Once again, mmm-yoso!!! is here with another post. Kirk is having more technical difficulties today than he had yesterday; Ed (from Yuma) is enjoying being retired and isn't glued to his computer; Cathy is in front of her computer sharing a meal she enjoyed in the recent past.
A few weeks ago The Mister and I were in Mira Mesa, planning on going to that location of Seafood City and planning to eat before shopping, as we usually do, similar to the food court of the South Bay Seafood City location. But the parking lot was pretty full and we pulled up on the far West end and noticed this storefront. You know we had to stop and check it out. I vaguely recalled posts by cc, Kirbie and Mary from earlier this year...thinking this was a 'dessert only' place. But there are menus on the door and on the wall as you walk to the back to order. The Mister noticed a 'Ramen' page and I noticed 'Appetizers'. We walked in.The eclectic decor is interesting in that there are so many choices of 'eating areas' and levels of comfort. I'm glad I could take these photos, because almost all the tables filled up within about 15 minutes.Duck ramen with tonkatsu broth ($9.99) with the basic toppings (soft boiled egg, seaweed, scallions, sesame seeds and bean sprouts). This was very good in flavor and size (enough to share). The broth was rich, porky and not very salty. The noodles had a 'bite' and were not mushy. The duck leg was standard. The vegetarian pot stickers ($3.99) were also standard. Fresh fried and crispy with a good amount of filling. Quite large for pot stickers.
The Kani-Cheese Croquette ($2.99) is basically potatoes mashed with cream cheese, formed into a patty and rolled in bread crumbs then deep fried. Topping is kewpie and teriyaki. Again, freshly made but pretty standard. Nice sides to munch on while waiting for my turn with the ramen bowl.
Looking at the menu, I remembered the desserts I had seen online.Shubuya honey toast...presented with a theme. We decided on "London".Based on the photos from other bloggers and the menu, there was a small disaster during the assembly, but all the ingredients are there. The (very) large piece of honey toast was hollowed out and cubed, the cubes toasted and most placed back inside the outer large cube of (also) toasted bread. Ice cream, bananas, caramel sauce, toffee and a side of custard sauce. A really nice, and fun dessert.
T-Pop Desserts and More 8945 Mira Mesa Boulevard San Diego 92126 (858) 566-6494 Website open Sun-Th 11-10, Fir-Sat 11-11
Folks know I'm not real keen on being among the first in the door when a place opens. But sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and with all the hype Nishiki Ramen was getting...when Candice asked me if I was up for lunch.....during their soft opening; I just couldn't help myself. Still, I tempered my expectations. I mean, even my initial visit to Santouka when they first opened was not very good....and we really don't need to mention Dumpling Hut.
The interior of the shop is wide open and there were perhaps just a dozen people in front of us....something to do with the 1230 opening I think.
The young guys working here are very nice; friendly, pretty well versed in the product, and kept our waters filled....I know; it's a soft opening....but isn't that the purpose of doing that?
The menu for today was simply one ramen ($10), boiled egg is extra ($2), something called "Volcano Sauce" ($1.50) and Chicken Karaage ($7).
So this is the one time I can accurately claim to have had everything on the menu!
So after all the hype over the noodles???? I gotta say, it delivered; nice pull and chew, great texture, maybe the best I've had since Ippudo in Osaka. That red paste in the little bowl is the Volcano Sauce, basically a mildly spicy bean/miso paste which tasted like Gochujang. Overpowers anything in the ramen, but was decent on the chicken karaage. The broth was chicken forward; I believe it's a pork-chicken combination, it's not too thick, but also not overly salty (I was told no MSG is used). Really nice flavor, the black sesame oil was pretty mild. I think it's better than RakiRaki's Premium Ramen. The Chashu is sliced a bit too thin for my tastes. It's very tender and moist, but needs a bit more flavoring. I really couldn't detect any special flavor from the "sea salt seasoning" for the egg; but it was prepared perfectly. My favorite thing? The noodles.....
