Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Sweet Donburis - Katsudon @ Yoshino And An Oyakodon @ Mitsuru (L.A.)

If I'd describe my perfect Katsudon, that'd be starting with a perfectly fried pork cutlet, hopefully a rousu cut with a nice band of fat on one side. This would be simmered in a robust broth with sweeter pronounced kaeshi ratio together on a bed of sliced sweet onions. All would then be sealed with an egg that hasn't been over mixed so you end up with a yin-yang marble of delicious creamy yolkage and fluffy/wiggly half-done whites. Would also personally prefer a portion of the katsu to be left uncovered so to enjoy some saku-saku contrast of crispy.

So far it's been hard to find one that perfectly fits my ideal in SD or L.A. For me what usually falls short is a robust broth, or the lack thereof. Donburi-mono or the "all-in-one bowl meal" is archetype working class cuisine. Refinement is always welcomed, but not subtlety.

My nicknamed Yoshino's "Jumbo" Katsudon ($7.45) fits the bill for me when I'm in the mood for this stronger flavored. The simmer broth admittedly seems it could be deeper in the dashi category but I find it to have enough "rice craving potency" to easily conquer the large portion generously served in a wide soba vessel.

The rest of their menu is fairly straight forward slight Americanized Japanese fair which I honestly haven't explored much of. But the made from scratch tasting Miso Soup with stronger bonito flavor is good enough for me to want to return.

Too bad they don't have an Oyakodon, but it'd probably be hard for me not to order the Katsudon again...

...Where I'd ritualistically save the last cutlet piece to use as a squeegee at the end. :)

Yoshino Japanese Restaurant, 1790 W. Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103

The next photo set from Mitsuru Sushi & Grill is pretty old, in fact I hope they're doing well. I think they're most busy during the mornings where Mitsuru is one of the few places in Little Tokyo open early enough for breakfast. Speaking with the waitress it seemed the longtime older regulars were dwindling year to year and the newer generation customer not exactly growing. It'd be really sad to see a place with such quirky charm go away. To me the place is so perfectly "L.A." that it's almost preservation worthy.

A blend of Americana counter service with a quiet Sushi bar tucked around the entrance corner, serving everything from your typical mom and pop So. Cal. Japanese offerings, to diner classics such as Liver & Onions, to even off menu Mexican food courtesy of the chef. He was actually a great character where he stuck his head out the kitchen window and asked me almost in a whisper if I liked Menudo... ;) Awesomeness.

Too bad I wasn't in the mood for it at the time because I would've bet it was indeed good. The choice instead was an Oyakodon ($7.50) from their daily changing specials menu.

Quite voluminous, full of medium cut chicken pieces (tender thigh portion) and although the eggs were well done (as in completely cooked through) they were still fluffy and not stiff.

I'd be honest and say the tsuyu was probably much too sweet for most Japanese. But food not always need be authentic to be good. It just needs to hit that spot, and in this particular case for me it did excellently well. As for "bring the bowl up to your face and bulldoze food in your mouth" style donburi's go, I prefer slightly over seasoned than under nine times out of ten.

Mitsuru Sushi & Grill, 316 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

A comical 'How I Eat Katsudon' explanation on Cooking Papa...

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Songs And Things

Don't ask anyone from Japan if they like The Beatles. Because as with Bob Dylan, that would be a very silly question.

Awesome haircuts. But anyhow, fish tacos were overpriced and blah, should've gotten the crispy beef instead. Weather could've been better but not a bad spot to hang out for lunch.

Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego, CA

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Santouka's Limited Time Hiyashi TanTan Men - Mitsuwa SD 18th Anni Sale

Mitsuwa Market San Diego is celebrating their 18th Anniversary with a sale this week. Apologize for being a bit late posting about it but the sale will be going on until this Sunday.

I'm usually most curious of special limited time dishes often offered during where the link wasn't very specific about. Was able to drop by for lunch earlier in the week and was happy to see Santouka had a chilled Hiyashi TanTan Men. Very cool. (No pun intended!)

A short background to the soupy more ramen-like Japanized TanTan Men I mentioned about in my last Santouka's special menu offering post. I have to say it's funny and ironic here how the playful further fusioned - already fusion dish seems to have resulted in opposing vectors and the now soupless version is actually back closer to the Chinese original.

In any case as you can see it was quite beautiful to look at. Starts with a large portion of Santouka's signature springy noodles made further resilient by shock-chilling it in ice water, then topping it with some vegetables, ground pork, small dollop of spicy miso paste, shrimp and a hanjyuku aji-tamago that made me do a double take (the marinated eggs here are usually hard boiled). Everything is tied together with what seemed like a sesame paste flavored sauce fortified with a little Tonkotsu broth at the bottom.

