Aug 082014
 

First up, an announcementI am doing an Instagram giveaway today! Be sure to follow jinxieats for details on how to enter! :) 

It’s been quite a long time since I visited Spicy City, one of the most popular Sichuan restaurants in San Diego. S and I recently went with a couple of friends, and we ordered some dishes that we haven’t tried before – so I thought I’d share them here!

By the way, I didn’t put prices on these dishes because I forgot to save the receipt! There are prices for these dishes on the website, but I think they’re a little outdated. Sorry!

Spicy City - Cold pork sliced with garlic chili sauce

蒜泥白肉 Cold Pork Sliced with Garlic Chili Sauce

This is one of my favorite dishes, and I’m not sure why I’ve never ordered it here before. Thinly sliced pork belly is boiled and chilled, then tossed in a spicy chili oil/sesame oil/soy sauce mix, and topped with minced garlic. The version here is quite good – I liked the sprinkling of sesame seeds to enhance the sesame oil – although I found it too salty towards the end.

Spicy City - Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

紅燒茄子 Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

We really like the eggplant dishes here – To me, the key for cooking with eggplant is frying it first before stir-frying with the rest of the dish’s ingredients, and Spicy City’s eggplants haven’t disappointed me. Although the name of the dish is technically “red-braised eggplant”, it didn’t really taste braised to me and instead just stir-fried with the other vegetables. It was still quite tasty, though.

Spicy City - Mao's Style Pork in Brown Sauce

毛家紅燒肉 Mao’s Style Pork in Brown Sauce

Continue reading »

May 142014
 

Recently, a friend of ours had a birthday celebration/get-together – she wanted Sichuan food, and we decided to try out Szechuan Chef, a relatively recent (opened last summer) Sichuan cuisine addition to Convoy St.

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These Sichuan restaurants all have three-character Chinese names, and sometimes I get them mixed up… Szechuan Chef’s Chinese name is also three characters, 滋味村. I’ll try hard to remember.

I wasn’t initially very excited about this place after reading some reviews by Kirk and Kirbie. However, I am always curious about new Sichuan restaurants, and one of my friends said that he liked several items from this place.

We started out with a plate of cold appetizers (I forgot the exact price, but it was around $5 or $6 for the trio):

Cold Appetizers: "Husband & Wife" Sliced Beef Cuts; Pickled String Beans; Sliced Bean Curd

Cold Appetizers: “Fuqi Feipian” Sliced Beef 夫妻肺片; Pickled String Beans 酸豆角; Sliced Bean Curd 鹵豆乾

The sliced beef appetizer (fuqi feipian, literally “Sliced Lung by the Married Couple” – read the wiki for details) is normally one of my favorite dishes in Sichuan cuisine. It features thinly sliced beef, tripe, and tongue. The version here seemed to be all (or mostly all) beef and lacked the offal. It was not spicy enough but less salty than some of the other versions we’ve had in San Diego. The marinated bean curd had nice texture but slightly bland – could have used a longer marinade time. Lastly, the pickled chopped string beans is almost always a “must-order” for me since they serve nostalgic purposes – pickled string beans are a staple in my “home” cuisine of Hunan. The version here is nice and crispy, a little less sour and less spicy than my liking, though.

Lamb Skewers [$5 for two]

Lamb Skewers [$5 for two]

The server recommended the lamb skewers to us, and we decided to try them out. The cumin flavor was quite strong, which I enjoyed. I did think $2.50 per skewer was a bit pricey.

Boiled Fish Filet with Hot Sauce 水煮魚 [$9.99]

Boiled Fish Filet with Hot Sauce 水煮魚 [$9.99]

Of course, we had to order this signature Sichuan dish, boiled fish filet in hot sauce. Continue reading »

Oct 142013
 

A couple of weeks ago, S and I went with a couple of our friends to check out the San Diego Night Market in the Zion parking lot… and were sorely disappointed by the lack of variety in food booths, the food booths running out of most items, the long lines, and huge crowd. I didn’t even bother taking many photos, and we pretty much went straight from the Zion parking lot to grab dinner elsewhere. Since we’ve been curious about the recently-opened FuAn Garden nearby (which took place of BBQ Chicken), and my friend and I are both spicy food enthusiasts, we decided to go and check it out.

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I read from Kirk’s post that the owner of FuAn Garden is a former prep cook at Ba Ren, a Szechuan place that was quite popular but closed before I ever got a chance to try it. Actually, I’ve heard several differing opinions on Ba Ren… S has been there and didn’t enjoy it much – he didn’t feel like it was very authentic or spicy enough, but some of our other friends swear by it. I’ve also heard that Ba Ren has gone through several changes in ownership, so that could be a contributing factor to the differences in opinions.

