A new shop coming soon and two new places for hump day......
Banh Mi Bakery and Café:
For some reason, this strip mall on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Ruffin Road always eludes my attention. But on this past weekend, a sign with "Banh Mi" on it caught my eye, so I drove into the parking lot to check it out.
You can find my post on our visits to Boiling Passion here.
I noticed the sign when driving to pick-up a bento at Nijiya. I noticed that Pho Paradise had closed back in January. Boy did they turn this place around quick. But did they really want to name it "Boiling Passion"?
When I sent off a photo and text to my friends; "John" quickly texted me back asking if this was a massage parlor. I quickly sent off a string of texts about "meat" that isn't really appropriate for this blog.....I'll let your imagination go with that one!
3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Mekong Cuisine Replaces Sang Deuan:
I went up the parking lot to turn around and noticed another change.
I hadn't even noticed this one! Sang Deuan sure didn't last long. Well, another place to try. They kept the "Lao & Thai" portion of the old sign, so I'm thinking the menu is probably similar to Sang Deuan's.
Last week, the sun shone brightly and weather got a bit warmer, you could tell, in spite of the calendar that spring had sprung. So it made sense when the Missus told me She wanted to grab a bite at Thai Papaya. Strange thing, in spite of the chilies and spiciness, we tend to think of Thai and Lao food as something to have during spring-summer-early fall.
Still, the Missus had to have the Som Tom Khai Kem; the papaya salad with Salted Egg, heat level 5....we have to build our tolerance back up every year these days.
The nice salty-savory flavor off the salted egg plays well off of the acid and the flavor of dried shrimp. The papaya and tomato was decently pounded; the papaya still crunchy. I've had the papaya be a little mushy on occasion, but not on this day. The peanuts just seem to finish the dish for us. The Missus does love Her eggs.
Speaking of eggs.......how could we not order the Spicy Thousand Year Old Eggs. At first we thought they forgot the pidan when the dish arrived.
But a quick peek under that curtain of ground pork and veggies revealed the preserved egg. While it won't make us forget Yai Cuisine, this was a very nice dish, the "gravy" not too thin and full of Thai Basil flavor. This was just spicy enough for us at this point in the year. The one item that really added to the dish for us were the bamboo shoots which added a nice earthy-woodsy flavor. The Missus told me after two bites, "now this reminds me of Thailand....."
We also ordered the Issan Sausage; usually a favorite of mine. This time it seemed a bit dried out.
And while I wasn't expecting anything like the sausage at Supanee, but this wasn't quite as good as what I usually get here. It wasn't bad, just not at the level of what I expect. Too dry and strangely lacking flavor.
Still, this was an enjoyable meal and I'm sure we'll be back to try other items on the menu as the weather warms up.
Thai Papaya by Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
Back to the Poseidon Project and the Haad Sai Thai Food Truck:
The Missus ended up working on a recent Friday evening at the last minute, which left me alone at 630 pm on a Friday. So I headed out looking for a place to eat.....as I figured everyplace was packed. I even tried Pacific Time, but there was no parking. As I rolled up Morena, I noticed a Food Truck in front of The Poseidon Project, I thought "why not"?
Turns out it was a Thai truck called Haad Sai Thai.
The guy running the truck was really friendly and several folks in Poseidon were eating noodles; a couple of folks even doing take-out from the truck, so I ordered some drunken noodles with chicken, bought a bottle of one of my recent favorites....I was surprised at the price, cheaper than what I recently paid for a bottle at Keg and Barrel at $9.53 with tax, and had a seat.
The drunken noodles were nothing to write home about, though it was decently spicy at a heat level 7 and at least the noodles weren't mushy.
The chicken was dry, not enough "wok hay", other than the heat level, missing the sweet and salty of drunken noodles, and a bit over-priced at $9, but the savings on my bottle balanced things out for me. The portion size was quite large though and I got to watch a beer nerd ("bro") get a bottle of Delirium and match it with a California Burrito from Santana's across the street....a first for me.