The Chicken Karaage had nice flavor, but wasn't light and crisp like I prefer.
It's passable but nowhere near as good as my favorites...it's missing a nice deep savory flavor, but did fine dipped in the Volcano Sauce.
While I think the prices are on the high side, I do think I have another place for my ramen rotation. Enjoyed the service, and really liked the noodles. I understand that there's another, thicker version that I'm looking forward to trying.
I'm glad to have had a chance to check this place out. I was told that the planned grand opening is scheduled for Sunday, October 4th. Until then it's the limited menu.
I noticed the sign of this place back in June. They turned the renovation around pretty quickly and opened a couple of weeks ago. I decided to check them out since they're located relatively close to both home and work. One thing I quickly noticed was the removal of the "Yakitori" in the signage....I'm guessing getting that robata thing straight might have been a bit too much.
My server on both visits was a very gracious, friendly young man, from, if I recall Latvia. He was just perfect, great timing, and for some reason, reminded me of the kind of service we received in France.
It was way too hot for ramen on my first visit, so I ordered a couple of items from the menu.
I started with the Tsukune, because I was curious as to why the "yakitori" part on the sign was removed.
This was on the tough and rubbery side. The flavor was quite mild. The tare was different, sweet with some mild spice, more like teriyaki in texture than a traditional tare.
Like that wood wall; it seems like all "New Japanese" have some kind of Pork Belly Bun on the menu.
In terms of flavor the pork was decent, on the waxy side and cold, but ok. I think heating this up a bit more, getting some caramelization on the pork would make this better. The bun was cold and dry and this seemed a bit slapped together.
I also ordered the Katsudon; you know the iconic katsu (in this case chicken katsu), egg, tsuyu, onion, scallion, and rice bowl. What I got made me laugh.......it was literally "Katsu - Don".
No egg, no tsuyu, no onions/scallions........just overcooked chicken katsu; hard and dry....and overcooked rice....hard and dry. For some reason I just found this quite funny. Like someone figured out what "katsu" and "don" meant in Google Translate and took it literally.
Overall an interesting meal. I really liked the service, it was so very open, seemed really interested in my opinions, after a while, you can usually tell if someone is sincere when they ask for your opinion of the dishes. I did find out that the owner of Kanpai also owns Fish Attack.
With that in mind, I decided to return for lunch. On the menu there was a "special combination" menu which is ramen along with a rice bowl.
So I went with Tonkotsu Ramen with Karaage Don.
Beyond the standard Sriracha-mayo, this was good. The chicken was perfectly fried, light, crisp, not too salty, with a slight savory backbone. The rice was perfect this time around. I'd easily have this again.
I'd consider this, with consideration as a work in progress, as lower second tier ramen. The egg was fine; in fact much better than what I'd recently had at RakiRaki. The Chashu was decent. The noodles were typical wholesale ramen noodles and were overcooked. The broth was an uneven mixture of tonkotsu base with shoyu. It was much too thin, definitely lacking in richness, though the temperature was good.
I really liked the service, the folks here seem eager to please. I'll check back in a couple of months to see how the menu, and hopefully the food has evolved.
Izakaya Kanpai 5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Don't want to bring too much attention to it....just in case you hadn't noticed. But man, it's still some kind of humid isn't it? On the good side. Well, I've been getting a nice amount of recommendations recently. Here are two of them.
あまりにも多くの誇大宣伝の家 aka RakiRaki:
That would be "Amarini mo ōku no kodai senden no ie". You can kind of figure out what I'm referring to based on my previousposts. It just seems at times that RR's biggest fan is themselves. On a good note, I think the product, while still far from great has been getting better over the last couple of years. And I received an email by "one who wants to remain anonymous" with two rec's. The first telling me that the Rikimaru Miso Tonkotsu Tsukemen was the way to go. So it's the way I went.
