Things have been pretty busy the last year and a half or so. I've noticed that I eat more lunches at my desk than I ever did before. Yes, I know it's spposed to actually hurt productivity. But there are those things called conference calls, web meetings, and the ever looming and shifting deadline.
Most often, I'll run out and pick up something from Nijiya; probably at least once a week. So many of the lunches I have at my desk look like this.
I'm definitely not complaining about this one....it's comfort food.
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
"MG" is a good family friend; the Missus is one (I didn't know that folks can have as many as seven) of her son's Godmothers. We used to work in the same department and had some really fun potlucks. We're now in different departments, but she will sometimes drop by to make sure I'm getting fed. Like bringing me hamanado and tapa from Tita's for lunch. Good lord......how in the world was I able to finish this before?
For some reason, it seems time, at least in my mind, hasn't been good to Tita's...the grey color, the tough beef...though I still like the hamanado. In spite of it being on the tough side I like the mild sweetness and the salty tones.
Yes, it's pretty much about quantity....the love of abundance. It's enough for at least two meals.
Tita's Kitchenette 2720 East Plaza Boulevard National City, CA 91950
One day she dropped off this:
I recognized it immediately...I asked if it was from Tem's and was told "no, it's from Nanay's". Which left me a bit confused, until I found out that Tem's is now Nanay's and apparently the food is basically the same. I will say I enjoyed the "spicy chicken" much more than the pork version I had when the place was Tem's. The "BBQ" chicken kind of reminds me of food court stuff, but it's not terrible....which the rice was, with quite a bit of hard grains in it.
Nanay's Best BBQ 6715 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92121
Speaking of bad rice.......
Just because I have to eat at my desk doesn't mean I can't have stuff to post on. So on the way back from a meeting I stopped by Yum Cha Café. I hadn't been here in ages. I got the Hainan Chicken Rice....mostly because I must be a glutton for punishment. I mean, the place used to have passable cheap grub, but if this is any indication, they've really taken a dive. Dry tasteless chicken...the rice was hard and dry....ick.
Yum Cha Cafe 6933 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
And then there are the times I get to follow-up on a place I had been wondering about. In this case Artisan Bento. I got the Delux Bento...which clocks in at $13.95! I chose Ginger Pork, Shogayaki...which, being on the more salty side really reminds me of what my mom used to make.
I gotta say that these folks seem to have it down. From the time I ordered to leaving the place, less than 10 minutes!
I still enjoy the ohitashi. The kyuri (cucumber) was really bland. The miso soup seemed much more watered down. I usually cringe at the thought of multi-grain rice. But for some reason, I like the version at Artisan Bento....sheesh...what next? Macramé???
For dessert I chose the strawberry cheesecake which I proceeded to give away. I think I can do the regular bento next time.
Artisan Bento 2505 5th Ave San Diego, CA 92103
One change from my previous post. They now open at 11....so no more walking in at 10 to find out they don't serve food until 11.
So, let me ask you.....do you eat at your desk? If so, what's your go to meal to have there? and what do you think about having to eat there?
Here's a couple of places I haven't been to in a while.
Pho Ban Mai:
A couple of weeks ago, when it was super hot, Lily and "YZ" wanted to grab some lunch. Everything just seemed a bit "too much" for the heat and this being a Monday, places like Sab E Lee were closed. We ended up going to Pho Ban Mai, which I seem to visit about once a year. I ended up doing the ordering and we started with the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings:
While the seasoning wasn't bad; I thought these were greasy, the bones in several were broken and the meat tasted a bit off like it had been thawed and then refrozen. Not good eats.
I also went with what I call the "Brodard South" dishes; the Nem Nuong Cuon and the Chao Tom Cuon. Like I mentioned before, these were right out of the Brodard playbook.
As before the Nem Nuong, the pork "sausage", was much better, more flavor, nicely grilled, and the addition of a touch of herbs along with the scallion complements the flavor of the meat. The Chao Tom, is a bit too rubbery and "squeaky" for me and is quite bland....which comes to the sauce....I keep on meaning to just get nuoc mam cham, the sauce here is not very good, very bland, lacking in flavor.
