There wasn't a line when we arrived and we were lead upstairs, where things did look rather busy. We got the last booth in the place and placed our orders.
It's quite simple; there were two Oden sets available for lunch, each about 680 yen and we ordered one of each.
Boy did this hit the spot.
That simmered daikon had really absorbed the flavor of the broth and was perfectly tender; not falling apart, but so easily cut with a chopstick. Our favorite item was the Toumeshi; indeed this is called the toumeshi set and I can see why. That tofu had absorbed the savory-sweet-dashi based flavor so well and rice was also a great vehicle for passing all of that. Simple, but just wonderful.
The Missus ordered the other Oden set which was quite good as well.
This was just the perfect thing for day like this. Then a kind of interesting thing happened....I'm guessing it's fairly common given the crowded nature of Tokyo.
The Missus and I were sitting across from each other in the booth. Two salarymen came in and sat down right next to us in the booth!
So now we were kinda trapped! The Missus and I looked at each other and cracked up. And we couldn't help but text each other our observations; especially when a couple of pieces of rice got stuck on one of the men's face....it kept moving around while he ate, but wouldn't fall off, and was quite mesmerizing!
Actually they were quite nice. When they noticed we were finished, they both stood up and waved us through. So, I guess this is fairly standard eating in Tokyo!
There was a line of people waiting outside in the rain as we left. I walked across the street to take a photo, and wouldn't you know; that line extended across the street!
It's easy to understand why folks would wait in the rain for this place. Good, comforting food at an inexpensive price. And it sure did hit the spot on a day like this.
Otakou Honten 2-2-3 Nihonbashi Chuo, Tokyo
Feeling nice and warm, our bellies full, we headed off in the drizzle to our next destination. I really enjoy the beer that Hitachino produces and had read that they had opened a beer bar in the Akihabara. I recommended going on the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station, it's like a 4-5 minute ride. But of course this is the Missus; so we walked.
It turned out to be about a 30 minute walk. The Brewing Lab is located right on the Kanda River.
It's a nice cozy little place and very quiet during this time of the day as there was only one customer the whole time we were there.
There were 8 pulls on this day and we ended up getting 4 beers; even Session IPA. We ended up with the Masters Selection, Nipponia, Weizen and the Nest Lager.
The Lager was my favorite; while the Missus enjoyed the Weizen. Man, Hitachino makes some really good stuff. If you're in the area; this might be a good stop.
Hitachino Brewing Lab 1-25-4 Kandasudacho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Soon enough, it was time to go. And this time the Missus relented and we caught the train back to Nihonbashi. We had some time to do a little shopping; then head back to the apartment for a short nap before meeting Reiko for dinner.
The Missus loves waffle cut fries; I'm not such a big fan....so here She can get the "Stoner Fries with waffle cut fries"....basically waffle cut fries topped with cheesesteak fillings; beef, in this case provolone, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
There's a reason they call it Stoner Fries...sheesh. She can never finish this, so we always tell them to drop off a box when they bring the food. The Missus will use the leftovers to make a hash the next day with eggs and some kale from the yard.
Of course I got the Blairsteak.....and got it with waffle cut fries for the Missus.
For years the Missus has told me how gross cheesesteaks were....but this one has made Her change Her tune. I think it's the combination of the soft Amoroso that has a bit of a gritty finish, combined with the milky provolone, the earthy mushrooms and the sautéed onions. I think She wouldn't even need any beef in this....but of course, I'd miss it. She now shares half the sandwich with me. This ain't cheap at about $16 with the upcharge for the waffle cut fries....but it's a nice treat every so often.
Nutty Chocolate flavors, mild sweetness, and a good smokiness that gets you at the end.
The Missus's favorite here is the Monkey Gose Bananas with Tart and Black Cherry.
We've come to enjoy Monkey Paw as a guilty pleasure. Love the divey feel, friendly staff, and the temperature of the beer is always good. The neighborhood might be kind of terminally "in transition", but it kind of helps with the vibe, which we prefer to Hamilton's which was just way too "hipster" and quite unfriendly the three times we've tried the place.
Full of historic buildings that are now glass and souvenir shops, tons of restaurant, and a little sweets kingdom known as LeTAO.
We loved the charming streets, the buildings just gave off a nice vibe, especially since things weren't especially busy.
We were getting a bit chilly, the warming effects of the umeshu was wearing off, so we decided to stop in at this charming little coffee and tea shop built in the former location of the Kubo Store, which was built in 1907.
The Missus got a nice cup of matcha and I a well made pour over, very smooth, but with enough of a nice kick for me.
