Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi is in Banker’s Hill and from the outside it’s an unassuming little house but when you walk in the inside is surprisingly nice. The decor is simple but trendy-ish with accent lighting and they project movies on one of the walls, then past a narrow corridor they actually have a large covered patio area. Oh and the sushi ain’t bad either.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi

While I love pricier sushi options like Hane Sushi (a couple blocks up the street, see a review on it here) and Sushi Ota in PB sometimes you just want yummy sushi that’s affordable. But not too affordable like the gross discount stuff filled with cream cheese they peddle at so-so places like PB Sushi or god-awful places like Yakimono’s by the Vons in UTC/La Jolla. It’s closed now but has anyone ever been there? Every underage UCSD student used to go there because they did not card at all but the sushi was SO BAD.

Anyways Azuki has turned into our go-to stop; really good sushi at good prices and great happy hour specials. They have really good traditional nigiri and sashimi as well as creative entrees and super creative (and delicious) rolls.

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Menu

Azuki Daily Specials

Normally we come for happy hour because they have great deals on sake and beer as well as appetizers like the huge super-garlicky Garlic Edamame for $3 and their amazing Tuna Tataki with ponzu and jalapeño for $6 dollas. However this would be a great Valentine’s Day stop (HAPPY VALENTINE’S CHILDREN) because sushi in general is a much better idea than overpriced red wine, steak and chocolate lava cake dinners. We did that last year for Valentine’s and afterwards you feel like a beached whale and you just want to lie comatose on the couch and watch Netflix…which is perfectly fine every other day of our lives but perhaps not the best way to spend Valentine’s. Sushi on the other hand is sufficiently fancy and very delicious but also light and you feel great afterwards. Sprightly even.

APPETIZER: To start with we got their Root Vegetable Fries. These are super thinly cut super crispy strips of carrot, green beans, zucchini, and potatoes that are tempura-fried and served with a creamy aioli.

Root Vegetable Fries

Root Vegetable Fries

Of course we finished all the aioli before I remembered to take a picture. Yum emulsified oil and egg.

ENTREES: We’ve tried so many of their rolls and they are all awesome but a favorite is the By the Border Roll which has spicy tuna and avocado inside and seared albacore, sliced jalapeño, signature ponzu and spicy aioli on the outside.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

The avocado, ponzu and jalapeño are a great way to add flavor to the tuna so that it’s a good roll for sushi neophytes who are not yet crazy about raw fish. At the same time you get a very decent serving of tuna and albacore and their fat little dot of spicy aioli makes it the perfect amount so its not one of those rolls that is swimming in mayo.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

Me on the other hand, am all about the raw fish, no accoutrements necessary. I went with the Adventurous Nigiri course that comes with (from back to front, might have some mistakes): chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), saba (mackarel), sake (salmon), kanpachi (amberjack), ebi (black tiger shrimp), hamachi (yellowtail) and snow crab. The snow crab actually should have been uni but I hate uni so I asked to sub in ankimo (monkfish liver, tastes like foie gras, is awesome) but they said they couldn’t substitute that in so I left it up to the chef. I got fresh snow crab and I was pretty happy with that because it was delicious.

Adventurous Nigiri

Adventurous Nigiri

This was amazing and I love the way they do their nigiri here with only a small amount of rice and a nice huge slice of fish that drapes over both ends of the rice. I’m constantly picking out rice from rolls that have too much rice but this is never necessary here.

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Overall it was a great dinner, as always at Azuki (alliteration). The only disappointment was that on OpenTable I mentioned it was our anniversary dinner so I was hoping for a free dessert but no one read the notes or asked if there was an occasion so no dessert for us. Our waitress misheard me when I ordered the Adventurous Nigiri and thought I ordered the Adventurous Sashimi and that was brought out then had to be sent back so I felt bad being all ‘hey its an arbitrary personal milestone for us give us a thing for free’. Nonetheless, can’t wait to be back.

CHECK:
– Root Vegetable Fries $6.95
– By the Border Roll $13.50
– Adventurous Nigiri $28.00
– TOTAL (w/ tax) $52.48

Azuki Sushi

2321 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
619.238.4760

http://www.azukisushi.com/

Pickled Red Onions

I have always strongly disliked raw red onions. Even though in small amounts they can be tasty and cooked they are delicious, nothing can ruin a salad or a burger like huge chunks of raw red onion. Maybe its just me, but that sharp taste will stay in my mouth all day no matter what I eat or how many times I brush my teeth. Ick.

But pickled red onions. Those are a whole other story.

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onions

Two essential things to make raw red onions more palatable are slicing them thinly and adding an acid. For this picked red onion recipe you do both. How handy.

