To feed your body and soul in San Diego and all over the world

Review

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


Devilicious

Oh food trucks…how I love thee.  Let me count the ways that I love you:

Your food is cooked fresh to order.

You provide me good food without any unnecessary frills.

Most of the time you have me eating with my hands.

You satisfy my hunger and my soul.

Oh food trucks…thank you for completing my eating life in San Diego.

The food truck mania is not just some passing phase people.  It is a staple that San Diego has been long behind on and over the last 5 years, that side of the business has significantly grown.  One of the oldest food trucks in San Diego who also participated in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race – Devlicious, has been serving our great town for awhile now.  Their signature item is the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich.  So when a coworker and I found them parked just outside our office, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it for myself:

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The lobster grilled cheese comes with a side salad with balsamic vinegar.  The sandwich itself: butter poached lobster with melted jack and cheddar cheese and caramelized onions on sourdough.

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It is a rich and delicious sandwich. The cheese melted perfectly, nestling in the sweet onions and lobster itself all on two pieces of crispy, fresh bread.  I think if it was any other side, it would have been just too much for me to handle, but because it was a salad, it helped bring down the richness.  As for the lobster you may be wondering – fresh, soft, sweet, and was not overshadowed in the least.  And they gave you a good amount of lobster for the price of $12.

People may think this is “outrageously” expensive, yet a restaurant would have charged you $16-$18, and some places could get away with even charging up to $20 for this exact sandwich portion. Think about it people, how much would it cost you at a restaurant? These trucks have to not only pay for the food supply itself, but even with their bare minimum operations, there are still costs to run a food truck.  Have you not seen the show itself?  You need to charge every dish to cover your cost of food, overhead (eg. wages, truck maintenance), and still make a profit from every sale.

So come on San Diego!  Go out there and support your local food trucks!!!  There’s a great website that shows you all the food truck gatherings throughout San Diego called Curbside Bites and their calendar lists out everything.  Granted, always check with the truck’s twitter or webpage for any updates on their locations.

Devilicious

Throughout San Diego County (and sometimes beyond)


D Bar

My first time at D Bar was with two lovely ladies from my old job – KF and LT, when LT who had left SD several years back, was coming back to visit.  I had to catch up with two wonderful and extremely driven ladies.  We had a great afternoon catching up and just seeing what everyone was up to since we were all tied up in life itself.  That day, we had sampled several dishes to just get an idea of what D Bar could do – just desserts or food as well?

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On the left hand side, from top to bottom:

Crue Fries – their signature starter of garlic parmesan fries (perfectly fried), mac sauce, melted cheddar jack, bacon, ranch, and chives.  This appetizer is salty but so addictive!

Naan-Burguesa – kobe burger, grilled naan, black bean hummus, chipotle mayo, havarti, avocado, and a side of chips.  Since I don’t eat beef, KF and LT both were a little underwhelm by this  burger.  In part, the use of a grilled naan didn’t hold everything together so when you bit down, everything tends to slide out.

Tahini Grilled Salmon – on a bed of mixed greens, grilled baby bok choy, tossed in a ginger soy vinaigrette, and topped with toasted almond and edamame.  This salad was again only ok and slightly underwhelming.

Now the real reason why we were here: desserts!

Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has – just the name itself made us want to order it.  Plus the three of us have had really good molten cake thingies before, so we had to try it and see where D Bar’s stacked up.  Their version is comes with raspberry compote and Sicilian pistachio ice cream, but we wanted to try their salted caramel ice cream and so we requested the swap.  Well we can say that their cake thingy was quite good.  Was it the best?  We were all hard press to jump up and exclaim this was the best version we’ve had to-date, but it is a darn good contender!

Ch Ch Ch Churros! – Made. To. Order.  Those are the three words that almost always ensures that you are going to have a great churro.  And boy, D Bar knows their churros alright! It was the best freaking plate of churros ever!!! And it comes with a little dish of melted dark chocolate for dipping which was more for scooping out and eating straight.

On my second visit with two other wonder ladies – LA and JW, I knew there were two items I couldn’t go without: crue fries and churros.  Except this time, it was for dinner so ordered more items to try in hopes that it would turn out better, but first…some drinks!

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Normally, I don’t drink so I wouldn’t be posting about drinks, but my gals do and one drink intrigued us all – the Fresca Picante (martini glass one).  This was a strawberry jalapeno infused tequila with agave and lime.  I had taken a sip and the jalapeno is this after kick that happens a few seconds after drinking.  It was such an interesting taste and experience that it had all three of us just inspecting it as we waited for food.

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Oh these wonderful babies again…come to mama! NOM NOM NOM!!!

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Bacon Mac & Cheese – because we were all feeling like mac n’ cheese.  Don’t question us! We wanted this ooey, gooey bowl of melted goodness.  It’s a four cheese mac, with bacon and cheese nips and panko crumb top.  It was as decadent as it sounded, but good for sharing!

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Lobster Risotto – grilled lobster tail with rosemary butter, served with roasted poblano risotto and broccolini and pea tendrils.  The lobster was sweet and tender and I could have eaten several more of that tail!  So good…

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And since we were ordering so many rich dishes, I felt we needed at least one salad to help balance it out a little.  The Grilled Caesar salad, drizzled with balsamic glaze  and topped with shaved parm, it help give us that fresh crunch we needed.

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Oh the desserts…delicious, delicious desserts…I pretty much dictated this order:

Chocolate Souffle – 65% chocolate souffle, nutella filled beignets with chocolate sauce, and praline ice cream.  The souffle was not as airy as I’ve had in some places, but still delicious and fluffy.  The beignets were too thick and not fluffy enough.  Beignets are suppose to be little pockets of fried heaven (as I have experienced before in NOLA), so I was a little sadden to eat these little guys here.  As for the chocolate, we learned from our waiter that they “pay more for the chocolate per pound than we do for the steak”.  Now that’s something to be proud of! If I do say so myself!

And those churros, I ordered it knowing what I would get, but my friends were both skeptical.  I told them that I swear by them and upon their first bites, I just ruined their ideas of churros forever.  LA was just peeved at me for making her taste a damn good churro and now other churros will never be the same.  Job. Well. Done.

D Bar as a whole, I love – from the food, atmosphere, venue and the people working there.  It’s a great place to gather, enjoy a few dishes and drinks.  Although I did not have pictures of my take out desserts from D Bar, I did try their macarons and chocolates.  The macarons were much too dry!  I was quite disappointed, but at least their chocolates were superb!  I really hope the restaurant will continue to do well, so that I may keep coming back and try everything on the menu (but always with the churros).

D Bar
3930 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103


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


Ssam Bar (Momofuku)

As far as I’m concerned, NYC is pretty much my home away from home when it comes to woes of my stomach.  This city always offers us so much and even after a hard hit to the locals here the past week and still in a tough spot for many.

Despite all the mounting reasons why it would be better for a postponement of a department training, we continued.  To make the best I could for my time in the city, I still tried to give my business to the proprietors of the city.  This evening, a group of 8 hungry, hungry hippos (yes, it’s a MEGA version of the game) made its way down to East Village for Ssam Bar.

