So during my rather unsuccessful romp through all those new "poke" places; and those are truly hard quotation marks, I really didn't have anything I truly enjoyed, anything that would make me forget places "back home". During that time, I heard Zarlitos mentioned twice. Once by a fellow Ex-Pat Kama'aina. Zarlitos? Poke? Digging a little bit I read that Zarlitos won both the San Diego and Orange County "I Love Poke Contests" in 2015. I hadn't been back to Zarlitos in almost five years, so I thought why not....perhaps there's some changes in store there.
Arriving and walking into the place, it was evident that this was still Zarlitos. The sticky tables and even more sticky menus; no poke in sight. Until I saw the small greaseboard on the pillar, with four varieties of poke written in red. From there, it was easy to order.......
The "Mini" (again, it's all relative) Crispy Pata and Shoyu Poke...pata and poke, that's music to my ears. The pata was over-fried and dry and though the skin came off in a nice little strip, much of it was hard versus crisp, more like leather than the best chicharones. It was pretty bland as well. For this, I'll stick with Villa Manila.
The garlic rice was decent; moist and the garlic wasn't burnt and bitter.
I actually sent some friends back home the photo. They thought I was back home and went to Fresh Catch. The fish was decent quality, not too much "suji", no off flavors, good texture. The flavor was perhaps a bit too sweet and I could have used a tad more saltiness; but this was by far the best poke I've had recently. It made my day.
Most of these "chi-poke" places I've been to are just a concept, somewhat high on style, low on good grindz. At Zarlitos, there's none of that. I wanted and got, decent poke. How's that for innovative?
Zarlitos Family Restaurant 505 East 8th St. National City, CA 91950
The flier says - Soft Opening October 20th; Grand Opening October 22nd.
So there you go.
5950 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92117
Poke and Pintxos at Poseidon Project:
Like I mentioned in a previous post; I've kind of taken to the Poseidon Project, the little beer bar and bottle shop in my 'hood; Bay Park. It's a nice, neighborhood place, but it's a beer bar and bottle shop and doesn't serve food. Which can be a bit of a problem in this area.
I'll usually drop by on Saturday evenings when the Missus needs to work and have noticed that there's usually one and sometimes two catering folks coming in to serve food.
The usual Saturday stand is by a company named ILNLYF Foods, which you might know from the Little Italy Mercado. And yes, these guys serve poke.
I've yet to find decent poke in San Diego and I really had my doubts about these guys. And the first two times I tried the poke I was underwhelmed. I did enjoy that this isn't the typical San Diego "Chi-poke" set-up; the fast-casual fish with sauce thing. I did find the fish to be on the mushy side and the poke sort of waterlogged; as if they dumped a bunch of frozen fish into the marinade.
However, the guy serving the poke is very nice, friendly, Samoan, who has family and spends a good deal of time in Hawaii.
And wouldn't you know it; the last two times their version of shoyu poke has been pretty good. As you can tell; not too much "suji" (connective tissue) in the fish. It's been marinated....not just sitting around with some sauce thrown on it. I'd like a bit more onions, but the kimchi cucumbers are a decent addition. I was told that because their customer base at the Mercado's said it was too salty; they've had to change to low sodium shoyu....so they told me to visit them at the PIF and other festivals where they "don't hold back".
Tried it again recently and I gotta say; it's a two fer two...though i'm not a big fan of the "fried rice", which was too hard and dry. I'll stick with the white rice....though they did have a decent mac salad a few weeks back.
Also, on occasion there's young lady who makes paella, and later on some Saturday evenings she'll bring in some Pintxos......you know what that is, right?
They'll tell most folks this is "tapas", but the young lady is from Bilbao. In Basque country, they call this Pintxos.
Some Tortilla Espanola, maybe a version of Champinones Al Ajillo, Boquerons, or Crouquettas de Pollo. Nice folks.
I'm not sure what the entire lineup of food purveyors is; so you may want to call ahead on a Friday or Saturday to see if they'll have anything; 619-230-5334.
