Polanco Kitchen & Bar

Recently, we were invited to Polanco, the hotel restaurant of the newly-renovated Hilton Mission Valley. Polanco was part of the multi-million dollar renovation project, and I brought along S and our friend A to check it out.

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The restaurant is actually right next to the main lobby doors – there’s no formal entrance, so it really feels like part of the hotel. I’ve never stayed at this Hilton before, but the interior looked really nice.

We were seated at one of the booths along the wall, which had a TV built into the wall. I’ve been to another restaurant which has a TV per booth, and while I appreciate it (since I love TV but don’t have one at home, so I always get excited whenever there’s a TV, haha), I also wondered whether it distracts diners too much from their meal experience. Oh well.

The menu was a bit “fusion” – a lot of classic dishes with a Latin twist.

Chile-Limon French Fries [$6]

Chile-Limon French Fries [$6]

We started off with some chili lemon fries, which were nice and crispy, and served with a banana ketchup. I’m not a huge fan of bananas, but the ketchup actually went pretty well with the chili lemon.

Mexican Corn [$6]

Mexican Corn [$6]

Mexican corn is one of my favorite foods – the pairing of grilled sweet corn with salty and pungent cheese, spicy chili powder, fresh lime juice, and creamy mayonnaise is just perfect to me, as it touches all the senses of taste. Polanco’s version is quite good – the only complaint that I have is that the amount of toppings on the two cobs differed quite a bit. I wish that they had made it more consistent.

Tres Tacos [$15]

Tres Tacos [$15]

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[LA Koreatown] Kang Hodong Baekjeong

I’ll start this post by saying that Kang Hodong Baekjeong is the best Korean BBQ I’ve ever had. Period. And you know that I’ve had a lot of Korean BBQ. Unfortunately (there’s always some bad news), it’s in Los Angeles.

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And boy, is this place popular. We’ve actually visited twice, and both times there was a 2 hour wait for dinner. On our first visit, we simply walked around the neighborhood (there was a Zion market about a block away) to pass the time until we received our call for dinner. The second time around, we were actually in LA for a show, so we signed ourselves up at the restaurant before heading to the show, and by the time we got out, our table was ready!

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The special thing about KHB is the “moat” around the grill. In the photo above, you can see a large section on the right side – that’s actually egg! There’s also corn & cheese, and bell peppers and onions – the idea is that as the meat cooks on surface, the rendered fat and juices will run down to the side and add that extra flavor.

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There are some assorted side dishes for us to enjoy, and salads that could be used to mix with the meat or simply eaten on its own – per the instructions at every table, haha.

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The special dipping sauce that’s mentioned contains wasabi, in addition to the usual yuzu-soy. We really liked the wasabi and thought that it really brought out an extra “kick”!

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On our first visit, we ordered the beef combo ($49.99 for small), which includes marinated boneless short rib, thinly sliced brisket, choice of prime boneless short rib or prime rib eye, and a bean paste stew.

Brisket

Brisket

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Boneless Short Rib

Boneless Short Rib

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PizzaRev

PizzaRev is a build-your-own pizza joint (much like Project Pie and Pieology) that recently opened up a couple of locations in San Diego. S and I actually attended their grand opening event, but I have gotten around to posting until now… Oops, haha.

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PizzaRev opened two locations in San Diego – one in Scripps Ranch, and the other in Carmel Valley. We attended the grand opening for the Carmel Valley location, which actually turned out to be quite far from our home – the Scripps Ranch one would have been closer.

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The restaurant was quite packed, since they were offering everyone who had received an invitation (either by mail or email, I suppose) a free pizza and drink! I was pretty surprised at this generous promotion, but I suppose they do need a pretty grand gesture to compete with all the pizza joints already here.

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You can choose their signature or gluten-free crust, and either red, white, or BBQ sauce or olive oil, and a variety of cheeses and toppings. Since it was so crowded, I didn’t get any good pictures of their toppings selections. There’s a full list on their website, though.

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A Weekend in North Carolina!

Hey everyone! This week I’m in Durham, North Carolina for my college reunion, so there won’t be much of an update on the blog. Here’s a quick preview of everything we’ve eaten already, though:

We started out with burgers for breakfast (well, technically it was like 3AM Pacific Time, so I’m not sure what kind of meal that is. But it was 6 already on the East Coast). Did you know that Five Guys serves breakfast? I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

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We then proceeded to have fried chicken for lunch:

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We’ve missed fried chicken so much! Recently we’ve discovered some good places around town, like Streetcar Merchants or Crispy Fried Chicken, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing like Bojangle’s (and I know my North Carolinian friends will agree with me!).