Plus, the folks working here are great. I'm really warming to the place. Even though they only currently have 8 pulls, the bottles seems nicely priced.
Poseidon Project 4126 Napier St San Diego, CA 92110
Plus I just can't help but keep humming this song.
Back in the end of September, I mentioned that what looked to be a Thai Restaurant, named AppeThai was replacing Yes! Pingo. To my surprise, just a few days later I saw the "Now Open" sign posted.
The place looked open one morning at a bit after 10am. With my scheduled booked through the normal lunch hour, I was headed to Nijiya, but decided to stop here instead.
The menu seemed very "street-foodish" with a variety of noodles and curry, you know, the pick your protein thing. The setting wide-open and fast casual, much like J&T. You order and pay at the counter and such. I really like the setting and seating arrangement.
I ended up ordering something I will usually order when faced with a typical noodle menu to check the kitchen's stir fry skill and something I hadn't seen in a while.
If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that my test of a Thai cooks stir fry skills is the simple Pad See Ew. At it's most simplest, rice noodles, soy sauce (light and dark), egg, Chinese Broccoli, garlic, and perhaps palm sugar. All the same ingredients. It's up to the cook to make it right. So how was this?
In terms of flavor, this was pretty good. A bit more garlic than I'm used to and not as sweet, but you couldn't say it was bland. Shrimp was also prepped decently and quite moist and tender. The wok skills weren't quite what I consider top-notch as the noodles were too mushy and some of the pieces of the gailan were too hard while other pieces were too mushy. It was, however, far from being bland. The rest of the "stuff" was just filler....the really bad pre-frozen bulk gyoza and the totally insipid soup.
The item I really enjoyed, maybe because I haven't had it in years....I just don't recall seeing it on menus is the Tod Man KhaoPod - Fried Corn Fritters. Talk about Thai Street Food...... Not cheap at $3 a pop, but I really enjoyed these.
The sweet corn, the batter, crunch and slightly doughy, with a mild sweetness....I believe the classic recipe uses rice flour. While not quite as savory....versions I've had seemed to have garlic, perhaps scallions, and sometimes even a bit of curry. This was simple, but I enjoyed it. And it displayed the kitchen's ability to fry..... I found the sauce provided a bit too sweet for my taste and pretty one-dimensional.
So, of course I returned, with my co-worker CF in tow for an early quick lunch....we were headed to a meeting that would span the normal lunch hour. On my way out the door on my previous visit, I asked the really friendly young lady for some recommendations. Which I ordered on this visit....along with those corn fritters.
Spicy Noodles with Chicken.
While the stir-fry job was much better this time around, I gotta say this was pretty bland. It lacked sweetness, spice, and the chicken....breast of course was dry as heck.
The corn fritters were nice as before and I also got the Larb Moo Tod...basically deep fried larb. It' seems to be a problematic dish, as when I've had it before, the meatballs, let's not kid ourselves, really just tasted like deep fried meatballs, without the wonderful flavors one would associate with larb.
Now these little orbs were $4....for basically 4 rather small meatballs. And unlike the Tod Man Kha0 Pod, this needed a sauce as other than a nice lemongrass flavor, I found it lacking. I thought it really needed a citrus-sweet-spicy "punch".
The Nam Tok was also just ok.
I was happy when they didn't ask us for a "heat level". not so happy when we got "gringo'd" Not enough of that nutty rice powder, not enough citrus, too sweet, the beef was a bit too tough, no pungency from garlic, and kind of bland (really lacking in fish sauce) overall. I guess ok as a basic "salad" but not even close to what I make at home.....not that I'm expecting that.
Not sure what CF really thought, though he did bring his wife there for those corn fritters and a taste of Beer Lao which they serve. I'm thinking it might be a nice snacking option when visiting Common Theory next door. On my way out the door, the very warm and friendly young lady told me the cook is from Bangkok, so I'll probably revisit in the future....to see if any of their other fried items are as good as the corn fritters.
