mmm-yoso!!! is a food blog and Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy are the ones who usually do the blogging. Really, Kirk is the usual one. Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy help out when Kirk is busy. Today, it is one of those days and Cathy is writing.
Santee, incorporated in 1980 within the County-of and not too far East of the City-of San Diego, is home to an established Buddhist Temple, Van Hanh (it's on Fanita, South of Mary's Donuts).Knowing this, it's not surprising that the second location of Sab E Lee, Sab E Lee 2, opened here in 2009. After all, Oiishi, a Japanese-Thai restaurant, had been here for three years before I even began blogging with Kirk and before that, it was a wonderful Thai place, run by chefs who had worked at Lotus of Siam, a Las Vegas legend. Almost two years ago, Bua Thai Kitchen opened in this location, it formerly had been three iterations of a Taco Shop. The Southwest corner of Mission Gorge Road at Cuyamaca is anchored by a McDonalds, two banks, a 99Cent Only store, Bevmo and Petco has a large parking lot to accommodate all of the business here.
I began a post about Bua and after noticing all of my orders were the same takeout items tried (and loved and craved) on my first visit, I thought it would be odd and never got around to finishing it.After about a year and a half, Bua closed and the Leela sign appeared. The interior was redone and the hours changed in that Leela was open on Mondays (when Sab E Lee 2 is closed).
When we inquired, we found out that Bua is still the chef here, but that the business was bought up by the same owner as Aroma Thai, located in Imperial Beach, which cc had blogged about earlier this year. (The menus are very similar, with lower prices by about 50¢ at Aroma).Our meals began with an excellent vegetarian soup.Deciding we needed to 'test' the 'standards' here, an order of Satay Chicken ($6.95) was an easy choice. The chicken was moist and well marinated, the Satay sauce had a nice bit of heat, but nothing too crazy. The Leela Basket ($9.95) was ordered at a heat level of 4/10. It was. The freshly made noodle basket was filled with chicken, pork and shrimp, vegetables and cashews. It was served with two cream cheese filled wontons and rice. The freshness of everything was impressive. We enjoyed this dish a lot.Once I knew Bua was in the kitchen, I also ordered the pork larb ($8.95) (also at a heat level of 4/10) and it was as I remembered: perfect...the crunchy rice powder, the mint, the perfect heat level. My cravings for this simple dish have returned.
I also wondered what this place was going to morph into. How would it avoid competing with itself?
So when my buddy Candice suggested a lunchtime visit, I jumped at it.
While the place looks basically the same; other than the large chalkboard with "specials"; the menu brought a smile to my face. Not a pad thai, fried rice, or pad see ew to be seen. It was a deceptively simple two pager with about 14 versions of Som Tom/Tom Sua/Tom Thua with very few items that are direct duplicates of TOSEL. There were a lot of interesting dishes, some of them very Issan, like the Mok Nor Sai, some like Kanom Jeen and Khao Soi cult favorites from central and northwest (Lanna) Thailand.
We quickly ordered four items form the menu.
First up, the Northern (not Issan) Thai Sausage ($7).
Not quite Sai Ua, this was not sour, studded with kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass, and quite fatty. It was a nice break from the standard Issan Sausage on the menu.
I really liked the "Super Star Pork Rib Soup" ($8). As you can tell, it had a bit of heat to it, even at level 5.
I really enjoyed the spice and sour flavors. Somehow it seemed refreshing and clean...in spite of the spare ribs. It wasn't too rich and had some nice herbaceous flavors going on.
We ordered the Som Tom Laos...Lao style papaya salad with pickled crab. This was pretty heady, even for someone who appreciates the pungent Lao style papaya salad. It was also very spicy for a level 5. I do recall the days I used to order heat level 10 at TOSEL, but those days are gone.
It was a bit too salty for us.
The Mok Bamboo - Mok Nor Sai ($8) was something that brought back memories of Laos/Issan.
I love the interplay of dill with the other flavors in these type of dishes. In fact, one of the dishes that I still make from the Tamarind Cooking School in Luang Prabang, is a version of Mok Pa; fish steamed in banana leaves. This is a very rustic dish; chewy pork, with very complex flavors...a touch of coconut, "Lao Cilantro" (dill), green onion, baby bamboo shoots, and mushroom. This was a tad too salty; but I've had it twice more (such is my love for these type of dishes) and the sodium has been much more restrained.