First, some housekeeping items...I ordered my noodles cold, but I guess the kitchen didn't get the memo and over-cooked them instead. Maybe to teach me a lesson for being a pain and ordering them cold? That egg was tragically over cooked, dry, and quite bland to boot.
I usually avoid miso based ramen broth because it's either much too salty, or all you end up tasting is the miso base. In this case it worked out quite well. Not too salty, faint miso flavor, the broth's almost citrus like "bite" tempered a bit. Decent amount of pork in the soup. This might be the way to go for me in the future...... In spite of the $13 price tag.
I heard through the grapevine that RR had purchased the lease to the A Cafe space, so it will be interesting to see what happens here.
RakiRaki Ramen and Tsukemen 4646 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Pho Ha Noi:
There was a second recommendation in the email. I was informed that the best item on the menu at Pho Ha Noi was not the Pho, but something called Spicy Beef Salad, which just sounded right on one sweaty day.
Pho might not be the way to go here; but it sure didn't seem that way since the other three folks in the place were all getting pho.
The young man serving me was very nice and friendly. He also asked me twice if I could eat "spicy" when I ordered the spicy beef salad.
This is an interesting riff utilizing the typical stir fry beef which has been flavored with soy and fish sauce; a little sweet of course, but a bit under flavored for me. It was adequately tender and there was a fairly generous portion of protein. The "salad" is basically cabbage (aka coleslaw) mix with some, a bit too little slices of herbs mixed in. The "spicy" wasn't very spicy at all, basically a watered down nuoc mam cham with chili paste mixed in.
As a pseudo fast food dish, this wasn't bad. And I got my veggies....... Still, I'm not sure I'd have this again.
Pho Ha Noi 6904 Miramar Rd San Diego, CA 92121
Our "FOY" (Friend of Yoso) really wanted my opinion on these two items. So there you go! Thanks so much for taking the time out to email me!
So, what were you doing in November of 2005? I tell you what I was doing....I was eating at Chopstix maybe 2-3 times a month. In those....quite sad days actually, there were really only four choices for non-sushi Japanese in the area; Ichiro, Tajima (under previous ownership), Chopstix, and Izakaya Sakura. Tajima, be it ever so humble was king of ramen (sad, huh?) and Sakura was the main choice for Japanese. In those days, it was easy to be satisfied with what I call the "American-Japanese Diner Cuisine" of places like Ichiro and Chopstix. In fact, with the state of food in San Diego at that time; it was quite easy to get into "just happy to have it" mode. Something I threw off by the beginning of 2006........
Other than a quick visit to Chopstix in 2009 I hadn't been back. Since I've done circling back posts on Ichiro and Tajima, I just thought it would be right to do the same with Chopstix.
The changes in décor at Chopstix has been fairly subtle; the queasy pink exchanged for a more neutral color, more comfortable banquet chairs, better televisions on the wall.
The menu remains the same....other than the addition of various crunchy rolls and such....not really my thing.
The Katsu Curry was one of the few dishes I used to order regularly here. Dark, thick, with vegetables literally melting from a long stewing, and also having a little kick of heat, I thought it was a nice dish here. So what's the 2015 version like?
After ordering the Tonkatsu Curry, I realized I used to order the Chicken Katsu Curry. Oh well.
First off, I used to grumble that the miso soup here was always too....now it's the opposite, weak.
The curry is now much lighter and while still having a decent spice, it lacks the beefy flavor I used to enjoy. To their credit; there's still actual, discernible meat in the curry, but other than the heat, it's kind of flat.
That tonkatsu was breaded and seasoned well, but was tough and dry.
Not the best meal I could have had.....but I needed to return for at least one more visit.
So I returned, having had no breakfast, I was starving and decided on getting something that I thought had always been decent at Chopstix, though it had been over a decade since I'd had it. I started with the Agedashi Tofu.
