Eating around…Part III: Unassuming Jewels
Know the feeling when you find something wonderful that has been under your nose the entire time? The feeling of, “Why haven’t I ever noticed this before?!” or “I can’t believe I didn’t try or come sooner!”
When you have one of these moments, you feel as though you’ve just discovered a precious treasure that you don’t ever want to let go. That’s how I feel about a few things in my life lately. Being that this is the last of the 3 part posts of my eating adventures in San Diego, I feel that the one constant theme is just that – finding a precious treasure that I do not want to let go ever and wish to share the wealth with as many people who will listen (even if it means having more crowds to battle with).
I know this is a food blog, but let me diverge temporarily to something not food related yet on the same theme. It’s been over a month since I’ve been with CP and it’s funny…he was always in front of me, yet we both didn’t know what the other was thinking or feeling or even if we were available! We worked together, talked together, walked together, stressed together, and ranted and complained to one another for 5 months. Even before THAT, we had vague memories of seeing one another around campus and during group exams on a few occasions. But it wasn’t until the summer rolled around that we finally got the time and opportunity to see where *this* would lead. Now I find myself thinking, “I found this wonderful treasure that has been in front of me all this time and…” Well words cannot describe the feelings I that are inside me but they are wonderful.
On the other hand, words can describe yet another treasure I was introduced to by my sweetie! On the morning of the Padres vs. Giants game, CP wanted to surprise me before we went and all he said was to not eat anything in the morning. I love surprises and so I was excited! We got to La Jolla, parked and walked in the back, neighborhood streets to arrive in front of a bustling little “cottage.”
It was probably before 10 am when we arrived and there was already a line waiting for the chance to sit and dine with all The Cottage had to offer its Sunday patrons. There have been numerous times that I walked by the Cottage in the past, but I never tried it. Yes, I thought about it and have heard good things about it, but I so rarely go out for breakfast. I tend to keep it simple when it comes to breakfast with either some sort of fruit, yogurt, or sometimes even a quick pastry. However, I do like having the occasional pancake or french toast to mix up the routine a bit.
Pancakes are one of those things that I just never make at home even though it’s not that hard. That is why it’s usually what I get when I do go out for breakfast. So guess what I got that morning?…
Pancakes! And since I wanted feel healthy about it, I ordered the Oatmeal Pancakes with blueberries (extra). CP and I have the same love for anything blueberry! Thus, it was no surprise he ordered the Buttermilk Pancakes with blueberries.
The only way you could tell our pancakes apart was that his were a light, golden yellow color; whereas mines were a dark brownish color. Even the plating was the same: berry sauce squiggles, a slice of strawberry and two orange quarters. Simple presentation for a simple dish but man…both pancakes were suberb! Light and fluffy and loaded with blueberries.
My oatmeal pancake tasted nutty from the use of whole wheat flour and oats. CP’s pancakes had the rich buttermilk taste that I love just as much, but my guilty conscience would not let me get away with anything other than something somewhat healthy.
The three discs of homey-goodness stayed with us well into the afternoon. CP also had a side order of bacon with his meal because he had to satisfy his craving for bacon. I got to admit, it did smell darn good as the plate sat between our mains. Although I didn’t have any, my sweetie said they were cooked just the way he likes them and it fulfilled his need for pork…mmm.
From a morning jewel, this night time jewel has been up and around for some time since 2000. I forget where I even first heard of the place, but when it came to finding a place for a special dinner, it was one that came to mind almost immediately. I didn’t want to do Italian, too cliché. I didn’t want to do American, too plain. I wanted something different and flavors that I had hope that my sweetie would like, but never tried before. So when I read up on Parallel33, I made my decision.
[Note: due to some technical difficulties, the pictures from here on will be not of good quality. I apologize for it and for not doing these dishes justice...I will have to replace my camera asap.]
First off, I actually drove by the restaurant twice and had to make two U-turns before we found it. It had been right there, in front of us, yet we both kept missing it. However, the blame is really mine since CP didn’t know where I had planned on taking him so he couldn’t help. In the end, we found the little restaurant and found parking relatively fast afterwards! Even with the little bump in the road in the beginning of our evening, finding parking in Hillcrest/Mission Hills on two consecutive nights without too much trouble, I had high hopes….and Parallel33 didn’t fail to deliver.