Over the last couple of weeks; I've noticed a couple of things; the beer cooler doesn't have the variety it used too; they don't always have all 8 pulls going. I really like this place and hope this isn't a bad sign. I've enjoyed meeting some of my more like minded neighbors, the two and even four-legged ones.....so I'm hoping Poseidon hangs on and maybe gets a kitchen, or something.
Poseidon Project 4126 Napier St San Diego, CA 92110
Back in June, I noticed a shop in the former Fish Bucket location in Tierrasanta. The name of the place? Donburi Kitchen. In spite of the location I was fascinated; since I've long thought that a good Donburi shop making classics like Gyūdon, Tendon, Oyakodon, or Katsudon would be a great fit for San Diego. So a few weeks back I dropped by during lunch to see that they had just opened. Notice they still have awning from the Fish Bucket in place; "Seafood Market - Fish Grotto"?
Nice young man greeted me at the front door....looking around I kinda knew that my wish wasn't going to be granted here. The menu was confirmation. Poke Bowl; Ramen on the menu, spicy tuna roll, California roll (though there was Hamachi kama and Chirashi) on the chalk board. The only traditional "donburi" I saw on the menu was the Unadon. So, basically your neighborhood Japanese (in name only) jack-of-all-trades kind of place. Nothing wrong with that....but what the heck was I going to order. I asked the young man who suggested ramen; so I went with the Tonkotsu ($8) and some Chicken Karaage ($4.25).
I was a bit surprised at this as it was more "Toriten" (Chicken Tempura) than actual karaage. I quickly noticed that breast was used for this. Even though the batter quickly got soggy, the chicken was very moist and tender, with a pleasant flavor, like it had been quickly brined. Eat this quickly and it's pretty good. Not a big fan of the Sriracha Mayo though.
As much as the chicken was a pleasant surprise, the Tonkotsu Ramen was routine - except for the bok choy......first time for that in my ramen. The broth was quite indistinct, being more of a shoyu-tonkotsu kind of thing and really lacked the nice tongue coating feature that makes a good tonkotsu broth.
The noodles; standard issue, were a bit over-cooked for me. The egg was a bit of a mess, it looked like there was some trouble peeling it, but it was decent marinated and not ice cold. The one saving grace was the chashu, which was fairly tender, and had a nice flavor. This was perhaps a bit better than Izakaya Kanpai about par with Ototo, basically lower second tier ramen. Funny, a guy came in and also ordered ramen; tasted the broth, then requested Togarashi, Sriracha, and Vinegar for his ramen......
About a week later I returned, basically to go ahead and try one of the Donburi....but man; it was so darn hot. There was also one thing I wanted to try. I rather enjoyed the Chashu last time around so I started with the Ponzu Chashu, not cheap at $5.50.
This was actually pretty good, the ponzu didn't take away too much of the flavor of the chashu which wasn't particularly sweet, but had a nice shoyu-sweet flavor. It looked like the exterior had been torched/seared. Man, serve this with some negi and over rice and you'd have a decent Butadon. Chop it up and mix with negi and some of the cooking liquid and it would be a decent Chashu Gohan. Hmmm....I might request that one of these days.
I really didn't want rice on this day....but what the heck to order. Well, I gave in and tried the Poke Salad, which was priced at $7.
I gotta say; they did a pretty good job of hiding most the short comings of the fish, by coating it real well with the sauce. Lots of connective tissue, but it wasn't too tough or stringy nor was it overly mushy. The sauce seemed to use gochujang as the base; tasting like a milder "cho-jang", sweet-salty-mildly spicy. Decent amount of avocado, enjoyed the scallions, the greens not overly dressed. Would have liked a bit more onion and perhaps some tomato in this. But overall, not bad.
So, one more visit to finally try a donburi here. But first, I started with some Agedashi Tofu ($4).
The tofu had a nice molten interior but was too lightly dusted/battered as it really lacked crispness. The sauce tasted like a watered down "mentsuyu" (concentrated soup base) that had been cut with some wakame to add more flavor. It was a bit too mild for my taste.
