This past Saturday I went out to fill the "honey do" list. It was :meat day" at Nijiya and since I was going to grill later that afternoon I had all kinds of shopping to do. We like to take advantage of our grilling time and make multiple dishes, and since it was so hot, I'd be roasting vegetables over the charcoal. It was a typical day, Starting at Sprouts, then Marukai, then 99 Ranch Market (Da Boyz needed rice). It was still too early for Nijiya and I didn't want to seem too excited about meat day and be there when the doors open.
"One of the earliest (and few) memories I have of my grandparents, is my "Ji-chan" (grandfather) waking before dawn. Even though the plantation days were behind them; the plantation ways were still strong. Neither Grandparent spoke much English and always had problems with my name. Ironically, they ended up calling me "Keiki" (which means "child" in Hawaiian). To this day I'm not sure if they actually knew what keiki meant, or of they just chose that word because it kinda sounded like my name, and was something they'd heard before. Anyway, my job was to climb the ricketty ladder up to papaya tree and pick two of the ripe papayas. My reward? My Grandmother would have a steaming bowl of rice, mix the raw egg with shoyu, pour the egg over the rice, top with green onions and mix....... tamago meshi. This in turn was topped with natto. I was also given half a papaya (to help me digest), and a cup of coffee (!!! I was maybe 7-8 years old) with tons of cream and sugar. A perfect breakfast for getting out there and working the fields......."
It's the breakfast of champions...... To my knowledge, the only place that serves anything like this in San Diego is Hinotez which opens at 8 am every morning.
It's a pick your poison kind of menu. A base with whatever you want to add for additional cost. What I ordered used to be six bucks and now that I add one other item, is now seven. Still cheaper than a sandwich at most places.
I get the three minute egg (not quite the raw egg, but it'll do), natto, and for some reason I love the extra "goo" of tororo (grated mountain yam). If anything, it's too much rice for me. I think in the future, I'll ask for less rice and more green onions.
First goes the egg...then the tororo...which is mixed together with the rice, then the natto, green onions and shoyu.
I do love my Spam and my Loco Mocos; though I enjoy both in moderation. But it's this breakfast that takes me back to where I come from and what I am. The grandson of immigrant plantation workers who toiled in the fields for Maui Pine.
It was nice of some of you to notice that out 10th year "blogga-versary" came and went back in May. I guess we'd celebrate....but it seems that we're never home and I kinda stopped all that stuff a few years back. I did notice however that we were coming up to post #3000 soon. Considering that I started this little blog with no objective in mind....it was the suggestion of Reid from Ono Kine Grindz (we miss you man). His blog really hit home for an expat Kama'aina....the things I missed, the food mainly. So I just started typing...and we haven't stopped since.
With that milestone in sight, I decided to finish something I started back at the end of 2012....yes, 2012. I call it the "Big List". It's a listing of all the restaurants (I might have missed a few) that we've done posts on going back to the beginning. I completed it a few weeks ago. It's an interesting list and you can find it under pages on our sidebar. I've also included photos that were sitting around in folders that for some reason I forgot to delete, or have posted only to my Flickr account. For me, it's the listing of places that have closed (at the bottom) that brings back a nostalgic feeling..... Thanks to the folks who have already noticed it and commented. Please check it out and let me know what you think. I'll try to create pages for our travels as well.
I can't go further without thanking Cathy and Ed from Yuma. Without their help, this blog would not exist. It is as much their blog as mine. Much has changed over the years; social media and instant delivery (and gratification) has taken over....we just keep chugging along. Just think, we started in 2005; the first iPhone was released in 2007, Twitter was launched in 2006, remember MySpace?
Anyway, I decided to celebrate and went to Sushi Yaro and had some sashimi.
This is after all, still a food blog.
I'm not sure if anyone has been with us since the beginning, but a really warm mahalo to you if you've been here all these years.
And just to go off on one of my usual digressions, Sammy and Frankie have been along for the ride the entire way. And this gets me thinking about when they first became part of the family.
As always....thanks so much for visiting, reading, and commenting....all these years!
Every so often I get the craving for some Tonkatsu. And my go-to, based on price and execution is Kayaba. And so I headed to Mitsuwa Marketplace and waited my turn in line for my Tonkatsu ($8.50). What I got was rather surprising.
Notice how dark the cutlet is? Man, this was totally fried to death....and maybe beyond. The panko breading was hard as rock....it had separated from the meat during the cooking process. There were actually gaps between the breading and the protein, which by the way, was dry as heck.
Bad technique and poor quality control, what a bummer. I've usually had decent meals at Kayaba and I'm hoping this is just an off day. At least the potato salad was as good as ever....but I didn't pay like nine bucks for a scoop of potato salad.
