Misc Pics Post, August edition

I realized that I have a smattering of photos from the past many months that never made it into full posts… So, I decided to do one of these “cleaning-out-the-memory-card (as Kirk of mmm-yoso calls it, “COMC”) posts. I’ve also included links to previous posts on some of these places!

PORK BELLY APP & SNACKSHACK PORK BURGER from Carnitas’ Snack Shack:Carnitas' Snack Shack Carnitas' Snack Shack

Carnitas’ Snack Shack is one of our favorite casual restaurants in San Diego. The pork belly app and pork burger, pictured above, are my two go-to items here, although we pretty much enjoy everything that we’ve tried on the menu.

Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Locations in North Park and Del Mar
http://carnitassnackshack.com

ZARU SOBA from Hinotez:
Hinotez

With all the hot weather lately, I’ve been craving cold noodles nearly everyday. …

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Sushi Kaito

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a pair of tickets to the Big Bite Bacon Festival! Ends TOMORROW at 11:59PM!

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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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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Yakyudori Yakitori revisit

We used to frequent Yakyudori for their ramen, but lately, since I’ve been obsessed with yakitori, we’ve been focusing more on the grilled items instead so I thought I’d do a revisit post.

Hiyayakko (Cold tofu) [$3]

Hiyayakko (Cold tofu) [$3]

We started out with the hiya-yakko, a cold tofu appetizer. I’ve read a lot of tofu recipes recently that talk about how to make tofu exciting and flavorful by frying or dousing it in sauce… I guess I’ve never felt that way as I always thought that tofu is quite flavorful on its own. In this dish, uncooked tofu is seasoned simply with some soy sauce, bonito flakes, green onions, and grated ginger, and I find it delightful and refreshing.

Negima (Chicken thigh w/ green onion) [$2/each]

Negima (Chicken thigh w/ green onion) [$2/each]

Buta Bara (Pork) [$2/each]; Gyutan (Beef tongue) [$2.50/each]

Buta Bara (Pork) [$2/each]; Gyutan (Beef tongue) [$2.50/each]

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Yakitori Taisho

One of S and my new “obsessions” is yakitori… Hinotez and Yokohama Yakitori Koubou are part of our regular rotations now (we love Yakyudori, too, but it gets quite crowded so we visit less often). So when we saw rave reviews of Yakitori Taisho, the newest sister restaurant of Yakyudori and Hinotez, we made plans for a visit.

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Located in the Smart & Final strip mall on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, Yakitori Taisho wasn’t exactly in the nicest part of town. But it’s the food that matters to us.

After reading Kirk’s posts as well as the review by the guys at San Diego Food Net, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to order.

Tsukimi Tororo: grated nagaimo yam with quail egg [$5.5]

Tsukimi Tororo: grated nagaimo yam with quail egg [$5.5]

Mekabu Natto: mekabu seaweed and fermented soybeans with quail egg [$5.5]

Mekabu Natto: mekabu seaweed and fermented soybeans with quail egg [$5.5]

Our friend A wanted the tororo – I tried it for the first time and quite liked it, although I still preferred the natto, which was a pungent, savory, and perfect way to start my meal.

One of the nice things that we discovered was that even though the menu says each order is two skewers, we could actually order 3 since we had 3 people.

Bara (pork belly) [$2/ea], Sunazuri (chicken gizzard) [$1.75/ea]

Pork Belly (bara) [$2/ea], Chicken Gizzard (sunazuri)[$1.75/ea]

The pork belly was nice and fatty, with plenty of smoky flavor from the binchotan (well, everything did). It tasted quite similar to the version at Taisho’s sister restaurants. The gizzard had a nice “crunch” and “chew”.

Pork with Shiso (butashiso) [$2.5/ea], Chicken Thigh with Onion (torinegima) [$2.25/ea]

Pork with Shiso (butashiso) [$2.5/ea], Chicken Thigh with Onion (torinegima) [$2.25/ea]

The butashiso here was outstanding – we all agreed that it’s the best butashiso we’ve had in SD so far. The pork was moist, tender, and flavorful, and the shiso was subtle but added a nice, noticeable layer. The chicken thigh with onions – instead of the usual green onions – was definitely interesting. I think I still prefer green onions, but the chicken itself was quite delicious.

Chicken Heart (hatsu) [$1.75/ea]

Chicken Heart (hatsu) [$1.75/ea]

I was hoping to try the chicken vein, but alas they ran out. Chicken heart is one of S’s faves, so of course we had to try it. It was pretty good, although not super memorable.

