It's winter in April! At least that's what it felt like last night. A couple more revisits for your consideration.
777 Noodle House:
Another weekend, another list to take of. And another stop for a noodle soup breakfast. It seems like I drop by here every couple of months. And while Ly Heng surely tops this place in terms of Pho/Hu Tieu Nam Vang, I still like the folks working here. They are so nice and friendly.....they still call me "sir" after all these years. Looking at the dining room it struck me that 777 is just one of those places that looked worn since the day they opened.
On this day, I had my sights set on the Pork Intestine Egg Noodle Soup. Strange, but I think it's gotten better over the years, at least I believe better than the first time I had it. Or perhaps my tastes have changed. The noodles were perfect on this day a wonderful counter point to the blanched bean sprouts. The broth wasn't too salty, slightly porky, and had taken on some of the flavor from the intestine.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Island Style Café:
So I got in my loco moco fix. It kind of happened by accident. I was going to lunch with Calvin and Deanna.....due to the rainy weather, pho sounded like a good choice....but they wanted "something different". It really doesn't get much different, even in terms of loco moco's, than the Kaloko Moco.
I thought this was better than the one I had last time, though the easy over eggs were style a bit over cooked. The crepe is such an oddity, but it just goes well with this loco....... The burger was better than what I had before and the gravy wasn't too salty...and heck; there's even some veggies! Check out the carrots! Ha!
Deanna, who is from the Midwest really wasn't ready for this, so she got the teri beef and Korean chicken....she loved the mac salad here, so maybe there's hope for her.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
While Leilani's might be a bit more spiffed up from what I recall; it's still that tiny shop....truly a café. I'd attempted visiting one time before, but the place seems to be doing a nice amount of business. However, on this rainy weekend morning. One in which I sorely missed a loco, there was room for me....and my Hilo Loco:
For some reason; I think the Hilo Loco is better than I recalled. Perhaps time has made the heart grow fonder....but having time between these will make sure my heart doesn't stop mid-beat.
The rice was nice (how's that for a rhyme), nice pieces of Portuguese Sausage give it enough spice and mild heart, making it even more hearty. The gravy is by the book; no complaints here. The hamburger patty is still a bit overworked, too lean, and tough for me.
The eggs....well, while I'd have loved some crisp edges....I'm not going to complain when oozy yolk is staring me in the face.
Leilani has carved out a nice little niche for herself. She even has a shop next door to this cozy little cafe. It's good to know that the Hilo Loco....well...is still a Hilo Loco.
Leilani's Cafe 5109 Cass St San Diego, CA 92109 Open Daily 7am-3pm
The Missus was craving Jokbal Bossam and it had been a while since we've had it here, so the timing seemed perfect. I do wish they'd choose something other than napa cabbage, but other than that, this was porky goodness. In spite of the name, it's dishes like the jokbal bossam, heukyumso jungol, kimchi dolsot bi bim bap, and on good days the seolleongtang that works for us here.
The panchan on this day was good. I think folks have gotten used to the "quick kimchi" style panchan, and this sometimes is a bit too fermented or salty for its own good.
Grandma's Tofu & BBQ 4425 Convoy St. San Diego, CA 92111
Not much to say about this than I need a nap after eating this.
Homestyle Hawaiian Island Style Food 7524 Mesa College Drive San Diego, CA 92111
Santouka, that chain that originated in the coldest city in Japan, Asahikawa, has long been my go-to ramen spot. As with many places I eat at, there's one item I usually order. Here it's the shio ramen - toroniku style.
After going to all the major ramen shops in San Diego back in February 2013, Santouka still was my favorite. the rich, stick to your ribs broth, the nice firm noodles, and the pork which, when "on" has a wonderful, almost smooth texture with a nice pork flavor.
I know, it's really hot out....but on this, a cooler day, it hit the spot.
I guess it's strange that I go to a "food court" when I want my Tonkatsu fix.
