During the short week between Christmas and New Year, I decided to take Calvin and JohnF out for lunch. We usually eat along the rather close confines of Kearny Mesa....but this was the Holiday Season, so why not relax a bit (even though they had to stay at work even longer on this day)? John is from NorCal and Filipino.....the big joke with him is that when it comes to food, he says, I'm "more Filipino" than he is. He is also a pretty big eater, so I thought a visit to Villa Manila would be fun.
Ordering was to the point; bagoong rice (sorry no photo, though JohnF said his wife loved the leftovers), and of course Crispy Pata (a small portion).
From the looks I didn't think this was going to be as good as previous versions I've had here. But man, this was worth the "meat sweats". The skin was crisp, all that gelatinous goodness was there, the meat was moist, what more could you ask for?
I had to order the Bicol Express....which is not quite what is used to be.
There's not quite the same amount of bagoong alamang, so the flavor while still on the salty side, doesn't have as much of that savory finish. The pork is still tender, though the portion size has gotten smaller.
And then there is the Nilagang Baka, the beef shank soup. Calvin, whose Missus is Vietnamese really enjoyed the beefiness of the broth. You should have seen the look on his face when they came to refill the broth!
Overall, still a nice meal. Even though VM is not quite what it was before.
Villa Manila 500 East 8th Street National City, CA 91950
So, the Missus didn't believe me when I said that Zarlitos made some decent poke. But an interesting thing happened. During the nice Bitter Brothers Anniversary dinner, Candice mentioned the poke at Zarlitos to the folks sitting with us. Turns out it was Keoni Simmons (and yes, his dad is from Hawaii), who confirmed my belief that the poke Zarlitos makes is legit. And so that conversation with the Missus went on as we headed to Hogetsu Bakery. So She relented and we decided on stopping at Zarlitos.
Where she proceeded to eat a pound of poke. Now, even though I make Spicy Tuna Poke for the Missus, I'm not a big fan. The Missus enjoyed the version here.
First off, the quality of the fish is decent, no fibrous "suji". I think this would do fairly well "back home". These days, I put a bit of wasabi in my spicy tuna poke and that's what the Missus was missing....no major complaints on this though.
The Limu poke was a bit more problematic. The fish was of decent quality, but there was too much sesame oil in this...and yes, it wasn't salty enough...when was the last time I mentioned something not having enough NaCl?
Also, this version of "limu" poke used wakame....I mean, really? Even Poke Etc down the street used Limu Kohu. Still, this was much better than those "Chi-Poke" places that have sprung up everywhere.
Of course the Missus needed some rice; so I ordered the Longsilog.
I hadn't been back to Lavang in nearly two years and I had been wondering how the place was doing. I had also gotten a couple of emails mentioning the Bun Cha here, so I dropped by to check things out.
Man, the place was empty when I arrived, with no other customers during my entire visit. The folks here are very nice though.
I had "some reservations" (no pun intended) when I saw a sheet of paper with a photo of Anthony Bourdain and President Obama having Bun Cha in one of those episodes of Parts Unknown. Another sheet explained what Bun Cha was.......hmmm.....not sure about this one, but I went ahead and ordered the Bun Cha.
As always, the presentation here is always quite nice.
Now, to be perfectly honest; I didn't expect anything close to what we had in Hanoi or even Westminster. But this was pretty bland; especially the sauce which was really watered down and really bland. The meatballs were hard and dry as well. The grilled pork was fine, on the chewy side which is fine for this dish.
The bun was really done well, exceptionally good stretch to them, but were chopped into short pieces. The herbs were fine; the pickled papaya was given a nice little flower presentation.
Overall, I was underwhelmed with this dish. I'll stick with the version from Nhu Y.
Lavang Restaurant 6755 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92121
R & B Filipino Cuisine:
It had been over two years since I'd been to R&B, so I decided to drop by and get my entire days worth of fat and calories in one meal. I actually had this at 10am and didn't eat again until dinner which was a salad.
I'm rarely able to resist sisig, so I got that. On previous visits, the sisig here had been decent. It still is, except for a few things; it's kept on the side and when served is ice cold. The sour flavors were quite good, but for some reason this time around it was missing spice. There were some really hard bits of lechon kawale in this as well.
