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Dede’s Teajuice City

Another institution that has been in San Diego for years, but I never made it to since I don’t have the right group of people to go with.  However, when a group of friends whom I met during my previous job at the client wanted to go get lunch.  The opportunity came up and I suggested Dede’s Teajuice City!

The restaurant is small, but still a decent size yet it is in one of the many super small strip mall all over Kearny Mesa.  At this point, I think I’m just used to it that I don’t even complain about it anymore.  Anyway, I was there specifically for some delicious food and I was not going to be denied of it!

Special Cooked Baby Rib

Dede’s Special Cooked Baby Ribs were good, but I wish there was more meat!  I’m not one to eat off the bone and when I do, I expect there to be meat!  Lots and lots of meat!

Cumin Flavored Lamb

The Cumin Lamb that my friends told me was delicious.  It smelled great!  If it really tastes as good as it smelled, then I wish I did eat lamb….*sigh*

Sichuan Eggplant

The Spicy Sichuan Eggplant a dish that I’m just so familiar with and it does makes me think of home. I can’t ever reject eggplant, mmmm….purple….spicy purple!

Deep Fried Fish w/ Dry Red Pepper

The dish that I really wanted to have that day was the Boiled Fish Hot Pot.  Basically fried fish fillets with tons of peppers and potatoes.  I have an obsession for spicy foods and there is no end to it and this little pot is like gold for me.  Spicy, but still flavorful and the fish with its crispy outer layer and moist, tender flesh interior….mmm, perfection!

We had several other dishes to go along side with our main stars, but as they were coming out with one dish after another, we kept eating.  The full meal included:

Dan Dan Noodles, which were enjoyed by the whole table.  It’s spicy here too and I have no complaints about that!  Dan Dan Noodles was one of those dishes that I learned to fall in love with as I grew older, whereas it was a favorite of my Dad’s.

We also had an order of pan fried dumplings (it was pork filled) and scallion pancakes because hey! Why the freak not?!  We were all grown adults with adult appetites!  LET US FEAST!

…..and somewhere in the middle of feasting, I had to take an aerial shot of our table:

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I am quite proud of our ability to consume and I think we could do better next time by ordering more food.  I love Dede’s since it’s the food that I’m most familiar with and feel at home with.   Definitely returning to Dede’s for more meals!

Dede’s Teajuice City
4647 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111


Bali Thai Cafe (via Eat24)

Lately I’ve been ordering takeout via online websites.  At first this was purely because I wanted to try it out, but then when the site starts sending me electronic coupons too, that would usually do it for me.  It was because of Eat24 that I finally tried a restaurant that has been on my go-to list forever, but never made it because it was just out of the way.  Considering it’s one of two places that I know of in San Diego that serves some Malaysian dishes, I don’t know why it took me so long to try Bali Thai.  With that said, after the first successful order via Eat24, Bali Thai Cafe has been my go-to-to-go spot for specifically, their Malaysian dishes!

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The spread for…well myself!!  CP was going out with his family that evening and I was by myself for dinner, so instead of cooking (which I have been doing a lot of), I ordered my favorite dishes:

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This is an order of the Mie Goreng, an Indonesian/Malay dish of thin egg noodles stir fried with fried tofu, onion, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts in a sweet soy sauce.  The dish is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, so it’s not a surprise that it tastes something like a cross between Chinese chow mein and Japanese yakisoba.  Yet the taste is its own and not like either of the two.  Maybe that’s why I can’t get enough of it?

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The Nasi Goreng Bali Thai combo: quarter of the Ayum Bumbu Bali, two satay skewers (I guess this puts the “Thai” into the combo?), nasi goreng, and a fried egg.

The Ayum Bumbu Bali is a grilled, Balinese chili marinated chicken.  It’s sweet and spicy and they serve it with another heaping of chili on top.  From searching for how one would make this dish, it seems the chili seasoning is a mixture of ginger, red pepper, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and shrimp paste.  The flavors are just explosive in comparison to the chicken skewers and that much more tender and juicy.  I would have gladly given up those skewers for some more of that chili paste and slather it all over myself (or toast).

The combo also comes with the Nasi Goreng, which is basically the fried rice version of the Mie Goreng.  Fried rice with onions in a sweet soy sauce and topped with a fried egg.  Actually, the last time I just ordered Nasi Goreng, they had scrambled the egg into the fried rice, versus topping it off with a friend egg like this.  Honestly, I prefer it to be this way and even though I understand why they wouldn’t serve the egg runny, I sorely wished they did.  Note to myself: ask them to make it a sunny side up egg for my Nasi Goreng next time.