The last time I was at this Momofuku establishment was back in March, but it left a specific memory for myself – we need more people to eat!  Last time, it was only my friend KF and myself.  We did our fair share of sampling David Chang’s signature dishes, plus staff favorites.  This time, we had more than enough mouths to sample even more!

shanghai noodle – chanterelles, hearts of palm, trout roe

This was a cold, small dish of noodles that was dressed in what seemed like some sort of sesame sauce.  The roe added the little salt and the hearts of palm seem to freshen up my bite.  It was good, but not stellar.

crispy pig ear ssäm – yuzu kosho, umezuki, thai basil

Wow….the pig ear was fried super crispy and seasoned so well that I thought I was eating chips!  If you weren’t told you were eating pig ears, you could easily pass this for fried jerky.  Yums!

honeycrisp apple kimchi – maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula

This pretty much explains itself: kimchi-ed apples with bacon and arugula.  This is served with a maple yogurt that cuts the pickled apples.  The reason I ordered this dish for the table was because I remember this dish being the big surprise from my first visit.  It was unexpected in how much I liked it!

steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions

bbq bun – crispy pork belly, coleslaw, smoked mayo

lobster sandwich – sour cream crisps, iceberg lettuce

Yes…we had a LOT of the bun appetizers (actually we ordered all of them).  Everyone was floored at how good the steamed and bbq buns were.  Seems like the consensus at the table was that the bbq buns were the favorite of them all.  I personally had a gripe this time about the steam buns – the bread itself was too dry and just made me sad!  The buns used for the bbq version were nice and soft and fluffy.  Why?!?!  As for the lobster roll…it’s nothing special at all.  I would suggest skipping this one and go else where if the craving is lobster roll.

roasted quail – pineapple, spaghetti squash, vadouvan

I didn’t get to try the quail itself, but my colleagues seem to really like it.  One even said, “I wasn’t expecting anything and it is better than I thought it would be.”  I did try the spaghetti squash that was coated with what tasted like curry and it was good.

 

spicy pork sausage & rice cakes – chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

This was the dish that I would say, should be the signature entree of the restaurant.  It was just as good as the first time – spicy, tangy, savory, cripsy, chewy, meaty, crunchy.  There is no way I was going to split one order with 7 other people, so I insisted on ordering 2 of them!  Everyone was loving this dish as well and diving into them.

charred spanish octopus – pine nuts, celery, black olive

O.M.G…this dish was MY highlight of the evening.  During my first visit, KF and I saw people ordering the octopus and it looked soooo good.  That’s why this time, I was determined to get it!!  Gee willikers batman! That is a darn good plate of octopus!! I mean…it was cooked perfectly that this was one of two times I’ve ever had octopus in my life when it was NOT chewy (like rubber). One thing I did have an issue with this was that it was overly salted.  Other than that, give. me. MOAR!!!!

After two visits during different times of the year, I found Ssam Bar to be addicting and consistent (more or less….fix that dry bun issue!).  The staff is attentive but not overly bearing and even took the time to talk to one of our colleagues because she wanted to modify an overly strong drink.  Would I be back?  Heck. YES.

Ssam Bar | momofuku
207 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


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!


Philly Frank’s in San Marcos

Ok, so I don’t normally track up to the San Marcos area for food.  Or at all since it is never “on my way” to anything!  However, my coworker introduced me to a place up in San Marcos about three weeks ago and my world has been forever changed.  (And the realization dawned on me that San Marcos is actually NOT that far away from our office in Rancho Bernardo!)

CB started talking about getting Philly cheesesteaks one day and that got me really hungry.  Then he proceeded to tell me the name of the restaurant – Philly Frank’s.  Of course, the moment he gave me the name of the restaurant, I went hunting for the place online to see if it was worth my saliva (because I was drooling already at the thought of it).  Upon browsing through Yelp’s comments, reviews, and the pictures, I was completely sold!

Since I don’t eat beef, the only “Philly cheesesteak” that I’m familiar with is of the chicken variety.  There were good reviews for Philly Frank’s chicken variety and hence, there was an immediate need to make a lunch trip up.  Fortunately, for us, the managers were all gone for training during the week and so, it was time to schedule a “long” lunch!

There were four of us who made the trip that one fateful afternoon – CB (the culprit), PY, XP, and myself.  Between the four of us, we ordered the following: Cheese Steak, The Works (with peppers, mushrooms, and onions) – Beef  (3), and The Work (with everything) – Chicken, two orders of seasoned fries and an order of the onion rings.

Up close shot of my chicken philly

Needless to say, we had a LOT of food for the four of us that afternoon.  We thought that we could tackle it without any problems-no that is actually a lie.  Once we saw everything in front of us, we knew it would be a challenge that we had willingly accepted!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take an aerial shot of the table, but trust me, put all those sandwiches together and our sides and you’ll get the idea.  And by the end, I ended up eating more than 80% of the fries, some of the onion rings, and half of my sandwich.  There were definitely some food coma issues for the four of us upon our return to the office.  Was it all worth it?  HECK YES!!!!

It was so worthwhile, that CB and I made another trip last week with three other coworkers – MW, MB and RC.  They too understood why we would risk falling asleep during work hours for this sandwich!  Results were just the same as the first time – lots of food, happy eaters, and very tired workers.

Though the sad ending for our second trip, my leftover half of the sandwich was accidently left at the office fridge.  It was over the weekend, but there were no notices that the fridge was going to be cleaned out, which is done every now and then.  I come back to work on Monday morning, and was going to put my side salad I brought from home to eat with the sandwich, only to find my sandwich was GONE.  Seriously, I don’t get people who take other people’s food!  Sadly, that meant that I didn’t have the protein I needed for lunch that day and was starving soon after lunch.

This just means that I need to make another trip up to Philly Frank’s so I can have my other half of the sandwich!

Philly Frank’s
151 South Rancho Santa Fe Road
San Marcos, CA 92069


Gaijin Noodle + Sake House

After our first Padres evening game, CP and I had to find some food afterwards to wash away the sad outcome.  I had read about a new place opening in the Gaslamp last month, and decided that it was the perfect time to check it out – Gaijin Noodle + Sake House.

After mapping it out and walking closer to the location, I then realized that the restaurant was where the old Cheese Shop location was!  Hence the restaurant is narrow and opens deep into the building.  Off to the right hand side is where the magic begins with the grill lined with rows of skewers of meat.  Let’s get started!

For all patrons, they provide for you a complementary “salad” of shredded cabbage, dressed in a “kimichi” spicy-sour dressing.  Nothing mind blowing, just additional water-based vegetables to consume.  I personally love cabbage, but not the biggest fan for the dressing so this dish is not something I would want again.

Our bowls (or in this picture, just mine) of the Spicy Miso Chasu Hakata Ramen.  Accompanying the spicy miso based soup were slices of chasu, bamboo, mushrooms, naruto (no, not the anime character, the swirly fish cake), bok choy, and cabbage.

It was a good bowl of noodles, not ramen.  I say this because it was not the “hakata” style ramen I’ve come to know while in Hawaii and New York.  This is definitely passable and suitable for a “Gaijin” who is looking for something to eat after a night of drinking.  I don’t absolutely hate this bowl of noodles, but I wouldn’t call it ramen or even recommend it as a bowl of ramen.  I will tell you that it’s a nice bowl of noodles and that’s about it.

The true star of the night were the skewers of chicken thigh meat, marinaded with red miso.  These skewers of savory meat were juicy and tender and I could probably eat about 5 skewers by myself!  I mean, there was nothing better that I could think of than to eat more of these skewers and makes me wonder how the other options are.  If this is any indication, then I would not mind having a meat fest with Gaijin Noodle + Sake House….mmmm….meeeeat.

Overall?  This is a nice new addition to the Gaslamp Quarter, and I sincerely hope they expand their yakitori options!

Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
627 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101


Stacked

There days (or nights) when I want something simple to eat, but if the restaurant can make it entertaining for me too…I can love it even more.  It makes me wonder why don’t more restaurants get this??? A distinguishing factor can help a restaurant stick out from the sea of options for patrons.

Stacked in Fashion Valley Mall occupies where the UNO Pizzeria used to be many ages ago.  This restaurant is a burger, salad, pizza, sandwich joint.  What makes this place different than say, a Burger King or Chili’s?…….It’s self-service, to an extent.  There are still servers and cooks, however the servers do not take your orders.  You put in your own order on your table’s personal tablet:

I know it seems so trivial and some may even find this annoying that they have to put in their own orders.  However, for today’s generation and the current technological culture, this is a welcomed addition for restaurant goers.  You can check out their website and see what their menu looks like.  And since you place your own orders, you can customize it as much or as little as you want.  The control is ALL yours!

