mmm-yoso!!! is a foodblog focusing on San Diego and the world. Kirk posts most, Cathy posts often, and today Ed (from Yuma) posts this.
Every year the Yuman food truck culture spawns more spots. Here's a couple:
Angie, Tina's manager at work, was raving about a fantastic seafood molcajete at a place on Ave B, just a little south of 8th Street. So a couple of weeks later Tina and I found the place, Mariscos Güero, tucked behind another truck on the east side of B:
There are a few tables and folding chairs sheltered under canvas with windbreaks on all sides. On the truck there’s a menu with no prices (though prices are fair):
On our first visit, in the evening, there were few customers (and the nice folks at the truck said they would be closing evenings once the main season was over). At weekday lunch, the place can be quite busy:
On our first visit, Tina and I had a molcajete:
It was packed with cooked shrimp, octopus, and surimi. The seafood was mixed with large slices of red onion and cucumber pieces, all topped with generous wedges of avocado. The sauce was exceptional –flavors of seafood, lime, chili spice, and even a touch of soy sauce. Overall very good.
We also ordered a ceviche tostada:
Also very good. The sweetness of the fresh raw and cooked shrimp came through the lime. The fresh chopped onions and cucumbers and crunchy tortilla gave textural balance.
On my next visit, I ordered two fish and one shrimp taco:
Here's a close-up of a fish taco:
The tortilla, cabbage, and tomato were fresh and fine, but the crema was awfully thin and lacking in flavor. While the breading on the seafoods was not crunchy, neither the fish nor shrimp were overcooked so they tasted fresh and moist.
On my last visit, it was time for a campechana:
That's huge. And it is filled with a lot of good stuff:
When I ordered the mixed seafood cocktail, I was asked if I wanted it with "blood clam." "Sure," I answered, "con todo." I hadn't run across a campechana with blood clam (also known as concha negra, black clam) since Tio Juan’s disappeared from 8th Street. Here is one of them:
In any case, I am still alive and feeling good, so I guess I dodged another bullet (picture smiley face of your choice here). I also had the joy of consuming a really wonderful campechana. The octopus and shrimp were not overcooked. The surimi had a pleasant sweetness that I liked. But the mollusks were the stars: the abundant octopus had a perfect chewiness and octopus flavor; the clams had a different chew and were distinctly clammy; and the few fresh bay scallops were tender and lightly flavored. The cocktail juice tasted of cooking water, tomato sauce, (Clamoto?), lime juice, and a hint of soy. With a little bit of salsa it was perfect for my palate.
Taqueria San Pedro
This taco stand on 8th Street has long been a favorite of Tina and me. Though they quit serving hotdogs, their carne asada and other tacos, as well as the attractive ramada area, made it a good place for a quick dinner.
We had noticed, however, that the place seemed to be deteriorating slowly – the leather seats becoming ragged and torn. Then one evening San Pedro was not open. No sign and no sign of life. Oh well, we shrugged, that's the world of taco trucks.
A couple of months ago, we were cruising 8th Street and saw billows of fragrant looking smoke rising from the back of a lot. "Oh My God," Tina exclaimed, "it's San Pedro!" And so it was:
Pedro himself was still there being grillmaster. But the interior had been renovated – now more closed off and refurnished:
Wow. Fancy tables and chairs, a tiled floor, even a heater. The menu, still very small, is on every napkin dispenser:
After we ordered, the first thing brought over was a cup of frijoles:
Good, simple pinto beans in a light broth. Good by themselves, but made even better by adding some of the condiments:
Notice the spicy and the roasted salsa. The guacamole sauce was thinner than eight years ago, and many of the other items were nothing special. However, we really enjoyed the mild and fresh pico de gallo:
and loved the roasted jalapenos, mellowed and sweetened by the grill:
Then came volcanes:
Basically, a volcan is just a vampira except that the cheese goes atop the carne asada rather than between the meat and the desiccated corn tortilla. This was excellent, crunchy and toothsome with meaty asada.
The taco San Pedro is another Sonoran specialty, matching cheese, roasted green chile pepper, and quality asada:
This night, the cabeza was decent but nothing special:
What was our favorite? The tripa:
Tripa is difficult to get right. Sometimes too musty, often too rubbery, and usually too flavorless. This one, however, was perfect. Crunchy in places with a little char, and what was not crunchy was tender chewy. Porky good. Yum.
Kirk and Cathy are really busy today, so another post by Ed (from Yuma).
When the long defunct Indian restaurant on 4th Ave. was transformed into a taco shop, the change was instantly apparent:
So of course I had to drop in and see what was going on. On my first visit, if memory serves, they were serving only quesadillas, or pastor, asada, or cabeza tacos, so I ordered three tacos. I was pleasantly surprised when a wheel of condiments showed up on my table:
The guacamole sauce was pretty standard, as was the salsa, cabbage, onion/cilantro, and lime wedges. I enjoyed the thick slices of cucumber which I dipped in the guacamole sauce and topped with a little salsa. My taco shop appetizer.