I also saw something different this time around; the Paksiw na Pata, basically braised pork leg...it looks deceivingly like adobo. The flavor was interesting, I liked the vinegar tones and unlike adobo this doesn't have much soy sauce and wasn't very salty. I saw a lot of garlic, but strangely the flavor didn't come through. I also enjoy the gelatinous pieces, but not much of that and man, there was this huge slice of pork and fat. Some of the pieces of pork were on the dry side and the overall mouthfeel was a bit on the greasy side. Just a few strands of banana blossom.
The sinigang was pretty good, nice and bracingly sour.
The rice was on the mushy side, but in total, this wasn't bad at all.
R & B Filipino Cuisine 11257 Camino Ruiz San Diego, CA 92126
Deciding on turning a new leaf and all, I went with something totally different. The Hu Tieu My Tho, which besides the BBQ Pork is a bowl of offal.
This really didn't look very inspiring when it arrived....but how often does a bowl of guts and porcine organs really want you to break into song?
Loved the hu tieu which were robustly elastic. The broth started fairly flat, but as it soaked up the flavor from the offal, started tasting quite good. The best of the lot was the intestines, clean and chewy...the thin slices of offal were nice, just enough earthy, bitter tones, but the pig liver tasted a bit off, and not being a big fan of pig liver, unless it's really fresh, it was not my cup of tea. There were two small, rubbery shrimp in the soup.
Not bad. I was surprised at the large groups of customers, most of which weren't Asian! Folks gotta eat on Xmas Day I guess.
Tim Ky Noodle 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
While I might grumble about the food and restaurants here in San Diego from time to time; I do realize that there is a nice variety available to you if you take the time to enjoy things. Take breakfast/brunch for example. Over the last couple of weeks, I found myself getting something different from the usual noodle soup while doing my Saturday morning errands.
It's easy to overlook El Borrego. The street parking is limited and it's in sort of a no-man's land right before the main City Heights shopping area. Heck; it's been about four years since I've last visited.
But with temps now dipping into the 40's at night, I just wanted some Lamb Consomme.
The lovely warm embrace of the gamey lamb broth ($2.25) was just the thing I needed to warm me up and get me going. As was the Mexican coffee.
Being a bit hungry, I also ordered two Quesadilla Rellenas ($2.75/ each); one with flor de calabasa and the other with; of course, huitlacoche....I'm thinking that Black Belt Jonez comment on huitlacoche had me craving it.
The huitlacoche here is fairly mild with just a bit of that fungi flavor; the squash blossom goes really well with the cheese; which adds in a slightly milky touch. That salsa roja is no joke either.
Nice and comforting, but not too much food; it was what I needed to get all systems ready for my errands.
El Borrego Restaurant 4280 El Cajon Boulevard San Diego, CA 92115
The Garlic Rice was decent; miost and the garlic wasn't too burnt and bitter. The steam table eggs weren't bad; still soft and runny in the middle; though I do enjoy my eggs with crisp edges. The eggs weren't seasoned, so adding your own salt is a must. The standard issue longanisa was fine; I'd prefer bit more char, but it had a nice snap, wasn't dried out, and had that sweet longanisa hamonado flavor.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
The "Moco Loco" at the High Dive:
So, I've been going into the office during most weekends since we got back from vacation. Some were necessary; on other days, it was just to catch up on admin stuff. I ran to Birdrock on Morena to pick up some coffee beans for the Missus. I'd done my Sprouts - 99 Ranch Market - Nijiya - Costco shopping and was going to grab something quick and head off to the office when I decided to "F that"......I deserved a day off and maybe a nice long weekend nap.
The car took over and parked alongside the High Dive. And my 11am Ommegang Gnomegang clinched the deal.
I haven't been the biggest fan of the food here, but hadn't seen the Brunch menu before. THD opens at 8am on Saturday and Sunday and they had something called the "Moco Loco" ($15)....you know me and Loco Mocos.
This really was a mixed bag. The egg seemed kinda small, but was fine, the yolk still runny. The gravy was straight up mushroom gravy which had a decent texture; not overly gluey, and wasn't too salty. It was just a tad over lukewarm though. The rice had an odd texture......not sure what was going on.
The best item was the burger; which, while being pretty lean and toothsome, had a really nice char with a good beefiness to it.
One word of warning; if you're ordering this and can't take something less than medium, I think you should let them know as what I got was pretty darn rare. Though it didn't bother me.
High Dive Bar and Grill 1801 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Well, at least I actually did take a "day off". And I got something other than noodle soup for my weekend breakfast.
