So, what were you doing in November of 2005? I tell you what I was doing....I was eating at Chopstix maybe 2-3 times a month. In those....quite sad days actually, there were really only four choices for non-sushi Japanese in the area; Ichiro, Tajima (under previous ownership), Chopstix, and Izakaya Sakura. Tajima, be it ever so humble was king of ramen (sad, huh?) and Sakura was the main choice for Japanese. In those days, it was easy to be satisfied with what I call the "American-Japanese Diner Cuisine" of places like Ichiro and Chopstix. In fact, with the state of food in San Diego at that time; it was quite easy to get into "just happy to have it" mode. Something I threw off by the beginning of 2006........
Other than a quick visit to Chopstix in 2009 I hadn't been back. Since I've done circling back posts on Ichiro and Tajima, I just thought it would be right to do the same with Chopstix.
The changes in décor at Chopstix has been fairly subtle; the queasy pink exchanged for a more neutral color, more comfortable banquet chairs, better televisions on the wall.
The menu remains the same....other than the addition of various crunchy rolls and such....not really my thing.
The Katsu Curry was one of the few dishes I used to order regularly here. Dark, thick, with vegetables literally melting from a long stewing, and also having a little kick of heat, I thought it was a nice dish here. So what's the 2015 version like?
After ordering the Tonkatsu Curry, I realized I used to order the Chicken Katsu Curry. Oh well.
First off, I used to grumble that the miso soup here was always too....now it's the opposite, weak.
The curry is now much lighter and while still having a decent spice, it lacks the beefy flavor I used to enjoy. To their credit; there's still actual, discernible meat in the curry, but other than the heat, it's kind of flat.
That tonkatsu was breaded and seasoned well, but was tough and dry.
Not the best meal I could have had.....but I needed to return for at least one more visit.
So I returned, having had no breakfast, I was starving and decided on getting something that I thought had always been decent at Chopstix, though it had been over a decade since I'd had it. I started with the Agedashi Tofu.
This was fried perfectly, light, crisp, the tofu molten. I just wish the tsuyu had some flavor. It was quite watered down. The ramen broth had more flavor.
Which of course means that I had the ramen.
There are two consistent things about the ramen at Chopstix. the first being the charshu which has a decent flavor, but is bone dry and not very pleasant. The second being how I've consistently, never had a consistent bowl of ramen here. Every bowl of ramen has been different. This time, the broth was way too salty, there was much more scum than I'm used to, and the noodles were over-cooked. I'm used too the over-cooked egg, but this time it was also cold...insult to injury I say. Definitely second tier ramen.
The customers I saw were pretty much the Ichiro crowd. Service was efficient and pleasant. Even though it's not my cup of tea; it's nice to see that they are doing well after all these years.
Wanting to stay close to the office, but needing to get "out", I decided on revisiting Katsu Café. The last time I was here was right after the change over from Teri Café. In all honesty, the place looks exactly the same. It's also really popular.......it was filled when I left. Funny thing, there's still nothing called "katsu" on the menu. The tonkatsu and chicken katsu are still called "cutlet" on the menu. Go figure.Technically, they are serving "katsuretsu"....but still.
Not feeling very creative I ordered the Chicken Katsu Cutlet.
While still not the huge protein-fest I had on my previous visit; the portion size was still more than adequate. No changes in my opinion of the green salad and mac salad.....though does anyone find that a bit redundant?
The chicken was fried well, the panko crust golden brown and crisp. The chicken was on the dry side. My one pet peeve when I have katsu is when the breading crumbles off. Some separation is ok, but as a whole the breading needs to stay on the protein. As I grabbed a bite of my chicken the breading just fell off.
The end slices were fine, but not anything in between. This usually means something had gone awry with either the temp of the chicken during the breading process or perhaps the temp of the oil was off, or???
In the end, my opinion of the place stays the same.....if you like quantity more than quality, Katsu Café will fill the bill.
Katsu Cafe 7305B Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
There were a couple of pretty hot days right when we got back from our trip. I needed a break and wanted someplace fairly quiet for lunch, so I decided to drop by Hinotez.
The place was empty during lunch and doesn't that person in that vintage beer poster in the tatami room look familiar....like infamously familiar?
I went with the Tempura Zaru Soba. My expectation weren't very high, but this was not bad. At first glance, I thought the noodles weren't drained well, but they were, and also quite al dente and chewy, the way I prefer my soba. Everything else was pretty much by the book and nothing special, but not terrible either. The shrimp had a decent flavor, but the batter could have been more crisp, the tsuyu was totally very, how should I say it......"base-like" in flavor.
