The Original Sab-E-Lee (new location)

The Original Sab-E-Lee is one of our favorite Thai restaurants in San Diego. The first location used to be a little “shack” on Linda Vista Road, but has recently moved into a new location just down the road.

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The restaurant’s menu has stayed largely the same. On our first visit, we didn’t know what was special here and ordered some of the more “Americanized” Thai dishes. However, now we knew better and ordered some favorites as well as a couple of new items.

PAPAYA SALAD [$6.95]
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The papaya salad is my absolute favorite dish here, and we always order it – green papaya slices, mixed with peanuts, green onions, tomatoes, and dried shrimp, in a fish sauce, lime juice, and chili sauce. This dish hits all the taste senses and is refreshing and super flavorful.

THAI SAUSAGE [$6.95]
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Another must-order here is the Thai (Issan) sausage, a Northern Thailand specialty. The sausage is made from ground pork and a mix of herbs, grilled and served with ginger slices, peanuts, cilantro, and cabbage. 

BEEF LARB [$7.25]
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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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The Original Sab-E-Lee (Rancho Penasquitos)

I recently got to check out the recently-opened Original Sab-E-Lee location in Rancho Penasquitos with some awesome people: Kirbie and DH, CC, and Carol. I love eating with food bloggers because everybody pulls out a camera as soon as the food arrives! And I don’t feel any pressure from dining companions to “hurry up and take a picture so we can start eating!”

S and I have visited the Sab-E-Lee location in Linda Vista before and really enjoyed our time there. However, we had ordered some “typical” Thai restaurant menu items such as curry and pad see ew, and this time I was ready to try out some new stuff. Everyone had great suggestions for what to try out.

Duck larb: duck grilled in spicy chili and lime sauce ($8.50)

Duck larb: duck grilled in spicy chili and lime sauce ($8.50)

Larb is one of those things that just sounds funny. I think it’s because I always want to say “lard”… but anyway,this is obviously not lard but a duck salad, mixed with chopped cilantro, onions, green onions, and dressed with fish sauce, chili, and lime juice. The duck meat was tender and thinly sliced, which allowed it to soak up the sauce, and I just loved the tangy flavors that lightened up the duck.

Beef jerky ($7.95)

Beef jerky ($7.95)

I’ve never had Thai beef jerky before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was pretty chewy and actually somewhat bland without the accompanying sauce.

Crab noodles: pan-fried rice noodles with crab meat and eggs ($8.25)

Crab noodles: pan-fried rice noodles with crab meat and eggs ($8.25)

Since S doesn’t eat shellfish, we rarely order it when we go out since I like to share everything. …

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The Original Sab-E-Lee

Several people have recommended The Original Sab-E-Lee to S and me, especially after hearing my raves about Koon Thai Kitchen. We decided to go check it out!

Original Sab-E-Lee, located in Linda Vista

Original Sab-E-Lee

The restaurant is kind of a hole-in-the-wall place, with just three or four tables. According to one of my friends, they have a whole other seating area in the back that’s really nice, but we didn’t see any sign of another seating area. Oh well, down-to-earth, hole-in-the-wall experience it is – I actually enjoy it.

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I thought their spice level descriptions were really cute. Hehe. Normally I’d just go for a 10, but I have been trying to tone down the heat recently. I think we just asked for something in the “4-7″ range.

Pad see ew with beef ($6.95)

Pad see ew with beef ($6.95)

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Koon Thai Kitchen revisit

S and I previously visited Koon Thai Kitchen last month and loved it. We went back to try a few other dinner items, and I thought I’d share my experience here.

Last time, we ordered a pork belly/BBQ pork rice plate, and the pad see ew, and really enjoyed both dishes. This time, S was craving curry.

Thai Pa-nang curry with pork: Pa-nang curry paste in rich coconut milk with steamed broccoli and carrots ($9.95)

Although Thai curry is relatively easy to make at home, I usually don’t have all the ingredients at hand, especially Thai basil (anyone have good recommendations for preserving the basil? I can never use the entire bunch, and it spoils quickly). Anyway, pa-nang curry is one of our favorites – I believe it originated from Malaysian curries (hence the name), and it tends to be milder than other Thai curries. I like Koon Thai Kitchen’s version, which was flavorful but not too heavy. I thought the addition of broccoli was weird at first, but surprisingly, broccoli soaked in curry turned out really well.

