I was up in the Hillcrest area for a couple of days of meetings recently. I don't get up here very much these days and most times, when I do, parking is kinda horrible. Not bad in the way of, say the worst parking lots on ECB or Convoy (you all know those ones, right?), but its either meter or pay lot (though I think they validate) and sometimes there's nothing on the street.
Anyway, I saw this place, which used to be Which Wich, named HoM Korean Kitchen. It seemed interesting, so I walked in.
Very nice set-up; basically using the "bones" of the old shop.
Looking at the "menu" it became quite clear that this was a "fast casual" shop; the Chipotle model, or if you prefer, like one-of-a-zillion-until-critical-mass-hits-and-business-normalizes poke shops. Basically, design your own rice bowl concept. 1 protein, starch or salad, and three "sides", in this case "panchan" (heavy on the air quotes).
I've always thought that rice bowls would be a great food truck concept.....kind of had a fantasy to do a Korean inspired rice bowl truck and name it the "Bap-Mobile". Maybe it's because then I'd be "Bap-man", but I digress.
The guy working the front counter was quite nice and even asked me if I wanted some samples.
I simply went with the "Korean Steak" ($9.25).
The portion size for the price was pretty good....though a fountain drink is two bucks for a 12 ounce cup.
The beef was decent; chewy, but not overly so, a few pieces of gristle here and there, but better than I've had in, say a carne asada burrito. Speaking of carne asada; I'd say the flavor steers more toward that then Korean Barbecue. There's some soy sauce notes and this is far from bland, but it's fairly neutral.
The rice was fragrant, but there were quite a few hard pieces.
The panchan, is that in name only. The cucumbers and daikon seem to be quick pickled and really lacks spice, sour tones, and any sign of even slight fermentation. Hey, I thought this place as supposed to be healthy.....isn't fermentation supposed to have many health benefits? But I guess it's more about fast. The mushrooms were decent; well seasoned with some garlic tones.
This was not bad at all. Because the set-up and food screamed out "chain", I did a bit of research and found that there's another location in San Jose, but that's it for now. I also decided to return after my meetings ended the next day.
Same nice guy working. This time I went with the Braised Beef ($8.50) with Toasted Rice ($1.25).
Not a big fan of the toasted rice....it's more like a bland baked fried rice with a lot of hard bits. Not high on the "braised" beef either; it was shredded into mush, and was much too salty and In my opinion needed to be tempered with some sweet-pungent tones. The faux baechu kimchi is just that; basically a bland quick kimchi; the namul was worse. The spinach was my favorite item; like the mushrooms on my previous visit, it had a nice garlicky kick.
So, was it "HoM sweet HoM"? Well, I'm not so much of a "HoM-boy". I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here, but I think it's more Korean than Chipotle is Mexican. The ingredients are good, while some of the execution and seasoning may not be to my taste. Also, I do prefer that the Korean food I eat, well, would kind of remind me Korea. I would encourage you give the place a try though....who knows, you might find that there's "no place like HoM" (last one, I promise).
HoM Korean Kitchen 3825 Fifth Ave San Diego, CA 92103
After having a great time with Cathy and Ed from Yuma at Prime Grill (click on the links to read or reread their posts), I decided to check out some of their non-Korean Barbecue dishes. Plus, it was pretty darn hot during this time, making for the perfect set-up for my meals.
The parking lot here can be a real horror show, but at 11 am on a Monday or Tuesday, things are pretty quiet.
I ordered the Dolsot Bi Bim Bap and soon enough the panchan arrived. The baechu kimchi; the napa cabbage kimchi was a surprise as it had a bit of a fermented flavor; not just the sour quick pickled versions I've had recently at most places. It was pretty good. The other item I hadn't seen in a while was the gaji namul; the steamed eggplant panchan. In spite of the rather grey look, it had some decent garlicky tones.
When my bi bim bap arrived.....which looked pretty textbook, I was disappointed that it didn't have an egg yolk on it.....which was hiding under the shredded nori.
This was pretty much by the book; though the mushroom, fernbrake, and blanched spinach with sesame oil was very nice. The bulgogi was on the bland side. What really made this good was the rice; which was prepared perfectly as was the stone bowl. A beautiful, nutty crust quickly developed and after mixing kept on going for a good part of the meal. The Cho Gochujang here was very thick, mostly gochujang, with very mild sweet and sour tones. Not a bad lunch...plus, if I recall, this is a buck cheaper during lunch.
About a week later, temps hit the mid-nineties in the Convoy area. I decided to drop by for lunch and try the Bi Bim Naengmyun; the spicy cold noodle dish that I crave when temps rise.