The flavors in the dishes we tried really spoke to me. So I returned a couple of days later and saw the young man; I believe his name is "Oh", who works at all the SEL locations. We had a nice chat about the food here and when I mentioned my preferences he suggested a few things; starting with the Som Tom Khai Kem - papaya salad with salted egg ($8).
This was delicious; the salted eggs weren't too briny or salty, the flavors just melded together perfectly; savory-salty-sweet. Maylee, one of the SEL originals popped her head out of the kitchen. It had been ages since I'd seen her. She told them to add some vermicelli so I could try that with this as well. This was really good. I saved about half to take home to the Missus. I knew She would love this....and She had one taste and inhaled the whole thing!
I also ordered the Aom Soup ($8) - what I recall is Kaeng Aom, or something like that. It's a classic Issan soup. I chose the pork version, though I believe the chicken version is what most folks get.
Just spicy enough; good combination of flavors, the pungent/savory flavors making the soup seem much richer than it was. I loved the vegetables and the heat, which got me sweating pretty good. This reminds me of Or Lam and similar soups I've had in Laos/Issan.
Maylee was nice enough to come on over as I finished my dessert. It so nice to see her and have a chat. She was running between the PQ location and here quite a bit (this location is open on Mondays and closed on Thursdays). Because they still had to pick up the lease on the place; she decided to turn this place into something like a pseudo snack/street food affair, making the dishes that other places here don't serve from her home region in Issan and also serve items that folks have been requesting over the years like the Khao Soi, which she told me took her six months of hard work to create. Currently, their customers were overwhelmingly Thai. Most of the other folks who come in here are actually looking for TOSEL.
So, as predicted, the Missus had me head over to Thai Papaya to pick up some of that Som Tom Khai Kem for Her. I also got more of that Northern sausage and Mok Bamboo. I also ordered the Som Tom Moo Yor ($9). They use some pretty good take-out containers nowadays.
Moo Yor, in case you haven't heard of it is a steamed pork sausage, reminiscent of Cha Lua. Which brought a definite "meatiness" to the Som Tom.
It also seemed a bit sweeter and less pungent than other versions. Quite nice, and the heat level 5 was still spicy enough. A couple of weeks of this and I'll be back up to 8-9 I'm sure.
I'm also certain sure we'll be doing our share of take-out when the weather gets warmer. The Missus loves that papaya salad. And to be perfectly honest, I loved that little twinge of nostalgia, the feeling I got back in the beginning, when it was just Sab E Lee. It felt good to get excited about Thai Food in San Diego again. Simple, no nonsense, not dumbed down, glorious, street corner/food court Thai Food. I wonder what Koby would think?
Oh, and by the way....it's cash only.....another hold over from the old days....
Thai Papaya by Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
But last week, I finally did; twice. This spot is not too large, 11 tables, but probably three times the size of the old location. Still, it wasn't so large that they'd kill the kitchen.
Interesting mix; young Thai Kids, mixed groups, gringos ordering Won Tons and eating sticky rice with a spoon.
I did recognize one of the servers...he does double duty at the PQ location. Other than that none of the faces looked familiar.
The food? I'm happy to say, just about everything was pretty much spot on. You can read all my previous posts and get the lowdown.....
The Koi Soi - Koi Neua (Spicy Raw Beef) had been "cooked" too long in citrus and was much too sour and the texture wasn't right. It's usually a very refreshing dish. Over the years, my heat tolerance has gone down.....I can no longer get this as a "10" and these days settle for a "7".
Still, it was fine.
I once thought that SEL had no ceiling, unlimited potential. These days I consider it good grub, a place that makes me feel like I walked into a little restaurant in Issan and had a nice meal. And I'm more than happy to settle for that.
The Original Sab E Lee 6925 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
So I visited soon after they opened. The place look fairly nice. The interior somewhat "bistro-ish". The young lady who served me during all three visits was quite efficient and reasonably amiable.
I did notice just a handful of what I'd call Lao dishes on the menu; Khao Piak, Papaya Salad, that sort of thing. Nothing like what Sang Dao has. So, I decided to use this visit to see how some of the usual suspects were done
My favorite dish that gauges the stir fry skills is Pad Se Ew. I went with the shrimp version.
