Ed (from Yuma) shares a fancy omakase dinner with Tina – and now with you, dear reader. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will share something different.
It was a dark and stormy night, after a dark and stormy drive over to San Diego, so Tina and I were happy to walk into the clean well lighted space that is Kokoro (website). We'd made an early reservation so Ishito-san had no other customers at the bar when we arrived:
Both Kirk and I have posted about omakase experiences here, so Tina and I wanted the top-of-the-line omakase and ordered it three days in advance.
The meal started with a simple looking mushroom appetizer – enoki and sliced oyster mushrooms in beautiful little bowls:
That pic doesn’t show much food, but the shrooms were lightly sauced and had an earthy/woodsy flavor. Nice modest beginning.
Then bowls showed up with a large oyster cut into three pieces, flanked by little pieces of dark seaweed, and topped with a blast of ginger:
The concentrated flavor of the ocean.
About this time I ordered 6 oz Kikusui sake:
It was cold, smooth, and altogether pleasant.
Our sashimi plate was a thing of beauty:
The maguro was exceptional and deeply flavored. The uni was good, of course, and the tako had a nice balance between flavor and chewiness. Even the scallop, which was pretty bland really, tasted fresh and tender. I should add that the wasabi was quality as well, hot spicy with bits of real wasabi throughout.
Here's another view of the plate:
Ishito-san was proud of the white fish selection. "Five different fish, all different flavor and texture." The hamachi was what you'd expect, fresh tasting, firm, and rich. The hirame (right behind the octopus) had firmer texture and deeper richer flavor than expected. I'm pretty sure that the slices were endawa, dorsal fin muscle, which I have not had since Wal Mi Do closed. Both Tina and I enjoyed the range of flavors, textures, and richness among the five.
The last item on the platter was maybe the most amazing of all:
I have never had or seen two toned tuna before. And yeah, real good and real rich.
It was time for a change of pace, so we were pleased to see a small covered bowl set in front of each of us:
Inside was a deceptively simple looking clear broth soup:
The cube was a piece of crab and seafood cake, mild and tender. The green herb was very strong flavored and contrasted nicely with the cake. But the key to the whole dish is the thin golden brown oval on the bottom of the bowl – a slice of bottarga – salted, cured, pressed, and aged mullet caviar. When you bite into it, it dissolves into a myriad of minuscule fish eggs.
The next course was one of our favorites, a complex autumn/winter stew that seemed perfect for a rainy evening:
The two main ingredients were pieces of crunchy fried fish and thick succulent tender slices of beautifully braised daikon. They were accompanied by gobo root matchsticks, fried slices of lotus root, a couple of candlenuts, and a few salmon eggs. The flavors, textures, and colors of the stew made this a big winner for both of us.
At this time, our hashi were replaced with new ones. “Why?” crossed my mind briefly, and then an amazing beef salad was set before us:
The steak was exceptionally tender, deeply flavored, and rich. The greens with their fresh and sometimes bitter flavors provided contrast. And the yuzu based steak sauce/salad dressing went with both, its tang balancing the rich meat. "That's wagyu beef from Japan,” Ishito san said, “Grade A5, the best." We believed him. It was good.
Then Tina and I each got a couple slices of fried monkfish accompanied by ponzu:
Okay, but not especially memorable.
The sushi course was the last savory part of the meal. It looked pretty ordinary:
However, it was quite good. The anago was sprinkled with coarse salt and was fresh and meaty tasting. The saba had been lightly cured so we could taste real mackerel flavor. The unusually large ebi, never a favorite sushi of mine, was wonderful here. We were told to use no shoyu, which seemed odd, but the shrimp were so fresh, meaty, and sweet that Ishito san wanted nothing to mask that taste.
The meal concluded with a choice of Italian style ice creams or sorbet. Tina loved her raisin and vanilla bean ice cream:
And I was blown away by the green apple sorbet:
Overall a great meal.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr. Ste. B, San Diego, CA 92123, (858) 565-4113
Was in San Diego recently so I'm writing about some SD meals today. Kirk or Cathy will write about some meals tomorrow. That's how we roll.