Only four panchan this time around. I'm guessing it's based on what is ordered. The regular kimchi wasn't as good on this visit; though still better than most. The baek (white) kimchi would have made the Missus happy as it had distinct fermented tones.
On the menu it says Ham Heung Bi Bim Naengmyun, naming the city in North Korea that made this dish famous.
Man, this was a lot of buckwheat noodles. The Server was very friendly and quite funny. She asked me if I wanted my noodles cut and when I said "I wouldn't even be able to eat the noodles if they weren't", she relayed a pretty funny story about her father, who was from Pyongyang, who refused to let her eat her noodles cut. Until one day when she tried to eat entire noodles and started choking. Her dad grabbed the noodles and actually pulled it all the way from her stomach! I don't know if it's true, but it was a heck of a story.
A bit too little sauce for the amount of noodles and that chojang wasn't especially spicy. But a slushy bowl of mul-naengmyun broth was also provided.
Today Kirk and Cathy are busy. Ed (from Yuma) not so much, so he's posting.
Sakura. About a dozen years ago, when Kirk and I first ate at Sakura together, I had no idea that this Izakaya would be the restaurant most posted about at mmm-yoso!!! Of course I also had no idea that Kirk was going to be starting a food blog and that I would ever do a post for it. Long time ago.
Gleefully surprised to find an empty space in the lot, I parked, walked over to Sakura, tried the door, and learned that it doesn't open until 11:30. That explained the parking space. But I was content to sit down at an outside table, enjoy the pleasant weather, and wait.
When they turned on the sign and opened the doors, I knew what I wanted, tempura soba and iced green tea. The tea showed up first:
That's bright green.
Then the tempura soba:
This is an old favorite of mine. I love the textures – the crunch of the tempura, the juicy chew of the shrimp, and the gentle coolness of the buckwheat noodles in the broth. Contrasts of temperatures and flavors.
I also enjoyed the basic cabbage salad:
and the pickles and rice ball:
In some odd way, the simplicity of the lunch just seemed right.
Prime, in contrast with my lunch, would be a much more elaborate meal in a new Korean restaurant where Kirk, Cathy, and I had never eaten before. It was great for me to get together with Kirk and Cathy since I don't get to see them very much being stuck out in the desert. But we had a great time and a dang good meal. Cathy has already posted about it, so I’ll try not to repeat a lot.
Dipping sauces showed up first:
The little one in the middle was slightly sweet and was intended for the brisket slices which were not marinated. The largest bowl was my favorite sauce as it had some tartness that helped cut the richness of the beef. Also the crunch of onions added texture, and the sauce seemed to go with everything.
I was happy in general with the pan chan. The kimchi was complex and deeply flavorful, not too sharp or sour:
The shiitake mushrooms were simple and focused:
We all liked the little shrimp in a sweet chili sauce. Pleasant textures too:
The bean sprouts were unusual with horseradish or wasabi seasoning and went well with all of the beef:
To me the cucumber slices were well prepared with more crunch and bright flavors than standard cucumber pan chan:
For my tastes, the only shortcoming to the pan chan was the lack of anything dried – dried radish and dried tofu being particular favorites.
We also got this vegetable and soybean paste soup that we ate very little of:
And a nice fluffy custardy egg dish with mild seafood flavor:
But Prime is all about the meats, and what an array we got with Combo C:
It's interesting comparing Cathy's picture of the meats with mine because we sat more or less across from each other and our photos have a different perspective. This picture, for example, emphasizes the size and thickness of the ribeye steak.
All this top-quality meat was tasty. Prime even uses ribeye steak for their bul gogi. The ribeye steak itself and the brisket were totally enjoyable. But my favorites were the two furthest away in the picture. The boneless ribs were full of tendon and cartilage and had deep flavor and a pleasant chewy mouthfeel. The marinated galbi was supremely rich and butter tender. Overall it was a first-rate Korean beef barbecue.
When I first saw that plate of beef hit the table, I thought there was no way we would finish it. However:
One final note – our server was friendly and helpful throughout. She explained the dipping sauces, put the meats on the grill, took them off, cut them up, and otherwise facilitated, which was great because we three could concentrate on our conversations and our eating. I sure had a great time.
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food written by three friends who have known each other more than ten years, yet they've only shared about five meals together. Today's post is about one of those rare occasions, written from Cathy's perspective. Here is a link to Ed's perspective of that meal.