Normally, I like to try the cold appetizers at Szechuan restaurants, since it’s usually pretty cheap (choose three items for $6 or so) and can give you a pretty good idea of how good the food is. Unfortunately, we arrived at the restaurant pretty close to closing time (~9:30PM), so there wasn’t much to choose from the in the standard “cold dishes” bar. I was sad to see that they ran out of my favorite, cold cut beef & tendon slices (Fu Qi Fei Pian 夫妻肺片), so we decided to forgo the cold appetizers and order an extra entrée instead. The four of us each chose one dish…

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts 蒜苗回鍋肉 [$9.99]

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts 蒜苗回鍋肉 [$9.99]

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts

Twice-Cooked Pork with Garlic Sprouts

S’s pick was the Twice-Cooked Pork – one of our favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants. It’s made with a slab of pork belly simmered in water with spices, then sliced into thin pieces and fried in a wok with vegetables. In this case, they added ginger, bell peppers, and garlic sprouts, which I really loved. The dish was super flavorful, and the portion size was decent as well.

Homestyle Lamb 小炒羊肉 [$12.99]

Homestyle Lamb 小炒羊肉 [$12.99]

We asked our waitress to recommend a lamb dish, and she mentioned homestyle lamb so we went with the suggestion. Basically it’s wok-fried lamb slices, with plenty of cilantro, peppers, and dried chilis. We’ve ordered a similar dish at Spicy City, where it’s about 20% lamb and 80% spices & chilis, so I was really glad that they actually give you plenty of meat here. The taste was quite good – the thin lamb slices are prone to overcook, but they did a great job here.

Continue reading »

Apr 032013
 

In Berkeley, there is no shortage of good Indian food. Some of my favorites include Khana Peena, Vik’s Chaat (website), and Flavors of India (website), and there were so many others that I hadn’t tried or explored. After moving to San Diego, I get periodic cravings for Indian food, and while S’s favorite is the popular Punjabi Tandoor, I actually thought it was too mild and creamy for me. When I want Indian food, I want a big hit of flavor.

Recently, S took me to an Indian/Nepalese restaurant that he found a while ago – he said I’d definitely enjoy the spiciness and flavors, and his Nepalese friend endorses the place. I have tried Nepalese food once before and immediately jumped on board when he said “spicy.”

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The restaurant is located on Midway Dr., near Phil’s BBQ. In fact, S said that he first discovered it when he and a friend was looking for another place to eat when the line at Phil’s was too long. There was a short wait here, too, even at 8:30pm (on a Saturday). He says that they get pretty crowded during regular meal times. The service was also a bit slow – there were plenty of open tables, but they just weren’t clearing them off and seating customers. Also a funny note about service: when we asked for our check at the end of the meal, the waitress had actually lost the slip of paper with our order on it… so she had to come over and ask us again what we had just eaten.

We had already looked through the menu online prior to arriving, so we had pretty much made up our minds already. S said that we should try the Nepalese dishes (as opposed to the standard Indian dishes such as chicken tikka masala, etc.). But first, we were given a cup of complimentary curried lentil soup, which I really enjoyed.

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I was surprised to find out that S didn’t know what lentils were… haha.

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Lukshya ko Momo – minced lamb steamed dumplings ($9.95)

We started off with an order of “Momo” – Nepalese steamed dumplings – from the appetizer menu. There are three options for filling: vegetable, chicken, and lamb. We picked the lamb. The taste actually reminds me of Chinese dumplings or even Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) but without the soup. Continue reading »

Dec 212012
 

My father came to visit San Diego recently, and while I would usually never take visitors coming from Asia to eat Chinese food, my dad can’t live without it. So S and I decided to revisit one of our favorites, Spicy City. We haven’t gone in a while because we’ve been trying to eat less spicy food (he’s doing pretty well, I lose resolve every time I get near hot sauce), and Spicy City is a bit heavy for our taste. But my dad loves spicy food, so I thought he would probably enjoy it.

S raves about the Dan Dan Noodles, so we decided to order one for the table. I must admit that this is the only version of Dan Dan Noodles I’ve ever had, so I can’t attest to its authenticity.

Dan Dan Noodle 擔擔面 ($5.50)

Dan Dan Noodle 擔擔麵 ($5.50)

I can, however, say that this was an absolutely delicious bowl of noodles. The sauce is a mix of chili oil, soy sauce, and a generous amount of sesame paste, which made it super fragrant. The toppings are simply chopped peanuts and green onions. Make sure you mix together the sauce and toppings with the noodles before eating – you’ll want each noodle covered with the sauce.

Braised pork belly with pickled vegetables 湖南梅干扣肉 ($10.95)

Braised pork belly with pickled Chinese mustard 梅干扣肉 ($10.95)

We noticed this on the specials posted on the walls. S and I love this dish, so we decided to try it out. The preparation of this dish involves steaming the thick-cut pork belly slices and placing the Chinese mustard on top of the meat, so that the meat will absorb the pickle flavor. When the dish is ready to be served, you turn the bowl upside-down so that the pork covers the mustard – hence, the Chinese name of the dish is actually called “pickled Chinese mustard-covered pork belly.”

