Monday, February 28, 2011

Lunching @ Sakura Shokudo (First Of 2011!)

First Sakura post of 2011 and still nerding out big time. ;)

My frequently visited Izakaya by night, lunch Shokudo by day Sakura. Maybe some of the new lunch offerings had influences from the younger waitresses. Such as the Chicken Doria ($8.50). Was very good and voluminous too.

A base of buttered rice covered in a bechamel sauce with (in this case) chicken, cheese and onions, topped with some bread crumbs and/or parmesan and baked in an oven.

May seem strange how the miso soup complements it perfectly but after some brief research turns out the dish with Italian roots was Japonified and reintroduced by a Swiss head chef Saly Weil at the Hotel Newgrand in Yokohama as back as the 1920's~30's (exact date is not clear).

The Creamy Corn Potage Soup.

Very fresh tasting with also a more rustic character maybe, unstrained and chunky. I thought a bit high for $5 but it was good. Not always available.

For the price the NikuJaga ($5) was more my style. Classic Japanese simmered beef and potatoes. It was also a brief offering but may reappear again.

I may have said this before but I personally prefer Soba over Udon in general, so I had asked for a Tsukimi (full moon viewing) version with egg to change things up. Tempura Udon ($8.50 +? for Egg).

The Tororo Kombu (which I haven't noticed before) was a nice touch and the egg (poached) was a good idea. The broth with some subtle Shiitake flavor I enjoy and can start out light but ends quite nice. The filling for the Onigiri was grilled salmon (marinated in miso) this day. BONUS.

My most recent coverage of Zaru Soba was my rambling about the Venturi Virtues of Slurping Japanese Noodles.

Here the buckwheat noodles are off the shelf but I enjoy the tsuyu dip a lot more than other spots. This day had also asked for some grated Tororo mountain yam. ($8.50 +?).

You can get the Unagi Donburi sealed with egg now, called UnaTama-don ($10).

Not the most attractive looking but quite tasty. You can read more about it here.

The Ginger Pork (しょうが焼き, $8.50) I've had few times before but was more for Ginger-san in Tokyo. Hope you're doing well Ginger-san! A shogayaki picture from San Diego. :)

It was good as usual. Pork slices decently tender and lots of delicious sauce pan drippings which is a must for me.
I almost always get the Hiyayakko ($2.50) cold tofu appetizer.

Quick run through. I like how the one below looks like a bird's nest..

I took all these mostly with my iPhone. Not bad looking eh?

Love the sliced Okra here which is a Sakura thing really.

Shina Soba (old school shoyu ramen, $8) has been on the menu for a while but I found the broth much too bland. Also it doesn't come with any pork Chashu.(??)

That was a double whammy and I'd be sticking to the Sakuramen. I choose my words extra wisely when describing the Sakuramen ($8.50).

It's a surprisingly rich Tonkotsu based ramen, creation of the restaurant. The soup is viscous and genuinely scratch made.

But for me the final execution unfortunately falls short of the soulful broth with lots of potential. Like a bodybuilder with skinny legs maybe. Not the best balanced, but I still enjoy having a Sakuramen now and then. Details here and here.

The donburi version of the Chicken Tempura Teriyaki ($8.50) was slightly less heavy than the plate version.

The first few bites of the tempura chicken is undoubtedly guilty delicious. The dish progressively gets heavier with the very sweet teriyaki glaze. The ground sesame seeds added a nice nutty touch but overall still felt a bit heavy handed. Again I think a Chicken Nanban version could become a hit if ever offered. (And a Mille Feuille Tonkatsu while at it. Nobody does it here!)

The Gratin Croquette sides are now smaller. These mini-sized used to be for the special bento boxes. For $4.50 a bit pricey but admittedly still pretty rich and tasty.

Can't go wrong with the Buri Daikon ($8.50) here though (covered first on my Sakura Oyaji Meal post).

Japanese Yellowtail/Amberjack that has been long simmered along with large cylinders of daikon, flavored with soy sauce, rice wine, mirin, ginger. This day the flavors were extra penetrated and rich tasting.