Pad kee mao with chicken: flat rice noodles stir-fried with garlic, egg, fresh chili, onion, bell pepper, and basil ($8.95)

Fellow blogger CC recommended the pad kee mao (drunken noodles). Think pad see ew without the soy sauce. I asked for “spicy,” which I think meant level 8 or so on their 1-10 scale. It was quite spicy! I’ve been trying to cut down on spicy foods, but I just can’t resist asking for extra heat in Thai cuisine. I liked the dish overall, although I still prefer pad see ew – the soy sauce just adds so much extra flavor.

Anyway, this was another pleasant dinner at Koon Thai Kitchen. The prices are quite reasonable, and the food is delicious. Still my favorite Thai restaurant in San Diego!

Koon Thai Kitchen
3860 Convoy St, Suite 102, San Diego, CA
http://koonthaikitchen.com/index.html

Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-12am

 

Koon Thai Kitchen

Bringing you a post from the cell phone camera today.. S and I went to dinner straight from work, and I didn’t have my camera with me.

Koon Thai Kitchen, located on Convoy St (in the Nijiya Market plaza)

I was craving Thai food after work one day, and S says his friend just told him about this place. I haven’t been too impressed with Thai restaurants in San Diego thus far, so my expectations weren’t too high coming in.

I believe this location used to be a Japanese curry restaurant? Not too sure. But apparently Koon Thai Kitchen has been around for over a year, as they were just celebrating their one-year anniversary in August.

The menu is pretty extensive – you can see the full menu online. S saw the words “fried roasted pork belly” and immediately made his decision. Haha.

Khao Moo Dang/Moo Krob: BBQ pork, fried roasted pork belly and boiled egg with house special sauce ($7.99)

This was definitely a Chinese-influenced dish. In particular, the BBQ pork was similar to Cantonese-style char siu pork, and the sauce had a strong five-spice flavor. S and I really enjoyed both the pork belly (duh) and the BBQ pork – flavorful and tender. It was served with a generous portion of Chinese broccoli and a hard-boiled egg – I’m not a big fan of hard-boiled eggs but still, really liked the dish overall.

Pad see ew with beef ($9.95)

Also tried the pad see ew, which is my favorite stir-fried noodle dish at Thai restaurants. You can choose your own protein, and we picked beef. This was really delicious – the noodles had nice texture and soaked in plenty of flavor without being greasy. The Chinese broccoli and beef were also well-cooked. The portion was also quite generous – I had enough left over for lunch the next day.

Overall, we were very happy with Koon Thai Kitchen. I liked it more than any of the other Thai restaurants that I’ve tried in San Diego, and I’m sure we will be back in the future. Hopefully next time I will have better pictures to share with you!

Koon Thai Kitchen
3860 Convoy St., Suite 102, San Diego, CA
(858) 514-8111
http://koonthaikitchen.com/index.html

[SD Pacific Beach] Second Narraya visit

The first time I visited Narraya, it was just SK and me, and we each ordered our own dish.  I visited again with a group of six this time, and I was excited to try more dishes from their rather extensive menu.

Waterfall“: grilled marinated flat-iron steak tossed with lime dressing with rice powder, onions, cilantro, and fresh basil, $8.99

Many of the appetizers had pretty creative names, such as Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Golden Triangle, etc..  We ended up deciding on a dish called “Waterfall.”  I’m actually not sure how the name relates to the dish, but it was delicious.

Cashew with pork: pan-seared roasted chili paste with onions, zucchini, carrots, and cashew nuts, $9.99

Green Curry with pork: green chili paste in coconut milk with bamboo shoots and fresh Thai basil, $9.99

The two dishes above were listed under the “Traditional” section of the menu, which includes Thai stir-fry’s and curries.  I really liked the Cashew stir-fry – we were deciding between the Cashew and Gaprow, and the server actually immediately suggested that we choose Cashew.  The curry was pretty standard – I think I like red curry better than green.

Three-Flavored Fish: crispy golden sole filet topped with three-flavored sauce: pineapple puree, roasted garlic, and trio chilies, sprinkled with kaffir lime, $15

The fish might have been my favorite of the night – fried to perfection, and the sauces were just so flavorful.  Instead of using the usual lemon to add acidity, they used pineapple, which was an awesome novel combo for me.