This was fried perfectly, light, crisp, the tofu molten. I just wish the tsuyu had some flavor. It was quite watered down. The ramen broth had more flavor.
Which of course means that I had the ramen.
There are two consistent things about the ramen at Chopstix. the first being the charshu which has a decent flavor, but is bone dry and not very pleasant. The second being how I've consistently, never had a consistent bowl of ramen here. Every bowl of ramen has been different. This time, the broth was way too salty, there was much more scum than I'm used to, and the noodles were over-cooked. I'm used too the over-cooked egg, but this time it was also cold...insult to injury I say. Definitely second tier ramen.
The customers I saw were pretty much the Ichiro crowd. Service was efficient and pleasant. Even though it's not my cup of tea; it's nice to see that they are doing well after all these years.
I never knew you could get the intestine "fried first" to give a bit more texture. I was told on this visit. At $6.77, this is priced right. Good swiney, earthy intestine, the pickled vegetable is typical, but this is a good value and I have no complaints.
Nice folks....I still get a kick that they call me "sir"......
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Come Tuesday it was on the chilly side...so it was over to Yakyudori for some Shio Ramen. Hard to believe the place was empty when I arrived.
Went for the shio ramen. It was interesting; I still think they changed the salt they use for this a while back...it just doesn't have the same flavor. The broth was also a lot darker than I recalled. The chashu was better than what I've had before. At least it wasn't ice cold. The boiled egg was lovely....not the best, but decent. The noodles prepped well.
The service was a lot less surly than what I've recently experienced. As I left, the place was getting crowded.
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori 4898 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
They've done a bit of renovation since the last time I was here.
I really love the texture of the crisp and light kakiage. And though the broth and udon is nothing special; it's the sum of the parts that works for me. That onigiri still seems like overkill to me....but I'm not complaining.
Plus, it's still $8.95.
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
By Thursday, it was in the 80's. It was time to treat myself to a nice Hwe Dup Bop.
And Sam know just how I like it. Easy on the rice, a good amount of cho-jang...crisp, fresh, a little spicy. Just what I needed to refresh.
Sushi Yaro 7905 Engineer Road San Diego, CA 92111
The weekend came and it was a bit cooler again....so I guess it was back to the beginning.
So here's more Ramen; one by request (Ototo) and the other because of a sign I saw.
I guess it was inevitable based on the discussion in the comments of this post. A couple of folks asked me what I thought of the ramen here...including Taka-san at Taisho. You know I'm not a "rolls" kind of guy, so otherwise, this second restaurant from the owner of Sushi-ya really wouldn't interest me.
The décor is simple, but modern, with an area of stool and bar type tables, which I thought was kind of neat.
The menu features 3 types of ramen; a red (miso) based, a white tonkotsu, and a chicken based version. I went with the Shio White Tonkotsu. The young lady and gentleman serving me were quite nice, but on the slow side. I watched my ramen come up and stay in the window while they gathered themselves to do...well, I don't know.
Eventually, the ramen made it's way, first to another, then finally my table.
My first reaction was, "is this tonkotsu"? Where was a the nice milky richness. The broth had a yellowish tone and even smelled somewhat "chicken-ny". It had a decent amount of oil, but was still not very rich. I'm wondering what kind of salt they use, or perhaps it's a bagged base, because it tasted kind of bitter to me. The boiled egg was quite good, the chashu, hard, cold, flavorless. The noodles were mushy and overcooked....perhaps it had waited a bit too long to reach my table?
In my opinion, overpriced at $9.50. I'll take a pass on this.....
Ototo Sushi Co 5651 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
I saw a flier that mentioned Oton was serving Tonkotsu style ramen for lunch. So I thought I'd go and check them out.
A small, by the book salad accompanied the ramen.
Which when it arrived looked totally like it came from the Tonkotsu 101 manual. But let us first spend a moment admiring that lovely orb of goodness, the egg. This may be the best ajitsuke tamago in terms of cooking time and prep in San Diego. The noodles were also a perfect texture for me.......mass produced, but prepared well.
