Thanks for stopping by to read mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Usually Kirk is writing posts about food, but right now He is very busy 'researching' so he will have some interesting posts. Ed (from Yuma) is also in a 'researching' mode. Today, Cathy is writing.
This still is the newest location in the County (new in 2011) and since discovering it, The Mister and I shop here fairly regularly, always having a bite to eat in the adjacent Food Court area before shopping.
Yes, it's a Food Court with nice, heavy wood picnic table seating; so much nicer than plastic seating. Standard Filipino chains are here (I've posted on Chow King,in various ways more than once and Kirk has posted about Jolibee in various ways). The other places here are also interesting...
The colorful wrapped candies are pastillas and made with milk; a favorite.
Other desserts are sold here also. Mostly made with rice flour, I've tried bites of many of them at parties and visits with friends and really like the selection.
The steam trays here are fascinating.
As are the grab and go foods.
On a recent visit, we shared this ukoy (fritter)($2). Onion, potato, plantain and a head on shrimp, fried into a neat patty and served with black vinegar. This is a current craving.
We also grabbed one of these to share ($1)-the cashews are very good, crispy and the cookies were not too sweet. Filipino Desserts Plus Website multiple locations
At Valerio's, we bought this still warm bibingka ($2.50), a coconut milk/rice flour based cake that is baked inside a banana leaf. It's a special item for us. Valerio's Bakeshop, multiple locations, no website.
Almost every visit here ends up with something from Tapioca Express. Snacks of fried chicken nuggets, tofu and squid rings, seasoned as spicy as you wish and served with either ranch or sweet and sour sauce along with some sort of beverage is always a meal. Tapioca Express, multiple locations. Website
A more or less new addition to the Food Court is the freestanding Grill City grill (not in this photo) and steam table area. A chain, all locations are inside Seafood City stores.
Above, fried chicken skins, a pork adobo kabob and a whole stuffed squid. All are really good items; I am always up for fried chicken skins as a snack. Pay attention to that statement.
The squid stuffing is a wonderful mix of vegetables: tomato, onion and bell pepper.
On another visit, a slice of grilled swordfish and a grilled stuffed eggplant (inihaw) was our meal. So good and so fresh. The fish is served with a fresh mango salsa; a perfect condiment. (Prices for a la carte veggies are $3, $6 or $9, depending on size)(Prices for a la cart meat and seafood are $3.50, $6.50 and $9.50).
We enjoy this Food Court area and look forward to our drives to Seafood City market.
Seafood City (also a link to Grill City) website 285 East Orange Chula Vista 91911 (619)621-2050 Open 8am-9 pm daily
I liked the lay-out of the restaurant....on the small side, but very clean and simple. I especially liked the gentleman manning the counter, who I believe is the owner; very warm, but also very professional. He just seemed like someone who has a restaurant background and also really cared about his customers.
The menu is pretty tight with 5 "braised/stew" style dishes, 3 items off the grill, plus pancit (of course), and lumpia (of course...of course) and a couple of other items.
I started with some lumpia ($3).
It becomes immediately clear that you're not in a "turo-turo" ("point-point") steam table joint. First the prices....which are definitely in the "fast-casual" range. The lumpia were very small. However, they were hot, freshly made,light, and crisp. The filling also had very good flavor.....I could even make out some garlic-porkiness. This was probably the favorite item I had.
Now for most folks, the first item they's try would be either Adobo, Bistek, or Inusok.....what most places call BBQ Pork. One of my favorite dishes is Kaldereta....here it's Kaldereta Baka, basically a beef stew. Well actually, it's Caldereta ($8) on the menu and comes with two sides. I like that you have a choice of brown or white rice, but you know what I choose, right?
For my sides, I chose the "charred corn salad", which was the better of the two sides, even though it didn't have much charred color, nor the development of the sugars that a good grilling of corn would. Good salt and the tomato added a nice acidic touch to it. The eggplant and tomato salad; basically ensaladang talong. Good garlic flavor here, but it was pretty flat overall, the eggplant was too hard and chewy, and versions that I enjoy have a touch of vinegar, which was lacking here.
The rice was a tad hard for my tastes as well.
The caldereta was nice and tangy, but needed a bit more salt and lacked the complex flavors of a long braised dish. The carrots were almost raw and hard and some of the pieces of beef were really dry, like both items had been cold stored and added at the end. I also missed other ingredients I'd find in various versions of this dish; olives, red or green bell peppers, that kind of thing. It seemed like a caricature of the intended dish.