BBQ Pork Shanks: grilled pork shanks with roasted garlic, served with fresh papaya salad, aromatic glutinous rice, and a spicy dipping sauce, $16

When I ordered this, I thought it would be the same as the Kao Kha Moo that I had last time – well, as you can see, it is pretty different (but I could not for the life of me find Kao Kha Moo on the menu…).  It’s grilled instead of braised, and also flavored with garlic instead of five-spice.  The green papaya salad was a nice, refreshing accompaniment, but I didn’t like the dipping sauces too much.

The bottom line?  I enjoyed most of the dishes here, especially the Three-Flavored Fish.  The pricing is around $15-20 per person, which fits the style of the restaurant.  However, I’m still looking for a good place for cheap, quick, and casual Thai food, like Bangkok Noodles or Thai Noodles in Berkeley – any recommendations?

Narraya
4475 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA
(858) 490-2245

http://www.narraya.com/


[SD Pacific Beach] In search of Thai food: Narraya

Berkeley had an abundance of Thai restaurants.  Overabundance, perhaps.  Less than 5 minutes walking from my apartment were Thai Noodle and Bangkok Noodle.  Some other favorites were Ruen Pair and Da Nang on San Pablo Ave.  And there were so many more that I had bookmarked but did not get a chance to visit before I left.  And now, in San Diego, I sometimes just crave a good pad see ew or red curry…

Which brings me to Narraya.  SK told me about this place before, and since I get a discount with my Passport Card (thank you, workplace), we decided to go to Pacific Beach and try it out.

We went on a sunny Saturday for lunch, and it was quite empty – generally not a good first impression in my book, but I figured people were probably busy at the beach.  We were seated by a very friendly waiter and sipped on a Thai iced tea while we flipped through the menu.

Thai iced tea, $2.50

Normally, I find the stir-fried noodles section, choose one, and that’s my order.  But today, I wanted something different… and that’s when Kao Kha Moo caught my eye.  Braised pork shank, my favorite dish at Da Nang.  I had to order it.

Kao kha moo (braised pork shanks), $15

It was super tender, flavorful, and delicious.  A Thai friend once told me that this is a Thai dishes that originated from Chinese cooking, which explains the five-spice rub.  The slightly spicy sauce went really well with the five-spice and the Chinese broccoli, and the portion, as you can see, is huge – an added bonus.

Red curry with pork, $9.99

SK ordered his favorite curry, red curry.  It was rich but not too coconutty, and with plenty of meat and veggies.  A nice, solid dish.

(Also, I just realized that we ordered the exact same things here as we did at Da Nang!  Do we get points for consistency?)

Narraya has definitely been better than a couple of the other Thai restaurants that I have tried in San Diego.  It’s too bad that it’s a bit far from where I live, and it’s not priced like Berkeley.  There are still a few more places on my list to try, but so far, Narraya has been my favorite.

Do you have any Thai restaurant recommendations?  If so, let me know in the comments!

Narraya
4475 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA
(858) 490-2245

http://www.narraya.com

Hours
Sun-Wed  11am-10pm
Thu-Sat    11am-11pm

Da Nang Krungthep Thai Cuisine (Albany)

I was introduced this place with my Thai friend, so I had pretty high expectations. She said that the stewed pork leg here tastes just like home – which got me really excited because I love pork leg. Anyway, Da Nang Krungthep (I’ll just call it Da Nang for short) is located at the intersection of San Pablo Ave. and Solano Ave., pretty close to Ranch 99. I really like that you can park in the small lot right next to the restaurant, as finding street parking is no trivial task.

Also, a side note: even though the restaurant serves both Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, my friend says that the Thai is the authentic stuff, because the restaurant owners and chef are Thai. Their Vietnamese food could be good, but we did not bother to try it.

When S. came to visit, I took him here because there are few good Thai restaurants in San Diego. I ordered the Kha Moo (pork leg) over rice, of course. S. got the red curry.

Red Curry with pork

The curry was pretty good, although I don’t remember it being particularly special. I also forgot to take note of the exact price, but it was around $9.

