Just a couple of quick things to get us over "Hump day".
Poke at Costco Mission Valley:
I've seen them in Costco's back home in Hawaii, but never in San Diego, until a recent visit to Costco in Mission Valley. Of course, other than gas, I really don't get to Costco that often. It just so happened that I needed enough toilet paper to last until the next millennium.
It looked to be part of the Seafood Fair. Did I buy any? Well, no....heck I don't even buy the stuff they sell in Costco in Hawaii. I did ask the guy if the fish was "gassed", that is, treated with carbon monoxide. They guy looked at me strangely and shrugged his shoulders....whatever that means.
And while you'll never catch me eating this stuff....though I've been known to have brown rice on occasion to please the Missus (don't get the Brown Rice Shio Koji Chicken...it's a double whammy), I thought it kind of neat that Nijiya is really working on keeping up with things.
I also noticed Chicken Karaage being sold with various sauces. I do enjoy chicken nanban - basically chicken seasoned with vinegar and, yep tartar sauce, though I try to get the sauce on the side when I remember to. A little goes a long way. I thought a sauce made with kurosu, a brownish vinegar made from unpolished rice might be really good on karaage. I was wrong; the sauce had been thickened too much, it was too sweet, without enough sour tones. Not my thing.
Still, it's quite interesting to visit and see new things, which seem to quite often....I usually grab a bento or something for lunch here about every other week.
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
Can you guess the restaurant?
Had dinner with some good friends a while back....not my kind of place, though the portions were huge..... Much of it was dry, overcooked, tough, and seemed like it had been lying around for a while. I hadn't been here in ages and now I remembered why.
Enough to feed an army though.... Can you guess where?
mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog. Both Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) are on well deserved vacations. Cathy's well deserved vacation will be starting in a few days, so she is blogging about food.
On the hypotenuse side of a triangular corner in El Cajon (Douglas Avenue intersects El Cajon Boulevard which turns into Main Street) is a small strip mall containing a Barber shop and Tire Store, all across the parking lot from a gas station) as well as the (now faded) signage for Sagmani's Restaurant. Sagmanis has been here since 2010. Here is a link to Kirk's post.
Five tables inside and one or two tables out front, neat and clean with a one page menu, Sagmanis is not pretentious.
You can have a pitcher of water or bottled water. Hot tea will be brought out after your meal. There are two televisions, which I've never seen on at lunch time.
Warm bread is brought out with your meal.
The lentil soup ($4), made fresh daily, is always our order here. It is excellent, made with plenty of lentils, onions, vermicelli noodle bits and fresh spices. Unique for such a seemingly basic soup. That bowl, by the way, is deceptively large; this is enough soup to share.
A side of hummus ($5) is also fresh made, topped with olive oil, sumac and cumin as well as parsley and and olive. This large portion could be considered a meal, especially with the large soup and all the bread.
On this day a beef shish kabob plate ($7) was part of our shared order. Served on top of fresh sumac topped rice mixed with vermicelli and with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and yellow (turmeric) pickled cabbage (not hot, but more vinegar-y) slices, the kabobs are cooked to order.
Made with coarse ground meat, fresh herbs and spices before grilling, the juicy meatiness of these kabobs are flavor filled. Really, the kabobs here are my favorite. The daily stews are also very good.
As mentioned, hot tea is brought out when your meal is finished.
This is the sign you'll see if you are heading West on Douglas, toward the El Cajon signal light; you'll have just passed the row of storefronts in that parking area and will be seeing the gas station.
Find your way here. Good, fresh food. Stay warm!
Sagmani's Restaurant 478 W. Douglas Ave El Cajon 92020 (619) 440-0077
Well here you are, back at mmm-yoso!!! looking at posts about food. Cathy still has places to talk about while Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are trying to get back to normal after each of their whirlwind vacation jaunts.
Yes, I've posted about Sammoon, a Mediterranean restaurant owned and run by Iraqui immigrants which makes its own breads, in El Cajon twice already. If you've ever had Jury Duty in El Cajon, you probably have been here, since it's within walking distance of the Courthouse.
This is the entrance from the Parking lot. From the street, you'll see it's next to the Panda Express.
