Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lunching On 10th Street - Cowboy Star

These meals are mostly from around January and February of this year when I originally had the idea of a Lunching On 10th Street series only to post my first on Pokez then manage to completely neglect it for four months..

The series was to share my lunch experiences using the relatively quick 10th Street artery into downtown SD. Of course this bit is only useful if you don't already work in the area.. But anyway for these visits I took the route via Southbound 163 where the particular stretch of the freeway around Balboa Park is not only very beautiful but also ends and conveniently transitions into becoming 10th. Pass Pokez (and the parked police cruiser) and in about two blocks I would start looking for an open meter spot. I found it is best to find one before you reach The Cowboy Star because parking gets exponentially worse pass Market St.

A very hip modern ranch decor complete with some great Johnny Cash humming in the background. I ended lunching at the bar for all the visits. My very cool bartender Garth recommended me the Bison Burger ($12). It was nothing short of fantastic..

A thick hand-formed patty was lightly pre-seasoned with some southwestern type spices. I thought it did a great job of bringing out the lean but excellently moist and meaty flavor of the ground buffalo. With the roasted anaheim peppers and cumin mayo, my side of ketchup would be reserved only for the fries.. For me the sign of a great burger.

In fact I had this burger twice during separate visits. Both times medium rare and both excellently juicy with awesome grill marks.

One day I had my mind set on the Crab BLT ($14).

I'm not sure why but I first imagined it to be a fried soft-shell crab type deal but it turned out to be a salad sandwich with a good amount of lump crab meat. The melted smoked cheddar quick under the salamander was a nice touch and boy were those heirloom tomatoes bloody ripe! I remember tasting it more than the pancetta (so technically a "PLT"?).

Probably unfair to compare it with that Bison Burger but I'd say a nice alternative for me if in the mood again.
I had the soup ($8) once and at the time served was squash if I remember right. The current menu says Potato Bisque.

Very good as expected with some bacon lardoons and small dollop of chive crème fraîche but a complementary bread basket would've been nice (which I feel true for the lunch meals here in general).

During this time CS had been updating their lunch menu and I remember being reminded of one of the newer items unexpectedly one morning when the very first image that I witnessed when I awoke from bed was a wild turkey being shot on some hunting channel. I flicked the remote, the monitor warmed up and then - BANG!

My very next thought was.. "I think I'll go to The Cowboy Star today and try that Duck Confit!"

Amazingly tender with still a lot of integrity in the meat and not the least bit oily as one may expect something poached in its own fat. The skin was rendered perfectly and grilled to a crisp as served. The excellent bordelaise made me want to lick the plate squeegee it with a piece of bread afterward. Again a complementary roll of some kind would've been nice with. I think I have a relatively average appetite for a 6' dude and the portion of the entire meal including the mashed potatoes and baby turnips fared just a tad under adequate considering it was a $17 lunch. Excellent but proved to be a bit splurgy for me and I blame that wild game hunting program that morning (at 7:30AM??).

The Stuffed Mushrooms ($8) seem small but packs a punch (cream cheese, spinach and bacon!). I was glad for the additional blanched spinach and probably best to share.

Last I had the Grilled Steak Sandwich ($14). Adding bleu cheese will be another $2 but the idea sounded a bit overpowering and so decided without.

Had it grilled to a medium rare and chose the spring mix salad as a side to help me feel less guilty. The caramelized onions together with the horseradish cream and arugula was really something I can sink my teeth into.. :)

I forgot to ask the cut that was used sorry. I know their Petite Steak changes daily and this may be the case with the sandwich as well. I had also had this when the new lunch menu wasn't completely finalized. One thing for sure is that it isn't the $9 rib eye steak sandwich special I had recently at a local cafe, ha.. (Will post on it eventually.) Obviously a stratosphere above but the portion again was a tad on the smaller side for me. I probably should've had it with the fries after all. And if on a Friday maybe even with that Manhattan that Bruce (the other super cool bartender) had mentioned..

Lunching at The Cowboy Star was a really nice change of pace. Definitely great for a casual business lunch or meeting up with old friends to catch up with times.

