Today Kirk and Cathy are busy. Ed (from Yuma) not so much, so he's posting.
Sakura. About a dozen years ago, when Kirk and I first ate at Sakura together, I had no idea that this Izakaya would be the restaurant most posted about at mmm-yoso!!! Of course I also had no idea that Kirk was going to be starting a food blog and that I would ever do a post for it. Long time ago.
Gleefully surprised to find an empty space in the lot, I parked, walked over to Sakura, tried the door, and learned that it doesn't open until 11:30. That explained the parking space. But I was content to sit down at an outside table, enjoy the pleasant weather, and wait.
When they turned on the sign and opened the doors, I knew what I wanted, tempura soba and iced green tea. The tea showed up first:
That's bright green.
Then the tempura soba:
This is an old favorite of mine. I love the textures – the crunch of the tempura, the juicy chew of the shrimp, and the gentle coolness of the buckwheat noodles in the broth. Contrasts of temperatures and flavors.
I also enjoyed the basic cabbage salad:
and the pickles and rice ball:
In some odd way, the simplicity of the lunch just seemed right.
Prime, in contrast with my lunch, would be a much more elaborate meal in a new Korean restaurant where Kirk, Cathy, and I had never eaten before. It was great for me to get together with Kirk and Cathy since I don't get to see them very much being stuck out in the desert. But we had a great time and a dang good meal. Cathy has already posted about it, so I’ll try not to repeat a lot.
Dipping sauces showed up first:
The little one in the middle was slightly sweet and was intended for the brisket slices which were not marinated. The largest bowl was my favorite sauce as it had some tartness that helped cut the richness of the beef. Also the crunch of onions added texture, and the sauce seemed to go with everything.
I was happy in general with the pan chan. The kimchi was complex and deeply flavorful, not too sharp or sour:
The shiitake mushrooms were simple and focused:
We all liked the little shrimp in a sweet chili sauce. Pleasant textures too:
The bean sprouts were unusual with horseradish or wasabi seasoning and went well with all of the beef:
To me the cucumber slices were well prepared with more crunch and bright flavors than standard cucumber pan chan:
For my tastes, the only shortcoming to the pan chan was the lack of anything dried – dried radish and dried tofu being particular favorites.
We also got this vegetable and soybean paste soup that we ate very little of:
And a nice fluffy custardy egg dish with mild seafood flavor:
But Prime is all about the meats, and what an array we got with Combo C:
It's interesting comparing Cathy's picture of the meats with mine because we sat more or less across from each other and our photos have a different perspective. This picture, for example, emphasizes the size and thickness of the ribeye steak.
All this top-quality meat was tasty. Prime even uses ribeye steak for their bul gogi. The ribeye steak itself and the brisket were totally enjoyable. But my favorites were the two furthest away in the picture. The boneless ribs were full of tendon and cartilage and had deep flavor and a pleasant chewy mouthfeel. The marinated galbi was supremely rich and butter tender. Overall it was a first-rate Korean beef barbecue.
When I first saw that plate of beef hit the table, I thought there was no way we would finish it. However:
One final note – our server was friendly and helpful throughout. She explained the dipping sauces, put the meats on the grill, took them off, cut them up, and otherwise facilitated, which was great because we three could concentrate on our conversations and our eating. I sure had a great time.
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.
Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will be posting, but today Ed (from Yuma) is talking about a restaurant he found (in Yuma).
Someone told me that there was a Birrieria on 8th Street. Thinking that it would be easy to find, I didn't ask for – or perhaps remember – any more details. But the place seemed to be hiding. It was a couple months later when I finally spotted it, and then it was closed. But I read a sign on the window that said it was open Friday through Sunday, so the next Friday I showed up:
As you can see, Del Pueblo has no bright signage and it presents an inconspicuous storefront wedged between a smoke shop and a $.99 store across from Food City. Inside, however, there are two large tables and at least eight smaller tables arranged on the sides of the dining area:
The room is clean and brightly painted, and a couple nice decorations make up for the folding chairs:
Love these boots:
The small menus are on the sides of the napkin dispensers:
First visit, I ordered a torta:
It was generously sized, the roll had been nicely grilled, and I wanted to eat it immediately. However, I knew I had to open it up and show you, dear reader, what the insides looked like:
All the basics: avocado slices, crunchy lettuce, tomato chunks, and of course meat. I had been offered the four standard carne options – res, chivo, lengua, or cabeza – and had chosen the beef cheeks:
The meat was tender, rich, and flavorful. I also was impressed the meat had been properly drained before it was loaded onto the sandwich, so the bolillo roll did not become soggy and fall apart, and the sandwich went into my stomach instead of onto my shirt.