I actually enjoyed the no-frills salad, the dressing was decently refreshing, the greens nicely dressed.
Not knowing which bowl to get, I went with the east way out and got the Teriyaki Chicken version ($7).
Fairly decent rendition of teri-chicken. The chicken breast was again nicely moist, the sauce a bit too salty for my taste, but not offensive. Dig the Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrots! Not a huge portion, but good enough for a decent lunch for me.
Overall, a decent neighborhood "San Diego - Japanese" joint....I heard three people come in and ask what "chirashi" was. Very nice staff, decent prices, for some reason this place reminded me of Izakaya Kanpai (which I have to revisit one of these days) with a less ambitious menu. I was told that one of the owners was formerly part owner of Fish Attack....which kind of made sense. This was decent neighborhood food not to offend. I'd even order take-out if the place was in my neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that, right?
A few weeks ago; I was in National City and decided to check out what was going on with Point Point Joint. When I drove into the parking lot I was shocked to see PPJ was gone! Wow, first Conching's and now Point Point Joint! I guess I really don't get down here near enough these days. The other thing I was surprised to see; though I probably shouldn't have been, was a place name Poke Etc had taken PPJ's place.
I was just going to get into my car and as we say back home; "hele" to somewhere else. But I decided to take a peek inside; which was kind of interesting. The lay-out seemed very much PPJ; in spite of the freshening up, it still looked a bit worn.
I really wasn't interested in the poke....more interested in the "etc".....stuff like Shoyu Chicken, Lau Lau, Kalua Pork, Teriyaki Chicken....I'm not sure when I last had Ilocano Longanisa. My friends growing up were Ilocano, so I was kind of used to the vinegary; garlicky longanisa. The first time I had Longsilog in San Diego I was rather shocked at how sweet it was. But over the years I've come to enjoy it.
There a collection of "stuffs", an almost random collection most of which you can get from Marukai, and a reach in fridge with Hawaiian Sun, haupia, mac salad, Portuguese sausage (sorry not "my" brand")...you know, etc....
I'd had enough "Mainland poke" for a while so just went with the Lau Lau Combo ($9.95)......not really expecting much.
You know; the lau lau wasn't bad....I mean, it wasn't "really" lau lau if you know what I mean; it was missing the very important salted butterfish, which adds an awesome salty-savory touch to lau lau and is all important. The difference between this and what I typically get here on the mainland is; and it pretty much holds true for most frozen lau lau, is that it was moist, not too salty, it had quite a bit of luau leaf, but I love the steamed taro leaves, which have a smoky, flavor. Again, not really lau lau, but the pork shoulder was moist, tender, and not too stringy. What really put a damper on things is the lack of "chili pepper water"....bummer. The rice was on the dry side foe my taste; especially when eating local kine food.....
I hadn't read the menu very closely; instead of the usual mac salad, this came with a scoop of poke. Oh-oh....... There's basically 8 different poke, already made; over ice, just like home. I'm a purist, so I decided on the Ahi Limu and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the fish was decent quality; think basically Safeway or Foodland on Oahu. The limu was actually the fine Limu Kohu.......not the hard branches. Some not so great pieces, but mixed and coated evenly, not too salty; a bit of shoyu; this wasn't bad at all.
So I returned and decided to see how the loco moco ($8.95) was. I should have probably just gone with maybe some poke and rice.....
This wasn't good eats, from the very gluey, tasteless gravy; which had the same viscosity as the egg yolk. They just kind of oozed into one another. To the burger which was pretty darn tough, to the rice which was again on the dry side. I just didn't care for this.
The onions might have added to the dish; in this state they added some flavor; but just think if they'd been caramelized a bit more; it would have added some depth.
So, I decided to come in and just get a poke bowl......I got the "Create your own bowl" which was reasonably priced at $8.95. Of course I hot the Ahi Limu and this time added the Kimchi Poke.
