Except for some additional decorative lamps and paintings of Biàn Liǎn, those "face changing" masks, the place looks the same as on my last visit. Though, those masks are usually found in Sichuan.....so maybe they were just leftover from the previous restaurant?
Speaking of Sichuan....the menu has a mixture of Sichuan, Hunan, some oddball dishes like Lion's Head Meatballs and Egg Foo Young (?!?), and a whole column of totally "ABCDE" (American-Born-Chinese-Dining-Establishment) dishes.
Go figure. There's one soft-spoken, sweet young lady who works here, but everyone....I counted a total of 9 staff on one of my visits is very nice.
On my first visit; a solo affair, I waned two dishes. I went down looking for typical Hunan dishes and they were out of just about everything. I did get something with La Rou. Though it wasn't my favorite La Rou with Suan Do (or even the three smoked meats - La Wei He Zheng ) which is on the menu, but a version with dried bamboo shoots.
In terms of flavor this was much better than what I've had from Village Kitchen. And while some of the pork was on the chewy side, the flavor was spot on; smoky-salty, the rehydrated bamboo crunchy. Peasant food, I took this home and it reminded the Missus of Her grandparents in Hunan.....a bit of salty, slightly spicy La Rou with a lot of rice. The spice level left something to be desired....though we tend to enjoy the heat level at places like Hunan Chilli King.
So I had worked my way through some of the dishes and struck out; so the nice young lady told me to order something called "Pork Belly w/ Preserved Napa in Brown Sauce" ($11.65). Not sure what this was going to be; I chuckled when it arrived at the table....it was Mei Cai Kou Rou; which, correct me if I'm wrong, is more of Hakka dish.
There was one thing fairly true to the Hunan taste. This lacked any sweetness at all. Not much saltiness either....just kind of bland and the mei cai was too hard a chewy. The pork belly had been done decently, it was "chopstick tender", but this was quite bland for my taste. I thought that even Facing East made a superior version of this dish.
Anyway, I took the Smoked Pork dish home and the Missus really enjoyed the left-overs, so not feeling like cooking one evening, we headed back. Looking over the menu for dishes we struck out again. The Missus wanted some Liang Cai - cold dishes, and it was no Bueno; no pork ear, chicken feet, duck tongue....so we ended up with a total routine Bean Curd Skin.
Basically bean curd skin, nice and crunchy, in a decent Chili Peppercorn Oil. Though this tasted like something I'd make at home.
We tried to order the La Rou with Dry Beans again, but still no Bueno and got the version with bamboo, which ironically, is not on the menu.
We wanted a vegetable dish, but after trying a couple of items from the menu that wasn't available; we got the Leek with Shredded Lotus Root ($8.65).
We both enjoyed this simple dish; the lotus root nice and crunchy, though the pungent chives gives the Missus heartburn. I'll probably end up making something similar at home in the near future.
One weekend afternoon, needing a late lunch; like 230pm, Village North was closed so we decided to head back to Beauty Hunan. Where we tried for the Smoke Pork with Dry Beans again....and again ended up with the version with Dried Bamboo, which the Missus enjoyed anyway.
Looking at the menu, I noticed something called "Preserved Egg and Eggplant with Jalapeno" ($11.65). I asked the Missus and She said that yes indeed, this is the same dish that we enjoy at Village Kitchen. Hmmm....I'm wondering.....
This was a fairly large portion size, and while spicier than the version at Village Kitchen, it is not as well executed. Not nearly as creamy, some of the pieces of eggplant were huge and not as tender, and without that nice earthiness of the eggplant and light sulfuric touch of the preserved egg.
Pretty much at a lost, we decided to just get the Dry Cooked Pork Intestine ($12.65) which was much to salty and not very spicy.
The intestine was not cleaned very well and was too rubbery and we did without a doubt miss the "ma" (numbing) sensation of the Sichuan version of this dish. We did enjoy the Chinese celery in this, but that's about it.
So, I'm not sure if or when Beauty Hunan will have it's full on menu. right now it's a "one-trick-pony" for us. The customer demographic is kind of interesting; a lot of guys ordering the "ABC" dishes during my lunch visits, interspersed with young folk ordering stuff like the Dry Pot items. We thought the service was nice, not perfect, but really nice young folk. I'm not sure when I'll be back for a full meal....though I think the Missus is going to want the La Rou from here.....in whatever form the have it.
