Friday, April 27, 2012

Memorable Meals: San Diego Downtown Fish Joint

Downtown Fish Joint

It would be pretty hard, if not impossible, to top our birthday celebratory dinner at Nobu, but the San Diego Downtown Fish Joint comes pretty darn close. The next morning following our exquisite dinner at Nobu we were flying back home to Portland and didn't want to stray too far from the hotel. So with the help of a handy dandy iPhone app we discovered one of San Diego's little gems - the Downtown Fish Joint.

While packing up the last of our things and trying to assure nothing important was left behind in our hotel room, we cruised the internet for suggestions for one last fish taco. There were plenty of places not too far, but just far enough that we thought for a second we would be relegated to eating something more traditional before boarding our flight home. That is until we found on Yelp, detailed descriptions of a fish joint only 1 and half blocks away. The reviews spoke of inexpensive, delicious fish tacos and simple vinegary coleslaw, plus their doors opened early enough to leave us plenty of time to finish the bottle of wine we had left back in our hotel room.

We were the first people there that morning and placed an order for a fish taco platter and 1 grilled swordfish taco. We had a small issue with being the first to arrive that morning and us only having a $100 bill, so back to the RiteAid where we originally got the wine a couple nights before, a tin of altoids and some change and we were back on track.

The fish tacos were huge and beautifully crispy fried. The coleslaw was simple, vinegary and refreshing a perfect combo to the fish tacos. The two fish taco platter portions were huge and if that wasn't enough for a mere $7.00, it came with waffle fries! Seriously, waffle fries, we were in heaven!

Downtown Fish Joint Crispy Cod Taco 

Hands down our favorite fish taco was the grilled swordfish taco. Again, huge portion, more like a swordfish burrito once we wrapped it up and tried to take a bite. 

Grilled Sturgeon Taco 

Both tacos came dressed simply with shredded cabbage and a sprinkling of a tart runny sourcream sauce, fresh tomatos, some shredded cheddar, and cilantro. The flour tortillas were warm and spongy, not sure if they were made in-house, but they were definitely as good as the hand-made tortillas we got in Old Town a few days before.

San Diego's Downtown Fish Joint a total gem of a find and one of the memorable meals we had during our trip to Sunny San Diego!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Memorable Meal: Nobu Birthday Dinner

"The food at Nobu can be described in two ways - quite simply: heaven on earth and SEX on a plate." - Actor Kate Winslet.

We couldn't agree more with Kate's comments about the famous Japanese restaurant. Having a birthday celebratory dinner at Nobu was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to San Diego. We decided on indulging in the Omakase - Chef's Choice 9-course dinner. We requested two separate Omakase dinner selections, and besides the sushi course, which could not be changed, we tasted a total of 16 different dishes.
The Omakase went from mild in flavors/tastes to over-the-top party on your taste buds. We couldn't resist munching on a bowl of edamame before deciding on the Omakase.


And since it was a birthday and we were on vacation and we were thirsty we ordered signature cocktails. The Eva Sakura was a delicious reinvention of the traditional old fashioned cocktail made with 12-year Japanese whisky, Nobu Reserve Shochu, vermouth and Luxardo maraschino syrup. This got us thinking about all the possible ways to preserve those lovely cherries from last summer currently in the freezer. Whiskey soaked cherries anyone?

Japanese Old Fashion Cocktail

The first courses arrived served in enormous chilled bowls holding Kumamoto Oysters in Three Nobu Sauces and Hamachi Tartar with Caviar. Both dishes were so mild with the delicate sauces elevating the simple salty tastes of the seafood. The two bowls came adorned with a small Japanese mountain peach that doubled as plate decoration and a palate cleanser.

First Course - Oysters

Hamachi Tartar Second Course

The second course included sashimi. Fluke Sashimi with Dried Miso and Salmon New Style. Both came on a bed of gelatinous nori. Delicate, delicious and way sexy. The different toppings on the fishes elevated the dishes to a whole new level.

Second Course - Fluke Sashimi with Dried Miso
Second Course # 2 - Salmon New Style Sashimi

By the time the third courses arrived the sun had gone down and the restaurant had slowly turned their house lights super low for ambiance, so the following photos do no justice to the food. Our apologies. The third courses consisted of more fish, but this time lightly seared and served with salad greens rolled up in daikon sheets that resembled a sushi roll with a mustard miso dressing . Yellow Fin Tuna Tetaki with Karashi Su-Miso and Kampachi Tetaki with Karashi Su-Miso. Beautiful and delicious.

Third Course - Yellow Fin Tuna Tetaki with Karashi Su-Miso
Third Course# 2 - Kampachi Tetaki with Karashi Su-Miso

The fourth courses moved on to heavier flavors. Rock Shrimp Tempura in a Spicy Cream Sauce and Squid Pasta in a Light Garlic Sauce. The Rock Shrimp had a terrific snap to them contributed by the tempura and the fresh rock shrimp. The Squid Pasta looked like and tasted exactly like conchigle pasta, but it was squid! Served with shiitaki mushrooms and asparagus cut to the same length and size tossed in a garlic-togarashi butter sauce. These two courses were fantastic.