Regular readers of mmm-yoso have already heard about these places, so I will link to other posts and try to keep my comments simple and short.
Buga. Coming into town I got stuck in a traffic jam on I8 near Alpine caused by a burning truck, so when I finally got to town I wanted to go to someplace easy to find with a large parking lot that could dish up something cool and refreshing. I was tired and ravenous when I pulled into Buga. So tired and ravenous that I forgot my camera. The pan chan were fine, the bulgogi meh, and the cold noodle soup really good.
Village Kitchen. The recent opening of a few regional Chinese restaurants in San Diego seems like a good trend. Not sure which one to try, I ended up at Village Kitchen. As a gringo (is there a Chinese equivalent?), I appreciated the order sheet along with the menu that pictured every dish. Made things simpler and reduced chances of mistakes:
Of course I had to have the mashed eggplant, green chili, and century egg:
That mortar and pestle are huge. This was a lot of food. Describing the flavor is almost impossible. But I’ll ty anyway – intense, earthy umami. Love at first bite. Here's a more detailed picture:
The century eggs are the black things. The mashed eggplant just seems to suck up flavors from the mild green chilies and those stinky eggs. Amazing weird good.
I also tried the Chinese pickle, chopped bamboo shoot, and ground pork:
I like all of those ingredients, and the dish had an interesting flavor profile as well. However, it lacked the power of the eggplant mash. And the finely chopped ingredients along with the ground pork were a challenge for my American chopstick skills. I took most of it to go.
Kokoro has become a regular go-to spot for me in San Diego:
The parking lot has plenty of spaces, and the restaurant is not crowded. I really enjoy the low key ambience, the friendly service, and the easy jazz playing in the background. I ordered the very basic sashimi lunch:
The tuna was surprisingly good, and the other three were all decent. As ordinary as this lunch was, Yuma has no place I can count on getting sashimi that I will like, so I was happy. The lunch came with okay miso soup, rice, and these excellent pickles:
Boiling Passion had a totally different ambience. Hip-hop videos were playing on the flat screen TV in the clean well lighted place:
Not only was I the only non-Asian in the restaurant, I was a good 30 years older than anyone else. However, the energetic and friendly server went out of her way to assist me. For example she explained the difference between the three dipping sauces provided - bean paste garlic soy and hot chili oil - and also suggested the proportions to mix together in the small leaf shaped saucer:
Since I had ordered the seafood hotplate with noodles instead of rice, dry cellophane noodles arrived first, and I was told to let them cook for a couple minutes in the hot pot:
Then the hot pot showed up and soon was bubbling and steaming:
Overall I loved it. The broth was rich and flavorful and improved as the items cooked. I was a little surprised by the beef in a seafood hot pot, but the meat added flavor and tasted good. I liked the fish balls and shrimp balls, and I've quit complaining about krab in a reasonably priced meal. The two or three little clams were okay as were the two pieces of squid. Only the shrimp, which had a mushy texture, disappointed. I would certainly return and would love to try some different hot pots.
So far, my trip was going great. The weather was gorgeous (78° at the beach), and I was eating well. I was also looking forward to Wednesday when I would have a simple lunch at Sakura and then dinner with Kirk and Cathy at Prime – but that will have to wait for Part 2.
We took a short nap after our poutine lunch. It was pretty warm in Vancouver and the sun didn't set until 9pm, so having dinner fairly late (for us) sounded like a great idea. Upon waking and freshening up, we decided to take the long way to dinner. So we headed Southeast on Robson, then down Richards, and back onto Georgia, where we came across this impressive structure.
This is the Vancouver Public Library. I loved the distinctive design. From here we took a left down Cambie Street, the neighborhood started looking a bit more gritty, though still much cleaner than Seattle.
The main reason for walking down Cambie Street was to view the Gastown Steam Clock. I pointed to it as we headed down the street. At first the Missus said, "that's so puny, what's the big deal?" Until we walked up to it and She saw puffs of steam coming out of the top of the clock.
