After having a wonderful time visiting Kamakura, we were pretty hungry. We arrived back in Tokyo and freshened up. We had one more night left and the Missus still hadn't had Her share of Yakitori yet. Isehiro had been a recommendation I received and we even tried to get in on our first evening in Tokyo, but they were strangely closed. So we decided to give it another try.
My understanding is that all the tables upstairs are usually reserved, but the tables and counter downstairs are not. There was not a single soul in the place when we arrived.
But the gentleman behind the grill was cooking like crazy, then placing items in containers. The Missus and I looked at each other and got a feeling that this wasn't going to be a particularly stellar meal. Items are precooked, then reheated.
Next little thing. We were told that there were two "set" menus available.......you can do extras, but no a la carte. The full course was 6480 ¥ (about $60/US at the time) and the "healthy" course was 5832 ¥ (about $54/US). Man, that's not cheap. Each course had 9 skewers, the healthy course had some vegetable items.
We decided to stay the course and just go for it. Though at this point, I'm thinking this better be good. I decided to get a Highball to start.
After the traditional oshibori, the hot towel, things started coming fast a and furious....I mean why not? Most of it was premade.
We both got the Sasami (Chicken Breast) to start. This has never been a big favorite of mine and this version was dry and needed much more salt as well. I first thought that this might be tori-wasa, which would be tender and medium rare, but this was overcooked.
One item that I thought was good here is the Kimo; the chicken liver. The Missus loves this, but I'm not too fond of it. However, this was very good, not too minerally in flavor, without that mushiness I'm not a big fan of.
The tare added a nice sweet-saltiness that deflected all the flavors in chicken liver that I don't like.
We both also received Sunagimo, chicken gizzards.
I usually enjoy how gizzards really absorb the smokiness of the bincho; but instead of being crunchy, this was hard, and strangely didn't have that smokiness I enjoy.
Next up for the both of us was the negi-maki, thigh meat wrapped in scallion.
The meat was very moist if a bit on the tough side. The bitterness of the incinerated scallions was rather unpleasant.
Next up for the both of us is one of my key favorites when it comes to yakitori; tsukune (chicken meatball).
In complete contrast to other items that were basically burnt, this needed a bit more color. What little tare was used on the meatball brought nothing to it. The meatball was toughr than I prefer and there were hard bits as well.
Next up for the Missus, Cherry Tomatoes.
Innocuous, tart, could have used a bit more time on the grill.
I received another of my usual favorites; "kawa", chicken skin.
The burnt bits were crisp, but the rest dry and gummy. This needed more saltiness, or at least a good tare.
The Momoniku (thigh) was quite good.
Except for the scallion being burnt bitter again. Great sweet-salty flavors for the toothsome but not tough chicken thighs. The slightly smoky flavor lifted the dish.
Next for the Missus, Shiitake.
This was fine, but really didn't have any seasoning....it was almost like it hadn't been grilled. Check out the skewers, no blackening on it. Odd.
I received the Aigamo (Duck).
This needed more seasoning and was overcooked for our taste, making it tough and rather stringy.
The Missus finished up with Nankotsu; chicken cartilage.
This was decently prepared, if a bit on the dry side. The amount of salt used was perfect.
My last dish was another favorite of mine; Teba, chicken wing.
Dried out, rubbery, and too salty. Not my favorite combination of textures and tastes.
The Missus and I left somewhat disillusioned. I've always said that it's hard to get a bad meal in Japan and while this wasn't terrible, it wasn't close to being good. I'm wondering if it was just a bad night? Luckily, we'd get some great yakitori later on during this trip.
Isehiro Kyobashi Honten 1-5-4 Kyoashi, Chuo 104-0031 Tokyo
In my post mentioning that Great Wow looked shuttered; "GT" mentioned the Hillcrest spot, which I posted on back in November. At that time it seemed to me like Wow was expanding....after all, this spot seemed maybe one-third the size of the Convoy location. This weekend, I had to pick something up in Hillcrest for the Missus, so I went to check the place out.
Well whaddya know; the place had opened. In need of some lunch, I decided to check the place out.
They've really packed it in here! The tables and chairs looked exactly the same as the restaurant had on Convoy.
There's a small bar area here as well. The really nice young man manning the front told me that right now; "it's happy hour all day"!
The current menu looks quite temporary; a bunch of stapled together pages with photos......there were only three varieties of jiaozi available, 1 vegetarian, 2 with shrimp.