Looking around, I could tell that the new owners had painted the inside as well as the outside, cleaned the place up, and put in new furniture:
The tacos were decent, if nothing really special:
All the meats, even the very red pastor, were lightly seasoned – the basic flavors coming through.
On my next few visits, it was clear that the restaurant was thriving with customers in the front, back, and side room:
No longer was the young son of the family wandering around amazed at the restaurant and the customers. Many more choices were written on a whiteboard:
Covered with fresh chopped lettuce and tomato and sprinkled with crumbly cotija cheese, a beef and frijoles sope was tasty as well:
The beefy rolled tacos (topped with cabbage) had plenty of crunch:
And I could wash everything down with real Mexican Coca-Cola:
Since this is an independent family restaurant, there is some variation from visit to visit. For example, most of the time the chicken taco looks like this:
But one day, the chicken had lingered longer on the grill and had a more interesting crispy texture:
On that same visit, the cabeza was really outstanding, muy rico:
And of course, all of these things came with that same condiment wheel.
And Tacos El Zamy continues to get better. The whiteboard has been replaced by this electronic menu:
And the wheel of condiments comes with an extra spicy salsa on the side:
One thing that hasn't changed is the friendly and personal service. I have always been well treated. For example, when I recently ordered three tacos, my friendly server reminded me that at El Zamy 4 tacos are only $5. I couldn't resist what was basically a $.50 taco, so this platter soon showed up at my table:
The cabeza, chicken, and pastor were pretty much the same as before, but the birria (de res) was wonderful – rich and savory.
I couldn't quit thinking about that birria, so on my most recent visit I ordered the birria plate (after all, this post wouldn't be complete without trying one of the plates, right?):
The wheel of condiments and the warm corn tortillas on the side were fine. And even though the rice was subpar and the beans a bit runny, the birria was really great. I left happy and satisfied.
In many ways, El Zamy is like a taco truck in a building, featuring many of the basic taco truck favorites done well. Unlike a taco truck, the restaurant offers protection from wind and weather. The ambience – such as it is – makes this the kind of place where a Yuman could give Cousin Fred and his wife Nancy from Nebraska a good quality authentic Yuma taco experience without subjecting them to plastic chairs, a dirt parking lot, and inclement weather. And the food is good and prepared with love.
Tacos El Zamy, 2071 S. 4th Ave, (928) 366-3269 or (928) 817-2461
Kirk and Cathy are busy doing important things today. So Ed (from Yuma) is filling in with a post about a new place in Yuma.
Longtime Yumans still identify the space at 2855 S 4th Ave as the location of Hensley's Steakhouse (a.k.a. Hensley's Beef, Beans and Beer). They assure me that the Hensley family owned and operated that successful restaurant for 20 years.
But for the entire time that I have lived in Yuma, this spot's been cursed. It has hosted Mi Playita, TJ’s Marisquero, Viejo Loco, Small Fries, Rusty Spoon, Spanky's Chophouse, The Farmhouse, and probably some others I can't remember. Now it has been reborn as Crouse’s Flat Top Grill:
Inside, the decor is clean and minimalist. There are tables of various sizes and not a lot of decoration on the walls:
There is also a small bar area:
The minimalist ambience with hard flat surfaces means that it gets loud when the tables are full. And because of the food, these days it has been getting loud alot.
For example, just look at this pulled pork dinner:
The bread grilled up crunchy, the beans decent, the battered fries nicely crisp, and the pile of pulled pork magnificent:
The meat tasted every bit as good as it looks in that picture– charred, smoky, rich, with a nice meaty chew.
In fact, it was a pulled pork sandwich on my first visit to Flat Top Grill that convinced me that the kitchen could put out stuff that was seriously wow:
There's a whole lot of good on that plate. The pulled pork, of course, was amazing. The tangy sweet barbecue sauce staying in the background where it belonged. The fresh coleslaw added crunch. The whole thing was so big, that I turned it into two open faced sandwiches just to get it into my mouth, and I still ended up taking leftovers home (our dog was delighted).
Even the mac salad – the sandwiches come with your choice of side – was outstanding. Abundant diced sweet/sour pickles, shredded cabbage, and small cubes of cheese gave the salad a complexity of textures and tastes. Very enjoyable.
Speaking of sides, for two dollars extra you can get maybe the best onion rings in town:
These homemade rings are the standard by which all other onion rings should be judged. The breading was outstanding – the exterior had a crispness that gave way to a firm chew. Inside, the onion slices themselves were sweet and flavorful. The only shortcoming, a lack of equally incredible dipping sauce.
The cheeseburger with extra crispy fries was another tasty lunch:
This day, the battered french fries had an nicely seasoned crackly crisp exterior wrapped around a pillow soft interior. The half pound burger was obviously hand formed and coarsely ground on the premises – great texture. The pickles were sweet/sour, slightly spicy, and nicely crunchy. A good burger that would have been great if it had not been slightly overcooked, so there was no moist pink center to the patty.