But for under nine bucks, this tonkatsu is a favorite of mine in San Diego.......
Crisp, usually moist, love that mashed potato salad.
Kayaba 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd Ste 119 - In the Mitsuwa Marketplace San Diego, CA 92111
The High Dive:
So, the Missus has become a big fan of the Tap Hunter app. I guess She's now an offical Beer Geek. Anyway, there are places that are real good at keeping Tap Hunter up to date and places that are kind of blase'.....Common Theory, I'm looking at you. For all its short-comings, mainly food-related, The High Dive seems to do a good job keeping things updated. Recently, when the Missus was busy with work, She noticed that one of our favorite beers, La Fin du Monde was on tap. I was ordered to head on down and report back post-haste.
And of course, when I arrived, it was there, poised and ready. There's some flavors with "La Fin" that we enjoy, a mild fruit, with flavors that seem like clove and other spices, which make it fine match with spicy food for us. The flavors seem to go really well with anything I make with ghost peppers, strange as that may seem.
This draft version seemed a bit lighter without the spice notes. Maybe for the first time, I preferred the bottle to the tap....weird.
I Buffalo Wings were adequate and by the book. Nothing to make them stand out, but no complaints.
I thought it was a bit too heavy in the sour end and the wings were fried way past well done, but that would be nitpicking.
High Dive Bar and Grill 1801 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Getting my "loco fix" at Island Style Cafe:
It was time for my bi-annual locomoco fix......well, strangely, it would be the first "loco" I had this year. I've got some catching up to do! Anyway, I went with the Kaloko Loco at Island Style Cafe. A rather unconventional Loco Moco; usually I'm not a fan of fried rice for my loco and this one even has a crepe, but it all seems to work out for me.
Like my good FOY CAB says, there's an interesting, yet complimentary interplay of sweet with savory going on that I enjoy. The eggs were overcooked for "over-easy" on this visit and I've kind of gotten used to jasmine rice so the calrose got my attention....I gotta head back home for an attitude adjustment soon! I think the burger here is still too tough and lean, but that's nit-picking as this is still my favorite loco moco in San Diego.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
I recently saw the storefront for Kona Kakes in Linda Vista....I had wondered where they had gone to. What really got my attention was the new addition to the name....the "& Plates" part. So Kona Kakes was now serving plate lunches? This I had to check out.
So a few days later I stopped by......to check out the plates.
I've had the cakes from Kona Kakes a couple of times and it was quite good. So I really couldn't wait to check out the "plates" which I guess are served between 11am and 4pm Monday thru Saturday.
You know...every place makes "sliders" now and a riff on nachos. I decided to try something basic and perhaps not as easy as it sounds; the Teriyaki Beef Plate ($8). Plates some with two "sides" which can include rice, green salad, quinoa salad (??), and mac salad. Hard to guess what I chose, huh?
First the basics. The rice was perfect, though I'm not a big fan of the mac salad here....too loose and too sweet. The beef was quite tough; literally the two dollar steak. It really lacked flavor and was also cold, like it had been sitting in a pan somewhere and maybe put in the microwave for a (too) short time. It lacked color, which made it look less appetizing. The sauce totally reminded me of the teriyaki we used to make; when we couldn't get mirin....which was a good part of my childhood. It was too salty. Frankly, I don't care if you microwave your meat, but marinate it well, some color would be good, too. I've moved on from using thick cut low quality beef, you can still get decent thin cut beef which you can marinate appropriately and still have osmething tender. It wasn't horrible; just mediocre.
Still, I decided to try them one more time. This time I went with the Kalua Pork Plate, which was really cheap at $7.