So of course Tina and I had to visit Del Pueblo that weekend. And on weekends they serve menudo and birria de chivo. She ordered one and I the other.
First we got our beverages (Mexican Coke), a bottle of the fiery house salsa, and the wheel of condiments:
While we were waiting, I went back and watched the cook prepare corn tortillas:
Taking balls of masa dough from the bowl, she flattened them in the tortilla press, then grilled them on the little flat tops.
The tortillas arrived tasting fresh and warm:
The menudo was rich and mild flavored, filled with tripe and hominy:
Maybe not the best in town, but pretty darned good.
The birria de chivo was outstanding, deeply flavored by the extra savory broth: And packed with tender tasty goat flesh.
A couple of weeks later, I joined Deb W and Lauryn at Del Pueblo for a Friday lunch.
Remembering those homemade tortillas, I ordered tacos, which came with the same wheel of condiments:
The taco de res was filled with a lot of well-drained shredded stew beef:
The cabeza was as rich and meaty as on the torta:
And the lengua had perfect texture and mild flavor:
The girls ordered beef burritos. Our server returned a minute later and explained that they were out of the large burrito sized flour tortillas and asked if it would be okay if the burritos were made with more than one tortilla. "No problem," they said, so the nicely grilled burritos were a little unusual looking:
Having eaten with me and my camera before, Lauryn cut open her burrito so that I could get a picture of its insides. And then she photo bombed the pic:
If you ignore the hungry mouth, you can see the steaming burrito filled with res, frijoles, arroz, and queso. Both Lauren and Deb approved.
I'm glad I finally found Del Pueblo. The menu may be limited, but they are good at what they do. And the prices are cheap. The friendly young server (I think it’s a family operation) tells me that the restaurant will open weekdays once the weather cools down and business heats up.
Del Pueblo Birrieria, 1225 W. 8th St, Yuma 85364, (928) 750-8678.
Today Ed (from Yuma) wants to share a meal with mmm-yoso readers that he shared on a recent trip to Denver. Tomorrow if Kirk doesn't post, Cathy will. So stay tuned.
One place that Jane insisted we had to try for dinner was her longtime favorite, Café Brazil:
The several rooms were pleasant and unpretentious with a diverse clientele and pleasant Brazilian music that set the mood:
I'm sure they serve beer and probably wine, but Café Brazil has a "rum room," serves around 75 different varieties of rum, and provides list of yummy sounding rum cocktails on the menu. So I decided on a mojito:
Wow! This mojito was tasty and powerful. The sweet/sour flavors were nicely balanced with the taste of mint predominant.
Jane chose a caipirinha, a Brazilian specialty cocktail (the unofficial cocktail of the 2016 Rio Olympics, they say) made with sugar, lime, and a sizable amount of cachaça (sugarcane liquor):
It was also quite good. I guess I had expected something sweet, but the drink had a nice complexity and depth of flavor. A good start to the meal.
Since it was my first time looking over the menu, we decided to start with an appetizer; we picked fried bananas:
These little banana balls were perfectly fried and had a crunchy crisp exterior wrapped around a warm gooey banana center. Good as they were, we kind of wished we had ordered them as a dessert. They did, however, keep us from being hungry for sure.
Our server placed these salsas in the middle of the table:
On the left is a deeply flavored malaqueta pepper salsa, very tasty without being too fiery. On the right a Brazilian style pico de gallo, with red peppers and pickled onions.