The chicken Club was another good sandwich:
The chicken was nicely grilled and seasoned, the bacon chewy and flavorful. If only the avocado slices had been riper and creamier the sandwich would have approached perfection.
Speaking of perfection, it's hard to imagine a better red chile cheeseburger than this open faced example:
The picture does not do justice. In my years, I have eaten dozens of versions of this truck stop/diner standard. Back in the day, my parents’ eatery served a good version, topped with my dad’s recipe chili. The Crouse’s is in a different league entirely. Even with beans, the red chile is deeply flavored and rich. Everything oh my god good.
One more example of the really tasty food at Flat Top Grill, the tri-tip sandwich:
The potato salad is fine if not spectacular and the split ciabatta roll was pretty ordinary. On the other hand, the tri-tip, grilled over oak, Santa Maria style, was rich, tender, and smoky. And look at all that meat. Three slices were plenty for the sandwich, so I took two of them home (happy dog again). Also notice that there is no mayo, mustard, ketchup, cheese, or sauce on the bread. The tri-tip is rich and fatty enough that the sandwich – just roll, lettuce leaf, and meat – needed nothing else. Wow again! – or as the dog would say, Bow Wow!
With the opening of Flat Top Grill, I think the Crouse family has finally killed the curse.
While Kirk is out of the country adventuring and eating and taking photos that he will share with us later, Cathy is doing most of the posting here at mmm-yoso. Some days Ed (from Yuma) helps out, and today is one of those days.
I really don't eat a lot of breakfasts, and when I do, it is often instant oatmeal or toast or a burrito from Jector's. But on weekends, Tina and I like to go out sometimes for a morning meal. The problem is that a crowd of people breakfast out on weekends, particularly during our tourist season, and a lot of restaurants stop serving breakfast after 11 am. So when we heard that a talented young chef had taken over the Patio Restaurant at the Desert Hills Golf Course and was serving breakfasts beginning 6 am every day and continuing on Sundays until 3 pm, we just had to try it.
The restaurant is located in the clubhouse building,
and you enter through the main door,
walk back toward the well-equipped bar, and then wait to be seated:
Of course, there is seating indoors and at the bar,
but weather permitting, Tina and I enjoy outside on the patio itself with its views of the golf course:
The menu is one page, but Tina and I had no trouble finding several things we wanted to try. I opted for the Eggs Benedict:
The hollandaise was smooth and subtle and the eggs perfectly poached, so the yolks and sauce mingled together and flavored everything. On the other hand, the tomato slice, while lightening things up a bit, seemed to soggy up the muffin halves, and I wouldn't have minded a little larger round of ham.
No complaints at all about the home fries. They were lightly dusted with seasoning and had been crisped up on the grill. Overall, this was an interesting and tasty breakfast.
Tina chose the mushroom and spinach omelet:
A real winner. Alongside those same good potatoes, lay perhaps the best spinach and mushroom omelet I've ever tasted. Fully flavored and packed with spinach and mushrooms:
My only complaint was Smucker's fruit flavored high fructose corn syrup spreads masquerading as jam or jelly:
Our meals, including coffee, came out to just over $21 (before tax). Good value we thought and some excellent preparations.
Since then, we have been back a couple more times and always enjoyed our food. I'll admit that the stack of blueberry pancakes looks pretty mundane:
but they were made with a flavorful batter, griddled to a slight crisp, and packed with oversized blueberries:
The enchiladas and eggs, one of the house specialties, looked like this:
The scrambled eggs on top were nothing special, so we would probably order them over easy or poached next time, but everything else here was outstanding. The house made sauce – dark, rich, and mellow – flavored everything. The corn tortillas (also house made?) were thick with substantial mouthfeel and intense tortilla flavor. Usually the tortillas fly under my palate’s radar when I order enchiladas, but these yelled out, "pay attention to us." And there was, to my taste, just the right amount of quality cheese, not gloopy gobs of gluey blandness. This dish worked on so many levels, the ingredients complementing and enhancing each other.
Equally outstanding was the chicken fried steak and eggs:
While the potatoes were not quite as good as before, the chicken fried steak was beyond exceptional in flavor and crunch, and good creamy gravy only made the steak better. I did a little yoso-delicioso dance in my chair.
Of course, with food this good (and inexpensive) for breakfast, Tina and I and friends have been back for several other meals, but descriptions and pictures will have to wait for a different post.
While the service and ambience at The Patio are good, one extra thing makes the place special and that is chef Alex Trujillo:
Several times we've seen him go table to table asking if everything was okay and making sure that we all enjoyed our meals. Nice to see a chef talented both in the kitchen and the dining area.
Tomorrow this food blog will have an outstanding post by Kirk or Cathy. But they are taking today off so Ed (from Yuma) – who has lots of days off – can write about a little grocery.
