I hadn't been down to National City in a while, at least it seemed that way. So this past weekend I headed down with no real plans, I actually was taking one of my scenic drives....you might like evergreens, giant redwoods, an ocean view.......for me, well, it's seeing a new turo-turo shop and the smell of sisig in the morning!
This one was a surprise; I was taking the 8th Street drive from the 5 and was shocked to see Conching was gone! After how many years? It was now something called Erlinda's Filipino Cuisine and Ice Cream Parlor.
Well, the interior looked the same, the food looked the same.......I decided to have a two item combo.
Now, I've cut down severely on my rice intake in recent years. I even asked them to go easy on the garlic rice....I didn't need too much. I guess this is going easy on the rice?
In retrospect, I should have just gotten pancit or nothing at all since the rice was terrible; mushy, the garlic burnt and bitter, and in dire need of seasoning.......
As you can see; it was pork adobo and sisig.
Once upon a time, Conching made one of my favorite versions of sisig, though it was terrible and disappointing the last time I had it. This version was good, not as good as the best I've had at Conching, but it was pretty close...it was still on the mushy side, but at least there was enough sour-salt-spice to make it enjoyable.
The adobo needed more vinegar and black pepper flavor and a ton less sodium as it was unpleasantly salty. In terms of texture it was fine, a couple of tough pieces, but adequately tender. It was just much too salty.....
I haven't been a real regular at Conching's over the years so I'm not sure if the cooks and staff are the same....based on the sisig, I'd venture that some if not most of the folks here are still the same Conching folks.
Anyway, there you have it....... RIP Conching.
Erlinda's Filipino Cuisine & Ice Cream Parlor 3400 E 8th St.Ste 115 National City, CA 91950
Man, the last two weeks have been brutal....call me a soft San Diegan, but I've been feeling the heat and humidity. I told Cathy that I wish it would just storm like crazy so this weather would break. No such luck so far!
Well, regardless of the weather, you've got to eat, right? So here's some of what we had during the last two weeks.
It had been a while and I was craving some Ebi Kakiage cold noodles, so Izakaya Sakura it was.
This time it was the cold udon version, which hit the spot.
This really hit the spot!
Though I could have done without having to listen to Wilson Phillips Greatest Hits throughout my meal....
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
The Original Sab E Lee:
Spicy Thai food is a natural for us during hot muggy weather.....not sure why.
A quick look at the steam table made selecting what I wanted easy.
The Beef Mechado was much more tender than the last time I had it. The flavor was also better, much more tangy flavor and decent salt. It was on the greasy side though.
The sisig was not bad; nice pungent, sour, spice, salt..... would have been nice to have a bit of crispness in it since it was typical "SD Sisig", left-over lechon kawale. But overall; no complaints, better than I've had recently.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Champions Mariscos Truck:
So, just as in the previous four weeks, I broke out the smoker during Labor Day weekend. I needed something fairly close by before I started the ribs, so I headed over to Champions Mariscos Truck in the parking lot of Toys R' Us on Morena.
Consomme might seem to be a bit much on a scortching day, but I can never turn it down. This was a bit too water for my taste, with a bit too much celery flavor. Not as good as my previous visits.
I went with the Arrachera y Camaron...the surf and turf taco. Not enough caramelization on the beef, but it was decently tender. The shrimp were moist and flavorful.
I decided to go with the Taco de Marlyn again.
Man, they really loaded this thing! Unlike my previous visit, it didn't seem to have too much queso...perhaps due to the amount of filling! All this "stuff" seemed to water down the flavor of the smoked fish though....but this wasn't too bad.
Champions Mariscos Truck - In the parking lot of Toys 'R Us on Morena Boulevard
So there you go....we may be overheatin', but we're still eatin'. Hope everyone is staying and keeping cool!
Everybody know's Tita's right? I mean, really, it's an establishment here in San Diego. Cynthia "aka" Tita, has created a little kingdom for herself here in San Diego, now with a couple of places on Plaza Boulevard. Many folks, myself included brave the crowds to stand in line and pick out the "turo turo" favorites from the ever replenished steam table, beef mechado, adobo, tortang talong..... As I mentioned in my first post back in 2005 and other posts, I've yet to be able to polish off an entire plate from the place in a single sitting. The portions are huge and in terms of value, it's good. But over the years, I've been going less and less. The lousy attitude of the workers, in addition to not really going after quantity anymore, means that I really haven't gotten a meal there in quite a while.