All the dishes at Bali Thai Cafe are extremely affordable and tasty.  Considering I’ve never been to Malaysia or Indonesia yet, I’ve had my taste of the cuisine here in San Diego (the other venue I will post later on), New York, and in Florida (yes…that was an odd one but still good).  It just reinforces my love for cuisines that will use a heavy hand on spices to cook up wonderful dishes.

And remember kids: just say ‘NO’ to bland food!

Bali Thai Cafe
407 Camino Del Rio S
San Diego, CA 92108


My Ramen Obsession

As far as I can remember, I have loved all kinds of noodles.  It was a staple in my childhood diet especially when the only food I ate fell in the carbohydrates category, chicken, turkey, pork, and fruit.  To say the least my diet was very imbalanced would be an understatement.  Despite the fact that I have since expanded my eating horizon quite significantly, the foundation of my food love has never really changed all that much.

I love food that is flavorful – duh…I mean who likes bland food???  For instance: I have always loved tofu, but trying to eat it in its natural form without any sauces or spices, I cannot stomach it.  And despite the fact that I had try the little to no carb diet back in college, that didn’t last very long for me as the thought of bread, noodles, rice, pasta haunted me day and night.  Giving up my foundation was literally driving me insane!

Fast forward to today: I am eating carbs again and I love it!  However, I am more discerning about my choices in the various carbohydrate options.  One of the things that I never really thought much about was ramen.  Growing up in North Carolina, ramen meant Top Ramen or Instant Cup Noodles.  Even when I finally moved back to San Diego with my family, ramen had only expanded as far as the options that were given prepackaged with the fried and dried noodles.

Then my first experience with having ramen that was NOT from a package was at Tajima about 5-6 years ago?  Back then, that was the benchmark of delicious ramen for me.  That is until I tried my bowl of ramen while vacationing in Honolulu back in the Spring of 2011, then the mind blowing bowl from Hide-chan in New York during the Fall of the same year.  What I have known as “ramen” was forever changed since then.

So the most recent adventures into the ramen world while in San Diego included three of the “newer” additions to our wonderful city: Hinotez, Ramen Yamadaya, and Rakiraki.

Shall we begin going down the rabbit hole?

Hinotez

This restaurant came in after the old Honey Bee Café left their spot several years ago.  Sandwiched between auto shops, across from the rows of dealerships, and it’s next door neighbor (same building) is a bar, it isn’t exactly broadcasting itself in the best light.

That was why I was so surprised when I first stepped in that it was completely redone and looked the part of a ramen house.  Ok…good start!  A look at the menu and you know they are trying to just run a no frills shop and that’s just the way I like it.  The choices are limited and simple: ramen (limited choices), a few entrees from the kitchen, and then the short yakitori list.  The reason I came in was for their ramen, but I can’t go without at least trying their chicken thigh yakitori.  Here is the breakdown of Hinotez:

I have been back several times and although it never felt like we were intentionally being ignored or neglected, they seem to conveniently forget a part of the order the last three visits.  And each time, they apologize profusely and depending on the time and mood and fullness, I’ll either have them still put the order through or just have it skipped.

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A good broth is hard to find and time consuming to make.  That’s why I have to look at a restaurant lovingly when they do a good broth for me.  Hinotez’ tonkotsu broth is milky, thick, and flavorful.  It is on the saltier side, which makes it hard for me to finish the WHOLE bowl’s broth (though I do make a nice dent to it).  As for the noodles, it can vary from being slight overcooked to almost just right.

In addition to the ramen, we also ordered steamed gyozas and they were only ok.  Nothing to rave about nor complain about.  Just kind of “meh” (hence why there has never been a picture of it) and not worth your stomach space – skip it!

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As for the chicken thigh yakitori, that came with two skewers, I love!  The chicken was juicy and seasoned with only salt and that was all that it needed.  However, on my last visit, they didn’t quite grill it to that perfect caramelization on the outside that I loved the first two times.

Overall Verdict?…I hope that Hinotez will have more yakitori choices down the road, but this place has potential.  There are some things that need to be worked out such as consistency in cooking, but they have the flavors that can keep me coming back for more.

Ramen Yamadaya

Located in the same strip mall where Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot resides, this little (emphasis on little) shop is unassuming.  Yet it is Los Angeles chain that has graced our town (why can’t more of this happen????) and I was very excited to go try it one evening with my mom and younger sister.

Ramen Yamadaya has a small indoor seating area, with bar seating right in front of the open kitchen where you can watch the guys prepare your ramen.  There is also an outdoor patio area that has some limited seating as well.  Even though the place has been open just a little over two months, the word is out that Yamadaya is here.  Is it good you ask?  Well if you’re a chain with six locations in southern California, I would imagine they have the art of ramen down to the ‘T’.

