Friday, July 31, 2009

A Burger @ Kearny Mesa Bowl

One hot and humid lunch hour a few weeks and a half ago.., I was strangely in the mood for a Bowling Alley Burger.

As its name conjures, a BAB can only be found and experienced at highly air conditioned indoor recreational buildings. This environment with a tempomatic, continually clashing sound of a urethane ball against ten perfectly arranged maple pins to me somehow elevates a mundane average burger to something edging above average. Wow! :)

I love people watching while eating. Especially people with beehive and Orphan Annie hair, and also Pineapple print shirts. I had the Hamburger Special - $6 with fries and a drink. It just may have been the best burger that an accumulation of Costco ingredients can create by hand.

A generously buttered and mayo'd toasted sesame seed bun. Fresh cool vegetables contrasting with the well done beef patty..

I thought a pretty good deal considering an establishment such as KMB to potentially monopolize food costs (think airport terminals). And all the cold ketchup I wanted!

Probably Hunt's, but Imho a better match to my almost must for bowling crinkle cut fries. These were also straight-from-the-fryer Styrofoam plate cinching hot.

And how was the all important burger this day?
*THUMP, rumble roll........*

Of course nothing less than a Strike! :)

Kearny Mesa Bowl, 7585 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lunching @ Izakaya Sakura - Interim Nerd Ramblings With Ginger Pork

While I've been working on my final post stretch (probably last two) of lunches at Izakaya Sakura I've been bugged by my own hasty reply during a brief conversation with friends. My unprepared response to a casual question of how I felt about the place went something along like "They're alright... I just have a soft spot for them.."

A rather odd answer from a person who (at least at one time) is voluntarily working on an unofficial photo menu for the place.. So I kind of wished I said things differently. But at the same time I knew my long winded official answer would have been inappropriate at that moment. If I did have the time though I probably would've said something like this..

"For the most part I only lunch at Sakura. I think their set lunch meals are pretty good and of good value and relatively consistent. That is, once in a while I've had my share of off days but at the same time I can never say I've had a bad experience there. The kitchen can be on the slow side. The sushi is good but the chef at least for lunch hours is somewhat elusive which can be frustrating. What attracts me most about Sakura is their range of not so common Japanese lunch offerings. While I personally enjoy all this a lot, it may not be something some are looking for when they are in the mood for Japanese. And so I love patronizing Sakura, but when my friends ask me if I know a great Japanese lunch spot in San Diego.. I would recommend here as one but not without some fine print explanation." (You have just read the fine print explanation..)

Whew!! I can totally see the blank stares if I had said that originally, haha. I think I felt compelled to say all this because the last thing I want to see is someone disappointed from either an over expectation or simply the wrong expectation.. So for some that may still be interested in reading on, I've took the time to create more descriptive hyperlinks to all my lunch meal posts here in reverse chronological order. I think I've been spotty in the past with these.

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

Also while I'm at it I might as well mention that these meal experiences I share happens to be from a dude perspective. ;)
Case in point. What The Heck is going on in this pic below of my Buta Shogayaki (ginger pork)..?

Oh No He Di'int...

Oh yes I did..... :)
I unashamedly lifted my lunch plate and drizzled the awesome Shogayaki drippings onto my rice bowl. With a big smile on my face if I may add. It's way too good to waste, and something I'm comfortable doing in the casual atmosphere of this izakaya turned teishoku-ya lunch establishment.

Ginger Pork dish variations I've seen around sometimes are a thin steak like cut of two or three larger slices simmered in the sweet/gingery soy sauce based marinade. Other times (which is the case here) and probably more popular execution is the wafer thin cut that cuddles the nice juicy flavors like a well designed pasta would its sauce.

It's literally a sauteed pork sponge of hunger inducing umami that none of should go to waste. So if you're shy you may be missing out. :)

I end here abruptly but I just heard the rice cooker chime in, so I'm off for some fabulous Uni. Hope you're all having a great weekend!

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

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Catalina Offshore Products - A First Visit

Finally visited Catalina Offshore Products for the first time today after a few failed attempts. They are open to the public 10AM~2PM - M~F and 9AM~12PM on Saturdays. Also a $25 minimum purchase which is understandable..

Because when arrived I was given a disposable hairnet and paged for assistance to be escorted back (I think it was David himself). This place is all business and they definitely do process fish here so it's not going to be like stepping into your favorite fancy fish market (but more like going behind the scenes to the "employees only" area). [Photos with permission.]

I got my Uni though which was my mission.(!)
The stacks of the simple rubber banded wooden containers were glaring back at me as if they were actual precious metal ingots. *chorus in background - Aaaaaaaa~*

"P" is for premium ($9 per 80-grams) and "G" is for their top line Gold ($15 per 80-grams). I didn't see any of the live stuff but I got one of the P and G each to compare later. The Ikura was finger numbingly flash frozen. I picked up a 6oz package for $14.