With that control, I created this sandwich for myself:

What you see before you is CP’s burger: Brioche bun + Angus Burger + Romain Lettuce + Bacon + Onion Straws + BBQ Sauce + Side of Jalapenos (for me).

My sandwich: Whole Wheat Bun + Blackened Grilled Chicken + Romaine Lettuce + Caramelized Onions + Roasted Red Peppers + Sides of Garlic Aioli and Chipotle Mayo.

And to accompany our sandwiches – a combo of half fresh cut fries and housemade chips.  Ketchup for CP and ranch for me!

All of this did not come cheap, so don’t expect this restaurant to be your run of the mill place.  With each customization, it’ll cost you – yes, even the sauces which does include the ketchup.  However, I will say the idea of having a perfectly created sandwich, cooked to our liking to our exact order is empowering.  Also, the housemade chips are just ridiculously addicting, but I would recommend that you request for “less salt”.

To wrap up the evening, I ordered a dessert (another “stacked” item): Scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies.  The chocolate chip cookie was a little over baked, but the whole dessert was still delicious because you can’t go wrong with ice cream and cookies!

The second time CP and I went, he ordered a customized pizza and it was good too.  Not outstanding, nor best pizza ever.  At the end of the day, Stacked is fun and good for a simple (or not so simple if you’re technologically illiterate) meal.  I think the novelty factor makes it worthwhile to warrant a visit.  Go ahead, stack your own meal!

Stacked (Multiple Locations)
Fashion Valley
7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Suite #356


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


Market Restaurant + Bar

Last month, I finally crossed off a restaurant that I had wanted to go to for ages.  This place got on my list of restaurants to try back in 2006, not long after it had opened.  The rave reviews from fellow local bloggers, to Yelpers, to magazine reviews, the restaurant had a laundry list of positive feedback.  Yet, the reason it took me almost six years to get there are due to various reasons:

  1. It’s slightly off the beaten path in Del Mar, and not in the main strip of Del Mar restaurants off the coast.
  2. The end bill is not exactly cheap, so that would limit this place to special occasions.
  3. Once, when I got close to going, there were no reservations open for that evening that was before a 9pm seating.

Then comes along my old colleague and friend from my previous job, who was coming to San Diego (technically, it was Valley View Center) for a job.  We scheduled for a dinner meet up and she told me to pick.  Considering she was all the way up in the mountains, though an area I’m familiar with, it is not my first choice for dinner spots.  Hence, I knew I would be choosing something in the northern area of San Diego.  That is when it came to me: we could go to Market Restaurant + Bar!  I knew this would work out since my friend was traveling on the company and would have a food allowance.  Since I didn’t mind picking up my own tab, I quickly jumped on it.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, it was as if time had stood still for the place ever since I saw it all those years ago.  I thought to myself, “I’ve passed by this place enough times during the summer (for the Del Mar County Fair), now I will finally get to see if it was worth the wait!”  (Side note to future patrons – there is no parking at the restaurant and is valet only, but it is free!  Just remember to tip the man.)

The interior is intimate with dark lighting, but it is very simplistic modern feel.  The bar at the entrance is definitely darker with darker colors of deep red, but the main dining room is lighter with persimmon colored walls, accented by lines of “sage” and “avocado green” (according to their website, those are the color names).  The minute I walked into the restaurant, I loved it.  And this is not always the feeling I get when I go to restaurants.  (I can only think of maybe a handful of instances where a restaurant’s décor was an instant love for me.)

On to the food!!!

To start off the evening, our server put in front of us the modified Amuse Bouche of a Ricotta, Pesto, and Tomato Crostini.  My friend AS is allergic to shellfish and apparently the amuse bouche of the night featured shrimp, so hence, we received this one instead.  It was good regardless – simple, fresh ricotta, and not too overpowering.

For our shared appetizers (there were three of us):

The Blue Cheese Soufflé & Shaved Persimmon-Fuji Apple Salad was in our server’s opinion, “Not that rich!  The salad helps cut the cheese down.”  Um….I’ll tell you right now that the soufflé itself, even with the salad, was downright rich.  I could see someone trying to finish this, then take two bites from their entrée and call it a night.  With that said, this was delicious and packed with blue cheese.  For those who do not enjoy blue cheese, do NOT get it!  It’s not just a hint of blue cheese, it’s in your FACE cheese.  The persimmon and Fuji apple salad was light and sweet to accompany the soufflé in perfect harmony.  *cue the harp music*

Our other appetizer was a recommendation from the server (I was hesitant in taking her suggestion considering her advice about the soufflé) when we asked which of the salads was better.  The one we ordered was the Grapefruit and Avocado Salad.  Grapefruit is not a fruit I eat at all because I find the bitterness too overpowering.  I decided to go in with an open mind and took a bite of the salad with a bit of every component.  That is the whole point of a composed dish right?

The bite consisted of the only slightly bittersweet grapefruit, with the creamy avocado, the tangy goat cheese, and mixed greens dressed in Arbequina Olive Oil (which was smooth and fruity like), I was surprised how much I liked it.  I never thought I would, but I did!  The salad is beautiful to look at, as well as to eat.  The flavors all worked with each other and I could not think of anything wrong with the combination.

Entrée time! 🙂

This was the special duo of the evening and AS’ choice!  The duo included Cabernet Braised Shortribs (Buttermilk Fried Onions, Vegetable Roast, Horseradish, Sweet Onion-Potato Purée) and Wagyu Skirt Steak (Aged White Cheddar Braised Potatoes, Broccolini, Roasted Tomato, Crispy Bacon).  Since I don’t eat beef, this was AS and JD’s reactions to the dish: “ZOMG the beef falls apart!  It is so good!  I can’t believe how tender it is!!!”

That was the general thought of the dish as a whole.  And according to the two ladies, they both liked the shortribs more than the skirt steak.  I did try the accompaniments and enjoyed the flavors of them too.

JD’s (a new coworkers of AS and a fellow foodie!) entrée was the Crab & Shrimp Stuffed Salmon with house made gnocchi, mushrooms and broccolini.  I had a bite of the fish with some of the stuffing and was surprised that I enjoyed it.  I am not a fan of cooked salmon; I like mine raw…in a sashimi form!  However, Market seasoned it well and the fish did not have that yucky, “fishy” smell or taste to it.

My selection should not come as a surprise since I never pass up this option.  The Spice roasted Maine dayboat scallops were superb.  The dish was accompanied by black rice, roasted Brussels sprout, fennel, and (if I recall correctly) a red pepper sauce.  My giant scallops were tender, flavorful, and oh so *gurgles in own saliva*.

………………Sorry, I had a moment there but I’m back.  Anyway, I don’t believe the dish is always on the menu since the restaurant does change every so often to reflect the season.

Honestly, the restaurant has yet to show me that they cannot execute a well-composed and cooked dish.  Kudos Market!  Ok, onto our last course!

Dessert!!! (Best part of any meal right?)

For AS, the S’mores – a warm chocolate and graham tart, with toasted brown sugar marshmallow swirl top, and topped with some sea salt.  The dessert comes with a scoop of the malted chocolate ice cream.  It is definitely s’mores for adults and packed with chocolate.  I liked it, but was not in love with it.

For JD, her Crème Fraische Panna Cotta was the disappointment of the evening.  The Panna Cotta with the tangerine sorbet was just too…plain and underwhelming.  I think those were the words we came up with to describe the dessert.  All of us love fruit-based desserts and a clean dish.  This one just did not cut it for any of us.