Those condiments complemented our small bowls of flavorful black bean soup:
I liked the soup. While not creamy, the soup had a pleasant smokiness in the background and a bright spiciness upfront.
We also received a bread basket:
The breads were a reflection of the cuisine – these were not European-style baguettes, but breads that seemed at home in tropical and subtropical America – earthy flavored lightly sweet breads with mixed whole grains, nuts, and bits of fruit.
We had had some difficulties choosing our entrées – most of the choices looked good. I was severely tempted by the varieties of feijoada (the national dish of Brazil), but in the end we decided to focus on seafood.
I got the moqueca de peixe, a seafood stew in a coconut milk gravy over rice: .
The shrimp were large and of excellent quality. Underneath them, on the left side of the picture, is one of the two large sea scallops in the dish. On the right side is one of the two pieces of bacalhau. The scallops were fine and I was impressed by the preparation of the salt cod. The rice underneath brought together the seafood flavors with the slightly sweet touch of creamy ginger garlic coconut milk.
Jane received La Caleña, a different seafood stew on rice:
From where I was sitting, the entrée looked like a small fortress with red pepper walls and battlements composed of carrot sticks and zucchini wedges as if to protect the large shrimp and scallops within.
So I also took a picture from above:
The spicy broth and rice had tomato and seafood flavors. The red peppers and zucchinis were perfectly cooked – tender but firm. And they took on some of the flavors of the sauce. I thought a couple of the carrots were a little underdone though.
We traded plates back and forth and generally agreed it was a good dinner. Café Brazil did well. I am obviously no expert on Brazilian cuisine, but almost everything tasted great, the ambience and service were fine, and I would love to go back and try more of the menu. I can see why this spot is a local favorite.
While Ed (from Yuma) posts about eating on vacation today, Cathy and Kirk are busy. The world is like that.
You don't need a weatherman to know that July and August are good times for Yumans to go on vacation, so I flew to the Denver area to see an old friend and cool off for a few days. The focus of the visit was not gastronomy, but Jane wanted me to try some of her longtime favorites. Who was I to complain about that? And she let me bring my camera, hence this post.
This teahouse is one of the most unusual spots I've ever posted about. A gift from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to sister city Boulder, Colorado, it even has its own Wikipedia page.
The building was originally constructed in Tajikistan (with no power tools), disassembled, and sent to Boulder where it took about 10 years to find a proper location, secure funding, and reassemble it. The distinctive interior – walls, ceilings, columns – all display wonderfully carved and painted wood surfaces:
Though they serve lunches, dinners, and even high tea (if ordered in advance), we just dropped in for a little pick me up. Jane enjoyed her chilled hibiscus tea:
and I had a pot of superior grade Dragonwell:
Loved the egg timer tea timer: We enjoyed the beverages and the ambience.
As Jane explained, The Med has become a very popular dining spot in Boulder and has expanded over the years so that it stretches from that corner all the way back to its entrance:
We were no sooner seated at our table when a basket of truly excellent bread arrived. I really enjoyed the sourdough – nice crust, nice crumb, nice flavor – but the olive bread was good as well:
We decided to focus on tapas. The menu offered around a dozen cold choices and 20 warm, generally priced around $5. We tried to order a variety, selecting three of each.
The Escabeche arrived first:
It was an interesting approach. The yellowfin had been combined with a lot of avocado, mild green chilies, and pico de gallo and some citrus and the combination placed atop a small tumulus of cucumber strips. While certainly okay, I thought it lacked pizzazz. I expected a more assertive citrus flavor, and the cucumber strips just didn't seem to work together with the rest of the dish.
The roasted beets arrived next:
This was a very attractive plate – the golden beets contrasted nicely with the pickled onions, chevre, micro greens, and fried capers. Overall, a pleasant beet salad. Beety.
The bruschetta was enjoyable:
The toasty slices of excellent bread were spread with a white bean paste and topped off with an artichoke tapenade. A nice range of flavors and textures. Very Mediterranean.
The pastillas were the first warm tapas served:
The pan fried flaky filo crust was wrapped around a curry flavored interior of chicken, vegetables, pinenuts, and raisins. Then the savory little pastries were dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Cut into, a pastilla looked like this:
Different and distinctive flavor/texture range.
