May 212014
 

S and I have known about Hinotez, the sister restaurant to Yakyudori Yakitori, for quite some time but never took the time to check it out, mostly because we’ve heard that it isn’t as good. However, recently one of our friends wanted some late-night-ish (~10pm) Japanese food, and Yakyudori was really crowded and could not seat our group of six. The hostess directed us to Hinotez, and we thought well, might as well go try it out.

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Yeah… It was quite dark out. Sorry the picture came out like this, haha.

I forgot to take photos of the menu, so unfortunately I don’t have the prices here this time. I’ll try to remember for my next visit! My friends said that their menu has expanded quite a bit since their last visit (and all the menu photos that I found online look quite different from what I saw). S and I both ordered a ramen and an appetizer.

Pork Belly Yakitori

Pork Belly Yakitori

This was S’s choice for appetizer. Of course, we both love pork belly and this was grilled very nicely. I liked the green onions and wish that there were more.

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I chose something a little different…

Monkfish Liver (Ankimo)

Monkfish Liver (Ankimo)

When I saw monkfish liver on the menu, I was really tempted… My friend J said that one order comes with two pieces, which convinced me to get it. HOWEVER, he apparently remembered wrong because there is obviously only one piece as you can see. I still split it with S, though, haha. This is my second experience with monkfish liver, and I enjoyed it a lot. (The first experience was my epic birthday meal at Sushi Tadokoro, and of course this is not as good, but I still really liked it here.)

Fried Chicken Cartilage

Fried Chicken Cartilage

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Friend T ordered this – I’ve never heard of just eating chicken cartilage on its own before, and he kindly let me try some. I ended up really liking the chewy texture. I don’t remember if there was kewpie mayo to go with this, or just the seasoned salt on the side.

Nagoya Ramen

Nagoya Ramen

Link Love!
A Radiused Corner – many breakfast visits; linked here is a lunch post
Kirbie’s Cravings
mmm-yoso
This Tasty Life

Hinotez
7947 Balboa Ave, San Diego CA 92111
http://www.hinotez.com/

Hours: Breakfast 7am-11:30am; Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner 5pm-2am

Dec 092013
 

I am still slowly working my way through posts from the recent LA trips. One of my favorite types of restaurants is Hong Kong-style cafés, which serve both Western-style food such as steaks and pastas, as well as the typical Cantonese fried rice and noodle dishes, in addition to snacks and desserts. I’ve posted previously about a couple of HK cafés that I’ve visited in LA, but on one of my recent trips, I wanted something different. It was around 2AM, so our options were a bit limited, but we decided to check out Garden Cafe, located on Valley Blvd in Alhambra.

The menu was quite extensive, and I forgot to take some pictures of it… Did I mention it was kind of late? Haha. Nevertheless, here are some photos of our meal…

Cantonese-style Borscht Soup

Cantonese-style Borscht Soup

Served with every “set” meal, this is a classic in cafés. I’m not sure why they chose to do a variation on borscht, a Russian soup, but it’s usually pretty good. It’s made with beef broth, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, cabbage, and onions. Sometimes, there will be beef stew meat as well. I actually like the version made by San Diego’s very own A Cafe, but that might be because I like a milder soup. Haha.

Sizzling Ribeye Steak with Black Pepper Sauce

Sizzling Ribeye Steak with Black Pepper Sauce

Not the most flattering photo, but it was actually really delicious. For about $10, you get a sizable ribeye steak cooked in your choice of sauce (S chose black pepper), mashed potatoes, and veggies. Obviously can’t compare with actual steakhouses, but seriously, this was pretty darn good. The black pepper sauce helped with adding some juiciness.

Baked Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

Baked Bolognese with Spaghetti

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Continue reading »

Jul 122013
 

Recently, S and I went to Grandma Tofu House with some of our friends, after hearing that it was one of their frequently-visited Korean restaurants. To be perfectly honest, I’m not too picky about Korean food – as long as it’s not overly bland or overly salty, I’m usually fine with it. So for quite a long time, S and I only went to Friends House (a.k.a. Chingune) since it’s cheap, opens late, and tastes pretty decent. But I’m always up for trying new things, so we tagged along when some of our friends suggested going out to Grandma Tofu House.

