Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Photo Sharing

All were taken today at Bristol Farms with my phone. Hope to have a proper post this weekend!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Random Ramblings - Better Late Than Never Edition

Hope everyone enjoyed the great weather. I was able to get out some but most of the day was spent doing house chores indoors. Was actually relaxing in its own way and I even managed to cobble together a post during the few many breaks I took. I apologize for the length, but if you're a regular reader you might be used to these by now... Another one of my Random Ramblings mostly of things pertaining to food. Sort of a better-late-than-never Memorial Day Weekend Edition.

First things first... Akkkk(!), I have to apologize for saying on last week's post that Mitsuwa's Anniversary Sale was only on until that Sunday. Would be that it was up again the following Fri/Sat/Sun (25th~27th). By chance was there earlier today and was surprised to see the crowd.

Bought a bowl at Utsuwa no Yakata inside that I was eyeing last. I liked its classy pattern and red lip, was also 20% off because of the sale. Purchased two for 8-bucks. Score, and can't wait to use it. Btw, they're now situated at a smaller nook opposite to where they were. I'm glad to know they just downsized and are sticking around. The original spot at the moment is unoccupied and I haven't heard anything who or what will take the space.

They had an awesome one-dollar Hosomaki (the thinner sushi roll) thing happening. Must've been around ten or more different fillings to choose from. I purchased four. One each of Kanpyo (a favorite sweet pickled Japanese Gourd), Tamago (Japanese omelet), Negi Toro (chopped fatty tuna belly with scallions), and spicy tuna. Wished I could've reported all this yesterday.

Was tempted to give Santouka's Shrimp Kimchi Ramen another round but was pressed on time and had to leave. I hope I didn't sound like an a** last. I am one of their biggest fans and their Asahikawa Tonkotsu here is a fairly fool proof experience day in day out. Can imagine it being tricky to come up with something new that suits their particular kitchen setup and price point. I seriously have to share my flavor change up condiments stash very soon (hint: Aonori is one of them and tops the list).

Visited Ramen Yakyudori a few times over the last six months or so. When there I always order their Tokyo Style brothy amber Shoyu Ramen so can only speak for that. Have been asking for a slab of butter to hedge my umami bets since they could be inconsistent with. This day was pretty good and could've done without as the soup was subtle but satisfying in flavor. Their pork Chashu is usually quite decent as well with (what I call) tectonic contrast of leaner with soft bands of fatty. The softer firm Hanjyuku flavored Aji-Tama egg's inconsistencies seem to also be long gone and are always perfectly done with the right amount of marinade flavor. As I mentioned on my UnderBelly post, I tend to prefer these than ones that are out right runny (especially if they seem to be unseasoned as they are at UB).

My most recent try was about a week ago and the experience unfortunately not exactly the same (Instagram photo below). The first dinner visit in a long time. Despite the similar looks, the Shoyu Ramen broth was much too light and the butter helped out to cope the blandness. Egg was still great. I didn't order extra Chashu because I'd be having a couple Yakitori skewers.

Next time I'm planning to keep a few sticks of these in my messenger bag and spike my bowl out of curiosity. Some Niboshi / Iriko Dashi. (Japanese stock made from dried baby sardines.) Of course can't beat the real stuff but one's gotta do what one's gotta do.

It's been working great in my bowls of Soba at home and should do the same trick to give that clear shoyu broth the edge it desperately needs (for my tastes). As much as I love the flavor of Niboshi stock though, it seems many Americans aren't too keen to it. In fact I was chatting with a random older Japanese lady at Nijiya not too long ago talking about Niboshi Vs. Iriko (which I later learned to be the same thing, the name only depending on which area of Japan you are in - Kanto vs. Kansai), but I remember her mentioning how her American husband can handle Katsuo bonito broth but never Niboshi.