On this day the Ahi Limu wasn't right; the fish wasn't coated well, there were too many pieces with tough connective tissue; and in spite of the Limu Kohu, this seemed off. The fish in the Kimchi Poke was slightly better, but not by much. Not a big fan of the flavors which was more salty than spicy. It just wasn't very interesting. To make matters worse, the rice was even more dry than before.
I mean, it's ok to have some pieces with "sugi" in them; but not so many......
Poke Etc was starting to be a bit of enigma; I just couldn't put my finger on what this place did consistently well. I decided to pay one more visit. I was going to order the Shoyu Chicken; but it didn't come with poke and I wanted to give that one more shot. So I decided on the Island Bento ($11.95) to go. The menu states Teriyaki Chicken, Tonkatsu, and Poke. This is what I got.
I have no idea what this was supposed to be, but I don't think it's what I ordered. That tonkatsu was pounded very thin, breaded, then fried to a dry, stringy place that can only be described as death. What's up with the bland sautéed onions and the frozen peas and carrots? Kind of sad because the Ginger Ahi was nicely flavored, not too much ginger, good soy, not too salty, the fish was nicely mixed and coated well, and there were only a few pieces with too much connective tissue. I'd easily have that again.
After this....four visits in the can; I decided that I need to give the place a rest. I'm still not quite sure if they can put out a consistent product; though I do like the "old school" style poke....when it's on. If one of those "Chi-Poke" places (i.e. San Diego Poke Company, etc....) could get it right, it would be great. The woman who works here is really nice and friendly....and heck, I saw boiled peanuts for sale; I need to bring my own chili pepper water though, and there's still that Ilocano Longanisa I have to try one of these days........one of these days.
Interesting to note that Poke Etc is a chain of (currently) four shops, two in Long Beach and one in Carson. I'm sure we'll see more pop-up here in San Diego.
I mentioned this place in a post back in May. During the Fourth of July weekend, I noticed the place had opened. And while I cringe a bit at those places that misspell "poke", I decided since this place was close enough to work, I should check them out.
Much like San Diego Poke Company; there's that fast-casual assembly line set-up. They feature three bowl "sizes" (small - $7.99, regular - $8.99, large $10.99) and a wrap ($8.99) Basically a 5 step process clearly outlined on signs behind the counter. Choose your base (here you can even get chips), step 2, add-ons (i.e. avocado, onion, surimi - sorry no Flamin' Cheetos here), protein, then sauce, step 5 are toppings, which I found to be a bit confusing with considering step 2, until I saw the difference in portioning. Looks like they are keeping things simple for the assembly line Keeping with "my rules" for checking out these poke places, I had to go with the tuna.....but man; that was the brightest cherry red (courtesy of carbon monoxide), saku (which you can even order from Amazon) fish staring me in the face.
Part of the dining area is set-up with a very industrial style tables and stools.
Even though the tuna turned me off rules be rules, right? To hedge my bet, I got some Hamachi, and some scallops with my bowl, with the "original sauce", which was a slightly sweet soy, with sesame oil and a bit of acid.
In all honesty, the best part of the bowl was the edamame, avocado, and the sauce, which wasn't too cloying and didn't mess up any of the flavors. The Hamachi, while slightly mushy wasn't too bad; the scallops had no flavor and I really missed the briny sweetness of scallops. Everything else was fine; the rice, the almost namasu style cucumbers. I could have used a bit more onion, but that's ok.
In terms of portion size; I'd say that this regular bowl was in line with San Diego Poke Company; though there might have been a tad more seafood in this.
And while I do have an issue with the sign; especially the "Poki (or Poke)" portion and I think they've taken the "salad bowl" portion out of context. They should be made to read Rachel Laudan's fantastic The Food of Paradise especially if they think they're providing information.
Still, the folks here were quite nice; even the older gentleman, who I believe is probably the owner or some reasonable facsimile who tried with all his heart to get me to put seaweed salad on my bowl. So I made it a point to return, the next day as a matter of fact.
This time, I went with the Tuna, Albacore, and Hamachi, with the "Hot" sauce, which wasn't very hot in my opinion. I did like the fact that they don't over-sauce anything. I decided on half and half; rice and salad.