For this price, I figured Oven Kalua Pork, which it was, I also kinda assumed Kalua Pork and Cabbage, which it also was, though I wish they made that clear on the menu....the "local" in me I guess. The flavor of the liquid smoke was decent, a mild "nose" and not an over-powering flavor, though it could have used more salt, and frankly more fat. The cabbage was still fairly crisp as well. The pork was on the dry side and this had the real feeling of something from a chafing dish. The onions were basically raw......which is great if it were sweet onions...which is one of my favorite things with a sprinkle of alaea, the mildly sweet sea salt tinged pink from red volcanic soil. Here it was basically pungent brown onions....too much for the plate raw. I did like the quinoa salad, though it was a bit under-dressed for my taste, it still was refreshing.
The folks here are very nice and friendly, but it seems that the plates are here to supplement the "kakes", and I wish it was more than that. Maybe I'm being too harsh because I grew up eating this stuff, but frankly, I think this isn't as good as L&L, and I'm not a big fan of the paint-by-numbers Hawaiian Barbecue. I really think they can do better and hope they do, especially since they have a potential goldmine by catering to Ballast Point next door, which has a beer pairing. I'm wondering, do they have a beer pairing for their cakes, which are really good?
Kona Kakes & Plates 5401 Linda Vista Road Suite 402 San Diego, CA 92110 Lunch Served 1100am - 4pm Monday - Saturday
Here's one that I heard about a while back, but just didn't have a chance to visit until recently.
The location can be a bit challenging; off of Mission Gorge Road, head east on Mission Gorge Place in sort of a business park area. Once you go down Mission Gorge Place a bit you can't miss the sign....unless it's not out. Then it just looks like one of hundreds of business strewn around the area.
The interior is interesting, though kind of cold, looking more like an Hawaiian themed bar serving food, than an actual restaurant. Here's where I noticed some interesting things. A decent beer selection, but nothing on tap.
The really nice gal told me to sit anywhere I wanted. Menus are simple take-out type pamphlets. Here's the next observation, I couldn't find anything fried on the menu, which might not be a bad thing, so I'm thinking this place doesn't have a fryer. Lot's of fusion-hip type of things like sliders, guava BBQ wings, "street" tacos, and nachos, along with tuna melts, BLTs, and smattering of plate lunch type items under "entrees".
I went straight for the artery and ordered the Loco Moco ($9.49), to add to my loco moco collection.
Though it doesn't look it, this was a good amount of food.
Let's start with the eggs, which were over-cooked....I do love my runny yolk. I fully understand how folks can be with runny yolks, but places who serve eggs that way will usually ask me how I want my eggs. Which is over easy, with a little char on the edges.
The burger looked real good, but noticing how it had been grilled, I could tell it was going to be pretty tough, which it was. The flavor was decent though.
I thought the gravy was kind of odd. First, it was runny and thin, almost like a bisque. Second, a flavoring, like French onion soup mix over-powered the whole thing and there was a bit of a metallic-sour finish to it.
The one saving grace and a big one at that was the mac salad. It was very simple, but mac salad should be simple. It wasn't over-dressed, the macaroni was cooked to perfection, there was just enough other flavors to keep me interested, and most importantly, it was seasoned well and nicely chilled. This might be my favorite mac salad in San Diego.
So the mac salad and the really nice young lady was enough to get me to return. I looked over the menu when I got home. There was another interesting item on the menu; Huli Huli Chicken. Huli-huli means to "turn-turn". Ernest Morgado, head of Pacific Poultry is credited with creating the "king of fundraisers", at least when I was growing up. You can read more about it in Mr Morgado's obit here. Let me just say, I loved this stuff when I was growing up.....so I was interested in what Chris' Ono Grinds Huli Huli Chicken ($9.49) was like:
Most Huli Huli Chicken recipes I've seen use a good amount of ketchup. Funny thing is; I don't recall it tasting strongly of it.
The sauce on this version was more like a barbecue, not as in "Hawaiian BBQ", but BBQ sauce. It was more of a sticky glaze than a nicely charred huli huli chicken grilled over Kiawe. That doesn't mean it wasn't good. This was pretty decent, perhaps a bit too fruity and sweet, but other than the piece of bone, in the supposedly boneless pile that nearly cracked my teeth, this was decent. The chicken was decently moist and fairly tender. Not bad.