So during my rather unsuccessful romp through all those new "poke" places; and those are truly hard quotation marks, I really didn't have anything I truly enjoyed, anything that would make me forget places "back home". During that time, I heard Zarlitos mentioned twice. Once by a fellow Ex-Pat Kama'aina. Zarlitos? Poke? Digging a little bit I read that Zarlitos won both the San Diego and Orange County "I Love Poke Contests" in 2015. I hadn't been back to Zarlitos in almost five years, so I thought why not....perhaps there's some changes in store there.
Arriving and walking into the place, it was evident that this was still Zarlitos. The sticky tables and even more sticky menus; no poke in sight. Until I saw the small greaseboard on the pillar, with four varieties of poke written in red. From there, it was easy to order.......
The "Mini" (again, it's all relative) Crispy Pata and Shoyu Poke...pata and poke, that's music to my ears. The pata was over-fried and dry and though the skin came off in a nice little strip, much of it was hard versus crisp, more like leather than the best chicharones. It was pretty bland as well. For this, I'll stick with Villa Manila.
The garlic rice was decent; moist and the garlic wasn't burnt and bitter.
I actually sent some friends back home the photo. They thought I was back home and went to Fresh Catch. The fish was decent quality, not too much "suji", no off flavors, good texture. The flavor was perhaps a bit too sweet and I could have used a tad more saltiness; but this was by far the best poke I've had recently. It made my day.
Most of these "chi-poke" places I've been to are just a concept, somewhat high on style, low on good grindz. At Zarlitos, there's none of that. I wanted and got, decent poke. How's that for innovative?
Zarlitos Family Restaurant 505 East 8th St. National City, CA 91950
mmm-yoso!!! is what you are reading; a food blog. Usually there is a daily blogpost about food or food related events written by either Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) or Cathy. Since the guys are out and about (elsewhere in the world and the USA), Cathy is writing a short post.
More than three years ago, I wrote a post about a small Filipino market located South of Chula Vista. That location closed and the new location is closer to home, for me.
Walking in the doorway to your right, bakery items are on shelves to the right. Steam trays are straight ahead and everything is always fresh and being refilled. This two item tray ($7 with rice, $8 with pancit)(this photo is with chicken adobo and pinakbet). Adobo anything (meats or vegetables) is a type of preparation: simmered in a sauce of vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, pepper and bay leaves. Pinakbet is primarily vegetables (almost always, bitter melon and eggplant), but sometimes (in the version here) also has pork, all of it is simmered in a fish or shrimp sauce complimented with ginger and garlic (or onion); usually shrimp paste is a condiment.
At the end of the steam tray area are fried things. Chicken skins, dilis (anchovies), bulaklak ('ruffle fat'-intestines), pig skin plus meat-chicharrones. All the fried items are $8.99/lb. I try to only buy a small bag, so none of it gets old. It comes with a vinegar-garlic dipping sauce. Ukoy, a shredded sweet potato/carrot/bean sprout fritter, topped with a whole shrimp are usually in a pan on top of the steam trays, at eye level. These are great snacks. Another item I will drop in to purchase is the garlic salted peanuts ($3.75 for the container). We both eat peanuts with skins and these are the best version of garlic peanuts we've ever had. cc likes the 'plain' peanuts from here, and other bakery items. There are also plenty of rice flour based desserts and, on weekends, skewers near the cash register.
A small seating area is just past the cash registers. That area used to be with shelving and refrigerated beverages, but last year a small pop-up stand was set up (see how it looked in cc's post here) and about three months later, it moved into the Water Store which was behind the wall, and is all built in with the bakery. Snoice is a family run dessert shop, making Filipino-inspired and Taiwanese customizable desserts. Here is a better photo of the menu These are the prices.
I've taken many photos of the traditional Halo-Halo here ($4.25+), none of those photos will come out upright. Halo-halo means 'mix-mix'. Shaved ice is placed in a cup with with evaporated milk, sweet banana (saging), sweet potato (kamote), jello (gulaman), purple yam (ube) and topped with a cube of caramel flan and 'toasted rice' (pinipig-young, flattened crisp rice (that green you see on top)). Basically, you mix all the ingredients together in the cup, so each spoonful is a combination of the flavors. The optional ice cream you see in the first photo is the mais queso- corn cheese; I have always been curious about the flavor but never wanted to buy a half gallon in the store. The 'traditional' ice cream topping is ube. (This link is what Halo-halo is NOT.)
Of course, there is indeed Snoice here-shaved snow. This is a strawberry shaved snow (excellent on its own) topped with bananas and lychee jelly (small snow, $4, toppings 50¢ each). Simple and just right.