Yakitori grilling starts at 5:30PM if I remember right. I forgot to take a pic of my Negima, but along with the Tsukune, they were the same as I remembered when Yakyudori was in Hillcrest. Good quality chicken flavors with an even char from clean burning binchotan. To me the slow realization that maybe RY in concept had always been a Yakitori-ya that happened to serve Ramen and not the other way around is bumming. I manage to stay in denial, but they do remain the better ramen option in SD (for the flavors they serve) and I'll take what I can get within relative practical driving distance. Just another friendly reminder though not to judge them to Santouka. Consomme with the likes of Cream of Broccoli maybe.

Still need to check out Gaijin Noodle House in downtown but speaking of variety of ramen, I dug up a photo of one from Daikokuya back in November last year. This was from their main Little Tokyo location. It's probably been well over four or five years since I was last (which was probably my first). I only had enough cash on me to have their basic bowl of Daikoku Ramen ($8.50). I was hungry and wanted to pair it with an order of their Japanese Gyozas but oh well.

Often mistakenly referred to as Hakata-style (a specific type of Tonkotsu), Daikokuya's is far from and actually serves an original broth that is technically a Tonkotsu-Shoyu. Mainly the laborsome pork bone tonkotsu, but with additional seasoning of house Shoyu Dare (or Soy Sauce elixir if you will). The blend pendulum still leans a majority toward creamy tonkotsu with only hints of shoyu - the mellowness helping to distinguish it further from say the more blunt mallet style Yokohama Ie-kei.

The white speckle floating on top is Seabura fatback (sometimes called back fat) since I ordered it "Kotteri" (extra rich). Under the opaqueness there's a whole Hanjyuku egg along with a couple slices of good flavored pork chashu and some chunky thick cut Menma (marinated bamboo shoot). The green onions aren't simply a garnish but becomes another key component to the flavor as you make headway into the bowl. Despite its brute looks, a fairly nuanced finish with decent resilient noodles to match. I've been curious to try their other locations as I could count the number of times I was in the area and passed because of the lines and wait time.

That day it seems I then dropped in Anzen Hardware a few doors down. They carry beautiful professional Japanese chef's knives here but it's always fun to have a looksy to see what other random things I can find.

This melon shaped rice mould was nostalgically cool but happened to be overpriced. You can often find them in 100-Yen (dollar) shops like Daiso. So ended up just browsing as I usually do but was a great way help my belly adjust to my lunch. Btw, I had a Thanksgiving dinner to attend a few hours later, haha!

Jumping to something I loosely call home cooking which I haven't done a lot this month. At least ones I wouldn't mind taking a photo of and sharing. Showing my Nth Spaghetti Naporitan. A Japonized pasta dish of pan/wok-fried spaghetti, flavored mainly with some ketchup and pad of butter. I think my best attempt at explaining is on the Gyoniku Sausage post, though the fish sausage part may throw some people further off.

Used something much more tasty here. Berkshire Arabiki Pork Wieners and Eringi mushrooms. Also Piiman bell peppers and onions. Simple is best when it comes to Naporitans though I admit going overboard with the quantity as it is definitely gudakusan (具だくさん) this day.
I've been wanting to share an article in an online magazine called Nipponia that goes over the Naporitan. First I'm glad they used the more hard pan-fried style for the cover shot, the version I prefer than the soggy type. There aren't many things I disagree with the writing and it's a great read. The Nipponia series seem to have ended in 2008 but back issues are linked here, and there are great foodie reads in each of them in the Bon Appetite! section. Check it out.

They happen to have one on Himono as well. A variety of sort of semi-preserved, semi-dried fish. I read conflicting articles of whether they are salted or not (I always thought they weren't and the salt flavor came naturally).

Shown is an Aji (Horse Mackerel), but I've had Sanma (Pacific Saury) in the past as well. The iconic butterflied version in Himono called Hiraki (so this is Aji Hiraki, or Aji no Hiraki). I've been taught you should always cook Himono flesh side down first but I'm just showing here. The sun drying and process of evaporating the fish's moisture naturally concentrates its umami properties. Classically seen in Japanese breakfasts maybe, but I've been finding its uses much more versatile than I had first thought. Been playing around with a rather rare version Wafu Pasta which I'll share eventually, and you can cook it together with rice and enjoy as a Takikomi Gohan, bones and all. (Haven't tried that yet.)