The broth was very white, but also too thin, and almost fully defatted which took away from the "coat your tongue" feeling you get from a good tonkotsu. The flavor was also mild, but passable. The chashu was cold, hard, though it had decent flavor. What's up with serving a solid piece of ice cold pork?
Not bad, but I'd rather go several other places before coming here for the ramen.
Oton 5447 Kearny Villa Road San Diego, CA 92123
So where do I think these rank in the now crowded world of ramen in San Diego? Well, Otot, umm Ototo is definitely second tier. Oton, is higher second tier, perhaps along the lines Ouan, or maybe even better.
So last week the mercury was flirting with the 80's. I was thinking about which taco shops I needed to visit. This weekend it's cloudy and now it's starting to rain. Go figure......
The one silver lining....this gave me a chance to revisit a couple of ramen shops.
Since they are open all the way through from 1130 on weekends, I decided to check them out at 4pm, thinking they'd be fairly calm.
I surprised to see how busy they were....not a full house, but at least 3/4 full. They had the seat yourself thing in place, so I had a seat......they saw me, but still, I waited, and waited......and waited. Another group arrived after me and they had water served and orders taken......a couple sat on the table next to me....and they waited......while I had my order taken and another group who had come after them were being served...the woman decided to take matters into her own hands and just grabbed one of the servers......so they could finally get some water and get their orders taken. The place just seemed much more disorganized than I recalled, even with three working front of house. They seemed to spend a good deal of time huddled at the POS and doing things like organizing chopsticks while dirty tables sat.... They were really nice kids, but it seemed like they needed someone running the front of house.
When I did get my order taken - Kotteri, with Kakuni Pork, noodles extra firm, things went fairly quickly.
The Hakata style noodles were exactly as I like them. While the broth isn't quite what I'd call "kotteri" it was passable, if a bit too mild in the flavor department. Two things kind of killed this for me. While the broth was served at a decent temperature, the egg was ice cold....now if you serve it on the side, I'd be ok with that, but in my soup, no thanks. Ditto with the buta kakuni, which was adequately tender, if a bit on the bland side.....but ice cold.
Ramen Yamadaya 4706 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Yes again. Though the Missus is over "the Santouka effect" and is now, kinda, sorta, back on planet Earth, we're able to enjoy Santouka in context.
This was the status quo.....on this day, they were giving out the eggs......overcooked for us. The pork cheek was tender and porky, the noodles had a great chew. The broth, shio, which ironically is the least salty of all choices was scalding hot...the thick ceramic bowl kept the temperature "right" for the whole meal. The broth coated our tongues and bellies....and while it would not make us forget the best of what we had in Japan, it did the job.
Santouka Ramen 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd(In the Mitsuwa Marketplace) San Diego, CA 92111
Our first day in Kyoto was pretty tiring......I gotta admit, I get pretty wiped out when we travel; but man, the Missus was totally fried as well. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and up before 5am. After encountering the crowds at Fushimi Inari the day before, I just knew that the best way to experience the place would be early in the morning or late at night. So we got on the Tozai line, transferred at Yamashina to the Biwa line, got off at Kyoto Station, which wasn't quite as confusing as the previous and got on the Nara line....getting off at Inari Station. Fushimi Inari-taisha is literally right across the street.
Fushimi Inari is the head shrine of Inari Okami, the Kami.....which is hard to describe in English, let's just say it's the spirit, god, or deity of most importantly, rice, but also fertility, sake, and foxes...... which, if I recall serve as messengers for the Kami. At the entrance of the shrine, you'll see a statue of a fox (no, it's not a "doggie") holding the key to the granary. I remember learning about the kitsune serving the rice god in elementary school....funny what you recall at odd moments in life.