Grilled Scallop (hotate yaki) [$7.50]

Grilled Scallop (hotate yaki) [$7.50]

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This was from their “Appetizer & Salad” section – scallops grilled over the binchotan charcoal. I LOVE that they give you the entirety of the scallop instead of just the inner part (I do not know what the technical term is…). It was smoky, tender, and had plenty of that “fresh seafood” flavor (which I don’t think S actually liked that much. He just likes the normal scallops. But I liked this a lot!).

Chicken Skin (kawa) [$2.4/ea]

Chicken Skin (kawa) [$2.4/ea]

Our last skewer of the evening was chicken skin. It was grilled perfectly, with the right amount of crunch. Even S, who doesn’t normally enjoy chicken skin, liked this.

Grilled Sliced Beef Tongue [$10]

Grilled Sliced Beef Tongue [$10]

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Grilled sliced beef tongue was on the specials board that night, and after some deliberation we decided to try it out. I really enjoyed it!

Fried Chicken Cartilage [$6]

Fried Chicken Cartilage [$6]

At this point, we were getting full, but I was craving something deep-fried, so we ordered the chicken cartilage off of the specials board. These were crispy and crunchy and satisfied my craving.

Nori Chazuke [$5.5]

Nori Chazuke [$5.5]

Last but not least, rice with seaweed in a green tea broth. This was simple but a perfect way to end a delicious meal!

Overall, we really enjoyed our dinner at Yakitori Taisho. Many of the items were similar to Yakyudori or Hinotez, but some of them definitely stood out – such as the butashiso. Although its price point is slightly higher, I liked it so much here that I’m sure a revisit will be happening soon!

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Specials

Specials Board

Yakitori Taisho
5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117

Sushi Mura

Sushi Mura, located in Liberty Station, opened about a year ago and has been recommended to me several times. Finally, S and I decided to go check it out along with our friend who’s been here before.

Sushi Mura

Sushi Mura

The place wasn’t too big, but also didn’t have many customers that day. I briefly thought about sitting at the sushi counter, but decided that I wanted to have a good view of the TV, which was playing the Chargers vs. 49ers game. (I’m still sad about the Chargers’ season. But go Cowboys! Also, how many readers did I just lose from that?)

Their menu included a bunch of sushi options, as well as rice and ramen. We got an assortment of different items, but mostly focused on sushi.

Miso soup

Miso soup

Our meals came with miso soup… I didn’t enjoy it too much, though – I remember it being really salty.

Tonkotsu ramen [$10]

Tonkotsu ramen [$10]

S’s tonkotsu ramen arrived first – we had heard that the broth was pretty good and wanted to try it. The broth was pretty rich and flavorful, not too salty (in fact, I thought it could have used a tad more salt), and the noodles were decently spring-y. The toppings were fairly standard, and overall we thought this was a good, but not super exciting, bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

Mura Mini Omakase [$29]

Mura Mini Omakase [$29]

S chose the “mini” omakase, which includes 10 pieces of nigiri. I can’t exactly remember what all of them were, boo, but I know that S really enjoyed the salmon, amberjack, and halibut.

Monkfish liver (ankimo) [$5]

Monkfish liver (ankimo) [$5]

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Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes, which ends on January 1st!

Last month, I celebrated my birthday along with three of my good friends – all of us have birthdays within a week of one another, so it’s a great chance to have a big party! This year, we chose Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ (yakiniku) shop that opened semi-recently in Scripps Ranch, as our celebration spot. 

We had a large group, 12 people total, and there were 2 grills for us. My side of the table decided to order two of the “Meat Lover’s Course for 2”, priced at $55, as well as a few additional a la carte items.

The course comes with several appetizers:

Cheese Wontons

Cheese Wontons

I wish that this were a little bit more crispy, but the flavor was actually not bad. I liked the spicy mayo dipping sauce.

Garlic Fried Chicken

Garlic Fried Chicken

I guess this is Gyu-Kaku’s version of karaage. It was pretty good, although I couldn’t detect much of the garlic.

Gyu-Kaku Salad

Gyu-Kaku Salad

The salad was actually my favorite appetizer. I liked the inclusion of hard-boiled eggs, radish slices, and the thousand-island-style dressing!

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

The last appetizer for the Meat Lover’s Course is miso soup – it was nice, a tad on the salty side, but nothing too special.

Edamame

Edamame

The other half of the table ordered a different course set (the Gyu-Kaku Course for 2), and shared some of their edamame with us. So nice!

Now comes the meat! The Meat Lover’s Course comes with bistro hanger steak (with miso), filet mignon (with ponzu), NY steak (miso), premium sirloin (garlic), yaki-shabu (miso), and toro beef (tare/sweet soy sauce). In addition, we also had double orders of beef tongue, pork belly, and chicken cheese fondue. The photos are in the order that everything arrived…

Filet Mignon - Ponzu

Filet Mignon – Ponzu

The filet mignon is apparently 21-day aged – I wish that there was less of the ponzu sauce, though, and more of the actual beefy flavor that came through.