Beauty Hunan Restaurant 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
But for some reason, I just wasn't very excited about eating here. Perhaps it was the very lackluster visits we had at Qi Wei and the menu didn't seem that much different at all. What finally got me visiting was meeting up with Xiāngjiāo and her hubby MichaelFC. We had drinks at Poseidon and XJ brought this along for the ride.
This was actually pretty good! Decent spice, some definite numbing (麻) going on. Not too salty, loved the frozen tofu, and tripe and tendon just seemed a good fit for this. Nice job XJ!
They had me take the leftovers home; the Missus really enjoyed it!
So guess where we went a few days later?
The place looks pretty much the same as Qi Wei, except for all the "stuffs" on the walls. Also, it seems the cooks eat pretty well here.
So here's the drill for us; Large Dry Pot ($30.99), with Beef Tendon and Tripe (you get two "meats" - $10.99 for additional, not worth the upcharge IMHO), Medium Spicy, Ma-la, with frozen tofu ($2.99 extra). Delivered over a heating element, just like hot pot, you give it a couple of good stirs to mix all the flavors together.
Seems on the pricey side; but consider that it's 2-3 meals for us, which breaks down to $10-15 a meal and I'd say it's not priced too bad. This is a total 180 degree turn from Qi Wei, from the decent spice....medium isn't too much; you can still make out all the flavors, to a decent numbing from the Sichuan peppercorn. The tendon has a nice texture, as does the tripe. The frozen tofu soaks up all of that chili oil based sauce. For some reason, the Missus really likes the potatoes and cauliflower in this. I'd love a bit more celery though.
Still, not bad.
So basically, this has turned into a nice take-out option for us. I also took Calvin and JohnF to lunch here, and even though we had John who destroyed a Bandejas Paisa with us, there were left-overs.
I did also try the Won Tons with Hot Sauce ($5.99), which was fairly mediocre, slightly spicy, but quite one dimensional, lacking the rather nuanced flavors and the "kǒugǎn", the "mouthfeel" if you will of really good wontons.
The sauce was also a bit too thin for me; I'm still looking for a good version locally.
In the end; this is sort of like comfort food for the Missus and I. Nothing fancy, but good grub that's great take-out....it gets even better the next day as the spice settles and that frozen tofu sucks up all the sauce. I think tripe, tendon, and intestine are probably the best meats, since beef and chicken would tend to dry out a bit.
The service can be rather uneven, but one of the young men there is quite nice. Not sure about some of the other dishes as I've never seen folks ordering anything other than the dry pot.
Sizzling Pot King 8058 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Kirk is busy doing something. Cathy is busy doing something else. ed (from Yuma) has been busy putting together this post on 4 different places in Yuma (in Arizona).
Kirk calls these type of posts "Cleaning out the Memory Card." I have pictures of interesting and good Mexican food I've eaten recently at several different small eateries. No point in doing a bunch of little posts, so I'll just throw them all together here. There should be something of interest in this post for almost any Yuman being.
Pollos El Correteado
In Yuma County, there are three different locations for this restaurant chain (I have no idea how widespread the chain is in Mexico, but there are locations in San Luis, Sonora). One location is on Main Street in Somerton, one is on 3E by the base, and one is on Eighth Street next to the Subway across the street from Food City: These folks do one thing very well: Great Mexican roasted chicken. What Pollo Loco aspires to be: These are special chickens that have four legs, four thighs, but no breast or wing. That anatomical peculiarity puzzled me the first time I ordered a whole chicken ($9). Must be a damn strange looking bird when alive, but it looks pretty good when served:
The macaroni salad and the mashed potatoes are pretty much meh, and the salsa and the white corn tortillas (both gratis) are far from distinguished. So I usually get the chicken to go and have it with homemade macaroni or potato salad.
Rossy's used to be a small truck in a small space with rather poor lighting and great corn and hotdogs. Now the same small truck (and a little hot dog cart) occupy the large lot that was most recently Tata's:
The corn (with butter, crema, and cheese) is still good, if not especially good for you: They now serve a range of decent tacos that you can decorate with guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, and lemon wedges. A carne asada taco with all the fixings looks like this: For me, however, the big draw of the place are the bacon-wrapped hotdogs which they will happily accessorize for you:
Love those grilled onions, along with salsa and who knows what else.