For most folks......us included, the most stunning feature of Fushimi Inari are the 30,000 plus gates that line the paths up the mountain, which is also named Inari. Each torii (gate) is paid for and donated by businesses....which you totally forget about when you see it.
It is both beautiful and haunting seen at dawn with nary another person around. Just the sound of your footsteps and the wind whispering through the trees.
No loud chatter or folks brandishing "selfie poles".
This is what I saw in my mind's eye when I thought of Kyoto.
After taking in the atmosphere of Fushimi Inari, we headed back to Inari Station, got back on the Nara line, getting off at the first stop at Tokufuji and hopping on the Keihan line, getting off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. from there it's about a 20-25 minute walk past all the shops.
This most well known feature of this temple complex is the veranda of the main hall, which has great views of Kyoto. Though, I think more people take photos of people taking photos on the veranda.
I understand that not a single nail is used for any structure in the temple complex.....
Heading past the three story pagoda and down below the main hall is Otowa Waterfall. Drinking of the water from the waterfall is supposed to bring good health and a long life.
So of course the Missus had to partake!
Heading back down the mountain, you'll notice some steps and a sign to your right, this leads to Sannenzaka, then Nannenzaka. Two well preserved neighborhoods.
This was one of the most pleasant walks we had on our trip. It was early, with few tourists, so you could really enjoy the restored structures. It felt like a trip back in time.
We took a break at a little shop near Yasaka Pagoda and Kodai-ji Temple.
The coffee....all pour over, was great and restorative. We made plans for what we'd do on our next leg. It was nice respite.
We'd head up to Maruyama Park and Chion-in Temple.
Somehow, we got a little of course and ended up at Higashi Otani Honganji. There was a large service going on.....
As we righted our course and headed toward Maruyama Park, we could hear country and western music playing.....the singing was of course, in Japanese. Apparently there was a Country and Western Music Festival close by....it was just another one of those strange and rather surreal moments.
Past the park is Chion-in Temple, which was going though some major restoration at the time of our visit.
By now we were "hitting the wall". We'd seen the places we really wanted to see and temple fatigue was setting in. It was time to change our focus.....so we headed bacl to the machiya to freshen up...and then off to lunch.
We had decided on a ramen shop I had heard off named Karako. The address 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho was a bit difficult, but it looked like it was right on Higashioji-dori....which is kind of where we found the place.
We were the first customers to arrive and the older gentleman pointed to some seats at the end of the counter.
We quickly placed our order and he spoke the only English I heard our whole time there, pointing to the hijiki, tofu, and green salad on the counter he said, "helpu you self....."
The prices were very reasonable - ¥650 for the Kotteri Ramen.
The chashu was wonderful, full of flavor, just melt in you mouth delicious. The noodles were fine, just chewy enough. In spite of being "kotteri", as in extra rich, the broth really lacked the tongue coating texture and the richness in flavor I enjoy. This was my least favorite bowl of ramen during our trip.
The Missus got the Chashu Rice Bowl ¥320 - which had the wonderful chashu.
The one item which was a total surprise was the karaage. It has got to be one of the best I've ever had.
Light and crisp, moist and succulent, with wonderful flavor, a touch of ginger, slightly sweet, shoyu tones, and something else.....deep and savory. And a bargain at ¥500 - like five bucks!
This was just fantastic fried chicken......probably worth a side trip to Kyoto!
A few minutes after we sat, folks started streaming in. The older gentleman ordered the special, which was a bowl of ramen, a bowl of rice, and chicken....which turned out to be an entire order...five pieces for ¥880!
We kept watching to see how he heck he was going to finish his food...well, he's got his own system down. He ate the ramen and took the rice and chicken to go!
We actually tried to return to Karako the next day, but they were closed.....bummer. But hey, next time we know what to order, don't we? As in this old saying.
Karako 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho Kyoto
There was of course, a requisite short nap after this lunch, so we headed back. Little did we know that we'd be having another wonderful experience for dinner.