For some reason She was smitten as were a good number of tourists. This being "Gastown", the steam clock might seem to be a remnant of some bygone era. This was actually built in 1977. Gastown much like Pioneer Square in Seattle is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It has all of the kinds of things that these type of neighborhoods have; tourist shops, boutiques, bars, restaurants, and a good number of homeless. Still, the Missus really enjoyed the character of this neighborhood and we'd return to visit Kit and Ace and Lululemon....and even walk down Alexander to the Alibi Room. But that's for another day.
We walked to the waterfront, the views were quite nice, the air clean and crisp. Looking away from the water, here's a photo of Harbour Centre.
I had made reservations for dinner at Miku and we were trying to find the entrance. There was quite a bit of construction going on and the signs pointing to Miku lead to a locked door. A nice young man saw us and asked, "are you looking for Miku?" How the heck did he know? Anyway, he provided some directions and we found ourselves at the quite busy Miku Restaurant.
I gave my name to the hostess at the stand, who looked, frowned, and asked us to wait a second. A few minutes later, a very nice young man came up to us, and introduced himself as Kevin. I believe he was managing the front of house. He was so pleasant, shook our hands, then told us that they'd missed something on our reservations. I'd requested their kaiseki dinner when making reservations and immediately had reservations about doing so. Kevin explained that they would do the best they could to put together something for us, but I told him not to worry, we'd be perfectly happy ordering from the menu. He smiled and said, "great......I'll make sure that you both get one of the best tables we have!"
I saw this fellow waiting for his mom or dad outside Miku while we waited for our table to be prepped.
Poor guy. Folks kept taking photos or trying to comfort him, but he wanted nothing except his owners. He was adorable.
We loved the view from our table.
In case you're wondering if Miku was one of these touristy, overly fusion, pan-Asian, type restaurants.....you might be partially right. You see Miku is owned by the Tora Corporation headquartered in Miyazaki, Japan. I believe they own a number of Kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) and Aburi/Oshizushi type restaurants in the Miyazaki area. I was quite intrigued by a aplce specializing in aburizushi. I've had a nigiri or two of aburi sushi at a number of places, including Urasawa, though in most American style sushi joints it's kind of a gimmick.
Anyway, we were on vacation...in Vancouver....it was time to relax and have a cocktail....or two.
There were a few interesting custom cocktails along with some standards like a Moscow Mule and Pisco Sours...which I ordered. The Missus looked at me and told me to "not be so boring...." So I relented.
The Missus ordered the Genmai's Tea, which included green tea infused vodka and cucumber. It was fine, but nothing special. I ordered the Shiso Mojito which we both love....shiso was a natural for a mojito, as this tasted so clean.....it also seemed fairly low in alcohol as well. Delish!
We started with the Aburi Beef Carpaccio, which was everything we expected and more.
The torched beef was very beefy in flavor and the texture was fantastic. The sousvide egg added a wonderful creaminess and the yolk tasted delicious. Nice, not too sour ponzu, with a mild kick. The Missus felt that the baby greens was a bit of overkill, detracting from the overall flavors of the dish; though the Asian Pear added a nice mild sweetness and crunch, like in a good Yukhoe.
The Missus had never had Tori Nanban, which I thought was kind of strange....but thinking back, I usually order the stuff for lunch. So I decided to get that.
I was surprised at how much She enjoyed the rice vinegar tones and mild sweetness in this, though She could easily leave the tartar sauce out. The chicken was light and crisp outside, very tender and moist. I was told that they get their poultry from Fraser Valley Chicken in BC. Very nice.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Oshizushi on the menu at Miku. As I've mentioned before, oshizushi is a bit of a specialty. There are three aburi versions here at Miku; Salmon, Ebi, and Saba. Now for me, Battera is the classic pressed sushi. The Missus isn't the biggest fan of saba as in most places it's oily and fishy....though for some strange reason She loves sardines and some anchovy. I convinced the Missus to try the saba version and am glad we did.
The prepared rice was pressed well, though it was rather mild in vinegar tones. The saba, which had cured inhouse and torched was really good, not too fishy, but with a nice cured-cheesy flavor to it. The torching provided a touch of pleasant smokiness. The miso sauce was nice, slightly sweet, savory, but not too salty.