2013-06-27 22.02.56

They open til quite late, which is nice since we eat late dinners pretty often. It’s located on Convoy St, next to the Weinerschnitzel and near Super Sergio’s. 

The menu seemed quite typical of Korean restaurants: tofu stews, tabletop BBQ, etc. My friend highly recommended the Galbitang (prime rib beef soup) as well as some of the tofu stews.

Before our entrées arrived, we were presented with banchan:

Banchan

Banchan

The variety was all right. I realy enjoyed the candied potato and pickled cucumber. Not a big fan of the kimchi, though… a tad too salty for me, and the fish cake was rather bland. The others were decent. (FYI, the eggs were for the people who ordered tofu soups.)

Galbitang [$10.99]

Galbitang [$10.99]

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Jul 062013
 

When I lived in the Bay Area, one of my favorite places to eat was at Shooting Star Cafe in Oakland Chinatown. It was open til quite late (after 1am on most nights) and offered Hong Kong cafe food. Unfortunately, it is a restaurant genre that San Diego is severely lacking – the only option we’ve got is A Cafe, and I can’t even bring myself to write a post about that place because, well, it’s just not very good. So when I returned to the Bay Area in June, I just had to return to Shooting Star.

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The menu is quite extensive, and I didn’t get pictures of all of it, but here’s a teaser version:

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I love the baked dishes in HK cafes, so I ordered one of my old favorites, Baked Portuguse Chicken over rice:

Baked Portuguese Chicken over Rice

Baked Portuguese Chicken over Rice

This dish is basically a sweet-ish curry with coconut base. I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to it – I think I just really like curry, and baking it a bit gives a nice crunchiness to the bread crumb top. Yum.

Baked Pork Chop over Rice

Baked Pork Chop over Rice

My friend ordered the baked pork chop over rice, which is a classic HK cafe dish. It’s also pretty involved, since it’s a fried pork chop with a tomato-based sauce spread over it, and then baked with cheese on top. I’ve had the version here and it was quite good. The pork was very tender.

 

Seafood over Crispy Noodles

Seafood over Crispy Noodles

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Mar 142013
 

S and I are usually skeptical of Chinese restaurants – we have had quite a few experiences with overly salty and greasy dishes. However, one day after a full day of badminton, we were looking for a place to eat a quick and satisfying meal, and one of our friends suggested Imperial Mandarin. It is located in the same plaza on Convoy St. as Izakaya Sakura and Original Pancake House, although I never paid attention to it.

Imperial Mandarin serves mostly Cantonese-style dishes, with dim sum on the weekends. If you visit after 9PM, there is a special late-night menu (unfortunately all in Chinese, and I also forgot to take a picture… oops), with each dish priced at only $7. We ordered an assortment of dishes that my friends have previously tried out and liked. As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s no English version of the menu, so the dish names are just translated by me.

Salt & pepper fish fillet 椒鹽魚片

Salt & pepper fish fillet 椒鹽魚片

One of my favorite dishes of the night. The batter was nice and crispy, and each bite was really flavorful.

Braised pork belly with pickled mustard 梅菜扣肉

Pork belly with pickled mustard 梅菜扣肉

Continue reading »

Feb 192013
 

Tajima Ramen House is one of those places that S and I frequent, since it opens til pretty late and is quite friendly on the budget. (Also, they offer a 10% student discount for weekday dinner – yay for poor-student perks!) I know that quite a few people actually don’t like Tajima, but we actually think it’s (mostly) pretty good.

There are a few different ramen options: tonkotsu, soy sauce, miso, salt, and curry. You can also choose whether you want fat or thin noodles – I would recommend the thin noodles. Tajima’s noodles aren’t the best, and it’s quite evident in the fat noodles.