While looking thru things the older gentleman dropped by this for me.....
Man, when had I last seen this in San Diego? Seven Layer Meat Cake. Basically layers of thin scallion bread with a light sprinkling of seasoned, ground meat between the layers. The flavors were pretty good, on the rich side. Enjoyed the crispness, but this looked a bit over-cooked and was the exterior was on the hard side instead of crisp. Nice try though.
My hot tea arrived; which helped to balance out all that richness.
I went ahead and placed an order for the Shrimp and Chive dumplings.
And this was brought to my table. Wow; a Xian Bing!
This was deeply browned, but was nice and crisp with a light chewiness. Not a big fan of the filling though, it was just rather bland.
Meanwhile, since I was the only customer in the place, the nice young man dropped by and we had a nice chat. It seems that they've bought into the Trinitea franchise at this location. They are paring down the menu while trying some new items. I did mention how much we enjoy the radish version of Xian Bing; like we've had Beijing Pie House, though I'm not sure how that would go here in Hillcrest. They are trying a few more vegetarian options.
I had noticed that they were making my jiaozi to order....very nice.
I finally broached the question about the Convoy location and was told that yes, that shop is indeed closed. It is going to be (yet another) a hot pot restaurant.
Meanwhile, yet another sample....a hot and sour soup was brought to my table.
Man, I was getting full just eating samples!
I didn't think I'd be able to finish my Shrimp and Chive Jiaozi.
So, how did these measure up? The wrappers were a bit thicker and had less chew to them than I recalled. Very plump and moist....super moist. Like the Shrimp, Pork, and chive I had at Convoy, the chive flavor came through quite well, but the filling was quite salty.
Still, not bad.
I'm still wondering how Hillcrest is going to do with Xian Bing, Jiaozi, and items like that. I'm hoping they give them a try. The Trinitea take out window was doing good business though.
Trinitea & Great Wow 3865 5th Ave San Diego, CA 92103
I saw this interesting little diner as we got off the train.
Spam Musubi....malasadas....loco moco...hmmm.... But of course the Missus was having none of that. Plus, I was still stuffed from breakfast.
We strolled on over to Hase-dera which was already starting to get pretty crowded on this fall morning.
The temple is built on the slope of a mountain. So while folks were headed to the Kannon Museum to view the statue of Kannon.
We decided to head up the "Prospect Road".
Which was still quite peaceful on this morning.
Which ended with a wonderful view of Kamakura and Sagami Bay.
We just meandered around the temple grounds.
Coming across the Benten-kutsu Cave.
Which contains bas-reliefs of Benzaiten and other Buddhist Gods.
There's something about the temples in Kamakura that just puts me at ease. I'm able to relax and mentally regroup and feel that yes, I am away from work.
The air seemed so fresh and clean that we decided to walk back to the Kamakura Station area. We walked along the large, but relatively quiet street, stopping along the way to buy some wagashi and also to just take it all in.
Reaching the relatively busy shopping street heading back to Kamakura Station we stopped for a coffee in a random Café.
And the Missus had Her kimishigure.
Feeling energized the Missus decided that instead of catching the train to the next stop up from Kamakura Station and get off at Kita-Kamakura; we would just walk.
Engaku-ji is right next to Kita-Kamakura Station and right behind Kencho-ji is ranked second among Kamakura's five great Zen temples.
The Butsuden displays a wooden statue of Shaka Buddha.
The Shariden displays what is supposed to be a tooth of Buddha.
This Juniper Tree is named Biyakushin and is said to have been planted by the founder of Engaku-ji, making it over 700 years old.
It's great fun wondering around the grounds of this good sized complex.
Up this hill resides the Ogane, the "Grand Bell", which of course has a story.....
And the Bentendo......
Fairly close by is Meigetsu-in. Meigetsu mean "bright moon", so you'll see representation of rabbits, (remember the Japanese children's story Tsuki no Usagi?) on the grounds. We found this one, right near the entrance to be quite charming.
The area is rather small, but hosts some important items. Kamakura was not well known for having a good fresh water supply. Therefore, any good drinkable water supply was considered a blessing. Kam--no-I is one of the ten wells of Kamakura.
There's a cave here as well; known as the Meigetsu-in Yagura. Yagura are human made caves that were used as tombs.
It is said that this is the tomb of Uesugi Norikata who is said to have founded this temple.
Along one of the walls were little "squirrel houses". There actually were squirrels scampering from house to house to grab a bite.