Once inside, you'll see the menu and the former pizza oven, which is now used to create the wonderful, fresh samoon shaped breads made here throughout the day.
You may also notice the rotating spits of beef and chicken schawarma, and additional menu offerings over the rest of the open kitchen area.
One day, The Mister tried a Lunch Special ($5.99) which was choice of schawarma with a choice of bread and included fries and a salad (this day was a roasted eggplant salad). The bread choices are either a samoon bread or saj bread. The above is a chicken schawarma saj sandwich. There is pickle and tomato wrapped in the saj before the bread is grilled. This is very, very good. The fries are standard and crispy, not greasy and that roasted eggplant is really great.
One day, I noticed on the menu the "Sajj beef burger" ($4.49) and decided to order it. It came wrapped looking like a sort of American hamburger, with fries. Then I opened the paper...and you can see the Saj bread folded so perfectly tight. It was then cooked on the grill, sealing in the already cooked burger (you can click onto the small photos which will enlarge).
When I cut through the delicate yet crispy after being baked/sealed closed Saj bread, the inside of the tightly folded bread revealed a very nice sized ground beef burger, tomato, pickle, onion and a sweet sauce. The burger was not as spiced as the kabobs here, but was still the coarse ground beef used for the kebabs. The meat was moist but apparently drained, so no grease softened the Saj to make it fall apart. A very good non-traditional, yummy burger.
One day, we noticed a separate ad on the outside window (on the left side of the first photo)-a "Feast for Two" ($18). We ordered it.
First out was a basket of three hot, fresh samoon breads, along with a platter of hummus, tzatziki and baba ganouj. All fresh made here and very refreshing.
Since everything here is made to order, there was a less than ten minute/more than five minute wait for this GIANT platter to be brought out. Clockwise: pickled cabbage, roasted tomato, chicken schawarma, fresh falafel, beef schawarma, fresh tomato. On top of the fresh long grain yellow rice are a beef kebob, chicken tikka and chicken kabob with fresh cucumber slices and raw onion topped with sumac (a citrus/salty spice). We had leftovers which were enjoyed that evening.
Always good and always fresh food at Sammoon.
Sammoon Bakery & Restaurant Mediterranean Cuisine 190 N. Magnolia Suite 103 El Cajon 92020 (619)441-2823 Open seven days, 10am-10pm
I noticed a while back that Aria Kabob had closed. Then a couple of months later it reopened as Gyros N Kabob Cafe.
Still, I wasn't very motivated to try the place. Finally, I went in last month just to see what was up. The interior has changed a bit, but the "bones" look the same. I also quickly surmised that this was still an Afghan-style restaurant at it's roots.
In fact, the same gentleman who used to run Aria, runs this place too. There are still many of the other items I've tried at Aria on the menu here....borani bonjan and bolani gandana for example.
On my first visit, I decided to go with the Falafel-Gyro Platter ($10.99), opting for the lamb gyro.
This was a load of food! The falafel were not to my liking, dry and very bland. I did enjoy the lamb gyro though. I could tell that it was cut then heated, but the flavors were really good, nice spices, a bit gamey. Perhaps a bit on the dry side, but still, the flavor was right in the pocket for me.
Plus, they still serve the tangy and mildly spicy "chatni", which just makes everything taste better.
A couple of days later I was craving that chatni again, so I stopped by and ordered the Lamb Gyro Sandwich ($5.99).
I couldn't believe that this came with all those fries.....typical fast-food fries, but altogether not a bad value. I really enjoy the labni like, thick, strained yogurt on this sandwich, but there was a bit too much of it. The lamb gyro meat was kind of overshadowed by everything.
But hey, the really nice guy serving me knows I love the chatni so he made sure to get me a bowl. I ended up buying a bottle for home use.....the missus loves the stuff.
I recently returned for a lamb gyro fix and just stayed with the Lamb Gyro Plate ($8.99).
I think this is what I'll order from now on. The gyro is on the dry side, but I like the flavor, the labni and chatni help to moisten the gyro meat and the pile of rice below....heck, this kind of looks like a plate lunch, huh?
