Sushi Kaito

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A couple of months back, S and I went out to dinner with our friends from Kirbie’s Cravings and One Gal’s Path. We picked Sushi Kaito, since I haven’t been there before.

Sushi Kaito

The restaurant is a small, unassuming place with a sushi bar and just a few tables. We went for an early-ish dinner (~5PM), and it’s a good thing we had reservations because it was actually pretty full.

SEAWEED SALAD
Seaweed salad

The seaweed salad was a nice, refreshing start to the meal.

BEEF TONGUE
Beef Tongue

The beef tongue was grilled lightly and had a lightly smoky taste. The slices were thick-cut – S and I prefer the more thinly-sliced type, which is less chewy, but these were still quite delicious.

CHICKEN KARAAGE
Chicken Karaage

The chicken karaage (fried chicken) here was nice and crispy, but I still prefer the version from Yakyudori Yakitori or Yokohama Yakitori Koubou.

AMBERJACK SASHIMI
Amberjack Sashimi

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[LA/Monterey Park] Dean Sin World

We took a trip to LA back in May for a concert, and of course we had to plan some food stops as well. I had read great reviews of Dean Sin World on Kirbie’s Cravings, Gastronomy Blog, and mmm-yoso, so we decided to check it out.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the storefront, but luckily you can see pictures from the other blogs that I linked. When I visited, the banner that indicated its name, Dean Sin World, was no longer there, and we only saw the “Tastio Bakery Deli” sign. It was a bit confusing, but I made sure that it was the right place. The shop was pretty small, but since we were there in the mid-afternoon, we were the only customers.

Pork & Vegetable Dumplings 白菜水餃:
Pork & Vegetable Dumplings

We were floored by the prices here. I guess I should have expected it since it was LA, but this order of ten dumplings cost us less than $5! They were also really delicious – the house-made dumpling wrappers had a nice “pull”, and the fillings were flavorful and juicy. These dumplings really put everything we have in SD to shame.

Spicy Wontons 紅油抄手:
Spicy Wonton

The spicy wontons were also delicious. …

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Myung In Dumplings

Myung In Dumplings is a Los Angeles-based chain that opened its first San Diego outpost a couple of months ago. I’ve never had Chinese-Korean dumplings and wanted to try it out.

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Shortly after being seated, we were given some complimentary side dishes – pickled radish and kimchi. They weren’t the best, but I’m not being too picky.

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Myung In’s specialty is, obviously, dumplings but also mandu – basically Chinese steamed buns. We ordered some of each.

Boiled Dumpling with Pork & Vegetable [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Pork & Vegetable [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Kimchi & Pork [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Kimchi & Pork [$8]

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Sharetea

Sharetea is a Taiwanese bubble tea franchise that recently opened in San Diego. I’ve had their milk tea in Berkeley before and was excited to hear that they were expanding to SD!

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Our first visit was on Grand Opening Day, June 1. The special promo was buy 1 get 1 free – but it wasn’t until we were close to the front of the line that we learned the free drink was limited to the classic milk tea with tapioca. I didn’t mind too much, but I can imagine some customers feeling misled.

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This mural looks like it was done by the same artist as the one from Infini Tea. There is a little tapioca pearl dressed in the cultural outfit for each of the countries where there’s a Sharetea franchise!

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My favorite was obviously the koala tapioca pearl, representing Australia.

On our first visit, we tried the Okinawa (brown sugar) milk tea, which was quite tasty. But the wait time for the drinks was over half an hour – just for milk tea! It didn’t seem like their line was very optimized, and a bit chaotic. But it was grand opening day, so I sort of expected it.

We returned about a week later, around 10pm on a Saturday night.

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Koon Thai Kitchen revisits

Koon Thai Kitchen is one of our favorite Thai restaurants in San Diego, and I’ve posted a couple of times about it already. We recently tried a few new items (and something from their new menu), so I thought I’d share what I tried. 

Photo of the new menu items:

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The Thai pepper steak definitely caught my eye…

Thai Pepper Steak [$12.95]

Thai Pepper Steak [$12.95] 

Unfortunately, the steak was pretty dry. While I enjoyed the lime chili vinaigrette flavor, it didn’t make up for the dry and chewy steak. I was pretty disappointed since this dish sounded so good.

Eggplant Stir-Fry w/ Pork [$9.95]

Eggplant Stir-Fry w/ Pork [$9.95]

I’ve been really into eggplant lately and decided to try this dish. The eggplant was cooked perfectly. This dish was quite simple and reminded me of a quick Chinese stir-fry, but it really hit the spot for me.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Curry with Pork [$9.95]

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Dumpling Inn

Dumpling Inn, a popular Chinese restaurant specializing in Shanghai cuisine, recently underwent a large expansion and renovation. In addition, the restaurant space will also house Shanghai Saloon, a new concept that features craft beer, a whiskey lounge, and an Asian fusion menu. I’ve never been to the old Dumpling Inn because of the long wait times, but after the new space opened, S and I went to check it out with some friends.