Like many other of these "fast casual" concepts; there seems to be that "soulful" component missing; though I enjoyed some of the dishes here a lot more than say, Green Shallots. As a plus, that gentleman behind the counter was very pleasant, so I'm hoping they do well. This is not the place to get your turo-turo fix; but if you want something a bit lighter you might want to give them a try. I'll probably drop by again if I'm in the area in a couple of months.
Carin de Ria 3440 Del Lago Blvd Escondido, CA 92029
It had been a while since I last visited, so I thought I'd drop in and grab a bite. Nothing really called to me and I wasn't super hungry, but then a tray of lechon kawale came out of the kitchen, so I went for that.
It was hot, the exterior hot and crisp, but there was something strange about this.....the meat was on the spongy side and very bland....actually the texture of the meat wasn't very pleasant. I just can't quite put my finger on it.
Pinoy Fiesta 550 E 8th St National City, CA 91950
Grandma's Tofu & BBQ:
I know, I just did a post on the Heokyumso Jeongol - the black goat stew a couple of months back. But the recent rain and colder weather had us craving this again. Instead of going on and on about the dish, I'll let you in to a little secret....our "goat strategy" if you will. As good as the Heokyumso Jeongol is, it's even better when spiced up a bit....so when the panchan comes, we quickly, but sneakily dump all the baechu kimchi and the sauce from the cucumber instantly into the broth....it makes it that much better! The nice ladies then bring us refills...we eat the kimchi, but make sure to dump the sauce into the stew....and so forth. We usually take home about 2/3 of this.....and we hit Zion on the way home for sesame leaf or wild spinach, then I'll get some tofu from Nijiya on my way home from work the next day....we always have Korean bean paste and gochujang and this ends up being two more meals.
Which is why we'll usually get something like the Kimchi Dolsot Bi Bim Bap with our meal.
Sshhh, don't tell anybody......
Grandma's Tofu & BBQ 4425 Convoy St. San Diego, CA 92111
Though the Bot Chien really wasn't worth the effort......
I guess I'm still chasing what I had at Kang Lac Bakery in Westminster. Instead of being crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, this had a hard exterior with a cardboard like texture and flavor. They probably bought it at Lucky Seafood next door.
The Missus strangely had a Banh Xeo which She enjoyed.......the pork in this version is braised which makes it more tender than others.....still, it's far from my favorite.
We came back a couple of nights later and I had the Egg Noodle Soup with Roast Duck.......
The duck can be hit and miss....on this visit it was super tough, definitely a miss, but the hot and salty soup really did the trick.
Tan Ky Mi Gia 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd #A San Diego, CA 92126
A couple of weeks ago, our good friend "MG" whom I hadn't seen in a while told me that Villa Manila was doing a "Kamayan Night". For those who haven't heard that term before, kamayan literally refers to eating with your hands. In short, for the Filipino's I know, it also refers to a fairly festive occasion where family and friends get together and eat like crazy!
MG had great timing as my good friends, the twins, Pete and John's Birthday was rapidly approaching. Ange was nice enough to coordinate and since the four of us had been here together before, Ange knew everyone's preferences....in other words, pork, pork, and more pork. Since there would be 8 of us, Ange ordered the "Fiesta" and we supplemented with two (small) orders of Crispy Pata and Chicharon Bulaklak.
As you can gather, it's imperative that you make reservations in advance, unless you want to wait for a couple of hours for food. You can then supplement again if the need arises. Also, note the fine print that adds charges if you have excess people and don't supplement.
Also, those bowls don't hold soup, ok? It's water and lemon for your hands....you'll be needing them, since you'll be eating with 'em. So don't drink that!
Anyway, having made reservations, our banana leaf draped table was ready when we arrived. And they quickly got our first supplement, the bulaklak, fried pork intestines, out to the table. Love the version here and can't get enough of it.
Soon enough, our Server, whom I shall call "Iron Hands" because he didn't even flinch when placing our steaming rice on the banana leaves.
"Iron Hands" also displayed his overall strength when he brought the proteins out to be served.
Here's the progress......so in case you're keeping score, you can see the the Inihaw na Baboy and the Halabos na Hipop (steamed shrimp), along with the Adobo....
On a funny note, Xiāng Jiāo couldf not get enough of the Crispy Pata and Lechon Kawale.....she even got a pork "high" feeling a bit light headed near the end of the meal.
In case you were worried about our vegetable intake, dinner came with Inihaw na Talong (grilled eggplant) and the green stuff at the end of the table....though I think it was mostly a garnish. Those preserved eggs were pretty heady, but was nice combined with the mango and the atchara.