Sadly, I'm not sure how long this place will be in business. I've never seen another customer during my three visits. I gentleman who runs the place has always been nice to me, though food can take a bit longer since it's often a one man operation. I do need to return to see if the borani bonjan is still as good as I remember.
Gyros N Kabob Cafe 8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111 Hours: Mon - Sat 10am - 8pm Sunsay 11am - 7pm
I mentioned this place opening, along with Dan Diego back in November of last year. A couple of weeks later I went to check them out.
The interior was clean, bright, and spacious and looked nothing like the taco shop that was formerly at this location. The menu was a bit odd; Med/Middle Eastern on one side, Burritos on the other. There were several beers on tap, most of them standard local brews. I found the combination of all three kind of confusing....was this a bar serving Mediterranean food, or a Med-Mex restaurant featuring beer and wine. Throw in the hookah room in the back, add ESPN running on all the television sets and you got a Med-Mex-hookah-sports bar. The folks running the place are friendly enough. I was told they own the liquor store across the parking lot, so maybe that explains the beer and wine.
Most of the plates, salads, and stuff ran north of $7.95, but under ten bucks, which didn't seem bad. I decided on something called the "Crazy Kofta" ($9.95):
Basically mass produced pita, with some mildly seasoned kofta meat, a bit on the dry side. Iceberg lettuce, tomato (which was actually pretty good), red onion, and sumac. Throw in some rather limp fries and a mild yogurt sauce. Nothing really special. It was nice to have this option in the neighborhood, but this didn't seem like a good value.
Still, the folks running the place were really friendly, so I returned with some friend for drinks one evening. We basically had a couple of beers, Ange a glass of wine, and we decided to get the Falafel Plate.
The falafel were really hard, gritty, and dry,tasting of too much parsley, with a bit of bitterness thrown in. The hummus was too thick and tasted like the store-bought stuff. This also seemed a bit over-priced at $7.95.
For some reason, it just seemed like Bay Park just couldn't pull off some really good grub.....Oasis just seemed like a bar that served Mediterranean Pub Grub. But maybe that's what they were shooting for. I really like the folks here, but I'd pretty much marked this down as a place to get a beer or two and not much more.
A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be in the area during lunch and decided to stop by again. I was surprised to find a "Lunch Specials" menu, with everything at five bucks. So I decided on the Falafel Pita. I was surprised when my plate arrived....there was no mention of fries on the menu, but there it was.
Sure, it was the same mass produced supermarket pita...iceberg lettuce, sumac, et al. But there were four falafel in the sandwich, which were much better, more moist, and the parsley taste had been toned down so I could make out some mild spice.
The fries were done to a decent SYSCO-liciousness. Perhaps the kitchen was still feeling its way during my first two visits. I thought this was priced right at $5, or even six.
Oasis is a nice addition to the neighborhood, though not a place to go out of your way for.
Oasis Restaurant & Lounge 4033 Avati Dr San Diego, CA 92117
"Way on the other side of the Hudson Deep in the bosom of suburbia......" What that Dean Friedman song has to do with this post, I dunno......but for some corny reason I love the song.
There's something bright and sunny about it.....
Sort of like the bright and sunny interior of this little shop in the strip mall on the corner of Genesee and Clairemont Mesa, hidden behind the gas station and Panda Country.
I recall this being a Mexican Bakery.....how long ago Mister Falafel took residence here I've no clue. This seems to be a family operation, an older couple and a younger gentleman run the shop....always gracious, always letting me know "it will be just a while for your food, we make it to order."
Since this place is called Mister Falafel, I just had to try the namesake of the shop, right? The menu is compact with salads, "sandwiches" (pita based of course), salads, plates, sidea, and smaller portions called "munchies". I ordered a Falafel Munchie ($3.50)
This was nice, I enjoyed it as a good change of pace from the usual gritty falafel. This version is smooth with a less pronounced parsley flavor. I was told that they use favas as well as garbanzo beans for their falafel. The tahini is more like mayo and doesn't have a real strong flavor.
You can have one side with your order andI chose the Hummus, which was fairly garlicky.
It came with seasoned fried pita chips which went nicely with the dish.