I usually get the spicy miso ramen, one of my favorites:

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Small spicy miso ramen with kakuni ($10)

I like that you can order a small-sized bowl of ramen (subtract $1.50 from the base price). Unlike Yakyudori, you still get the soft-boiled egg even if you order a small. I also always add kakuni, or stewed pork belly, to my ramen. It’s an extra $3, but that tender, soy-braised pork is definitely worth it.

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Continue reading »

Jan 082013
 

I recently had the pleaure of interviewing Agent Snickerdoodle, the founder of The Secret Cookie Service, a late-night cookie delivery service in San Diego. For those of you who haven’t heard of this phenomenon, it’s exactly what it sounds like: got a midnight sweets craving? Call up the SCS and get your cookie fix delivered to your door!

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This business was started by a former Ph.D. student at UCSD’s Department of Chemistry. He left the program after earning a Master’s and started this cookie delivery business – at first, sort of as a joke since he always said that he’d just sell his mom’s chocolate chip cookies. He started out with a few hundred Ziploc bags, 500 chocolate chip cookies, and some flyers around UCSD advertising home-baked cookies for sale. A few days later, he got his first order – and things just got big from there. Soon enough, he was baking out of a commercial kitchen, with a handful of hired staff for deliveries and baking. They started out at the UCSD campus area, but now have expanded to SDSU, and will be starting their delivery service at University of San Diego soon. I am incredibly impressed with how well his business is run; he oversees everything in the operation from new recipes to greeting customers at their front door.

As a Chemistry graduate student myself, I quickly connected with Agent Snickerdoodle and joked about our days in the lab. When I asked him how he manages to keep every batch of cookies consistent, he remarked that baking cookies is like a finely tuned science experiment – and it just takes practice. Once you’ve baked a few thousand cookies, it becomes second nature.

He was gracious enough to have me sample a few of their most popular cookie flavors:

Clockwise from top left: Snickerdoodle, Mint chocolate chip, Chocolate chip, and Cookies 'n Cream

Clockwise from top left: Snickerdoodle, Mint chocolate chip, Chocolate chip, and Cookies ‘n Cream

Continue reading »

Oct 242012
 

S and I love Hong Kong cafes. In Chinese, it’s called 港式西餐 (literally, HK-style Western cuisine). In the Bay Area, our favorite was Shooting Star in Oakland Chinatown. Here in San Diego, the only option we have is A Cafe, which pretty much pales in comparison. So when we were in LA last weekend for S’s badminton tournament*, we got to try out a couple of HK cafes with some friends who are native to the Alhambra/Monterey Park/San Gabriel Valley area. One of the beauties of HK cafes is that they are often open until pretty late, so it was the perfect place to visit after a whole day of matches.

An aside: In case you didn’t know, YES, badminton is a competitive sport! It’s super fast-paced – arguably the fastest racket sport – and very challenging. It’s unfortunate that most people think of it as a backyard sport. If you still have doubts, check this out.

Anyway… back to food. On the first night, we tried Cafe Spot.

Cafe Spot, located on W. Valley Blvd in Alhambra

The menu is pretty extensive – they serve many variations of the typical dishes you’d find at HK cafes: baked pastas, rice casseroles, curry, and some traditional rice and noodle dishes. I was a bit lost at first, but my friends suggested that I choose something from the dinner specials, which comes with a drink (lemon tea, Chinese herbal tea, or HK milk tea) and cup of vegetable soup.

Red wine rib steak (short rib) 紅酒燴牛骨扒

Friends ordered the red wine-braised short rib. The meat was really tender – definitely had been braised for quite a long time (or pressure cooked, I suppose.. haha). I couldn’t taste much of the wine in the sauce. Instead it was quite the traditional soy sauce-based Chinese flavors. Side dishes were two veggie medleys – stir-fried cabbage, and steamed frozen veggie mix. Not the most impressive sides, but considering all this was about $10, it was really worth it.