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See those glops of fat floating at the surface?…Yea that’s what you look for when you’re getting yourself prep and hyped up for a delicious tonkotsu broth experience.  Just like Hinotez, these guys have the broth’s consistency down – thick and rich with porky goodness that coats your mouth and all the way down your throat before settling happily in your stomach.  Yea…this was freaking good.  Best part?  It was NOT over salted and thus…I only put down my spoon because I was going to be scraping the bottom.

When it was done, I had to dig myself out of that fatty, rich goodness to remember more about the rest of the bowl.  Noodles?  Yes, there was noodles and I had order extra just because I could see their portions run small.  They were cooked just right and even though I am not a slow eater (by nature), by the time I took my last bite, that was when the noodles felt a little “softer”.  Not bad Yamadaya…not bad at all (gawds I want myself a bowl now…*gurgling*).

The service was bare-bones – two front of the house servers on a Friday night with three or four guys working the kitchen (cooking, cleaning, etc).  Hence you may have a little more problems getting their attention when you really want something.  However, I’m all for helping myself to things when the restaurant’s small and short on staff.  For this bowl, I’m willing to sacrifice a waiter’s attention as long as he brings me my order.

Rakiraki

Actually…I didn’t make it to Rakiraki as intended, but hopefully by next week!


Minca – New York, NY

After finally spending a FULL week back at home in San Diego, I realized it was time to do a post!  It has been a little crazy and I don’t know how this much time could have gone by already.  Anyways…I have to tell you all (those who actually read my little blog) about an amazing meal I had while in New York!

Presenting…Minca Ramen Factory’s Basic Pork Broth with thin cut noodles.  This piping bowl of goodness includes: “stewed pork” (charsu), bamboo, “wild mushroom”, boiled egg, and nori.

I don’t know how to describe how amazing this bowl was.  It was pretty darn awesome….and that was just me overcoming me sudden lack of vocabulary at my disposal.  There have been only a small handful of GOOD ramen I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in my lifetime.  This has to be in my top 3!

The flavor of the broth was so rich and velvety, that I wanted to gurgle with the broth just so it could coat my the entire of my mouth for even longer. I could taste the salt and garlic seasoning the broth, accenting the pork-based broth.  The flavor of pork is not as in your face despite the cloudy appearance, yet I think I liked this balance.  Makes me wonder what their other broths taste like…

When I stepped into this little hole in the wall, that was behind a dumpster (due to construction), I was not even remotely hungry.  Yet, this bowl of magic could still carry every flavor note on the tongue.  That is a sign of a good meal – when you can crave and love it, even though you are practically stuffed to the gill already.  I would have ordered 2 bowls for myself that night actually, but I was with my coworkers and I just decided I had too much to eat that day.  Instead, I took my coworker’s unfinished bowl of ramen and proceeded to eat hers too.

However, I urge you all to go out there and try a bowl!  Especially if you do live in the area!  Otherwise, next time you find yourself out in that city, give it a slurp!

Minca Ramen Factory
536 E Fifth St
New York, NY 10009


Post Thanksgiving/Black Friday Shopping Dinner

After a big meal with the family on Thanksgiving day:

Followed by my latest start to Black Friday shopping at 8am!  That would be usually almost my time that I arrive back home with my bounty.  However, I was using my rational mind for once and told myself, “You do NOT need anything this year!”  I had already bought my big electronic purchase this year – my Sony S Tablet, and that was more than enough.

….so said my rational brain.  Yet, the shop-a-holic in me could not resist the temptations of sales and that was how I found myself out at my first store by 8am.  At that hour, the craziness was winding down and it was much easier to deal with.  Heck…it was my most relaxing Black Friday shopping since I started participating in it about 5 or 6 years ago.

The madness that I heard about (and the wreckage in the aftermath) of this annual event was astonishing.  To think – people were pepper spraying each other so they could have one up on another fellow shopper for a hot ticket item.  Is it really worth it people?

Anyways, after my morning of shopping, I rested in the afternoon with some of the Thanksgiving leftovers, including my Lemon Cream-Cheese Cookies that I made for the dinner.  The cookies were shaped into bows and crumbled and melted in your mouth.  The citrus was refreshing after a heavy meal during Thanksgiving, and is light as a sweet, naughty snack.  These cookies will remain in my permanent fave recipes.

That night, exhausted, I met up with LA for a simple dinner at Chopstix Too.  I needed something that would not remind me of Thanksgiving and this was perfect.

Got an order of my favorite – Crunchy Roll, plus a bowl of Chopstix Too’s Tonkotsu Ramen, since I’ve never tried theirs before.  LA has her order of the Chicken Katsu and Crunch Roll plate.