I had ordered the Beef Schwarma Sandwich, which turned out to be pretty large. I thought it was nicely priced at $6.50. As much as I enjoyed the sides, I really didn't care much for this. The meat was very tough, there was too much pita and tahini, you really couldn't taste much. It was pretty hefty though.
Two out of three ain't bad, so I returned a couple of days later. This time I ordered a falafel sandwich and some fries. I saw garlic paste, one of my favorite things on the menu....this leads me to believe the folks who own this little shop are Lebanese.
This was nice and full of garlic flavor, perhaps not as smooth and balanced (I know that sounds wrong when referring to garlic paste) as Alforon's, but much better than what Mama's makes.
Soon enough the sandwich and fried arrived. The fries were typical.
Perhaps I should have learned from my schwarma sandwich. This was just too much stuff and you really couldn't enjoy the rather mild flavored falafel. It was quite filling....you could say I was "fala-full" after eating this.
I think I'll stick with the "munchies" and a couple of sides the next time I visit.
And there will be a next time. The folks running this place couldn't be nicer and the prices are quite reasonable. That's enough to get me to come back.
Mister Falafel 4461 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117 Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 1100am - 800pm
mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog and sometimes there are stories about how we find places where we eat. Kirk and ed(from Yuma) are busy finding places today. Cathy had an adventure this past Saturday and is sharing today.
Good Monday Morning! Saturday was a *very* long day-The Mister and I had signed up to work on the first "Detail Day" of 2013 Tournament of Roses Rose Parade floats and needed to be in Pasadena by 9 a.m.. We left the house at 6:08 a.m., there wasn't any rain (like we had on Friday evening) and we parked on Raymond Street at 8:08 a.m..
Volunteers were lined up.
Walking into the Phoenix Decorating Company Rose Palace, eleven floats were parked. Of course, this barn is not heated and we were glad we wore layers. You'll notice in almost every photo, everyone is wearing jackets, sweaters and sweatshirts. (There is one photo of a guy in shorts, but he has on a lined jacket).
Here's what the barn looks like from the upstairs passageway.
Since this was the first of the 'dry' decorating days, most of the people were cutting statice flowers, to get enough to colore the various purple, blue and pink areas of the floats. Every visible part of every float has to be covered in something that is, or was, alive and blue is a rare color seen in nature.
This looks like three colors to you, right? Well, each of those buckets of flowers got to be divided further, so the various shades of 'blues' 'purples', as well as 'pink' colors could be used on specific areas of the floats. This is how the darkest statice colors got divided:
Really. About six people cutting for eight hours resulted in
this much of one color being finished:
Other volunteers were cutting the petals off of straw flowers, saving the centers for another use.
The Lions Club had a good number of volunteers, steadily working on their detailed float.
Every volunteer worked through the day.
There was plenty of gluing going on also.
Every exposed surface must be covered with something that is, or was, alive...look again- there are two people working in the photo above.
Soon enough, the PA System announced it was time to clean up and clear out. Detail/Dry Decoration Day #1 was over.
We headed down Colorado Boulevard and stopped here, Zankou Chicken. I had seen the sign on almost every trip we had made up here, but it never was open, since we were always so early.
Large inside, nice and clean. A pretty simple menu, easy ordering and fast service. You can see many chickens on the rotisseries to the top right. There were also rotisserie spits with shawerma and tarna.
Of course, we decided to order the name of the restaurant...and chose a whole chicken, which was cut in half for us. It came with 4 fresh pita breads and a 'powerful garlic sauce'- (it's firmly whipped; not saucy) ($9.99). We also ordered a small (8 oz) tabbouleh salad ($3.49) and a side of two fresh falafel ($1.35). Everything was excellent. The chicken was moist with crispy skin..and wonderfully complimented by the 'powerful garlic sauce' (that's the signage description; I now refer to it as 'magic garlic'). The falafel were on top of a good amount of fresh tahini sauce and light with a good, thin crisp crust...and seemed to have a familiar spice in them...maybe cinnamon. These were very good. The tabbouleh was so fresh and flavorful, the parsley, onion, tomato and bulghur topped with lemon juice and olive oil was so refreshing. We finished it all and were ready for our two hour drive home.
A long day, with much accomplished. I hope all of you had a good weekend.