El Buen Taquito
Getting a meal at El Buen Taquito was not easy for Tina and I. First, the truck is almost hidden toward the back of a lot on the east side of Avenue B, about a block south of the intersection with Eighth Street. Then, after we had discovered it, every time we wanted to go there, the place was closed. We realized, finally, that it opened later than most of the other taco trucks in the neighborhood and is not open every evening. However, many times we would drive by – let's say returning from San Pedro or Rossy's – it would be open and busy, much busier than the truck called "Yuma's Best" just up the street from it.
Our luck changed a few months ago when we pulled up, saw the lights, and decided to find out why this place was so popular: The menu is extremely limited, but very reasonably priced: We ordered a variety – crispy tacos, tostadas, rolled tacos, and sopes along with a couple of aguas frescas. However, the first thing we were brought were little cups of incredibly rich and flavorful consommé:
The only meat used by this truck is beef, and the beef has been cooked a long time so that its flavor in the tacos and flautas is fairly neutral and background. The consommé, on the other hand, is as beefy as Arnold Schwarzenegger in his glory days.
Then we received our order. The lighting, as you can tell, is far from ideal for photographs, but here is a picture of a couple of the excellent crunchy tacos:
Because the primary difference between the sope and the tostada are how thick the tortilla/patty is, it is hard from me to tell which one is which in my photographs. I think this is a tostada: And perhaps this is a close-up of a sope: Underneath the lettuce and cheese is a flauta:
In any case, Buen Taquita does one thing extremely well – deep frying. The tacos, flautas, sopes, and tostadas all had crunchy deep fried corn tortillas or patties. None of them was greasy; all of them were tasty. The sope was a little more chewy than the others. The soft meat and frijoles provided a flavor and texture contrast with the fried shells and abundant shredded lettuce. Everything was covered with cotija cheese.
Would I want to eat here every night? No, of course not. But sometimes you just gotta have crunch and this is the taco truck to provide it.
Taqueria Reyes recently opened in Palm Plaza on Avenue A, where Taqueria Jalisco had been in business for many years: As well as providing a range of standard tacos, I am very fond of the tortas there, for example this one made with machaca:
Inside, there is a smear of frijoles, slices of avocado, chopped lettuce, tomato and mayo. I, for one, appreciate the pickled jalapeno, which I've always thought was perfect with tortas.
The other item that I love here is the Menudo ($5.99). For a dollar extra, you can get it con pata. When placed on the table, it looks like this:
It comes with a choice of bread or tortillas and is served with all kinds of condiments including lemon wedges, oregano, cilantro, menudo spices, chopped onion, and a deep and powerful salsa: After I add some condiments and stir it up, it looks like this: Look at all that tripe and hominy! But what I find most truly satisfying about the Menudo here is that pata, a big piece of cow hoof. And when I get lucky, the hoof is completely covered with wonderfully chewy tendon: Sooo goood!! While the soup overall is not as complex as the incredible sopa de pata at the old Pupuseria Cabanas (I still miss that place a lot), it's the best cow hoof I can find in Yuma. And cow hoof is a good thing.
While Kirk is preparing to share more of his exotic Anatolian and Aegean adventures and Cathy is getting ready to give us the inside skinny about the SD County Fair (Deep Fried What??), ed (from Yuma) wants to rework the old Monty Python skit into -- "beans, beans, beans, beans, and . . . "
Both Tudor's and the grocery store are no more.
We all know about restaurants that went under during the Great Recession. On the other hand, a tasty new addition to the Yuma dining scene is just perfect for economic hard times. Hidden inside Tamarack Grocery Store on 24th across from the main parking lot at the college is Tudor's Beanery: Open at 11 AM every day, this small food purveyor sells to-go cups, pints, and quarts of different bean soups kept warm in several slow cookers: When I get home with my savory purchase, I open the Styrofoam quart and I smell the wonderful aromas wafting up from (in this case) a type called Mama's: As you can see, this mildly flavored soup is full of vegetables, beans, and meatballs: As I heat it a saucepan, it smells better and better and I spot the bits of bacon that add to the flavor. It's serious good: Another variety that uses white beans is the ham and potato – another mildly flavored soup: As with this soup, occasionally you will find bits of char when the soups have not been stirred vigorously enough, but I've never had one where the burned bottom crust was very evident or hurt the taste at all: In addition to mildly flavored white bean soups, Tudor's offers many soups using pinto beans and bolder border flavors, such as this smokey and spicey Bacon and Chorizo: Or the picante light red chile flavors of carne Asada: With chicken, it's Pollo Asado: Then the greener flavors of Pollo Verde: And the really tasty Chile Verde with pork:
The varieties change, and there are daily specials. Split Pea is made on Saturdays, for example. Others feature Tamarack Grocery's homemade pork sausages. Every time I'm there, I can choose from among 6 or 7 types.