The best thing was, the mac salad was the same as before.
I may not been chasing down this place like I did fund raisers back in the old days, but I think Chris's Ono Grinds has some potential and will probably return one of these days. Mainly because I used to make Guava BBQ Chicken (Hawaiian style BBQ) and he has chicken wings with Guava BBQ sauce.
Even though the feel of the place (and some of the menu) is rather "Mainland - local themed", don't want to use the "H" word, it looks like they are trying to make good food here. This is not another shibai Hawaiian BBQ money grab. That and the nice folks here are enough for another visit.
Chris' Ono Grinds Island Grill 4651 Mission Gorge Place San Diego, CA 92120 Hours: Mon - Sat 11am - 9pm
I'd heard about this place a while ago, but took my sweet old time getting there. The little shop is located on Pearl, right past La Jolla Boulevard. I've never been a big fan of getting there and the parking situation, but I gotta say, on the days I visited this little corner it was pretty quiet.
Though the other side of the shop fronts the busier side, I like this area by the one parking stall.
The interior is quite larger than what this little storefront would make you think.
The breeze really goes through the dining area.....so it's probably great during the late spring/summer, but kind of chilly on the days I visited.
On my first visit, the yong lady manning the counter seemed like perhaps the owner's daughter? She was very nice, even though there were probably a thousand other things she could have been doing. I ordered the loco moco and much like much of Honolulu, Ohama Cafe offers brown rice and even coconut rice for an upcharge. You know me........unless the Missus is breathing down my neck, it white rice all the way. By the way, you won't forget that this is La Jolla, as this is what you get for $8.50.
Still, we're all trying to exercise some portion control nowadays, right? As a loco moco, this wasn't bad, the egg was nice and runny, with some crisp edges, the gravy a little short on flavor, and a bit of "powderyness" to it, and was just barely ok. The rice was cooked well, but I really didn't take to the burger. It was crumbly and it tastes like they add something to the meat made it taste like onion soup mix.
Perhaps I should call this a "petite loco".......but I guess "small crazy" sounds kind of strange, as if loco moco didn't sound weird enough already. The woman who came out of the kitchen was very nice, telling me hello and dropping off some brownie samples.
So I thought that I should return. This time around I ordered the "mix and match" with Kalua Pork and Teri Chicken.
This time the rice was on the dry and hard side. It was by-the-book oven kalua pork, something I make a couple of times a year. The pork was on the dry side and could have had more flavor. The chicken was decent, not too dry, but on the bland side. The drizzle of over-reduced, again by-the-book teriyaki sauce could have been a spitting image of Kealani's.
The mac salad was plain, but nice made, he macaroni was done perfectly, and the seasoning and he amount of mayo was good as well.
I really like the folks here, they are really a nice group. But it takes a bit more than a shade better than L&L level food with petite portions and La Jolla pricing/parking to get me to return. Though the breakfast menu (Sat/Sun) looks decent, so maybe.......
Ohana Cafe 456 Pearl St San Diego, CA 92037 Hours: Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm Sat - Sun 9am - 8pm
For this post, I decided to put my biased choices to the side and actually try another plate lunch here. After all, it is plate lunch week. Good thing it's not loco moco week....I might not survive that one!
Island Style Cafe had renovated since my last visit; nice booths giving the place a warmer feel.
I ordered the Korean Mix ($10.95), a combo with the Kalbi and Korean Chicken. I quickly noticed that the portion sizes seemed to have gotten a bit larger than I recalled.
Having not ordered a plate lunch here in ages, I'd forgotten about the mac salad. They put tuna in this; not my favorite version, but at least it was nicely chilled.
The kalbi is sliced very thin, which made it quite crisp, and perhaps a bit too charred. Still the flavor wasn't bad and the crisp char makes you forgot about how tough this can be.