For moi, give me the Butterscotch custard and chocolate soufflé with espresso-bailey’s ice cream baby!  The dessert comes out as three mini desserts on a plate.  From left to right:  The ball of espresso-bailey’s ice cream is covered with what reminds of coco pebbles at first glance, but I think they are just pieces of chocolate wafer cookies, and it sits on a dollop of caramel – loved.

Then comes the little cup of butterscotch custard, with fresh vanilla whipped cream (and you can see the vanilla beans still!) topped with toffee pieces.  This was butterscotch all right!  Not my usual preference for custards or puddings, but this was small enough so it was still good with its other dessert members.

Lastly, the chocolate soufflé was a miniature “lava cake”.  The cake was good, but when it comes to “lava”-like cakes, my favorite still goes to Roy’s and Café Japengo’s.  Those are the bomb diggity!  Still, Market’s version was a fair in comparison to some I have had at other restaurants.

The desserts seem to be underwhelming overall for the three of us.  After having a stellar start and continued amazement for our entrées, the end was only “ok”.  Despite that, all three of us had an amazing dinner that evening.  I knew there was a reason this place has remained on my list of restaurants to try for years.  And the reason why I could still visit it after all this time, is that they make and serve outstanding food.  That is the why they are still thriving notwithstanding their isolated location.  Market Restaurant and Bar will have to be on my list of best places to go for special occasions.

Market Restaurant + Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014


Best of Park Ridge, NJ

While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst.  There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!

Best List / Must Eats

Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters.  However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees.  The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal.  So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie.  It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was.  I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.

Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks.  Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant.  The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:

  1. All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99!  It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
  2. The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness.  So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area.  I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too.  However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)

Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments.  The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani.  And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too.  I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more!  AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA!  (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)

Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew.  Who would??  However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough.  It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood.  Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew!  Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!

Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey

Sushi Village
700-90 Broadway
Westwood, NJ 07642

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY

Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Restaurant Week 2012 – La Bastide Bistro

My SD Restaurant Week restaurant number 2 was with a coworker of mine, JT (and no, it’s not that JT).  Since she was working during the MLK holiday (in lieu of another holiday), we choose a place closer to the office.  Our selection was because of the number of choices the restaurant had for the pre-fixe menu, and here were our choices for La Bastide Bistro in Scripps Ranch:

Appetizers:

Crab Cake Served on Spinach with Orange Reduction Sauce

Warm Goat Cheese Crouton, Drizzled with Lavender Honey, Candied Walnuts, Mixed Greens with Apple, Bacon, Mushrooms &Truffle Vinaigrette

I have to say, this was our favorite course of the meal.  According to JT, the crab cake was loaded with lumps of crab meat.  She loved it and it did look pretty darn good from where I was sitting!  My salad was absolutely delicious!  The best part is the highlighted item – warm goat cheese, drizzled in the lavender honey.  My goodness, I could have eaten TEN of these croutons!  Paired with a fresh salad, it made me feel like I was eating something healthy and good.  Althought I would have to say that those mushrooms were a bit out of placed.  Had they been marinated mushrooms, that would have made the dish twice as good.

Entrees:

Fisherman’s Stew with Mussels, Fish, and Potatoes, In a Saffron Lobster Broth with a Rouille Crouton

Duck Confit with Fries & Salad

Our entrees was not our first choices, because they ran out of the Cassoulet (White Bean Stew with Duck Confit, Bacon & Sausage). 😦  JT enjoyed her stew, and it smelled nice, but it was not what I would want either.  My Duck Confit was sadly under seasoned and a little dry.  Also, my fries should have been crispier too.  There’s nothing worse than a limp fry!

Dessert:

Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream

JT and I both ordered the Tartin, but again…much to our disappointment, the apple filling was too sweet for us.  It felt like canned apple pie filling to me, but I cannot confirm that this was the case.  The best part of this dessert was the ice cream.

Overall, La Bastide Bistro completely failed my expectations and they were not even set high to begin with!  That was probably the worst part for me.  Would I come back?  For the prices they are charging both in their lunch and dinner menu, I think I’d rather opt for a different option.

La Bastide Bistro
10006 Scripps Ranch Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92131


Restaurant Week – The Red Door

Restaurant Week has all of San Diego out and dining about the city.  CP and I was part of the Sunday evening crowd, for the first day of Restaurant Week.  Although we both have been to this establishment, I wanted to return because I thought that our first visit was not the best representation of what the restaurant could offer.  Therefore, our first restaurant was a return trip to The Red Door in Mission Hills.

Appetizers

So CP did not go with the pre-fixe menu, but still had a starter.  His choice – the Crab Cake, with fresh lump crab and no fillers.  It is paired with roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives and sun dried tomato with sweet basil dressing.  Now the order actually comes with TWO crab cakes, and as you can see that was not the case.  However, they quickly realized their mistake and added the additional cake (with all the fixings) immediately.  They also took off this order on the receipt because of the mistake, which I found to be a nice touch of customer service.  Kudos!

My first choice in my three course meal was the Shrimp Creole, which I had the first time I came here and fell head over heals for it.  The dish was presented in a skillet rather than a composed plate, but still as delicious as I recalled.  I couldn’t get enough of the sauce again!!

Entrée

CP’s entree of choice: the Red Door Burger – char grilled ½ lb meyer natural ground beef, buttermilk bun, American cheese (but CP didn’t want it), caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and house burger sauce (aka thousand island).  The shoestring fries were crispy, just the way I like it.

My entree, my second choice, was the Lamb Meatballs – ground Colorado lamb with roasted garlic, feta, pine nuts, home made gnocchi, tomato, spring raab, and chimichurri sauce.  Um…how could I describe my thoughts?  Let’s see…THIS is one of the MANY reasons why I am finding my personal desire to give up lamb to be SO hard!  It was great dish as a whole, but one area of improvement – the meatballs could be a little more tender.  After that, you have achieved perfection my SD friend.

Dessert

Last time, I tried their fruit cobbler (which is one of two choices on the RW menu) and it was not that good.  So I tried something different this time!

For my finale, I chose their signature dessert: the Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker-walnut crust, and chocolate & caramel sauces.  I think this could be a good dessert if: 1. tone down the whip cream a little, and 2. increase the pastry cream filling.

I still love the restaurant and this time around, the service was much better.  It’s a perfect time for you to try The Red Door during Restaurant Week to sample some of their signature items.  The menu will be available through the end of the week on Friday (1/20).  Bon Appetit!

The Red Door
741 W. Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


What a slacker I am…(and NOLA – Pt. Deux!)

Now that I have time again in my life, I find that I am slacking off on things!  I have to exert extra effort to do things and that kind of enthusiasm quickly declines after one day.  Allie of Hyperbole and a Half did a wonderful illustration that pretty much depicts this…in comic form actually!

Over the weekend, I attempted to organize my memory card’s ridiculous crap-load of pictures and realized, “Sh*t!  How did I let it get this bad??  I haven’t even uploaded minuscule percentage of it for my friends!”  Because some of the pictures actually have people in them!  And it’s not just food!  They know that it takes me forever to upload pictures for them, but because they love me (I hope), they allow for me to continue on with my ways.  However, this weekend was to make up for it!  For almost a year’s worth of photos, I planned on organizing, backing up, and uploading them for all to see!

…………….yea that didn’t happen. *sigh*

AND to add salt to the wound – I am falling behind on my weekly posts!  *double sigh*

Well I did promise myself and you, that I would tell the rest of my New Orleans Adventure!  Here goes!

NOLA – Part Deux!

Cafe Beignet

So as you can see…my first official NOLA beignets were NOT from the famous Cafe Du Monde.  I was tired, and still reeling from the whole event of the previous night (see Part 1), so I was in NO mood to stand in line for a beignet.  Hence, this little cafe on Bourbon Street was our savior – Cafe Beignet.