And I have enjoyed every single soup I have purchased at the store – all are savory and full of umami. They are better than I can make at home. Not to mention the convenience of somebody else cooking. And can't beat the prices. Fresh hot quarts sell for $4.99; cold quarts (leftovers) are $2.99 -- when there are leftovers. Cornbread and coleslaw are also available.
Tudor's Beanery may be a one trick pony – but give this pinto pony a ride, cowboys. And don't you dare think about Blazing Saddles.
Tudor's Beanery, 7875 E. 24th St, 11 AM - 7 PM daily.
You know, I haven't had anything for my "One Trick Pony's" category in a while...but then again, I hadn't been back to Quoc Te in a while.
Over the years, I've been to Quoc Te more than a few times, and have tried more than a few items on the menu. In what became a disturbing trend, I've found that the food has gotten steadily worse over the years, to the point that the Missus has given up on eating here. I'm not sure that I'm the only one who notices this. But then again, check out the cavernous dining room at 12 noon on a recent Thursday.
There is basically only one item I order here(though I've been told the fried rice is pretty good):
I order the Banh Cuon Dac Biet($5.95), which is quite a lot of food for the price.
On a bed of steamed rice flour rolls(think Cheong Fun, but more delicate) and bean sprouts, resides shredded pork(always on the dry side), Gio Lua(lean pork sausage), two slices of a sour sausage, four slices of a mung bean and shrimp cake(also usually very dry), topped with fried shallots.
It is a good amount of food....after all the Dac Biet(special) contains a little bit of everything that the other Banh Cuon dishes have.
There are up to six(I've had a few as 4, and as many as 6 - don't ask me why) rice flour rolls, on this day there were 3 types(I've had some different versions on occasion), one type with cloud ear fungus and ground pork, another with shredded pork, and the last with shredded dried shrimp.
I just realized this has sort of read like an inventory of sorts...but it's kind of how I approach this dish whenever I order it...."hmmmm, let's see what we got today...."
I pour Nuoc Mam Cham(Fish sauce based dipping sauce) all of it and devour the whole thing. It doesn't strike me as anything amazing or out of this world, but is very filling and refreshing on a hot day. Come to think of it, I've never had Banh Cuon that has knocked my socks off, but maybe "Friends of mmm-yoso" Beach or Billy can recommend somewhere, or even my good Blogger Buddy Wandering Chopsticks.
Until then, I'll just drop by Quoc Te whenever I want some Banh Cuon. Quoc Te has two locations, here's Annie's post on the University Avenue location, from Her Blog Green Beans in Writing. To the right is a photo of the listed "specials" in Vietnamese, I'm including a photo of the Chinese version below.
Quoc Te 2 International Restaurant 4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
I haven't done one of these in a while. I recently had a pretty good bowl of soup, and thought "hmmmm, maybe it's time to give away some coffee".
So here we go, I'll post a few photos. Email me the name of the restaurant, and I'll Email the first 7 correct answers a free cup of Peet's. Now that it's getting a bit cooler, doesn't a cup of Peet's sound good?
Okay.....the name of this Chinese Fast Food Restaurant is:
As much as I hate the name...it's Fortune Cookie Express, hidden behind other businesses on Balboa avenue. And most of the usual Fast-Food suspects are in view from Chop Suey to Beef Broccoli.
It's one of the last places on Earth that I'd be eating....but the Chow Ma Mein was recommended by the Twins at Sandwich Emporium. Turns out that you won't find it on the regular menu....but if you check out the photos on the side wall you'll see the a photos of "Chowmamein".
Looks pretty spicy, huh?
The Chow Ma Mein, seems to use all those Chinese Fast-food components...the thin cut stir fry refugee veggies, fast food chow mein noodles, the sliced beef, etc....
Though I enjoy the fried garlic, and the 5 pieces of shrimp, the Chow Ma Mein is a bit on the oily side, but for $3.99, who's going to really complain. The Chow Ma Mein is nice and spicy, though lacking in much other flavor, and will fill you up.......
BTW, there was one correct guess! Kudos to Kimmie!