By this time, I needed a drink. Kelsey, who was our Server was fantastic, efficient, pleasant, friendly, but not overly so, suggested something by a local brewery; Strange Fellows. The ale was very nice....the Missus actually loved this and we'd be getting their brews every chance we had.
We finished our meal with a foursome of aburi nigiri. Clockwise from the top left; Hotate (scallop), Wagyu, Toro, and Hirame.
All of the seafood was fantastic and the beef decadent. The one problem for us and since this is nigiri it was a major issue was the rice which was really mushy and formed with too much pressure......I'm figuring most folks wouldn't notice; but any nigiri lover would immediately pick that up. The hotate was tender and sweet, with the torching adding a wonderful touch of flavor. The hirame was very fresh, but the toro was just fantastic as it melted in your mouth as did the wagyu beef which was out of this world.
Night had settled in as we finished up our meal. We marveled at how the service and pacing here at Miku was just perfect for us. They struck the perfect balance in terms of service, friendliness, and made us feel very comfortable. Kelsey was quite knowledgeable and his recommendations, after asking us a few questions, were spot on.
And while Miku looks like one of those stylish-hip places, the food delivered, and the atmosphere was totally not stuffy.
There are times when you just have a great experience....where a place just seems like a perfect fit for you. Miku did that for us. In terms of price; our meal, including drinks came out to something like $115 US......which I thought was a bargain. I've spent more at Sushi Yaro for dinner! I'm sure we'll be back to Vancouver. And we will definitely be back to Miku.
Miku 200 Granville Street Suite 70 Vancouver, BC V6C 1S4, Canada
Man, it's been quite busy since we've returned from our (all too short) trip. I've had to work everyday, so I'm starting to feel it. So here's another one of those COMC posts of places you already know.
The Missus requested Village Kitchen a few nights before leaving for Lima.
We tried a couple of the newer dishes like the "Green Vegetable Cooked the Old Way", which, in spite of the preserved vegetables was very bland, and the Intestines with Chilies and Bamboo Flavor, which tasted really good, but I'd have preferred the intestines being a bit more crisp.
There's an interesting story about the folks here.....one day I might get around to sharing it.
Village Kitchen 4720 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Another favorite of the Missus, as long as they keep serving up the Som Tom Khai Kem; the papaya salad with Salted Egg, which the Missus pounced on so quickly, I never got the chance for a shot.
And the Spicy Thousand Year Old Eggs.
Another favorite of hers.
They actually had Roast Duck Larb on this visit.
Thai Papaya by Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
DW has been doing some great consulting work for us.....but she's from Missouri and had never had raw fish ever in her life. She does enjoy a bit of spice in her food and in spite of being terrified of some of the stuff I eat, is quite game....she had her first ramen that didn't come from a package a few weeks back, crawfish, raw oysters....but she was still terrified of raw fish. So I figured, since she loves rice, why not have same make her a Hwe Dup Bop. Knowing she was really nervous, he put the Makisu up around the prep area so she couldn't see anything, just to make her a bit more apprehensive.......you gotta love Sam!
Anyway, she really enjoyed her meal....though the look on her face when I had to explain what various things were....like masago; oh, and that cube thing was tofu. And that nice crunchy green vegetable was seaweed.
Aaah the things we take for granted. It's always nice to introduce folks to new experiences.
Kirk and Cathy are traveling, eating, doing important stuff, or maybe just resting today. So Ed (from Yuma) is posting about 3 meals (from San Diego).
I had to have some sushi. Just had to. Tina had memories of a good chirashi at Kokoro and its website said it would be open at lunchtime on Friday. And it was:
In addition to tables, Kokoro has an L shaped sushi bar that surrounds an elevated workstation and ingredient storage area, which I think helps executive chef Akio Ishito work more comfortably:
Although I don't remember it from before, the chirashi meal started off with a little lettuce and tomato salad:
The lettuces were very fresh, the tomato very ordinary, and the dressing seem to be based around rice wine vinegar, miso, and soy. Refreshing. Palate cleansing.