The Crunchy Roll is just a simple staple that I love and by no means – is my idea of GOOD sushi.  This is the type of sushi you get when you want something that just tastes good, feels like an indulgence, fills you up, and most of all…RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP! ($4.95)  I love it because it’s crunchy (duh), sweet (from the eel sauce and imitation crab meat), spicy (the spicy mayo and my extra shot of siracha),  and carby.

The tonkotsu ramen (sans the green onions, can’t stand green onions) was surprisingly…not too bad!  I was anticipating a disappointing bowl, but I was surprised by it.  The broth was medium strong, good flavors (could use just a little more pork flavor), and it warmed me up during that cold evening.  The ramen should have been more firm, but it wasn’t soggy.  Only a little softer than what I would like my ramen to be.  My one gripe about this whole bowl – the hard boil egg was not the marinaded kind like Tajima’s.  😦  Still…both LA and I enjoyed our simple meal and that night, I slept quite peacefully with the few sale items I did get my hands on and a warm belly.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and shopping adventure!

Chopstix Too
4380 Kearny Mesa Rd
San Diego, CA 92111


Amarin Thai – Mira Mesa

Again, this is another post where I wondered to myself: why have I not posted about this place?! I visit Amarin Thai in Mira Mesa at LEAST once a month, if not more. This tiny restaurant comes out with banging food. Now is it authentic? I may have to defer that judgment to domeone who would know because I have never had Thai from the homeland. However, if you are in the market for a great meal then continue reading!

The restaurant is a tiny space, tucked in the back corner of a little food court in the business district on Mira Mesa boulevard. There is never more than 2 servers in the front of the house, and 2 people in the back of the house.  And regardless of the day of the week, lunch or dinner, they have a steady stream of business. I’d like to think I help contribute towards the life of the restaurant.

My latest contribution was this last Thursday with my friend LKB. We both went with our usuals that night:

Panang Curry with Chicken and side of brown rice for LKB.

Drunken Noodles with Mock Duck for myself.

Our choice of spice levels that night: 8\10. I would warn to others to air on the side of caution here because when you ask for spicy, they WILL give you spicy! What you can do if you find that it’s not spicy enough, ask for the spices afterwards and they will provide for you a tray of all the different kinds of heat for you to choose from.

Now I suppose the real question is: why do we love Amarin? Let me try and figure how to put it into words…

Consistently great, tasting food. They hit the spice note (not spicy mind you!), so it will never be subjected to the blasphemy of bland food syndrome. When you ask for spicy, they will burn you if you’re not careful. And they have friendly staff that helps serve you a delicious meal at such good prices, you feel like a thief at times. Go for a quick lunch, a casual dinner, or take out, you will find yourself happier…and maybe in search for some milk or ice cream to cool that raging fire within.

Amarin Thai
6755 Mira Mesa Blvd, Ste 109
San Diego, CA 92121


Hide-Chan Ramen – New York

About 3 weeks ago, CP and I were in NYC to kick off the start of college football season!  Granted, the game was up in Westpoint, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go to the city again.  New York is among my top destinations for food and I don’t think that would come as a surprise.  This little peninsula is packed corner to corner with buildings and businesses, and the only city where I’ve ever been to where you can have a selection of the world’s cuisine at your finger tips.

One of the places I have been meaning to visit was Hide-chan Ramen.  Located in Midtown East, down a quite street, upstairs in an unassuming location and if I hadn’t looked up the place online with pictures of the entrance, I would have never thought of stepping through its door.

At Hide-chan, you have the choice of intensity for the broth (rich, medium, and light).  The intensity equates to the richness of the broth and the richer it is, the more pork fatty goodness coats your mouth with each sip.   Additionally, you dictate the firmness of your noodles (very firm, firm, medium, and soft).  Both of us ordered the traditional Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, with just different toppings.  We went with the medium intensity broth and firm noodles.

Here’s an up close shot of my bowl – see those globs of fatty goodness?  It added to the full mouth feel of rich, pork flavor that lingered even after the broth has slid down your throat.  I was in love with the broth from the first sip.  A wonderful foundation for its supporting cast that made up the rest of the bowl.  The ramen itself was nothing like the instant top ramen you get at the grocery store (unless maybe they sell this kind of amazing ramen in the markets of Japan).  Firm and cooked al dente, which made it perfect for slow consumption so that when you reached to the end of your meal, the last bite is not a soggy mess.

I have been to another famous ramen joint in the city – Ippudo – and I must say they are completely different ramen houses.  Ippudo’s broth was rich and tasty, but their ramen was not my preference at all.  I much prefered my bowl of ramen here at Hide-chan and would recommend others to come here too.  CP has already noted Hide-chan as a must stop for the city (his others are Papaya King and the 53rd & 6th Halal Guys).

Now my mission is to find a bowl of tonkotsu ramen that blows my mind in San Diego….suggestions???

Hide-Chan Ramen
248 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022