Phoenix Decorating Company Website -if you'd like to sign up as a volunteer, or watch decorating live on the webcams.
Zankou Chicken 1296 E. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena (626) 405-1502 Website
Welcome(back) to our food blog. Kirk, ed (from Yuma) and Cathy usually blog in this space. Today, it's Cathy's turn.
Hi again. I've posted about Valley Foods, a small grocery store in El Cajon, run by a group of refugees from Iraq, two times now. It's turned into a regular stop for The Mister and I, for both a quick lunch and a place to do some interesting shopping.
When you walk in, just to the left are six tables and steam trays, with a price list above the trays. You order, pay and have a seat. (There are three cash registers straight ahead when you walk in)
The steam tray area is always interesting. The weekly specials, with even better prices, are listed in the area below the trays.
One day, we tried the lamb shank meal ($7.99) We were asked which rice we wanted to go with the shank and chose this one, which had bulgur and vermicelli. Then the nice lady put some scoops of a tomato and onion sauce on the grain mix before putting the large and moist lamb shank on top of it all.
We were also asked which soup we wanted to go with and chose this spinach-tomato soup, which was really good.
Another day, we chose the fried fish filet meal (also $7.99). This was tilapia, lightly breaded with corn meal and place on saffron rice. This came with the Iraq salad- chopped cucumber and tomatoes in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing and steamed vegetables. The squeeze bottles of pink liquid on the tables, the only condiment other than salt and pepper, is red wine vinegar. I use that with the vegetables as well as the rice after eating about half of it 'plain'.
The masgoof-prepared whole tilapia ($6.99) is in the steam table just like this and this is what you get. The whole fish, split and grilled with a whole onion and a whole tomato, also grilled. Usually one of us goes into the store and buys a piece of bread to go with this filling, simple meal.
The kabobs are always fresh and moist. They used to be 99¢ each, but in July the price changed to $1.15 for the chicken and $1.25 for the beef. Very much worth it. Even if you order just one, you get a side of sliced raw onion topped with sumac in the tray.
Here is a cross section photo of the kabobs. You can see some of the herbs which are mixed with the ground meats before grilling. I really like the kabobs here, not only moist, but so flavorful- and large. If we order five, we end up taking two home for dinner.
The chicken schawarma plate ($7.95). I mentioned in one of my other posts about the spits in the back cooking schawarma. This is an easy way to get more than a sandwich. The moist, grilled meat is a hefty portion and comes with lettuce, tomato, house made pickles and house made hummus and a small, hot piece of flat bread, which is made in the store.
As mentioned, we are here to shop also. Walking just past the steam trays is a glass case selling a few lunch meats, like all beef Mortadella, many types of olives, some pickled vegetables and various Feta cheeses. Right next to that case is this open case, selling grab and go items. A few are the same as offered on the steam trays, at the same prices.
Right across from that open refrigerator is this case, which has salads, the house made hummus, house made eggplant dip (that's what they call it, it is not labeled as baba ganoosh) and -the reason I am here at least once a week- house made yoghurt. Each is sold by the pound and I crave the yogurt. It is unlike any yoghurt I have ever tasted. There is a definite 'burned' or smoke flavor to it, along with an initial 'tang' that I just love.
Then there is the texture. You can see the 'skin' that was formed on top of this first scoop taken from the container. The yogurt is thick but not smooth. I always buy a container when here. The price is about $2.59/pound; worth it.
Along the back wall, just next to the open grab and go foods is the bakery. There are fresh sammoon rolls sold in bins just past this area (small, 11¢ each, large 30¢ each). At the end of this sweets display area you may get lucky and see a line of people standing and looking through that door right there. That's where the bread oven is located. If there isn't any fresh bread cooling, then someone is stretching and pulling dough, placing it on the rounded, flat pillow-like paddle and bending over, slapping the bread onto the wall of the hot oven and in less than a minute, grabbing it with long tongs after asking you how many and "white or wheat?" (If there is no line, there is a bell on top of the counter that you can ring to get the Baker's attention)
In a few seconds, the large, hot bread is folded and placed in a paper bag and handed to you. This is a large paper bag and the bread is folded twice.