This didn't turn out very well. The noodles were mushy and lacking in flavor. As you can tell, there's no "wok hay" no scent, essence, caramelization, nor personality of the use of a hot wok skillfully. The shrimp were dry and the dish really lacked flavor and came across as being kind of greasy.
I also ordered the Nham Tok. Not being asked for a "heat range" can be a mixed blessing. At places like Vientiane Thai Laos in Garden Grove it's great because you'll get served it as spicy as they think appropriate. On the other hand, there's always a chance this happens.
I got "gringo'd"....this was maybe below a 1? The meat was fairly chewy, at least they used roasted rice powder, but the overall flavor was kind of weak.
Man, this wasn't quite the start I thought I'd have here. Before leaving, I asked the nice young lady about some other Lao dishes that weren't on the menu. Apparently, there's a whole world of items that are "off-menu". Among them is my personal favorite Nem Khao, the crispy rice dish made with Lao fermented sausage. So.....in spite of this shaky start, I just had to return.
Unfortunately, when I did return, they had no Lao Sausage, and I was told they "weren't ready to serve nem".......so what to do?
I went with the Salted fish Fried Rice.
This was pretty good. The salted fish was very finely minced so it wasn't as "in your face" fermented-savory as the version at The Original Sab E Lee, nor was it as salty. It was closer to the milder version at Sab E Lee Santee. It was adequately stir fried, you could count every grain of rice. Decent flavors; not bad at all.
Still, I hadn't gotten what I came for. This only meant that I had to return and give it one more try. This time they had Nem Khao.
Accompanied by a plate of sparkling fresh lettuce and herbs my rice dish arrived at the table. This was a nice dish, less sour and not quite as crisp as my favorite versions, but it had some nice spice and a decent flavor overall. Not bad, I'd have it again.
What I won't have again is the Crispy Pork with Chinese Broccoli. I had optimistically hoping for something like what we get at Yai Restaurant. What I got was this.
While the flavor was decent, that familiar soy-garlic-etc, the gailan was overcooked and the pork was hard, not tough, definitely not crisp, but hard. I'm thinking that the two pieces I managed to swallow are probably still floating around in my GI tract somewhere....well hopefully not.
That said, service was nice, the salted fish fried rice and the nem khao was good.....I'm thinking that they must make the green bean salad that I always enjoyed at Sang Dao......so I guess I'll be back.
Sang Deuan 3904 Convoy St. Suite 112 San Diego, CA 92111 Hours: Tues - Thurs 10am - 9pm Fri - Sat 10am - 10pm Sunday 10am - 9pm Closed on Mondays
Just a quick little post on a warm Thanksgiving eve.
Sang Deuan Thai and Lao Kitchen coming to Convoy:
I actually saw the sign lit up when driving home from Nijiya a couple of nights ago. This shop will take the place of the long running Philadelphia Sandwich Company. As much as I love businesses who have been around forever, the food at PSC seemed dated and a bit tired, so maybe it was time. As for Sang Devan, well, I'm interested and time will tell....
And yes, I did stop by. You know how I am. I'll eat here a couple of times before posting.
I will say, the servers are very friendly, there are the usual Sichuan suspects on the menu. The menu is a bit disconcerting....along with the to be expected ABC (American Born Chinese) dishes, usually on the menu as a concession to the lunch crowd; there's the very non-Sichuan Xiao Long Bao and Hongshao Rou....... Not quite what comes to mind with regards to "Szechuan Tastes".....
So we'll see....
Szechuan Taste 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Yep, we've done a ton of posts on these places, so here are mostly photos.
We've been coming since they first opened, though I haven't posted on the place in a couple of years. Forgot to take a photo of the Yukke, but here's the rest....oh, and we had two orders of the "harami" - prime skirt steak.
Service recently has been really nice.......so we've been enjoying ourselves here.
Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ 3904 Convoy St. San Diego, CA 92111
I never noticed the Plato Azteca on previous visits...basically nopales (cactus) stir fried with two selections....I choose huitlacoche(of course) and flor de calabaza (squash blossom).
Aqui Es Texcoco 1043 Broadway Chula Vista, CA 91911
As a bonus, I ran into none other than Sawyer at Hogetsu! Great seeing you man!
Rather close to the office, there are a couple of dishes I think they do well.