The tuna was better this time around, but not by much.......way too much "sugi". The albacore looked a bit dry and was. The Hamachi was again the best of the three items. No off flavors though.
I liked the standard issue salad mix, though I wish these places would work on dressing the salad a bit if they're serving that. The rice was really bad this time around; dry and hard.
Ok, well, another one down. I'm getting a bit tired of all this saku fish. You know, I thought about asking how they named this place....but after consideration I decided not to since; if you'd compare this place to some of my favorites back home; it wouldn't even be one-third. So why bother? I actually prefer it to San Diego Poke Company, but that's not really saying much.
Poki One N Half 8055 Armour St San Diego, CA 92111
Funny thing; I had a chat with Tommy from Catalina Offshore about all these poke places recently. He's decided not to do business with them, basically because it seems to be a "reverse arms race to see who can get away with serving the cheapest product possible." He also asked me if I was "insulted at the low quality and how they're defiling such a great food item that I have ties to." I told him that right now, I'd just be happy if they spelled "poke" correctly.
Anyway, I still think you might want to check this place out. The prices aren't bad and the folks are nice. And hey, if you live in North Park, you'll have a location near you soon.
I gotta say; as years have passed, the longer I live in San Diego, my reception of what's going on over "the coconut wireless" gets more and more faint. I think most folks use the four lettered word site to get their info these days. But here's one I got a day after posting on San Diego Poke Company. Anyway, he who wants to remain silent told me the poke at this tiny little, mostly take-out shop in the East Village was worth a try for the poke. I was warned off the nigiri and he knew I don't do the rolls thing. Which is how I ended up at Tokyo Deli.
Loved the shop which was sparkling white; the crew all Japanese, there are a few brands of soy sauce and other Japanese items for sale in a small retail area.
The drill is basic order at the counter and get your food. The folks are professional.
The poke bowls can be made on rice, as a salad, or half and half. They start at $9.80 with two toppings gratis and an upcharge extra items or even more for avocado and/or cream cheese.....cream cheese....on a poke bowl. So, no Flamin' Cheetos toppings or any of that stuff here, after all, did you want all kinds of "stuff" or fish, eh?
There's a glass display of items from the menu.....no, it's not plastic food.
Wanting something basic to determine how good the fish was; I went with the rice bowl, with tuna (of course), the sesame soy sounded closest to shoyu poke, with onions and cucumber.
It was delivered to me in a little plastic bowl, with a couple of butter lettuce leaves and shredded purple cabbage. This is not a big eater portion size, but it was enough for me. First things first, the fish was good quality, nice meatiness, no tough or mushy pieces. This wasn't too salty, decent balance in salty-sesame oil, but there was a wasabi kick to the sauce; but it wasn't a gooey-watery mess either. The rice was excellent, cooked perfectly. The onions and cucumbers did the job; pungency with a nice clean palate cleansing. The really nice woman who brought me my bowl also dropped off a cup of water; a nice touch.
Which if course, meant I went back; this time for take-out.
This time I went for the half and half; half rice half salad with tuna, the ponzu sauce, avocado ($1 upcharge), onion, and cucumbers.
There was a nice generous portion of avocado; but this bowl seemed a bit lightweight with all the greens; which by the way, wasn't dressed, and that sauce for the poke really didn't extend to all that kale. Also, the fish just didn't seem as good in quality this time around; low in fat and oil, and quite a bit of "that pink" bled onto the rice. The ponzu was ok, it could have had a bit more zip and I thought the fish needed to be dressed a bit better.
Now the really nice guy who recommended Tokyo Deli also asked me to try the Sushi Burrito......something I usually wouldn't go for. He also instructed me to get a whole one ($10.80) since half really would only do for a small snack. So, I went with the tuna sushi burrito (yeeesh) and since I was going to defy that little voice inside of me going "wtf", I chose the spicy aioli as the sauce. Man, this fish was dark, the texture was still good, but it was just getting to the edge of shelf life for me as I could make out a mild "smell". Still, it wasn't bad.