Now this is with a couple of caveats. My good friend MG will get me lunch from there once in a while. Also, I dropped by looking for sisig as I mentioned in this post. Why sisig? Well, my recollection was that Tita's sisig just wasn't very good. In fact, when FOY (Friend of Yoso) and fellow food blogger Kirbie did a post about Tita's which included the sisig in 2009, "MrM"(I hope you're doing well) and myself commented on how bad the sisig was at Tita's. To me it just wasn't the thing you ordered there. And yet.......Tita's was on one of those food shows and the sisig there blew up....suddenly, folks were saying how good it was. At first I was kind of irked because changing the recipe for the purpose of publicity is basically admitting that you knew your sisig wasn't very good all these years and you did nothing about it. Whatevers. The strange thing about the lousy service at Tita's.....I'm glad I don't speak Tagalog, because the body language and facial expressions of some of the workers makes me really happy to not understand what they're saying...on the other hand, I've met "Tita" a couple of times and she was the nicest person. Go figure.....
So I finally hit paydirt a couple of weeks ago and actually got sisig. First I need to clear some things up. If someone got off the plane from Pampanga this morning and hit up a couple spots for sisig in San Diego, they' be wondering "what the heck?" What we have here is basically use of leftover lechon kawale, not the delici-yoso pig head and parts that make up traditional sisig. Still, when done well, it's porky goodness.
The photo above in a nutshell goes a long way in explaining Tita's popularity. You can easily feed two, or maybe two and a half with this $7 plate of food.
I chose the pork adobo because it just came out of the kitchen and was steaming hot. It was decent, sour enough, salty, not overly tough, especially at this price point. Maybe lacking in the black pepper department a bit.
The sisig on the other hand was as bad as the version I had in 2002, except not as soupy.
Not enough salt, sour, spice, very waxy and greasy in texture. All the benefits of using leftover lechon kawale lost in it's sogginess. Throw in the below lukewarm temperature and this just wasn't my thing. Which has me scratching my head....this can't be what folks have been raving about since Andrew Zimmern "tweeted" about it - "Tita's sisig, best I have ever tasted . San Diego Philippine food is crazy good".
You want bang-for-the-buck to feed your starving student, Tita's is it. You want good sisig? If this is an indication, I don't think Tita's is it. There are a good number of dishes they do make which are better.... I'm wondering if they still make the pancit palabok to order?
Tita's Kitchenette 2720 East Plaza Boulevard National City, CA 91950
Here's more steam table goodness for your Thursday.
R & B Filipino Cuisine:
Being kind of off the beaten track, it's easy to forgot about R&B. One weekend I was driving around Mira Mesa and R&B suddenly came to mind. Not sure why....but it was enough for me to take that right turn on Camino Ruiz......
They were doing pretty good business when I arrived. Taking a quick glance at what was available, it was easy to make a decision.
The beef steak (bistek) had just come out and I recalled that I'd had the tapas on a previous visit and didn't think it was too bad. The meat was pretty tender considering it was pretty low grade round or sirloin. It was too salty for my taste and whatever citrus they had in this really didn't help balance things out. The worst was the flavor I can only describe as "scummy", that weird almost offal-blood like flavor of low grade meat cooked in its own scum.
I also got the sisig (duh), which was nicely flavored, decent vinegar and heat. It was just a bit too bitter and mushy, but not bad overall.
The folks here looked pretty beat on this day, but they were nice enough. I still haven't run into the hamonado my friend's husband recommends, so hopefully one day.
R & B Filipino Cuisine 11257 Camino Ruiz San Diego, CA 92126
Manila Fast Food and Desserts:
I can say with some confidence that Manila Fast Food is probably the busiest of the turo turo joints in the area. Being near Seafood City helps, there are always people in the place, which makes for decent turnover. Looking over things I went with the sisig and beef mechado, easy picks. Though they had just brought out the lechon, which I've had mixed success with here. After talking to Kirbie about her rather recent experiences with the lechon here.....I probably made the right choice.
The Beef Mechado was very mild, but at least it wasn't too salty. The stew quality beef was pretty tough. Overall, it could have used a bit more flavor, perhaps a bit of al onger cooking time.
I've always thought the sisig at MFF had a decent balance of flavor, the sour-salty-spicy. My problem was how watery, mushy, and waxy the whole deal was. Well, no complaints about texture this time around. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a trade off with regards to flavor. The usual bright tones of the dish, especially the spice was now AWOL. I guess you have to choose between flavor and texture with regards to MFFs sisig?
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Thanks for reading. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!