I've always enjoyed the banh xeo here; I think it is crisp and light, and I appreciate the ratio of fillings to the crisp "crepe". It's all about proportion to me when it comes to banh xeo.
Lily and "YZ" had never had banh xeo before, so I thought this would be a nice introduction. Man, Lily went after this like there was no tomorrow.....apparently, she loves bean sprouts, and the combination of the light crunch of the crepe with the crisp lettuce and herbs, dipped into nuoc mam cham was just what the doctor ordered for a hot day. This was a nice specimen, perhaps as good as what I had here in 2011.
Overall a decent meal; though there's one area that seemed lacking. When Pho Ban Mai first opened, the folks seemed friendly and attentive, during my last visit, the guys seemed more interested in socializing. This time around, they seem to want nothing to do with customers. In other words, it's getting almost borderline rude here. Not a good trend. I hope the next time I get my banh xeo fix, the pattern will be reversed.
Pho Ban Mai 8991 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
As far the wings go, they've never been quite the same, but were still good, and usually held up well. The Missus had always enjoyed the salt and pepper shrimp without shell here as well. Which is what I ordered.
Man, what is going on here? The chicken, while crisp, had basically no flavor.....I had to roll it in the garlic-scallion mixture to get any flavor at all.
It had also been fried to death......dry as a mouthful of sand. Kind of sad. Looks like I'll have to start making the rounds searching for some good S&P wings.
To make things worse, the shrimp were even more pathetic.
Very bland, under fried and gummy batter....this was pretty bad.
It's quite sad when an "old standby" doesn't deliver....
New Mandarin Canton Chinese Restaurant 543 Telegraph Canyon Road Chula Vista, CA 91910
Aqui Es Texcoco 1043 Broadway Chula Vista, CA 91911
Oscar's Mexican Seafood (Hillcrest):
Was in the area after a meeting finished early, so I thought I'd drop by for a revisit. The Taco de Marlyn (Smoked fish taco) was actually better than before, though the flavor was still too mild and that tortilla wasn't very good.
The fried shrimp in the Fried Shrimp Taco was greasy and the batter started falling off and got gummy quickly.....and the tortilla also failed fast.
There's much better down south, but this is pretty much the only show in town.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood 646 University Ave San Diego, CA 92103
Sieu Sieu BBQ:
Another place I haven't been to in a while. Is it just me or has Sieu Sieu aged faster than a second term President? The place is looking pretty beat.
That I think that the Chinese BBQ here is better than Sam Woo should provide me some consolation.....I guess. That rice was horrible by the way.
Sieu Sieu BBQ 7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
The first thing I noticed were the two women making dumplings behind the counter.
The second thing I really noticed after sitting down were the prices! Mandu, ten bucks! Then I was handed a menu with prices that had been marked down a buck. Not cheap, but a bit better.
So I placed my order and went thru the rest of the menu.
Meanwhile, the dipping sauce, and some panchan made its way to the table. The sauce was on the mild side, but it seemed to have black vinegar in it which I thought was a bit strange......I welcomed it, but it was different.
I had ordered two items, starting with the Wang (King) Mandu ($8), the pork and vegetable version.
Man, these were humongous. I only finished one. I ended giving the rest to "YZ" for her to take home to her daughter.
The actual steamed bun seemed way too "white" and reminded me of something else, but I couldn't place my finger on it. It was very fluffy and fairly nice, if lacking in the great yeastiness of a Wang (King) Mandu dough.
The filling was a bit too crumbly for me, but was moist, though a tad light in flavor.
Yeah, I know....too picky with my steamed buns and dumplings. But I can't help it.
Curious, I also ordered the Boiled Dumpling with shrimp, pork, and vegetable. I don't ever recall seeing this in any of the mandu shops I've been to. You should have seen the look on my face when this arrived.....it was jiaozhi!