Here is an unfolded white bread on the stove at home. It covers both right burners, the center burner and part of the left burners-18-ish inches around.
Oh. One piece is 99 cents.
Here is a photo of the wheat bread with a small container of the house made eggplant dip- which also has that smoke flavor-showing a size comparison.
Anyhow, in addition to these prepared foods, the store has a few aisles of basics, a small meat department and even smaller fish selection and a small vegetable department, some bulk bins of grains and sweets. It's a nice, not fancy, local place and I hope everyone has the chance to shop like this near their home.
I hope you are having a good week!
Valley Foods 1275 East Main Street El Cajon 92021 (619) 749-8355 Website
mmm-yoso!!! is the blog you are reading. Kirk is off in a foreign land, eating and writing a post. ed (from Yuma) is in Yuma, eating and also writing a post. Cathy is in San Diego. She ate and wrote this post.
Hi. I wrote a post about Balboa International Market around the time it opened, in October of 2010. This is a short update. It is not located directly on Balboa Avenue, but is parallel to it, behind the two banks and mall with a See's Candy store.
There are quite a fewMediterranean Markets in East County, closer to where I live. All have an in store or attached to the store restaurant. Occasionally I travel West and enjoy lunch and do some shopping at Balboa International Market.
Balboa International Market has an excellent selection of pickled vegetables
as well as jarred and canned sauces and many brands of canned seafood
and condiments and spices of all types.
Olive oils from many countries, packaged cookies from many countries and (look at the sign straight ahead) certified Halal meats and other products are sold here.
There is a good selection of fresh fruits
and vegetables at very good prices. Looking straight ahead in the above photo, is the bakery area. Fresh, in store baked flat breads of many types can be purchased here.
I did make such a purchase as The Mister ordered lunch-at the far left corner (from the front door) of the store -at the meat counter.
This bread was labeled as wheat. It was thicker/spongier/had a good 'tooth' than the usual flat bread and still hot when I grabbed it off the shelf and paid for it ($2.29) and took it to the table, where The Mister had started a cup of hot tea ($1) after he had ordered and paid. The sesame seeds and the bottom floured layer of this particular bread made it tasty when re-heated the next morning. Yes, there was bread left over for the next morning because this photo is not some sort of optical illusion: The loaf of bread is about three feet by eight inches.
My fish plate ($7.99). Two very large white fish (tilapia) filets which were very lightly floured and seasoned with a mix of Middle Eastern spices then lightly pan fried. The fish was meaty, moist and had just a bit of crispness. The rice is called 'green rice' -it is basmati rice with fresh dill and topped with a spoonful of the yellow (saffron) rice. This is Persian, as are the seasonings used. The side order of salad with onion, cucumber and tomato is topped with a mustard vinaigrette.
Originally The Mister wanted a chicken salad which is a salad with Feta and olives and a chicken breast kabob. It costs $7.99. But this is the chicken kabob plate with no rice but instead salad substituted for the rice along with the salad the plate comes with and is only $6.99. The kabob is marinated boneless chicken breast which is charbroiled.
The in store bakery at Balboa International Market does not sell sweets, other than one sweet bread, but in the same mall is Balboa Bakery. -Another post- It is a small bakery and just fresh pastries and coffee sold here.
Balboa International Market 5907 Balboa Avenue San Diego 92111 (858) 277-3600 Website
Welcome (back) to mmm-yoso!!! the blog of food. Sharing meals with you is what we do. Today, Kirk and ed(from Yuma) are lurking while Cathy is sharing.
Hi. The Mister and I have noticed signs for Nahrain and Shakira while on Main Street, whenever we are going to Valley Foods Mediterranean Market, where we shop (and eat in the store) fairly regularly and finally decided to stop one day. This is the view from the parking lot, but from the street, while stopped at the signal light at Ballard, you may only notice "Shakira", the top sign for the mall right next to the parking lot flower stand. Shakira is a bakery.
Over there, to the right, on Main Street is Nahrain- the blue sign.
When you walk in, the fresh fish are in the counter next to the cash register. Those on the far end, next to the catfish, under the tray of shrimp are yellow pompano, which are only served fried with rice according to the menu. All the other fish are sold by the pound.