Our favorite item of the evening was the grilled polenta topped with a wild mushroom ragout:
The julienned vegetables – carrots, turnips, and scallions – provided nice contrast to the colors and textures of the polenta and mushroom sauce. Even though the shrooms look more domestic than wild, the ragout had overtones of porcini, and the polenta was crispy creamy.
Our last tapas were gambas, griddled shrimp:
This was a classic version. The shrimp were firm and flavorful. A squeeze of lemon and the parsley/scallion salsa provided accents. This was about the shrimp.
I had a glass or two of a pleasant Rioja rosé and Jane chose a Pinot Noir. The restaurant seemed lively with a lot of younger folks, and our server Henry was helpful and personable. We had a very good time.
While Kirk and Cathy are doing important things like working or resting, Ed (from Yuma) is posting today.
Usually, after I've written a post on a place in Yuma, I don't visit again for a while, maybe feeling a little burned out. And when I do visit, I don't bring my camera. So when I had lunch at Crouse’s Flat Top Grill in early March I didn't have my camera with me, so I didn't take this picture of the entrance that day:
I ordered one of the sandwiches that I hadn't tried, the smoked brisket. When it arrived it looked something like this:
It was a great sandwich – a crunchy long roll filled with two thick smoky slices of brisket, crowned with abundant sweet grilled onion, and served with a choice of barbecue sauces on the side. Even the potato salad, which I had largely ignored before, was wonderful, the sour spicy crunchy pickle pieces adding true zest.
It was a meal so good that Tina and I have been eating at Flat Top Grill regularly, and of course I've been bringing my camera along.
Although the restaurant has a very modest wine list:
and a limited number of changing taps,
I can always find at least one or two interesting beers
On our most recent visit, Tina ordered an amazing watermelon, mint and jalapeño Margarita:
The rim of her glass was coated with Tajin, and that lime chili salt added one more level of complexity to the cocktail. Spicy, sweet, sour, cool, and smooth, with a touch of salt and a hint of mint. A real winner.
Since that last post, we have eaten a bunch of different things. For example, we were dining there with friends and they wanted to try the loaded JoJo's:
That could be somebody's dinner. The potatoes were nicely cooked and there’s bacon, cheese, and sour cream. Glad our friends had their teenage son with them.
Tina enjoys the tri-tip salad:
The fresh lettuces are nothing special, but the meat is well flavored and she loves the cilantro lime dressing that adds a Sonoran accent.
Of course, we often have sandwiches. Recently, Tina had the hot dog – split in half, grilled, placed atop a strip of bacon, and thickly covered with guacamole:
That same night, I had the guacamole bacon burger – we must have had guacamole on the brain:
In the last post, I complained about an overdone burger; this one was on the verge of under cooked, but the flavorful hamburger, ground on premises daily, had excellent flavor. And bacon and guacamole.
My favorite burger is the green chili burger:
8 years ago I posted about the mutant green chilies found in some Yuma Mexican restaurants, which are always made with beef, usually finely diced or ground. The green chili here is another variation on that theme. The beef is coarsely ground and is the focus of the dish. The chili has some good heat and green chili flavor. It is topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, and chopped scallions (also with sour cream, but I ordered that on the side).
We have eaten several entrées as well. The Turkey dinner is an amazing combination of familiar and unusual:
On the left side of the plate, covered with gravy, was first rate red skinned mashed potatoes. The Turkey breast slices, like the ones on their turkey sandwiches, were grilled and pretty ordinary, but the waffle made with turkey dressing underneath was something I'd never seen before:
Kindof a Thanksgiving dinner like no other.
And yes, during evenings The Flat Top Grill does have good old-fashioned greens as a side dish. I'm talking serious greens, smoky and meaty:
A little less interesting – though still very flavorful – was the chicken with mushroom gravy. Two thick slices of grilled chicken breast rested on a bed of those mashed potatoes, all covered with delectably creamy mushroom gravy:
On a couple of weekend nights, we ordered specials not on the menu. Once it was the rib special:
Wonderfully spiced, deeply smoked, and fall off the bone tender. Though there is barbecue sauce on the side where it belongs, it really wasn't needed. We took the leftovers home and had biscuits, ribs, and eggs for breakfast. The corn was a little tough and flavorless, but I was still happy.