These were actually ok. The dough was lacking in the slight chew, stretch, and tenderness that I like in a good dumpling. In case you're wondering where I get this from...well, here's how my MIL makes Jiaozi. Of course, this was not even close to QingDao Bread Food. The filling was also a bit too loose and on the bland side. Still, better than Dumpling Inn. To put things in perspective, below average for me, better than average for San Diego. So I gotta give this a not bad.
The woman serving me was very nice. I mentioned that the dumplings seemed very Chinese, I was told that the owner is Korean, but from China. I was really intrigued. A few days later, I mentioned the place to "Mr.S" who was shocked that a Korean place opened in San Diego without he knowing. When I mentioned the name of the place to him, he looked at me in surprise. He asked me if they had locations in LA and I didn't know. We decided to meet for lunch the very next day. Upon arriving, Mr.S assured me he had eaten at the Koreatown location of Myung In. When he spoke to our Server, who according to Mr.S spoke both Korean and Mandarin, she did confirm that the restaurant had several locations in LA. Looking at the back of the take-out menu confirmed that.
We ended up ordering a pile of food. Starting with the Pork and Kimchi Wang Mandu.
Same huge steamed buns. As for the filling, I prefer the pork and vegetable version. When I mentioned that the dough really reminded me of something else, Mr.S said, "yes, this is like Jjin Bbang...." He was totally right......by the way, they do have red bean seamed bun on the menu.
The item we enjoyed the best was the mandu guk - the mandu soup.
For some reason, the dumplings did really well in this broth, which had enough salt and other flavor to help things along. The wrapper became almost noodle-like and this might be the way to go in the future. It was very hearty and satisfying.
The last thing we had were the spicy steamed roll dumplings. The wrapped meat rolls weren't what made this spicy...it was the accompanying chili paste. Sigh.
Kind of tough and not something I'd order again.
Our server also mentioned that the owner was originally from China and even said where, but I couldn't make it out. Anyway, the next day, I read Kirbie's post on Myung In Dumpling, where she mentions Anthony Bourdain's visit to the LA location. Call me out of touch with mainstream food media. Following the Google trail, I came to find out that the owner is of Korean ancestry, but originally from Shenyang, China. Interesting path.
As for the jiaozi, I think it's decent, better than any other alternative in San Diego. Though I think I may try other stuff....and get the mandu guk the next time. Still, if you can't wait for another trip to the SGV for your jiaozi fix.....
Myung In Dumplings 4344 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Man was it hot last week! I don't ever remember temps like this in March.......high 80's and low 90's. I'm not looking forward to the summer.
On the other hand, this gave me a chance to have some of my favorite "warm weather" dishes. So here goes....
At the end of my post on Szechuan Taste in December I wrote, "When things warm up, I'll come back for the Sichuan Liang Mian and the Ko Shui Ji and I'm hoping for maybe some nice surprises." Little did I know that I'd be getting some surprises alright. Anyway, it was without a doubt warm and I do try to keep my word when possible. So here I was......
The young lady who waited on me was very nice and sweet. I ordered those two favorite hot weather dishes....actually other liang cai like Fu Qi Fei Pian are also among my favorites during hot weather, but man, the version here was really bad.
First up, the Ko Shui Ji - "Mouthwatering (saliva) Chicken".
The sauce looked watery and when I pulled the bowl over I found that it was almost hot! I've never had Ko Shui Ji served to me at an insipidly warm temperature. The sauce was actually a broth; below the slick of already watered down chili oil was liquid that resembled chicken noodle soup. The chicken was boneless, skin on thigh that looked carelessly poached. As for flavor, well there was a decent amount of Sichuan Peppercorn, but everything else tasted watered down, not spicy, no salt, no vinegar tones, no sweet....like eating a piece of cardboard with a hint of Sichuan Peppercorn. ick......
As for my Sichuan Liang Mian, well it was a rollercoaster ride. It really didn't look like much when it arrived.
And yet, things look promising when I found the motherlode of sauce on the bottom and mixed everything together. I then took a bite and actually swore out loud....like wash your mouth out with soup loud. In retrospect chewing on a bar of Ivory Soap might have been better than this. Good god, this was eating a mouthful of MSG....it was so salty to the point of bitterness. Also, what's the deal with serving raw noodles that haven't even had the flour rinsed off? I've even had that happen to me at Fu An Garden.
