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
Whew, I'm pretty beat today, so I thought I'd just go with some recent breakfasts in photos. These were basically the photos I sent along with text messages to my FOYs that led to JohnL telling me to put them into a post. I'm pretty sure you'll recognize the places/dishes:
I still haven't gotten round to doing a proper post on this place. Still waiting to check out the yakitori I guess. I mentioned the special place in my heart this type of dish holds. I still prefer whole raw eggs, but "hot spring eggs" (onsen tamago) will do, even if these were a bit more runny than other versions I've had. For $6, I consider this a real nice breakfast.
Hinotez 7947 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
I've stopped by 777 Noodle House a couple of times while doing my weekend morning grocery shopping. The Hu Tieu Nam Vang Kho - Phnom Penh Noodles (Dry) is what I'll usually order. The price for this has gone up, but is still just $5.77.
I always look forward to the broth on the side, mainly because I really enjoy the sight of the pork leg bone in the broth. No offal in this version, but it is quite filling. One morning, as I sat and ate my breakfast, I noticed that all the tables were speaking different languages...one table Vietnamese, another Spanish, the one to my left Cantonese, right in front of me was a family that I think was Somali, the one in the corner Lao....the room was full of beautiful noises.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
This next one needs no introduction.......
My quarterly loco moco...........well, actually a Kaloko Moco ($8.95).
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
And it just wouldn't be right for me to do a breakfast post without a "silog" meal, in this case a Longsilog ($5.75) from Zarlitos.
The longanisa didn't look too good, but was nicely charred on the exterior. I can tell you that cooking longanisa can make a mess of your frying pan. This was a decent meal for the price. I enjoyed it more than the Spamsilog I had a couple of months back.
Zarlitos Family Restaurant 505 East 8th St. National City, CA 91950
So there you go, a quartet of breakfasts.......have anything good for breakfast recently?
I hope everyone is having a dry Sunday...this one has been a cold one!
I dropped by Izakaya Sakura this past week and they were closed. They had this sign posted:
I guess the place suffered some smoke damage from a fire next door..... I hope they reopen soon!
About every two weeks or so I drop by the Original Sab E Lee for take-out. I decided after my seventh post on the place in April 2010 to cut back on posting about the place. Over the course of the last year and a half, we had some really take out meals and some that weren't quite as good. I found that it's all about who is in the kitchen. Last week, the Missus told me that we should drop by the place and actually have a meal there..........which turned out to be quite nice.
There's something about getting everything fresh from the kitchen......
The Original Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
This past weekend, I happened to be in the National City area at around 10 or so. I thought I'd drop by Pinoy Fiesta since I hadn't been there for a while.
So here's the two item combination.... Menudo(which tasted like Mechado) and Sisig.
Breakfast of champions......
The menudo was nice and tangy, the beef was fairly tender, there was a nice bit of pepperyness to it. The sisig was like before, gummy, waxy, bland, and this time ice cold to boot. I'll make sure to show some restraint and pass on it next time. Like everywhere else, prices have gone up and is now in the high six dollar range.
I was quite surprised to hear that Asian Noodles had closed, though on my last couple of visits there last year the food seemed to be a bit tired. Still, I had thought of this as an institution of sorts in National City. In fact, my first post on the place was way back in October of 2005! Even though I was sad to see Asian Noodles go, the name of the new place got me a bit excited......
I mean really....when you have both "Porky" and "Lechon" in your name.....
And when this fellow greets you at the door.....
The interior hasn't changed much since it was Asian Noodles, with just a steam table added.....
And while your porko-phile senses are usually pleasantly assaulted in many of these "turo-turo" shops, here it was basically....well, nada.
Still, noticing that they sold lechon by the pound ($10/lb), courtesy of our friend pictured above and had two types of sisig in trays...actually there's mention of a third, bangus (milkfish) sisig, but I didn't see it on my visit. Well, I thought I'd hit the promised land and ended up buying a pretty good amount of food starting with a half pound of the lechon.
Sadly, the lechon was suffering from steam table fatigue. Poor mister/Ms piggy above had given his very fleshly life for a sadly dry and bland dish. The skin was hard, though the lechon sauce was fairly decent.
Seeing that I was already ordering pork, I went with the Chicken Sisig and Pancit - a single item combo here is $6. And while it's not quite "Tita's sized" it was a good amount of food.
On the good side, this was nice and moist. Chicken Sisig can end up being quite dry. However, there just wasn't enough of a sour component nor heat and pungency(i.e. onions, which also adds a bit of a textural counter-point) for my taste. Even though I knew it wasn't short on salt, based on my thirst afterwards, I found this strangely bland. I mean really...where's the siling labuyo (bird chili)?
And while the pancit was perfectly cooked it also suffered from lack of flavor.
Still, I had the thought that perhaps this was just an off day and returned for more. This time I simply got a two item combo, passing on the pancit and a ghostly pale palabok, and going with just steamed rice with sisig and chicken adobo. The results were basically the same.
This was a tweener sisig, it didn't go far enough to be sisig Pampanga with the gamey pig head flavors and the chewy and gelatinous textures of ear and tongue. There was basically not enough crunch or porky goodness for this to be standard steam table lechon kawale sisig. Not enough onions, vinegar, and spice. Other than the Chinese sausage, you were pretty much left in a vast greasy wasteland.
The chicken adobo was better, but not by much.
It was on the bland side for my taste with not enough black pepper....
Maybe it's my fauly for expecting too much from a place with both "Porky" and "lechon" in its name. Too bad, because the woman working here is very nice and I so wanted that perfect sisig-a-licious meal. I try them out again in a couple of months, maybe things will be better then.
Porky's Lechon 1430 E Plaza Blvd National City, CA 91950