And if you are ever at Flat Top Grill and they are serving chicken and waffles, you should be eating chicken and waffles:
The waffle was crispy chewy and served with two different syrups, one maple and one spicy. The moist chicken was encased with a flavorful hard crust. Wonderful deep frying technique.
Today Ed (from Yuma) is finishing up his posts about a recent trip to LA. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will be posting about something different. That's what happens here at mmm-yoso!!!
Tina and I had a good time in LA. We saw interesting and sometimes amazing stuff in the museums, but this is a food blog not an art blog, so I’ll mostly focus on food. But I do want to give a brief shout out for the Mapplethorpe exhibits in both LACMA and the Getty. He was an incredibly talented photographer who took pictures of all sorts of things, even things like this:
Now let's look in a different direction:
Since we were comped two days of free breakfast buffets at the Hilton (don't ask) and had a lot of leftovers, we ate very little at the museums. But a lunch at an informal café at the Getty was pretty tasty. I had a half portion of a beef, radicchio, and horseradish sandwich with a cup of vegetable minestrone:
Really quite good. The soup was packed with vegetables and had the classic Italian flavors. I was quite taken with the sandwich – interesting combination of flavors. Tina's sandwich seemed more conventional to me, but she liked it:
The next day at the Huntington, we were feeling a bit peckish from walking around the grounds, so we went to the pavilion at the Chinese garden:
and both had a nice jasmine iced tea and a red bean paste stuffed pastry:
However, the main focus of this post is the meal we had at Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine on Garfield in Alhambra:
This small restaurant says it's the only restaurant in the entire United States featuring the cuisine of the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. It has a couple tables in the front and then a row of tables along the wall to the back of the restaurant:
The menu had a page of appetizers, a page of soups and curries, a page of rice dishes, and two pages focusing on noodles. We tried to order some variety.
Our server was exceptionally friendly and welcoming, and after we ordered, he set our utensils on the table – two small plates, two forks, two soup bowls, and two soup spoons:
Our first dish, from the rice section, was Ayam Muda Goreng Penyet, which the menu described as Indonesian spiced chicken fried Singapore style:
The fried chicken had no breading but the outside was cooked crackly crisp. Its interior was moist, and while the chicken was very hot, there was no trace of oiliness. Tina and I also enjoyed the nicely sweet and mildly hot chili sauce. A perfect match with the bird.
The steamed rice was fine, and it came in very handy with the second item to arrive at the table, Borneo Oxtail Curry Soup:
While the menu said the coconut curry was spicy, most of the spicing was of the aromatic and sweet variety – a reminder that Borneo is in the same region as the fabled Spice Islands. There was one large piece of tail and two or three smaller pieces. All very tender and mildly beefy. The soup had some scallions and cabbage pieces, but my favorite of the vegetables were the chunks of fresh tomato that provided an acidic contrast to the creamy sweetness of the soup. Of course we ladled the soup into our bowls with the rice.
One page of the menu had been devoted solely to Borneo style homemade egg noodles, which could be thin, medium, or thick and chewy. Each type of noodle could be matched up with one of three types of toppings. We decided on Mie Karet Hakka, chewy egg noodles served Hakka style with red pork, marinated egg, fish ball, and fish cake:
The eggs were tasty, a good upgrade from regular boiled eggs. The few small fish ball halves and the plentiful slices of fish cake provided a nice light seafood flavor. The red pork lacked the porkiness and richness of good char siu, but all of these things – as well as some scallions, fried shallots, bean sprouts, and a thin stalk or two of gai lan (?) – were really just flavorings for the wonderful kinky chewy toothsome egg noodles:
A great noodle dish. It was served with a small bowl of seafood flavored broth on the side:
At first, we ate the noodles dry, sometimes dipping items into the broth, but toward the end of the meal we poured all of the broth into the noodle bowl:
It was good to the last drop.
