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/

Sab-E-Lee

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

I’ve always wanted to try Sab-E-Lee having read many posts about the great quality of Thai food there. I think just mmm-yoso has about a million Sab-E-Lee posts, which all look verrry tempting.

After spending a month in Thailand a couple years ago its hard to be overjoyed with the insipid vaguely ketchup-y Pad Thai stuff that is passed off as Thai food in many places. It is also hard to will myself to drive to Linda Vista but getting a half day off work helped with that 🙂

So I stopped by the Sab-E-Lee on Ulric Rd and got some Pork Nahm Tok and their Papaya Salad to go. They have a Yum-Woon Sen salad with shrimp and ground pork on glass noodles as well as a Nam Sod Salad that sounded more interesting than the papaya salad but according to them their papaya salad is “VERY POPULAR!!!” and the use of not one or two but THREE exclamation marks won me over.

The location is verrrry small and despite them obviously being successful enough to open a second location this place is tiny and very bare bones. Don’t come here with a large group expecting to be seated right away. Or at all depending how large. The waitresses were friendly and the place was half full for lunch. I was happy to see the many kinds of chili you can top your meal with set out at the table just like we saw everywhere in Thailand.

Now for the food. The pork nahm tok was very flavorful, the pork was thinly sliced and topped with lots of cilantro, red onion, and rice powder. Could have been a little more charred but the abundance of spices and herbs guarantees its anything but bland. The nahm tok comes with cabbage and cucumbers for you to make little cabbage tacos with the pork.

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Cucumber + Cabbage

Cucumber + Cabbage

The papaya salad comes with green papaya, dried shrimps, sliced chiles, tomatoes, green onions, peanuts and has a very strong dressing. I personally liked it but I think people who have more reservations about fish sauce might be discouraged.

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Now the only downside: I read that their spicy levels are more legit than most Thai restaurants where a 10 is generally pretty unimpressive. So I was conservative and ordered a 4 (I would normally go with a 6). But even so the spiciness level was wayyy too high for me. For the papaya salad there are slices of Thai chili and biting into one of those larger pieces made my eyes water. I generally avoided them after that but for the nahm tok the sauce itself was pretty spicy so there was not much to do. I ate I think half of both and then just kind of drank copious amounts of water for a prolonged period of time….

I will readily admit that my spicy tolerance is kind of mediocre though as I did not grow up eating spicy food so perhaps take this with a grain of salt. I do however love hot sauce on my breakfast burritos, jalapenos in my sandwiches and have sriracha in my fridge at all times so I have somewhat been indoctrinated into San Diego’s spicy loving ways.

Pork Nahm Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

Overall despite the out-of-my-league spiciness I quite liked the food. Will be back to try the Pad See Ew and the Pork Neck Nahm Tok! Will also probably order a level 2 (the shame).

Sab-E-Lee

Two locations:
2405 Ulric Street, San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 650-6868

13223-2 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
(858) 780-0022

http://originalsab-e-lee.webs.com/

Greek Fattoush Salad & The Best Healthy Tzatziki Sauce

Salads get a bad rep as a main course because oftentimes what we picture as a stereotypical salad are just the saddest little leaves of iceberg lettuce with some grainy tomatoes, limp cucumber and dry shreds of carrots strewn over top. When people say they don’t like salads though I believe they just haven’t found the salad for them yet. There’s a salad out there you’ll like.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

From Thai som tam papaya salad with peanuts and shrimp to warm spinach salads with bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg. Jean George’s carrot and avocado salad is a must order at his restaurant ((or must make at home) and the pomegranate seeds on Joy the Baker’s apple and brussel sprouts salad really make the whole dish.

Anyways. Lately my favorite salads have been more Mediterranean leaning. I love fattoush salad which is a Lebanese salad that normally has lettuce (or purslane), cucumber, tomatoes, mint, radish, pita chips and a tangy dressing made of lime, garlic, olive oil and sumac. It sounds terribly simple but its quite addicting, plus a perfect complement to fatty, charred gyros. Another classic I think most people are familiar with is greek salad which has tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, feta, red onions and a dressing of red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

So my clever idea that mostly arose out of coincidentally having most of these ingredients at home was to combine both these salads. Unfortunately I did not have sumac lying around so I omitted it but I highly recommend it if you can find it. It’s a reddish tangy spice that really adds a lot to the dressing and almost vaguely tastes like cranberries.

Lastly I added some simply cooked shrimp to the salad and made some amazing tzatziki sauce to go with this salad (and so that I could I dip extra pita chips in). This is an amazing tzatziki sauce recipe that’s pretty healthy to boot.

Chopping Away

Chopping Away

Chopped

Chopped

Chopped x2

Chopped x2

INGREDIENTS:

Serves 2 as a meal and 4 as a side.

