Ed (from Yuma) shares a fancy omakase dinner with Tina – and now with you, dear reader. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will share something different.
It was a dark and stormy night, after a dark and stormy drive over to San Diego, so Tina and I were happy to walk into the clean well lighted space that is Kokoro (website). We'd made an early reservation so Ishito-san had no other customers at the bar when we arrived:
Both Kirk and I have posted about omakase experiences here, so Tina and I wanted the top-of-the-line omakase and ordered it three days in advance.
The meal started with a simple looking mushroom appetizer – enoki and sliced oyster mushrooms in beautiful little bowls:
That pic doesn’t show much food, but the shrooms were lightly sauced and had an earthy/woodsy flavor. Nice modest beginning.
Then bowls showed up with a large oyster cut into three pieces, flanked by little pieces of dark seaweed, and topped with a blast of ginger:
The concentrated flavor of the ocean.
About this time I ordered 6 oz Kikusui sake:
It was cold, smooth, and altogether pleasant.
Our sashimi plate was a thing of beauty:
The maguro was exceptional and deeply flavored. The uni was good, of course, and the tako had a nice balance between flavor and chewiness. Even the scallop, which was pretty bland really, tasted fresh and tender. I should add that the wasabi was quality as well, hot spicy with bits of real wasabi throughout.
Here's another view of the plate:
Ishito-san was proud of the white fish selection. "Five different fish, all different flavor and texture." The hamachi was what you'd expect, fresh tasting, firm, and rich. The hirame (right behind the octopus) had firmer texture and deeper richer flavor than expected. I'm pretty sure that the slices were endawa, dorsal fin muscle, which I have not had since Wal Mi Do closed. Both Tina and I enjoyed the range of flavors, textures, and richness among the five.
The last item on the platter was maybe the most amazing of all:
I have never had or seen two toned tuna before. And yeah, real good and real rich.
It was time for a change of pace, so we were pleased to see a small covered bowl set in front of each of us:
Inside was a deceptively simple looking clear broth soup:
The cube was a piece of crab and seafood cake, mild and tender. The green herb was very strong flavored and contrasted nicely with the cake. But the key to the whole dish is the thin golden brown oval on the bottom of the bowl – a slice of bottarga – salted, cured, pressed, and aged mullet caviar. When you bite into it, it dissolves into a myriad of minuscule fish eggs.
The next course was one of our favorites, a complex autumn/winter stew that seemed perfect for a rainy evening:
The two main ingredients were pieces of crunchy fried fish and thick succulent tender slices of beautifully braised daikon. They were accompanied by gobo root matchsticks, fried slices of lotus root, a couple of candlenuts, and a few salmon eggs. The flavors, textures, and colors of the stew made this a big winner for both of us.
At this time, our hashi were replaced with new ones. “Why?” crossed my mind briefly, and then an amazing beef salad was set before us:
The steak was exceptionally tender, deeply flavored, and rich. The greens with their fresh and sometimes bitter flavors provided contrast. And the yuzu based steak sauce/salad dressing went with both, its tang balancing the rich meat. "That's wagyu beef from Japan,” Ishito san said, “Grade A5, the best." We believed him. It was good.
Then Tina and I each got a couple slices of fried monkfish accompanied by ponzu:
Okay, but not especially memorable.
The sushi course was the last savory part of the meal. It looked pretty ordinary:
However, it was quite good. The anago was sprinkled with coarse salt and was fresh and meaty tasting. The saba had been lightly cured so we could taste real mackerel flavor. The unusually large ebi, never a favorite sushi of mine, was wonderful here. We were told to use no shoyu, which seemed odd, but the shrimp were so fresh, meaty, and sweet that Ishito san wanted nothing to mask that taste.
The meal concluded with a choice of Italian style ice creams or sorbet. Tina loved her raisin and vanilla bean ice cream:
And I was blown away by the green apple sorbet:
Overall a great meal.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr. Ste. B, San Diego, CA 92123, (858) 565-4113
The mmm-yoso!!! gang has been busy for the past few days, with work, holiday parties, shopping trips and other end of year tasks. Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) haven't had time to write and Cathy is writing a short, pertinent compendium today.
We have had some very cold days this month and today it is wet and windy: Winter has hit San Diego. Kirk mentioned this last week. If The Mister and I aren't staying home and cooking, when eating out, at least one of us is ordering a warm meal that is served in a bowl and has a spoon as an essential utensil.