You can kind of tell what everyone was missing here right? Crispy Pata, bulaklak, lechon kawale, bicol express, adobo, and inihaw na baboy...it sure wan;t pork.....
This stuff is obviously great pulutan....beer food. Unfortunately, Villla Manila does not serve alcohol, nor allow BYOB. I was told it was because of the church across the street.
Initially, we thought we'd get a "mega" halo-halo, but there just wasn't much room after the cake.
Happy Birthday guys! We should do this again soon!
500 East 8th Street
National City, CA 91950
Kamayan Night only on Thursday - I suggest calling and making reservations.
Because everyone was itching for a nightcap. Candice, who has a deep affection for old-school and dive bars, suggested La Maze. Remember, this was the group who hit up Albie's. It was a nice old-school ending to a wonderful evening.
It's been a wonderfully fun and busy weekend for me, here some stuff that I've had queued up while I catch up on things.
Yes, yet another post, among perhaps a half dozen or so done by myself and Cathy over the years. This little shop ajoining Lucky Seafood has been our go to shop. So naturally, when the Missus wanted some pho recently, this was where we headed to.
Notice the jalapenos that the Missus adds to Her version.......not something I enjoy, but at least She doesn't dump in a boatload of hoisin or sririacha....
My intent was to have pho as well; but while walking from our car the fragrance of grilling pork permeated the parking lot. So I order the house special broken rice.
And while the rice wasn't as fragrant as I prefer, the pork chop was well flavored and fairly tender, the "bi" had been tossed with rice powder and was also good....the Missus poached the shrimp, which She enjoyed. We probably had good timing on this one.......and I'm not complaining.
What good stuffs did you have to eat recently?
Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92126
Man, the last two weeks have been brutal....call me a soft San Diegan, but I've been feeling the heat and humidity. I told Cathy that I wish it would just storm like crazy so this weather would break. No such luck so far!
Well, regardless of the weather, you've got to eat, right? So here's some of what we had during the last two weeks.
It had been a while and I was craving some Ebi Kakiage cold noodles, so Izakaya Sakura it was.
This time it was the cold udon version, which hit the spot.
This really hit the spot!
Though I could have done without having to listen to Wilson Phillips Greatest Hits throughout my meal....
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
The Original Sab E Lee:
Spicy Thai food is a natural for us during hot muggy weather.....not sure why.
A quick look at the steam table made selecting what I wanted easy.
The Beef Mechado was much more tender than the last time I had it. The flavor was also better, much more tangy flavor and decent salt. It was on the greasy side though.
The sisig was not bad; nice pungent, sour, spice, salt..... would have been nice to have a bit of crispness in it since it was typical "SD Sisig", left-over lechon kawale. But overall; no complaints, better than I've had recently.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Champions Mariscos Truck:
So, just as in the previous four weeks, I broke out the smoker during Labor Day weekend. I needed something fairly close by before I started the ribs, so I headed over to Champions Mariscos Truck in the parking lot of Toys R' Us on Morena.
Consomme might seem to be a bit much on a scortching day, but I can never turn it down. This was a bit too water for my taste, with a bit too much celery flavor. Not as good as my previous visits.
I went with the Arrachera y Camaron...the surf and turf taco. Not enough caramelization on the beef, but it was decently tender. The shrimp were moist and flavorful.
I decided to go with the Taco de Marlyn again.
Man, they really loaded this thing! Unlike my previous visit, it didn't seem to have too much queso...perhaps due to the amount of filling! All this "stuff" seemed to water down the flavor of the smoked fish though....but this wasn't too bad.
Champions Mariscos Truck - In the parking lot of Toys 'R Us on Morena Boulevard
So there you go....we may be overheatin', but we're still eatin'. Hope everyone is staying and keeping cool!
A couple folks have asked if I'd ever been to this little shop in the food court of the Plaza Sorrento Shopping Center. Which I think is a pretty good food court. Yes, there's a Subway and the Chinese Fast Food place, but you can also get Thai, Greek, not my kind of Sushi, and perhaps not not my favorite Pho shop. Throw in Indian, one of the places in our Mira Mesa banh mi crawl, and you've got yourself quite a variety....maybe not the best in terms of quality, but it's a combination that's hard to beat in one spot. And there's even Filipino Barbecue......which is where I'll pick up. I'd seen Tem's and had always meant to try them out. So I finally made it a point to grab a meal.
I've always thought Filipino "turo-turo" style food was perfect for a food court. As expected, the atmosphere is totally food court and the selection revolves around Filipino Barbecue, with an additional 3-4 additional offerings. The prices are reasonable....the 1 item and rice goes for $4.99. Here's an example with BBQ Chicken.