Fortune Cookie Express 5931 Balboa Ave. San Diego, CA 92111
The mention of Rickshaw Corner to many people I know elicit comments such as "you'd never catch me dead eating there", and "WHAT, that's like one step above Panda Express". I guess part of the problem is the sign that says "Chinese & Japanese Cuisine", that scares people off, and smacks of fast food.
The interior doesn't really do anything to change your opinion. Nor does the plastic "menu", a plastic sheet with "Chinese Menu " printed on one side, and "Japanese Menu" printed on the other.
So what makes Rickshaw rise above the usual neighborhood generic Asian restaurant? I usually visit Rickshaw once or twice a year, when the weather gets a bit colder, and only get one dish. The spicy Chow Ma Soup Noodles(Chow Ma Mein-$5.95):
Now I haven't had this at any other restaurant, so have not developed a "baseline" for comparison. The Missus has heard of Chow Ma Mein, but has never had it. So what's to like? The nice spicy broth has a real "Korean" flavor, like the broth in Soon Tofu. I'm not a real fan of food being first stir-fried and then dumped on top of a soup, but in this case it's not too bad. Mainly because the pork, shrimp, bamboo shoots, and other vegetables are stir fried with dried chilies that adds another layer of heat. In addition there are large slices of garlic and several pieces of Zhacai (Sichuan preserved vegetable) that help give the soup even more "zip". The Bad? Well the noodles pretty much suck, no better then brittle "spaghetti" in broth. And of course there the bad side of stir-frying ingredients, then adding them to a soup often times mean that flavor that can be imparted to the soup never makes it. I thought it was rather ironic that one of the most inexpensive items on the menu, is probably the best. Another funny thing; every time I order this, I'm asked if I'm Korean......
On one of my recent visits, when looking up at the pictures of dishes above the counter I noticed what was called Chef's Special Beef Noodle Soup. I asked the Young Lady if the Beef Noodle Soup was Niu Rou Mein, and in a very surprised manner said "yes...". I guess I wasn't supposed to know that? So I thought I'd make a return visit and try the Niu Rou Mein($5.95):
Well, I had a feeling it was going to be the stir fried beef dumped into soup; but I just had to find out for myself. And unfortunately it was just stir fried beef dumped on top of the soup. The soup was nice and spicy, but was rather weak in the "beef flavor" department. The beef was fairly tender, but didn't have much flavor. And I really don't know what to do about the stir fried tomatoes. The same lousy noodles really didn't help this dish very much.
So that's about it, right? Well not quite; as I was paying, a Gentleman walked up to the counter and picked-up his order, and was conversing in Mandarin. He was the first Asian I recall seeing here. As I left I held the door open for Him as he was carrying a pretty large order. So we struck up a brief conversation. Seems that he's been coming here for over 10 years! He made some recommendations of a few items I should try. So I made one more take-out visit.
Hot and Spicy Won Ton($4.25):
More like Won Ton in teriyaki sauce. Not spicy, quite sweet. Won Ton skins were really thick.
Basically, battered and deep fried chicken strips with a gooey brown sauce. The sauce was too sweet and very one-dimensional. The chicken were expertly fried and moist. But not really worth the eight bucks.
And lastly, the menu item that came with a strong recommendation. The Chicken Wings in Hot Garlic Sauce($8.25):
This chicken was puzzling to me. There were chilies, but not very much spice. I really couldn't detect much garlic flavor. The chicken was obviously fried, but not crunchy. There was not much of a soy sauce flavor, and though it was slightly "sticky", the wings were not very sweet. I truly wish that there was something taste-wise that stood out, but nothing really did. Call it non-committal wings. Not bad, not great, not what I'll order again.
I'll still go to Rickshaw, but I'm sticking with the Chow Ma Mein. If anyone knows of any other restaurant that makes a good Chow Ma Mein here in San Diego, I'd like to know. Rickshaw is a nice neighborhood Chinese/Teriyaki joint, and is a step above those Chinese Fast Food joints.
Rickshaw Corner 10428 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92124
Tucked in a strip mall on Telegraph Canyon Road in Chula Vista is Mandarin Canton, like Golden Chopstick, a Chinese-American-Filipino restaurant.
One night about a year ago, the Missus called from work and told me she thinks she found that "noodle dish" I'd been looking for. What I'd been looking for is called "Cake Noodle" in Hawaii, and I've never seen it anywhere on the Mainland. I've had some dishes that used pan fried noodles, but they were not even close.