About 10 years ago, Kirk came over to Yuma and spent a couple days looking around and taco trucking. While in town, I showed him The Oriental Gift Shop that sells a wide variety of Asian trinkets and wigs and has a cooler and freezer in the back with kimchi and other mostly Korean specialties. A few shelves in that part of the shop offer rices, sauces, spices, and marinades. Kirk called it the 49.5 market, but as far as foodstuffs, it is a 9.9 ranch market at best (still my go to place for kimchi, however).
So I am delighted that Asian Store (not to be confused with Asian Star) now exists in town. From the back of the parking lot at Eddie's Grill, you can get an idea of its general location:
If you look along this strip mall that parallels Catalina Dr, past the location that was once a Staples, past the Dollar Tree, and beyond the Salvation Army thrift store, you will eventually find Asian Store right next to a Little Caesars:
The nondescript market has four aisles. The one on the far right has the carbohydrates. A large supply of various Asian rices:
Look for dried seaweed above the sushi rice:
Across from the rices are the noodles:
Along with such specialties as bean thread vermicelli, an amazing array of Cantonese style noodles:
And I have fallen in love with Thai rice sticks, which add a whole new dimension to my gringo stirfries:
The next aisle contains a miscellaneous assortment:
An area of canned goods including bamboo shoots:
and large jars of sour bamboo shoots:
You can also find sauce packets and spice mixes: soup bases and spices:
Thai curry pastes:
and Hawaiian spicy chicken seasoning:
The other side of the aisle displays many different teas – Japanese:
or Jasmine if you prefer:
That side also has dried beans and Panko:
The next aisle displays bottled and jarred condiments and sauces on one side and a huge variety of snacks on the other:
You can buy a bag of fried pork skins:
or roasted green peas:
Across the aisle, Kirk could find his Aloha soy or teriyaki sauce:
or pungent shrimp sauce:
Of course there's Sriracha:
an entire area of various vinegars:
and such specialties as Pad Thai Sauce (which is pretty good):
At the backend of that aisle you can find some fresh produce that doesn't need refrigeration, like kabocha squash, lemons, and these shallots (only $1.19 a bag):
Which leads me to my favorite part of the store, the refrigerated produce area at the back of the westernmost aisle. Shelves full of choys:
Or long beans, bitter melon, eggplants:
including my favorite king oyster mushrooms:
Fresh papaya strips, ready to be turned into a salad:
And if you want that salad spicy, plenty of Thai chilies:
And don't forget the time-saving peeled fresh garlic cloves:
Between the fresh foods and the front of the market are shelves filled with frozen goods:
I spend less time in this area, but you can find a wide range of frozen product. Like mochi sherbet or ice cream:
or even pork paste or fish paste (?):
Though I am puzzled or confused by some of the items for sale, you can understand why I am delighted to shop in a market like Asian Store. Their prices are very competitive and sometimes better than Fry’s or Albertsons. The produce is fresh, seasonal, and various. In so many ways, this little grocery makes me a better and more adventurous cook. And that makes both Tina and me happy.
This post by Ed (from Yuma) is here today because Kirk is jet lagging and Cathy is resting up for the holidays.
I cannot remember a time in my life before Chinese food. Of course I am not speaking of truly authentic Chinese food as found in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, or Chengdu, but of the more pedestrian Americanized versions that exist in places like Columbus Ohio, Long Beach Washington, Monterey California – or Medford Oregon, where I grew up.
My mom had a rule – she cooked six days a week, and like God, she rested on the seventh. That meant we went out to eat once a week. My dad had lived several years in Asia and truly loved rice. That meant I grew up eating a lot of “Chinese” food at Kim's Restaurant on S. Pacific Hwy at the south edge of Medford back in the 50s and 60s.
Therefore, finding edible sortof-Chinese food wherever I am living is important to me. Which is why this post focuses on two "Chinese" restaurants in Yuma. First, Yuma Palace: The last time I posted about this location, it was called Grand China, so it is still a large traditional Americanized Chinese restaurant space. This picture just shows part of the half of the restaurant where the current management seats people most days: The other restaurant is named Asian Gourmet (do not confuse it with Asian Star): When I moved to town, AG was called The Fortune Cookie. Then it became another location for Highway 95 Café. After a long slow decline, the ownership changed (though some of the old crew are still around), and the restaurant was remodeled and given a new name. Here's a shot of the new interior: I like eating out for lunch, so I love lunch specials. Asian Gourmet has 20 different ones (currently $6.55 or $7.55). Yuma Palace offers more choice – around 40 options – at $6.25 or $6.99. All of them come with rice (white, brown, or fried) and a cup of soup.
Yuma Palace offers four different soups. Egg drop: Wonton: Miso: or hot and sour: The egg drop has a good broth and plenty of egg. Although the wonton soup broth is good, the filling reminds me of hamburger more than traditional porky mystery meat. The miso is pretty standard with some miso flavor and a fair amount of tofu. The hot and sour is spicy and assertive.
At Asian Gourmet you can choose one of two with your lunch. Egg drop: or hot and sour: The egg drop is a particular favorite of mine with a rich broth and some vegetables along with the egg. Compared to Yuma Palace, the hot and sour is less strongly flavored, but has more complexity.