Pickled Red Onions

Don’t judge my handwriting.

For some reason when I think of pickling I think of boiling jars and pickling salts and all kinds of other things that I don’t really want to pursue. But luckily you really only have to do those things if you want your pickled whatevers to last more than an year. With this simpler pickling method they should be good for 3 weeks, which is fine by me.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:
1 large red onion
1 1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
3 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick

1. Thinly slice the onion and set apart. If you have a mandolin this would be a great time to bring it out.
2. Set aside the onions in a small bowl.
3. Bring all the other ingredients to a boil.
4. Pour the boiling mixture over the onions in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight (or until completely cool).
5. Once its cool, transfer it to a jar and keep in the fridge. It will keep for three weeks.

Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions have even more tang and sweetness, they retain their crunch yet that sharp lingering taste is gone. Plus they turn a lovely pink color and look quite nice on everything.

Pickled Red Onions

It’s such an easy recipe and I’ve been adding them to everything. Made a stir fry with broccoli + cauliflower + kale with ginger and garlic then added the pickled onions on top. Also made a salad with arugula, roasted squash, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, and added the pickled onions to that too. Lastly, have not made this yet (am currently waiting on the good will of the avocado ripening on my counter)but plan to make carnitas tacos with guacamole and pickled red onions. That jar will be gone in no time 🙂

TIPS:
1. Feel free to customize the spices. Thyme, rosemary, jalapenos and lime would be great additions as well depending what you’re going for.
2. And the amount of sugar.
3. If you want your onions a bit softer you can throw them into the boiling vinegar mixture for 20 seconds before draining and letting it sit until cool.
4. If you don’t have white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or another more neutral tasting vinegar would work nicely.

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza Counter

Bronx Pizza Counter

Ok. This is not somewhere where you come on a date night and order a Pinot Noir then linger over dinner while picking between pizza with zucchini blossoms and fresh figs or mashed potatoes or whatever is trendy to throw on pizzas these days. This is somewhere to stop by and grab fast, fresh and delicious no-nonsense pizza with friends before hitting the bars or picking up a whole pizza to go when you’re to lazy to cook and you just want to eat yummy pizza  in front of the TV (it happens).

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza is located on Washington St. between 3rd and 4th in Hillcrest. The place looks rather small on the outside but there’s actually a lot of seating inside. When you walk up all the pizzas available by the slice are displayed. You walk in, tell them what you want, pay (cash only) and then go find a seat. It’s efficient, and if you see a long line fear not because they easily clear long lines and even though there were 5 people ahead of us we waited less than 5 minutes.

Pizzas

Pizzas

They have all the traditionals flavors – pepperoni, cheese, vegetarian, meat lover’s – and some more inventive options but nothing too crazy – pesto, white pizza (plain, with spinach or with mushrooms), tomato basil, pepperoni and peppers, artichoke pizza.

White Pizza with Spinach

White Pizza with Spinach

ENTREE: We ordered the Tomato-Basil (actually a white pizza with no sauce and fresh tomatoes and basil on top), the Pepperoni and Peppers (jalapeno and cherry to be exact) and the White Pizza with Mushrooms (mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms). We loved the pepperoni with peppers; it was spicy, salty and cheesy with the cherry peppers adding more dimension and taste to basic pepperoni with jalapenos. The white pizza with mushrooms was also excellent. They mix the ricotta with herbs so it has more flavor and white pizza pairs well with mushrooms. The mushrooms were also well-cooked instead of those paper-y dry things you get with a lot of chain pizzas. The tomato basil was nice but rather bland we will probably order the artichoke pizza next time instead. The crust wasn’t super thin but it was definitely New York style, we would have preferred a little more char and a little more chew but with the toppings it wasn’t bad at all.

Pepperoni and Peppers (left) and Tomato-Basil (right)

Pepperoni and Peppers (left) and Tomato-Basil (right)

White Pizza with Mushrooms

White Pizza with Mushrooms

Overall we really liked Bronx Pizza, its a no frills establishment serving good food and its cheap and fast. We will be returning for the pesto pizza and the arthichoke pizza (and for how fast it is!).

Bronx Pizza Window

Bronx Pizza Window

CHECK:
Pepperoni and Peppers $2.50
White Pizza with Mushrooms $2.50
Tomato-Basil $2.50
TOTAL: $8.10 (w/ tax)

Bronx Pizza
111 Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103
www.bronxpizza.com

Board & Brew

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The Famous Baja Beef

Board & Brew is a local family-owned sandwich shop that serves awesome fresh food and what might just be the best sandwich in San Diego . Their first and main spot is in Del Mar (this is the one we like to go to) but they also have locations in Carlsbad and San Clemente. We’ve been going to Board and Brew for years, usually about once a week, and we love the consistently great food and the awesome staff. We have also been bringing visiting friends and family here for years and more than one person has declared the Baja Beef their favorite sandwich EVER. I know, it’s a bold claim, but it isn’t a stretch.