As before, the rice was prepared well. This was basically an uncut makizushi with poke as a filling, which wasn't too strange to me. It was kind of light on the fish; they piled everything in the middle before rolling, so the ends were tapered, with hardly any fish. The spicy aioli; was more aioli than spicy. At least to me. At least you'll get some greens and a nice portion of avocado. I did get full; but mostly on rice.
So, what do I think? This place is decent and would stretch to good if they can get consistently good fish. The place is clean and spotless and service reserved, thoughtful (remember the cup of water?), professional, with a certain dignified, understated approach that seems so Japanese. I like that. The portions aren't very large, but as a whole ok for me. They also serve Edomae nigiri sushi; which looks a bit better than what you'd get at a Japanese market. Sorry, I don't eat it there other than kappa maki and natto maki, so you'll have to try it yourself. There are also various rice bowls and the inevitable California and Philadelphia rolls on the menu as well.
I'll eat here again.
Tokyo Deli 871 G St San Diego, CA 92101 Open Daily 11am - 7pm
I know, it's kind of rough doing a post on one of these fast-casual poke concept places right after doing one on the great, inexpensive seafood on rice in Hokkaido. But that's the breaks. I've got really mixed feelings about the recent poke boom on the mainland. On one hand, it's great that something I've eaten since "small kid time", we're talking almost half a century here, has gained general acceptance and popularity. On the other hand, much of it looks more style and hype over substance, jumping on the latest bandwagon, remember cronuts? Or maybe fro-yo? Or maybe (fill in the blanks). I'm not one who follows fads and I've always said, I'd never get poke from a place where I wouldn't eat the fish without all the sauces or what not, but there I was in front of San Diego Poke Company. Mainly because one of their regular customers from their Farmer's Market stall emailed me saying it was quite good.
I'd kind of made up my approach to trying these places on the way to this shop. Because I always like to experience the food at any eating establishment at its best, I'd never go on Sundays and Mondays (since I don't know when their fish is picked up/delivered). Because, to me, poke is traditionally ahi/aku, Ala'e/sea salt, limu, inamona, and because of my background, shoyu, and onions, though I guess these days I make it all kinds of ways, I'm going to stick with fish from the tuna family at first.
The drill here is ordering perhaps a "specialty bowl", or doing the fast-casual, have it your way thing, a base of starch plus seafood item, sauce, then any variety of toppings. Like Kirbie mentioned in her post, the world is your oyster, you can get anything from avocado to Flaming Hot Cheetos (whatever...) if you make it your own way.
Nice group of folks here, quite friendly. On my first visit, I went with the large OG SD ($11.95), which looked like a modification of shoyu poke. I thought the amount of fish used was much more generous than what I had at Poke Go back in August of last year. It also had a ton of rice.
The fish seemed to be better quality than what I had at Poke Go, though obviously not top grade. There were a couple of pieces that had quite a bit of "suji" (connective tissue) and a few pieces smelled a bit off, so I didn't eat those. The sauce was a simple shoyu - teriyaki-ish based sauce which didn't mess too much with the fish. Love onions in my poke, though this was a bit too much. The avocado added a nice creamy component to things. Way too much rice for me though, so I made note to just get a regular bowl the next time.
I like a good Poisson Cru and had two somewhat similar versions of it in Hanga Roa recently, so I thought trying the Koko Loko (regular - build your own bowl $9.95), a coconut, citrus, and sweet chili sauce base would be nice. Though when I asked the guy at the counter if this was similar to Poisson Cru or 'Ota'ika, he looked at me weird and said, "no, this is koko loko...." Okay......shame on me for expecting he would actually know a bit more about something very similar. Food nerd malfunction.
The sauce was a bit too heavy in coconut for me, also a bit too sweet, and I thought it needed a bit more citrus. Cucumbers are a must for this type of poke/ceviche and I wish tomatoes were available. The fish was actually even better this time around, though I noticed that it looked like two different batches thrown together as there were some mushy pieces. For me, avocado always adds a bit of creaminess, even with the coconut based sauce, the masago adds a nice crunch as does the seaweed salad, though this "bled" all over the rice making it green. I stopped the guy after one scoop of rice in my bowl, that was enough for my carb needs.