The fried spareribs is not one of them.
The Khao Karr Moo - the simmered pork leg, takes me back to Thailand.....getting off a water taxi, you're inundated by the fragrances coming off the various food stands.....
The Pla Sahm Rod presentation looked sloppy, but it had a decent flavor and the fish was fried well.
Not as good as my previous visit, the rice was terrible, some of it hard as rock, the other hald mushy. Still, we didn't come here for the rice. Service was friendly, even though the place was totally slammed at lunch. Much better than the sometimes surly service I'd gotten here at times in the past.
Koon Thai Kitchen 3860 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
The Original Sab E Lee moving into the (former) Bale location:
Funny thing. This past weekend I wanted something with a little "zip", so in spite of some not so great meals in the last year or so, since I needed to grab something from Thuan Phat, I decided to get some take-out from what was once our favorite take-out spot, the Original Sab E Lee. Over the last couple of years, there seems to be a rotation of young people running the front of house....on this day, the young lady was, well, kind of rude..... But taking a peek back at the kitchen, I saw one of the "old crew" who had moved over to Rancho Penasquitos location cooking in the back. Needless to say, it was a very nice meal....though I found that my tolerance for heat....I used to be a level 10 kind of guy, has gone down. A "7" on this day was kicking my butt. Still, this was the best stuff I've had from here in a while....especially the salted fish fried rice!
Anyway, I also noticed that Bale had closed down....well, they lasted two years.....
Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting and I decided to drive by and take a photo for a post......and my goodness what a surprise!
Way back in 2008, Kobey told me they had looked at this spot, but thought it was too expensive. I'm glad they're pulling the trigger now. The spot really hasn't done well since Le's closed, in 2009 it became LV Sandwiches, in 2010 Toan Ky, Bale opened in 2012, now in 2014 it's going to be the TOSEL...more tables, more parking, I hope the staff and the kitchen can keep up.
The Original Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
6925 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
Marukai has new hours:
This past weekend, the Missus went back to work. She requested Sukiyaki, so I decided to drop by Marukai. I got there a bit earlier than the usual (former) opening time of 930 and noticed folks were already exiting the market.
That's when I noticed the new hours.
I also did pretty well in the meat department.
I'm glad to have the new hours....9 or 930 is kinda late to get started shopping for me on weekends.
Marukai Market 8151 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
Last weekend, cc and I had planned another road trip ...and I was impatient and drove up to Glendora early on Thursday. Since she and I still had the day free, we decided to see the sights around San Diego and one of many of the planned and spur of the moment stops of the day was here. Located in a small mall at the corner of Shelter Island Drive and Scott Street, the corner storefront looks plain. However, the interior is bright, clean and modern. The regular menu has a page explaining the philosophy (It's Farm to Table Thai!) and care used in the ingredient sourcing and the special/limited menu caught our eye. Hot tea ($1.50) was brought out in this heavy cast iron pot along with a heavy cup.
The house made Essan Sausage appetizer ($9.50) was, as both Kirk and cc stated, excellent. No filler, coarsely chopped pork, plenty of fresh herbs-lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, shallots and crispy deep fried with just a touch of crispy pan fried burn, the sides of lettuce, peanuts, ginger and Thai chili were complimentary to this wonderful sausage.
CC and I both like to eat whole fish when dining out. This was a perfect way to try out the special fish of the day- a Rockfish (small, 2.5-3 lb size, $25). The beautiful presentation lent itself to having the entirety of the fish skin crispy. Tamarind, garlic, chili, pepper, mushrooms, an array of Thai spices, that fried shallot and fried basil on top...all were complimentary to the meaty firm fish.
Usually our respective husbands are there to clean the carcass.But I think we did a pretty good job. I can't wait to go back and try more of the menu.
mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog with posts centering around food, sometimes sharing the process which the acqusition of said food occurred. Kirk is busy, Ed(from Yuma) is busy and Cathy is writing.
