Thanks for stopping to read mmm-yoso!!! We (Kirk, Ed(from Yuma) and Cathy) try to keep things interesting, with musings about meals enjoyed in San Diego and elsewhere in the USA and world. Today is a quick post about a worldwide chain that has one location in San Diego.
So during my rather unsuccessful romp through all those new "poke" places; and those are truly hard quotation marks, I really didn't have anything I truly enjoyed, anything that would make me forget places "back home". During that time, I heard Zarlitos mentioned twice. Once by a fellow Ex-Pat Kama'aina. Zarlitos? Poke? Digging a little bit I read that Zarlitos won both the San Diego and Orange County "I Love Poke Contests" in 2015. I hadn't been back to Zarlitos in almost five years, so I thought why not....perhaps there's some changes in store there.
Arriving and walking into the place, it was evident that this was still Zarlitos. The sticky tables and even more sticky menus; no poke in sight. Until I saw the small greaseboard on the pillar, with four varieties of poke written in red. From there, it was easy to order.......
The "Mini" (again, it's all relative) Crispy Pata and Shoyu Poke...pata and poke, that's music to my ears. The pata was over-fried and dry and though the skin came off in a nice little strip, much of it was hard versus crisp, more like leather than the best chicharones. It was pretty bland as well. For this, I'll stick with Villa Manila.
The garlic rice was decent; moist and the garlic wasn't burnt and bitter.
I actually sent some friends back home the photo. They thought I was back home and went to Fresh Catch. The fish was decent quality, not too much "suji", no off flavors, good texture. The flavor was perhaps a bit too sweet and I could have used a tad more saltiness; but this was by far the best poke I've had recently. It made my day.
Most of these "chi-poke" places I've been to are just a concept, somewhat high on style, low on good grindz. At Zarlitos, there's none of that. I wanted and got, decent poke. How's that for innovative?
Zarlitos Family Restaurant 505 East 8th St. National City, CA 91950
I haven't done one of these posts in a while. To be totally honest, work has been crazy busy, so I've been making the same thing over and over for the Missus.
The weather has also been kind of wacky.......95 degree weather in the middle of November had us eating stuff like this.
Salads with pickled eggs; charcuterie and cheese plates.....tomatoes, radishes (though the Missus still can't figure out the deal with radishes and butter), and the like.
Sometimes with a nice glass or two of wine. Our visit to Burgundy really ramped up the Missus's love for wine and I really enjoyed the whites from that area. One in particular that makes an interesting story........more on that in a later post.
Then overnight we got rain and now it seems like fall. Which made the Missus want some Suan Cai Yang Rou. The cooler weather means it's time to start making Suan Cai.
At the end of my smoke session; smoking tri-tip for the Missus's Thanksgiving potluck, I looked through the fridge and found some tofu and cauliflower, which I love smoked. I'd recently purchased some La Rou and decided to do a simple stir fry with vegetables.
That smoked tofu tasted really good in this one. I'll be doing that again the next time I use the smoker.
We recently tried some roasted duck from a newer place....that too will be a future post. It wasn't very good; but for some reason, the drippings had some nice flavor. So it was duck fried rice time.
Funny thing, the Missus wanted all of this for lunch this past weekend. After I returned home from working half a day to catch up on things.
So the Missus got Her wish and I got all of this done pretty quickly, most of it is prep.
Other than that it's been pretty routine. Except for maybe this thing.
One evening I really didn't want to go out and eat....strange, I know. I picked up a chicken breast on the way home....even stranger because, other than for chicken katsu, I'm not a big fan of chicken breast. I could have gone for the easy out....Katsudon, which the Missus would have surely enjoyed, but I decided to just cook whatever. I made a balsamic reduction and did a simple, brined, then pan seared chicken breast with a balsamic sauce.
The thing that was fun was the other "stuff". Having broccoli and cauliflower on hand; I ended up ricing the veggies. I then rendered lardons of bacon using the fat to cook the riced vegetables, with some shallot, garlic, and scallions. Sort like funky fried rice.