I don't see the Piri Kara (spicy) Chicken anymore ($8.50). Was similar in execution to a Sweet Sour Pork but in this case with batter-fried chicken and finished off with a thick spicy sauce with a kick of sesame oil.

I asked if the revived Mabo Don was a version 2.0 but as far as the waitresses knew it was the same as last so haven't asked for it yet. Saving a few extra photo sets for the next post.

Btw, it's perfectly normal to pick up your bowl of miso soup and sip straight from. No spoon necessary. A nice steamy sauna facial while you're at it, haha. But the direct smell of bonito, kelp and miso is always quite wonderful. :)

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

Gyokai Natto-don, Albacore Tuna Tataki, Shrimp Ebiten Roll, California Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Spicy Fish Salad, Ika Somen, Special Bento Box - 2, 3, Chicken Tempura Teriyaki Plate, Nabeyaki Udon, Tonkatsu Teishoku, Salmon and Scallop Pasta, Spaghetti Meat Sauce
Sakuramen Ver. 3
Koebi no Kakiage Chazuke, Hiyayakko side
New Years Osechi Bento
Saku-Ramen (Ver. 1 and 2), Karaage Teishoku, Curry Rice, Mix Tempura Lunch Set, Chicken Katsu-don, Curry with Nasu Eggplant, Steamed Chicken Mushidori no Teishoku, & Karaage, Hiyayakko, Crab Kani Cream Korokke sides
Uni to Ikura no Zousui, Kimchi Nabe, Saba Misoni (side), Una-don, Unatororo-don, Oyako-don, Sukiyaki-don, Ten-don, Ebi Shrimp Fry, Ten Zaru Soba, Ten Soba (cold), Natto, Ebi Fry Curry
Ginger Pork
Unagi-don (+tororo)
Buri Daikon, Saba no Shioyaki (teishoku), Yasai Itame, Jyaga Tamago, Tensoba, & Sanma no Shioyaki, Mekabu Natto Yamaimo Iri, Saba Misoni, Tonjiru sides
Nagasaki Sara Udon, Nagasaki Champon, Chicken Teriyaki, Yakisoba (w/ egg), & Roll-Kyabetsu, Sanma Nitsuke, Guratan Korokke, Potato Salad sides
Kaki (Oyster) Fry, Chicken Katsu Curry, Chicken Katsu, Plain Omurice, Hayashi Omurice
Uni-don, Chirashi (1 and 2), Ikura-don, Negi Maguro Natto-don, Spicy Nakaochi-don, Tekka-don (+w/tororo)
Liver Nira, Ginger Pork, Garlic Chicken, Saba Amazu Ankake, Hata no Kinoko Ankake, Buri Teri, Steamed Chicken w/ Ponzu, and Tofu Dango, Aji Fry, Saba Shioyaki, Buta Kakuni sides
Curry Udon
Hiyashi Chuka, Hiyashi Somen
Nikomi and Wafu Hamburg, Menchi Katsu, Subuta Dango, Mabo-don, & Hiyayakko, Agedashi Dofu, Yasai Kakiage, Karaage sides
Uni Spaghetti, Miso Marinated Broiled Salmon
Wafu Steak, Special Bento Box - 1
Menchi Katsu Sando

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Random Airport Food - Chicago And Dallas Fort Worth

But first, Josh Ozersky talks about LaGuardia Airport's LaFrieda Burger on Ozersky TV.

LaGuardia's Super-Powered Food Court: LaFrieda Burgers from Ozersky.TV on Vimeo.

Super jealous. I personally feel I don't want to spend much time and money in our nation's airport food courts but only because they're mostly lame. The experience at the airport food court should be seamlessly part of one's entire travel experience like at the new Haneda International Terminal.

I had to literally hunt down a hot dog place in Chicago Midway. I could sense having a slice of deep dish or a juicy Italian beef sandwich would be pushing my luck. Passed the Chili's, the Burger King, McDonald's (of course), random bars, kiosk's with unappetizing veggie wraps and refrigerated sushi rolls. I also unfortunately heard the airport's Superdawg had been closed for some time now.