For soup, we were given the alternatives of miso or udon. So udon it was:
The noodles were perfectly cooked, toothsome and tender, but the soup overall was bland.
The chirashi looked beautiful:
Underneath the fish and friends, the sushi rice was faultless. The toppings presented a nice selection of sushi bar favorites, all good quality and offered good value at $19. We both liked the sizable slice of mackerel and the halibut (hirami), which was especially firm and fresh – in fact, much like the halibut crudo we would eat the next evening at the Wine Vault. We also liked the uni and shiso leaf pairing, and the surprisingly first-rate ebi, unusually meaty and flavorful. The hamachi also stood out. There were no bad tastes, though the slices of octopus and squid were exceeding thin. Overall, we enjoyed.
It had been a long time since Tina and I had been to any Korean restaurant. We weren’t looking for a smoke filled room or for cooking our own food, so we decided on Halmouny, where we’d always enjoyed our visits in the past:
We noticed they'd remodeled the interior, and we liked the changes – the place seemed cleaner, more modern, and more open:
A flagon of chilled water was brought to the table along with my beer:
A mysterious box on the table, when opened, contained stainless steel soup spoons and chopsticks – nice touch:
A funny thing happened. Tina and I started looking over the large menu, discussing things, and trying to figure out what we wanted. There were so many choices, and almost every one of them seemed inviting. Twice the friendly server came over and asked if we were ready, and we had to say no because we weren't. Then, when she came over the third time, we ordered two of the most standard dishes on the menu.
Soft tofu soup with vegetables:
And dolsit bibimbop:
I'm sure our server must have been laughing with her coworkers about the clueless gaijin taking so long to order such a simple basic meal.
But it was good. While the soup lacked a certain depth of flavor, it was certainly tasty, and the interplay between creamy tofu, spicy broth, and veggies and ‘shrooms was pleasant. The bibimbop was great comfort food. The simple meal was really what we wanted.
Though the ban chan was totally standard and uninspired, we enjoyed them. Here’s some items:
The dried radish was our favorite of those four. There was some baby bok choy and some other veggie that I can't remember, but our favorites were the regular kimchi:
and the wonderful dried tofu
For us, this dinner was, paradoxically, exotic comfort food.
For lunch on Saturday, we were looking Eastern Mediterranean, but La Miche Kabobgee is closed for lunch on Saturdays. We remembered seeing a large restaurant, Sufi, on Balboa not too far from Convoy that promised Mediterranean food. So that's where we went:
It is large, and at lunch, it serves a popular buffet:
Photographing the entire buffet was pretty much impossible as other customers were coming and going. Plus I was getting hungry, so this fuzzy shot shows just a small part of the available choices:
Tina's first plate looked like this:
She really liked the chicken and the fire roasted veggies (the big zucchini slice and the charred tomato half). She also enjoyed the garden salad with the feta dressing, and we both liked the Shirazi salad with chopped onion, cucumber, tomato, and parsley.
Here's my first plate:
For some reason, I chose three slices of sausages, which were okay, but not really unique or outstanding. The baba ghannouj was decent, and the hummus was creamy, but far from the best I've had in San Diego. The chicken wing was OK, the pickled beet excellent, and the beef kebab just okay. Tina and I both enjoyed the stewed zucchini.
At first, the breads were not ready, but soon we were able to get pita bread and Persian naan:
For me, the breads said a lot about Sufi. The pita bread was pitiful – cool, store-bought, and boring. The Persian bread, on the other hand, was warm, tasty, and probably homemade. But in some ways that is the essence of the restaurant. While it calls itself "Mediterranean," Sufi is really a Persian restaurant that serves some generic Lebanese food to broaden its customer base.
In fact, most of our favorites from the lunch were Persian, like this interesting pomegranate soup, a lentil soup with a distinct sour tang:
And the stews on my second plate:
I believe the one on the left is called fesenjoom, a chicken and pomegranate stew. On the right is ghormeh sabzi with a big chunk of tender beef covered in greens along with large dark red beans. The closest item is, I think, gheimeh, beef and yellow split peas. I have no idea about the green bean stew furthest away. In any case, these Persian stews were the most interesting items on the buffet, and I wished that I had focused on them right from the beginning.