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue [$7.95]

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue

Chicken Cheese Fondue

The idea with the chicken cheese fondue is that you let the little aluminum cups of cheese sit on the grill to melt while you’re cooking the chicken, then dip the chicken in the cheese. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken with the cheese, and ended up eating the two separately…

Toro Beef Tare

Toro Beef – Tare

By far, my – and everyone else’s – favorite of the evening. This was described as “beef bacon”, and it was nice and fatty. This also had one of the lightest marinades out of everything that we ordered, and I really liked the light sweetness of the soy sauce….

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Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

We recently visited Yokohama Yakitori Koubou, located in the Izakaya Sakura/Original Pancake House plaza on Convoy. It’s been on our to-do list for a while, and I was excited to try it out since I love yakitori (grilled skewered items).

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The only other places in San Diego where we’ve had yakitori is Yakitori Yakyudori and its sister restaurant Hinotez. We enjoyed both places, but wanted to try something new.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Chicken Breast w/ Special Sauce [$2.99 each]; Premium Beef Rib [$3.99]; Pork [$2.99]; Chicken Heart [$1.80] 

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou 

We enjoyed all the meat skewers, which were all very tender and cooked nicely. The only thing that I wished for was a more smoky flavor from the grill, and perhaps a touch more salt. All the skewers were served with two sauces – a horseradish paste and a spicy miso paste, both of which were quite good and added the saltiness that I was craving.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Koubou Gurume Yaki (Chicken Breast with Special Sauce): Natto with Leeks; Wasabi; Salmon with Corn

One of their specialties here is the “Koubou Gurume Yaki” – grilled chicken breast with various special topping combinations. We chose three, and my favorite was the natto with leeks. I know that people have pretty polarized feelings about natto – I didn’t know that I enjoyed it until recently, haha. The natto they used here had a very nice flavor, and paired well with the chicken breast. Not to say that the other two flavors weren’t delicious – I enjoyed all three of them! This is definitely something that we haven’t seen at other yakitori joints, so it’s a must-try if you visit. There are other interesting toppings like California Roll and even pizza.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Sumiyaki Onigiri (grilled rice ball) [$3]

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Izakaya Sakura revisit

Reminder: Enter my giveaway for 2 dozen NestFresh eggs here! Four days left to enter!

Izakaya Sakura is one of our go-to Japanese restaurants – they serve a variety of bento lunch and dinners, as well as good quality sushi and sashimi. S and I like visiting for weekend lunch, since they offer reasonably-priced lunch specials. We recently visited with a couple friends, and I thought it’d be fun to do a revisit post since my previous one was during dinner.

We ordered a variety of food… S chose the Chicken Katsu Don:

Chicken Katsu Don [$9]

Chicken Katsu Don [$9]

It was basically an oyako-don (chicken with egg and onions in dashi broth), but with fried chicken cutlet. Both of us really like this dish, especially the lightly sweet dashi broth. 

Lunch Special Bento [$12]

Lunch Special Bento [$12]

Every day, there is a “Lunch Special Bento” consisting of a ton of different items – there are only about 10 of these bentos available each day, and I was lucky enough to get one that day. The bento of the day included (starting from top left): sausage and bacon braised with cabbage, potato croquette, spaghetti with mentaiko, omelette, grilled salmon, chicken croquette, and pork with ginger and onions. It was certainly a very fulfilling bento! I enjoyed all of the items, especially the pork with ginger and onions, and the spaghetti with mentaiko. Also, there was enough food for another meal for me, so it was definitely worth it!

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Underbelly (North Park location)

Shortly after I posted about Underbelly in Little Italy, a new location opened in North Park! In addition to ramen, the NP location also serves yakitori, so of course we had to go check it out, and our friend A joined us for a late-night excursion.

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The seating is on this outdoor patio pictured above. The ordering process is a bit confusing – you order food at the counter by the kitchen, which is indoors, and then you order beer at the bar which is outdoors.

One of the things that we were excited to try was the pork belly buns – they are supposed to be reminiscent of the Taiwanese dish, gua bao.

Pork Belly Buns: sous-vide pork belly, pickled cucumber, ginger hoisin mayo [$7]

Pork Belly Buns [$7]

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These pork belly buns were quite good! The sous-vide pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender. I really enjoyed the flavor of the accompanying hoisin mayo, even though the flavor isn’t the same as the traditional Taiwanese buns. The buns were nice and fluffy, too.

We also wanted to try a couple of the skewers that were offered:

Pork Belly

Pork Belly [$4]

Beef Tongue

Chicken Heart [$3]

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