This is actually my second time visiting a Gold Coast Dogs. Had one before at Midway but could've been at a different wing. What we see here was either a Char Polish Dog or a Char Bratwurst ($4.49). I took close to twenty pictures of my meal. Must have been really bored.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit at Dallas Fort Worth was also from what I remember the only locally inspired chain. Fortunately wasn't too far from my gate (but I had close to an hour and a half to kill anyway). The meal was OK if on the high side (but when is it not?). I at least got to have some smoked Texas BBQ even if from a huge franchise.

I think I chose sausage and brisket. It was drowned in a sweeter tangy sauce which in hind site should've asked for on the side. The coleslaw was surprisingly good. I'm not too picky about Mac-n-Cheese. For all practical purposes a success.

BTW I noticed we have a Nathan's Famous in Lindbergh Field. I can't remember which terminal. Maybe the commuter.

Not complaining, I happen to like Nathan's.. But at LAX' Bradley International last I've seen a Pink's outpost.

Very good for them. My very mild rant for the weekend.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Balboa International Market - Lamb Fix And Lots Of Pix

It's been ages since I last visited Balboa International Market. It took one of Cathy of Mmm-Yoso's relatively recent post on them and a near week long craving of lamb to finally nudge me. Thanks Cathy!

You order at the deli counter in the back and the food will be brought to your table, just be a little patient. On extra busy days the tables can become semi-communal which is kinda fun especially when you get to sit next to someone of Iranian descent and learn more about the food (I admit not knowing much about Persian cuisine).

Me: "..and what are you having?"
Gentleman 1: "Chicken with Bones, it's grilled cornish hen."
Me: "..and you sir?"
Gentleman 2: "This is Okra Stew with Beef.."
Me: "Fabulous."

The conversation went ki~nda like that but anyhow, first up Lamb Chops ($12.99). Loving the retro look of the tray.

Very moist and tender chops with a mild marinade. Amazing char. I pick each up like candy..

Personally could've benefited from having a bit of fat on them but all quite wonderful and a very fair deal I thought.

Loads of basmati rice and huge pieces of grilled veggies (tomato, bell pepper, onion). The coarsely chopped salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage and onions has a simple tangy mustard dressing. This day also got the noodle soup ($3.99). Thick and delicious with lots of dill flavor, filled with lentils and kidney beans.

The Lamb Shank is very popular and I feel a nice bargain at $8.99.

The stewed meat is much more gamey in flavor compared to the chops and kabob. Wonderfully fall-apart tender with nice bits of gelatinous fat here and there. The small bit of stew broth shown with is crazy good.

The dill rice with Lima Beans was great and I definitely prefer it more to the regular rice. Seemed paired to particular dishes though. The Lentil Soup was pretty good if not the seasoning fairly ordinary so I'll probably stick to the noodle soup when in the mood for something different.

I also learned about the Tahdig from fellow diners. That's the awesome burnt rice crust that they give you. Most of the time anyway so best to request it to be sure since it's limited in quantity. I think it's pronounced "Ta-deeg" if I heard the nice lady clerk right.

Crackly, buttery. It's a good thing. Reminds me of those guilty fried pita chips in some way.

The Lamb Kabob at $15.99 was the most expensive meal on the menu.

But the lean pieces were super tender like lamb filet mignon.

My trio of guilty pleasures.. Buttered rice, veggies with crazy grill char..

..and Lavash bread soaked in juices of grilled meats. Yummus.

I enjoy the grilled tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and Sumac. The onions I can usually get through only the first few layers though.. :P

Last meal of this post, the Cornish Hen Kabob w/ Bones ($10.99) that I had to try. ;)

Marinated in olive oil and light spices. Very tender and juicy and the lavash bread underneath later was killer.

Oh, I tried the Okra Stew (~$6.99) as well, haha.

You gotta love the slimy texture of Okra to enjoy this which I do a lot. The tomato based stew had a deep long simmered flavor and there was enough beef in it to be a meal in itself.

I deeg, the Tahdig. I got an extra piece today. BONUS.

You can't go wrong with the ground beef Koobideh and the filet mignon is the only others I had tried in the past. Anyone try the Zereshk Polo baked chicken? I might get that next if I can resist the temptation of getting the lamb shank again.

Balboa International Market, 5907 Balboa Avenue, San Diego, CA 92111