Over the course of the last twelve weeks I managed to revisit a couple of turo turo places, which I'll post on over the next few weeks. Actually, I dropped by Tita's twice during this period, but they didn't have any sisig, so I decided not to wait in those massive lines. I've heard that they actually changed the sisig recipe when AZ(not you "AZ", the other AZ) visited; I always thought the sisig there was terrible. So it took a television thing to get them to make a better product? I guess even they knew their sisig wasn't up to par..... Well enough of that. Here's enough saturated fat for a week or so.
There was a time not too long ago, when I thought that Conching made some of the best turo turo sisig in San Diego. As of a couple of years ago, I felt that the sisig had slipped a bit. It just wasn't as good. Those thought were percolating in mi cabeza as I parked.
No matter how many times I visit, walking to the turo turo ("point point", a reference to steam table cuisine) counter, I can't help but be amused at the ice cream parlor look. Someone asked me to describe the interior once and the best I could come up with was "Farrell's meets patis". Because I had just come from the long lines and cold stares at Tita's, the stark emptiness of the place really made an impression. There were no other customers during my entire meal.
Looking over the steam table items, I saw something I never recalled seeing before, so I ordered it.
I guess it's the purple tinted red color that got me...plus this had slices of pork belly in it. Well, even more than the color, catching a whiff of it as I brought this to my table really got my nares out of the morning doldrums. I actually liked this; it was salty, in a good way, very savory, obviously from a good amount of bagoong alamang. It was also fairly spicy, a rarity in most Filipino dishes that I've had....the possible exception being bicol express and some versions of sisig. Still, I didn't know what the heck this was and the woman behind the counter wasn't in a particularly chatty mood, so I took a photo and sent it to my former coworker "MG". Who informed me that this was a dish with the catchy name of Binagoongang Baboy. The combination of pungent bagoong, garlic, chilies, tomato, and green bell peppers, adds up to salty-savory,tangy,spicy, and pretty delicious in my book. I have another dish to be on the look-out for in the future.
Of course I had the sisig.
Which was disappointing. Oh how the mighty has fallen. This was soggy, lacked vinegar, and had rather unpleasant bitterness to it.
On a positive note, I have a new dish to look out for. On the flip side, it seems that the sisig here has gone downhill. I asked MG when I saw her a couple of weeks later. She told me that the food at Conching hasn't been very good for the last six-eight months. Sad.
Conching's Cafe 3400 E 8th St.Ste 115 National City, CA 91950
Over the two years or so, my rice intake has really decreased. I'm not so sure if it's age, environment, or what. These days, Da' Boyz are the biggest consumers of rice in the household. It used to be that when we were on vacation, I'd be missing rice after a couple of days....but this time... nada. In fact, the Missus specifically asked me a couple of times if I was missing rice, and strangely I wasn't. And as a matter of fact, it wasn't rice that I was missing. So was rice still nice? After a couple of weeks, I had ample time to see with some revisits:
I hadn't been back around these parts since last year. The plate lunches here are still pretty much a bargain at around $6 - $6.50. And Mo will always try to make what you want. Even though it isn't on the menu per se, I wanted a Chicken Cutlet.....
Basically a chicken katsu plate with gravy....there's a whole scoop of...yes, rice under that chicken and gravy. It did hit the spot, though I wasn't able to finish it off. An acquaintance of mine just can't figure out why I like this..... the main issue being the chicken starts getting soggy under the gravy. Of course this person loves chicken katsudon??? Go figure....
The one complaint I may have about the plate is the mac salad.... I still think Mo needs to add more salt to it.... it's kind of bland for my taste.
Homestyle Hawaiian Island Style Food 7524 Mesa College Drive San Diego, CA 92111
Point Point Joint:
When you're in need a rice fix, one usually never needs to look further than a good old Filipino "turo-turo" (point-point) joint. And where better to go then a place actually named point-point joint, right? Actually, I wasn't intending a visit to PPJ...... earlier in the weekend, my good FOY (friend of yoso) TammyC just happened to mention sisig, which suddenly had me craving it. I initially went to Conching's since I really like their sisig. TammyC and I always joke about buying a tray of sisig for one of our potlucks, but we're afraid that we'd be the only ones who'll eat the stuff, which is not necessarily a good thing. You'll die with a smile on your face though! Anyway, Conching didn't have any sisig, and what they had looked terribly greasy on this day. I hadn't been to Point-Point in a couple of years, so I thought I'd drop by.
