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/

Little Italy Farmer’s Market – San Diego

If you have never been to some of the great farmer’s markets in San Diego you are missing out on some great produce and tasty food. Two of my favorites are the Little Italy Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s and the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on Sunday. The Little Italy one is more geared towards produce and buying ingredients whereas the Hillcrest one is better for grabbing a bite, with anything from Russian pierogi to Brazilian empanadas or Jamaican jerk chicken. Hillcrest Farmer’s Market pictures on a next post but here are some pictures from the Little Italy Farmer’s Market.

Little Italy Farmer's Market

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

The main thing you have naturally is a lot of produce for sale. Unless you are super pressed for time I recommend you browsing through the entire market first before buying any produce. Prices vary a lot as well as how nice the produce looks. We bought a bunch of carrots from one vendor and four stalls down they had a prettier bunch for half the price. Also note that although you are at a farmer’s market not everything is necessarily organic and local, many stands have signs saying they are or are not and you can always inquire the vendor if that is what you are after.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Squash

Squash

Carrots

Carrots

Most of the vendors also offer tasters so you can try some of the produce before you buy it, its always nice to try all the different kinds of apples, a new kind of avocado or some fruit you’ve never had before. Farmer’s markets are also pretty much the only place in the universe you can get a perfectly ripe avocado to use the very day you purchased. This is nothing short of magical in my book.

The Cravory

These guys are almost at every farmer’s market in SD, including the Little Italy, Hillcrest and La Jolla ones. They offer a rotating wide variety of cookies. These are a little pricey at $2.00 each but they are soft, plump, chewy mounds of cookie that never disappoint. You can try any/as many of the flavors before buying as well. I personally love the Lemon Bar cookie as well as the Almond Joyous. They always have some nice seasonal flavors too, in this case they had some great holiday flavors like Peppermint Schnapps and Caramel Eggnog.

The Cravory

The Cravory

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie is also at most of the farmer’s markets and they offer a wide variety of yummy bread. If you are not sure what to buy definitely just ask them for recommendations and based on what you like you can try something new that might appeal to you as well. This time we got some great focaccia and the tasty dark chocolate thing you see in the last picture. It was brioche dough rolled with large chunks of melted dark chocolate and that thing was gone in a day. Rich and chocolate but not overly sweet I cannot wait to buy it again. We also got a brioche like chocolate bread studded with cherries and dark chocolate chunks. Due to the shape we thought it was panettone so we were a little disappointed with the brioche bread which is drier than a panettone but it made the best chocolate bread pudding in the world. Oh and the Fig & Anise bread is lovely too.

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie


Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Saranya

Saranya sells fantastic Thai food and the stand has done so well that they have even opened a real brick and mortar restaurant! Their curries are really good and they also sell the curry sauces frozen so you can make your own with whatever meat/veggies you want at home. I always, always stop here and get an order of the coconut pancakes. These are small little pancakes made out of coconut milk and rice flour, they are chewy, slightly sweet, very coconut-y and cost I think $1.60 for 4 pancakes. No pictures because we ate them in 2 seconds. Saranya also has the best sticky rice with mango in the world. Or at least that I have tried. Better than anything I’ve had in Thailand even…

Saranya Stick Rice with Mango

Saranya Sticky Rice with Mango

Their rice is perfectly cooked and they drizzle a sweetened coconut milk on it. Every time I’ve gotten it the mangos are also ridiculously and perfectly ripe. Ask for extra coconut milk on top and you are golden. SO SO GOOD.

And to finish I have to post of a picture of this little guy that was hanging out at the Little Italy Farmer’s Market the week before Christmas:

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

W. Date & India Streets
Saturday – 8am to 2pm

http://www.littleitalysd.com/mercato/

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack is, as the name hints, an inconspicuous little shack in North Park on University Av. that serves a delightfully pork-centric menu. You order at the window on the front and then walk towards the back where you’ll be surprised to find a nice spacious shady patio with an herb garden and another shack towards the back that pours cool draft beer. How handy.

Rib Eye Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

The food is inexpensive and portions are generous. Yet they use high quality all local ingredients and have inventive if sometimes over the top dishes. Not that that’s a bad thing. Its a casual but pleasant atmosphere and despite the uncharacteristically high temperatures and humidity that has been plaguing San Diego lately it was a nice spot to linger at with friends – especially in the evening when it cooled down a little.

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack

Anyways onto the food. Some of their dishes change daily and they’re really good about updating their menu on their website but we ordered dishes that were all staples. You can order their Carnitas in either taco or torta form. The taco form is topped with guacamole and tomatoes on a tortilla and the torta form has guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on a roll. I chose taco. Seeing as you only got 2 tacos I was concerned I would still be hungry. This was a completely unnecessary concern because they PILE ON the meat and I could barely finish my plate.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

The carnitas are pretty good but not as amaaazing as I expected. Still really good though. I was hoping for more crispy bits but then again that might be a personal preference. There was a lot of meat and not a lot of just bits of fat which is nice because it sucks when you realize that half your carnitas portion is just blubber. And as always the combination of carnitas + guacamole + tomatoes + greasy tortillas (from the carnitas of course) is always a winner.

The entrees all comes with the corn salad you see in the picture. Its corn tossed in a spiced mayo with some herbs. Its cool and creamy and really tasty and goes well with the fatty meats that seem to populate most of their dishes. Yum.

Another popular item is their Snack Shack Steak Sandwich. This is reminiscent of Board & Brew’s Baja Beef which we boldly declared the best sandwich in SD here. Its sliced rib eye steak, pepper jack cheese, pickled serranos, chipotle mayo and tomatoes on jalapeno bread. And its glorious. Its steak-y and creamy and spicy and super messy but really satisfying. If you’re not super into pork and come here this is the way to go.

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Lastly we also ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sand which is a pork loin schnitzel + pulled pork + bacon + pepperoncini-pickle relish + shack aioli sandwich. Pretty much pork every which way. Now sadly I did not get to try this but it was decided that this was superior to the Snack Shack Steak Sandwich which surprised me because that had been my favorite.

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Dammit I should have tried it.

Oh and we got the fries too. They have bacon salt on them and come with a salsa like condiment that might be an attempt at homemade ketchup. These were pretty tasty and perfectly fried, reminiscent of McDonald’s fries – which is a very high compliment for any attempt at fries by the way. And for only $2.50 well worth it.

Fries

Fries

They have a very decent beer selection too. I went with the Cherry Cider which was crisp tart and not too sweet. Very nice.

Cherry Cider

Cherry Cider

For dessert I got the Banana Split Truffles. You get 2 super chocolate-y ganache truffles covered in dark chocolate and then drizzled with white chocolate, salty peanuts and banana chips. Really tasty. Sadly no pictures because they disappeared too fast. I wished there were more salty peanuts and banana chips to balance out the richness of the ganache but can’t complain too much.

Anyways. Great atmosphere and great food. The only mild annoyance is that on hot days you have flies around because they’re trying to hang out with you on the shade. They light candles that are supposed to keep them away but I would recommend sitting underneath the fans so they stay away definitively. Can’t wait to be back here and try the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich!

CHECK:
Snack Shack Steak Sandwich $9
Triple Threat Pork Sandwich $9
Carnitas $7
Fries $2.50
TOTAL: $29.70 (w/ tax)

P.S. Can’t remember how much the Cherry Cider was so left that off. Sorry kiddos.

Carnitas Snack Shack

2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 294-7675

http://carnitassnackshack.com

Related links:

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/