Mix it all up real good and you have yourself a pretty tasty lunch. As with the last limited time Japanese TanTan Men things were dialed down a bit, especially the heat and was fairly medium-mild for a TanTan Men. Still, I'd be happy to have it again.

But seriously. Did this wonderful marinated soft boiled egg really come from Santouka? I doubt company policy would allow the switch to be permanent but oh well.

Kayaba next door is also participating with a Fried Shrimp Curry for ~$7. May grab it for dinner before the week ends.

These days I've been ordering meals here with my now favorite "Negi Meshi" green onions rice bowl ($1.99). A half portion bowl of rice topped with flavored bonito flakes, sliced aburaage and the minced leafy green top portion of scallions. Good stuff.

Santouka Ramen, 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd (Mitsuwa Market Food Court), San Diego, CA 92111

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lunch Munch: Mangia Mangia Gourmet Italian Food Truck

♪ Dennis having Pasta un-der a tree...

♪ A-m-ay-Z-i-n-gee...

The food was great but I have to say on a day like this the experience of casually eating scratch made Italian food under the blanket of a tree is a very neat thing. Mangia Mangia has been stopping by General Atomics on Mondays and since I work close by I decided to check them out once last week and a second time yesterday.

It's been exactly a year since I did my quick local sweep post of fusion/gourmet food trucks in SD, and I can't believe the numbers since increased close to tenfold. You can keep track of them on, and of course your favorites you can follow on Twitter.

Spaghetti and Meatballs. I said why not. Comes with a delicious garlic bread for $9.

The sauce was on the tangy side with small chunks of garlic and very fresh tasting. Can say was a bit over my food truck lunch budget but portions were large and was quite filling.

Marko the owner is a fantastic character and I'd almost want to return just to experience his friendly company.

Second visit yesterday, I was tempted in getting one of their signature lasagnas but went for an Italian Sausage Panini Sandwich ($7).

Comes with a side of fries or salad. Just a month ago I would've immediately gone for the fries but I'm a slightly newer guy now. So unfortunately it may also be a while until I try their Meatball Lollipops (batter-fried meatball on a stick!).

Great lunch again. The sausage was grilled nicely with a really great sear to it and was very flavorful on top. Between a fresh toasted Italian Roll and some marinara sauce, you really can't go wrong. I definitely enjoyed the the salad of mixed greens with the lightly sweet house vinaigrette dressing as well.

Fun and tasty truck. Next time the Lasagna (!) especially since Marie of Meandering Eats had tweeted about it. Turns out we were there the same hour!

Mangia Mangia Gourmet Italian Food Truck Website
Mangia Truck on Twitter

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Early Bird: Pho For Breakfast - Pho Hoa

Eating out speaking, it's been more a blah week and weekend so far. The highlight was me pretending to be in Hanoi and having Pho for breakfast in hopes of starting the day right.

Hours for Pho Hoa off El Cajon Blvd (not to be mistaken with Pho Hoa Linda Vista) is easy to remember. 7AM ~ 7PM, 7 days a week. All they serve is Pho here and some drinks so if you're having a fried Cha Gio craving (as I often do) or anything other, this wouldn't be the place. But as for a satisfying bowl of Pho Bo, Pho Hoa has managed to remain in my personal top favorites in San Diego. Pho Hoa's full menu here.

Cafe Da ($2.50), Espresso black iced coffee. It took a little convincing the server that I didn't want the version with sweet condensed milk.

For the Pho I chose No. 8 with rare steak, well done flank and tendon (Tai, Nam, Gan, $5.75).

Always piping hot, the broth is rather clear and the color also on the light side but surprisingly has a good amount of flavor (sure, MSG is used but I have no issue). This day was a tad on the salty side but otherwise the usual thumbs up from me.

A nice portion of fresh spritely vegetables. Also includes the sometimes elusive Ngo Gai / Culantro which I enjoy. Didn't ask for a plate of extra onions this time but did my usual side of Nuoc Beo to add some richness. I think it translates to "fatty water" and is basically rendered tallow that is skimmed from the top of the caldron along with some scallions. Yes, stuff that would make your doctor cringe, but what's new these days?

All the meats were tender and delicious, and I also think I like how they seem to be sliced thinner than other spots. Tendons were buttery soft. The regular size is definitely plenty for me and the way some (petite women even) devour the large always did baffle me.

A good meal. A good morning.

The weekend may be picking up after all.

Pho Hoa Restaurant, 4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego

I dropped by North Park Produce on the way back. The doors had just opened and were hardly any shoppers. Didn't buy anything but sharing some photos.

Below, photos from an older set back in 2009 taken with a different camera.

North Park Produce, 3551 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104