It's been a while since I've posted on Sushi Tadokoro. If anything, what I've been eating here is better than ever. Anyway, I thought a minimum of verbiage would work here....a nice C(learing) O(ut) the M(emory) C(ard) post for a beautiful Friday. After all, at Sushi Tadokoro, I believe photos are enough....though I'll have some interesting stories in a future post.
Had the atama (head) later in miso soup....sorry...I was just having a great time and forgot to take a photo of that.
San Diego Uni
I could go into minute detail about all of this....but I think the photos speak for themselves. Yet another wonderful meal at Tadokoro.
Sushi Tadokoro 2244 San Diego Ave San Diego, CA 92110
mmm-yoso!!! A food blog. Kirk is working to exhaustion this week. Ed (from Yuma) is continuing his steady relaxation with his retirement schedule. Cathy penciled in and checked off writing a post for today.
In December, I was simultaneously happy and sad to get a comment on my most recent post about Shizuoka from Nana, the daughter of of the owners of this Mom and Pop Japanese restaurant; her parents had decided to retire and sell the shop.
I had written about this 25+ year East County Institution only twice before that post...but it was one of our regular stops. Local, quality, friendly. I really couldn't bring myself to stop in for a very long time. But we finally have. Well, it looks the same from the outside, other than a sandwich board on the sidewalk and the missing shoji window coverings.Inside, the refrigerator and one booth is gone and a small, three seat sushi bar and cash register is near the entrance to the kitchen...the tablecloths are gone, too.
Other than the addition of a few pages of sushi rolls, the menu looked about the same...but I wondered if the food tasted the same.Starting out, we each had a nice bowl of miso soup, which was good. There were plenty of fresh tofu cubes. The calamari appetizer ($4.95) prepared in a similar, but not exactly the original way...lightly dusted with rice flour and crispy. It was good and I'll order it again. The lunch menu was the same: choose a primary and a secondary for a Bento box ($6.99). The Mister ordered the teriyaki chicken and pot stickers. Everything was fresh and good. The teriyaki sauce on the tender chicken was not too sweet nor sticky/gloppy; the pot stickers were quite good and mostly meat filled. The salad dressing was fresh and flavorful and the edamame in the center were still warm from steaming.
The difference? Rice filled one of the compartments, so the mayonnaise covered noodles were missing...rice used to be served in a side bowl. The rice was an excellent, almost sushi quality.The standard for me here are the primary of saba (grilled mackerel) and the tempura vegetables. The large piece of mackerel was fresh, thick, not oily and grilled to a perfect doneness with a nice crispness of the skin. The tempura was perfect and included one shrimp and one piece of surimi in addition to the vegetables.
All in all, still good, still quality and still local.
Shizuoka Japanese Restaurant 9118 Fletcher Parkway La Mesa 91942 (619)461-1151 Mon-Fri 11:30-3 Mon-Thur 5-9:30 Friday and Saturday 5-10 Closed Sunday
I noticed the sign of this place back in June. They turned the renovation around pretty quickly and opened a couple of weeks ago. I decided to check them out since they're located relatively close to both home and work. One thing I quickly noticed was the removal of the "Yakitori" in the signage....I'm guessing getting that robata thing straight might have been a bit too much.
My server on both visits was a very gracious, friendly young man, from, if I recall Latvia. He was just perfect, great timing, and for some reason, reminded me of the kind of service we received in France.
It was way too hot for ramen on my first visit, so I ordered a couple of items from the menu.
I started with the Tsukune, because I was curious as to why the "yakitori" part on the sign was removed.
This was on the tough and rubbery side. The flavor was quite mild. The tare was different, sweet with some mild spice, more like teriyaki in texture than a traditional tare.
Like that wood wall; it seems like all "New Japanese" have some kind of Pork Belly Bun on the menu.
In terms of flavor the pork was decent, on the waxy side and cold, but ok. I think heating this up a bit more, getting some caramelization on the pork would make this better. The bun was cold and dry and this seemed a bit slapped together.
I also ordered the Katsudon; you know the iconic katsu (in this case chicken katsu), egg, tsuyu, onion, scallion, and rice bowl. What I got made me laugh.......it was literally "Katsu - Don".
No egg, no tsuyu, no onions/scallions........just overcooked chicken katsu; hard and dry....and overcooked rice....hard and dry. For some reason I just found this quite funny. Like someone figured out what "katsu" and "don" meant in Google Translate and took it literally.
Overall an interesting meal. I really liked the service, it was so very open, seemed really interested in my opinions, after a while, you can usually tell if someone is sincere when they ask for your opinion of the dishes. I did find out that the owner of Kanpai also owns Fish Attack.