Man, talk about enough carbs to keep you runnin' for a while....it's like three scoops of rice. The chicken is grilled, but not dry, and is dark meat which has more flavor. I enjoy the different riffs on Filipino BBQ, salty, sweetness from sugar or even 7-up, perhaps a fruitiness from Jufran, sour of Kalamansi, a hint of garlic, a touch sweet-pungent onions.....the list can get fairly long. The version here is very mild, coated with sauce, and for me, occupies a level barely above the food court "same chicken with a different sauce".
The best item I've had here is the "Spicy Pork", which is a pseudo sisig-ish.
It's the 50% solution....not very spicy, but it is pork. There's a hint of sour and sweet, the pork has a bit of chew, but isn't bad. It's the most flavorful dish I've had here.
The BBQ Pork on the other hand was totally "the other white meat". Dry, touch, and with less flavor than the chicken.
The one item I would absolutely not ever get here again is the Chicken Adobo. Dry, lacking in the flavor of soy, vinegar, black pepper, this was adobo in name only.
Then there was the occasion when my rice on the two item combo.....a reasonably priced at $6.09, was terribly hard and dry. No bueno.....
For some reason, the way the food is glazed reminds me of long defunct Eddel's, but with less flavor. Maybe someone with the inside scoops might know?
Everybody know's Tita's right? I mean, really, it's an establishment here in San Diego. Cynthia "aka" Tita, has created a little kingdom for herself here in San Diego, now with a couple of places on Plaza Boulevard. Many folks, myself included brave the crowds to stand in line and pick out the "turo turo" favorites from the ever replenished steam table, beef mechado, adobo, tortang talong..... As I mentioned in my first post back in 2005 and other posts, I've yet to be able to polish off an entire plate from the place in a single sitting. The portions are huge and in terms of value, it's good. But over the years, I've been going less and less. The lousy attitude of the workers, in addition to not really going after quantity anymore, means that I really haven't gotten a meal there in quite a while.
Now this is with a couple of caveats. My good friend MG will get me lunch from there once in a while. Also, I dropped by looking for sisig as I mentioned in this post. Why sisig? Well, my recollection was that Tita's sisig just wasn't very good. In fact, when FOY (Friend of Yoso) and fellow food blogger Kirbie did a post about Tita's which included the sisig in 2009, "MrM"(I hope you're doing well) and myself commented on how bad the sisig was at Tita's. To me it just wasn't the thing you ordered there. And yet.......Tita's was on one of those food shows and the sisig there blew up....suddenly, folks were saying how good it was. At first I was kind of irked because changing the recipe for the purpose of publicity is basically admitting that you knew your sisig wasn't very good all these years and you did nothing about it. Whatevers. The strange thing about the lousy service at Tita's.....I'm glad I don't speak Tagalog, because the body language and facial expressions of some of the workers makes me really happy to not understand what they're saying...on the other hand, I've met "Tita" a couple of times and she was the nicest person. Go figure.....
So I finally hit paydirt a couple of weeks ago and actually got sisig. First I need to clear some things up. If someone got off the plane from Pampanga this morning and hit up a couple spots for sisig in San Diego, they' be wondering "what the heck?" What we have here is basically use of leftover lechon kawale, not the delici-yoso pig head and parts that make up traditional sisig. Still, when done well, it's porky goodness.
The photo above in a nutshell goes a long way in explaining Tita's popularity. You can easily feed two, or maybe two and a half with this $7 plate of food.
I chose the pork adobo because it just came out of the kitchen and was steaming hot. It was decent, sour enough, salty, not overly tough, especially at this price point. Maybe lacking in the black pepper department a bit.
The sisig on the other hand was as bad as the version I had in 2002, except not as soupy.
Not enough salt, sour, spice, very waxy and greasy in texture. All the benefits of using leftover lechon kawale lost in it's sogginess. Throw in the below lukewarm temperature and this just wasn't my thing. Which has me scratching my head....this can't be what folks have been raving about since Andrew Zimmern "tweeted" about it - "Tita's sisig, best I have ever tasted . San Diego Philippine food is crazy good".
You want bang-for-the-buck to feed your starving student, Tita's is it. You want good sisig? If this is an indication, I don't think Tita's is it. There are a good number of dishes they do make which are better.... I'm wondering if they still make the pancit palabok to order?
Tita's Kitchenette 2720 East Plaza Boulevard National City, CA 91950
Here's more steam table goodness for your Thursday.