We enjoyed the meal a lot. The clean bright restaurant, the friendly server and the 90s pop playing in the background created a pleasant atmosphere. The dishes we tried were various and tasty. Though the place is cash only, you gotta like the price tag:
Kirk is on vacation, Cathy is doing bunches of things, so Ed (from Yuma) has today's post on an unusual eatery in San Gabriel Valley.
I had been researching restaurant possibilities for Tina and my trip to LA, and I was intrigued by a short post that Kirk had written back in August, 2009, about the Northern Chinese Restaurant. It was his second restaurant of the day, so he sampled only a few dishes, but hinted that he would be back. If he ever went back, he never told us readers about it.
Tina and I were looking for something different, something we'd never had before, so this place seemed intriguing and its location just down Valley Boulevard in Rosemead was close to our hotel:
The interior, with only about 14 tables, was clean and attractive. Of course, I wondered what a faux rococo pastoral tapestry was doing on the wall in a Chinese restaurant, but it’s certainly better than a bare wall:
We had arrived a little before 6 PM, by the time we left every one of those 14 tables had customers, sometimes large family groups. Tina and I were the only non-Asians in the place, and maybe the only people there who didn't have family ties to northern China. Nonetheless, we were treated well and the menu had clear translations for each of the over 200 dishes available. It was easy to point to what we wanted on the menu, so there was no confusion in the ordering.
The first dish to arrive was the Dried Tofu with Hot Pepper:
Talk about something different that we never had before! Those pale ribbons are not pasta, but strips of dried tofu. The light sauce had a mild pork flavor and the jalapeno slices added a nice spice and crunch to the dish.
Next was a huge bowl of Sour Napa with Pork Belly Soup:
In addition to the suan cai and pork, there were also chunks of frozen tofu and at the bottom of the bowl long transparent noodles.
For me and Tina, this was true comfort food. You can give pork and sauerkraut a different name and throw in some tofu and noodles, but it is still pork and sauerkraut, a combination that brings back memories of my childhood. The sour cabbage had been prepared perfectly so that the finished dish was sweetly sour, the mild tang cutting through the richness of the meat.
A cold dish, the Spicy Cucumber then arrived at the table:
This simple dish was a perfect palate cleanser – salty, garlicky, spicy, and crisp.
When I thought I was finished ordering, the young man wondered if we wanted rice, so I asked if there was something more typical of northern China that he would recommend, and he pointed to Smoked Meat and Pancake. So I ordered that also:
As soon as I saw it, I realized that this was a dish which Kirk had really enjoyed back in 2009. Of course he had called it by its real name, Xun Rou Da Bing, and of course we really enjoyed it in 2016.
The pancake was like a yeasty flatbread with a bit of chew and a nice crusty exterior. We happily would have eaten the bread by itself, but the dark bean paste sauce was wildly good and deeply flavored. The smoked pork was mild and okay, but if you put it and some scallion strips on top of a wedge of pancake slathered with sauce, you ended up with a very very tasty slice of Northern Chinese pizza: But we weren't finished yet. The last dish to hit the table was the one that turned out to be our favorite overall, Cumin Toothpick Lamb:
The numerous chunks of gamy lamb were all speared with toothpicks. Some pieces were very tender and some a little bit chewy and gristly. The meat, tossed with stir fried onion, was flavored by abundant chili flakes, ginger, cilantro, sesame seeds, and especially cumin seeds. The combination was masterful.
Of course, as you have probably already figured out, we ordered way too much food even for two hungry people. We joked that we needed some starving imaginary friends to help us finish. We did eat most of the smoked meat and pancake in the restaurant, but we still had tons of leftovers. The cold lamb was still incredible two days later.
For us, this was more than just a different and interesting meal, it was a real feast.
And a reasonably priced feast: The next day, we went to the Getty Museum and kept crossing the paths of a couple of young Chinese women. As we were leaving, we found ourselves waiting for the same elevator, and I asked if I could take their picture. Kindly, they said yes:
Afterwards, we chatted a bit and I learned that the young lady on the left was from Shanghai and the one on the right was from further north. "Beijing?" I asked.