Kirk had mentioned that Mama Testa was re-opening, but neither of us has done a post. I've had the chicken mojados here ($10): rolled taquitos, cut and topped with lettuce and sour cream with a mild, chicken based broth on the side; you can pour it over everything to make an interesting soup-type meal. (The beef mojados is beef rolled taquitos and a spicy, red broth). This is unique and tasty. Mama Testa 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126 website
The Bahn Mi Bo Kho ($7.50) at Lucky Seafood is indeed the best Vietnamese style beef stew; I have tried versions everywhere, planned on doing a comparison post and was frustrated with so many bad meals. Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Whenever The Mister and I stop at Chopstix Too, He takes His time looking at the entire menu and alwaysorders the same thing, mabo ramen ($7.45). Chopstix Too 4380 Kearny Mesa Road San Diego 92111 website We were back at Pho Hoa Huong after grocery shopping (and looking for 2017 calendars) and stopped in for a large bowl of pho tai ($7.25) which arrived with the beef still raw and cooking in the hot, flavorful broth. PhoHoa Huong 6921 Linda Vista Rd San Diego, CA 92111 Kirk had called his meals at Sam Woo BBQ 'early lunch'. The menu lists these under 'breakfast' ($4.25 each). I almost always order the fish porridge, but another choice is the shrimp dumpling noodle soup. Each is good and satisfying. Sam Woo BBQ 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste 103 San Diego, CA 92111 An Item I haven't mentioned that is served at Tip Top Meats is the Beef Stew ($6.98). Made daily from scratch, limited in quantity, this rich, meaty, traditional stew is great. Tip Top Meats and European Delicatessen 6118 Paseo Del Norte Carlsbad, CA 92009 Website
Stay warm and dry!
Then again, you can just drop into a local grocer (this was at H-Mart) and grab something to enjoy at home.
The Missus beat me to the Natto Combination....so I got the Nikudōfu (simmered beef and tofu) combo. Both were an inexpensive 570 yen! The seating was interesting; salarymen were seated together, sometimes sharing tables. But because I was with the Missus we were seated in a booth.
The Server took our tickets and soon enough our food arrived.
Think of this the next time you grab something from Mickey D's or the like for breakfast. For about $5.50, the Missus got tofu, natto, and even some sashimi with Her combo. Which, BTW, She really enjoyed.
What I got wasn't exactly slim pickins' either.
The beef and tofu; while not amazing were both nicely flavored; not too salty, not too sweet. When did I start enjoying mentaiko for breakfast? I'm not sure, but I really like the saltiness...and perfectly cooked rice.
Don't need much more than that.
Hatsufuji was an interesting place. We passed by several times during our stay. After breakfast, the ticket machine is rolled to the side and you'll notice a collection of set lunches, displayed in full plastic glory in the window.
During the evening, the place becomes an Izakaya. I find it fascinating and I'm hoping we'll be back in Japan more sooner than later. And if we're around the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station Underground you can be sure we'll be back at Hatsufuji.
Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu underground shopping center North 1, 2-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0028
There wasn't a line when we arrived and we were lead upstairs, where things did look rather busy. We got the last booth in the place and placed our orders.
It's quite simple; there were two Oden sets available for lunch, each about 680 yen and we ordered one of each.
Boy did this hit the spot.
That simmered daikon had really absorbed the flavor of the broth and was perfectly tender; not falling apart, but so easily cut with a chopstick. Our favorite item was the Toumeshi; indeed this is called the toumeshi set and I can see why. That tofu had absorbed the savory-sweet-dashi based flavor so well and rice was also a great vehicle for passing all of that. Simple, but just wonderful.
The Missus ordered the other Oden set which was quite good as well.
This was just the perfect thing for day like this. Then a kind of interesting thing happened....I'm guessing it's fairly common given the crowded nature of Tokyo.
The Missus and I were sitting across from each other in the booth. Two salarymen came in and sat down right next to us in the booth!
So now we were kinda trapped! The Missus and I looked at each other and cracked up. And we couldn't help but text each other our observations; especially when a couple of pieces of rice got stuck on one of the men's face....it kept moving around while he ate, but wouldn't fall off, and was quite mesmerizing!