You remember Pho Tu Do? I'm not why the folks there decided on changing over to a rather generic sushi joint. But they had a decent run of 8 years or so. I'm not sure if the rather unsavory named Twisted Sushi opening across the street had anything to do with things, but now the place is becoming Yakitori Ramen Kanpai Izakaya. I'm also not sure if this place is associated with Kanpai in Chula Vista, but I'm sure Eater or someone will have the scoops.
What struck me as interesting was the sign to check out Fish Attack? There's a story here somewhere.....
5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Havana Grill Coming Soon:
At least that's what the sign leads you to believe.
Seems like a bit more work yet to be done.
This was the location of the ill fated Casa Medina. Which I think has relocated inside the Indian Market.
Recently, a regular reader who once in a while comments "TB" sent me an email. He was on a mission....actually he was in search of something. Omurice. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on Omurice....for some reason I've never taken to it. I did know that Izakaya Sakura served several versions of it; but our "FOY" was looking a straight forward demiglace, not a super tomato-y "hayashi" versions places here serve.
There were indeed a nice variety; white sauce, curry.....but no straight up demiglace. I went for the Hayashi Omurice....I think they translate it to "Beef Hash" or something like that on the menu. I'm glad the egg was stuffed with plain white rice, because anything else would have just been overkill. I found this much too sweet, kind of greasy, and just not my thing. But heck, it doesn't hurt to try, or in this case retry something I hadn't had in man years.
I never knew you could get the intestine "fried first" to give a bit more texture. I was told on this visit. At $6.77, this is priced right. Good swiney, earthy intestine, the pickled vegetable is typical, but this is a good value and I have no complaints.
Nice folks....I still get a kick that they call me "sir"......
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Come Tuesday it was on the chilly side...so it was over to Yakyudori for some Shio Ramen. Hard to believe the place was empty when I arrived.
Went for the shio ramen. It was interesting; I still think they changed the salt they use for this a while back...it just doesn't have the same flavor. The broth was also a lot darker than I recalled. The chashu was better than what I've had before. At least it wasn't ice cold. The boiled egg was lovely....not the best, but decent. The noodles prepped well.
The service was a lot less surly than what I've recently experienced. As I left, the place was getting crowded.
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori 4898 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
They've done a bit of renovation since the last time I was here.
I really love the texture of the crisp and light kakiage. And though the broth and udon is nothing special; it's the sum of the parts that works for me. That onigiri still seems like overkill to me....but I'm not complaining.
Plus, it's still $8.95.
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
By Thursday, it was in the 80's. It was time to treat myself to a nice Hwe Dup Bop.
And Sam know just how I like it. Easy on the rice, a good amount of cho-jang...crisp, fresh, a little spicy. Just what I needed to refresh.
Sushi Yaro 7905 Engineer Road San Diego, CA 92111
The weekend came and it was a bit cooler again....so I guess it was back to the beginning.
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?
Recently, I was told that Ichiro's had been renovated. During my last group of visits, the place was starting to look its age. Which is over 30 years old. Ichiro's (though Ichiro is no longer at Ichiro's) is kind of a dying breed; the uncorporate looking, concept free, family owned joint.....I will often use the term "Japanese-American Diner" when talking in terms of places like Ichiro and Yoshino. Fairly inexpensive, by the book, Japanese style dishes. Not quite super gringo, but safe enough for the unadventurous.
I decided that I should do one of my circling back posts on Ichiro's and recently revisited for several lunches.
While the exterior looked pretty much the same, the interior had been upgraded or at least freshened up a bit. And while the tables and chairs were of pretty typical quality, the booths looked quite nice and the walls clean.
We've been going thru some see-saw weather recently. On this day, it was pretty cool outside so I went with the Nabeyaki Udon.
The broth was too salty, like something from a base. The noodles were a tad overdone and starting to get mushy....speaking of mushy...that sad looking shrimp tempura was it. This was disappointing.
I thought of just writing the whole circling back thing off, but decided to play it out.
On my next visit, I went with a basic dish that any Japanese Restaurant serving it should do well. Katsu; in the case Chicken Katsu. When it arrived, the first thing that went thru my mind was, "man, this thing need to spend some time in the tanning booth".
In spite of the very light color, the chicken katsu was done pretty well; it was light and crisp, the chicken moist, and unlike a version I'd had the weekend before, the breading was not falling off the chicken. Everything else was pretty much by the book. The miso soup was actually a bit better than what I'd had before......it actually had some flavor to it.
Not bad overall.
Which meant that I had to complete the trifecta of visits. By this time the weather had turned; well quite warm. In fact, we had a few days of record high temperatures. I looked thru the menu and saw the Reimen, basically Hiyashi Chuka.