It was suggested that I slowly defrost them in my fridge over night. I assume they are lightly salt preserved but I may do a mild soy sauce marinade depending how they taste in the morning..

The Uni are raw of course and will keep up to seven days in the fridge. But I highly doubt they will need to last that long. :)

Can't wait to try them!! I only have vague plans as to what to do at the moment. There will be Koshihikari Rice involved for sure though.

My receipt and the hairnet that I'm sure I looked pretty flattering in.. ;)

My coming meals should be fun. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve..

Catalina Offshore Products, 5202 Lovelock St, San Diego, CA 92110-4011

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kuroshio Sea Tank @ Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Work has been particularly busy... But these days that's a really good thing and I'm grateful. Been thinking about my hometown lately as well (wasn't the soba I swear) and found this on One Floor Up yesterday. A bit creeped out by the coincidence but happy. Enjoy.

(From Jon Rawlinson on Vimeo.)

My guess is that the guy waving with the peace sign is the author.. :)
The Kuroshio Sea saltwater tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the second largest in the world. I can't remember the year I visited here but it was a dark rainy day with some thunder even. But things didn't seem to matter much with these guys. Just another day under the sea. And I agree with the editor.. I can watch it for hours too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thank You Google Reader Readers.. And Happy Belated Eel Day!

Wow, so I discovered this thing called Google Reader today. And I also discovered that I have 34 subscribers.(!?) Apparently this is completely unrelated to the "Followers" on your dashboard (for those of you who use blogspot) and I also hear that posts read through GR does not show up on sitemeter.

Personal hobby or not, it's nice to know sometimes that other people (aside from close friends out of pity?) find what you do amusing enough to follow. So all good to me, Except For One Thing.. Google Reader doesn't seem to update these posts actively. If it does update at all, it seems to be extremely slow. So while I'm already very humble about my writing skilz, it was even worse to think that many may have been reading the early rough drafts this whole time. I've never been disciplined enough to proofread everything before publishing so I might want to put a draft label in the title for at least the first day.

My biggest gripe is that I like to edit my content while looking at it in the style of my blog template. Blogspot's preview function is not WYSIWYG. At least not yet.

Anyway so before I hit the sack a small bit on Doyo no Ushinohi - or Japan Eel Day. I had totally forgotten that for this year was last Sunday (July 19th).
As far as I know the association of Summer with the consumption of Grilled Eel in Japan is that it is considered a small indulgent splurge to help one get through the hot months and avoid heat exhaustion. Digging into the history and details behind Doyo no Ushinohi is a bit much to want to tackle right now (too close to my bedtime) but a great article on it on Kyoto Foodie here and the Japanese Wiki article here.

So I had an Unagi-don at Izakaya Sakura today for a belated celebration.. with a little twist (or I should say "grate").

I had it delicately draped with a white futon of tororo (grated mountain yam or yamaimo). I first came across the rather unusual Unatororo-don on 333Amigos and immediately fell for the concept. In all honesty I love tororo and would want to have it smothered on most any of my savory meals if I had the chance.. But I have to say this was a surprising nice match.

The +$2 could've been a bit high but the particular type of yamaimo used produced a very dense and thick tororo. I thought the natural light sweetness of the grated yam complemented the sweeter sauced unagi and despite the contrasting look of the bowl, they went quite well together.

It seems the day is celebrated more than once in certain years (there must be some sort of Eel Day algorithm that I haven't figured out yet). 2009, we're up for another on July 31st so let's again get our Unagi appetites on! :)

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

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thinking About The Heat - And Other Ramblings

Sorry, never made it back to Mitsuwa SD's Kyushu & Okinawa Fair this weekend after all.. The heat has been sucking my energy but to make things worse I was lacking sleep today due to a skunk visit the night before (I have no AC and I couldn't open any windows!).

Lately though, I've been also thinking about the BTU kind of heat..

My wannabe factor has been at an all time high wishing for a jet burner set up like at restaurants.. You can get them ported for natural gas or propane but I was warned that I may burn my house down. I surely wouldn't want that to happen so I'll probably end up with something more like this..

Fully cranked I hear that this 5B can produce 100,000 BTU's. Not bad for $65. Still I'd want some sort of better heat control lever/valve than those tiny bottle caps.

I found this at Taisun Wholesale located right next to Super Cocina off University.

Taisun Wholesale, 3615 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

I'm debating between that and a +$20 model from the same manufacturer that had an electronic igniter (and even slightly higher BTU's, not that I need it to go any higher) at Chef City.

Chef City has moved btw from the Convoy location to a much bigger building off Clairemont Blvd. A block or so East of the court house.

Lots of fun browsing of commercial grade restaurant equipment. You won't find All-Clad or Henckel knives here but Dexter cleavers and Eagleware. I always thought these were all very beautiful in their completely utilitarian and non-design designed ways.