To the far left are the very large Grass Carp fish.
On the side of the dining room is...a fountain.
It's filled with even fresher fish.
Just so you know, the live catfish are $8.99/lb, the ones in the counter are $5.99/lb. The live tilapia are also $8.99/lb and the ones in the counter are $6.99/lb. Strip bass are $8.99/lb, Grass Carp are $5.99/lb and the red snapper are $7.99/lb.
On our first visit, we weren't certain what to order, asked about the tandoori chicken (because we noticed a Halal certification for the restaurant) and were told it would take 40 minutes to prepare, so we ordered this side of hummus ($3.99) was very good, fresh and not too large.
Then we each ordered a sandwich. These were served on fresh sammoon bread.
My Chicken Cream Chop sandwich ($4.99) was freshly fried and crispy. Cream chop is a chicken breast (or beef ) marinated in a seasoned cream sauce and 'chop' means then rolled in bread crumbs and fried (I've seen potato chop on menus). The rest of this sandwich was onions and tomatoes. All the flavors melded perfectly.
The Mister ordered a beef tikka kabob sandwich ($4.99). Finely ground beef mixed with onion and parsley and seasonings and grilled. This was very moist and flavorful. This sandwich was served with all those pickles, tomatoes as well as onions and flat leaf parsley.
When we were leaving, the owner came over and told us we can always call in and order a tandoori chicken, masgoof chicken or masgoof fish and it would be prepared and ready by the time we got there.
Masgoof. We had to research. Masgouf. The national dish of Iraq. The fish(or chicken) is split down the middle, leaving the back intact, sort of a large circle. Then the animal is coated in olive oil, salt, turmeric and tamarind then cooked over fire. (Masgouf was the downfall of Saddam Hussein)
We called in that Friday, telling them we were driving in and would like a tilapia, around 2-3 pounds; that there would be two of us sharing a meal inside the restaurant. We arrived pretty quickly and the food wasn't quite ready and so we decided to order a salad. We could not decide on fatoosh or Arabic salad, and since both are $3.99, we were offered half of each.
The Arabic salad, on the left, is mainly lettuce, cucumber, green pepper and tomatoes and a delightful dressing that has fresh mint. The Fatoosh salad has fried pita bread croutons and an equally delightful, fresh and different dressing. This is a large plate.
Soon, a giant flat folded wheat bread as well as plates and sides and hot tea (which was brought out early because we asked, but it is included in the meal and usually brought out at the end)
The condiments (in that cute fish shaped platter) are tomatoes, onions and pickled mango...mango chutney..salty and not too sweet and it is complimentary to the fish:
The tilapia was proudly presented to us by the chef. Beautifully cut, seasoned and cooked, this meal was wonderful, fresh, filling and..less than $20. Yes. Everything is included and the fish ($6.99/lb) was less than three pounds.
Here is (the now) obligatory photo of The Mister's fancy fish carcass cleaning work. The skin of the fish was not as tasty as other fish skin I've had, but the fins were crispy good. Also, this was tilapia, a fish with a double skeleton going on...so not as easy to eat as other fish.
So. We walked next door, to Shakira and were overwhelmed with choices. We were not hungry after that awesome meal-but knew at some point we would be hungry again.
We decided to take home one of the cheesy flatbreads. This is not as large as the bread that accompanied our meal, but more the size of a very large pita bread. It is $1. It was a fresh and soft bread topped with a soft mild cheese. There were several differently topped flatbreads, all vegetarian and all $1 each. I will be returning.
Then we exercised restraint and each of us chose one sweet piece of dessert. The top/square piece is filled with chopped pistachios and topped with shredded filo. The bottom round one has whole pistachios. Sold by weight ($8/lb) the price for these two pieces was $1.08. These were not too sweet and made with a light syrup rather than honey. The filo dough remained crispy until the next morning.
All in all, this is yet another great place to eat in El Cajon.
Nahrain Fish and Chicken Grill 1183 E. Main Street #A El Cajon, CA 92021 (619) 334-3222
Shakira Pastry 1183 E. Main Street #B El Cajon 92021 (619)440-6068