In the end, while it wouldn't make me forget places like Ono Seafood, Tanioka's, or any number of places back home, this was better than other versions I've had in San Diego. Think of it as "Poke Chipotle", which I guess is better than "Poke Micky D's". It's worth a stop if you want something a bit more healthy and are in the area.
San Diego Poke Co 10387 Friars Rd San Diego, CA 92120 Open Daily 11am - 9pm
Sounds like some kind of amusement park, huh? Anyway, this one is courtesy of "FOY" (friend of yoso) and frequent commenter "JanFrederick", who was nice enough to send me an email about the place.
Located in Mira Mesa Mall right across from L&L.
8270 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA, 92126
And Crab Hut (Mira Mesa):
Right around the corner is the new location of Crab Hut.
Looks like they'll be ready fairly soon
8280 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA, 92126
Man, the interior of this mall looks kind of depressing.......the Mandarin Garden location stands looking quite alone......
A Quick Visit to the Market Hall:
I was in the East Village area so I did a quick visit to The Market Hall a few weeks ago; a grocery/restaurant concept that originated in Seattle.
Not much in terms of meat, seafood, or produce when I visited.
Decent, but not outstanding selection of cheeses and quite a bit of prepared food. In fact, the friendly folks kept asking me if I'd like to try something.
The place was rather empty, except for the coffee bar which was doing some nice business. and while I really don't see anything that compels me to return.....I get most of what I need in terms of cheese/meat/wine/beer/seafood closer to home, I think this is great for folks who live in the East Village!
The Market Hall 969 Market St San Diego, CA 92101 Hours: Mon - Fri 7am - 10pm Sat - Sun 9am - 10pm
There seems to be a little revolution going on in LA and the OC.....poke, something I've eaten....well, being born and raised in Hawaii, basically all of my life has really gained a foot hold. Places like Poke District, North Shore Poke Company, Pokinometry, and of course Costco and Whole Foods, plus erstwhile food bloggers like Elmomonster, means that it's getting full coverage in the OC. It was only a matter of time until a shop specializing in poke opened here.......so, I wasn't surprised to read about one opening in Eater...though I'm not sure Hillcrest is the best location for it. Still, I was intrigued, so I headed up to Hillcrest to try out Poke Go.
Upon entering and seeing the owner; well, I cracked up. It was the guy who used to own Convoy Sushi and Fish Market, Moby Dick Fish Market & Grill, Ocean Harvest Seafood, etc....etc.... He does love creating new restaurants. The "concept" as he calls it, is quite simple, poke "bowls", called "platters" here, Korean influenced rice based dishes, as a quick stop is the objective. Select your fish, Ahi or Salmon (have you ever seen me eat salmon poke?), Rice (White or Brown) or Salad, and then your "spice" (aka da' sauce or seasoning), finally a "side" completes your "platter".
Of course, I went with the "Shoyu Hawaiian" style Ahi on White Rice with Mac (here called Tartar Macaroni) Salad. The menu price for this is $8.99, but during the grand opening period it's $7.99. So here's what I got.....
The first thought that entered my mind when I opened the cardboard carton was "wea's da fish"? This looked like a glorified seaweed salad with a few cubes of fish in it. There seemed to be maybe two ounces of fish in this thing. For the price, I didn't expect anything near, say what I make at home, or even what I make for the Missus. But it was decent, if not great quality fish. What I managed to pull out of the seaweed salad was on the bland side, nowhere near what anything in the islands is like. The sesame oil flavor permeated everything.
The "Tartar Macaroni" was terribly dry and not dressed enough as well.
I did return and to try the version with Kimchi sauce....."extra spicy" they said.
I will say that there was much more fish in this one. Plus, I really enjoyed (gasp) the brown rice; nice and nutty and it went well with the furikake. The fish was on the dry side and fairly bland as before; not too much "suji" (connective tissue), but still kind of chewy. It wasn't very spicy at all. There was kimchi at the bottom of the fish.....which looked like a lot; but one bite in and it was quite apparent that this was perhaps just a bit more than what I had previously.