Cake Noodles are usually thin egg noodles that are fried until crispy in a pan (thus the cake), cut into squares, and topped with a thick stir fried "gravy" and various meats and veggies. I knew this was a Filipino-American Chinese restaurant when I noticed that no chopsticks are provided and we are served what we jokingly call Chinese Tortilla Chips! Actually these won ton pi chips are very sneaky, served with sweet and sour sauce, you end up eating one after the other....
On this visit I was really surprised that lunch specials were being served on a Sunday! The specials come with soup and either Fried Rice or Steamed Rice and range between $3.75-$4.75. One quick tip - stay with the steamed rice! We ordered one item off the lunch menu, and two off of the regular menu:
We received the Shrimp with Lobster Sauce ($4.75) that the Missus ordered off the specials menu:
I was pretty surprised to find that we got a whole order of Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. Shrimp with Lobster sauce is not my favorite dish, I call it "egg drop soup with shrimp", but the Missus enjoys it. This version was very mild, though the shrimp were large and tasty, ditto with the water chestnuts. It also started congealing as soon as it hit the table.
The Salted and Deep Fried Shrimp with No Shell ($11.00) came up next:
So fried, salty, garlicky, slightly spicy, and crunchy.....I don't think you need to say anything else about this dish. It's probably the most expensive dish on the menu, but it's alot of really large shrimp. I once saw a Young Lady order this with a side of the garlic/green onion/chili pepper topping, and eat a spoonful of the garlic with each shrimp, and loving it! Make sure you order them without shell.
Than came the dish I came here for - the Upside Down Pan Fried Noodles ($6.50). Yes, it's actually called that on the menu:
The noodles are fried to a crisp than topped with veggies and meats in a brown sauce. The sauce is nice and salty, sweet, and gooey, and slowly softens the noodles. My only complaint is that there is not enough brown sauce. The Missus ended up spooning her rice into the empty plate to sop up the remaining sauce. There are large shrimp, beef, and chicken, along with broccoli and snow peas.
So is it Cake Noodle? Well not really, but it's close enough for me.
Some notes on Mandarin Canton: Like many of these places Your Mileage May Vary, there are some really terrible dishes here, so pick and choose based on what you see others eating. There are only ten tables, and a constant flow of people in and out, but the turnaround is pretty quick. Mandarin Canton is a "Player" in the "Best Salt and Pepper Wings" battle going on, but is not as good as Golden Chopstick, though Golden Chopstick's Upside Down Pan Fried Noodles (yes, they have them there as well), is not as good as Mandarin Canton's. I've actually swung by both restaurants on a single take-out trip. Don't eat here if you are afraid of salt and MSG, though I've never had any problems or reactions from the food, I'm pretty sure it's there.
Mandarin Canton Chinese Restaurant 543 Telegraph Canyon Rd Chula Vista, CA 91910 Open Daily 11am - 10pm
*** To see how Golden Chopsticks did in the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wing Challenge - go here.
I've got a special place in my heart for well made American Chinese food; after all I was literally raised on the stuff back home in Hawaii. If you've been to a Filipino Pot Luck in San Diego recently, along with the lumpia and pansit, you've probably had these:
Those are salted pepper chicken wings ($5.75) from Golden Chopsticks. These are like crack, once you start eating them there's no stopping! Crunchy, salty, garlicky, with a slight sweet taste, these are addicting. Luckily for us, Golden Chopsticks is located in National City a pretty good distance away, in the same mall as Ohana Family BBQ and Seafood City. I guess if I had to categorize GC, it would be Filipino-American-Chinese Food.
As with most food in the Filipino community, there's been great debates and conversations over who makes the best salt-and-pepper wings, there are some who say that Mandarin Canton in Chula Vista makes the best, but the over-riding opinion is that GC makes the best. The first thing you'll notice when you enter, is that most of the customers are Filipino. Also, no one's using chopsticks, spoons and forks are the norm here, they don't bother with chopsticks unless you ask, or if you look like us..... The other thing you'll notice if you go on a weekend, are the endless stack of trays ($25.00/tray - 60 pieces) and styrofoam containers of wings lined up for pick-up. This weekend we decided to partake of other items on the menu, in addition to (of course) dem' wings.
We started with the Shrimp "Chow Mein"($6.25):
I'm not a great fan of the style of noodles used, but this dish is nicely flavored, and large shrimp are used. I actually liked these.