This was ok; the noodles were standard issue and the sauce tasted like it came from a package. The crab mixture tasted a bit off.....sadly, the item I enjoyed best was the corn, which kind of says a lot.
During my visits to Ichiro, I noticed a couple of things. during my three visits, there was not a single Asian person other than yours truly eating in the place. I also saw a couple of interesting, well, humorous things. One guy had a salad for his entrée delivered to his table. He didn't know how to use chopsticks and asked for a fork. When they went to get it for him, he just proceeded to eat his salad with his hands! Yikes! And then there was the guy on the table next to me who looked at my reimen and asked the very nice server what it was......she told him, "it is cold ramen, called reimen." Apparently he couldn't hear very well because he said real loud, "OK....I'll have some of THAT SEMEN!" I almost spit my food out!
So while the food just wasn't what I was looking for....at least the nice folks here, and the customers gave me a good laugh. I'll never look at reimen the same way.......I'm not sure that I can even order it again!
Ichiro's Japanese Restaurant 4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So here's more Ramen; one by request (Ototo) and the other because of a sign I saw.
I guess it was inevitable based on the discussion in the comments of this post. A couple of folks asked me what I thought of the ramen here...including Taka-san at Taisho. You know I'm not a "rolls" kind of guy, so otherwise, this second restaurant from the owner of Sushi-ya really wouldn't interest me.
The décor is simple, but modern, with an area of stool and bar type tables, which I thought was kind of neat.
The menu features 3 types of ramen; a red (miso) based, a white tonkotsu, and a chicken based version. I went with the Shio White Tonkotsu. The young lady and gentleman serving me were quite nice, but on the slow side. I watched my ramen come up and stay in the window while they gathered themselves to do...well, I don't know.
Eventually, the ramen made it's way, first to another, then finally my table.
My first reaction was, "is this tonkotsu"? Where was a the nice milky richness. The broth had a yellowish tone and even smelled somewhat "chicken-ny". It had a decent amount of oil, but was still not very rich. I'm wondering what kind of salt they use, or perhaps it's a bagged base, because it tasted kind of bitter to me. The boiled egg was quite good, the chashu, hard, cold, flavorless. The noodles were mushy and overcooked....perhaps it had waited a bit too long to reach my table?
In my opinion, overpriced at $9.50. I'll take a pass on this.....
Ototo Sushi Co 5651 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
I saw a flier that mentioned Oton was serving Tonkotsu style ramen for lunch. So I thought I'd go and check them out.
A small, by the book salad accompanied the ramen.
Which when it arrived looked totally like it came from the Tonkotsu 101 manual. But let us first spend a moment admiring that lovely orb of goodness, the egg. This may be the best ajitsuke tamago in terms of cooking time and prep in San Diego. The noodles were also a perfect texture for me.......mass produced, but prepared well.
The broth was very white, but also too thin, and almost fully defatted which took away from the "coat your tongue" feeling you get from a good tonkotsu. The flavor was also mild, but passable. The chashu was cold, hard, though it had decent flavor. What's up with serving a solid piece of ice cold pork?
Not bad, but I'd rather go several other places before coming here for the ramen.
Oton 5447 Kearny Villa Road San Diego, CA 92123
So where do I think these rank in the now crowded world of ramen in San Diego? Well, Otot, umm Ototo is definitely second tier. Oton, is higher second tier, perhaps along the lines Ouan, or maybe even better.
Isn't it nice to be able to walk into a place and say, "I'm hungry, can I just get some sashimi?" And get something like this?
I'm not expecting anything mind-blowing, no Michelin star experience. It's been a long week and I want some decent fish, a good meal, to leave satisfied. I get all of the above.
I've known Sam for over a decade now. And he knows me....such is the relationship of the Itamae and his regulars. That is why the term "Sushi bar" seems so appropriate. Like your favorite watering hole, be it here or wherever......it's such a great feeling to walk in after a hard day and have your drink waiting on the counter when you arrive. As a regular customer, I feel that I have some responsibility as well. I'll often request to be served last, new customers are the lifeblood of a small business, I try to tip well, and I never take freebees.. At Tadokoro, I make reservations for the earliest possible time. I know Take-san will do his best and when you're slammed, regardless of your profession, you can't do that. It's about being a good regular customer as well......
The reason I'm writing this is because I've seen various posts on sites such as Chowhound that flaunt this idea of self-entitlement, and have even seen in person cases where folks will say; "I'm a Elite (the four lettered review website) member and I want xxxx". It disturbs me. So I needed a sashimi break......though really....it's not all about just me.