1 pound of Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
2 tomatoes
1 cup chopped romaine
1 cup of fresh mint leaves
1 cup of plain salted pita chips (add more if you like)
1/3 cup of kalamata olives
2-3 ounces of good feta (the one packed in olive oil is my favorite)
Juice of 2 limes (or lemons)
4 teaspoons of ground sumac
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix the lime juice, sumac, oregano, red wine vinegar, minced garlic cloves and olive oil into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until incorporated and set aside.
2. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to a bowl.
3. Add in romaine, mint leaves, pita chips, and kalamata olives.
4. Add dressing and toss everything together.
5. Crumble the feta over top.
6. It’s ready! I would add a protein to make this a meal or serve as a side.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Now for the tzatziki. I love having a creamy side to have with the tangy salad but this tzatziki is great for serving alongside kebabs, pita chips, lemon shrimp skewers, you name it. It is especially good as part of a meal when you dollop it over rice.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fat free greek yogurt (strained if you want it thicker, I used Trader Joe’s brand but I like Oikos too)
1 cup fat free sour cream
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 cucumber (any kind) peeled, seeded and diced into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together.
2. Add in all the ingredients except for the lemon and whisk together.
3. Add the juice of the lemon, adjusting for how tart you want it. Combine.
4. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over top before serving.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

So yes. This is how I ate my huge salad. The good thing about this salad is that its quite substantial but because the dressing is fairly healthy you can eat a lot of until you’re quite full. When trying to be healthy its generally good to always control portion size but when you’re eating a big bowl of what mainly consists of cucumbers and tomatoes you can pretty much dismiss portion control and eat until you are pre-tty full. Provided you didn’t go too crazy with the pita chips.

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

This is the final product. I pretty much made this in a large salad serving bowl and then just kind of ate out of the bowl. Even after eating until my post-gym induced ravenous heart’s content I still have a good amount of salad left for the next day. The pita chips do get a tad soggy so if you have extra this is either an excuse for eating all the pita chips and adding more next time or for picking them out when you eat the salad later.

Close Up

Close Up

Buona Forchetta

I’ve been hearing about Buona Forchetta for a while and was really excited to try this place with its gorgeous golden pizza oven (look at the website!).

Sergio Pizza

Sergio Pizza

First driving into the Golden Hill / South Park area was great. I don’t frequent that area too often but its beautiful and I promised that I’ll start exploring it more. Its completely different from the other side of the Balboa Park along 6th Av., much less busy and so charming. But anyways, I digress.

Buona Forchetta Menu

Buona Forchetta Menu

The place has a rather small inside but a nice patio with heaters. Loved the vibe of the place. The menu was fairly simple: appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas (regular, white, fried), calzones and desserts. There was no happy hour but with glasses of sangria regularly priced at $4 and beer at $5  who needs happy hour anyways.

DRINKS: Even a better deal than the cups of sangria is a carafe of sangria. For $18 we got a carafe of fantastic white sangria. It was very crisp tasting although not very alcoholic. This was fine by me.

White Sangria

White Sangria

APPETIZER: To start off we ordered the Pizzelle, fried up little rounds of puffy pizza dough with marinara sauce and parmesan. You get three of these little babies and they are quite tasty. They’re very tomato-ey with all that sauce and the marinara is very fresh tasting.  I liked these but eat them fast as they get soggy and cold sitting under all that sauce for a while. Also since I prefer marinara that tastes more like fresh tomatoes instead of stuff thats been cooking for days I really liked the sauce on the pizzelle and on all their pizzas.

Pizzelle

Pizzelle

Probably because I felt guilty about my imminent consumption of vast amounts of cheese and dough I also ordered a salad, the Gamberi. It had shrimp, arugula, capers, artichokes and a lemon-y dressing. This salad is quite tart with the brininess from the capers and the lemon dressing, but it was tasty and refreshing. They also give you decent sized shrimp, I hate ordering something with shrimp and getting the tiny cheap crap shrimp. No such thing here.

Gamberi

Gamberi

ENTREE: We got three pizzas to share. As a note the pizzas are personal sized and cut into 4 pieces, however we were 4 people and got three and it was more than enough. The first was the Sophia with mozzarella, artichokes, mushrooms and prosciutto cotto. Prosciutto cotto is cooked prosciutto. It was torn into small piece and it was crispy at the edges, tasting more like the best crispy ham ever instead of silky prosciutto. This was my personal favorite. There was just enough cheese + the mushrooms and artichokes worked wonderfully with the prosciutto cotto to feel like you were eating a fantastic hearty pizza. I have to commend them on their crust too; thin but still chewy with the perfect amount of char. That fancy oven is doing you good Buona Forchetta.