The flavor for the Korean Chicken, which is pretty close to Dak-Galbi, is nice.
The chicken was cooked perfectly, personally, I'd prefer something with a bit more of an interesting texture to it. There's a component of many version of Dak Galbi that creates a bit of a mushy texture, which was also the case here. Still, this was not bad.
Personally, I think the food is getting better, as is the decor. Still, this won't make me forget about ordering the Kaloko Moco next time..........which, according to my arteries is quickly approaching.
According to the signs, the menus have been revamped a bit, so if you haven't checked them out in a while, you may want to see if there's anything you'd find interesting.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
Talk about a long time between visits. With Kealani's it's been almost seven years! So I made it a point to truck on up (when was the last time you heard that?) to Encinitas to check out Kealani's.
It seems that the place hasn't changed much in the last seven years.
Since the place seemed stuck in time, I decided to order two of the items I did last time. They call the mix plate Mt Ka'ala here. For you trivia fans; if I recall Mount Ka'ala is the highest spot on Oahu, part of the Waianae Range. I guess just saying "mix plate" is too boring. So my two protein combo ($8.50) consisted of the teri chicken and sweet sour spareribs.
Even though it doesn't quite look like it, there's more than enough food here. There's another scoop of rice and a good portion of pork under the two pieces of chicken.
I recall thinking the sweet and sour spareribs, even though it looks like pork butt, and is more sweet-salty, than sour to be not bad. The flavor is heading more toward rafute than sweet-sour spareribs, which isn't a bad thing. Unfortunately, this was super dry....I mean really dry.
I know they serve up what we call "dipped chicken" here. The trick is to not make it seem like precooked chicken that is reheated and dipped in sauce.
This didn't. The flavor was decent, not too sweet or salty, but like the pork, it was quite dry and tough. That teriyaki sauce on the side had been reduced too far and had a bit of bitterness to it.
Personally, I'd still take Kealani's over most of the L&L's.....probably over all of the L&Ls on the mainland.
I thought I'd get back to my roots this week and do just "local kine grindz". One of the main reasons for starting the blog back in 2005 was to list all the places you could get local "stuffs" and food. Of course, soon enough L&L tried to take over the world, often with a very low quality product, and the intent seemed more of a money grab then anything else. Gladly, time has weeded out many of these places. I recall Eddie Flores Jr, the founder of L&L once stated in a interview that:
“In five to 10 years, we won’t call it plate lunch but Hawaiian barbecue,” he says. “Only old-timers will remember the plate lunch.”
Not so fast charlie......
Sadly, the last time I did a plate lunch week was almost 6 years ago! And all of those places have closed! Of course, Mo's has moved and become Homestyle Hawaiian. Still, six years since my last plate lunch week? I think much of it is due to, well, age. I just can't put it away like I used to, nor do I really want to eat that much food anyway.
The real impetus for this week occurred when I did drop by Homestyle Hawaiian and saw this sign on the register:
I recall slinking away with my Chicken Katsu plate in hand thinking, "my coconut wireless sure don't work like it used to!"
I even did some catering with Mo and he didn't say anything to me? What's up with that?
Anyway, I jotted down the address and I finally had some time to get down there this past weekend.
I guess this used to be a hot dog joint? When I arrived the place was already busy. Mo was happy to see me and told me it's been crazy busy since opening. He's training an all new staff....though he's got some pros with him. His two daughter's were there to help out. I remember when they were in diapers! I've been doing this blogging thing for too long now. Anyway, Mo mentioned that they've been selling out of everything daily and he's trying to get a handle on things....
The place was chaotic, but I got my order in and things settled down soon enough. Mo's little one had no problem with taking my order, a combination Korean Chicken and a Chicken Katsu with Gravy (aka chicken cutlet in local terms).
I saw Mo make my plate so I knew it was going to be what I was used to getting at the other location.