So this is what happened. I felt really bad for the sweet young lady, so I took everything to go. She didn't make the food..... And I proceeded to pitch it. I hate waste, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat this. I felt bad, but eating this stuff made me feel worse. I think I'm done here..... So yes, in the end I did get a "surprise", but it wasn't a good one.
Szechuan Taste 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
One of my favorite cuisines is that of Peru. The variety can be stunning, from the traditional dishes like Cuy, to the "Chifa" dishes like Lomo Saltado, it seems that all who came ashore in Peru and stayed have made their mark on the nation. It was love at first bite when I first had Peruvian food after moving to LA. Peru also hold a special place in my heart, it was the first country the Missus and I visited together way back when. In San Diego County, pricy Q'ero probably does Peruvian the best, but it very pricy and a long drive. For lunch, even Latin Chef in PB was a bit too far. Plus, I was looking for that "Nikkei" influenced dish, tiradito.
The place look quite the same since my last visit. Man, it was hot, so I started with the Causa, in the of Nazca Grill, it's like what I would call a Causa Limeña, a layered potato "cake" of sorts. I went with the shrimp version.
The shrimp was kind of watery and a bit on the fishy side. The sauce seemed more like a thousand island dressing than the aji rocoto based sauce I'd had in the past. The presentation sure has gotten better, though I'm not sure the dish as a whole has been improved. I preferred the original version I had in 2009.
The tiradito was passable. In contrast to cebiche pescado, the fish in tiradito (I was told snapper) is not "cooked" in citrus. It's basically sashimi in a sauce. Today it was a mild aji amarilla sauce.
There's was a decent amount of fish in this. There used to be a touch of lime in the tiradito here, but today, it was muted. I did love the yucca frita and the choclo (as I always love). This was fine, if nothing special. It was a bit too mild for my taste.....
I'm afraid we'll have to head back to Peru one of these days....I did promise the Missus that we'll get to Easter Island, so perhaps a Chile - Peru two-fer. Especially since we did miss the Nazca Lines the last time.
Time will tell. Anything can happen. But like I mentioned earlier.....I do try to keep my promises.
With the Lunar New Year quickly approaching, my coworker "YZ" decided that we should go out and grab some lunch. I knew she had been missing dishes from her hometown of Shanghai, so I suggested Chef Zhu, since it had been a while since I last visited. Since YZ has been in san Diego for a while, she had also eaten at the owner's previous restaurant, Shanghai City, and was curious as to how the dishes would compare.
As I mentioned before, the previous "ABCDE" (American Born Chinese Dining Establishment) menu is in place and folks come in calling the place "Double Happiness", so it's an interesting crowd.
We ended up ordering three dishes, all of which I've had before and thought were the three strongest on the menu. They did not disappoint.
Starting with the Yin Doo Xin, which is my favorite item on the menu.
A deceptively simple pork + (preserved) pork based broth. Clean, just salty enough, satisfying.
With the New Year on the way, I thought we should order the Chao Nian Gao.
Nicely texture, not too chewy or soft. I thought it could have a bit more saltiness....but YZ and SJP who joined us for lunch sure enjoyed it. SJP who is Korean seemed surprised to see that nian gao was essentially "dduk"....or perhaps visa versa.
We needed a bit of meat......well, just because. I went with the steamed pork with preserved vegetable which was better than I recalled.
Not too salty, balanced sweetness which cut the richness of the pork, this was pretty good overall.
In the end, we all had a nice meal, and even better conversation. I wish our busy work schedules allowed for more lunches like this..
I get to work pretty early in the morning. It's still dark out. The day had been busy and I didn't step outside my little molehill/bunker/office until 1pm. Holy smokes! I check the temperature and good lord it's 84 degrees! Like what is this, Yuma? Just kidding Ed!