Sophia pizza

Sophia

We also got the Sergio. This was mozzarella di bufala (fresh mozzarella made from buffalo milk), fresh prosciutto and arugula. For this pizza the arugula and the prosciutto are added after the pizza leaves the oven so the prosciutto was still that silky soft texture and the arugula was crisp. This was also delicious, my only wish was that there was more mozzarella di bufala, I think that would have made this my favorite pizza. It definitely feels less hearty than the Sophia because its not all hot melty everythingness but its a perfect hot weather pizza since the fresh prosciutto and arugula balance out the hot crust and cheese.

Sergio pizza

Sergio

Our last pizza was a pizza bianche, or white pizza. We ended up choosing the Isabella, with creme fraiche, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, onions and rosemary. Sadly this was my least favorite pizza but I normally prefer regular tomato based pizza over the white sauce versions. The sun dried tomatoes were a little too charred for me and the overall pizza felt dry, we all wished there had been more creme fraiche. They have very thinly sliced mostly raw red onions on the pizza too so if you love onions you will like this one.

Isabella pizza

Isabella

DESSERT: So for dessert we got the Millefoglie a flaky pastry that was filled with a sweetened mascarpone cream and fresh strawberries. There was also chocolate sauce drizzled on the plate. This was amazing. I wish there were more strawberries because getting the flaky pastry + cream + strawberries in one bite was heavenly. Sadly we were sharing this and it got devoured so fast I don’t even have any pictures of it 😦

Overall we all loved Buona and cannot wait to go back. The prices are very reasonable and you legitimately don’t see people doing really good Neapolitan style pizza in San Diego. Don’t get me wrong I love ALL kinds of pizza but especially kinds that are thin and light enough that I can consume three pieces without feeling excessively full and/or guilty. Looking at that menu I already know what I wanna order next time…and definitely not planning on sharing dessert again 😉

CHECK:
White Sangria $18
Pizzelle $5
Gamberi $10
Sofia $11
Sergio $13
Isabella $13
Millefoglie $6
TOTAL: $82.08

Buona Forchetta
3001 Beech St.
San Diego, CA 92102
http://www.buonaforchettasd.com/

Jayne’s Gastropub

Jayne’s came highly recommended from a friend and after leaving Polite Provisions we were hungry then what do you know…Jayne’s Gastropub was right there. On the corner of Adams and 30th. How convenient.

On the outside it looks like a simplified English pub. White building, dark green trim, and Jayne’s discreetly written on the front. Once you go inside its quite cozy with lots of dark wood. Its a smallish space with a smallish bar but the drinks sounded good and the place was packed, which is normally a good sign.

We wanted to sit at the bar and just order appetizers then bounce, we told the hostess this and she was quite gracious and said we could wait for a spot at the bar or sit at a table outside. We chose to sit outside and this was quite lucky because their outside patio is gorgeous.

Jayne's Gastropub Patio

Jayne’s Gastropub Patio

There are tall hedges surrounding the patio and then a tall wall with aged brick on one side. There are globe lights overhead and heaters to stay warm and the tables have white tableclothes and red roses. Its quite the charming place to have dinner and probably a perfect date spot.

White Linens and Red Roses at Jayne's

White linens and red roses at Jayne’s

APPETIZERS: We ordered two appetizers, the Gambas al Aljillo and the Calamari. The Gambas were shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce with sliced baguette bread. Though the shrimp were good, the sauce was somewhat lacking. The chilis and garlic didn’t have enough time to infuse in the oil, so the oil was relatively flavorless. It was a little pricey for 6 shrimp as well. The calamari on the other hand was great. It was served piping hot and had the perfect amount of breading. Sometimes you get too much cakey breading and its slipping off the calamari rings. Here it was crunchy but not greasy and you could tell it had just left the fryer. The calamari comes with cocktail sauce and aioli.

Gambas Al Aljillo

Gambas Al Aljillo

Calamari

Calamari

Overall, we thought the food could’ve been a tad cheaper but its hard to be upset when you’re dining in such a pleasant environment. Their menu also had some really great sounding dishes like their crostini with white bean puree and roasted peppers, the brick chicken and especially the gnocchi with cream, mushrooms, and chicken.

CHECK:
Calamari $10.50
Gambas al Aljillo $15.50
TOTAL: $38.88 (w/tax)

Their drinks sound good, their burger won best burger in SD at one point, and they have a $5 dollar happy hour plates special. Jayne’s: We will be back.

Another view of Jayne's patio

Another view of Jayne’s patio

Jayne’s Gastropub
4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
http://jaynesgastropub.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.

IMAG0452

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.

IMAG0453

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