Chef City Restaurant Equipment and Supply, 9150 Clairmont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92123

Then during one of my heat submissioned FoodTubing sessions at home I found this really cool video titled "What's for lunch in Japan?". A peek at a typical Japanese school (I'm guessing High School) lunch hour and their bento meals. Unfortunately embedding was disabled so the link here.

Wow, I totally wished this was a series! I would totally love to know what a typical lunch meal is in say.... Mauritania, Kyrgyzstan, or Balize (Ok, I googled "obscure countries"..) Maybe a little Sesame Street-ish but still.

Finally as I ease my way into the topic of Sesame Street.. ;) Not food related but I thought the expressions of the kids on this vintage "What is a Computer?" clip too cute not to share.

The faces and responses to the question priceless! And funny how I can totally put names of people I know next to each kid.. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Okinawa Soba @ Mitsuwa SD's Kyushu & Okinawa Fair

Quickly dropped by Mitsuwa SD during my lunch break today for a tasting of an Okinawa Soba available at their ongoing Kyushu & Okinawa Fair. Started today and will continue on until Sunday the 19th. I need to say that I've been crazy busy this week and so this post will mostly cover the soba while I plan to do another more detailed post hopefully after a second visit sometime this weekend.

As a demo meal I wasn't expecting anything amazing like some of the bowls I've been drooling over recently on the blog Hwn Pake In Okinawa but I knew a tasting at Mitsuwa's fair would be fun and if you didn't already know, myself being part Okinawan descent, I almost felt covering it was... my duty?? So I'm here to represent!

Mitsuwa SD's 2009 Kyushu & Okinawa Fair, Okinawa Soba ($6.90, courtesy of Kayaba Restaurant).

Size was as usual on the smaller side as with Ramen tastings I've experienced here and the toppings of kamaboko fish cake and the meaty/fatty layered San-mai Niku with a touch of beni-shoga and scallions were present in a minimally sufficient quantity to fit the serving size..

The San-mai Niku (which translates to three-layered meat) had the expected light sweet soy sauce flavor but was surprisingly remarkably tender.

Honestly I've been used to a much more rustic version that I remember chomping on often at room temperature (during New Year's) but I felt this melty factor from most stewed (and guilty) fatty-pork was a given expectation these days. And come to think it is almost impossible for me to imagine when extremely tender pork would ever be a bad thing.. :)

The typical soup in an Okinawa Soba has a characteristic strong bonito aroma and flavor. The stock not surprising is made from it but with also pork and maybe seaweed. Tasting here, the good news was that if someone had told me the broth today was made from scratch I would have believed it, but at the same time the not so great news was that it was extremely thin. Much way too thin. But it was one of their very first bowls served immediately after opening so hopefully this had improved over the course of the day.

The noodles in an OS although described as "soba" does not contain buckwheat but made only with flour. From experience it tends to typically lack the chew or stretch of say a great udon for reasons what I can only explain as tradition(?). A more recent modern interpretation of this noodle may have more the "koshi" but I'm admittedly used to the slightly porous stuff that absorbs the flavor of the broth near the end of the meal which was the case here. :)

I'm definitely going to try it again if not for the novelty of the experience but for that tender san-mai niku, yum.

As usual my selfish wish list to cap, it would've been awesome if they went all out with a good chunky hunk of Soki (stewed pork ribs often with bone) for a much bigger impression of this one of Okinawa's signature meals. Tebichi (stewed pigs feet) would be another fantastic topping option where I would go as far as recruiting my mother for next year in helping out if need be.

Next just a few items quickly that are available to be purchased at the fair..

My No. 1 to try this weekend may be the Umibudo (or Sea Grapes).

The Kume-jima Raayu I can only say is an "inspired by the the original" Ishigaki-jima Raayu but I'm willing to try a small bottle. I'm curious if the Shima Togarashi (island hot peppers) does make the difference in umami which makes me want to drench the entire bottle of hot oil (of the Ishigaki stuff) all over my meal.

Next were all the yummy looking Kamaboko in the Kyushu section. I think it was ~1.50 for one or five for $6.50.

The bad food blogger that I am didn't take enough notes and I had ordered what looked good on the spot.

Later tasting, the best to me was the darker one in the middle that I believe was made with Iwashi sardines. I really enjoyed this which had a darker fish meat but sweet flavor and also contained sweet onions. The two longer stems to the right had crunchy Gobo root in them and pretty tasty while the triangular, almost tofu-looking one on top I would guess was a type of Hanpen and very smooth textured with an addition of green onions. The last to the left was almost like an Ganmodoki (but made with fish of course) with lots of finely chopped vegetables. All were great and I'm ready to try more! And who knew deep fried fish paste can be so diverse in variety and all so tasty?

As I said just a quick survey today and hoping to cover the many more items I've seen later this weekend! :)

Mitsuwa Market, 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd #119, San Diego, CA 92111