Actually they were quite nice. When they noticed we were finished, they both stood up and waved us through. So, I guess this is fairly standard eating in Tokyo!
There was a line of people waiting outside in the rain as we left. I walked across the street to take a photo, and wouldn't you know; that line extended across the street!
It's easy to understand why folks would wait in the rain for this place. Good, comforting food at an inexpensive price. And it sure did hit the spot on a day like this.
Otakou Honten 2-2-3 Nihonbashi Chuo, Tokyo
Feeling nice and warm, our bellies full, we headed off in the drizzle to our next destination. I really enjoy the beer that Hitachino produces and had read that they had opened a beer bar in the Akihabara. I recommended going on the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station, it's like a 4-5 minute ride. But of course this is the Missus; so we walked.
It turned out to be about a 30 minute walk. The Brewing Lab is located right on the Kanda River.
It's a nice cozy little place and very quiet during this time of the day as there was only one customer the whole time we were there.
There were 8 pulls on this day and we ended up getting 4 beers; even Session IPA. We ended up with the Masters Selection, Nipponia, Weizen and the Nest Lager.
The Lager was my favorite; while the Missus enjoyed the Weizen. Man, Hitachino makes some really good stuff. If you're in the area; this might be a good stop.
Hitachino Brewing Lab 1-25-4 Kandasudacho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Soon enough, it was time to go. And this time the Missus relented and we caught the train back to Nihonbashi. We had some time to do a little shopping; then head back to the apartment for a short nap before meeting Reiko for dinner.
I'm finally catching up on things. A few recent observations.
More Ramen Coming to Kearny Mesa ?:
At least if the ABC notice is correct. Something named Menya Ultra. Some quick slapping on my keyboard yielded a clue.... and a bit more. I'm pretty sure that the folks at Nishiki Ramen can't be happy at the company name. But another Hokkaido ramen chain in San Diego? Well, I think there's room for that.
mmm-yoso!!!, the food blog, is where you have found yourself. Kirk is still vacationing (literally at the top of the globe), Ed (from Yuma) is just East of us, enjoying his retirement and mini vacations in places other than California and Cathy is writing this post.
My job is odd, I can meet with clients at their home, office or in a public place. The 'ambiance' of an all you can eat buffet is such that there is less pressure to turn over a table quickly (unless there is a line out the door waiting to get in, which usually isn't the case during the week). One client in particular enjoyed (very much) the now closed chain of Hometown Buffet restaurants in the county, and I would meet him there primarily to eat all the fried chicken with the unique side dish 'Spinach Marie' that I could.
There are still 'all you can eat' places around, mostly Chinese buffets and San Diego based Souplantation.
My client discovered Onami, the all you can eat Japanese sushi/seafood buffet at the Westfield Mission Valley Mall. While waiting to be seated, you can see a 'Ramen and Udon Bar' just to the left. You can have a bowl prepared and a choice of five (do it yourself) toppings are available. Right around the corner is a cold noodle area, which offers the only toppings needed: green onion and shredded radish. Seating areas are varied and interspersed next to the variety of hot and cold food areas. Near the back of the restaurant are the hot foods, with many seafood choices.
There is an area where you can choose various vegetables, fish pieces and shrimp to be freshly battered and fried. There is a cold area with a selection of twelve prepared salads. Along the other side is the sushi area, with item choices being prepared and refilled constantly. Then there was the dessert area, with a tremendous, portion controlled selection available.
Everything was fresh and tasty and quite nice. The space is quiet enough in some areas for conversation. The cost for weekday lunch was less than $15 each, which I though was good for the quality and variety.
Enjoy your weekend!
Onami 1640 Camino Del Rio N Ste 206 San Diego, CA 92108 Phone number (619) 295-9774 Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5:30 pm-9 pm Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5 pm-9pm Sat 11:30-9:30 Sun 11:30-9
Thanks for stopping to read mmm-yoso!!! today. Cathy is writing because the guys are just too busy.
After I got my fill of spicy foods following three weeks in the Midwest, it was time for what I just couldn't get back there (comfort food, San Diego style).Kirk posted in 2005 and again in 2015 about the original location of Chopstix. In 2006, he and I wrote a joint post about the second location and, in general, both locations are efficient with fresh food.The simple Hiya Yakko (cold tofu topped with chopped green onion, grated ginger on top of salad)($4) was just something I never thought I would miss and this really hit the spot. Hiyashi Soba ($9)- cold buckwheat noodle topped with imitation crab, chicken, sprouts, corn, cucumber, egg and seaweed was a perfect flavor mix on this day. The Mister ordered his 'usual'- mabo ramen ($7), which has a deep, sweet-spicy flavor along with the ground pork and tofu. Most of the other soup bases and fillings here are sort of 'plain'.