With that in mind, I decided to return for lunch. On the menu there was a "special combination" menu which is ramen along with a rice bowl.
So I went with Tonkotsu Ramen with Karaage Don.
Beyond the standard Sriracha-mayo, this was good. The chicken was perfectly fried, light, crisp, not too salty, with a slight savory backbone. The rice was perfect this time around. I'd easily have this again.
I'd consider this, with consideration as a work in progress, as lower second tier ramen. The egg was fine; in fact much better than what I'd recently had at RakiRaki. The Chashu was decent. The noodles were typical wholesale ramen noodles and were overcooked. The broth was an uneven mixture of tonkotsu base with shoyu. It was much too thin, definitely lacking in richness, though the temperature was good.
I really liked the service, the folks here seem eager to please. I'll check back in a couple of months to see how the menu, and hopefully the food has evolved.
Izakaya Kanpai 5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; today, however, Ed (from Yuma) will tell about a dinner that happened there anyway. Tomorrow, Kirk or Cathy will be sharing food with you.
In a previous life, when I lived in Monterey, California, Corey and I worked in the same shop. He now lives in Las Vegas, so when Tina and I were in town, we all had to get together. I remembered that sushi was one of Corey's favorite foods, so it seemed appropriate to meet up at Yonaka, a modern Japanese restaurant: Not wanting to spend a lot of time going over the menu, we ordered an omakase – our server recommended the 11 course chef’s special tasting menu which he said would include a range of dishes and be enough to satisfy three hungry appetites. Corey had beer, Tina wine, and me sake.
The first course to arrive was Scottish salmon: The chunks of fish were accompanied by pieces of Asian pear and baby heirloom tomatoes, all topped with a sesame/ginger dressing. While this picture isn't much good, we all agreed that this was a pretty good beginning course. The pear and tomato balanced the salmon well.
Then a large bowl of charred brussels sprouts arrived, smoky, chewy, crispy and crunchy, with a light chili lemon touch: This was a tasty vegetable dish that we continued to munch on between other courses until the bowl was empty.
The next item was some decent hamachi with unusual accompaniment: Between each slice of hamachi, there was a slice of Gala apple, all covered by a Granny Smith apple relish and accompanied by a deep-fried latticework composed of dried apples. Hamachi with apples done three ways? Again there was a light dressing accompaniment. While each item was okay, my palate did not find hamachi/apple interplay especially interesting. Your palate might well be different.
A generous plate of tuna belly accompanied by walnuts and cranberry jelly arrived next: This was an attractive dish, the fish slices topped with micro greens and seaweed strips. The tuna belly itself was good, but not outstanding.
On the other hand, the sashimi plate was excellent: The maguro had an almost suspicious deep red color, but it was flavorful with a good texture. The flying fish sashimi was firm, a bit chewy, and mild. For me, the highlight was the golden thread sea bream – rich and fresh tasting, leading to a long creamy finish.
Also quite tasty was the moist cooked salmon accompanied by baby bok choy and sliced peppers, all bathed in a spicy coconut cream. Yep, this worked: The sea bream bones, deep-fried, showed up next, but they were a little too sturdy and thick for me, not nearly as pleasantly crunchy as a Spanish mackerel skeleton: Maine lobster and braised fennel in a spicy sauce: The idea of this dish was excellent; we liked the interplay of the fennel, sauce, and lobster. The lobster itself, however, was a little overcooked. Still it was okay.
Tender and flavorful wagyu beef, cooked rare, accented by a fruit salsa: We also enjoyed the roasted carrots that seemed to be standing guard over the plate.
The apogee of the meal had to be this: Perfectly prepared pork belly. Incredibly rich, fork tender, slightly sweet, and pleasantly porky. Yum. I salivate just thinking about it. That's apple kimchi in the background.
The final savory course was fried rice with broiled hamachi, uni, ikura, and baby bok choy: While I enjoyed the seafoods and vegetable, the rice seemed pretty ho-hum – something to fill up anyone still hungry at this point, and that was not me. Of course, the pork belly was a tough (tender?) act to follow.
The desert, on the other hand, was surprisingly good: Mango two ways – gelato on the left and panna cotta on the right. I believe the panna cotta was covered in a vanilla sauce, but the best touch was the panna cotta itself, stuffed with a mango center, so when you cut into it and opened it up, the yellow filling flowed out like an over easy egg yolk. Sadly, I was so amazed that I forgot to take a picture of it. Nonetheless, we all thought the desert was a nice finish.
It was great seeing Corey again, and all three of us enjoyed the meal. The extensive use of fruits throughout made our experience unique, and we all left full and happy.
Yonaka Modern Japanese, 4983 W Flamingo Rd, Suite A, Las Vegas, NV 89103, 702-685-8358
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.