I will say that the portion of "Kanikama" (surimi) was quite large, but I'd have appreciated a bit more effort in flavoring. I got full on that alone.
So here's what I think. If you don't mind getting full on rice, salad, and seaweed salad, with a few ounces of fish...then this will work for you. I'd gladly take it in place of a fastfood lunch. While this stuff would never fly back home. I've definitively had worse here in San Diego.
As to whether it's Poke "no" or Poke Go....well, you'll have to make up your mind yourself.
Then other news came trickling in....the kitchen was going to be run by the original chef of Common Theory. 'Nuff said. So I held off on coming for a bit, but finally decided to give it a go a couple of weeks back.
It was a Sunday and the bar was full and the really nice patio area was half full....and there was one poor guy running the bar and the dining area, a really nice guy named Danny.....I felt for him.
The beer selection was a bit limited, but had 2-3 items I was ok with. I went with a Port Brewing Shark Attack Red Ale, then turned it down when my food arrived.
The menu seemed a bit pricey, but it's hard to make that determination when you haven't tried anything, so I went full steam ahead. And of course, being from Hawaii, I love my poke, so I thought it would be a good place to start ($9.50). I think for most, this would be ok. Me, well, I'm not a big fan of saku fish....that boned, skinned, pre-cut, vacuum packed, and frozen stuff has a texture I don't enjoy.
I would have appreciated a bit more shoyu and less sesame oil. And I thought the "wasabi pesto" needed more wasabi.
I went with the Garlic Parmesan Wings, which was basically simply fried wings with a dollop of a garlic-cheese paste on them.
Man, that was a not so great first visit. Still, I decided to visit again. This time I saw the sign for $1 off draft beer during "Happy Hour" - 4-6pm. It's nothing like, say, Iron Pig's half price happy hour. It was also kind of a bummer when I was told that Sculpin and the Shark Attack Red were excluded from happy hour pricing.....it's only a dollar, but really......
This time around I asked for a recommendation with regards to one of my dishes. Queried about my tolerance for "heat", the Habanero Calamari ($8.50) was recommended.
And this was probably the best item I had at Coastal Crave; tender, nice spice, cooled by a decent aioli. It was on the greasy side....but this is pub grub, right?
I also decided to try the Bone Marrow ($15).
This seemed a bit over-priced and the marrow looked really black. It wasn't too bad, but in spite of the color, there were quite a bit of red, under done parts. This actually made the Wagyu Bone Marrow at Copper Onion seem amazing.
Pretty uneven, almost like the place is over-reaching a bit. I'm glad that it seems the neighborhood folks are coming out and supporting the place, but I wish the food was a bit better and the beer selection more interesting....though I saw most people drinking Bud Light, Corona, and Shock Top......
As you can tell. I was ready to call it quits....but for some reason, I decided on one more try. I saw a nice looking sandwich go out on my previous visit, so I thought I'd order it; the Duck Melt ($13).
I really enjoyed the melted Havarti cheese, slightly milky, creamy, it really added to the sandwich. I thought the duck confit needed a bit more flavor, and the whole thing was super rich. I wish the pickles were a bit more assertive; it would have been just enough acid to cut the richness. The habanero aioli actually detracted from the overall flavor and seemed out of place. Also, the bread had been griddled a bit too long and some of the areas were bitter. The fries were nice and for some reason....maybe the acid component, the ketchup tasted really good.
The folks here seem very nice, though the service can be a bit slow.
I'm glad that places like this are opening in the neighborhood. Like I said about Luce's, I'm not the kind of guy who is just "happy to have xxxx in the neighborhood". And while the menu seems "interesting" (extra " " on this) with stuff like "Gator Cakes" on it. I'm just going to have a burger next time. I'll probably be better off. I hope.....
Coastal Crave 3065 Clairemont Dr San Diego, CA 92117