It was delicious....though what do you expect......there's bacon in this, right?
So returning from my trip, I needed a haircut....you know where this is going right? Well, Haircut Guy was now working in Spring Valley! Spring Valley? Like I said before, his moving around allows me to visit areas of San Diego I'd usually not explore. But where to go after my haircut? My first thought was Ranas, since I hadn't been back in years. Instead, having to get back home rather quickly; I saw this place in the same parking lot as a gas station.
I knew of Pho Minh in PB, but didn't know they had a location out here on the fringes of Spring Valley.
So I decided to drop by and have a bowl of pho.
The restaurant is quite tiny, though things are not crowded together. The two women who I've dealt with here are quite friendly and it seems they have a nice regular clientele.
Of course I went with the Pho Dac Biet.....just to see what was up. For some reason, I decided to order the large size ($7.99).
My order actually took a while, but the bowl was huge. I liked that the rare steak, in spite of being the usual rather tough top round, was still rare when the bowl arrived. Most of the proteins; the brisket, et al, were pretty bland, though the textures, especially the tendon was pretty much spot on.
I expected the sprouts and basil to be fairly sparse and it was.
And while the noodles were in the usual clump on the bottom of the bowl, it wasn't soft and mushy, and not cold.
The broth wasn't terrible, a bit too defatted for my taste, and while not very beefy, had a mild sweetness and wasn't too salty. So I didn't need very much lime to help balance things out. I've had much worse in Kearny Mesa.
I've worked every single day since we got back from our trip. Such is the biz. Still, my hair doesn't stop growing, and I needed a fresh trim....I had consultants coming into town and meetings with our customers. So, it was back out to Spring Valley for a rather quick turnaround haircut. So, as is the norm, I returned to Pho Minh. I'd seen Bo Kho on the menu, but when I ordered it, I was told that they don't make that at this location any longer. I had to make some quick choices. I quickly went with the standard spring roll, Goi Cuon ($3.95).
So when I said standard issue; I mean standard issue. Man, look at all that lettuce. Basically a salad in rice paper. And the shrimp was overcooked and rather chewy. Very generic and not something I'd order here again.
I noticed that there was a sign that listed Chicken Wings ($7.40), so I decided to get those as well.
So these were deep fried, then topped with stir fried onions and peppers to give it some umph. These were fairly small wings; which doesn't bother me because I'm more about the ratio of skin to meat. However, half of the wings were slightly burnt, making the exterior bitter, not good eats. Also, these were overcooked and rather dry. The flavor of the wings, the parts that weren't charred, was fairly bland, which explains the need for the "topping". Not my favorite rendition of chicken wings to be sure.
So in the end; possibly passable pho. Really nice folks, though perhaps a stop-gap, but not a destination for my pho-fix. Though I'm glad to have had the chance to visit a locale I usually wouldn't have on my list. As my haircut was complete and I paid my barber, he mentioned that he'd probably be moving on....business here was too slow. So who knows where he'll pop up next?
Pho Minh & Grill 2615 Sweetwater Springs Blvd Spring Valley, CA 91978
The Missus beat me to the Natto Combination....so I got the Nikudōfu (simmered beef and tofu) combo. Both were an inexpensive 570 yen! The seating was interesting; salarymen were seated together, sometimes sharing tables. But because I was with the Missus we were seated in a booth.
The Server took our tickets and soon enough our food arrived.
Think of this the next time you grab something from Mickey D's or the like for breakfast. For about $5.50, the Missus got tofu, natto, and even some sashimi with Her combo. Which, BTW, She really enjoyed.
What I got wasn't exactly slim pickins' either.
The beef and tofu; while not amazing were both nicely flavored; not too salty, not too sweet. When did I start enjoying mentaiko for breakfast? I'm not sure, but I really like the saltiness...and perfectly cooked rice.
Don't need much more than that.