Above a lunch meal I had at Izakaya Sakura relatively recently. Nikomi Hamburg. A ゴロゴロ chunkier style simmered in a rich sweeter tomato sauce. As far as I can tell my last official "Lunching @" post here was in early 2011. You can find the most updated list of links of the dishes I tried there. (Should warn my writing may be choppy, especially on earlier posts. I'm too afraid to go back and read them in fact.)
Long overdue for an update but I just can't seem to find the time, or more, it just gets drowned with a wave of other higher posting priorities. Haven't heard on the progress of the new Japanese/Italian/Pasta restaurant they're opening in the same mall. By the looks it seems it may be taking a little longer. I have a few Japanese friends that are really looking forward to it including myself. I'm a fan of their meat sauce spaghetti (though I think may be a buck or two too pricey). Meaty and subtly sweet like how I grew up with. Their sea urchin pasta had always been popular amongst regulars as well, so I'm curious to see the menu that they'll be coming up with. Would be nice if they did a true thick Meat-Pesto-like Bolognese which is pretty much non-existent in Italian American places. (They can call it Bolognese, but it never ain't.)

Throwing in a Menchi Katsu Curry below that they were nice enough to make for me despite being off menu. Its coupling with miso soup and how well it goes with has always put a grin on my face.

I also recently had a fantastic Galbi lunch at Walmido. Price, quality and flavor were all unmatched with neighboring Convoy Tofu House and even Chon Ju Jip (my humble opinion, and I also haven't been back to CJJ in a while to fairly compare).

But man were these good. Thick cut, tender, only lightly sweet and with right amount of guilty fatty areas. What was almost equally great were their Banchan. I was almost full before the main came.

And I always loved their Gyeran Jimm. A note here that you most probably won't get the free Banchan unless you order something from their Korean menu. I also have another Hwe Dup Bap documented from here but I'm saving that for my next celebration of a week of salads. Yes, the Salabration.

Better end it here tonight as it's getting late. Had many more one off photos but I'll have to save them for another rambling session. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yolkalicious: A Belated BLAET (@ Mr. Peabody's Burgers & Ale)

I shared here my burger lunch meal at Mr. Peabody's almost a year ago. I actually had dropped in again a few weeks later where I ended up having a BLAET. Written a near finished draft and then somehow completely forgotten all about it until now. So the visit is old and my meal pretty random, but since no image of oozing egg yolks should ever go to waste, deciding to finally post today.

Yolkalicious - definition - makes them boys go loco... I've noticed is still up for grabs...(?) My interest in the word only lies shallowly as a new label tag though. From now on any of my drooling encounters pertaining to egg yolks shall deserve this convenient back reference shortcut. Yay.

Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato, with my hedonistic request for an over-easy Egg. I remember asking the super cool waitress to make sure to tell the cook I wanted it nice and runny just for added insurance. Yuuuuuuup.

Bacon was well rendered and crispy, avocado ripe, cool fresh lettuce and tomato between the same squishy griddle toasted sesame seeded buns. It was hard not to ask for the burger again, but this sandwich definitely wasn't too shabby. Wasn't much to complain about the onion rings either. Another successful lunch meal at Mr. Peabody's.

Mr. Peabody's Burgers & Ale, 6110 Friars Rd Ste 108, San Diego, CA 92108

Saturday, May 19, 2012

SD Santouka Limited Time Ebi Kimchi Ramen, Sam (The Cooking Guy) Makes Okonomiyaki And Other Saturday Ramblings

So I'm ridiculously behind on posts. Especially feel bad about not having shared yet the multiple outings I've had this year with Kirbie, Canine Cologne, Carol, and Cathy when I've had a great time and even received wonderful gifts. If any of you are reading, wanted to say thanks and that I will get to all of them eventually, I promise!