More than a month ago, friend and fellow food blogger, cc, asked (another friend and food blogger) CAB and I to accompany her on a celebratory (beginning of vacation) food crawl 'Up North'. CAB unfortunately had a change in plans and couldn't make it. I discovered on Wednesday before our scheduled crawl that the first Rose Parade float road testing was also going to be held that Saturday morning. Checking out the road testing is something The Mister and I do and share here on the blog ( I also sharedecoratingand other 'behind the scenes'posts about float consruction). I felt guilty, A) Because The Mister wouldn't be able to come with us and 2. For asking for a slight change in 'plans'. Except our plans included and lot of 'maybe here and maybe there' places to visit and eat..so I added one in. Of course it had to be the first thing we did that day, because testing begins at 7 a.m.. In Pasadena.
At the end of this epic day (I was at cc's home at 5 a.m. on the dot and got back to my home at 6:35 p.m.), I was exhausted, had driven 314 miles and had 327 photos on my camera (many were the same subject from different angles) and so this post is mostly photos. Details in future posts.
First the 2015 Rose Parade. The floats tested this day were all sponsored by service (volunteer) organizations. The theme of the Tournament of Roses parade is "Inspiring Stories". The Grand Marshal will be Louis Zamperini, WWII POW, Olympian and the subject of soon to be released movie, Unbroken. Each float is the interpretation of the theme by each participating organization.
This will be the Donate Life float. It's in the basic stage of construction and testing. Those detailed butterflies are just so beautiful. You can see the float driver in this photo.
Now, to the food portion of this post. In order: what we ate and did. One photo from each place. Yep. We did a LOT in a few hours. It was fun, educational, tasty and only slightly exhausting. The details will be revealed in future posts. Feel free to guess or ask questions. Hope you are having a good week!
A couple weeks back, "Rik" sent me an email telling me that a new Thai Restaurant had opened in Chula Vista and was serving up Issan style dishes. Which sounded great to me. I finally found time in my schedule to head down to Broadway and check out Krua Thai.
The place is a tiny hole-in-the-wall that you'll miss if you blink while driving past Halsey Street.
The tiny place, a couple of tables and a counter, with no A/C reminded me of Sab E Lee, circa 2008. And to my extreme surprise, when the cook came out front....we both stared at each other and laughed; it was one of the cooks from the later version of the Original Sab E Lee!
Sadly, looking over the menu, I noticed few Issan dishes; I was told that there's no customer base in the South Bay for Duck Larb, Koi Soi, Nam Tok and such. Still I ordered items that I thought would give a good indication of flavor, spice, and technique.
Starting with the Yum Nuea, the beef salad.
I ordered this at a heat level "7" and it did bring it on. The base flavors were there; mild sweetness, pungent fish sauce and garlic. Protein was pretty scarce and I didn't take to the iceberg lettuce, no cabbage and really tough beef makes this lean more on the "no bueno" side.
Issan Sausage (of course).
This was very dark and the casing a bit over-fried. Flavor the same as TOSEL, after all, it's the same sausage. No cabbage, ginger, chilies, and cucumber makes this kind of fall short. The wilted cilantro made the dish look sad....but the sausage was fine in spite of how dark the casing looked.
My usual test of the cooks wok skills, Pad See Ew (with shrimp).
This lacked the color and "wok hey" that I look for in Pad See Ew. I did appreciate that the noodles weren't over-cooked. The shrimp were also done right. The flavor was good, if a bit too sweet. This one just missed the mark.
The service was very friendly and mellow. I was told they'd make me anything from Sab E Lee's menu if I ordered ahead, so you might try and do that if you visit. This place has potential, the dishes are so close, just barely missing the mark. I'm sure I'll have a better meal next time. Nice folks here, I hope they do well.
Krua Thai Cuisine 686 Broadway Chula Vista, CA 91910
So this meal got me thinking. I hadn't been to TOSEL in a while.....as much as I've written about the place, it seems that they've kind of "jumped the shark" over the last year or so. Many of the dishes I've gotten have been uneven and some of the young folks there seem to be somewhat blase' these days. Perhaps that's what success brings.....but I really do miss Koby and the tight ship he ran.
So I decided to drop by and order the Issan Sausage and the Yum Nuea.
You can see the difference, though the Beef Salad flavors were pretty close, the meat was more tender and there was just more of it. I will say, this is not the same as the version I enjoyed back in 2008. It seems like the flavors of some of the dishes here have been somewhat diluted, probably just as the talent pool of cooks is. Sad to say, TOSEL is just not on my rotation anymore......
The Original Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
Though I haven't been to Sab E Lee Santee in ages.......