We arrived half an hour early for my 8pm reservation, however the host was very nice and promptly seated us in the little alcove that connects the lobby/bar to the main dining area. I would have loved to sit in the main area, but the alcove was just as nice. Our server was very tentative, energetic (in a good way) and we received excellent service throughout our entire meal.
We started off the night with an appetizer:
The Ahi Poke with Asian Pear and Mango, two kinds of seaweed, a spicy wasabi dressing, and green tobiko all on top of a fried wonton skin. We first tried the poke and it was all very clean flavors and fresh. However, this dish didn’t come alive until you eat it whole – all the components together. It was only then did we both go: WOW.
The fresh tuna melded with the crisp pear and sweet mango was given a crunchy, salty texture from the wonton skin and seaweed. I’m not sure if what I tasted was suppose to be the spicy wasabi dressing, but there was definitely a slight spice when I ate it whole but it didn’t remind me of wasabi at all. Either way, this appetizer is worth trying if you ever visit.
Our entrees arrived not too long after we polished off the appetizers. I was torn between three dishes. It was hard to choose since everything sounded so good especially when our server described the special for the night. She did a fantastic selling job, but in the end I went ahead and got something that I have been wanting for sometime:
Pan Seared Coriander Crusted Scallops, Purple Sticky Rice, Asparagus, Roasted Kabocha and Cashew Nut Spicy Kung Pao
Man oh man! Where do I start…How about the main star? This dish came with four giant scallops that had been encrusted entirely with coriander and seared perfectly. The scallops remained very tender, not chewy at all which is the problem I run into when I have scallops. Nope, these babies were soft and gave way easily when bitten into, and the flavors!
First off, the scallop themselves were sweet, but then you also have the coriander to give you the first *POW*! Mixing with the natural sweetness of the scallops, the coriander added a spicy kick with a touch of citrus! This complemented well with the “kung pao” sauce that gave the second *POW*! It was spicy to the point (for me) that it wasn’t burning off my tongue, but enough so I could feel the heat.
The purple sticky rice made me think of some sort of Korean wild rice, if there is such a thing. It was sticky like Korean rice; however it was much nuttier and even heartier. It was great with the sauce! Sadly though, I wasn’t able to finish all of it but I made sure to get all the rice at the bottom that was soaked with the sauce. CP had some of my rice and fell in love with it! He even helped me polish off a good portion of it in the end, so not much went to waste.
CP is a huge fan of fish and Halibut is his favorite so when he saw it on the menu, he was pretty much set on what he was going to have:
Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut, Israeli Cous Cous, Indian Curry spiced Tomatoes, Mustard Greens, Roasted Bell Pepper Lemongrass Sambal
I think my favorite thing about this dish was the color of the sauce and the sauce itself! It is Parallel’s modern take on the traditional Southeast Asian sambal. Using bell peppers instead of chili peppers, so it was not hot but slightly sweet. There was some tang to it that I think accompanied the halibut wonderfully! Speaking of which, the halibut was cooked perfectly too. It was flaky, tender and no trace of fishiness at all. CP loved his entree and was literally mopping his plate clean (along with mine).
I think that our entrees really reflected the owners and chef’s idea and inspiration behind the restaurant. According to its website, the restaurant is located on the 33rd parallel and its food and architecture is inspired by all the countries that sit along the same parallel. Japan, China, India, the Middle East, and Morocco are all represented in their menu as well as the decor. Just between CP’s and my entrees, we were able to get a little bit of all these countries! And quite frankly, I find this idea ingenious! Rather than just saying your cuisine is “fusion,” you are sticking with a very specific yet broad theme. There’s so much that one can work with when it comes to the food from these countries – whether in ingredients or flavors. Parallel 33 will definitely be one of my jewels of San Diego.
So with that, I leave you with this: Go out there and explore! If you are a San Diegan, native or implant or even just a visiting San Diegan, there is so much out there to be discovered! Be curious! Be daring! Be adventurous! Don’t let the unknown deter you away from seeking out new places because you never know what treasures you will find.The Cottage 7702 Fay Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037 (858) 454-8409 Parallel 33 741 W. Washington St. San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 260-0033