And of course, there’s the BBQ!

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Cantina Mayahuel

Cantina Mayahuel is a Mexican bar/restaurant located on Adams Ave in University Heights. We’ve been here twice – once last year, actually – and I decided to combine both visits into the same post, haha.

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The restaurant is most well-known for their huge tequila selection. On our first visit, we tried a margarita, made with their house tequila, and a tequila flight.

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House Margarita

House Margarita

Extra Anejo Tequila Flight

Extra Anejo Tequila Flight

The tequila flight we chose was pretty expensive ($30-something, I believe) and has 3/4 oz. pours of three extra añejo tequilas. We got the Cuervo La Familia, the Chinaco Negro, and the Don Fulano 5-year. Out of the three, I enjoyed the Don Fulano the most, which was the “sweetest” out of the three. I forgot which one S liked best, haha.

Anyway, onto the food! On our first visit, we shared the chips & guac with our dining companions:

Chips, Salsa, Guacamole, Serranos [$8]

Chips, Salsa, Guacamole, Serranos [$8]

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Davanti Enoteca (Del Mar)

S and I had a spontaneous date night a few weeks ago at Davanti Enoteca. There are a couple of locations in San Diego, but the restaurant originated in Chicago. Knowing this, we were actually quite optimistic even though our experience with Italian food in SD hasn’t been too impressive thus far.

We didn’t make any reservations ahead of time, so there was a bit of a wait on a weeknight – we wandered over to the Ralph’s in the same plaza in Del Mar and browsed for just a few minutes before I received a text telling me that the table was ready. Hooray! We were seated in their patio, which was lovely (and luckily it wasn’t too windy that day. Yes, I’m a wimp and usually don’t like sitting outside).

Focaccia di Recco + Honeycomb [$21]

Focaccia di Recco + Honeycomb [$21]

The first thing that we ordered was the focaccia di recco + honeycomb, from their “for the table” section of the menu. This was recommended by one of my friends, and our waiter also mentioned that this is one of Davanti’s signature items.

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The focaccia bread was served piping hot and had a layer of soft cheese inside, which tasted quite mild but had a luxurious, smooth texture. The sweetness from the honeycomb added just the right balance of flavor. S and I both loved this appetizer and nearly finished all of it before realizing that we had several more dishes coming our way, and decided to take the rest home.

Roasted Beets + Walnut Butter + Crème fraîche + Candied Walnuts [$9]

Roasted Beets + Walnut Butter + Crème fraîche + Candied Walnuts [$9]

S found out recently that he really likes beets – which was a bit of a pleasant surprise to me, and now we actually order beets whenever we see them on the menu! This dish was delicious – the beets were roasted perfectly, and I loved the candied walnut pairing. I did think that the walnut butter was a bit overpowering of the beets’ flavor and didn’t pair well with the tartness of the crème fraîche.

Orechiette con Salsicca e Rapini [$17]

Orechiette con Salsicca e Rapini [$17]

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Mitch’s Seafood

Whenever S and I have visitors, we always try to introduce them to a San Diego signature, fish tacos. So, when S’s sister V was in town last month, we took them to Mitch’s Seafood, our current favorite.

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The blackboard lists the catch(es) of the day. I love that everything is basically local (except for the octopus). You can get the fish in a taco, served on a platter, or in a sandwich. Of course, most of us went for the fish tacos.

Fish tacos

Scallop [$3.60], Beer-Battered Rock Cod [$3.05], Shrimp [$3.60] tacos

Scallop taco

Scallop taco

We chose a variety of fish from their daily selection. My favorite of the day actually turned out to be one not pictured, the octopus – it was grilled perfectly and had a really lovely smoky flavor. Their beer-battered rock cod, which is available everyday, is also one of the best fried fish tacos I’ve had in SD so far. Continue reading →

Chicago Trip Recap, Part 7: The Purple Pig

This is the last of my Chicago trip recap posts! I can’t believe it took me half a year to get through everything, haha. Today’s post is on our second meal in the Windy City, at the famous Purple Pig, located on the Magnificent Mile.