"No, north from there." So I said that Tina and I had just eaten at a northern Chinese restaurant and had dishes like sour cabbage and pork.
While Kirk is out of the country, Cathy posts the most, but today Ed (from Yuma) posts about an old favorite with a new name.
Tina had some slack time at work, so she and I drove up to LA for a few days. During the day we went to LACMA, the Getty, and the Huntington where we especially enjoyed the Chinese Garden:
We stayed at the Hilton on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. That meant a lot of windshield time to LACMA and especially the Getty, but it also meant that we could have dinners in the San Gabriel Valley, which is a very good thing.
In particular, we wanted to go to Seafood Village in Temple city where we ate several times in the past, but that restaurant (as well as the one in Monterey Park) has been renamed Seafood Palace. Had the quality changed? In addition, we’d always ordered the special deep-fried crab, an amazing dish, but this visit we wanted to see what else the kitchen could do. We went there twice for dinner.
Both times we parked in the large lot behind the restaurant and entered through the back door:
One evening, we ordered a bottle of white wine; Seafood Palace had only two white wines, but we were happy with the Emmolo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc:
It was complex, medium bodied, and dry – remarkably sophisticated with a very fair markup.
The first dish we ordered, the crab and fish maw soup, arrived in a large attractive bowl:
Wonderful soup. Imagine an egg drop soup with crab flavored broth packed with almost chewy, semi-gelatinous, and mildly flavored fish maws (air bladders). So good we each had three little cups:
This squid dish, salty baked squid I think it's called, really doesn't look baked:
The very light and somewhat salty crust has a bit of a crispy crunch and a touch of chili heat. The squid itself was remarkably tender. The tasty cephalopods were topped with slices of jalapenos and scallions and were served with white pepper and red vinegar.
The garlic fried snow fish (alias black cod, sablefish, butterfish) had an equally light breading and was moist, rich, and properly flaky:
Very well prepared. Not greasy at all, the fresh flavor of the fish accented with garlic.
One of our favorite dishes was the chiu chow scallops and asparagus:
Chiu Chow (various spellings) refers to cookery in the style of Chaozhou (various spellings), a city at the northern coastal apex of Guangdong province. In many ways the cuisine is similar to Cantonese but shows distinct Southeast Asian influences.
The asparagus was thick, fresh, moist, and cut perfectly. The large sliced scallops balanced the vegetable well and the mildly spicy sauce brought everything together. Even the scallions and roasted spinach leaves made small contributions.
We also loved the oysters cooked with scallions and ginger:
Scallions are often underappreciated, but here the fresh green onions became the main vegetable. I also liked the numerous oysters, mildly funky with that taste that reminds me of estuaries or small backwater coves. The ginger likewise was abundant, and the presentation emphasized the similarity of knobby and irregular ginger roots and bumpy and uneven oysters. Sort of a culinary pun.
The braised chiu chow duck was a little more problematic:
Every piece of duck was a bony piece of duck. The sauce was strongly flavored with ginger and leek, but I detected a slight odd herbal note and cornstarch. The hot pieces of duck were also hard for me to eat with chopsticks, lips, teeth, and tongue alone. The next day, however, in the privacy of our hotel room, Tina and I used our hands to devour the pieces of cold leftover duck, so I guess the duck was pretty good after all.
On one visit, we had the house special fried rice:
It was interesting, permeated with seafood flavors but light in texture. There were small clouds of egg white, thin slices of asparagus, scattered shards of crab, and occasional bits of shrimp. The rice matched well with the food, but it was the only thing that seemed kind of high-priced ($13.99).
Overall, however, Tina and I were delighted with Seafood Palace. The service was generally good even though the young man serving our wine didn't seem quite sure how to do it; nonetheless, he and the other servers consistently did well. If you want to see costs of the two meals etc., here is meal #1 :
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food and travel. Today, Kirk is traveling, Cathy is busy eating, and Ed (from Yuma) is blogging.
"You eaten at Mad Tacos?" It was my friend and former colleague, Dawn.