This little corner store in San Diego has a couple of great family owned and run businesses with authentic, fresh and tasty food-of all types.
Kababayan Bakery 8423 Paradise Valley Road (at Worthington) Spring Valley 91977 (619) 267-1493 open 6 a.m.-7:30 p.m., seven days
Snoice (inside Kababayan) same address, (619)432-5735 Open 11 a.m. daily, closed at 8p.m. Mon-Thurs, 9 p.m. Fri-Sat-Sun Website
I was surprised that Calvin, who's missus is from Westminster, like Bun Mam, had never heard of Bun Mang Vit. They had to ask an aunt who knew all of these Vietnamese dishes. So a couple of months back, I was craving Bun Mang Vit again.
It seems that everytime I visit, something has changed at Tu Thanh. Still, it the Bun Mang Vit I'm after.
And while this was good; it wasn't quite as good as what I've had in the past. The duck was haphazardly cut, some slices too thick, others with slivers of bone. The flavor was still the same though. The broth was a bit lighter in flavor and seemed to have a bit more msg.....I still enjoy the rehydrated bamboo shoots.
When it comes down to it; perhaps it's the sauce that makes everything tick; the garlic-ginger-sweet-salty tones just brings things together.
Which is what it did for Calvin, who had never had Bun Mang Vit before.
The menu seems to be ever expanding here now.
Perhaps someday I'll try something different. But not on this day.
Tu Thanh 4804 University Ave. #A San Diego, CA 92105 Hours: Thurs - Tues 9am - 9pm Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Manila Fast Food and Desserts:
So, "FOY" (Friend of Yoso) and periodic commenter "SomTommy" sent me and email after my post on Mama Cinia asking me which Chicken Adobo I prefer; Manila Fast Food versus the rather new Mama Cinia. Hmmmm.....good question. Chicken Adbobo isn't usually the first thing I choose. So I decided to head on back to Manila Fast Food. I hadn't been there in a while. I got the combination with Chicken Adobo and, well, sisig of course.
As you can see, the portion size, typical of these "turo-turo" places was quite generous. That chicken adobo, other than being salty was pretty bland....no nice vinegar, nor black pepper flavors.
The sisig was, unlike previous visits, pretty weak. Too little vinegar, too little spice for my taste. Also, much too waxy in texture.
Kind of a bummer since the sisig, while not traditional, and the kaldereta kambing (which I haven't seen in a while here) were the dishes I enjoyed the most. I actually prefer the sisig at Mama Cinia to this.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
I was quite surprised when Christy's Bakery closed, after all they were pretty much a Mira Mesa institution having been in that spot for a quarter century. Then it seems like overnight Mama Cinia opened. I decided to drop by and check them out.
First off, I have to say I really like the folks here, so warm and friendly. They've really freshened up and renovated the interior too.
They've got a variety of typical combos from the steam table, desserts like halo-halo, and also serve Mami from 2pm.
I dropped by between meetings to pick up an early lunch on the way back to the office. A 2 item combo with Garlic Rice.
I was surprised to see Bicol Express, something I just don't see often enough at these turo-turo joints. The very ncie woman was surprised I knew what it was. I also got the sisig (of course).
First off, the rice was on the dry side and the garlic a bit burnt. I liked that the sisig wasn't your typical "San Diego sisig", which is basically lechon kawale. Loved all the nice bits of pork, nice textures, a bit smoky, but for my tastes, in need to more spice and vinegar.
I was pleasantly surprised at how tender the pork in the Bicol Express was; but it was really greasy, and lacking in spice and I would have appreciated more bagoong as it was fairly bland.
A week later, having to attend the same meeting, I decided to return. This time I got the two item combination, chicken adobo and kare kare, with pancit instead of rice; they didn't even charge me the $1 extra...perhaps they forgot. Again, it was a load of food.
The flavor of the pancit was decent; enough soy sauce for a change, but it was a bit mushy in texture. Much like the Bicol Express, I was impressed at how tender all the meat and other bits were in the Kare Kare, but it was really, really bland....even that bagoong wasn't enough. This was also a bit on the greasy side as well.
The pieces of the chicken adobo were quite large and this could have used a bit more vinegar as it was pretty salty and now that I think about it, I like mine with a good amount of black pepper as well. I actually enjoyed the potato the most.