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We had a group of six so we could share a variety of items. The food is American, with Spanish influence. Since the restaurant’s name was Purple Pig, we decided to focus on their pork items.

Blood Sausage

Blood Sausage

The blood sausage was from their selection of cured meats. Although the pieces are small, it was packed with flavor.

Lardo

Lardo

Another item from their “cured meats” section – I got really excited because lardo is, well, basically cured lard. I’ve had this once before at Beretta in San Francisco, and it was an absolute melt-in-your-mouth delight. Unfortunately, the lardo here was not as impressive – the pieces were cut too thick and didn’t have the melty, smooth mouthfeel that I had expected.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs

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The bone marrow here was one of the “must-try” items according to reviewers, although some of my friends who have visited here previously weren’t a fan. I absolutely loved it – the bone marrow was rich and silky, and the portion was quite generous. It was served with sea salt, and a mix of herbs, pickled onions, and capers, all of which balanced out the richness of the marrow.

Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers, Fried Egg

Pig’s Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers, Fried Egg

I’ve never had fried pig’s ear before – only the Chinese-style marinated kind, so this was quite new to me. One of my friends didn’t like this as much because the pig ears lost their characteristic “chewiness”. My favorite part of this dish, though, was probably the crispy kale, haha. There’s something about deep fried kale that I really enjoy.

Corn & Cherry Tomato Salad

Corn & Cherry Tomato Pesto Salad

Being in the Midwest in the summertime means that, at least for me, I’m eating corn at every meal. This was so, so good – the corn and tomatoes were really sweet and fresh, and I loved the flavor of the pesto. Thinking of this dish makes me wish that summer were here, already.

"JLT" Pork Jowl, Tomato, Frisée, & Fried Duck Egg

“JLT” Pork Jowl, Tomato, Frisée, & Fried Duck Egg

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[Irvine] Four Sea Restaurant & Taiwan Popcorn Chicken

S and I recently took a “food trip” to Irvine/LA with our friend A. We first stopped by a couple of places in Irvine – Four Sea Restaurant, which serves up authentic Taiwanese breakfast. I’ve posted on it before, and was really excited to visit again.

米漿 - Rice Peanut Milk [$2.40]

米漿 – Rice Peanut Milk [$2.40]

My number one reason for loving this place? The rice peanut milk, which is made by grinding pre-soaked rice and roasted peanuts into a powder and mixing with water. The end result is a smooth, creamy, nutty drink. If you’ve never had rice peanut milk before, definitely try it when you get a chance.

鹹豆漿 - Salty Soy Milk [$2.50]

鹹豆漿 – Salty Soy Milk [$2.50]

A ordered the salty soy milk, which is soy milk with you tiao (fried cruller), chives, and chili oil. I’m not a huge fan of salty soy milk, but she really enjoyed it.

蘿蔔糕加蛋 - Fried Daikon Cake w/ Egg [$5]

蘿蔔糕加蛋 – Fried Daikon Cake w/ Egg [$5]

The fried daikon cake (I think it’s actually usually called turnip cake) is S’s favorite item here – the turnip cake has a nice and crispy exterior and really flavorful. All of us really enjoyed it here. Unlike the Cantonese version of this dish, Taiwanese turnip cake doesn’t usually have fillings, but that’s the way he likes it.

蛋餅加肉鬆 - Egg Crepe w/ Pork Sung [$4.5]

蛋餅加肉鬆 – Egg Crêpe w/ Pork Sung [$4.5]

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Dede’s Teajuice City revisit

S and I were craving Szechuan food a while back and decided to revisit Dede’s Teajuice City (since Spicy City, our usual favorite in SD, is usually pretty crowded). I had an okay impression of it last time but thought I’d give it another chance.

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We decided to skip the cold plate this time since we wanted to order more of the entrées.

毛血旺 - Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

毛血旺 – Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

The first thing that caught my eye from the menu was the “mao xue wang”, pictured above. Traditionally, it’s made with pork or duck blood, eel, mung bean sprouts, pork, and other various vegetables and offal, stewed in spicy broth. I was pretty disappointed with the version here, – there was no basically no flavor other than the chili oil, indicating that the ingredients probably weren’t cooked long enough in the broth? It didn’t distinguish itself from the “shui zhu” (boiled meat/fish in hot sauce) that’s also on the menu, either.

蒜泥白肉 - Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

蒜泥白肉 – Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

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