The barista was a wonderfully dignified looking woman, who just rocked her lavender highlites perfectly. A study in aging well, gracefully, but with just the perfect amount of hipness and edge.
Refreshed and energized, we ended our little walk at LeTAO, which several folks told me I "had to" visit when going to Otaru.
This a multifloor deal, with a sweet shop upstairs, a very popular hot chocolate stand....but the item that LeTAO is known for is their cheesecake.
The cheesecake portion of the shop actually looks more like a jewelry store.
For some reason, I wasn't too keen on the stuff here, but of course, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.
LeTAO 7-16 Sakaimachi Dori Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
We headed back around and took Rinkosen Street back to the canal area. There was one last stop I wanted to check out before heading to lunch. I'd enjoyed the bottle of Otaru Weisse I had in Hokkaido. I also recalled Kat's post on Otaru Brewery, so I thought we'd give it a try. The place has quite the Bavarian Beer Garden look and makes some interesting claims on the English menu.
Hmmmm.....not hangover with the beer here, eh? Well, let me have at it! I ordered the Dunkel, which had quite a head. The finish reminded me of caramel-burnt sugar with a touch of stone fruit mixed with a bready yeasty fragrance. Not bad at 5.2 ABV....clean finish, sugary flavors lingering, not too bitter.
The place filled up pretty quickly as most folks were starting up on lunch. Several large parties; all Japanese came in, and a couple looked like they were doing some kind of brewery tour finished up as well.
For some reason, I just wasn't motivated to eat here.....we were in Otaru and I wanted to finish up with some seafood.
The Missus got the Weisse and like the bottle I had previously, it had that banana thing going on. I read that in addition to the classic Weisse wort used for the product, it's also sticking to the traditional brewing method and tightly controlling the 4 VG level (4-vinyl guaiacol), hence the increased banana flavor (iso-amyl acetate) and less of the spicy clove that I'm used too. It's quite a pleasant beer, easy to drink, light, high carbonation, very nice overall.
We enjoyed stopping here, it was relaxing, though he place started getting really busy when we left.
In case you missed the post in Eater. I noticed that the former Coco's on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Ruffner was being built out, so I walked on over. There's no mistaking the logo...plus the "626" area code.
My good buddy Candice expressed disappointment that I hadn't tried out Bitter Brothers since it was basically in my 'hood. So I made some time to visit recently. I like the set-up, typical industrial-hipster, but in a good way. Wide open, nice breezes blowing through. The beer server was fairly all business at the beginning, spending most of his times with his "bro's", but warmed up after I had got past the tasters phase.
I got tasters of the Little Brother Citra Session IPA and the Prickly Pear version of the Family Tart Berliner Weisse.
That Session was very nice and drinkable, that tart Berlinerweisse was really good, not too dry, but definitely a Berlinerweisse, just sweet-sour enough. I've got to bring the Missus here for this one.
I finished up with a nice Dunkelweiss, great not too overpowering chocolate tones.
Nice place, drinkable beers....nothing over 6 ABV if I recall, great for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Bitter Brothers Brewing 4170 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Back to the Poseidon Project:
The reason I hadn't been to Bitter Brothers was that I've been enjoying the Poseidon Project since they've opened. The vibe and very friendly folks keep me coming back. I'll bring in some take-out and have a nice meal when the Missus is working.
On this fine Thursday I didn't have to worry about that since two of my favorite neighborhood places joined forces.
I'm hoping they increase the number of pulls, which now numbers 8.
But don't discount the bottles....I was quite surprised to find the bottle prices in line with most retail locations. And once in a while they have some nice surprises.
Love the way they've embraced the neighborhood....the place is crazy dog friendly and food friendly. I think someone was having a birthday the other night and brought in like three boxes of pizzas......no problem.
I'm wondering what'll happen when my friends and I bring in a bushel of oysters???? For some reason, I think they'll be just fine with that.
Poseidon Project 4126 Napier St San Diego, CA 92110
Here are a couple of "bonus bottles". Interesting stuff from the Bruery.
This one I first had at Poseidon. It's a nice dessert type of brew.
For some reason; and I'm not big fan of regular Horchata, but The Bruery's Or Xata really hit a home with me. Great, balanced, not too sweet tones. Great mouthfeel. To me, the base flavor seems closer to coconut than cinnamon though......
Back to see the "Little Squirt", who was getting a lot of attention as always.
And since we were there, a visit to Grand Place was in order as well. For some reason, the Missus really never took to Grand Place....not sure why.
From here, we headed south, skirting the hills and then back up to the very popular shopping district of Ixelles.