I do try my best to post in chronological order but since writing has never been my forte and I tend to up things I simply get done first (which usually are topics I don't need to do a lot of research on beforehand) tis the state I find I am in. Above a couple of Gin Tama figures I've purchased (currently available at Nijiya and Mitsuwa, haven't checked Marukai). I don't follow the series closely but I like how many of the characters seem to have addictions to certain foods.

As much as I love to get Hijikata's with bowl of giant Japanese Mayo mound over rice, the mysterious duck character Elizabeth slurping soba was a total win and I probably should stop while I feel I'm ahead. The first two that aren't pictured here were duds (and even duplicates damn it!).

Sharing other random topics like old times with pics mostly taken from my iPhone (helped a lot by Instagram). Got a friendly reminder from Sam (the Cooking Guy) on his Livecast about SD Mitsuwa's 19th Anni Sale. Will be on for another week so check them out if you can. I'm usually pretty good at following these but admit completely missing this one... Thanks Sam.

Our Cooking Guy then goes on to create a delicious looking Okonomiyaki on the show. A nice take with the use of Napa Cabbage which I never tried but sounded like a fantastic idea. There was a question about the meat but it's typically Bara Niku (thinly sliced fatty Pork Belly/Rib meat). Essentially bacon before it's made into bacon... so the substitution perfect and something I've actually done in the past. I'm glad they didn't skip the Aonori (aka, green laver) in the end. To me the dish (along with Takoyaki) isn't what it is without it. Great job Sam! (Also didn't miss the Fernet T-shirt, very cool.)

So took the suggestion and dropped by Mitsuwa today for lunch. Otafuku was there with their booth as they often are at most Mitsuwa Fairs. Otafuku is a company in Japan famous for their squeeze bottled Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki and Yakisoba sauces. And as seen on Sam's livecast they also make set Okonomiyaki packages as well. As much as I love to make it from scratch (as Kirk of Mmm-Yoso has done in the past), I admit relying on the powder version all the time. In fact I've just stocked up on Nijiya's organic brand that happened to be on sale a few weeks back.

Reminded me I've been wanting to share a budget conscious version with mostly cabbage nicknamed the "Economi-Yaki," haha. Mitsuwa also had a variety of Sushi Hand Rolls the day which the display looked really attractive and neat. I thought they should just sell these all the time. Purchased one of each of Natto (with Shiso) and a Negi Toro (minced fatty tuna belly with scallions). $1.50 each.

But as with most my visits to a Mitsuwa sale or fair, I was there to see if SD Santouka would be serving a limited time ramen. Was glad to find they were. A Tonkotsu Shrimp Kimchi Ramen (とんこつえびキムチらーめん).

Many of the limited time offerings seem to be ad hoc creations rather than true scratch made originals and only few I can honestly say I've been genuinely wooed by. The few exceptions early on that could be considered 'permanent menu worthy' were such as the Toromi Shoyu Ramen and Awase Aji Ramen. Their standard melty tender pork Toro-niku combo is probably the best bet when here (though admittedly a tad pricey), but I'm always nerdily curious to see what new things the folks at Santouka U.S. can come up with and it's been sort of a documentative habit on my part to try and preserve them as pictures.

I've been asking for extra oil ever since I've found them tend to serve a "healthier option" for us SD folks now and then. That's just my guess of course, but anyway all in all this bowl was a much better creation compared to the similar Kimchi Ramen served a while back at Torrance. The Kimchi used had a lot more flavor and the Namul bean sprout addition was a nice touch. The two larger medium sized shrimps were much more substantial than what was provided in the Hiyashi TanTan Men as well.

