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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Chicago Trip Recap, Part 6: Nico Osteria

During my Chicago trip last year, we had the pleasure of dining at Nico Osteria, voted by Esquire as one of Chicago’s best new restaurants of 2014. S’s sister V is a pastry cook there, so we got a big discount on our meal and a bunch of freebies.

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What better way to start off a meal than with warm bread? All the bread is made daily in-house, and the focaccia was amazing. Really, I just wanted to eat another 10 pieces by myself. But I had to remind myself that there was going to be an actual meal coming up and show some self-restraint.

This meal was quite a while ago (yes, I’m a huge procrastinator on writing posts) so I don’t remember all of the details. We started out our meal with some oysters on the half-shell, which were nice and refreshing.

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Crudo

Crudo

We also got a few crudo dishes – salmon, hamachi, and marlin. I wasn’t super impressed with the fish, since I thought they were sliced a bit too thin. I suppose I was expecting something more like sashimi, but this was different.

Corzetti with corn, squid, soffrito

Corzetti with corn, squid, soffrito

Squid ink pasta with tuna sausage

Squid ink pasta with tuna sausage

We also shared two pastas. Corzetti is a round, flat-shaped pasta, and apparently there are various ways to make it based on family tradition. I really enjoyed the dish, especially the fresh corn in the sauce. The squid ink pasta dish was also quite good, although I liked the squid ink pasta at Eataly more. Continue reading →

Crispy Fried Chicken

S and I have been wanting to try out Crispy Fried Chicken, located in the City Heights – a neighborhood that we don’t frequent, but really should because of the various places that are on my bookmarks list. Recently, we decided to check off one item off that list when we were craving fried chicken.

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It’s not the nicest restaurant for sure, but honestly, we don’t really care about restaurant atmosphere as long as the food is good. However, it was a bit chilly that evening and they had all the doors open, so we decided to take our food to-go so we could enjoy it in the warmth of our home, haha.

We ordered a 5-piece dark meat combo, with comes with 2 sides, and an additional 3 pieces of dark meat (w/out the combo). (I know it sounds like a lot of food, but we were also sharing with our friend!)

Fried chicken with hush puppies and cole slaw

Fried chicken with hush puppies and cole slaw

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Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

Several weeks ago, the Hello Kitty Cafe truck stopped by San Diego, offering Hello Kitty fans a chance to purchase adorable treats. I went with a few friends, including Kirbie. We arrived at Fashion Valley Mall around 10AM, only to find a long line ahead of us…

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Thankfully I was in the company of good friends, because the wait to the front of the line ended up being 2 hours!

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We were all quite amused that truck (well, more like a van) was a Mercedes… We thought it should have been a Japanese car, at least! Haha.

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The truck was selling various Hello Kitty-branded foods, listed on the menu here:

Menu

Menu

After waiting for so long, I decided to get more than what I had originally intended… haha. First off, a box of donuts for my friend whose birthday happened to be that day:

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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

I’ve had Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot at home before, since you can easily buy the soup base mix at Asian grocery stores. However, I have always wanted to visit the actual restaurant and see if there’s actually any differences, and recently S and I went with some friends for a hot pot dinner.

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The restaurant is located in the same strip mall as Ramen Yamadaya on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. We went on a Saturday evening, and it was crowded. The entire lobby area was full, and there were several groups waiting outside. Pro-tip: if you have a party of 6 or more, you can make a reservation. Good thing we did, because the waits seemed to be at least an hour long.

There is an induction cooktop at each table, and for our group of 6, we had two cooktops (and therefore two pots). S and I shared a spicy hot pot with one of our friends, while the other three shared a “yin-yang” pot, consisting of half spicy and half original. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the cool-looking yin-yang pot.

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The soup had the same distinct smell – heavy on the cumin – and looked like it had more spices than the packaged soup base mix. Maybe there really is a difference, after all – the meat actually did taste more flavorful. I noticed that they had way more green onion stems and garlic cloves than what the soup mix called for, so maybe I should also try to increase that next time at home.

Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of everything since I was too distracted by cooking/eating/chatting… So these are just a few shots that I managed to snag throughout the meal.

Supreme Angus Beef [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Angus Beef [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Lamb Shoulder [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Lamb Shoulder [$13.95/12 oz]

The meat quality here was really quite good. Of course, we did choose the more “premium” meats. Continue reading →

Taste of the Himalayas (La Jolla)

Taste of the Himalayas is one of my favorite Indian/Nepalese restaurants in San Diego. A few months ago, they opened a new location in downtown La Jolla, and when I received a coupon in the mail for 20% off the entire order, we decided to pay a visit.