Hatsufuji was an interesting place. We passed by several times during our stay. After breakfast, the ticket machine is rolled to the side and you'll notice a collection of set lunches, displayed in full plastic glory in the window.
During the evening, the place becomes an Izakaya. I find it fascinating and I'm hoping we'll be back in Japan more sooner than later. And if we're around the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station Underground you can be sure we'll be back at Hatsufuji.
Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu underground shopping center North 1, 2-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0028
I'd been waiting a while to post this little recipe. First off, it basically a rehash of my Red Cooked Pork Hock/Oxtail recipe. Secondly, it had been pretty darn hot for a while there. Since it finally feels like fall, the time seems right.
So yes, I did buy one of those Instant Pot 7 in 1 cookers. Mainly because our pressure cooker crapped out a couple of years back and I got tired of spending the entire day making Da Boyz food. I'd rather make the chicken-carrot-rice thing in a pressure cooker. What happened was interesting. I got the Instant Pot during Amazon Prime day for around $69. The Missus loves Her red cooked meats and one weekend requested that I make some short ribs. And so it came to pass....for 8 of the following 10 weekends I made this, only stoping when we left on our trip.
And while this is basically my red cooked stove top/braised meat recipe; there are some differences I made for using the Instant Pot. First off, I ended up reducing the water, because there's very little evaporation, so too much water waters things down. Second, the Missus loves mushroom in this; so why not add the strained mushroom soaking liquid as another layer of flavor. Third, because I wouldn't be there removing scum; after marinated the beef for about 15-20 minutes, I dusted it with cornstarch and browned. The Instant Pot has a saute setting which is great for softening vegetables, but it really doesn't do much for meat. Plus, the pot is quite small and I'd have to do more batches than if I did this on the stovetop. Fourth, the pressure in the Instant Pot is about 11 - 12 psi, versus a conventional pressure cooker, which, if I recall comes in at about 15psi. This means that cooking time takes a bit longer. Also, things are pretty easy with the Instant Pot, when finished you can do a quick release, check, and do another short session if you need to.
This may seem like a lot of steps but it really isn't and is rather quick. It's all about organization. Be careful not to overfill your instant pot!
I enjoy this over noodles; a pseudo niu rou mian for me.
Red Cooked Short Ribs Instant Pot Style:
3 1/2 - 4 pounds English Style Beef Short Ribs sliced to a 1 1/2 - 2" width 12-14 dried shiitake mushroom soaked in 1-1/2 cup warm water 2/3 Cup + 2 Tb Soy sauce 1/3 Cup Dark Soy Sauce 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar 2/3 Cup + 2Tb + 1/4 Cup Shao Xing Wine 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped 1-2 1/2" knobs of ginger smashed 3 Star Anise broken in half 4 Scallions - white part only, roughly chopped 1 piece dried tangerine peel broken in half 1 2-3" cinnamon stick 1 Red Serrano Pepper sliced 1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper 1 Tb Granulated Garlic 1 Tsp Five Spice 1 Tb Ground Sichuan Peppercorn 2 - 3 Tb Corn Starch 1 Cup strained mushroom soaking liquid 2 - 2 1/2 Cups Water 2Tb Avocado or similar neutral flavored oil 1 - 2 Blocks Tofu 6 - 8 Boiled Eggs Steamed Bok Choy
- Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 1/2 cup warm water - In a pan rub the ribs with 2 Tb Soy Sauce, 2 Tb Shao Xing, Ground White Pepper, Sichuan Peppercorn, Granulated Garlic - let marinate - Prep and combine garlic, scallions, and Five Spice - Prep and combine ginger, star anise, tangerine peel, cinnamon stick, serrano pepper - In a bowl combine 2/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup dark soy sauce, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar - Strain about 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid - Dust the short ribs with corn starch and start browning in oil on the stove top in batches. - Once the beef has completed browning deglaze with 1/4 cup Shao Xing wine. - Use the fat and liquid from the beef (do not add burnt bits) to the Instant Pot and set on saute - Add dry ingredients and saute until fragrant - Add the garlic-scallions to the pot and saute until fragrant and soft - Add 2/3 cup Shao Xing wine and bring to a boil - Layer the mushrooms on top of the spice and scallion mixture - Add the mushroom soaking liquid - Layer the beef ribs in even layers - Add the soy sauce mixture - Top off with water. First using only 2 cups, then more if necessary. Do not use more than 2 1/2 cups. Adjust and mix the beef if necessary - Cover and set to 45 minutes high pressure - Once complete do a quick release of pressure. At this point, use a wooden skewer or similar item to determine how tender the beef is. If more time is necessary set to high pressure for 10 more minutes - Once done, you may find that some of the bones have come out of the meat remove them. You can skim off excess fat if desired. This gives you more room to add the drained tofu and boiled eggs. - You can put on slow cook for up to 20-30 minutes before serving. Though it's actually better the next day.