A week or so ago, Ed (from Yuma) decided to drive (from Yuma) to enjoy many San Diego foods he had been hankering for. He let Kirk and I know when and where he was going, had some questions about what to order and also had some 'blank slots' for meals. The stars aligned and all three of us were available on the same day at the same time. We decided to try some place new and it was fun!
Prime Grill has been open only about six weeks now, taking over the spot of the (Blue) Korea House which all three of us had been to but none of us ever posted about. The refurbished interior is neat and clean. The menu is pretty much a traditional Korean BBQ and as a first visit, we decided to try 'Combo C', the meal for three people. Salad was brought out first (and we ate it as 'dessert', at the end of the meal) along with a variety of dipping sauces then
a variety of Banchan were brought out. There were more than these; we were catching up and talking, not taking clear photos, you get the idea. The grill was being warmed and the tray of meats (with some veggies) was brought out. Our nice (and funny) waitress placed the vegetables and the thin sliced brisket on the grill first. This cooked rather quickly and the fat helped to begin the seasoning of the grill. Rib eye and boneless short rib were put out next and finally the marinated short rib and bulgogi. There also was a steamed egg and also a soybean paste stew brought out sometime in the middle of meat cooking.
Oh. You might want to know how it tasted; I don't have a thesaurus with me right now. Tender meat, deep, excellent flavors; quality. A special meal with special friends.
Prime Grill 4620 Convoy San Diego 92111 (858) 277-0800 Open 7 days 11-10
This was kind of a spooky one. I drove by around noon this past Wednesday and noticed the place wasn't open. I went in and took a look. There was a hand written "thank you for the support" note. Kind of sad considering I first visited here back in 2001 and first posted on the place in 2005. Over the years they seemed to have changed hands not less than three times.
What really made it spooky was that an hour or so later, I had "FOY" Sage tweeting me, letting me know Do Re Mi House had closed down.
While I thought the quality of the food at Do Re Mi House had fluctuated over the years, they had always provided a reasonable lunch option. I'm sad to see them go.
Do Re Mi House 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste M San Diego, CA 92111
Dede's Becoming "Facing East"......
Or Something like that. I went into this strip mall because I saw the Notice of Ownership Change posted for the former Convoy Noodle House. I was shocked to see that Dede's had closed.
While over the years; I thought the food at Dede's had really gone downhill....I'm more of a quality over quantity kind of guy; it was sad to see the windows papered over. then I also read Faye's post as well. It looks like this place will become a Chinese Restaurant named "Facing East"?
4647 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Meanwhile Convoy Noodle House is Becoming "Submarine Crab":
Or at least that's what the sign says.....
Which is yet another, I think....crawfish chain from the OC?
4647 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So 99 Ranch is really going into the old Haggen Site on Balboa:
In spite of what Eater San Diego said, I always had my doubts since it seems they would be competing with themselves. But on a recent (I really don't shop there enough these days) visit to 99 Ranch Market I saw this sign:
At least the SoCal stores. As of July first. They replaced my card with one that acts like the typical supermarket discount card, but also allows you to accumulate points. Not sure for what, but I guess I'll find out.
Also of note, I was told that Marukai in Hawaii will be using a different system....so we'll see what happens when I travel back "home".
Marukai Market 8151 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
It was interesting as the place always look empty from the street, but the parking lot was quite full on this day, as was the restaurant. The folks working here were really nice, in spite of basically running from table to table.
We placed our order and soon enough the panchan arrived right before the food we ordered.
On our previous two visits, we were thoroughly unimpressed with the panchan. This was totally different. Perhaps it was the fact that the cold dishes were nicely chilled, but I gotta say, the baechu (napa cabbage) kimchi had a bit of fermented flavor and the gobo (burbock root) glazed with a nice sweet soy based sauce was very good; earthy, salty, and slightly sweet. Those two items were the highlites.
Of course the Missus went with the Yukkwe Bib Bim Bap.....still served with the rice on the side.
I know the Missus was wishing for something like She had at Gogung in Insadong. But while the meat was sliced a bit too thick, it was nicely chilled, very fresh, with no off flavors. There was quite a pile of vegetables, which, when combined with the chojang made for a tasty dinner. I know as I got to finish off what the Missus couldn't.
Of course I ordered the Bi Bim Naengmyun, which looked different from what I'd had here before. The noodles were thinner and there was quite a bit of sauce/soup.
This might have been the best I've had at Buga. The noodles were perfectly elastic and stretchy; the sauce spicy-sweet-salty-savory...the Missus enjoyed the egg. A simple yet refreshing dish; perfect for a scotching day.