The next dish was the Sizzling Shrimp/Beef/Chicken, one of the most expensive dishes on the menu ($9.25), but the very friendly Waitress (she's Chinese, if you need to know) recommended it:
Flavored with garlic and black bean, and placed on a metal plate and sizzled, this dish was pretty good.
The last dish was the Tofu with Brown Sauce ($5.50):
This was the blandest dish, in need of more aggressive seasoning. This dish actually tasted much better the next day(mmm-leftovers!!!), but I think I'll pass the next time.
With a large bowl of rice and a pot of tea - $33.00, not bad! And we've got lunch and tonight's dinner with the leftovers. We did finish all the wings though, and probably could have gone through another order....Yes, I'm still the same person who loves Ba Ren and China Max, but I really think that Golden Chopsticks also has a place in there somewhere.
Some Notes on Golden Chopsticks; I'm pretty sure they use MSG, so if you're hyper-sensitive to it, you may want to take a pass. The service is very friendly, and very quick. Don't forget those wings....
Golden Chopsticks 1430 Plaza Blvd #E/22A-23A National City, CA 91950 619-336-1888
*** Update, Noble Chef is under new ownership. The folks that used to run Noble Chef have decided to retire. A brief update can be found here.
Sometimes you just gotta go with your instincts....about 3 years ago we were at a store in one of those indistinct strip malls along Balboa Avenue, as we left there was the wonderful smell of garlic and soy sauce, and even better, of something being fried in the air! And we did what that old commercial said, and "followed our nose, it always knows..." up to the humble storefront of The Noble Chef.
As we had already had dinner I added this to our list of places to check-out and moved on. A few months later I decided to try it out. I saw the menu of standard Chinese Fast Food fare out front, but knew for sure that it wasn't beef broccoli or teriyaki chicken that I smelled that night. But I went ahead and started ordering Orange Chicken and such, but a photograph of Chiu Chow Fried Rice caught my eye, and I ordered that along with the other dishes. Well, to make a long story short, the American Chinese dishes were not very good - but that fried rice was perfect, exactly to my taste and texture. I like my fried rice on the "dry" side, and this did the trick! Funny how things like this happen. Had I eaten only the standard Chinese Fast Food, I would've never returned, but for some reason I'd ordered that fried rice.
So for the next couple of months it was Chiu Chow fried rice at least once or twice a week. It got to the point where I'd walk in the door and the ladies working there would know exactly what I'd want - Chiu Chow fried rice. Now I don't know if this is authentic - from what my (very limited) knowledge of Chiu Chow, otherwise known as Chaozhou, is that this type of cooking has alot in common with that of the ethnic Chinese from Vietnam who managed to flee when Saigon fell in 1975. (Anyone with more accurate info-please let me know). So there are alot of Southeast Asian overtones in the cooking. For those in Los Angeles, think Newport Seafood. What I do know is that there's a very generous amount of chopped Gailan, Char Siu, and 5-6 large shrimp in this dish. It's one of the most expensive items on the menu ($6.55), but it's two meals for me. The first day all of the shrimp and about two-thirds of the rice is eaten. The next day I fry two eggs and finish everything.
But the Chiu Chow fried rice is not the best dish. One day we ordered the Shrimp with XO sauce fried rice(also $6.55), and lo' and behold, this is what I smelled that first night months ago. With chili pepper, shrimp, tons of garlic, and XO Sauce (what is actually XO sauce???) this is a a garlic-chilihead dream! You can request the dish to be more or less spicy as desired. Once I brought this to our office and our Administrative Assistant loved this dish. A friend of mine who for a time lived a few blocks away told me that the Chinese food here was unpalatable. So one day I brought him the Shrimp with XO Sauce fried rice, which he loved, and he couldn't believe it came from The Noble Chef. Amazing what a serendipitous event can lead too!
The Noble Chef is a real Mom-and-Pop operation. Your order is taken, than is cooked on the wok stove by "the Noble Chef" in full view, flames leaping in the air! Sometimes he's juggling three woks at once. Sorry 'bout the blurry picture, but the Noble Chef moves really quickly........The Shrimp Tomato rice is also pretty good. Service is friendly, and really nice once they get to know you. There are alot of people having noodle soup - but I haven't progressed to that step yet.
Sometimes doing one thing real well (thus the One Trick-Pony monniker) is worth it!
The Noble Chef 6159 Balboa Avenue San Diego, CA 92111 (858)278-8688