It had been about four years, but not much has changed. Seven bucks got me a huge plate of rice, three scoops of sisig, ginisang ampalaya thoughtfully put into a separate container, since I told the friendly woman (and surprised I order this, "OOOoooh, you like this?") I obviously wouldn't be able to finish off the whole thing. Along with the freebie sinigang.....
The lechon kawale used for the sisig had almost a jerky-like texture, I'm fairly certain it was fried twice. Not necessarily a bad thing since it didn't get soggy. I'd prefer it a bit more crisp.
There was a good ratio of pork to onions, but the flavor was very mild. I enjoy a more bracing sisig; a stronger vinegar flavor and more spice. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
The bittermelon was strange.......
Both oily and bland, a strange adjective to use when a dish uses bittermelon. The bittermelon wasn't very strong in flavor, which sometimes is a plus. But in this case the dish had almost no flavor, too much "soup", and a oiliness that coated your tongue in a rather unpleasant way.
The sinigang at PPJ has always been pretty good. The Missus used to want this when She wasn't feeling well. This wasn't bad, but it had almost a pure vinegar flavor... almost like the vinegar hadn't been simmered.
Point-Point Restaurant 916 East 8th St National City, CA 91950
I guess in the end, rice is still nice (I'm sure you'll enjoy that AZ)..... I just don't have the capacity, nor crave it quite as much anymore....which may not be a bad thing.
Back in August I did a short post, noting that Eddels inside of Vinh Hung Market had changed ownership and was now named Chibugan. I recently finally got around to visiting Chibugan.
I did notice that the place had been cleaned-up a bit. Doors had been installed in the interior entrance, and the place has been painted a bright orange.
This place is a typical"turo-turo" (steam table) joint, featuring items like Pork and Chicken "BBQ", and a few desserts. Another big difference is the woman who works the front counter, who is a bit different from the the previous staff who were friendly and loquacious. She's more quiet and serious, and perhaps a bit more cautious. Not good or bad, just different.
The two item combo, with steamed rice rings in at $5.99. the portions aren't "Tita'ssized" but are adequate.
Looking over the steam-table I made my choices, which ended up being pretty predictable. Sisig was one of choices of course.
For me, this wasn't a very pleasant Sisig. First, as you can clearly see, there was a ton of ginger, which overwhelmed most of the flavors, in a dish that's usually packed with sour, salty, and spicy notes. Second, the pork was much too waxy, and in this type of Sisig, I'd have enjoyed having some crisp pork skin which would have added a nice one-two crunch with the onions. The Sisig was also ice cold, which made it seem much more greasy.
The second item was something that I'd strangely never had before, Goat Adobo (Adobong Kambing):
This was pretty good, the chunks of goat was moist and tender. There was a hint of black pepper, but it didn't over-power the dish. In fact, this was pretty low on the salty-scale for Adobo, but not in a bad way. I did enjoy it.
Which gave me enough reason to return. The woman working the front counter, saw me entering, and told me "today this is the goat dish" while pointing at one of the trays. She had remembered me..... I guess I'm now the "goat guy".
Kaldereta was what she was pointing to. Which was one of the items I got.
This was a pretty mediocre version of Kaldereta; there were mostly bones in what I got, almost no meat. The goat flavor was too mild, and with the huge amount of tomato used to flavor this dish, it was almost like eating bony Filipino Menudo. Which was kind of a bummer, since I paired this with...... yes Menudo.
Fairly mediocre as well; fairly bland, an adjective I rarely use when describing Filipino dishes. The meat was dry and tasteless....... in fact just about the only thing that stood out in this dish was pervading taste of tomato sauce.
Back in 2008, "Maribelle" left a comment on my April 2006 post on Manila Fast Food informing me that this very popular "turo-turo" shop had come under new ownership. I made a note in my black book, and kinda just forgot about the place for a while, Until reading Kirbie Cravings post a couple of months ago. So a few weeks back, finding myself in the area, I found myself back at the strip mall which houses Seafood City.
And I gotta say, the place is as busy as ever. And it seemed that for every Filipino in the place, there was someone of another ethnicity in line.
The tocino and lechon kawale looked good, so I purchased a two item combo with those two pork items.
The Lechon Kawale, the wonderful simmered than fried pork belly dish looked great.
As with Lechon Kawale, whether at Pinoy Fiesta, Tita's, or Point Point Joint timing is important, so I nowadays, I never set my heart on Lechon Kawale when going somewhere. I wait until I arrive, and if the Lechon looks nice and fresh, I'll get it. This looked good, but the skin was too hard and chewy, and the fat was waxy and greasy, instead of silken and gelatinous. The Lechon sauce was fine, but a bit too sweet for my tastes.