R & B Filipino Cuisine:
Being kind of off the beaten track, it's easy to forgot about R&B. One weekend I was driving around Mira Mesa and R&B suddenly came to mind. Not sure why....but it was enough for me to take that right turn on Camino Ruiz......
They were doing pretty good business when I arrived. Taking a quick glance at what was available, it was easy to make a decision.
The beef steak (bistek) had just come out and I recalled that I'd had the tapas on a previous visit and didn't think it was too bad. The meat was pretty tender considering it was pretty low grade round or sirloin. It was too salty for my taste and whatever citrus they had in this really didn't help balance things out. The worst was the flavor I can only describe as "scummy", that weird almost offal-blood like flavor of low grade meat cooked in its own scum.
I also got the sisig (duh), which was nicely flavored, decent vinegar and heat. It was just a bit too bitter and mushy, but not bad overall.
The folks here looked pretty beat on this day, but they were nice enough. I still haven't run into the hamonado my friend's husband recommends, so hopefully one day.
R & B Filipino Cuisine 11257 Camino Ruiz San Diego, CA 92126
Manila Fast Food and Desserts:
I can say with some confidence that Manila Fast Food is probably the busiest of the turo turo joints in the area. Being near Seafood City helps, there are always people in the place, which makes for decent turnover. Looking over things I went with the sisig and beef mechado, easy picks. Though they had just brought out the lechon, which I've had mixed success with here. After talking to Kirbie about her rather recent experiences with the lechon here.....I probably made the right choice.
The Beef Mechado was very mild, but at least it wasn't too salty. The stew quality beef was pretty tough. Overall, it could have used a bit more flavor, perhaps a bit of al onger cooking time.
I've always thought the sisig at MFF had a decent balance of flavor, the sour-salty-spicy. My problem was how watery, mushy, and waxy the whole deal was. Well, no complaints about texture this time around. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a trade off with regards to flavor. The usual bright tones of the dish, especially the spice was now AWOL. I guess you have to choose between flavor and texture with regards to MFFs sisig?
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Thanks for reading. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!
Over the course of the last twelve weeks I managed to revisit a couple of turo turo places, which I'll post on over the next few weeks. Actually, I dropped by Tita's twice during this period, but they didn't have any sisig, so I decided not to wait in those massive lines. I've heard that they actually changed the sisig recipe when AZ(not you "AZ", the other AZ) visited; I always thought the sisig there was terrible. So it took a television thing to get them to make a better product? I guess even they knew their sisig wasn't up to par..... Well enough of that. Here's enough saturated fat for a week or so.
There was a time not too long ago, when I thought that Conching made some of the best turo turo sisig in San Diego. As of a couple of years ago, I felt that the sisig had slipped a bit. It just wasn't as good. Those thought were percolating in mi cabeza as I parked.
No matter how many times I visit, walking to the turo turo ("point point", a reference to steam table cuisine) counter, I can't help but be amused at the ice cream parlor look. Someone asked me to describe the interior once and the best I could come up with was "Farrell's meets patis". Because I had just come from the long lines and cold stares at Tita's, the stark emptiness of the place really made an impression. There were no other customers during my entire meal.
Looking over the steam table items, I saw something I never recalled seeing before, so I ordered it.
I guess it's the purple tinted red color that got me...plus this had slices of pork belly in it. Well, even more than the color, catching a whiff of it as I brought this to my table really got my nares out of the morning doldrums. I actually liked this; it was salty, in a good way, very savory, obviously from a good amount of bagoong alamang. It was also fairly spicy, a rarity in most Filipino dishes that I've had....the possible exception being bicol express and some versions of sisig. Still, I didn't know what the heck this was and the woman behind the counter wasn't in a particularly chatty mood, so I took a photo and sent it to my former coworker "MG". Who informed me that this was a dish with the catchy name of Binagoongang Baboy. The combination of pungent bagoong, garlic, chilies, tomato, and green bell peppers, adds up to salty-savory,tangy,spicy, and pretty delicious in my book. I have another dish to be on the look-out for in the future.
Of course I had the sisig.
Which was disappointing. Oh how the mighty has fallen. This was soggy, lacked vinegar, and had rather unpleasant bitterness to it.
On a positive note, I have a new dish to look out for. On the flip side, it seems that the sisig here has gone downhill. I asked MG when I saw her a couple of weeks later. She told me that the food at Conching hasn't been very good for the last six-eight months. Sad.
Conching's Cafe 3400 E 8th St.Ste 115 National City, CA 91950