I did enjoy the fact that all the food I got was quite hot; perhaps it was because of the time I got there. The people are ultra friendly, so I'll probably drop by again. Maybe one evening to try the Beef Mami, after all, it's been ages since I've had a decent one. The portions are quite generous, so I don't think you'll be leaving hungry here.
Mama Cinia Rice & Noodles 9178 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126 Hours: Wed - Sat, Mondays 9am - 8pm Sundays 9am - 4pm
There were so many open parking spaces, and yet..... Go figure. Not even close to Paris Bakery, none of the other businesses open, just decided to park here. Actually saw the guy parked in the Handicap stall struggle a bit to get out.
Doesn't quite make sense, does it? A couple of months back, while grabbing something to go it occurred to me that there's quite a few places that have been around for years that I'd eaten at, but had never done posts on. These places are mainly convenience stops for me, places I don't usually visit. For a few, it had been over a decade......like Karihan for example. Karihan is one of those "old school" turo-turo joints that have been around forever. I hadn't been here since maybe right after we moved to San Diego. First off, the parking at Grove Plaza can be pretty terrible, but that doesn't mean I hadn't tried visiting in the past. I recall huge portions of rather mediocre food, except for the Kare-Kare which I thought was decent.
So made up my mind to do this pseudo-revisit......man, they don't use MSG here....so says the sign dated 11/09! And when did that Japanese looking booth thingy arrive in the dining area?
Good lord, how can anyone polish off all this food? Look at all that lechon.....
I found the pancit to be very bland, though the texture of the noodles wasn't too bad. I should have just gotten rice, though it might have fed us for a week! The skin on the lechon was hard as rock and the meat quite dry. The Kare-Kare had a nice piece of tender oxtail meat on top, no tripe, a few small pieces of pork hock, and the rest of it was mostly bone, the texture a bit on the gluey side, a nice amount of green beans, but one tiny piece of eggplant, and this was on the bland side as well. I was searching for any trace of savory flavor that I enjoy in a good Kare-Kare. No amount of bagoong could revive it. I don't recall things being quite this bad before?
Has the arms race for portion size caused this? I mean, Tita's is a few yards away? Kind of sad; the young ladies working here were a lot friendlier than I recalled. I'd say this place is definitely for the quantity over quality set. MG once told me that "Karihan" meant something like "Cafeteria" in Tagalog. On this occasion it was that all right......but not in a good way.
Karihan Filipino Food 2220 E Plaza Blvd National City, CA 91950
And I was surprised to find that in addition to the simple, rather divey dining area.....
They've added additional seating out on the street, where there once were some 15 minute parking. They call it a Parklet and I rather like it.
I had my usual, the Garlic Chicken Wrap, now $7.25. You can tell I've been doing this blogging thing for a while....at the time of my first post on Mama's, the wrap was $4.99!
And while I had mentioned that the chicken in this wrap had gotten rather scarce back in 2012; there seemed to be even less of it on this day. And while I do enjoy the garlic paste and claim that it would make cardboard tasty, this is still a "chicken wrap". It just seemed to have less of everything, though the flatbread/wrap, made fresh on the "Sajj" was still warm when I opened it up and had a nice stretch to it.
It just didn't have enough filling. And as the saying goes; "Man does not live by bread alone".
I did notice another thing. I'd always thought that the "hot sauce" here tasted a lot like Louisiana style hot sauce. These days they leave the hot sauce dispenser out....it's Trappey's. I do like the way the hot sauce works with the wrap.
Mama's is one of those places that seems to have been around forever. We used to drop by every so often when we first moved to San Diego. A bit before my first post on the place in 2005, the place changed hands, to what seemed to be no detriment to the quality of the food. The folks here have always been pleasant. But it seems, at least in my mind, that the garlic chicken wrap has not aged well.
Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli 4237 Alabama St. San Diego, CA 92104
I've been having to work weekends sporadically over the last couple of months. On those days, because I'm able to take my sweet old time going into work, I'll often take the "really long route" to the office. On one of those mornings, I stopped by Pinoy Fiesta. Another place I haven't been to in a while.
I noticed that a pan of kare kare had just come out, so I got that....and in a moment of weakness, even though I didn't care for the sisig during previous visits, I decided to give it another shot.
Man, that kare kare was really bland and the meat super tough, not a fan. And while the flavor of the sisig wasn't bad this time around, denotes, though it could have had a bit more spice, it was ice cold and super waxy...."fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice......"
Still, nice folks, but I'll wait a while before coming back here.