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The first thing that we noticed was that everything was “La Jolla” priced – every item was ~$4-5 more expensive than the original Midway store. So that actually meant that our coupon would just bring it back to the pricing that we were expecting… haha. Oh well.

After our server took our orders, he brought out some complimentary lentil soup. I love lentil soup and really enjoyed this a lot.

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

For our entrées, we decided to order some of the Nepalese dishes, which are the restaurant’s specialty.

Lamb Tarkari

Bhera ko Tarkari (Lamb Tarkari) [$15.95]

The lamb tarkari’s description was “boneless lamb pieces cooked in Himalayan special sauce with different herbs and spices” – not very informative, haha. The lamb was tender, and the sauce was spicy and flavorful. I’ve found that I enjoy the less creamy curries and prefer them more “soupy”, and the sauce here fits the bill.

Bhanta ka Kukhara (Chicken & Eggplant) [$13.95]

Bhanta ka Kukhara (Chicken & Eggplant) [$13.95]

This was something that we didn’t see last time at the Midway location, and since S and I love eggplant, we decided to give it a try – diced eggplant and boneless chicken with a Nepalese-style sauce. I actually ended up liking this dish more than the lamb one, probably because the eggplants went so well with the sauce. This sauce was less “pungent” than the lamb one, but still plenty flavorful.

Side note: this place can bring the heat! We ordered a “7” for the spice level, and I think S was dying towards the end. I actually am trying to eat less spicy now, too, but if you’re a spicy food-lover, this place should be a good challenge. Continue reading →

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a BBQ franchise originating from my sort-of hometown of Dallas, Texas. (I say sort of because, well, I’ve moved around a lot and “grew up” in a bunch of different places. But Dallas-Ft. Worth is where my parents currently live and where I went to high school, hence, sort-of hometown.) Anyway, even though I’ve only been to Dickey’s once or twice while actually living in Texas, I was still excited for its presence in San Diego. So on their second day of opening, S and I paid a visit!

Dickey's BBQ Pit

We definitely did not expect there to be such a crowd – I didn’t think that there were this many BBQ lovers in SD!

Dickey's BBQ Pit

There were three of us dining together, and we were starving after waiting in line for so long, so (of course) we ended up ordering a ton of food.

Picnic Pack w/ brisket [$28.95]

Picnic Pack w/ brisket [$28.95]

The Picnic Pack comes with 1 lb. of meat, 2 medium sides, and 4 dinner rolls. Of course, we had the brisket. The meat is cut to order, so I made sure to ask for the fattier part! It was relatively moist, but not nearly as juicy and smoky as the brisket at Coop’s – especially the leaner slices. Side note: they ask whether you want the brisket chopped or sliced. I went with sliced, since that’s what I’m used to, but I also overheard the person telling the next customer that they recommend chopped. Maybe that’s what we should go with next time – maybe it’d be better balanced between the fat and lean parts and overall more juicy?

Fried okra

Fried okra

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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

Trinitea

S and I are always on the lookout for new milk tea shops, so when we read about Trinitea on Kirbie and CC‘s blogs, we decided to try it out. Although we’re rarely in Hillcrest, we found an opportunity to visit after having lunch at Streetcar Merchants.

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The place was quite spacious, with the ordering counter tucked away in a corner and lots of tables. I think they’re trying to make it into a cool “hang out” spot, with board games and wifi and whatnot.

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Close-up of the menu. They have pretty much the “standard” milk tea offerings as well as a bunch of coffees, blended drinks, and flavored teas. Continue reading →

85C Bakery Cafe

A couple of months ago, the famous Taiwanese bakery 85°C Bakery Cafe opened a location in San Diego! I’ve visited the Irvine location (the first store in the U.S.) several times in the past, and I was really excited to finally see a store here in SD.

85C Bakery Cafe

85°C is located near the intersection of Balboa Ave & Genessee Ave, in the Vons shopping center. There wasn’t much of a line during our first couple of visits, although I’ve read accounts of really long waits to get inside!

I wanted to get some pictures of the interior, but it was really crowded which didn’t make for good photos. I’ll just share some pics of my haul from my first 2 visits:

Egg Tart

Egg Tart

Coconut Custard Roll

Coconut Custard Roll

These are two of S and my go-to’s – the egg tarts from 85°C are better than all other ones I’ve had in various bakeries around San Diego (Paris Baguette, Pangea, 99 Ranch Market). The shells are flaky, and the center is a smooth and rich custard. S also really loves the coconut custard roll cake, simply because he’s a fan of vanilla and coconut.

Pork Sung Bun

Pork Sung Bun

Cheese Dog

Cheese Dog Bun

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