Now, I had enough sense in me to know NOT to eat only sweets (and nothing else) as a meal.  That is why you see an order of jambalaya and a shrimp po-boy.  They were mostly to coat CP’s and my stomachs before the main attraction…

The FRESH beignets!  Oh man…even though our actual food was sitting there, I dug into one of these puppies immediately.  And honestly, it was good…yet at the end of the day – they are powdered doughnuts.  Don’t get me wrong!  I have nothing against it!  Or hate it!!! I loved every bite of it, that I came back with CP the following day for another round.  However, for me…it wasn’t something that made me go: this is genius!  It’s simple, done well, tastes good…there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Commander’s Palace

That evening was done in high style and tradition.  CP had made dinner plans for our last evening in NOLA.  He wanted to keep it as a surprise from me (which is a hard thing to do!) and I must say, he did extraordinarily!

Warm Garlic Bread to start

Gumbo du Jour (Tasso and shrimp)

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish

Seared Sea Scallops (my fave)

Simple scoop of vanilla ice cream for CP

Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé (and that whiskey sauce was NOT kidding around!)

Just all around amazing restaurant.  Sitting in the main dining room on the first floor, you can feel the history.  That place has seen it’s fair share of faces, lived through disasters, survived through wars, and still manages to show up every night with its bells and whistles on.  I loved Commander’s Palace and I would come back again.  Although it isn’t cheap, it’s worth every penny for the experience and great food.

So going from the blazer type restaurant, to the down to the basics simple but still delicious, the following day…

Gumbo Shop

This was our last official meal of New Orleans and we wanted something simple, but still good.  The Gumbo Shop delivered us just that:

(left to right) Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya, & Shrimp Creole

(left to right) Red Beans & Rice, Jambalaya, & Shrimp Creole

Simple, delicious, and warmed our stomachs to a state of blissful contentment.  What more do you need?

So that wraps it up for CP’s and my first trip to the Big Easy.  There were extreme highs and extreme lows in this trip, and not for the reasons most people associate this town with.  Our time there was short lived, but the memories of the sounds, smells, and sights are forever with us.  New Orleans…you are one H*LL of a city!  As they say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Cafe Beignet
311 Bourbon Street
334-B Royal Street

Commander’s Palace

1403 Washington Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130

Gumbo Shop
630 Saint Peter St,  New Orleans, LA 70116″


Trip to New Orleans

I think there has been enough time since we came back from New Orleans that I can look at my pictures again.  A little more than a week ago, CP and I headed off to New Orleans for the Bowl game.  We had our hopes high and we were excited for not only our first visit to this infamous city, but for the game.  Let’s just say…it still hurts to think about the game itself.

Instead, I’ll focus on telling you about the food we had.  Shall we start?

Cajun Cabin

Our first stop was off of Bourbon Street.  CP and I had been traveling practically all day and we hadn’t gotten lunch thus, we were famished.  This dinner was a little later than we would have liked because we wanted to go to the “pep rally” for the Bowl game!  Hence, we practically walked into the first decent looking place off the street.

CP and I both wanted Jambalaya and Red Beans n’ Rice.  Hence, I suggested we both order each and split our dishes, welcoming us to this great city.  Though the restaurant isn’t the well-known type and those that get hyped up, but it was delicious.  Both dishes were flavorful and made you wanted to lick the plates clean.  Also, the Red Beans n’ Rice at the Cajun Cabin was my favorite from the entire trip.

Nola

The next morning, we had a late start and went to one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants – Nola, for lunch!

The space was modern industrial and gorgeous, with an open kitchen and woodfire oven where they made their pizza appetizer. However, we weren’t here for the pizzas…

To start – warm herbed roll and bell pepper cornbread, served with room temperature butter.  This was a great start!

CP and I both had the gumbo of the day as our appetizers.  It was pretty chilly outside and this warmed us right up.  The gumbo that day was andouille and smoked pork.  I could use some right now!

Our entrees: Grilled Atlantic Salmon with black bean-sweet corn succotash, chimichurri butter sauce and tomatillo salsa (top), was CP’s choice.  My entree was the Shrimp & Grits – grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-abita butter sauce.

The salmon was cooked wonderfully to the point where even I liked it!  Cooked salmon is not my choice of fish most of the time (unless it is sashimi grade) since it tends to be a little “fish” for me.  However, Nola’s was just perfect and we both loved it.  The shrimps in my dish were huge and perfectly sauteed, keeping its juicy and tenderness.

You see that?  You see it?!  ‘Cuz I did!!!  Pumpkin Bread Pudding!!!!

Mmmm…this bread pudding, though small, was packed with the flavors of the season!  It was moist, spiced, warm, and melts in your mouth.  The gingerbread-molasses ice cream that was paired with it, complemented it so well.  Oh man…so good!

After our lunch, we walked along the river walk, did some shopping, and made our way to Mardi Gras World!  We took the tour of their warehouse, looking at all the floats that had been used and will be used for Mardi Gras parades!

As part of the tour, they also serve you some King Cake!

Unfortunately, neither CP nor I got the baby so we were not royalty after all :(.  Oh well, still had a delicious piece of cinnamon swirl pastry.

After the tour, CP and I just walked more around town sightseeing, before going back to the hotel to rest up for the game!  Now…just looking through a few pictures, I feel immense sadness still, but I must continue!

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is truly an amazing venue.  The place was enormous and just trying to imagine the conditions of the place during Katrina…it was hard.  Anyway because I had to give the food vendors a little nod because they didn’t just serve the standard stadium fare:

Food choices included Jambalaya with hush puppies (which were dry as rocks…sadly) and alligator sausage with some remoulade sauce.  The best of the two?…Alligator Sausage by a LONG shot!  However, to make it better – ditch the cold bun and mix with the rice…perfection.

After the game…CP needed some more food…as part of our “drown out the sorrows and frustration”.  Therefore, we found ourselves in a quite little bar at the end of the hub of downtown – Coop’s Place.

Simple order of Red Beans n’ Rice with smoked sausage, plus a side order of fries.  Worst plate of food from our trip.  The beans were cold and tasteless.  However, we were both so tired and dejected that I didn’t even bother voicing the fact it was cold.  Saving grace – sausage was good and the fries were good too.

That is part one of New Orleans, part deux will be later this week! :).

Cajun Cabin
503 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70195

NOLA Restaurant
534 St Louis St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Mardi Gras World


The Red Door

Seemingly appropriate given the holidays are in full swing right now!  It has been the first time in the last three years, that I have truly felt the holidays.  The past three years had been so ridiculously hectic due to my old job, that I rarely got into that holiday spirit.  I have to be honest, I think my spirit was plainly exhausted and maybe even a little jaded.  The work before was not only mentally draining, but physically and most of all – emotionally draining, that when it was time to take some “time off”, all I wanted was to sleep.

This year however, it is totally a different story!  I can FEEL the holidays growing in my bones and I am LOVING IT!! 🙂

Anyways, the reason why I missed last Sunday’s post was because I was celebrating with friends and family all weekend long.  “For what?” You may ask.  Well, it was for my birthday!  Another year older, maybe another year wiser?  Who knows, but I looked back and thought to myself, “Man…what a f***ing year!”

To celebrate with my family, we had a very nice dinner at The Red Door in Mission Hills.

The restaurant is small and cozy.  The decor very much a wine country setup and the main dining room has a full wine rack wall.  Dim lighting really sets the mood for an intimate evening.  I can imagine that during the mornings and afternoons, it is bright and cheery and perfect for a nice, cozy get together.

Now that is enough about the restaurant, let’s get to the real matter of things: the food!