It's strange, but for whatever reason, I crave Sichuan Liang Mian and Liang Cai (cold dishes) when it starts getting warm. Were this before February of 2012, the choice would be easy; it would be Ba Ren. And while the assistant chef from Ba Ren now resides at Fu An, things have been inconsistent to say the least.
Still, I needed my fix, so that's where I headed.
The cold dishes weren't bad.....but there's still something missing...the amount of spice, the amount of vinegar, the slight touches that make all the difference. Still, it's not terrible.
Same can be said of the Sichuan Liang Mian. The flavor is almost there....there's even a bit of that Sichuan Peppercorn tingle....but it too is missing those last pieces of the puzzle. And the noodles are hard, stiff, almost like they needed to be cooked ever so slightly more.
However, we beggar's can't be choosers. I got my fix in.......
Fu An Garden 4768 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Looking at that temp.....I wonder, if it was another degree hotter, would I have thought of going here?
I was a bit sad when Tan Ky on Mira Mesa closed down. The place wasn't amazing, but they did serve some pretty solid dishes. So of course when I saw Tim Ky Noodle was taking its place, I made sure to check them out. And you know how that goes.......I try to check places out a couple of times whenever possible.
They've done a decent job of freshening up the place. New lighting, wood paneling....though you can still recognize it as Tan Ky.
The menu is typical of these type of shops, a million and one combinations of Hu Tieu or Mi noodle soups, fried rice, all the usual suspects.
I had been craving Beef Sate Egg Noodle - dry and my lousy visit to Luong Hai Ky did nothing to diminish things. So of course I had to try it here, right?
First thing I noticed was...this place was into that "big bowl" facade thing. The portion was noticably smaller than what Tan Ky delivered. On the good side, the egg noodles were done adequately....I like mine with a bit of crunch still in them, but not raw with a powdery edge. There wasn't enough sate in this as things were too mild and the beef "fair to middlin". The broth that accompanied the dish was much too light and plain bland. I'll probably not order this again.
The young man who served me was very nice and friendly. I asked him what he thought the specialty of the house was. He said it was the Bun Suong, which was surprising. If I recall, it was a noodle soup that looked a lot like Bun Rieu.
The folks here were very nice, so I came back to try the Bun Suong, which ain't cheap at $8.45.
This was pretty good. They used the thin bun for this; the type that would be appropriate for Bun Rieu. There were 8 shrimp "meatballs" that weren't too squeaky and still had some shrimp flavor. The annatto oil did make it look like bun rieu a bit, though the broth was milder. Liked that fact it wasn't loaded with MSG and the broth had a decent flavor which kind of reminded me more of chicken than pork.
This was not bad. I'll have it again.
It would only be a matter of time before I tried the Won Ton and Dumpling Egg Noodle soup ($6.49).
This was the best bowl I had here. It's been so long sonce I've had a decent Won Ton/Dumpling egg noodle soup that I'd become jaded....so perhaps that amplified my enjoyment? There were only 2 won ton and 2 dumplings in this, the dumplings were definitely superior to the won tons. But I gotta say, instead of the usual hard as rock fillings, these were adequately tender.
The broth had a nice flavor to it and even some decent richness as you can tell by the dots of fat floating around. I do wish the soup were a bit hotter.
This was a nice bowl.
I might have pushed my luck a bit when I returned and had the Duck Leg Egg Noodle Soup ($7.49). I actually wanted the roast duck version, but they were all out. The broth reminded me a bit of a watered down Thai style duck noodle, with dark soy sauce giving it a deep, dark color and the shiitake mushrooms in the soup.
There were faint hints of flavor....the mere wisp of star anise, but just not enough oomph for me. The duck, though tender, had a bit of a stale, refrigerator flavor to it. No complaints about the temp of the broth on this one as I had to figure out how to break down that duck leg floating in scalding broth.
I'd like to try the roast duck version next time, but otherwise will stick with the dumpling egg noodle soup. Plus, it looks like they have chicken wings on the menu as well.
I like the folks who work here....even the kind of serious server, who, while not too friendly, is nice enough. So of course I'll be back.
Tim Ky Noodle 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126