Full of big time chains, boutiques, trendy shops....big city life. But, just head up one of the side streets and you'll find quaint little shops, apartments, and on this street a ton of construction. I was looking for a brasserie I'd read about, in several food blogs and even the New York Times, Les Brassins. The word "traditional" was sprinkled about in most of what I read, so I thought this would be a nice farewell restaurant meal in Brussels.
We'd arrived early and the place was empty except for one table....it was packed when we left. I found the place very comfortable.
Our server was very nice, relaxed, but very efficient. This is of course, Belgium, so we'd get some liquid refreshment with lunch. Nothing too heavy for the Missus; a Silly (how appropriate) Blonde (well, maybe not so much). I had a Caulier Blonde.
The Missus wanted to get Her last fix of Sausage and Stoemp. This was a nice version of the dish. The stoemp was full of greens and was delicious. The sausage well.
The "bacon" was probably the weak link, but the sauce was very nice....a good last version for the Missus.
I had intended to get the Carbonnade Flamande, the classic beef and beer stew that I enjoyed everywhere in Belgium. But all those posts and the New York Time recommended the Rabbit Leg in Cherry Kriek. So I went with the Lapin a la Kriek.
First off, I gotta say, that sauce was just plain delici-yoso! The kriek added a nice sweetness, but wasn't too cloying, that cut the richness. Also, the frites here might be the best I had in Belgium, crisp exterior, fluffy interior. The rabbit, if you've never had rabbit.....when done well, it's fairly mild in flavor, as this was. It was a bit too tough and dry for my taste though. Still, that sauce....
While I think my favorite meals in Brussels were at Viva M'Boma or perhaps Le Fin de Siècle, I don't think you can go wrong at Les Brassins.
Les Brassins 36 Rue Keyenveld Brussels, Belgium
We walked back to our apartment in Saint Gilles. It was a beautiful day for a stroll. We had our customary nap, then made dinner with stuff we'd bought at the Marche du Parvis.
So this was it huh? Last night in Brussels. The Missus and I looked at each other and instantly knew, this was not the way to end our trip to Brussels. We got dressed and headed out....and back to Moeder Lambic.
It was a bit busier than on our last visit. However, most everyone had taken a table outside. I told the Missus to shoot for the moon and I got a Hop-Ruiter, which I loved so much on my previous visit. So She did.....
I then tried a Vicaris Tripel, which was fairly creamy, though bit too sweet for my taste.
I then helped the Missus finish Her Gueuze. I couldn't help but think that this was why we work so hard. To be able to have a bottle of Cantillon at Moeder Lambic in Brussels. Life doesn't get better. Of course, eventually the glass was empty.
A recent weekend morning found me in Mission Valley. It's kind of interesting, when we first moved to San Diego, our condo was in MV, but these days, other than the Missus enjoying a shopping day, we almost try to avoid Mission Valley!
Funny thing, the service is totally like any pho shop on University....as in, "what you want"........
Haven't not been here in 10 years, I took the #49, regular, which was $7.69. Basically the proteins minus the rare steak, which I didn't think was going to be too good. What was really interesting was the plate of herbs and sprouts, which has got to be, the most stingy plate I've seen to date.
It was so amazingly stingy....I enjoy bean sprouts in my pho and have requested more on occasion, but this seemed a bit absurd. So, while waiting, I decided to count the bean sprouts.....which barely filled the palm of my hand. There were exactly 27 bean sprouts on that plate. Perhaps I could have requested more.....but really, should I have to beg for my sprouts?
So, lets get to the pho. The broth had nice hints of anise, but was lacking in richness and had way too much msg, the tendon and all the other proteins, including a decent amount of tripe was good. The noodles were a bit over cooked and mushy, but overall, it was hard to over come the amount of msg.
The service is typically perfunctory.....
Such is the state of pho in Mission Valley.
Pho Cali 1400 Camino De La Reina San Diego, CA 92108
So, I did Mike's BBQ, where I mentioned the beer offerings were much better than Coastal Crave's, which meant I had to return. I try to do a bit of due diligence when possible. This time, I avoided any of the dishes I had before and went with a simple burger.
But first, I can still say; there's not much craft beer here....they count Shock Top as a craft beer....
The Coastal Crave Burger?
Well, this was interesting. The burger was made to a nice medium, but the exterior was almost burnt and quite tough. Really sad, because this could have been a decent burger. Instead, it came across as being a bit bitter. The brioche style bun was good, the fried onion rings ditto....so close.
The young lady working on this evening was a joy; I believe her name is Kristin, or something like that. So maybe, maybe, since it's up the street......though they've got to step up their beers....