But as for nuance, complexity and kanseido (完成度) -- the feeling of when a product comes cohesively together as one, I felt the bowl fell quite short. The delicious Kimchi flavors seemed to simply float on top rather than be part of the experience of the entire bowl, and while all their offerings are always Asahikawa Tonkotsu based, with a name like that I expected a more noticeable shrimp umami present in the broth, or at least shrimp flavor infused oils (ebi abura) drizzled on top. Somehow incorporating their famous pork to play up the kimchi flavors along with shrimp (that was relatively unseasoned) would've been nice as well. It's probably hard to have a truly bad bowl at Santouka, but in the end was nothing I would write to loved ones about here either maybe. As always I look forward in sampling their next limited time creation, so I hope they keep 'em coming. :)

Over at Nijiya, there was a $1 produce sale outside. Not the organic that they've created a niche for but still everything looked great. Unfortunately I've been told will only last today. I know Canine Cologne and her daughter is a fan of Ramune so took this shot. The hot weather was certainly perfect for it!

Inside, some guilty delicious Curry Pan (curry filled fried bread) and a brand new Piroshiki (Pirozhki) offering. Nijiya's Piroshiki interpretation was a fried bread filled with tasty meat and onion filling, not too different than what is typically seen in steamed Nikuman. Can't vouch on authenticity but something I found pretty good as an evening snack nonetheless.

Too many others I could write about but will end it here tonight. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I ♥ Nashville - Ed's Fish (& Pizza) House

After my great experience with my first Hot Fish Sandwich at Eastside Fish I was pretty much ready to try another. Actually these regional sandwiches are a pretty good fill, not uncommonly seen with almost a pound's worth of large fillets protruding well past the sliced white bread. But as this particular ending day was all but spent bearing with the rituals of flight travel on an empty stomach, it wasn't long until I was readying my portable GPS to guide me to my next destination. Ed's Fish (& Pizza) House.

Ed's I definitely read about first on beloved (link to their review here). My drive there thinking I recognized some streets for a change, I pass by Mary's Old Fashioned Bar-B-Que moments before arriving. Open since 1972 and located right off bustling Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd, it's not hard to tell it's a fixture in the area.

Btw, I had put the "& Pizza" part of the name in parenthesis because they've stopped serving it a long while back. Now strictly a Hot Fish spot (though I think they also serve chicken), available plain or as a sandwich with also a few side options to be had as a plate. The latter sounded like a good idea to cap off the day before retiring for the night feeling spent.

The late afternoon when I arrived, the place was pretty quiet. An empty table with bible opened to the Book of Psalms. Seemed the people were busy tending a Drive-Thru patron at the time. Making my way to the counter I noticed some freshly made Chess Pie sold by the slice.

As I mentioned previously, Whiting would be the most ubiquitous when speaking of Nashville HFS, but went again with Catfish. Asked for coleslaw and sweet spaghetti as sides. I felt I was semi-warned (or maybe just informed) about the spaghetti but I knew what I was asking for reading the article. More on that later.

Regional preferences in food and taste aside, it's not too hard to wonder why some don't spread beyond local boundaries. While there certainly are many factors, as for Hot Fish I feel people in So. Cal. simply wouldn't have the patience to wait the fifteen to twenty minutes required, at least for a proper one anyway. This is true for most things, but unfortunate because it's definitely a rewarding meal for the people that aren't always in such a hurry. I further kill some time making chitchat with the owner (Ed?) and basic "checking the place out" tactics. Especially being my first visit, there are near endless visual entertainment and things more or less fly by. By the time my meal came I was sitting next to two other regulars.

The spaghetti as Michael Stern puts it best is "anti-trendy." Well past al dente and also fairly sweet to boot. But at least for me I felt if you can get past the texture, the scratch made taste and some flavors of bell peppers make it enjoyable. The coleslaw is even sweeter. Perhaps both not for someone who hasn't grown up with, but definitely a curious study and glad I had tried.

The Hot Fish Sandwich is what I've come for of course and it is a beauty. Toothpicked together it is also hefty. At Eastside was two larger fillets, here was four or so medium sized.

The bread obviously off shelf but super fresh and soft as a baby's butt. As a prerequisite the fish is indeed piping hot (and damn good). While tartar sauce is available around the back for anyone, the classic combination of yellow mustard, pickles, raw onions and hot sauce along with the crispy cracker meal mix coating of the fish is surprisingly harmonious and almost magical. I'm now officially a fan.

Ed's Fish & Pizza House, 1801 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208