Chopstix 4633 Convoy San Diego 92101 (858)569-9171 open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Ten years ago, I wrote about Niban and then again in 2010 and in 2011. It's a regular spot for us when we don't want to cook at home: fast, fresh, unassuming. After ordering and paying, finding a seat and having water and hot tea (still free) brought out, food soon arrives. The chicken katsu salad ($4.50) was what I wanted. So simple: iceberg lettuce topped with cold noodles, carrot and cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes along with a perfectly breaded and fried chicken thigh. The miso based, Japanese radish/fresh ginger salad dressing is so very good. One of the window specials that day was chicken katsu curry ($7). The Mister wanted his own pieces of chicken along with the flavorful beefy curry sauce made here-it satisfied his cravings.
Niban 7081 Clairmont Mesa Boulevard San Diego 92111 (858)268-0465 Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Then there was my craving for something from underrated, more than ten yearsin the same location,consistentalways good,comfort food for Kirk also, unassuming restaurant located at the South East corner of the 163 at Claremont Mesa.The rock cod with black bean sauce ($16 if not at lunch or late night (after 9 p.m., when it is $8)) is just done right here. Lightly crisp fried fish with red and green peppers, onions and salty black bean sauce along with some red-chili heat is just what I wanted. Then again, so was the simple beef topped egg foo young ($14 at dinner, $7 at lunch or late night). That is a larger than tablespoon spoon on a very large platter. The crispy vegetable filled omelet, so simple to make (in theory) is just wonderfully flavorful, crispy and somehow addictive in flavor here. Most times, we order it just with gravy/vegetable only, because that's all I really want.
Golden City 5375 Kearny Villa (at Claremont Mesa) 92111 (858) 565-6682 open daily 11 a.m.-midnight website
An acquaintance mentioned a ramen place opening in the East Village named BeShock and told me they were going through a soft opening. I was told the folks opening the place are from Nagoya; which made me a bit curious. So I trucked it down to the corner of 13th and Market street to see what was up.
For some reason, I expected a little neighborhood shop like the nearby Tokyo Deli. So I was surprised to see this large, spacious, very nice restaurant....I guess I "be shocked"?
The soft opening menu was a single page; with items like karaage, salads, and the like on the top....the middle was a collection of rolls, and five types of ramen on the bottom.
I was brought my water and some gratis edamame....
I saw Shio Koji Karaage; Shio Koji and Shoyu Koji are both staples in our household and using Shio Koji in karaage is pretty much an "open secret". So, I ordered the karaage and was surprised at what came out.
So, these were actually coated in masago arare; rice cracker beads. It adds an additional layer of crunch, but also gets soggy fairly quickly. The portion size was quite large. Also going down a bit of a different path; this was white meat chicken; though the marinating process give the chicken a texture like dark meat. Also, I quickly noticed that the flavor is quite mild......amost too mild for me; not enough shoyu-shio koji or any other (ginger-garlic-sweetness) flavor. It's pretty much about the masago arare.
I also ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen and was rather intrigued at what came out.
The broth was different; in fact, it might be the least salty ramen broth I've ever had....it didn't have much porkiness to it and I even thought it could be chicken. I was told that the folks here use a lot of vegetables in making the broth which really makes the flavor different. While it was fatty; I didn't think it was particularly rich, in other words, it lacked some of that "aaaaahh" effect. Everything else was good; the standard issue Nishimoto-JFC noodles were prepped well; the chashu had been torched before being placed in the bowl; it had a very nice porkiness to it. The egg was also by the book. Overall; a bit different...... I might try the Miso Ramen next time.
The folks here were really nice; the manager, who is from Nagoya, also spent time in Hawaii and we had a nice chat.
I returned a few days later. I had seen Chicken Tartar (i.e. tori nanban) on the menu; but when I returned it was gone.
So I went with the "Cajun Karaage" instead.
This wasn't very spicy and the batter was soft and gummy, though it was prepared and served in a more conventional way than shio koji karaage. The flavor just kind of fell short and this was definitely "b-list karaage".