Coastal Crave 3065 Clairemont Dr San Diego, CA 92117
We're sort of creatures of habit....the Missus has Her favorites and it's pretty much up to me to do the exploring and find new places these days.
Not sure why; but here are two places on our rotation that we hadn't visited this year. I think we've been busy and having two international trips fairly close together kind of messed up our schedules a bit. But anyway, we're finally getting back to some normalcy around here, which means revisiting our favorites. We've posted on these places a ton of times; so I guess this is a "most photo Friday?"
A favorite of ours since they first opened, I think the Missus had Her fill of Yakitori on our last trip to Japan and needed a break. Then of course, right when She was starting to crave it again we headed off to Spain. As it stands, we returned on a Monday night and I was back at work at 6am the next morning so it took a while for me to get back in the groove.
But, if the crowd right after they opened on a Tuesday evening is any indication, they are doing just fine.
If you want some additional info, you can read any number, of posts I've done on Taisho; even a comparison of Taisho versus Yakyudori. The thing is; as Yakyudori descends, Taisho seems to have gotten even better...except on Thursdays, when Taka-san is off.
Yakitori Taisho 5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92117
Another one of those places that I've posted on a number of times. The truth of the matter is; we were going once a week and the Missus finally got burnt out. we were still hitting up Toronado, but the Missus needed to give TT a rest. And we're glad we did....a fresh seasonal menu and fresh beer options....and instead of a large order of pate, they now offer a nice charcuterie plate. This is the half portion. That house made pancetta was really good.
Wood fired potatoes......
One great thing is that when you order the sausage sandwich without the roll, is that they'll automatically make it into a salad for you! This is the linguica.
A big plus is the beer server here; I believe her name is Dez; who is always so awesome to us!
Tiger! Tiger! 3025 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104
It's almost spring, so time to start clearing out that memory card. Here's threesome from several months back. As with these posts, it mostly photos.
For some reason the Missus actually wanted to go on my typical Saturday "rounds" on this morning....I think it was because She was hungry. We had eaten at Zen Peninsula the week before and I guess She was wondering how a place like China Max would line up.
Short answer? It doesn't.......
Chicken feet looked good, very tender, but lacking in flavor.
The sauce/soup for the tripe was good, but it hadn't imparted flavor to the tripe.
The wrappers for the shrimp and spinach dumplings were too thick and this really lacked flavor.
Even my old standby here, the pan fried shrimp and chive dumplings weren't spared. Greasy and portions of the wrappers were splitting and burnt, making this bitter.
We've always thought that the gailan at China Max was done pretty well....this time it was over cooked.
I admit that it's pretty slim pickins' with regards to Dim Sum in SD......
The Smoked Wings is one of the two items the Missus comes for; they can sometimes be too salty, or not fried right, but on this visit, things were right.
For some reason the Missus likes the Rib Tips here......I'm not a fan of the sauces at Iron Pig, so we get them without sauce. Now a good rib tip...crunchy cartilage, fatty tissue, man, it can be a thing of beauty. This was very close; it had been smoked perfectly, was moist and tender. The only (big) minus? It needed a more aggressive rub. This was nicely porky, but lacked seasoning.
Nice smoke ring though.......
Iron Pig Alehouse 1520 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109
Yes, time hasn't been very kind to the place; the lamination on the menus are peeling off and the tables have attained a robust amount of stickiness, but I still drop by every so often, mainly for breakfast, to see what's going on. A simple bowl of Wonton and Dumpling Egg Noodle soup for me on this day. It's gone up 50 cents since my visit last year.
For some reason the charsiu really struck me as not being as good as in the past.....not sure why that's what stuck in my head.......
Tan Ky Mi Gia 5237 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
On our return trip to Brussels I booked an apartment in the Saint-Gilles neighborhood. Part artsy, part somewhat run down, quite diverse, urban, we really enjoyed staying in this part of town....it seemed quite "real".
Our flat was quite large as well.
Since we had arrived too early for check-in, we dropped our stuff off and headed out....not quite sure what to do. I had a farmer's market, Marché du Parvis (Parvis Market) de Saint Gilles, marked on my map so we headed off in that direction.
Where there was indeed a farmer's market.
We decided to take advantage of the huge kitchen in the apartment and self cater. Picking up some eggs; charcuterie, vegetables.....and a nice amount of cheese from the fromage-mobile.
Marché du Parvis de Saint Gilles Sint-Gillisvoorplein Hours: Tues - Wed 730am - 1pm Thurs 12pm - 10pm Fri 730am - 1pm Sat - Sun 730am - 2pm
We took a look around for something to eat, but decided to duck into this "brasserie"
I liked the looks of the place......