The tocino was hard (even for tocino), and pretty bland. Not the best I've had. All in all, not quite as good as I've previously. So of course, I wasn't about to leave it at that, and returned a few weeks later. This time, there was a full complement of dishes available, and I ordered what looked good.
One of the dishes I quickly pointed to was the Kaldereta (basically a spicy stewed goat dish), one of my favorites. As the young lady started scooping up the Kaldereta, the young lady behind her yelled out, "hey, wait..." and looking straight at me said, "that is goat you know." I found the young lady's reluctance to serve me the Kaldereta strange since I made it a point to wear my "Kaldereta gear":
After pointing to my t-shirt, and telling her that I love goat, she added, "hey, you know it's spicy...." I can sort of understand her reluctance, especially since it seems that the customer base is much more diverse now, I'm wondering how many folks have bought the Kaldereta, and once getting a whiff of the branch chain fatty acids produced by the rumen of sheep and lamb, combined with the thymol stored in the fat might have freaked out a bit.
This was very good, the meat was tender and moist, very gamy, mild spice, and well flavored. It was perhaps over stewed as the potatoes had melted away, but that didn't bother me at all.
I always thought the Sisig on my previous visits had a decent sour and spicy flavor, but was always a bit too wet. And indeed it did look a bit wet on the steam table, but I decided to have it anyway.
Wow, this was waaaay to soupy. I did think the flavor was good though, a nice amount of sour and decent spiciness. In my opinion, if you combined the flavor of the Sisig at Manila Fast Food with the texture from Betchays, you'd have some pretty good Sisig on your hands.
And of course, there's still Crispy Pata ($11.99)..... well, maybe next time!
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
It's Thursday, which means it is time for another installment of "Turo-Turo" (point-point) Thursday. In these posts, I'm checking out these little mom-and-pop shops serving what I call "Filipino soul food". You can almost always count on generous portions, and most of the dishes served will without a doubt stick to your ribs. Taking a different approach, I'm just trying out places outside the National City-Chula Vista area. And Betchay's in Rancho Penasquitos is about as far away from there as you can imagine. Located in the huge shopping complex off Black Mountain Road, Betchay's can be kind of difficult to find.
Whenever I visit, I always chuckle. One of the signs for Betchay's overlaps the front of the pet store next door. I'm sure this must cause some customers(and employess) a bit of consternation????
Still, the folks here, are very, very, nice. One young man in particular, is so friendly, polite, and helpful, that I just think he's amazing. In fact, he always asks me if I want some Sinigang with my plates, something that is a request item at most turo-turo joints.
If you asked me if free Sinigang tastes better, I'd say yes without hesitation!
So here's a summary of a couple of items I've had over the last couple months (years?).
There's no way I'd pass up Sisig at anywhere if I hadn't sampled it before. And Betchay's is no exception. In fact fellow pork lovers, I've just created a category for Sisig, for your heart-stopping, artery clogging, enjoyment.
The version here has a good texture, the lechon kawale is still crisp, and it's not drowned in "juice". It does a lack the nice sour punch, and for my tastes is a bit low on the heat scale. It is decent overall.
The Pork Adobo.....
The texture was good, the meat tender. It had enough salt, but was lacking in all the other categories. It was also super oily, and not in the "fei ur bu ni"(rich without greasy way). If you're a frequent reader of my posts, I don't think I'm a shrinking violet when it comes to oil, but man this was just too much........
There are also Chicken Wings, 3 pieces for $2.25:
This should probably not sit under a heat lamp, as they were soggy and greasy. Also short on the flavor scale as well.
On one of my visits I got my combo-plate with pancit instead of rice, and enjoyed it. More "al dente" than most places, and mostly just noodles, but served as a starch, it does just fine.
As you notice above, I ordered Tocino. And on this day, the Tocino was excellent. Tocino originally is a cured pork dish, so it should be a bit chewy. This version had the perfect amount of chew for me. It was not overly dry, and had a perfect ratio of salty to sweet for my taste.
If you've been to Betchay's, you know that I've only scratched the surface. With the nice service I've had, it's really easy to like the place. On one visit, which was in the morning, I was filling up my soda, when one of the young ladies in the back, leaned out the service window. Not knowing I was there, she started singing in a very sweet voice. When she saw me, she immediately stopped, and gave me an embarassed look. I turned, and gave her a thumbs up, and she gave me the brightest smile.
It's easy to like places like that.....
Betchay's Pancit Lumpia & Grill 13223 Black Mountain Rd San Diego, CA 92129