After several visits to Pho Duyen Mai when they first opened a few months ago; I thought they really had some potential. The former owners of Pho Ban Mai had created a menu that was pretty much what they had served before. It's easy for me to do follow-up visits since they are close to work and opens relatively early, 9am giving me a decent late breakfast stop on "honey-doo" weekends.
Here's what I've had since my post back in September.
"Som Tommy" mentioned the Bo Luc Lac in the comments of my previous post. So I thought I'd give it whirl.
This was not bad. The marinated cubes of beef were quite tender; the overall dish wasn't too greasy. The flavor was much too salty and this could have used some sweetness, or even better, a good, citrusy Muoi Tieu Chanh, the lime - fish sauce based dip that is standard with Bo Luc Lac. The sauce that came with this was mostly fish sauce, making things even more salty.
Actually, I kind of enjoyed the buttery simple fried rice.
A few weeks later, early on a Saturday morning, a bit hungry, I decided to drop by again. The place was empty except for a family enjoying a nice breakfast.
I wasn't really sure what to order, but ended up going with the Bun Rieu.
This wasn't my cup of tea. While the correct thinner bun was used and was prepped well; the broth was really bland, lacking in any of the "crabby-shrimpy" savory flavors, nor any real tomato flavor.
The most interesting thing was the crab-pork-egg cake. I'm used to the firmer, almost squeaky version of this. But here it was a light, almost airy in texture, though still rather light in the taste department.
So, that other than a follow-up visit to retry the pho was going to be it for a while. Then my coworker, Calvin mentioned that even though they don't have Banh Mi Bo Kho on the menu, they have Pho Bo Kho, there's a photo of it in the menu. So he pointed to it one day and got the Banh Mi Bo Kho, which he really enjoyed. Now, in all honesty, in my opinion, Calvin doesn't have most sophisticated, educated palate, but I thought I'd give it a try.
This was pretty good; not on the level of, say, the version from Pho Lucky. Though if you care more about the amount of beef, some of which was tender and some of which was not, and don't care much for tendon you'll like this. The carrots were under cooked. The broth was not bad, better than what I'd recently had Cow Cali (in terms of texture and beefiness Pho Hoa Huong was better), but still too thin, light in tangy tomato or beefiness. It did taste like thickened pho broth with tomato and black pepper. The bread was nicely warm and toasted. Not bad overall, but I'll stick with Pho Lucky's version.
So there you go.....well, I did forget about the pho didn't I? I'm thinking I need to do another pho round-up one of these days......
The folks here have always been quite nice and I'm glad to see that, at least on weekends, there seems to be quite a few Vietnamese families having breakfast and lunch here.
Pho Duyen Mai 5375 Kearny Villa Rd San Diego, CA 92123 Open Daily 9am - 9pm
mmm-yoso!!! is Kirk's blog with his amazing posts from San Diego and around the world. Cathy posts here too, about San Diego County and beyond. But today, it’s Ed (from Yuma) writing about somewhere in Yuma.