It's interesting to compare lunch specials from the two restaurants. Here is mix veg shrimp from Asian Gourmet: And rainbow shrimp from Yuma Palace: While the shrimp taste fresh and well-prepared at both places and the range of vegetables is similar, the portion size is larger at Yuma Palace. Of course, at Asian Gourmet, the specials come with a fried wonton and eggroll.
Here is the orange chicken from Asian Gourmet: And from Yuma Palace: There are some similarities. In both cases, the chicken was fried well. The differences, however, are more striking. At AG the chicken pieces are more uniformly sized and come with several steamed pieces of broccoli. I also loved the dice of fresh onion and bell pepper – extra texture and color. Again, the portion size at YP is larger, but the chicken pieces are more heavily breaded and the single broccoli floret looks very lonely on the plate. The sauce at YP, on the other hand, is much more strongly flavored with bits of orange peel and charred dried chili throughout.
Since YP offers more choices, I have more pictures of their specials. When I'm feeling like a vegetable, I can have garlic sauce on either eggplant: or string beans: While the Thai curry chicken doesn't really remind me of an authentic Thai curry, it is nicely crunchy, very spicy, and curry flavored: Even though I don't quite understand having rice alongside a noodle dish, YP offers some noodly specials. Here’s lo mein with pork: A little greasy for my taste, but I happily ate it all.
The phad thai special: Okay, but not real good.
Noodles, on the other hand, are a specialty at Asian Gourmet. I think their phad thai is the best in town with pretty much the right taste and a pleasant complexity of flavors and textures: The house combo lo mein is pretty standard but also pretty good: Chow Kueh Teoh, a Malaysian seafood noodle dish, is simple but very tasty. The egg, squid, shrimp, and mussels come together nicely: Noodle soups are also featured on the menu at AG. Here is the roast pork with wonton noodles soup: I like the broth, and the wontons and vegetables are fine. Sadly the char siu slices are dry and chewy, but this filling bowl of soup is only $.26 more than a lunch special.
The seafood tom yam noodle soup is very tasty and very spicy: To my gringo palate, this tastes like authentic tom yum soup broth with distinct chile hot and lemon grass sour flavors, a lot of noodles, and some seafood and veggies.
The coconut curry noodle soup has a lightly spicy, rich and mellow curry broth: Along with the pieces of fried tofu, chicken chunks, shrimp, and some veggies hide amidst the spaghetti like noodles.
One can also have the a similar Curry flavored sauce (or teriyaki) on a bowl of noodles (or rice) either with just mixed vegetables – as in this picture – or with barbecued pork, jumbo shrimp, or teriyaki chicken: Actually cheaper than a lunch special.
At current prices, all of the noodles I've pictured are well under $10 – that’s a good deal to me. For just a few additional shekels, you can get this beautiful “Julianne Pan-Fried Noodle": The crunchy golden nest holds a nice combination of beef, chicken, shrimp, and assorted vegetables in a mild sauce. As well prepared as the somewhat similar dish at China Max.
Yuma Palace, on the other hand, also has some real strengths. It has a liquor license, so you can get basic beer, wine, or cocktails. It has enough room for sizable group of people. It also has a lot of choices and a wider range of "Chinese" dishes. While the egg rolls have never impressed, other appetizers, like the sesame pork ribs, are pretty tasty: The sauce was a bit sweet and a touch too syrupy, but we ate every piece.
They have standards items like mushu, or shrimp in lobster sauce, or this double cooked pork: Tina and I also enjoy the black bean shrimp:and the Hunan chicken: YP also features some sauces unusual in Yuma. Here is shrimp in sacha sauce: and cumin sauce with beef: Yeah, I wish it were cumin sauce with lamb, but still a tasty dish.
Also notice the variations of veggies in each of these YP entrees.
Along with standard fried rices, they offer a pineapple and seafood version: or this house special: Bear in mind, however, that Yuma Palace launches a few duds. Avoid the homestyle bean curd with its dense chewy tofu triangles: and the crispy sesame tofu was god-awful – not crispy, not flavorful, just cloyingly sweet. Similarly, the Japanese offerings are (at best) hit or miss. Here's a Bento box: The picture largely speaks for itself . Still way better than Asian Star.
The sushi and sashimi lunch special looks okay, and would probably be fine if bathed in enough wasabi/soy sauce, but . . . (I am picky about sushi). Also a bit confusing for me putting this post together is that the online/to go menu isn't identical to the one in the restaurant. Not sure why that is.
Asian Gourmet, though having a smaller menu and mercifully no attempts at Japanese cuisine, does prepare a range of standards such as a decent twice cooked pork: a fresh tasting champagne fish with some complexity in its sweetish sauce: and a pretty boring moo goo gai pan (called mushroom chicken on the menu): My favorite entrée at AG is pattaya shrimp. This picture shows why: The plentiful shrimps have good flavor, complemented by numerous chunks of fresh pineapple, abundant slices of onions, bits of dried shrimp and whole dried chilies. The sweet tangy chili sauce brings it all together.