Nonetheless, the buffet was interesting and we certainly got to eat all kinds of things we can't get out in the desert.
This little place is the "and more" in the title of the post. It's located right next to Sufi and looked promising, so Tina insisted we visit:
There was a bewildering array of Persian pastries:
So our late-night snack that evening consisted of these walnut or pistachio treats: We were expecting something like baklava, but these were different. The pastry was not fila and they were a little more savory and less sweet than baklava. Four years ago Cathy visited the same bakery and hinted that a post might be forthcoming. Hint hint.
Anyway, we enjoyed all three of these meals. None was spectacular, but each scratched an itch, and that's a good thing: too long in Yuma and I get awfully itchy.
It's time to Clear Out the Memory Card (COMC). It's been a few months since I did one of these. It's also a nice coincidence that two of my favorite places here in San Diego are Tadokoro and Taisho. If you check the Big List you'd see how many posts I've done on these places. So, here we're doing mainly photos.
It had been a while. It was nice chatting with Take-san.
For some reason the lighting gave me fits - that's Tai.
Kisu - which I believe is Whiting
My favorite Ankimo.
Sushi Tadokoro 2244 San Diego Ave San Diego, CA 92110
During one of our weekly "fixes" at Taisho.
Yakitori Taisho 5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92117
Man, it has been a tough week. I decided to give my self a break and headed over to Sushi Yaro. It had been a while. I arrived right at opening, so as not to tax Sam and the staff too much.
I simply told Sam, "can I just get 8 pieces of nigiri......you choose". This turned out to be quite a meal. It seems like Sam's recent trip to Japan has energized him a bit and he's trying a few new things.
Anyway, here are the photos.....
That Sunazuri Hamachi was really good.
At the end of the meal I saw Sam laughing to himself......he then passed this to me. Sheesh...what the heck... It was like a half piece of unagi. I put my chopsticks next to for scale.
Apparently one of Sam's sushi stops in Tokyo made something like this.......
Needless to say; this was a very nice meal and it really hit the spot. Sam needs to take trips more often I think!
It was nice of some of you to notice that out 10th year "blogga-versary" came and went back in May. I guess we'd celebrate....but it seems that we're never home and I kinda stopped all that stuff a few years back. I did notice however that we were coming up to post #3000 soon. Considering that I started this little blog with no objective in mind....it was the suggestion of Reid from Ono Kine Grindz (we miss you man). His blog really hit home for an expat Kama'aina....the things I missed, the food mainly. So I just started typing...and we haven't stopped since.
With that milestone in sight, I decided to finish something I started back at the end of 2012....yes, 2012. I call it the "Big List". It's a listing of all the restaurants (I might have missed a few) that we've done posts on going back to the beginning. I completed it a few weeks ago. It's an interesting list and you can find it under pages on our sidebar. I've also included photos that were sitting around in folders that for some reason I forgot to delete, or have posted only to my Flickr account. For me, it's the listing of places that have closed (at the bottom) that brings back a nostalgic feeling..... Thanks to the folks who have already noticed it and commented. Please check it out and let me know what you think. I'll try to create pages for our travels as well.
I can't go further without thanking Cathy and Ed from Yuma. Without their help, this blog would not exist. It is as much their blog as mine. Much has changed over the years; social media and instant delivery (and gratification) has taken over....we just keep chugging along. Just think, we started in 2005; the first iPhone was released in 2007, Twitter was launched in 2006, remember MySpace?
Anyway, I decided to celebrate and went to Sushi Yaro and had some sashimi.
This is after all, still a food blog.
I'm not sure if anyone has been with us since the beginning, but a really warm mahalo to you if you've been here all these years.
And just to go off on one of my usual digressions, Sammy and Frankie have been along for the ride the entire way. And this gets me thinking about when they first became part of the family.
As always....thanks so much for visiting, reading, and commenting....all these years!