And for dinner, perfect in bringing your out of town guests (below my awesome family visiting me from Japan back in December)..

I would guess anyone with a map can figure out my third and final 10th St. destination would be Basic.. Hopefully that won't take me another four months to get to. :)

The Cowboy Star, 640 Tenth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tan Ky Mi Gia (Rolando) Revisit - Same Meal, More Photos..

I've been sharing my weirdness of elements (many intangibles) that helped elevate my meal experiences.. Sometimes it was a great view (not so weird), other times the home-style dishware (a little weirder), but for Tan Ky Mi Gia it is of a particular atmosphere during evenings at dusk..

Something to do with the completely unassuming strip mall I'm in and the way my meal is bathed in amber sunset. (The restaurant faces West.) Also the attentive but respecting waitperson that lets me enjoy my meal under the shower of evening photons in peace.

The Roast Duck with (Egg) Noodle Soup - This day their Chicken Curry Vermicelli that I wanted to try was down to their last ladle-full and not enough for a full order.. bummer.
I was fine with this though because I've been slowly working on a Part-3 of my humble SD Roast Duck Noodle Soup findings and another taste of my first's first favorite wasn't such a bad idea. (A Rice Porridge I also had once here.)

This particular day while the duck was flavored nicely as before, with the exception of a few pieces it was overall on the lean side and its skin gummier than my previous great experiences.. The drippings were very nice as usual and it was this that Kirk talked about that originally got me to visit TKMG-R in the first place.

The soup, expectedly light was still lighter while all the flat-leaf chives and cilantro garnishes were also missing (and instead with baby bok choy). The tiny bits of pork cracklins were nice but the other subtle flavors that made the soup was lacking.

A little disappointed but with a few condiment fixings it turned out ok. And there were a ton of egg noodles which made me think twice of the BBQ Pork Fried Rice I had also ordered, haha.

Fried Rice is usually a sure bet anywhere but I do enjoy TKMG's a lot. Fluffy, light and airy.

Tan Ky Mi Gia's full menu here. Either they haven't updated the prices or they add tax to the itemized bill, just a Fyi if you see any discrepancies. I forgot to ask again.

The soup I assume was from the same batch of the previous noodle soup and had also lacked umami.

But I really enjoyed the fried rice and when the two combined..

The sum equaled more than the two parts.

Total bill was $13 with tax and if you're wondering I definitely had some leftovers to take back. :)

Tan Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Light Breakfast..

Found this on SwissMiss yesterday. Love it!

(photo: David Sykes)

If only my two eggs and sausage breakfast would feel that way in my belly..

A day off this lovely Friday.. Love it too!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lunching @ Izakaya Sakura - Oyaji Dishes

Yet a few more lunch meals I wanted to share from Izakaya Sakura. Again probably with more images than necessary but this was always meant to be a hybrid photo-blog of sorts so please bear with me.. :)

I sort of made up the term Oyaji ("old man") Dishes.. This naming has mostly to do with how I personally find the meals old school (classic?) in nature. A few you don't see offered often if ever, especially on lunch menus. But I'm also using the naming Oyaji in the slang sense to express a mood or state that anyone at any age can feel once in a while. Grumpy, tired, or a little under the weather? So to give my body a chance to become like some actual seniors from back home who can probably out pace me on a track field..(!) A few dishes I've had when I felt the need to cut down on that sodium and saturated fat intake..

The first few will help boost Omega-3's. I found out this essential oil might help elevate a person's mood which is nice, but I also find I am simply less irritable after any meal when I'm full so for whatever it's worth, ha.

The Buri Daikon ($8) is a traditional Yellowtail and Daikon radish simmer. Lightly sweet with the flavor of soy sauce and ginger. Sometimes the broth is reduced to almost a light glaze.

Much of the bitterness of the daikon is gone but enough left to balance out the nice fatty acids from the fish. The photo taken is almost three years old. Maybe I'll order this again tomorrow.

