a bowl of BBH.
While not terrible, in terms of spicy, sour, salty, savory, and sweet flavors this was kind of lacking. I'll stick with the Pho next time.
Pho Kitchen 5375 Napa St San Diego, CA 92110 Open Daily 11am - 9pm
Well, Lemon House opened and closed so quickly, I never got a chance to check them out. My sources did tell me they really didn't enjoy their visits; so perhaps it's for the better. So now, we welcome a Steamy Piggy into the spot. I think the folks from Lemon House are still running this new concept as well.
4681 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92123
Tasty Pot on Convoy Looks Ready to Open:
At least when I went to pick up take-out from the newly opened Noodle Hut.
Curious, I drove by a couple of days later and the place does indeed look ready to go.
There's even a menu posted.
4698 Convoy Street San Diego, CA 92111
So there you go......a little peek of what's going on.
Welcome to another edition of mmm-yoyo!!!, the food blog with variants on the acquisition of said foodstuffs. Kirk is very busy with work this week and Ed (from Yuma) is very busy with retirement (in Yuma). Cathy is writing today.
Last Monday, January 2, was the official New Year holiday and the Tournament of Roses held its annual parade and Bowl Game. The following morning, The Mister and I drove North to see the parade floats lined up end to end, at the Showcase of Floats. The Banner float, which was first in the 96 unit parade entries (floats, bands, equestrian units), reflected the theme of this year, "Echoes of Success". Of the 44 floats in the parade, five are not judged (this is one of those) and 24 of the remaining floats are trophy winners. I'll just show you some details from some of the floats. Walking along to view takes at least two hours and that's if you aren't paying attention to the details that went into the meticulous decorations. You can see the work and thought that went into the design and execution of each float.
Cal Poly Universities entry, 'A New Leaf' featured three chameleons, with that yellow one changing color via an elaborate system of dowels. (YouTube video, 1:45 in length). The California Milk Advisory Board, with its entry "Legacy of Generations" provided a surreal view of a good variety of California Dairy products and emphasized the generations of California dairy families who helped to make California the most successful dairy state in the nation (The 'raisins' are covered with real raisins and the 'cereal flakes' are dried apple skin).
A block away,
we'd been seeing this signage (and outside lantern decor) for years, but never were here when Egg Roll Express was open. We had finally the chance to dine here!
Simple decor, a pitcher of hot tea and weekday lunch specials!
Each lunch special comes with a choice of either hot and sour or egg flower soup. This was a wonderful, fresh, chicken based, creamy and very eggy egg drop served in a quite large bowl. I wanted more.
The serving plate of the special(#30-fish filet with Szechuan sauce)($7.29)was so cute! The food was even better. The spicy fish and vegetables were so fresh and flavorful.
The egg roll? Well, it was fried right (not greasy and nicely crispy) and filled with fresh and bright flavored vegetables. Quite good. Since this was our first visit to a new Chinese restaurant, our standard , Egg Foo Young (with chicken) was ordered ($8.99). Wow! Every restaurant makes EFY their own way and The Mister and I liked this version. Filled with bean sprouts, onion and eggy goodness, the pancake was crispy even under the (not salty) gravy, chicken and fresh vegetables.
Egg Roll Express 2397 E. Washington Blvd Pasadena, Ca 91104 (626)791-2398 open daily 11a.m.-9:30 p.m. Website
It seems like they are slowly adding things to the menu.
The Missus and I went once. But as She says, it can get pretty old after a while. What doesn't get old, at least on cold nights for us is the "tang", the bone based broth. What we found out was that they sell the broth, it's $4.99 for the large version. We really like the "extra spicy" version of this bone based broth.
Which ends up being 2-3 meals for us.....
After picking up the broth, head to the new 99 Ranch Market. The Missus favorite items? Wintermelon, daikon, a variety of bean curd products, bean thread, various vegetables...you name it. Because the broth is nicely rich; it seems like we go mostly vegetarian on this.
Talk about a warming meal that will leave you with a nice sheen of sweat on your forehead (the extra spicy is not super spicy), with a nice "ma" (numbing) to go along with a slight chili induced endorphin high. Can you say "aaaah".
It's worth the slight communication thing.....I had the Missus spell out the broth in Chinese, but just tried to order "tang". The sweet young lady, thinking I was speaking English hilariously pointed to the duck tongues.
The folks working have always been quite accommodating and friendly to us.
So as the next storm moves into San Diego....maybe grabbing some of the hot pot broth and your favorite items (I saw them packing 10 portions of broth and fixins to go during my last visit) might be a nice option for spending a "night in".
Private Kitchens 5440 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117