Kha Moo (pork leg) over rice

Now this was good. First of all, the leg was de-boned, which is really nice. There was plenty of fat and skin, and the flavoring was spot-on. It actually tasted a lot like the red-braise (紅燒) flavoring in Chinese cuisine – one of my favorites. S. also really liked this dish and kept stealing from me… (To be fair, I also had quite a bit of the curry… hehe.)

To sum it up, this has become my personal favorite Thai restaurant so far. I’ve tried a couple of other dishes here from another time, and everything from the papaya salad appetizer to pad see ew has been pretty delicious. Check it out sometime and let me know what you think!

Adventures in San Diego – Part II

So I finally got the rest of my food pics from my camera..

Hodad’s: I’ve heard of this place even before I landed in SD, so I had quite a bit of expectations going in. The restaurant is fairly small, and its walls are lined with (mostly custom) license plates from just about every state. It certainly provided an interesting atmosphere. Also as you can tell from my photo, the restaurant was rather dimly lit..

The burger was huge – it was stuffed with 3 slices of tomatoes, plenty of lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard. It made biting into it rather difficult, actually.. I eventually took out the tomato slices and ate them separately. But despite its size, the taste was somewhat disappointing. The patty wasn’t as juicy as I’d hoped, and all the veggies had soaked the bread, making it unpleasantly soggy. One of my dining companions suggested that perhaps the reason they put so many tomatoes is because they needed the burger to feel juicier. I’d believe that.

Sakura: Sakura is located around most of the other Asian places in San Diego: Convoy Street. We came here for lunch, when the combo prices are cheaper. My love for eel prompted me to order the unatama-don (‘BBQ’ eel cooked with eggs and onions – think oyako-don, but with eel instead of chicken). As you can see it was served with a salad, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and cold noodles – a decent amount of food for the $9.50 price tag. The side dishes were pretty good, although the miso soup was made with firm, not soft, tofu. The unatama was great – the eggs and onions did not overpower the unagi, and everything was nicely balanced. This is also my 2nd time ever having unatama-don, so I don’t really have that much to say about it.

Punjabi Tandoor: Apparently, this is the most famous Indian place in San Diego, and even S – who doesn’t like Indian food – loves it, so of course I had to try it. For dinner, you can order a combo with 2 curries, rice, naan, and a small cup of kheer (Indian rice-pudding dessert) for about $10, which is a great deal. I tried the Lamb Vindaloo (my favorite dish at Indian restaurants – lamb and potatoes cooked in a spicy curry) and Chicken Palak, which is chicken cooked with spinach.

The Lamb Vindaloo turned out very different from what I’ve had previously (at Berkeley’s Biryani House, House of Curries, and Naan N Curry). It was much creamier – in fact, S swears that there’s heavy cream in the sauce, which made the overall flavor much milder. Still delicious, just not the vindaloo I am used to. The palak was pretty decent, too – the spinach flavor was well-captured, and the chicken was tender, not dry. The combo was way too much food, though. I think next time, I will just stick with 1 curry and 1 naan :P

Thai House: Berkeley has many fantastic Thai places, so my taste buds were ready to critique. I ordered the Spicy Noodle (with pork), which was pan-fried flat noodles with basil, bell peppers and eggs. It actually ended up tasting a lot like Cantonese ho fun, with the addition of basil. It was good, although not very memorable. I also added copious amounts of hot sauce (I guess it wasn’t as spicy as I would have wanted).. either my tolerance level has increased, or their hot sauce wasn’t so strong.

The Mission: I saved this for last because it was my birthday brunch! After taking a looooong time to decide where to go, S and I finally settled on The Mission, as recommended by his friend. The wait was 30-40 minutes on a Sunday morning, which seemed pretty typical for most brunch places around here. I ordered the chicken apple sausage with eggs – I was a little surprised that they didn’t ask how you wanted your eggs, and just served them all scrambled. It was served with toast and hash, and let me tell you – this potato hash was a-mazing. Seasoned with green onions and rosemary, soft yet not crumbly, these potatoes were pretty much the best I’ve tasted. The sausage was pretty good – nothing compared to the pork sausage patties in North Carolina, but the flavor was pretty good. Finally, scrambled eggs.. meh. Never been a big fan of them, but they had a nice, fluffy texture.

This concludes my food exploration in San Diego this month. I’ll be back again soon, so hopefully I’ll have some new adventures to share with you!