They've gussied the place up a bit and I noticed a few more "House Specials" on the menu, so perhaps I'll be able to talk the Missus into another visit.
I think Koon has hit their stride. In the past, no more surly service during my last couple of visits. They've got a nice mix of Gringo Thai and a couple of pretty nice dishes.....like the Chinese influenced simmered pork leg dish named Khao Karr Moo ($8.95).
A bit drier and tougher than what I had last time, but still nice sweet-soy flavor. The preserved vegetable really helps to cut the richness of the dish. Forget the sweet chili sauce.....rice is a must, though! The boiled egg was over-cooked and the yolk was dry as heck. But that's splitting hairs....this still hit the spot; though not quite a bullseye.....
Koon Thai Kitchen 3860 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
A decent version, not too salty, rice a bit more mushy than I like. If you don't like chunks of preserved fish in your fried rice; this version might do it for you as the salted fish is finely minced.
I was looking for something to have with my meal and the Whole Fried Fish was recommended. I must have had vapor lock since I just went ahead and got it without asking what kind of fish.....tilapia....sigh....
Fried to death and beyond.......dry flesh, but at least it didn't taste too muddy. I've got stories about tilapia and growing up in Hawaii....sometimes called "the mahimahi of the Ala Wai Canal".
Sang Deuan Thai & Lao Kitchen 3904 Convoy St. Suite 112 San Diego, CA 92111
Tim Ky Noodle:
Well, it had been over 6 months since my last visit, and in spite of the heat, I thought I'd get some Bun Suong. Which unfortunately is no longer on the menu, which look a bit abbreviated from what I recalled. So I went with the Won Ton and Dumpling Egg Noodle soup which I recalled was pretty decent compared to other versions in San Diego.
While I don't expect excellence in won tons and dumplings in "Mi shop" versions, these weren't quite as good as I'd previously had. They were still more tender than say Luong Hai Ky or Minh Ky. The real difference between what I'd had before was how bland the broth was; there was a shortage of flavor and richness in this bowl. Just compare it to what I had on my previous visit:
Quite a difference, eh?
It's hard to complain about a bowl of noodle soup that is cheaper than a sandwich (not of the banh mi species), but this was nowhere as good as what I'd had before. Disappointing and kind of sad....I'm hoping this is the exception and not the rule.
Tim Ky Noodle 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
mmm-yoso!!! is the name of this food blog. Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy share in the writing of posts on this blog. Today, Cathy is writing, so the guys can have a bit of a rest while seeking out and enjoying more of their cravings.
The Mister and I had wandered into this (currently under re-construction) mall, with the initial plan of grabbing lunch at Ryan's Cafe and stopping for an elusive blueberry fritter for dessert, only vaguely recalling Kirk's post from more than two years ago. But since parking was compromised, we ended up a bit farther in the parking lot, and upon passing J&T, decided to eat here instead.Walk in, order and pay. Your food will be brought to you. Yes, that is the entire menu, both behind the cash register and on the back of the business card. There are a few variables, as you can see. Tables of various size and height are in the front area, along with a water dispenser, napkins and condiments on the counter and there are also a few tables in the back.Our 'first time' order. Simple, served simply...as street food is in Thailand. A salad (all the salads are the same base of vegetables) topped with chicken ($6). You have a choice of three dressings: spicy lime, peanut vinegar or lemon grass. You can specify a spice level, with 5 the top end (3 is as high as I would go as a first timer; it was enough). The other items are described below.The Chicken Satay appetizer ($3) is served without the skewers (yay)...grilled chicken thigh pieces (flavorful) and some cucumber along with a nice (and not too sweet) peanut dip. This could be a light meal.Combined with a chicken Tom Yum soup ($3), definitely a meal. The spicy sour TomYum, made with lime as well as lemongrass and chilies hit the spot on the chilly day we were here. It wasn't too crazy spicy though; I could taste the various ingredients.Above is a cross section of a lettuce wrap. The order of