As I closed my plate, taking a good half of it home for dinner, Mo asked me what I thought. I told him from what I understand of the demographic in this location, "if you can keep up, you'll do great!" Hopefully he'll be able to do that.
Homestyle Hawaiian 1558 E H St Chula Vista, CA 91913 Hours: Monday 11am - 330pm Tues - Fri 11am - 7pm Saturday 11am - 330pm
A handy hint. Mo is a slow starter and takes a bit of time to warm up. I'd recommend getting there at about 1130, especially since he's training all new staff.
Over the two years or so, my rice intake has really decreased. I'm not so sure if it's age, environment, or what. These days, Da' Boyz are the biggest consumers of rice in the household. It used to be that when we were on vacation, I'd be missing rice after a couple of days....but this time... nada. In fact, the Missus specifically asked me a couple of times if I was missing rice, and strangely I wasn't. And as a matter of fact, it wasn't rice that I was missing. So was rice still nice? After a couple of weeks, I had ample time to see with some revisits:
I hadn't been back around these parts since last year. The plate lunches here are still pretty much a bargain at around $6 - $6.50. And Mo will always try to make what you want. Even though it isn't on the menu per se, I wanted a Chicken Cutlet.....
Basically a chicken katsu plate with gravy....there's a whole scoop of...yes, rice under that chicken and gravy. It did hit the spot, though I wasn't able to finish it off. An acquaintance of mine just can't figure out why I like this..... the main issue being the chicken starts getting soggy under the gravy. Of course this person loves chicken katsudon??? Go figure....
The one complaint I may have about the plate is the mac salad.... I still think Mo needs to add more salt to it.... it's kind of bland for my taste.
Homestyle Hawaiian Island Style Food 7524 Mesa College Drive San Diego, CA 92111
Point Point Joint:
When you're in need a rice fix, one usually never needs to look further than a good old Filipino "turo-turo" (point-point) joint. And where better to go then a place actually named point-point joint, right? Actually, I wasn't intending a visit to PPJ...... earlier in the weekend, my good FOY (friend of yoso) TammyC just happened to mention sisig, which suddenly had me craving it. I initially went to Conching's since I really like their sisig. TammyC and I always joke about buying a tray of sisig for one of our potlucks, but we're afraid that we'd be the only ones who'll eat the stuff, which is not necessarily a good thing. You'll die with a smile on your face though! Anyway, Conching didn't have any sisig, and what they had looked terribly greasy on this day. I hadn't been to Point-Point in a couple of years, so I thought I'd drop by.
It had been about four years, but not much has changed. Seven bucks got me a huge plate of rice, three scoops of sisig, ginisang ampalaya thoughtfully put into a separate container, since I told the friendly woman (and surprised I order this, "OOOoooh, you like this?") I obviously wouldn't be able to finish off the whole thing. Along with the freebie sinigang.....
The lechon kawale used for the sisig had almost a jerky-like texture, I'm fairly certain it was fried twice. Not necessarily a bad thing since it didn't get soggy. I'd prefer it a bit more crisp.
There was a good ratio of pork to onions, but the flavor was very mild. I enjoy a more bracing sisig; a stronger vinegar flavor and more spice. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
The bittermelon was strange.......
Both oily and bland, a strange adjective to use when a dish uses bittermelon. The bittermelon wasn't very strong in flavor, which sometimes is a plus. But in this case the dish had almost no flavor, too much "soup", and a oiliness that coated your tongue in a rather unpleasant way.
The sinigang at PPJ has always been pretty good. The Missus used to want this when She wasn't feeling well. This wasn't bad, but it had almost a pure vinegar flavor... almost like the vinegar hadn't been simmered.
Point-Point Restaurant 916 East 8th St National City, CA 91950
I guess in the end, rice is still nice (I'm sure you'll enjoy that AZ)..... I just don't have the capacity, nor crave it quite as much anymore....which may not be a bad thing.