Saturday, April 27, 2013

San Diego, CA - Soltan Banoo; My friend suggested Persian this evening and I was so excited since I don't think I have ever tried it before. I, like many, commit the flaw of making assumptions, which in this case, I admit I did. I envisioned the standard middle eastern fare: falafel, kabobs, hummus, on and on. What I ordered, really was so much better.

It took me a little bit of time to decide because they have a large menu. I finally settled on Albaloo Polo Tofu; includes basmati rice with saffron and cinnamon, sour cherries, pistachios, with a curry yogurt sauce, shirazi salad. This dish is packed with flavor. The saffron and cinnamon come through in the rice with this nice delicate flavor. The cherries are far from dried, they are plump and re-hydrated to give you that sweetness in balance. The biggest star here is the curry yogurt. That packs a punch, not in heat, but in flavor. It is full bodied in curry, but yet somehow they made it to where I would bet even the non-curry lovers would love it. The curry flavor is there without a doubt, but it's toned down. I highly recommend not pouring it onto the dish, you would lose the flavors of each component. The yogurt will over power it. It's best to dip your fork in, then take some food with it. This way, you get the saffron and cinnamon, sweet cherries, then this subtle deep intense curry yogurt flavor. Wow, it's a winner.

The restaurant is in a nice cute neighborhood, where we sat on their patio to enjoy the warm evening.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

San Diego, CA - Rama; We started with Fresh Spring Roll with Tofu. The vegetables inside were nice and fresh, but it was a stand fresh spring roll, nothing fancy, no surprises.

The Papaya Salad is always nice to try since its not a ubiquitous item on menus. It had green beans, cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, Thai chili and garlic. What's nice about papaya salads is that people automatically expect it to be sweet because it's a salad primarily made of a fruit. However, it's nice to surprise people and especially when you see their, they get this look of, wait a minute, I wasn't expecting that at all.

The Pad Thai Tofu was a typical pad thai, it has their own flavor spectrum for their peanut sauce, but nothing out of the extreme ordinary. The key here is if you like the standard flavor of pad thai, then it's a good dish for you. It will have all the familiar flavors. It had rice noodles with egg, bean sprouts, tofu, onions, lime and peanuts.

Lastly, I tried the Kanaa Moo Krob, crispy pork belly, kai lan, and garlic. The pork belly is what attracted me. You say, pork belly, I say let's get it. Pork belly, let's get it. However, I wish I hadn't. It was over cooked and too chewy. It had so much potential. The sauce was good, but I don't just want to drink a dish, I want to enjoy the substance of it, which I couldn't. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad to where I would send it back or throw it away, it just wasn't a four or five star dish.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

San Diego, CA - Indigo Grill; Can I go every night here? Maybe I can fly in once a month to just come here and eat. Upon a friend's recommendation who lives in SD, and knows what kind of foodie I am, I have to try this place out. I'm so glad she told me about this place and that I tried it. Problem is now, I'll keep drooling about it when I look at the pictures again.

Our server was really nice and helped to explain the menu well to our whole group of newbies to the place. The one thing that he mentioned was, "Be advised, portions are big, I'm not joking." We all laughed and but knew what he meant when we received just our soups! My soup wasn't a cup, or a bowl, it was a bucket! Serious, my "cup" of soup, could have been my dinner, but like a champ, I'm going to finish it and get ready for my dinner fit for a giant.

The Tortilla Soup has corn salsa, creme fraiche & tortilla strips. The soup has a strong and bold corn salsa flavor. That bold flavor hits you, but the heat really hit as well. It was spicy, which I wasn't expecting. The creme fraiche did attempt to put out the fires a bit, which it did mildly. I mentioned to the server its heat intensity, so he mentioned after our comment, he went in the back and tried it and thought it was a spicier version than they usually make. Someone had a nice heavy hand tonight.

My wife tried the Good Things Growing that had just about everything except the kitchen sink on the plate: indian corn pudding, baked whole butternut squash with bourbon-pecan butter, caramelized plantain, prickly pear salad, honey roasted garlic, flatbread, and pipian tofu with mole negro. It's a whole lot of food and flavors going on. I only tried a few pieces, but not of everything. She, a vegetarian, loved the dish and how she left really full. She normally leaves a place feeling comfortable because it's not hardy enough. This was not the case. She was a happy camper after this spread.

The Jalapeno Cilantro Papardelle arrived, which had prawns, roasted pineapple, red bells, chile butter and rajas. It's easier to start with what I did not like since it was a minor factor. The puree design on the plate was beautiful and artistic, but it should not be on the plate if it does not serve as an enhancement to the flavor of the dish. The same thought for the garnish as well. Trying the puree alone, had almost zero flavor. Adding it to a bite of pasta or prawns, added nothing as well. Too bad, it could have been that extra component that elevates the dish. As for the pasta, prawns, pineapple, and plantain, yum yum yum. It was a nice marriage of comfort, heat, and sweetness, that I wish it was a magical bowl where it refilled itself.

Monday, April 01, 2013

San Diego, CA - Bolillo Tortas; There was an episode of Bizarre Foods where Andrew Zimmern tried a torta ahogada from a place south of downtown. This is not the place, but it inspired me to try an ahogada.

I started with the Corn on the Cob and Stuffed Jalapeno Bacon Wrap. The grilled corn on the cob with cheese is one of those street foods found in Mexico and other surrounding countries. If you we're to try this first, you probably wouldn't order it at any other place. It just wasn't good. It was cold and tasted old. It could tell that it had been cooked earlier and sat there. You didn't get any of the grilled flavor, none of that beautiful char that the grill adds. Its probably because it was boiled and not grilled. The jalapeƱo though was better. It was nicely paired with its saltiness to the stuffed creaminess and not spicy. It also was barely warm and could have been hotter.

Now what I came for was the Torta Ahogada: sourdough bolillo, carnitas, chile de Arnold sauce. The sauce is nicely prepared, nonspicy tomato base sauce. You can see in the picture the oil starting to bead on the surface. That makes it a little less attractive. The bread is hard but not stale and it demonstrates how it holds up against the sauce. The beef is tender, nicely shredded, just not enough on the sandwich.