three wraps for $3 could be a meal for me, easily. Great fresh flavors with a good delicate spiciness contrasted with the cool/crispy iceberg used for wrapping is a perfect combination.Also sticking to the appetizer portion of the menu, fried tofu ($3) was another excellent item. The order is topped with crushed peanuts as well as fresh cilantro.Returning a couple of weeks later to meet up with cc, who wrote this post about that visit, she and TC and I shared the above abundant meal. I'll just describe the 'new to you' items. Since I read Kirk's post after the first visit, I knew we had to order the wings. Ignore the feathery parts; the wings were fried properly and were quite meaty. The came with a sweet/sour sauce for dipping, but were quite good without it.The tofu Pad Thai plate ($7), TC's usual choice, was quite good and there were leftovers. The Shrimp salad ($7) included 5 quite large freshly grilled shrimp, again with the variable of the dressing. The Mister and I returned for another visit and this time chose the calamari salad ($7)...again, same fresh greens, choice of dressing (I do seem to like the spicy lime the best, but all three are quite good) and this time topped with freshly grilled to tenderness calamari pieces. Another excellent salad.This time, we tried the Tom Kha soup, with shrimp ($4). I wanted to try the J&T version of this coconut milk based soup and was not disappointed. Three large shrimp were in the pint sized container. Quite wonderful, and something I will return and order.
Happy to have found this small casual restaurant, even though I should've known about it from reading this blog...
J&T Thai Street Food 5259 Linda Vista Road San Diego 92110 (619) 294-7500 Website Open Tues-Sat 11-midnight, Sun noon-9 and Monday 11-10
Now that we're back from vacation, we've fallen back into the old routine....though we're still finding it hard to get motivated about something as simple as dinner. We've been back to Thai Papaya a couple of times, and while the Missus has found Her favorite, the Som Tom Khai Kem - papaya salad with salted egg, we still managed to try other items on the menu. some hold overs from (the original) Sab E Lee, some not.
Here's a rundown....
The oldies but goodies. Tod Mun Pla:
I think they've changed versions as this was much better than what we've had in the past. More kaffir lime leaf and bit better in the texture department.
So now for some of the other dishes. Do you remember the wonderfully sour Super Star Pork Rib Soup from my previous post? Well, one evening I ordered the Super Star Chicken Feet Soup ($8), which I think is even better.
The Missus's love of chicken feet has been well documented. Me? Well, I'm not much of a fan since I think the return on investment (time) is quite low. In this case however, I'll have to fall in line with the Missus. There were ten lovely chicken feet in this bracingly sour and spicy (a "6" kind of got to us), yet refreshing soup. Nice gooey bits with chewy skin....nothing like sucking on that toe and getting all that flavor.
Because of how lip burning spicy everything was on the previous visit; I did a take-out order with the usual suspects and included the Tom Thua ($7), the green bean salad and to save our lips went for a heat level 4. I noticed that Maylee wasn't around this time and everything was strangely bland and the heat level was like a "2".
Also the long beans hadn't been bruised in the pok pok and were really tough.
A week or so ago, I was bushed and decided to pick up some take-out on the way home. Along with the "rotation", I decided to try out the Tom Tang ($7). We really enjoyed the versions we had of this cucumber salad in Laos, which tend to be more pungent.
We upped the heat level to 7 and it was still pretty mild. The cucumbers seemed a bit rubbery and not crisp. This was pretty weak in flavor overall as well.
So I'm not quite sure about Thai Papaya. There are dishes we really like; the Mok Nor Sai, some of the soups; the Missus is hooked on the Papaya Salad with Salted Egg. But consistency in getting that heat level seems to be off a bit; so it's kind of like chili pepper roulette. I'm fairly certain that the days of me getting things at level 10 here or "big spicy" at Hunan Chilli King are over. But I still like a nice amount of spice. I'm wondering what I'll get the next time I order from Thai Papaya?
Thai Papaya by Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St San Diego, CA 92111
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