I am glad both of these restaurants are in Yuma. Their cuisines (and ambience) are markedly different from the simple Mexicali/Cantonese of Yummy Yummy. It is interesting to me that none of these three are typical old school ABCDE places – though they all certainly cater to Americanized Yuma tastes.
If you have read this post all the way to the end, I want to thank you for your patience and persistence.
I also want to wish every reader Happy Holidays and remind everyone that the 2015 Somerton Tamale Festival will take place on December 19 in Somerton Arizona. It’s certainly the biggest food event in Yuma County, and you won't believe the quality and variety of the tamales – muy rico!!
Ed (from Yuma) revisits a restaurant in Yuma today. Kirk and Cathy are happily doing something else.
I feel like it's time for me to start posting about the Chinese/Asian restaurants in town again because things have been changing. In fact, the only local Chinese restaurant that over the years really hasn't changed (well except for higher prices) is a favorite of mine, Yummy Yummy, a Mexicali style Cantonese hole in the wall that is still doing well.
On the other hand, back in 2011 when I first posted about it, Asian Star was a stylish new restaurant with a sophisticated space, SGV type service, and generally good Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food. Since then, however, I heard that they lost their chef and I had two poor meals, so I had not wanted to go back until their latest menu arrived in the mail and piqued my interest. Okay, time to check it out again.
The exterior is unchanged:
The ambience and decor are still pleasant:
I decided to start with lunch specials that all come with your choice of soups. The egg drop is properly eggy:
The hot and sour soup was balanced and flavorful:
The miso soup had little miso flavor, but a lot of little tofu cubes, a few pieces of seaweed, and a nice light broth:
When the Phad Thai lunch special landed in front of me, I was kind of amazed by the weirdly pink tone of the noodles:
Okay, I guess. Mostly sweet and hot. Not a great version of the dish, lacking the complexity and interplay among the various elements of excellent Phad Thai. On the other hand, I was pleased by the sizable amount of tender chicken, shrimps, and fried egg that were hiding under the noodles:
The shrimp and vegetable lunch special looked pretty normal:
There was a nice selection of vegetables, but the mushrooms and carrots seemed undercooked while the shrimp were overcooked and dried out. Not terrible, but overall meh.
Here is a shrimp tempura bento box:
Those two cubes in the middle of the box had a pleasant seafoody flavor and a faux scallop texture. The best part of the lunch.
In the upper right corner was shrimp and vegetable "tempura":
Except for being deep-fried, this has little relationship to real tempura. The vegetables were heavily breaded and a bit greasy. I liked the juiciness of the mushroom and the freshness of the zucchini slice. On the other hand, the thin slices of eggplant and carrot were lost in fried batter. The shrimp had a bit of Panko crunch, but were desiccated and flavorless.
Look at the salad:
The ice cold iceberg lettuce tasted like crunchy cold water. The dressing was mostly pure gloppy goo without much redeeming flavor. For some reason, every time I look at this picture I think about the last time our dog was sick.
Even the rice was disappointing: Odorless, flavorless, and chalky.
The worst component of the meal, the California roll, actually looked promising:
Pick up a piece, add a touch of wasabi, dip one corner into soy sauce, pop into the mouth, chew, and begin to swallow – and then OMG, the overwhelming taste and odor of foul ammonia throughout the mouth and nose. Yuck!
Without question, the worst California roll I have ever tasted.
In the worst bento box I have ever been served.
Your results might differ – for your sake, I hope so. But I have no plans to return.
I do not enjoy badmouthing local eateries. However, . . .
mmm-yoso is primarily a food blog. Kirk posts the most here, and Cathy also posts often. But today Ed (from Yuma) posts about a new eatery (in Yuma).
The late summer and early fall are good times to launch new restaurants here in river city; it gives them some time to practice their craft before the influx of winter visitors and ag workers. One interesting new venue is The Press, featuring soup, salad, and pressed sandwiches.
Located on W 24th St. between Vista Moving and Mayflower Moving – the restaurant is kind of hard to find. The signage is at the eastern edge of the parking lot, so the cars in this photo are not on the property:
and the building itself is totally nondescript:
Inside, however, it’s unique. A lot of comfortable chairs and dark wood tables:
Empty coffee sacks (as well as acoustic ceiling tile) keep the noise level reasonable and make this a nice place for conversation:
There's usually some pleasant music (reggae or Beatles or such like) lightly playing in the background. They provide free Wi-Fi and two comfortable chairs and a couch for people who want to hang out, drink coffee, do homework or even grade papers:
Along with bottled water and some sodas, three kinds of coffee and real iced tea are available:
True to the name of the restaurant, one other beverage choice, the sweet and cacao flavored Mayan tea arrives at your table in a press:
Standard procedure is to grab the menu and look at the daily soup or fruit choice – and any specials on the blackboard behind the cash register. That's where you place your order:
The menu is both simple and clear:
You can choose from a number of different salads or pressed sandwiches for $7.95. The sandwiches come with your choice of chips, pasta salad, or fruit. On my first visit I had the Yuman sandwich with fruit:
On that day the fruit was a sliced half of a ripe pear, which was a real joy.