Speaking of grabbing a bite. Many of these temples have tea houses....which seemed kind of touristy to us. But we needed a short break so we thought why not.
This turned out to be a nice break for us.....
A nice bit of tea......a not so sweet confection.
And all on the grounds of a lovely temple in Kamakura.....
I'm sure that not having too many folks visiting when we were added to the "atmosphere". But things surely seemed serene to us....and that's what really mattered, right?
Noticed when I went to pick up lunch at Beauty Hunan. Ready for more ramen?
8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste M San Diego, CA 92111
Continuing my "Hut Streak":
So, "Sandy" left a comment on my Noodle Hut post, after I mentioned doing "Two Huts in Three Days". She asked me: What's next - Pizza Hut? Apparently, Cathy read that comment and thought it was a hoot. So, I thought, "ok, why not"? The only problem was.....I don't recall the last time I actually saw a Pizza Hut and let Cathy know. She believes that I just block those places out. So, after doing a Google search, I found a Pizza Hut nearby....doesn't seem to have too many of them left, in Clairemont Town Square. I headed on over......by the time I reached the parking lot, I already had....hmmmm......how to describe it, "buyer's pre-morse"? And upon finding that it looked like a take-out only shop, I decided to turn around and head back to the car.
Yes...you could say that I....."chickened - Hut".
Still, wanting to keep my "hut-streak" going for one more day, I found a place that fulfilled the criteria.
It must have been fate, because I found a parking space in the worst lot on Convoy.
And had some Wings - "Naked"....sauce on the side. Nicely fried.
So there you go. I think three "Hut posts" in a row is enough.
I decided to visit when the weather was running on the cold side. The place had just opened their doors and I was curious.
Man, they've gone full bore with the wood paneling thing.
Though the light fixtures and the chairs are the same, the table tops look a bit different. There's now a noodle/dumpling making booth in the back corner, though I never saw anyone amking either on any of my visits.
Being a bit chilly; I decided on the Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles ($8.99).
Like Kirbie, I thought the noodles were quite good, a bit of spring to them, good chew, very nice texture all around. The lamb was decent, on the chewy side, and only fairly gamey. For some reason, I didn't enjoy the cabbage in this soup, which was perfectly scalding hot! The broth also had too much white pepper in it, causing it to be too bitter for me.
This was decent, the portion size generous....at least in terms of noodles and soup. So I returned a few days later with Calvin in tow. I'd first introduced him to Yang Rou Pao Mo at Xi'an Kitchen. Turned out he loved it. So he was eager to try out Noodle Hut.
While looking at the menu; Calvin noted that it really did resemble that of Xi'an Kitchen with a few exceptions.
We started with the Preserved Eggs and Tofu a bargain at $4.99.
While not as good as the version we had at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen, this was still decent. The tofu had been adequately drained, the earth-sulfuric tones of the pidan, matched with the scallions and Peppercorn Oil was vey nice. The tofu added a refreshing layer to the dish. I'd been trying to get the Missus to try this at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen, but She wasn't interested. Last time I went, they didn't have it on the menu. I took the leftovers home and the Missus really enjoyed it........go figure....when will She trust my taste?
Of course we got the Yang Rou Pao Mo ($8.99).
Aside from the waxy, totally wrong bread (hopefully one day they'll get it right here in the states), which I've gotten used to; there were some hard pieces. The broth was too watery and bland. The lamb was nice and tender, but like the broth really lacked the "skatolic" barnyard essense that makes this dish so rich and hearty.
We asked the young lady for a recommendation and she suggested the Spicy Chicken Soup...so to her surprise we ordered the Szechuan "Pork Gut Soup in Casserole" ($10.99)
While there wasn't much intestine in this soup, and what there was didn't seemed to be prepared very well, it sure was spicy....though on the thin side and we both missed the "ma" (numbing) sensation that we enjoy from Sichuan type dishes like this. Again for eleven bucks, the portion size was quite generous.
And so, this would basically be it. Except for all the long days I've been working. At the end of one particularly long day, I told the Missus that I wasn't up to the task of making dinner....so She requested that Pidan and Tofu dish. Take-out on the way home.
The portion size was well worth the $4.99.......until I opened my big fat mouth and said that we could do better just making this ourselves. Sigh. So now it's organic tofu, preserved egg, scallions from the yard, and Sichuan Peppercorn Oil at home.
I also ordered the Cumin Lamb.