All finished with Sujoenggwa, the persimmon-cinnamon drink; still a bit too sweet for our taste, but throw in some ice cubes and it was just what the doctor ordered.
After having a couple of not so great meals here a few years ago, we were pleasantly pleased and surprised this time around. I guess Buga is back on our list.
Buga Korean Restaurant 5580 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92117
So, what did you eat to beat the heat this past week?
I was quite surprised since I had just been there a few weeks before. I thought why not have some Mandu Guk, since in my opinion, that was the best item I'd had at Myung In. Strangely, it wasn't on the menu. Neither was any kind of mandu or dumplings! What the heck? ?I even asked and was told they are not currently making those dishes, but perhaps in the future?
Anyway, it's either a stir-fry, fried rice, or seafood soup.......
I went with the japchae, which was fairly reasonable at $7.99 and strangely, at least for me, came with rice.
In terms of being straight-up food court food, it registered as decent. The soup was insipid and the baechu kimchi and takuan were obviously bought form the market. The rice was on the dry side. The japchae itself was okay, the chicken was dry and chewy, though the dish as a whole had a decent soy-sesame oil flavor. I really didn't appreciate all the inedible dried chilies on the dish, though.
Myung In Dumplings (in the Zion Market Food Court) 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
A couple of weeks after returning from Seoul, I was wondering how Gala Chicken was doing. I decided to drop by and grab some chicken. I got the extra crispy, which is still priced at $7.99.
I was glad to see that unlike my previous two visits, that chicken hadn't been cut into during the cooking process. It did taste a bit off, sort of in a rancid oil kind of way, though the chicken was very moist. This time around, the coating was more like my first visit, really crumbly, than crisp like my second visit.
I can see the potential here and the guy working here is very nice, but the place just can't seem to get all the planets lined up. Though I don't get the grumbling from some folks I know about having to wait 15-20 minutes for the chicken. Hey, at least they are making it fresh and to order......
Gala Chicken 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd (Inside of Zion Market) San Diego, CA 92111
Our time in Seoul, and Korea, for that matter was coming to an end. The Missus and I discussed the possibilities for a last meal and we decided to give KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) another shot. This time at a place that was more highly recommended. I had a place on my list....which one of my coworkers called a "Hof"??? A Hof? Like "Hofbrau"? Well, she wasn't sure.....the term "hof" is used for various places that serve beer/drinks with food and to my relief had nothing to do with "The Hoff". So it was off to the "hof".
The shop was located in the Gyeongbokgung area, west of the Palace. The Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung looked especially striking on this clear evening.
Finding Mirak Chicken wasn't too difficult; especially with pocket wifi, called an "egg" in Korea, and a photo of the exterior.
Mirak Chicken's popularity is in part due to being shown on a very popular Korean Food Show named Tasty Road, which is how we found out about the place after having two people mention Mirak and the show to me.
The interior has a dark and kind of pub-like feel.
As is typical with these places, there's the all-you-can eat popcorn....which I found a bit odd. You obviously need a beverage of choice; we went with some Hite, which seemed a bit sweeter, but very light, and not as bitter as the versions here in the states. Perhaps it was being on holiday....... After ordering, some shredded cabbage dressed with a somewhat fruity mayo and the standard condiment of KFC, the water kimchi arrived.
Mirak is known for their Garlic Chicken, which of course had to order.
The chicken came with a ton of glazed whole garlic cloves, which of course I loved, but made me socially unpresentable for most of the evening. As with other glazed/sweet/spicy chicken of this type, the glaze was very sticky and way too sweet for me. They really had the batter and the cooking process down as the crust was thin and light, and the chicken very moist. It was just hard to get over the sweetness, for which I was thankful for the radish.
Hedging our bets, we also ordered the regular fried chicken which was quite good.
Crisp, light, and moist. But again, for some reason we both found the seasoning to be on the very mild side. They sure had the cooking process down though.
We were glad to have been able to try a couple of Korean Fried Chicken places.
Mirak Chicken (미락치킨) 17-1 Jahamun-ro Seoul, South Korea
After dinner, we decided to take a walk around the area. We hadn't been around this part of Seoul so this made for an interesting walk. We came across a shopping arcade and decided to do some exploring.
There were quite a few food stalls......
One stall was especially popular.
It made tteokbokki, not my favorite food item in the world, but this looked different. Bright red, stir fried in oil, so I had to try some.....
The was quite good....nice chew, a slight crunch, a good amount of spice, not very greasy.....I really liked it. It changed my opinion of tteokbokki.