Appetizers:

Signature Cornbread Muffins

Shrimp Creole

I do believe appetizers are suppose to wet your appetite for the main course, but the first course was my absolute favorite part of the meal.  The cornbread muffins are made to order, so the waiter will warn you it takes about 15 minutes for the prep.  Trust me – it’s worth it.  The cornbread is light, fluffy even, with a touch of creaminess from the white cheddar.  The muffins also come with a honey-rosemary butter which just helps the muffin to melt more in your mouth.

Then comes the Shrimp Creole in a white wine and cream sauce, spiced with the flavors of the “Big Easy”.  Though the portion size is small, the flavors are HUGE!!!  A thick tomato sauce filled with smokey, spicy, tang goodness.  I used the fried polenta to mop up more of the sauce, then when there was no more polenta, the cornbread went so well with it.  Man…this place knows how to start off a good meal.

Wild Mushroom Scallop Risotto

Pork "Schnitzel"

Red Door Burger

Garden Vegetable Plate

Red Door Chicken Roulade

The entrees on the other hand…was not memorable.  The scallops were nothing extraordinary.  The Schnitzel was not quite what I knew Schnitzel to be (more like fried pork chops to me).  CP’s burger though looked juicy enough.  My sister’s vegetable plate was as advertised and she liked it.  And the roulade was dry…=\.

I feel like the appetizers set my expectations higher than it should have been because the delivery was there in the beginning!  Yet, Red Door’s entrees barely raised above an “inside voice” level.  The appetizers would be like an opera singer – belting out beautiful notes.  Perhaps the encore would help save a poorly performing middle?

Brownie Sundae

Apple Walnut Cobbler

Well…how should I start off?  The brownie was probably the winner of the two.  It was a DENSE chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drenched in fudge.  Definitely quite delicious.  I had a bite and loved it.  The cobbler on the other hand…it was nothing specially about it.  I’ve had much better cobblers and given that my ice cream was FROZEN solid turned me completely off.   One of two, 50/50, those aren’t bad odds at all.  I’ll take that any day!

Red Door is definitely worth a revisit, with different orders.  I would stick with my appetizer choices, but I would try something else on the menu for my entree.  Would I recommend this restaurant?  Yes – I would just stay away from the chicken and scallops…you can get much better elsewhere.

The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar
741 West Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


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


Soy Nog

My favorite months of the year are October through December because of the flavors of the holidays!  One of the many seasonal products I love is from the Silk Soy line: Soy Nog, Pumpkin Spice, and Mint Chocolate.

The Soy Nog has the flavors of Egg Nog, but not as rich in flavors or nutrients.  The Pumpkin Spice Soy tastes like a pumpkin pie except you’re sipping it.  The Mint Chocolate Soy is a refreshing and delicious pleasure!

Each of them taste delicious and there is something for everybody!  So go to your nearest market and get yourself one because once the season is over, it will be another year before you can get it.  Hurry!!!  (I’m planning on stocking up as much as I can…since it is perishable.)


Village Indian Cuisine

This past week, I met up with my friend, LKB, at an Indian restaurant that she insisted was just as good, if not better, than Punjabi Tandoor.  Now, that’s a bold statement coming from someone who is just as much of a PT fan as I am.  To have her say that to me, made me instantly curious and impatient to taste it myself.

It was actually a place I’ve passed by many times and eaten actually just a few storefronts by it.  This was Village Indian Cuisine in Kearny Mesa.  The restaurant is not big, but it does have more than 3 tables!  So that means you can linger longer and talk long after eating.

The menu is like most Indian restaurants you’ve seen and been to.  Why mess with tradition right?  Especially when you can do it right…and VIC knows their way around the food alright.

We started off dinner with an order of the Paneer Pakora.  The batter was light and it came out with a sprinkling of white pepper.  It was perfect and delicious.  I never had paneer this way and was surprised how much I loved it.  It wasn’t just “like”, it was “love!”  The reason?  Let me get to our entrees because as good as the appetizer was, the entree was what really shone that night.

LKB and I both ordered the tikka masala combo (curry, basmati rice, and roti) – chicken and paneer.  The curry was thick, flavorful, complex, and hearty.  I couldn’t get enough of the curry, but then again, I couldn’t get over how SOFT the paneer was at VIC!  I’ve tried paneer all over San Diego and nothing has come as close as this place.  The paneer just MELTS in your mouth.  I think my eyes rolled back at one point and was lost in the moment.

Village Indian Cuisine’s paneer is the standard I’ll hold all paneers up against.  This restaurant has just officially made it to my permanent rotation and I am already planning my next visit.

Village Indian Cuisine
9187 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Suite #2
San Diego, CA 92123


Atlanta, GA – Week 2

After a LONG week of eating in Atlanta, we were all pretty worn down.  We were all just very tired and I don’t think we fully digested the first week’s food from our stomachs.  Hence, week 2 was much “lighter”…though the highlight of week 2 was on Monday when we visited:

South City Kitchen

Bread basket came with fresh, hot cornbread and biscuits!

After this basket…I strongly believe ALL restaurants should only serve (especially to me) one of the 3 options for a “bread basket”:

  1. Cornbread and/or biscuits
  2. Popovers (see Island Prime post)
  3. In-house made herb bread

And all these options must be FRESHLY MADE and served WARM!  Delighted Palate has spoken!

Our appetizers:

Hot Ham & Cheese - H&F bread, pimento cheese, Benton’s ham, pickles

Fried Catfish with minted zucchini slaw and red chili mayo

Fried Green Tomatos with goat cheese and red pepper coulis

Our entrées:

Smoked Pork Chops with spiced carrot puree, Swiss chard, and peanut-green chili pesto

In the words of my colleagues, “The smoke flavor is intense!  I don’t know how they got this much smoke flavor into this…I still have the smokey flavor in my mouth after eating!”  In other words, this was one kicka** pork chop.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with "bliss" potatoes, honey-thyme jus and (this one) peas

Though this was not my entree, I had wish I had a second stomach so that I could have ordered this as my second entree!!!  This was one of the most flavorful, juiciest, piece of fried chicken I had ever tasted.  The chicken, which you can see is primarily breast meat, was so tender and juicy that it boggled all of our minds!  I’ll never look at a fried chicken the same ever again (sadly :(…).

Shrimp & Grits with poblanos, tasso ham, in a smoked tomato gravy

Ok, there is no doubt that South City Kitchen knows how to smoke their food. This shrimp and grits was heightened by the tomato gravy to ridiculous levels.  The gravy was smooth, tangy, spicy, and smoky.  I don’t know how they did it and the only think I could think of was one of two possibilities:

  1. They intense, smoked the tomatoes before pureeing them for the gravy, or
  2. They add liquid smoke into the gravy

One way or another, I want this gravy slathered all over everything I eat now! The pieces of tasso ham added saltiness perfectly to each bite, and the shrimps were cooked just right.  The grits?  Well my friends, they made one smooooth vehicle for all the awesomeness that I had just ranted about.

Desserts:

Chocolate Ganache Torte with toasted coconut and crème anglaise

Banana Pudding - banana pastry cream, ripe bananas, homemade vanilla wafers, fresh cream

Cheesecake Bread Pudding - baked brioche, rich white chocolate and cream cheese custard, blueberry compote

Let’s just say if there was one overall theme to each dessert at SCK – they are sinfully rich and packed with flavors as advertised.

We all walked out of that restaurant with painfully full tummies, and despite the groans and insistence that we will NEVER eat like that again, we were all very, very happy customers.

As for the rest of the week?  We revisited Fat Matt’s, then the next two days, we decided that we all needed a break from the eat-a-thon and truly attempted to eat “moderately” again.  Thus, I am sad to report – SCK was the true encore of our ATL exploration.

I would just like to thank Atlanta for bringing out the fatties in us, and making us all a little softer, a little rounder, and a lot more of a nightmare for physical check-up at the doctor’s.