The sandwich itself was pretty good. A few slices of deli turkey, bacon, and avocado covered with a lot of goopy avocado dressing:
The herbed focaccia bread had a lot of flavor, but the texture of the bread itself was not outstanding. More like supermarket focaccia than Italian bakery focaccia.
For that reason, I like to pair half a sandwich with either soup or salad ($7.95). Here's a Telegraph sandwich with an excellent lemon chicken soup with orzo:
The sandwich had some sliced chicken, tasty roasted red peppers, cheese and guacamole:
Half an egg salad sandwich (the Bantam) with clam chowder:
This was a very tasty combination. The herbed egg salad has a nice rosemary flavor and the clam chowder was different from most chowders. I could detect no salt pork/bacon taste, nor any cream. There were abundant tender clams, but the spuds dominated, adding chunkiness and thickness and a true potato taste.
If you want half a sandwich with a salad, you can choose any of the sandwiches and any of the salads. I loved both the Cobb salad and the Italian sandwich on this plate:
The Cobb came with a blue cheese vinaigrette – here's what it looked like before I dug into it:
The sandwich was a good rendition of an old favorite – nicely flavored pepperoni and salami, a small slice of provolone cheese, a couple of tomato slices, and red onions and banana peppers. It also came with Italian dressing. The meats and spices worked together and made the whole sandwich very flavorful:
Also for $7.95, you can combine a cup of soup with half-size portion of any of the salads on the menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the garden salad balanced with cream of asparagus soup:
The soup was creamy and very savory, with long thin pieces of asparagus spear adding texture. The garden salad was also excellent. The mix of romaine and baby lettuces provided an excellent background to the chopped tomatoes, zucchini slices, shredded carrot, green pepper pieces, and rings of red onion. The Italian vinaigrette served on the side had just the right note of red wine vinegar to highlight the flavors of the greens and veggies.
Here is the krab bisque with a Blue Holler salad:
It's hard not to like apple chunks, blue cheese crumbles, Craisins, and toasted slivered almonds on a mix of greens accompanied by balsamic vinaigrette.
The bisque was mild, rich, and sweet flavored. It was also full of shreds of surimi:
While The Press may not be everybody's cup of coffee – I enjoy it a lot. My only gripe would be that it is sometimes a hassle for us older folks to have to get up to grab napkins or a pepper shaker, particularly when the place is busy. On the other hand this is one of those great little restaurants where the owners are personally involved with the operation, and their attention to detail shows up again and again in the food and ambience.
mmm-yoso!!! basically is Kirk's blog, but he is kind enough to allow Cathy to post here a lot and Ed (from Yuma) to post here once in a while. Today is a once in a while day.
Since Frank's and The Farmhouse, both near the south end of 4th Avenue, had shut down recently, I was kinda surprised to see that a defunct Long John Silver’s at 2970 S. 4th Ave. had been renovated and transformed into Eddie's Grill:
The eating area has tables and booths in the main section:
and in the side room:
At lunchtime, both areas are usually busy:
You order here:
Then pick up soft drinks, condiments, silverware, napkins, etc.:
These two areas being so close together sometimes makes things a bit crowded. Once you"re seated, the very friendly and helpful waitstaff brings your food to your table – and I have been impressed by the quickness of the kitchen, making this a good stop for a quick lunch.
The menu includes several different salads. Tina loved the Santa Barbara Cobb salad with grilled chicken ($8.95):
The chicken was nicely cooked and had grill marks. As you can see, there was also abundant avocado, bacon, crumbled cheese, diced tomatoes, and shredded carrot on top of a large bowl of fresh mixed lettuces.
Dave liked his Asian chicken salad with sesame dressing ($8.95) as well:
I personally have concentrated more on the sandwiches and burgers, all of which are available as combos with beverage and french fries for an additional $2.95 ($3.45 for sweet potato fries or onion rings). The fries are okay with a decent potato flavor:
As you can tell by the salads, grilled chicken is a big deal at Eddie's. In fact it was the chicken club sandwich ($7.25) on my first visit that convinced me that they could produce good food:
The chicken was both nicely grilled and still moist. The vegetables were fresh, and the bacon and avocado tasted great and added to the sandwich.
Likewise, the barbecue chicken sandwich ($7.25) worked for me:
The same fresh vegetables and well grilled chicken napped with just the right amount of subdued barbecue sauce. Not over the top, but very nicely balanced, the emphasis still on the flavor of the chicken.
I was delighted to see that the fish sandwich on the menu was grilled fish ($7.95), and the sandwich had many of the same virtues as their other sandwiches:
As you can see from this close-up, the fish was well prepared, still moist and flake apart tender:
However, the picture also shows one shortcoming of that sandwich. The juices of the fish, the fresh tomato slices, and the abundant tartar sauce overwhelmed the toasted sourdough so that I ended up eating the last half of the sandwich with a knife and a fork.