After returning home, I tried to find out the name of this place and learned that it is Tongin Market, which was originally set-up by the Japanese in 1941 during the occupation. I also learned that one of the most popular stalls in the market makes Gireum tteokbokki, basically a fried in oil version.......lines rarely lie, right?
Walking back was a pleasure.....we really enjoy Seoul at night.
Before heading back to the apartment, we decided to head on over to the Cheonggyecheon Stream area. A few nights earlier we'd come across the Seoul Lantern Festival. I'm guessing this night must be something special, because folks were really enjoying the sights.
The theme this year was an "Illuminated Tour of Seoul", which was very cool. We saw lanterns of many of the sights we'd seen during the previous days.
Under the bridge folks were gathered, putting together lanterns to be released in the stream.
People were having a great time. It was a nice way to end our stay in Seoul.
As we walked back to the apartment along the alleyway parallel to the main street. Apparently, the huge building we were staying at was built over the Pimatgol, parallel to the main street of Jongno. Because the lower class residents were required to bow down to the nobles everytime they came across them, this parallel alley; the "alley to avoid horses", was created. There's a couple of very nice stories to be found here.
And while there are quite a few anecdotes I haven't told about Seoul; like the Missus complaining about not seeing a branch of Cocohodo, when there was one on the other side of the building. Just like Japan, it seems like there was a story around every corner.
We dozed of easily on this evening. We'd be rising early, then heading off to the airport, via Seoul Station. Next stop; Sapporo!
I'd had K Cuisine on my list for a while, even when the place was "Gorilla Korean Fusion Restaurant".....really. The last time I was here, the place was still Korean Hometown Restaurant ages ago. So when an acquaintance said that the place made some really good mandu, spicy chicken wings, and haemul pajun, I had to check them out.
I'd just returned from Seoul and wanted some straightforward Korean food. So I decided to give K Cuisine a try. The shop was pretty quiet on both my visits, spaced about 5 months apart. The place has a mom-and-pop feel, real down home, unpretentious with the smell of sesame oil permeating the air.....
You do need at least a beer (perhaps more) with food like this, and I'm not a big makgeolli fan, so I had a Hite. Strange, but it tastes much more dry and bitter here in the states than Korea.
I'd ordered quite a bit of food, beyond appetizers, so I got some panchan.
Nothing amazing, and yes, those are pickled forcemeat sausage, much like hot dogs. While I'm a big fan of pickled sausages like utopenci, this was way too salty. The baechu kimchi was taken out of a plastic container....like you'd get at Zion or H Mart, but actually wasn't bad. So perhaps they do what we do......I let the kimchi ferment in a cool hallway for about a week after buying it.
The Fried Mandu ($6.99) wasn't bad.
Light and crisp, the wrappers weren't overly gummy like other versions. The filling was rather mild in flavor, but I thought this was a decent version.
I wanted something hearty so I went with the Gopchang Bokkeum ($16.99).
Basically a stir-fried small intestine dish, with perilla leaf, onions, and other veggies. This was surprisingly tame in flavor, at least it wasn't salty, nor was it very spicy. The intestine could have been cleaned better as it had a good bit of musty, dank flavored, "grey matter" in it. Quite a strong offal flavor. It actually smelled even stronger the next day when I took it out of the fridge.
I fully intended to return to K Cuisine, but somehow the place just slipped my mind. Five months later, I returned. I decided to order the other two items recommended to me, starting with the Haemul Pajun - the Seafood Pancake ($7.99).
In terms of texture, this was the best version I've had in a while; light and crisp. It was a bit short in the seafood department and perhaps in flavor, but the salty, soy-sesame oil-onion-scallion dipping sauce handled that. Not bad, I'd have this again.
I also went with the Spicy Fried Chicken Wings ($9.99).
After having versions of this in Seoul, I should have known that it would be more sweet and sticky than spicy. I really needed that pickled radish to revive my tastebuds. The batter was on the thicker side, but decently crisp, the chicken seems to have been fried a bit too long as the meat was dry. This was just too sweet. I think I'll need to return and try just the plain fried chicken wings one day.
So there you go. Two visits over 5 months....I took long enough. Nice folks working here. Things tend to take a bit of time, which I find rather nice in these type of places. it ain't fast food. K Cuisine is only open during dinner to the wee hours of the morning (I think like 1-2 am). So next time you want some makgeolli, or perhaps a Hite and a bite to eat, you might want to check this place out. I'll probably return to try the straight up fried chicken wings and maybe even some kimchi jigae sometime during the winter.