Grandma’s braised pork belly 外婆家紅燒肉

I can’t ever seem to stay away from pork belly. This actually reminded me of something my grandmother used to make, with dark soy sauce and five-spice flavoring. The pork belly had good texture, tender but not mushy. It was just a tad too salty, though – I was surprised since dark soy sauce is usually very mild, but they must have also added some of the saltier light soy sauce to add flavor. This was about $8, I believe.

S also ordered a baked spaghetti bolognese, which I didn’t get a chance to photograph. It was decent but not too memorable.

The next night, we ventured to ABC Cafe, located down the street, technically in Monterey Park. Their late-night specials were even cheaper than Cafe Spot. Our friend recommended the $7 rib steak.

Grilled ribeye steak, with black pepper sauce 香煎牛扒(配黑胡椒醬)

I didn’t expect much from a $7 steak, but this was actually some pretty good stuff. I requested the steak cooked to medium (not too sure about the quality of the meat so I had it cooked a little more than what I usually do), and it arrived just past medium, but not too tough. Again, two of the sides comprised of steamed frozen veggies and a scoop of mashed potatoes from an instant mix. But I also got 2 fried eggs (you could choose them any style), which was awesome.

Portuguese-style chicken casserole 焗葡國雞飯

S chose another baked dish. This time, he picked the Portuguese-style chicken casserole, one of his favorites from Shooting Star. The chicken is cooked with coconut and curry – actually reminds me a bit of beef rendang, but less heavy on the spices. Here, the dish is served with rice on the side, whereas at other places there is a layer of rice at the bottom of the dish. The curry was all right – I still prefer Shooting Star’s version, which was less oily and more flavorful.

After the meal here, I had an egg puff craving, so S and I actually drove back to Cafe Spot, which is supposedly famous for the egg puffs. I bought an order to go, which meant it was all wrapped in a small pouch and I couldn’t get a good photo :( But they were super delicious – crispy on the outside, and fluffy and chewy on the inside. I’ve been thinking about them ever since leaving LA. So if you’re in the area, definitely hit up Cafe Spot for their egg puffs! Best way to spend $4.

I wish I had gotten to eat more things in the LA trip, but I was very satisfied with these late-night meals. It’s too bad that we rarely have the time or opportunity to go to LA, but I do hope to to try out as many new and yummy things as I can!

Cafe Spot
500 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA
(626) 308-3233

ABC Cafe
100 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA
(626) 573-0718

Apr 222012
 

Yes, I know the title sounds quite self-contradictory.  How can a diner be upscale?  Well, I guess anything is possible in California.  If you’re like me, when you hear “diner” you think of Waffle House – but Studio Diner isn’t like that.  It’s nice.  The kitchen is actually in the back, so you’re not blasted with the smell of a greased griddle as soon as you walk in.  Consequently, the floors are not slippery due to the oil particles clinging to the tiles – in fact, the floors are not even made of tile!  Haha.

I came here with 6 people on a Saturday evening, and it was pretty crowded – we waited about half an hour for a table, and the restaurant’s staff was even turning away large parties that had walked in after us, because their list was just so full for the night…

Since I actually wasn’t hungry and did not plan on eating a full meal, I decided to try the Beef Brisket chili.  It sounded very Texan: made with chunks of brisket (not ground beef), and minimal beans (“If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain’t got no beans!”).  Awesome.

Beef brisket chili (cup) ~$3

This ended up being probably one of the best chilis I’ve ever had outside of Texas.  Seriously, no joke.  However, I do want to comment that chili is a very personal thing for people, and everyone is very attached to his or her own definition of what should be included in and left out of chili.  So, I am just going to say that this is my favorite chili, but it might not be what you are looking for or expecting ;)

Sk ordered the eggs & sausage, which is served with hash browns (yay!) and sourdough bread.