Sincerely,

Delighted Palate & Crew

(See Week 1’s post here)

South City Kitchen
2 locations:
1144 Crescent Ave, Atlanta, Ga 30309
1675 Cumberland Pkwy, Smyrna, Ga 30080


Atlanta, GA – Week 1

First job at the new work place turns out to be in Atlanta.  Now, you all should know by now, I never travel without doing my research on where to eat.  Thank goodness my colleagues are equally open to my gluttonous ways (and frankly encourages it).  Behold our week long feasting:

Firkin and Gryphon

This was dinner on our first night because by the time we landed and got to the hotel, nothing was opened.  My manager and I managed to make it to a pub, which we thought would still have something to eat.  Upon entering, we were told it was the “late night” menu only – aka fried appetizers.  Within minutes of sitting, we were told the kitchen was closed for the night to the waitress regret.   However, we were set on getting something so I begged for them to at least let us have dessert.

Hence, you see before you the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and the Seasonal Cobbler (Strawberry-peach).  Both came with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Both were ridiculously delicious and probably not the best way to start our week…or best way to frame the rest of our week.

JCT Kitchen and Bar

Appetizers –

Angry Mussels - Peppered bacon, Serrano chile & onion

Truffle Parmesan Fries

Carolina Gold Rice Aracini - Butternut squash, crispy brussel sprouts

Entrees –

Lamb Shank - spinach-creamed, Carolina gold rice, garlic chips, preserved lemon

Shrimp & Grits - red mule grits, deep fried soft poached egg, smoky tomato “jam”

Fried Chicken - benton's bacon macaroni & cheese, local farmstand vegetable of the moment

Desserts –

Chocolate Pudding - salted caramel, chewy peanut butter cookies

Butterscotch Bread Pudding with bourbon cream

Apple Fried Pie - butter pecan ice cream, bacon-caramel drizzle

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Ribs - great stuff

BBQ Chicken (1/2)

Chopped Pork Sandwich

Sides: Mac n' Cheese, Coleslaw, Baked Beans, and Brunswick Stew

Slope’s BBQ

Pork and Chicken Combo with Fried Okra and Jalapeno-Cheese Grits

Pork, Ribs, and Brisket - with Jalapeno-Cheese Grits and Brunswick Stew

Chopped Chicken and Pork with sweet potato fries and baked beans

Seasons 52

Maui Tuna Crunch Salad sushi-grade seared tuna, tropical organic greens, toasted almonds and miso vinaigrette

1. Organic Baby Spinach Salad with sliced seasonal pears, toasted pine nuts and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. 2. Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp with guacamole and tomatillo salsa verde

Gyro Pizza and Chipotle-glazed Shrimp

Pumpkin Pie Shot

Wildflour

Jalapeno Lime Sandwich - grilled chicken smothered with poblano pepper and onion mix, melted provolone, jalapeno lime sauce and pico de avocado.

Fogo de Chao

The Strip

1. Volcano– tuna tartar, cucumber topped with tuna, mango, avocado, Jimmy’s sauce, teriyaki. 2. Dynamite– spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, masago, seasoned asparagus

Bread Pudding with Ice cream

Googie Burger

Flying South Sandwich - Seven spice crispy chicken breast, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, signature hot sauce, & blue cheese slaw, with fresh cut fries & sweet tea

Ship & Anchor

Shepard's Pie

Shepard's Pie - Innards

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Salted Caramel and Rosemary Olive Oil Flavors

And that is just week one.  We still have another week ahead…I hope my stomach can hold on.

Firkin and Gryphon
4764 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338
http://www.firkinandgryphon.com/

JCT Kitchen and Bar
1198 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318
http://jctkitchen.com/

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
1811 Piedmont Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
http://www.fatmattsribshack.com/

Slope’s BBQ
Multiple locations in Atlanta area
http://www.slopesbbq.com/

Seasons 53
Two locations in Atlanta
http://www.seasons52.com/

Wildflour
5815 Windward Parkway, Suite 210
Alpharetta, GA 30005
http://www.wildflouratlanta.com/page/page/5668614.htm

Strip
245 18th Street Northwest Ste 5100
Atlanta, GA 30363
http://www.h2sr.com/strip/

Googie Burger
190 Marietta St, (Centennial Olympic Park)
Atlanta, GA 30342
http://googieburger.com/

Ship & Anchor Pub
5975 Roswell Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30328
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ship-and-anchor-pub-atlanta


Island Prime

The other night, CP took me out to dinner just because we hadn’t had a proper date night in such a long time.  Plus, with the college football season well underway, a lot more of his free time is consumed by it.  When he told me he made reservations for dinner for our date, and wanted to keep it a surprise, it made me wonder where he was taking me to.  The only hint he would give me was that it was somewhere we have been to before and that he hoped we could get a nice view of the water.  My mind immediately started working out where this mystery restaurant could be.  Given that we do live in San Diego, there are a handful of restaurants we have been to that had a “water view”, so I started going down the suspects: George’s, JRDN, 1500 Ocean, Crab Catcher (thought I highly suspected this was not even in the consideration since we had just visited it), Il Farnaio, Point Loma Seafood, etc.

CP would not let me know, only when and where we were to meet up so he could drive us.  The suspense!!!  (I did ask if I should have a certain type of wear and he said business casual like our workday usual)

The night of our date, we met up and he drove us downtown.  Where oh where was he taking me??  Then when he made his way towards the familiar route of when he takes me to the airport, I realized – ISLAND PRIME!  In all technicalities, we’ve only ever eaten at C Level – the patio dining area where the menu is a little more “relaxed”.  Island Prime is the indoor dining area where the restaurant is more of a steakhouse.  Still, a great restaurant (inside or out), and we were seated at a corner, window table with a view of the water and downtown San Diego.

An amazing view to prep us for an amazing dinner:

To start, Island Prime gives you POPOVERS…yes you read that right!  Popovers are served warm with whipped butter (read online that it was actually goat butter, didn’t get to ask).  And these puppies were freaking HUGE.  It was almost an appetizer in of itself.  I would have been satisfied with this popover as my appetizer.  Warm, buttery, soft layers of sweet and salty that makes you feel guilty for putting on that butter, but it amplifies all the components that I’ve already described to you about the popover itself.  I wish all restaurants would serve popovers instead of just plain bread.  Sigh…

The “A Study in Lobster” is basically lobster 3-ways: Lobster Bisque, Lobster Grilled Cheese, and Lobster Lollipops.  The lobster bisque I’ve had before and tasted just as delicious as I remembered.  Smooth, rich, creamy and thick – with little bits of lobster in it and dash of sherry on top.  The lobster grilled cheese was ridiculous!  Huge chunks of lobster claw meat, with fontina cheese, grilled on a little sourdough slices.  I don’t know how to describe this…other than – this ain’t your kindergarten, school yard grilled cheese.  This sexy little two-biter is the sensuous, adult version of grilled cheese.  Sweet, succulent lobster with the smooth fontina cheese, oh sweet, sweet, baby jebus, I thought I was done for the night with that.  Then the lollipop comes along and helps remind me that I can still have fun with a great, luxurious ingredient.  The lobster lollipop is a skewer of lobster meat, with a light batter and fried.  Fun, delicious, but revolutionary?  Naw…but it was still delish.

Island Prime’s Caesar Salad comes with two hearts of romaine, dressed with their house Caesar dressing.  They top theirs with marinated tomatoes, Parma, and a dark bread toast with an olive tapenade served as the crouton.  CP loved the salad, though it was a little hard to eat due to the plate size and shape.