The Baja Beef has marinated steak, grilled onions, jalapeños, mayo, and melted jack cheese on a toasted French baguette. The steak is juicy, tender, and full of intense flavor! The cheese and mayo add creaminess, the peppers add spice and the crisp, sweet grilled onions round everything off. Its not a super complicated sandwich, but it is as good as it gets. We’ll go ahead and say it, the Baja Beef is the best sandwich we’ve had in San Diego. It is Board n’ Brew’s best seller and the definition of pure happiness in a quick meal. We dare anyone to try it and say they weren’t blown away.

Baja Beef Close Up

Baja Beef Close Up

Look at it. How can you say no to that? (Unless of course you are a vegetarian or not fond of spicy food…if its the latter I recommend you get it with no jalapeños and you’ll be golden)

Although in our opinion the Baja Beef does reign supreme, Board & Brew has other tasty options like the the “Vegi” Supreme (vegetarian), their Turkado (turkey + avocado naturally), and lastly another favorite the Spicy Beef Dip.

Spicy Beef Dip

Spicy Beef Dip

The Spicy Beef Dip has roast beef, melted swiss cheese, thinly sliced red onions, mayo, dijon, jalapeños, and is served on a toasted baguette. Lastly like any dip its served with au jus on the side. The roast beef and cheese meld together so well, and the dijon and jalapenos add extra dimension and spiciness. Dipping the toasted bread in the super flavorful au jus ends it perfectly. If you are not a mustard/spicy fan you can always order the Beef Dip which does not have them.

Board n Brew Menu

Board n Brew Menu

Overall Board & Brew is a great casual sandwich stop when you want something satisfying (the sandwiches are huge) and affordable but are not willing to compromise on taste. There’s something for every one, and they have a decent selection of beer to boot. On weekends it can get pretty crowded so we recommend calling or texting in ahead to order and avoid the line. When you next get the chance, do yourself a favor and cruise on down the coast for nice scenery and an epic meal.

CHECK:
Baja Beef $6.95
Spicy Beef Dip $6.95
Chips $1.50
TOTAL: $15.40 (w/ tax)

Board & Brew

1212 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014

201 Oak Avenue
Coastal Carlsbad, CA 92008

979 Avenida Pico, Unit C
San Clemente, CA 92673

http://www.boardandbrew.com/

El Camino

El Camino Exterior

El Camino Exterior

One of our fun, funky spots that we like to visit somewhat regularly is El Camino, located in Little Italy. Inside, the atmosphere is quite unique with almost a Santa Muerte theme. It’s dark, trendy, has awesome decorations, and offers some great food and beverages.

Stop Light of Salsa

Stop Light of Salsa

Almost immediately upon arrival, your table is provided with some of El Camino’s warm tortilla chips and their signature “stop light” of salsa. All three are fantastic and it’s always hard to choose a favorite. The red and green salsas are relatively traditional Mexican salsas, but the yellow is something I see at few other places. It’s a creamy perhaps chipotle mayo salsa that is out of this world. We highly recommend mixing and matching all of them, as evidenced by our picture.

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Shrimp Veracruz

For the main course, we got the Shrimp Veracruz and the Carne Asada Quesadilla. The shrimp veracruz comes with mexican saltine crackers, fried thick tortillas, lime and diced up jalapenos. Its a goblet full of cocktail sauce/salsa with whole shrimp, avocado slices, diced cucumbers, tomatoes and onion. It was a little overly sweet and we wish it had been a little more salty or tangy. We added in all the jalapenos and it still wasnt spicy at all since the jalapenos don’t really have time to mix with the sauce. There were a good number of shrimp and overall it was refreshing and the avocado was a nice touch but as whole the sweetness made it a tad ketchup-y.

The carne asada quesadilla however, was everything you would wantt: tender, juicy chunks of steak surrounded by piping hot cheeses and garnished with sides of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa fresca. Dip it in the stop light of salsa and you’re in business. Not only is the quality excellent, but so is the quantity. Three quarters of it was enough for a dinner meal, while the rest was saved for a delicious snack.

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Carne Asada Quesadilla

CHECK:
Shrimp Veracruz $14
Carne Asada Quesadilla $12
TOTAL: $28 (w/tax)

All in all, make sure to pencil in a stop at El Camino next time you’re in Little Italy.

El Camino
2400 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
http://www.elcaminosd.com