Eggs and sausage with hash browns sourdough bread, $7.95

Despite the slight disappointment (okay, more than slight) that they did not have sausage patties, Sk liked this a lot.  I tried some of the hash browns, and they were super yummy.  This whole dish looks so GAD (Greasy American Diner)… which I love.

Finally, because this is a diner, I had to get tater tots.  Because this is an upscale diner, they were sweet potater tots.

Sweet potater tots, $2.50

So. Good!!  I think I like these even more than sweet potato fries, possibly because tater tots have more surface area, which means more crispiness.  I wonder how sweet potato hash browns would taste…
On a side note, the chipotle mayo sauce did not pair well with the tater tots at all.  We ended up leaving the sauce alone and just devouring all of the tots.

Some of our friends tried the sandwiches, such as the prime rib sandwich, albacore tuna melt, burger – and all gave positive reviews.  All of the items came in pretty sizable portions, too – quite a few of us had leftovers.

This was definitely a great meal, even though it’s not quite the diner that I expected.  Still, I liked it and would definitely be back.  My list of “Open 24 hours” restaurants is expanding ever so rapidly…

What is your impression of a diner?  Have you ever been to a diner in San Diego?  Let me know in the comments!

Studio Diner
4701 Ruffin Rd, San Diego, CA
(858) 715-6400
http://www.studiodiner.com

Hours
24 hours/7 days

Apr 062012
 

Last week, I wrote about my burrito experience at Roberto’s Taco Shop – which we discovered by accident.  This time, we went to our original intended destination: Rigoberto’s Taco Shop, just slightly further down Miramar Rd.

(To add to the confusion, I believe that Rigoberto’s used to be called Roberto’s… haha!)

SK ordered his default, the carnitas burrito, and I decided to go for the adobada burrito.  We also shared an order of tortilla chips so that we could try out the salsa.

Various salsas

If you can’t tell, I know very little about Mexican food.  But it is delicious, and I am always ready to learn more about food, so I tried to look up these types of salsas.  On the top row (from left), I think they are: guacatillo, salsa verde, salsa roja, and salsa habanero; bottom row (from left): salsa de molcajete, salsa negra, and salsa ranchera.  Each one has its distinct flavor, but I think my favorites were the salsa verde, negra, and ranchera.  To me, they had the most complex flavors – especially the ranchera, which had a strong tomato and peppery taste.  It was SK’s favorite, as well.

Salsa bar

Warm tortilla chips, $2.50

(I’ve already rambled about my love for warm tortilla chips, so I’ll spare you this time.)

Carnitas burrito, $4.30

This was SK’s burrito.  I took a bite and thought it was pretty good – warm and soft tortilla, a good mix of meat, salsa, and guacamole, but SK said that after a few bites it becomes “soupy” – meaning that the juices start dripping out of the burrito.  Some people prefer their burritos that way, but we actually like it a bit drier – the juiciness makes it messy to eat and also leave my mouth with a greasy feeling.  SK says he definitely likes the carnitas burrito at Lolita’s or Roberto’s much better.

Adobada burrito, $4.30

The adobada burrito was a great choice.  The meat was very tender and well-seasoned without being too salty, and again, there was a good balance between the meat, salsa, lettuce, and guac (call me crazy, but I actually don’t like guacamole a whole lot, so I actually like it when there’s not too much).  Overall I’d say that it was a pretty good burrito.  And it’s big enough that it lasted me two meals – a pretty fine deal for $4.30, if you ask me.

Again, I’m very glad to have found yet another great Mexican restaurant in the area – there are just so many good places waiting to be discovered!  Rigoberto’s is also open 24 hours – it looks like I will have a difficult time choosing where to go next time a midnight burrito craving hits.  What is your favorite Mexican restaurant in town?  Let me know in the comments~!

Rigoberto’s Taco Shop
7094 Miramar Rd. Suite 119-120, San Diego, CA
(858) 271-0170

http://www.rigobertostacoshop.com/index.html

Hours
24 hours/ daily