There was a huge cold case with beer that you could just select yourself and a rather large listing.....
Wanting to just have fun, we selected two beers we'd never heard of before. The Missus a blonde ale; "Den Tseut" from Huisbrouwerij Den Tseut, which was pretty disappointing; very light and "Pilsner" like. I decided to "go big" and went with a Goliath (Gouyasse) Tripel from Brasserie Des Légendes, a nice straight up tripel; very yeasty-bready, slight hops, only 6% ABV, so it really wasn't Goliath like in my book.
I'm not sure the place even serves food....but there was none on this morning. The woman working here was a hoot; she spoke not a word of English.
We opened up the cheese and charcuterie and made eating motions and she nodded in agreement. We then asked for a knife making a sawing motion....in a moment she figured out what we needed and replied to our pantomime with the knife across the throat gesture with sound effects! It was hilarious; and yes, we got our knife. You gotta love it!
Brasserie Egalite Parvis de Saint-Gilles 47 Brussels, Belgium
Instead of heading back to the apartment which I don't think was ready yet, we strolled around and actually found a friterie that I had on my list; Friterie de la Barriere, which is a little frietkot on Avenue du Parc.
It was just past 11am and there was a line. So I took a peek and one of the guys in front of me who was chatting with his friends in Flemish, turned to me and said, "no worries. this place makes the best frites in the area....." Say no more......
So I got the frites, with aioli. I thought these were pretty good, not greasy, crisp exterior, fluffy exterior, but nothing special overall. After having several versions of frites in Belgium; the Missus claimed to not get what the love of frites was all about....and then she'd proceed to attack it.......
Friterie de la Barriere 5 Avenue du Parc Brussels, Belgium
By now it was time to check-in and a nap......
We awoke made a simple dinner with what we had......
Of course the Missus had something from Cantillon, Cuvee Saintt Gilloise, which She loved. The sour-tart tones were balanced out with what I can only describe as an earthy flavor. Very nice and refreshing.
I tend to enjoy tripels, so I went with the Val-Dieu tripel. I really enjoyed this; there seemed to have an apple-honey background, while not being too "bready" or boozy. Man, his was a nice beer. I need to find a bottle of this here in San Diego....though I've found that versions of the Belgian's I've had here don't taste quite the same.
And while I really enjoyed that Val-Dieu, it was the next beer I had that really made my day. I decided to try something named "Hop-Ruiter". Man, this was really good....just enough hops for me; that would be south of an IPA; yet quite floral to the nose. The flavor doesn't quite go into dubbel-tripel territory, yet the honey flavors and some citrus tones are there. We'd return to Moeder Lambic the next night so I could have this again. I did find bottles of this here in San Diego, but the overall aroma and flavor was totally different.
The Missus tried the Caulier 28.
We really enjoyed Moeder Lambic; the folks here were very nice and it seemed less touristy than the Fontainas location.
Moeder Lambic Rue de Savoie 68 Brussels, Belgium
While the Saint-Gilles area seemed a bit more "gritty" than Central Brussels or St Catherine, it seemed to have much more of the local color which we enjoyed.
We got to sleep early, tomorrow was going to be a full day.....
Back to the Poseidon Project and the Haad Sai Thai Food Truck:
The Missus ended up working on a recent Friday evening at the last minute, which left me alone at 630 pm on a Friday. So I headed out looking for a place to eat.....as I figured everyplace was packed. I even tried Pacific Time, but there was no parking. As I rolled up Morena, I noticed a Food Truck in front of The Poseidon Project, I thought "why not"?
Turns out it was a Thai truck called Haad Sai Thai.
The guy running the truck was really friendly and several folks in Poseidon were eating noodles; a couple of folks even doing take-out from the truck, so I ordered some drunken noodles with chicken, bought a bottle of one of my recent favorites....I was surprised at the price, cheaper than what I recently paid for a bottle at Keg and Barrel at $9.53 with tax, and had a seat.
The drunken noodles were nothing to write home about, though it was decently spicy at a heat level 7 and at least the noodles weren't mushy.
The chicken was dry, not enough "wok hay", other than the heat level, missing the sweet and salty of drunken noodles, and a bit over-priced at $9, but the savings on my bottle balanced things out for me. The portion size was quite large though and I got to watch a beer nerd ("bro") get a bottle of Delirium and match it with a California Burrito from Santana's across the street....a first for me.
Plus, the folks working here are great. I'm really warming to the place. Even though they only currently have 8 pulls, the bottles seems nicely priced.
Poseidon Project 4126 Napier St San Diego, CA 92110
Plus I just can't help but keep humming this song.