"What? Where?" She then explained that it had won some awards and was supposed to be really good, and asked if I wanted to join her and a couple other folks there for lunch on an upcoming Friday.
The answer to "Where?" was a little complicated as well, because Mad Tacos is inside a pharmacy, Sant Drugs, that has had a lunch counter ever since the days when lunch counters and soda fountains were commonplace in drugstores and five and dimes: This is what an old-fashioned lunch counter looks like:
Here is the view in the other direction:
With such limited seating, and being open only weekdays from 8:30-6 pm, how can they stay in business? This pic is part of the answer to that question:
Every time I've eaten there, people have come in for takeout, sometimes a lot of takeout.
So why is this little place really busy? I think because the food is really good and the prices are really cheap.
Case in point – Friday is fish taco day, so this taco cost $1 on a Friday (prices as of May, 2016):
There is nothing skimpy about that taco. There are numerous chunks of breaded fish and a lot of toppings including spiced mayo. And if you like your fish tacos to have some crunch, you won't find a better one in town, crackling crunchy.
What's more, the two house salsas are excellent:
The one on the left is the guacamole sauce, smooth and creamy from the avocado, with a lime tang and a spicy zip. Really excellent on the fish tacos, but also great on some of the meats, like asada.
The sauce on the right is a complex, smoky, dried chili salsa. This is not a chip dipping salsa, it is a spicing up flavor booster, perfect for a lot of things like these tostadas (regularly 2 for $5, but Thursdays $1 apiece):
So good. Underneath the cotija cheese, pickled red onions, chopped lettuce and tomato, and spicy mayo, lurked pieces of carnitas and a nice smear of frijoles. Even the crunchy tortilla was first rate, substantial enough that I could eat most of the tostadas with my hands and get no fallout on my shirt.
And if you look carefully at the salsa, you can see numerous tiny flakes, flecks, and bits, many red, but others green, black, white, yellow, and translucent. The complexity of a pointillist painting.
Maybe the most amazing lunch special is rolled taco Monday. Potato tacos at $.50 apiece. So this is a $3 plate:
The quality is also superb. The mashed potato is copious and flavorful, and the shell is deep fried crispy.
As I was leaving that day, I mentioned to Mannie (the head cook and proprietor) that his rolled tacos were better than my previous favorites at Buen Taquito up the street.
"Yeah," he said, "they don't flavor the mashed potatoes and their salsa is real basic." A spot on evaluation, and he could’ve added that his are larger in addition to better tasting. But his answer showed that he knows the competition, pays attention, and focuses on quality.
That's also evident in this bacon wrapped hot dog ($4):
While not as overloaded as some bacon dogs, the grilled and charred onions, chopped tomatoes, spiced mayo, mustard, and ketchup are enough, and the real focus here is on the quarter pound sausage:
That's a good hot dog. It has the right texture, excellent flavors, and abundant juiciness.
The quality also shows up in the plate of 3 tacos (choice of pastor, asada, carnitas, pollo, or pescado), a good value at $6:
In the photo, I’ve got a pastor, a fish, and an asada taco. There was a lot of asada:
and I was particularly impressed with the seasonings and grilling of the pastor:
Similarly, the chicken at Mad Tacos is not just bland generic white meat, but is nicely spiced and grilled. Look at this quesadilla ($4):
About as good as a quesadilla can be. The grilling of the tortilla is perfect, the cheese melted creamy, the chicken flavorful, and the roasted green chili strips abundant.
One day I decided to try takeout, so I called in an order for a chicken burrito ($6). When I walked to the counter, everything was almost ready, so Mannie could assemble it quickly, and my burrito was perfectly fresh and nicely packaged:
That burrito was also very tasty:
I realize that a lot of folks don't like lettuce in their burritos, but here the lettuce, pico de gallo, refritos, and abundant guac sauce complemented the warm spicy chicken chunks.
So is everything at Mad Tacos really great? Well, truth be told, the french fries ($3), are pretty ordinary:
Not bad, but not great. Otherwise most things here are real good eats and real good value. Thanks, Dawn.