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I really liked the old Chinese village-style decor! It definitely gave the place an old-school feel.

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There were these signs to “separate” Shanghai Saloon and Dumpling Inn. But I don’t really think the seating sections were very clearly separated. Also, I think a lot of customers for Dumpling Inn were confused why they couldn’t be seated at the nearly-empty Shanghai Saloon sections. Clearly, some kinks still needed to be worked out.

We visited Dumpling Inn for a “test visit” and just tried a couple of items…

Pork Potsticker [$8]

Pork Potsticker [$8]

The pork potstickers were decent, although I didn’t really like the wrapper. The pan-fried side could have been crispier, and I thought that the wrapper was overall too thick and dough-y.

Pork Xiaolongbao [$8]

Pork Xiaolongbao [$8]

The pork XLB (soup dumplings) were slightly disappointing to me – but then, it could be because I had visited Din Tai Fung recently. The filling was juicy enough, but the wrappers were too thick… Sounds like a recurring theme, huh.

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The pork filling was pretty good, though, and I did get a decent amount of soup (although fellow blogger Lynn didn’t quite have the same experience).

We left feeling a bit disappointed… but undeterred. I attributed the less-than-impressive food to the fact that they were still adjusting to their new space. So we returned, just a few days later, with a larger group.

Pork Dumplings (boiled) [$8]

Pork Dumplings (boiled) [$8]

This time, instead of the potstickers, we opted for the boiled dumplings. To my surprise, these were much better – the wrapper was about the right thickness, and the filling was quite flavorful.

Garlic Baked Seabass Filet [$12.95]

Garlic Baked Seabass Filet (鍋塌魚片) [$12.95]

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[Costa Mesa] Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese chain that specializes in soup dumplings (aka xiaolongbao, or XLB), opened its first Orange County location last year inside South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. S and I are huge fans of DTF, and we actually visited shortly after their grand opening last year (complete with a 3-hour wait for a table, yikes!). Unfortunately, the photos from the initial visit got lost, and even though we’ve been back several times already on various LA/OC trips, I’ve only gotten around to posting about it now…

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As I just mentioned, when DTF first opened in the mall, the waits were 3-4 hours for dinner (on weekends, at least). However, on our most recent visit, the wait times were much more reasonable – about 30 minutes for Saturday dinner. Luckily, it’s located in the mall so we always do some shopping while waiting, and the restaurant will send you a text message when your table is almost ready.

The restaurant is quite modern and even has a full bar. FYI, if you don’t want to wait for a text, you can also wait for a table in the bar area which supposedly has a shorter waiting period. However, most bar area tables seat just two.

Cucumber Salad [$4.3]

Cucumber Salad [$4.3]

The cucumber salad is one of our favorite appetizers – crisp and refreshing, the cukes are served with a sesame oil/soy sauce mix.

Pork Xiaolongbao [$9.5]

Pork Xiaolongbao [$9.5]

Of course, the standard pork XLB (S doesn’t eat shrimp, and I’m allergic to crab, so no seafood allowed in our XLB). One thing that has always impressed me about DTF is their consistent quality. The chain is famous for their precision, of course, in that the wrapper is the same thickness, the filling is the same, and every dumpling has exactly 18 pleats. Somehow, they manage to keep the wrappers thin and elastic, without breaking (usually). The XLB here were really tasty as always, and I love the juicy, flavorful pork filling, especially when mixed with a bit of black vinegar and ginger slice.

Rice & Pork Shao Mai [$10]

Rice & Pork Shao Mai [$10]

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Izakaya Masa

Izakaya Masa, located in Mission Hills, is the latest in our venture in late-night Japanese food. Some of our friends claim that their ramen is the best in SD – S has tried it once before and wasn’t a huge fan, but hey, it’s been a few years and he agreed that his opinions could change. So off we went…

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We had actually studied the menu online before visiting, so we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted. Unfortunately there’s no yakitori here, but I was happy to try non-skewered items here as well.

Tuna Carpaccio [$9.95]

Tuna Carpaccio [$9.95]

The tuna carpaccio is served with “Masa’s special garlic olive oil”. The tuna was quite fresh, and I loved the fried garlic slices on top to add crunch and flavor!

Chuka Kurage (Jellyfish) [$3.95]

Chuka Kurage (Jellyfish) [$3.95]

The cold jellyfish salad tasted very similar to the Chinese version of this dish, with a light sesame oil seasoning. This was good, though the portion was quite small.

Agedashi Tofu [$4.95]

Agedashi Tofu [$4.95]

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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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[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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