Man, this was a good sized portion. Though for my taste, there wasn't enough cumin, nor enough flavor overall. The lamb was thick sliced and rather tough. Thin sliced onion is a nice addition, but the red and green bell peppers seemed like filler. I also missed cilantro in this as well. This was more quantity over quality for me.
Which kind of describes Noodle Hut. I think most folks prefer that. Sorry to say; that's not our preference. Though I'm thinking I need to try the jiaozi here. One of these days.
I had been wondering what was going on with Dumpling Hut since they closed for a spell. While keeping the Dumpling Hut moniker, the Chinese "name" had changed. The folks at Sizzling Pot King told me they had changed owners, but I hadn't seen any change of ownership notice. Still, even though my meals at Dumpling Hut left something to be desired, I was still curious, so I returned soon after they reopened.
Man, they've really....really, brightened up the place.
Though looking around a bit you notice some interesting "features".....
The place was really quiet when I visited. I was the only customer....during my entire meal.
I got to thinking that I'm probably the wrong "demographic" when my water arrived....with a twisted straw.
As for what to order, well, the "new" Chinese name had clay pot in it.....
So deciding to play it safe, I ordered the Pork Chop Rice Clay Pot ($11.50). The young man working recommended getting it "spicy". It came out in a donabe style pot.....which I've seen at Daiso for four bucks....in case you want one.
So, not quite "pork chop", more like spareribs, very tough, very salty, very one dimensional in flavor. The best item was the over cooked boiled egg. The broccoli was basically a garnish as it wasn't seasoned at all. The rice was fine; I think I would have preferred the "regular" as this was basically chili oil on rice; it was very greasy, one-dimensional spicy, some anise, and not much else. A lot of rice though.
Well, perhaps these were new owners, but the end result of my meal was the same.......
It was interesting though, Calvin was kind of interested in the place. And one day, (it was Tuesday) we went to Village North which was closed. So Calvin, JohnF, and I headed on over to Dumpling Hut.
Like my previous visit, we were the only folks in the place for the entire meal. I'm thinking this place is targeting a younger demographic after more snack like food and drinks.
We started with the Shenjian Bao ($7.99).
Liked the nicely brown and crisp bottoms of the buns. The texture of the tops were gummy, chewy, and these didn't seemed like they were steamed right. The pork filling wasn't moist enough and was pretty darn bland.
Next up was the "Guotie", I put that in quotes. So these Pork "Potstickers" ($8.99).
Good lord, basically a wrapper enrobing ground pork, then put into a pan and cooked like basic pot stickers. This reminded me of stuff you'd have from the frozen food aisle. I mean, I really didn't expect, say QingDao Guotie, but this was worse than what I'd had here before. Greasy, too chewy, not good eats at all....
The best item we had was the Spicy Tripe Hot Pot ($8.99).
Not very much tripe in this one; but it was prepared decently; perhaps a bit too hard, but properly cleaned. The broth, while rather singularly spicy, with no numbing tones, looked to be bone broth based.
It was back to the "the norm" with the next item. Calvin grew up in the SGV, a mere short walk from 101 Noodle Express....so of course we had to try the Niu Rou Chuan; the Beef Roll ($6.99), which was just plain tragic.
Very dry, not pan fried enough, with a cardboard like texture; the "da bing" was terrible. What's with the lettuce? Smeared with standard issue hoisin, the thin piece of beef was fine...what there was of it.
Check out the "photo" of the beef roll in the front of the restaurant. Does not even look like the same dish.
And to add insult to injury; we liked the look of the Sam Sun Dumplings on the window.
This is what we got ($11.50).
These were very unsatisfactory; the wrappers were too hard and seemed to be typical store bought wrappers. The 1/3 piece of shrimp was fine, but this was underflavored. definitely not what I expected from a place like this....well based on the meal, I should have expected this.
I think this visit was worse than my previous visits under the "previous management". The food was quite underwhelming. I probably won't be going back.
Dumpling Hut 8046 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Nicer weather has gotten the Banh Mi Bug out of hibernation. Here are a few revisits.
Baguette Bros created some buzz when they first opened back in December of 2015. I hadn't heard much about them recently, so I decided to head back for a revisit.
Arriving a few minutes after opening; things were pretty quiet.
I really hadn't been overly impressed by the sandwiches in the past and really didn't know what to order....so I went with the interesting sounding Pho Banh Mi, which came with a hefty $9 price tag. Even during a slow time like this, I waiting almost 20 minutes for my sandwich.