Anyway, we thought Spicy City’s version wasn’t that great. I don’t think they used the right kind of pickled Chinese mustard greens – the traditional dish uses a very specific version (I actually couldn’t even find the translation from Wikipedia – the English article just says “meigan cai”). Also, the dish was way too salty. The pickled mustard is supposed to be very salty already, so when preparing the meat and sauce they should really go easy on the salt and soy sauce, which I guess didn’t happen. The third (and possibly most grave?) offense is that they added a lot of chilis. This dish is not supposed to be spicy at all. My dad, who is pretty well-versed in different regions of Chinese cuisine, said that they were trying to turn a Shanghainese dish into a Szechuan dish – never a good idea.

Boiled fish fillet in chili oil 水煮魚片 ($9.99)

Boiled fish fillet in chili oil 水煮魚片 ($9.99)

This is a really classic Szechuan dish, and I think Spicy City does a pretty good job. We usually order some version of this dish every time, whether it’s beef or fish fillet. I prefer the fish – it’s very tender and soaks up the chili oil. According to S and our other friends, this is pretty spicy, so be warned (my dad and I are both from Hunan, and don’t really think that it’s spicy at all).

Homestead tofu 家常豆腐 ($9.99)

Homestead tofu 家常豆腐 ($9.99)

The tofu is another one of our favorites. The braised tofu is super soft tender on the inside, and has absorbed a lot of the soy sauce flavor. I love all the veggie accompaniments in the dish, especially the leeks.

Baby bok choy 蒜蓉青江菜

Baby bok choy 蒜蓉青江菜

Finally, we always order a simple veggie dish. S says that their eggplant dishes are good, but my dad doesn’t like eggplant, and those dishes tend to be too greasy. So we went with a simple stir-fried baby bok choy.

Anyway, aside from the disappointing braised pork belly, I thought the other dishes were all very well done. Spicy City is probably one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in San Diego, as there is usually a line (can be over an hour for weekend dinners). We don’t come here often because it’s a pretty heavy and greasy meal, but when I crave spicy Chinese food, that bowl of dan dan noodles always comes to mind.

Spicy City
4690 Convoy St., Suite 107, San Diego, CA

http://spicycity.menutoeat.com/

Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10pm

 

Nov 132012
 

I’ve mentioned before that I am from Hunan, the “spiciest” province in China. We take our chili peppers and hot sauce seriously, and it’s difficult to find good Hunan cuisine in the U.S. My family tells me it’s because the peppers that make Hunanese food so distinctly spicy isn’t actually grown anywhere else. But I do like to try different Hunan restaurants, in hopes of finding something that resembles the dishes I grew up with. So, when a couple of my friends told me that I can find fish with chopped chilis (剁椒魚頭) in San Diego, I pounced on the first opportunity to visit. But of course, it was after playing badminton, so I didn’t have my camera (again). So to make up for the inferior photo quality, I added some filters in an attempt to make them look cooler… I’ll leave the judging up to you guys, haha.

Spicy House, located in the Nijiya plaza on Convoy St.

The first thing that we ordered was, of course, the fish with chopped chilis. One of my friends arrived earlier and ordered it ahead of time, since it usually takes longer to prepare (~20 minutes). So in the meantime, we got a couple of the cold dish starters.

Marinated beef & tripe slices; pickled cucumbers 夫妻肺片,涼拌黃瓜

You usually choose 3, but we doubled up on the marinated beef & tripe slices. They are my favorite cold dish in Sichuan cuisine, and Spicy House’ version was pretty good, about the same as Spicy City. The pickled cucumbers were very refreshing.

Fish with chopped chilis 剁椒魚頭

Small glitch in the dish – when it first arrived at the table, we quickly noticed that it was undercooked, so we had to send it back for a few extra minutes of steaming. Other than that, I thought this was really good, and definitely rivals some versions I’ve had in Hunan. The fish was tender, and there was plenty of chilis and spices to add flavor. There was a lot of chili oil, but I didn’t feel like it was overly greasy. It was also a pretty large portion – we ordered half a fish, and barely could finish everything.

Hunan-style cumin shredded lamb 湘味孜然羊肉

The waitress recommended the lamb with cumin as one of their signatures. The lamb was thinly sliced and stir-fried with plenty of cilantro, dried and fresh peppers, and of course cumin. We’ve ordered the same dish at Spicy City, and I must say I prefer this version at Spicy House much more. There was more meat, and it wasn’t overpowered by all the spices.

Stir-fried Taiwan lettuce 蒜蓉A菜

We usually order a vegetable dish – they had our favorite, Taiwan lettuce (sometimes called A-choy). We had it stir-fried with garlic. Simple, and not bad; the portion was also very generous, which was good.

Overall, I really enjoyed Spicy House. The fish with chopped chilis was delicious, and the lamb with cumin really won me over. I haven’t been to Spicy City in quite a while now so I can’t actually say which one I prefer – but maybe this calls for a trip to Spicy City to make my decision? Anyhow, I really enjoyed this place and will be returning next time I have a spicy craving.

Spicy House 福橋園湘菜館
3860 Convoy St, Suite 105, San Diego, CA

http://www.sandiegospicyhouse.com/

Hours: 11am-10pm daily