Can you guess who’s entrée this is?  If you’ve read my blog before, or know me at all, you know that I cannot pass up scallops on a menu.  It is my Achilles heel because it is so hard for me to steer away from it.  Island Prime’s version was little different – seared scallops topped with popcorn snow, on popcorn emulsion, and sweet & sour bacon-corn salsa.  Admittedly, I was practically stuffed to the gills when this came out and yet, I could still taste that it was different from the other scallop dishes.  The scallops were perfection.  The popcorn emulsion reminded me of salt honestly.  It didn’t overpower the scallop, but all it was the salty touch to the dish.

CP’s “surf & turf”…or in the words of Island Prime, “Even turf can surf”.  I found that to be quite amusing J.  This is a 8 ounce filet migon with a fat lobster tail.  CP ordered it with the pancetta-peppercorn demi on the side.  Although I didn’t have any of his entrée, I could see it was very well done entrée.  And considering CP ate it right up, I think it’s safe to say it’s a darn good piece of turf and surf.

Dessert?…I am ashamed to report that I did NOT order dessert (*GASP!!!!*).  Yes, I couldn’t imagine eating more and CP’s not much for desserts so there was no way I could have one by myself.  So for that night, we call it quits after our entrees.

The food at Island Prime | C Level is superb to say the least.  Of all the Cohan Restaurants in our little town, I think this has to be my favorite (and the only one I haven’t been to yet is 33 Pacific up in Oceanside, and Bo Beau in OB after it took over the spot for Thee Bungalow).   The service here is exceptional, the food is extraordinary, and the view regardless of the time of day is magical.

Island Prime | C Level
880 Harbor Island Drive
San Diego, CA 92101


San Diego Restaurant Week 2011

Last month was San Diego’s 2011 semi-annual Restaurant Week.  For those who aren’t familiar with Restaurant Week, here is the quick break down: for a week, restaurants all over San Diego county have 3-course (sometimes optional 4th course) prix fixe menu showcasing at times the restaurant’s best-sellers and/or customer favorites for dinner.  However, this year’s fall round of RW included lunch prix fixe menus of 2-course options at certain restaurants! Some restaurants will also extend to a second week, but they don’t usually announce that on the website til the day before.  For those wanting to dine at the 5-star restaurants, but don’t have the pocket change to spar, this is a great way to get the full experience of the restaurant at a discount!

This time, I made it a mission to hit up at least one restaurant…and ended up going to TWO restaurants with CP.  Granted, it does get expensive if you’re going to more than one restaurant, but reading ahead of the menu choices and you could be walking away with a steal.

1. Whisknladle

Our first restaurant of the week was a restaurant CP and I had  already visited before, but I love – Whisknladle.  The best part of their menu during RW was: their ENTIRE menu was part of the event.  You could select any appetizers for your 1st course, any entree for your 2nd, and any dessert as your closer, all for $40.  Now if this is not a deal…then I don’t know what is!

First Courses:

Caesar Salad – whole romaine lettuce dressed in “made-to-order” dressing (according to their menu), topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and croutons.  Nothing special, just a refreshing salad for CP and always a favorite for him.

Potato Gnocchi in a brown butter-ale creme, finished with a gratinee of Brie de Meaux and chives.  Luscious!  Wait…is that even an adjective to describe food??  Not sure, but that’s how this felt.  The little potato pillows were just firm enough. with a little chew. to give you a bite, but somehow still remain light feeling.  Then the rich, brown butter-ale creme that coated each and every single pillow was ridiculously rich and guilt ridden,  but you couldn’t care.  No, you couldn’t get over how smooth, a touch of sweetness, and creamy it felt in your mouth.  Then that brie!  Oh that brie…sweet, tangy, more oozing of creaminess.  Man…this appetizer made me ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ as I devoured it.  Needless to say that I enjoyed my appetizer very much!

Second courses:

Taglietelle with house made spicy pork sausage sugo, pepperonata, and a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Beautiful, wide, ribbons of pasta cooked just perfectly to uphold the even more amazing sausage sugo.  That sauce held itself could have held its own against a battle of sauces.  The weak, basic “bolognese” of tomato sauce and crumbled pork would cower in fear of Whisknladle’s sugo!  I cannot keep myself from shouting, “SUGOI!!!” (sorry…I know…very cheesy >.<)

Seared Maine Scallops in a chilled green curry, roasted squash, tinkerbell peppers, spinach & capelin roe.  What can I say?  Can I ever escape ordering scallops when given the choice on the menu? Very, very rarely (if ever) would I pass up scallops.  Whisknladle did not disappoint in preparing my favorite shellfish.  Perfect sear to give the nice, crispy, caramelized crust, without overcooking (too many times that has happened to me).  Sweet, salty, cripsy, soft, buttery, bitter (from the peppers), and light.

Third course:

Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme topped with a layer of salted caramel and served with roasted banana cake.  Ok this pots de creme was magical, but  cloyingly sweet after your second or third spoonful.  I suppose that’s why they had the banana cake, but I almost wanted something something salty on the side.  However, I would have taken some ice cream to go with it, or whipped cream to just help break that sweetness.  Still delicious, although it was the first time I had to leave a dessert unfinished (*GASP!*).

Oh look! There’s the vanilla ice cream that I needed!  Except this was CP’s dessert and even though I had a little bit (to go with my dessert), I didn’t want to take more.

Our server was great – helpful, friendly, and attentive where needed.  Again, Whisknladle remains on my top list!

Whisknladle
1044 Wall St.
La Jolla, CA 92037

2. Crab Catcher

Now this is one restaurant I have never been to and had been in my “maybe” list of the Restaurant Week choices for several years.  This time however, CP did not partake in the RW prix fixe menu since he did not find pairings that suited his taste.

First course:

Crab Bisque – roasted red bell pepper broth, Meyer lemon crème fraiche.  This was not mind blowing, but I did enjoy the bisque.  I could have used some more crab, but the bisque was thick and rich, and citrus from that lemon crème fraiche did help enhance the flavors.  Although, I will say this bisque went great with the complementary foccaia they provide as part of the bread service.

CP’s Caesar Salad….told you – it’s a standby fave of his :).  Different presentation (pre-cut for the lazy), same concept – romaine lettuce, croutons, parma, and dressing.  “All hail Caesar!”

Second course:

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle with sweet heirloom peppers and lobster mushrooms, in a creamy Thai basil garlic sauce.  Man, oh man, where do I begin?  Let me count the ways this was a fail for me:  1. Not nearly enough crab, 2. Pasta was cooked a little more than I like, and 3. This was the weakest sauce on pasta I have had in a REALLY long time.  When I see “Thai basil garlic sauce”, I expected to get basil (I barely), garlic (not sure if there was any), and flavor – this was definitely NOT there.  This pasta made me so sad.  So very, very sad.  The crab mound on top was the best part of this plate and I ate it all up.  Everything else…I wanted to return.

Sea Bass with Maryland lump crab stuffing, fingerling potato, Haricots Verts, with a lemon thyme mustard sauce.  For once, I was seriously jealous of CP’s entree – I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF!!!!!!! The sea bass was tender, falls to the slightest pressure of the fork, and the perfect sear.  The crab added that extra natural sweetness, and I wanted it!  *Sigh*…but next time, I’ll just order this one for myself!

Third course:

Warm Chocolate Torte with candied macadamia nuts and topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato. This dessert should come with a warning: “You are about to enter chocolate nirvana!”  I think this torte has to be, hands down, one of the richest, chocolatey-est, dessert I’ve had in town.  They got it right by giving you a giant mound of vanilla gelato because you DO need it.  Also, in the center of the torte is a mountain of oozing, warm, lava pool of salted chocolate.  The only thing that could have made this better?…ANOTHER scoop of ice cream!

I would come back for the sea bass and the torte.  Those are a must!  Everything else…I can live without it again.

Crabcatcher
1298 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle locally grown sweet Heirloom peppers, lobster mushrooms,creamy Thai basil garlic sauce