I had a birthday coming up, and Tina offered me a dinner – my choice of restaurants. It was an easy decision; over the years, I have celebrated more birthdays and special times at River City Grill than any other place in town. About the same time I moved to Yuma, over a decade and a half ago, Nan and Tony Bain opened River City Grill (website) in a nondescript building at the corner of 3rd Street and 6th Avenue:
It soon became my favorite restaurant in town. Its eclectic menu might include curries, pestos, hummus, or spring rolls. There were always vegetarian and vegan dishes, a wide range of seafood entrées, and more. While the food was not consistently great, it was usually pretty good, generally adventuresome, and occasionally outstanding; the service always professional and friendly.
The seating in the inside dining room is pretty standard:
But the room has always featured at least one hip and edgy mural:
Even the restrooms have unusual decor:
So why have I never posted about this restaurant before? Well, laziness explains a lot, but also River City seemed like a comfortable old friend by the time I started blogging. But River City really deserved a post, and my birthday dinner offered a perfect opportunity.
We arrived in the early evening, and enjoying the mild weather, chose to eat outside on the adjacent patio:
We were each given a chunk of baguette accompanied with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping:
Tina usually likes to begin with a martini from the cocktail list – this evening a lemon drop martini ($7):
Made with citrus vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice shaken together and served in a sugar rimmed glass, it was tasty.
While we were figuring out entrées, I looked over the wine list, and since it was my birthday, I decided on a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay ($68):
It was (IMHO) an excellent wine, full-bodied with good balance, nice structure, and pleasant flavors and aromas of pear and melon and other fruits. River City has always maintained a well-chosen, if limited, wine list with reasonable markups (double retail or less). That's been one of the reasons I've kept coming back.
As an appetizer we ordered the Thai curried mussels ($10), something we'd enjoyed previously. The mussels arrived looking like this:
At first I thought the kitchen was using some type of green curry, but it didn't taste like curry. "Pesto," Tina said, "that's basil pesto flavoring." I tasted again, and yeah, that's what was going on.
We mentioned it to our server, who looked kind of puzzled, but when he checked with the kitchen that's what it was. I should say the mussels themselves were excellent, but the basil/coconut milk combo seemed weird.
The entrées at River City always come with a choice of soup or salad. Tina wanted the roasted tomato and red pepper bisque, which arrived looking beautiful:
I've never quite understood why they call this soup a bisque since it doesn't seem to have any cream in it, but it is an excellent soup, full of the flavor of roasted red peppers, their sweetness balanced by just a hint of vinegar tang.
I opted for the Mediterranean salad:
While smaller than it used to be, this has always been my favorite salad choice. The fresh greens, chopped marinated tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers, Mediterranean black olives, feta cheese and balsamic dressing work well together.
Tina's entrée, mustard crusted tofu with spinach ravioli in Alfredo sauce ($18) arrived at the table:
This was quite good. Tina was delighted with the tofu because it was not thick and dense, but almost fluffy with a perfect light crunchy crust. The ravioli and sauce were flavorful and rich. The olive tapenade provided a bridge between the Asian/Mediterranean flavors. The mixed vegetables were . . . mixed vegetables.
I ordered the tequila snapper with black beans and rice ($20):
The two small fillets were lightly breaded, spicy and moist, and laid across a generous portion of black beans and basmati rice. Overall, the entrée had a nice spicy kick accented by the pico de gallo and roasted pepper/corn topping. Really good. And there were mixed vegetables.
For dessert, we shared a cinnamon apple bread pudding ($6), drizzled with caramel and served with whipped cream and a small scoop of vanilla:
It was soft, almost creamy, and very satisfying. And you gotta love the birthday candle.
While River City in 2016 is no longer cutting-edge and its menu does not change much any more, Tina and I will gladly return. The dishes are generally good, the kitchen prepares seafood very well, the decor is enjoyable, the servers are well trained, and the prices are extremely reasonable. In fact, the bottle of birthday wine cost more than all the rest of the meal - heck yes, we'll be back!
River City Grill, 600 W 3rd St, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 782 - 7988.