I thought the bread was standard issue....a bit too much bread for a banh mi in my opinion. It also didn't hold up well and turned quickly into mush. The brisket had a great texture; not too tough, not too soft, but was really salty. For some reason, I really enjoyed the bean sprouts....the crunch and flavor added a nice "freshness" to the dish. That hoisin based sauce wasn't a favorite of mine......too much going on.
Overall, I still don't quite get this place. It seems more like concept over execution/taste. But for a lot of folks, that's enough.
Baguette Bros 4698 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Banh Mi Bakery & Café:
I'd wanted to go back to Banh Mi Bakery & Café a couple of times for lunch...but man; that parking lot can rival anything on Convoy during lunch hours! With Kaiser coming up, it's going to be really busy around these parts. Early one weekend morning, I needed to go into the office. I remembered that Banh Mi Bakery opens at 7am and also that "Calvin" had enjoyed the Meatball (xiu mai) Banh Mi. So that's what I got. Back at the office, I opened it up.
I'm kind of leary when it comes to Banh Mi Xiu Mai. I've had some terrible versions, but this was pretty good. The bread was nice and warm; I'd have enjoyed a bit more flakey/crustiness, but that's getting a bit too nit-picky. I still think the pickled vegetables here are a bit weak; just not sour enough. And in the case of a soft, rich tasting xiu mai, it just didn't hold up. Still, this was a nice sandwich.
A few weeks later, Calvin and I were finishing up a meeting. It was raining, but both of us were starved. We both thought about the Banh Mi Op La (easy over egg)......which would be nice for a rainy day breakfast. So we headed over to the strip mall and ran into the shop. We left with two sandwiches; being careful not to break the yolks until we ate them.
They hadn't cut these sandwiches in half; so when we started eating it became an oozy mess. After taking a bite we looked at each other....there was something different about the bread. It seemed kind of doughy and definitely not crusty, nor yeasty enough. Perhaps the weather had messed up the process on this day? But you need some quality controls in place to take care of that. Or maybe they changed their bread recipe? Bummer, because this was a nice sandwich in spite of the short comings of the pickled vegetables. The eggs were a bit over done, though we both enjoyed the crisp edges. The yolks were very soft, but not super runny; like I'd had previously. Man, the jalapeno on this day was spicy.
Not sure what to think. Was the bread just a case of an "off day". Or is this how it's going to be from now on? I'm hoping it was just a bad day.
Banh Mi Bakery & Cafe 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Suite H1 San Diego, CA 92123
I've been trying to revisit places in my 'hood recently. I thought I'd start with Bay Park Fish, hard to believe that it's been almost five years since I last ate here. On this evening, every place was packed, and while BPF was busy, there was still room for one at the bar. So I had a seat, watched the game, had a brew, and decided to order an old favorite of ours; the smoked fish; which is now called the Smoked Fish "Stack" ($12).
They now "supplement" the smaller portion of smoked fish with romaine lettuce and avocado. It's still not bad. Decent smoked flavor, fairly balanced seasoning; a bit more mayo, celery, and stuffs than I recall.
Rather routine tortilla chips.
I'm not sure that this place has aged well. I know they've had to add, ahem, "sushi rolls" to the menu and they gave up on the fish counter years ago (you can find it at Catalina Offshore). The preparation of the fish here has never been my fave, but it's nice to see they are still going rather strong. After all, when we moved into the neighborhood, there wasn't much, and when Bay Park Fish opened in 2005, it was a big thing.
Bay Park Fish Company 4121 Ashton St San Diego, CA 92110
Man, does this place like to top off their soup with a ton of greens. Like way more than the last time I had this here. I guess it's there to distract you from the thin, small slices, of pork, which, unlike the previous time I had this, was now a couple of slices dropped on the side of the bowl....which, while flavored nicely, was quite dry and tough. The ration of sprouts were attaining a nice brownish color, so those were left out.......... the "Mi", egg noodles, which were prepared in sight was nice, just enough "pull" and a slight crunch. The noodle portion size was also decent. The broth was really bad though.....basically salt water with very little flavor at all.
I'm sorry to say that, based on my previous visits, this was what I expected......though I had hoped for more.
Someone did mention that the Banh Xeo here is fantastic; but I didn't see it on the menu. I'm wondering if any of our intrepid readers have had it?
Spotted Cow Viet Kitchen (in the Zion Market Food Court) 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, California 92111