I had a similar problem with the very flavorful and awesome looking grilled portobello mushroom sandwich ($6.95):
In this case, the excellent whole-wheat bun held up fine, but the juicy giant mushroom dripped thousand-island dressing, drenched its paper wrapping, and then began slip sliding away, out of the bun – as if the table, my shirt, or my pants represented some kind of escape, some kind of sanctuary for mushrooms threatened with extinction. So I stabbed it with a fork and cut it with a knife.
The turkey burger ($6.50) looked even more gloppy goopy:
But here I actually appreciated the sauciness because turkey burger itself was dry. This sandwich worked, and I particularly appreciated the good quality whole-wheat bun.
In fact, every burger I've had at Eddie's has been good. Look at the Ortega and Swiss burger ($6.25):
The 1/3 pound charbroiled patty was fresh and flavorful, the grilled green chile and the cheese perfect complements.
Tina loved the blue and mushroom burger ($6.25):
Yep, that looks good enough to eat!!!
Eddie's Grill is a nice addition to Yuma and one that should have wide appeal. The prices are fair, the folks friendly, and the food quickly prepared. I also like being able to order the burgers and sandwiches without fries when I'm watching my waistline grow or my pocketbook shrink. It's clear that the management knows what it's doing and that the staff members from cooks to servers are well-trained and skilled. I am told that this is the second Eddie's Grill – the original one in Lompoc being run by the brothers of José, the local owner. Eddie's opens at 6 a.m., and for information about closing times etc., call (928) 726-9235.
It's about time for Ed (from Yuma) to post about some place Yuman. So today, Kirk gets to explore, and Cathy gets to rest, but as always at mmm-yoso, there is food on the menu.
Clearly the flavor of the year in Yuma is BEER. The newest player in the craft beer pub game is A & R Bar and Grill located on 4th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. They play the game pretty well:
The place has a clean, fresh decor, offset by plenty of sports memorabilia. Of course, flatscreen TVs, tables of various size, and a bar fill the smallish space:
The changing tap list is a little more limited than Pinthouse, but most folks have no trouble finding something interesting and tasty:
Tina was especially amazed by the grapefruit ale, which was remarkably refreshing and perfect for a hot day in spring:
Also interesting, though I thought less impressive, is the spicy Mango Margarita:
The menu includes tasty appetizers and salads, like the Caesar salad with chicken:
or this quesadilla with pulled pork,: but most of the menu is fairly standard bar food sandwiches, accompanied by decent french fries or with a salad or onion rings for little more legal tender. Usually, the cooks at A & R prepare the sandwiches just right and the bar clearly sources quality ingredients, making the resulting sandwich plate a cut or two above what one would expect:
I loved this pulled pork sandwich (here with a side salad, $2 more). Though not at all smoky, the pork was moist and tender and its flavor came through the sauce and accompaniments:
This chicken sandwich is a pretty standard version, but tasting of the grill and accompanied by very fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle (and cheese if you wish):
The french fries are also good, again better than one would expect.
When I ordered the turkey sandwich, the helpful and friendly waitperson said that I needed to order it with all of the accompaniments – bacon, spinach, cranberry, Swiss cheese, and tomato:
It was generally tasty, and I was happy to see that the turkey slices had been grilled, but I was a little disappointed that the chef had not spread enough the cranberry sauce.
I was also personally disappointed in the fish tacos, mostly because all of the sauces supplied were pretty spicy, but the fish filets seemed to me to need a little bit of more neutral crema help. Your results would probably differ:
In contrast, the sausage sandwich, which comes with grilled onions and two different mustards, is pretty impressive:
Made on premises, the sausage is robust with a complexity of flavors that I prefer to the old school Kamman sausage, the local favorite.
Tina and Greg both think that the sausage plate, with two large sausages and fries is even better than the sandwich, though I like me my carbs:
I realize that hamburgers don't break any culinary barriers, but A&R make very tasty burgers. I haven't tried the peanut butter and jelly burger that some folks on the Internet rave about, but this standard cheeseburger with extra crispy fries was very good. The smoky char of the patty (cooked a perfect medium rare), the melty cheese, and the super fresh condiments were all spot on (fries were good too):
Even better is the mushroom burger –with a side salad in this pic:
I can't add much to that picture. I also couldn't add much to the A&R burger, the star of their burger selection, here shown with the ordinary onion rings:
The tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon show up on a lot of pub burgers, but not usually paired with grilled onions, spinach, and a fried egg:
Overall, I like A&R Grill. While I don't frequent the place late at night (these days, I don't frequent much late at night), the service has always been friendly and competent; the owner (manager?) pays attention and is concerned; and the place is pretty friendly and low-key. The food is cooked to order and sometimes takes a while to prepare, but that's what beer is for.
A&R Grill, 712 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 783-0260