Had the Saba no Shioyaki as a Teishoku lunch set ($8) more recently where I only had it as appetizers in the past. The two salt seasoned grilled mackerel pieces were a nice size - near the head and tail portions (together a side of a fillet).

Couldn't spend too much time for pretty pictures here! :) Perfectly grilled, the skin crackled open like a fresh puff pastry.

The belly which I went straight for revealed the extremely moist flesh full of the fish's essential oils.

The tail portion was a bit firmer as I would expect but all seasoned nicely with the perfect amount of salt. The grated daikon radish a wonderful pairing.

The grilled Saury (Sanma no Shioyaki, $8) is less oily and very smokey in flavor. I talked about it in some length when introducing the simmered Nitsuke version on this post.

Again I'll repeat that as much as I would crave a nice grilled Sanma once in a while, the smoky flavor as well as its bitter Wata (its guts left for the occasional Sanma connoisseur) would make me rank this fish at an intermediate level for the dining curious.

Though not listed I was successful in ordering it as a side if one may be so compelled to try it (with a few interested others?) but for me the company of rice and soup is almost a necessity.

Had the Yasai-itame (stir-fried vegetables, $8) just yesterday.

A light soy sauce (and maybe a little butter) stir-fry with cabbage, bean sprouts, onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, a few snow peas and some pork. Nothing I couldn't make at home but an affordable good-for-the-body sustenance that I was after and one that will also get me back in the office in a half-hour. Mission accomplished.

The Miso Soup this day was particularly good..

A stronger than usual dashi with every ingredient also tasting more vibrant. The signature two large tofu cubes were also the silken Kinugoshi rather than the medium Momen I typically find here. Seems to depend on the person who is in charge of the batch. :)

The Mekabu Natto Yama-imo Iri appetizer (Mekabu Seaweed with Natto and Grated Mountain Yam, $5) is a trio of slimey goodness. I order it by simply saying Mekabu Natto.. Anyway as long as I've been eating Mekabu, I just found out it is from the thicker portion of the Wakame seaweed that is closer to the roots. I learn something everyday..

Sliced fine with a nice crunchy texture (on top of the sliminess) and a mild sweet seaweed flavor, the Mekabu seems to come lightly seasoned in tsuyu. It is then partnered with some grated Yama-imo mountain yam (sometimes also called Tororo-imo ) and the fermented (hikiwari split) Natto beans that most know about.

If I'm not done by the time my lunch main comes I then add a drizzle of soy sauce to help with that rice craving potency..

What prevents me in having it more often is the higher price for a side but I've had this quite a few times.

Ok, I think I shared enough of the Mekabu Natto.. The Saba Misoni is another Mackerel dish I like to order as a side ($3.50). A nice deep Miso simmer with additional flavor of ginger and green onions.

Again, great over my rice (when no one is looking?).. Which then the teishoku set would be sure to hit the spot ($8).

I've had the Tonjiru side only once ($5).

A heartier Miso Soup with chunks of pork, tofu, and vegetables (daikon, potatoes, onions, carrots). I particularly enjoy it with a good shake of shichimi peppers.

The Jyaga Tamago (Potato and Egg, $7.50) is my token not offered anymore dish for this post.

This was extremely mild in flavor, basically like an Oden. Love the way the Daikon was cut to help keep its shape during the long simmer.

I'm not exactly sure why I consider the Tensoba (Soba with Tempura, $8) an Oyaji Meal.. Maybe it's because I can easily picture Japanese businessmen order one up on a hot and humid mid-summer day. Nothing really makes it a healthier alternative than others on the menu but I felt like including it anyway.

As much as I like the broth here all in all a pretty standard bowl with maybe the portion being its biggest attraction. You get two nice pieces of shrimp with additional of veggies.

You can ask for the tempura on the side if you like to keep it from going soggy. Also comes with an Omusubi rice ball. Filling is usually Salmon from my experience.

And.. that's it. Still lots of carbs but much healthier than some other options.

Like Panko-fried Bechamel Sauce? Come to think, this is borderline County Fair Food! But so guilty good.. ;)

Izakaya Sakura, 3904 Convoy St #121, San Diego, CA 92111