I also went with the Chashu Bowl. Having had a few of these in Japan, I was surprised at how large and how much pork there was.
There's quite a bit of pork hiding under....well, all that pork. The pork was tender without being mushy. The flavor was good....again, not too heavy handed in terms of shoyu - saltiness - sweetness, but the pork flavor actually came through quite well. This time the flavor and the texture worked for the good of the dish. The shoyu tamago was decent; it could have used a bit more flavoring, but I have no complaints.
I really enjoyed talking to the nice young man in charge on this day.
While I thought the flavors somewhat mild and tame for my taste, sometimes people can make the difference. I really enjoyed BeShock, BeCause the folks here were so nice. I'll come back to try things out after their grand opening....which is BTW....today 10/17 at 530pm. They'll have Tori Nanban; though I'm not sure what they're going call it. The ramen style here doesn't seem to be my thing, though I will try the Miso Ramen to see if I prefer that.
The manager is a certified Sake Master and they have a bunch of boutique brews....so when I'm not driving.....
I hope they do well.
BeShock Ramen & Sake Bar 1288 Market St San Diego, CA 92101
Back in May I noticed that the former Mama's Grill was becoming Yakitori Hino and based on the ABC notice, the applicants were none other than than Yakyudori. At the end of July the sign went up. And this past week no fewer than three "little birds" whispered that Hino was doing a soft opening with the grand opening planned for yesterday, October first. This past Friday was a fairly tiring one for me and by the time I was ready for dinner; it was past 5pm. I decided to sneak on over to Hino, I had a feeling that they might be pretty quiet since few people knew they were open.
There was one other person in the place when I arrived. The folks were surprised to see someone they weren't too familiar with; though "Nao", Taka-san's Thursday relief guy, sort of recognized me. He's the chef here now.
The place does remind me a bit of Japan and also looks somewhat like Koubou with the high bar and such. There are two semi-private looking booths in the back as well.
The menu is also an interesting cross between Yakyudori and Koubou, with a salad that I saw folks getting that looks similar to Koubou's, but with a mayo based dressing. There are items on the menu that neither Taisho nor Yakyudori have. Strangely, the prices here seem higher than Taisho.
I started with the Chuka Kurage (Jellyfish Salad), which I really enjoyed.
A nice balance of sweet-salty-sour-spicy, which does well with the crunchy jellyfish. This is without a doubt an appetizer sized dish....but I found it to be quite good.
It was nice to see Nankotsu (chicken cartlidge) on the menu. This version was fairly simple.
A bit too salty and dry; though that crunchy texture was quite enjoyable.
I really miss the karaage at Taisho. They took it off the menu a couple of months back. I'm wondering if it was because of Hino? Anyway, it's on the menu here.
A nice portion size, light and crunchy, though it's lacking the flavor of the karaage I've had at Yakyudori and Taisho. I'm hoping that this will improve over time.
The Teba was the only truly disappointing item of the night as it was way too salty and really not prepped well as in not having the flesh and skin splayed out for maximum area and enjoyment.
The Kawa; chicken skin was interesting as this version was straight up salted, without tare, but held up fine.
Crisp on the edges, tender interior, a very nice rendition.
When I ordered the Tsukune (chicken meatball), I was asked if I wanted an egg yolk with it......."yes please"!
I was rather uninspired at first glance, but this turned out to be decent; fairly smooth and creamy interior, quite a bit of flavor from the tare if a bit unappealing to the eye. The egg yolk adds an even more creamy rich texture.
I was quite pleased to see Yaki Onigiri on the menu. I love grilled rice balls. This version was interesting as I noticed it was heated in a pan before being grilled.
The familiar smoky flavor was there, though the exterior was more gummy than crisp and crunchy. In this case Koubou definitely holds the edge.
So, in the end, I spent more at Hino, minus the celebratory beers I bought for Nabe-san and Nao-san, than I would for a usual meal at Taisho for the Missus and myself....kind of strange. I believe the food was better here than at Koubou, which is what seems to be the main competition. Though I've heard things at Koubou have gotten better recently, so I'll be dropping by again soon.
Still, the service was great....and it's nice to have more choices in the neighborhood. For now, the hours are 530 pm to 1230am Wednesday thru Monday.
Yakitori Hino 7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111