Course Four - Rock Shrimp Tempura in a Spicy Cream Sauce
Course Four # 2 - Squid Pasta in a Light Garlic Sauce

Now that our palates were ready for saltier foods, the fifth courses were the heaviest of the night. The next courses consisted of Wagyu Beef Toban Yaki which came sizzling with 2 kinds of mushrooms and asparagus and a Black Cod with Miso. Best description of both these dishes would be a furious ride thru four tastes. One second your mouth thinks its salty, sweet and bitter then quickly evolves into a well balanced savory deliciousness.

Course Five - Wagyu Beef Toban Yaki
Course Five # 2 - Black Cod with Miso

We were now bursting at the seams and wasn't sure if we could power through the remaining 3 courses! But we did our best. The sushi course came next. Our own personal sushi bowls with 5 pieces of nigiri and a egg custard type of tamago which was different from the typical rolled type of omelet. The squid nigiri was unlike anything we have seen before with heat curled marks on the squid. The perfectly formed rice bases highlighted the pieces of sushi beautifully.

Course Seven - Nigiri Sushi Set

We think the staff could tell we were struggling with the last courses so they quickly brought the eighth course which was delicious miso soup and a clam miso. Wonderfully warm and light, the perfect palate cleanser of the night.

Course Eight - Miso Clam Soup

And the ninth and final course was dessert. We got a chocolate lava cake with green tea sorbet served in a bento box and Anne got a very special dessert for her birthday - deconstructed s'mores. That is marshmallow ice cream, chocolate torte on a base of graham cracker and sesame brittle. Beautiful and so yummy.

Anne's Birthday Dessert

This whole meal could easily be a death bed meal. Something we could never... well, without much practice, time and money, be able to recreate ourselves. It was superb and memorable on so many levels. Nobu Matsuhisa is indeed a culinary genius!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daytripping: Coronado Island

After our tasty fish taco lunch we walked back to the bay's boardwalk and purchased tickets for the ferry to Coronado Island. We love leisurely ferry rides and the at water-level-views.

Downtown San Diego

Midway Battleship Museum From the Bay

Anne on the Ferry

We weren't traveling out to Coronado Island to spend some time at the beach, we were actually on the hunt for yes another fish taco. But as we strolled towards the beach we realized we'd rather keep strolling along Coronado's cute neighborhoods and forget about fish tacos for now.

Coronado Shops

We leisurely walked down a gorgeous street lined with beach cottages, overpriced homes and beautiful blooming trees and flowers.

Coronado Mission Style Homes

Coronado Colorful Flora

Mike with Sunny Birds of Paradise

At the end of the street was the gorgeous Coronado beach and grand Coronado Beach Hotel.

Corondo Beach

Beach Goers at Coronado

The Beach at Coronado

Coronado Lifeguard House

Coronado Beach's dunes

Coronado Beach Hotel

Even though San Diego is a major beach destination, we did not pack any swimwear or even flipflops for that matter. Instead we made our way to the Coronado Beach Club to enjoy an ice cold Stone Brewery beer and a view of the beach and lovely palm trees, people and fighter jet watch.

Mike Enjoying a Beer at Coronado Beach Club

Stone Brewery Beer

Coronado Beach Palm Trees
Fighrter Plane

We could have easily spent the rest of the day getting hammered by the sea, but we had dinner reservations so we walked back through the lovely beach neighborhood and enjoyed a lovely view of the city while waiting for the ferry. Coronado Island should be tops on your list of places to go in San Diego and definetly by ferry.

Dining With A View by Ferry Dock

San Diego Bay from Coronado Ferry Area

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Midway Morning

Midway Battleship Museum Park Area
We awoke to another sunny San Diego day, which made our plans to head down to walk along the bay that more exciting. We were headed off to see the Midway Battleship Museum.
A little bit of history is that the Midway Aircraft Carrier was the battleship which transported Anne's family out of Vietnam when Saigon fell in 1975. It has a deeply personal history to us, but we decided not the tour the massive ship. We didn't visit the now floating museum, we had other plans for the day and wasn't up for a possibly emotional stroll down memory lane (a memory Anne was too young to recall anyways). We took pictures of the massive ship, strolled along the bay area, checked out the memorial park and had an early lunch at the Fish Market Restaurant situated right next to the battleship.

Infront of the Midway Battleship Museum

The Fish Market next to the Midway Ship
We read the Fish Market Restaurant had a terrific view of the bay and one of the city's best fish tacos.

The Fish Market Restaurant

Fish Market Restaurant

Top Of the Market Restaurant

The Fish Market Fish Market
Since we were on vacation we started our meal with a terrific bloody mary and signature ginger cocktail. Were the baja-style fish tacos good? Of course! The light ono fish, the batter, the crunchy cabbage and fresh garnishes was a fantastic combo. But these weren't going to be our only fish taco. More. Fish. Tacos. To. Come.

Mike at the Fish Market Restaurant

Fish Market Fish Ono Fish Taco

Friday, April 20, 2012

Memorable Meals: National City's Filipino Food

We recently heard an economist's opinion to never eat in busy business centers of a city, due to high rents, competition and trendiness. These establishments have a tendency to be watered down. He stated restaurants that are hard to find, even for locals will be much better. We actually didn't hear about his opinions until after our return from San Diego, but while visiting we did find ourselves on the hunt for a little out-of-the-way Filipino food just two neighborhoods from the Mexican border in National City. Due to a big percentage of Filipinos being Catholic we called ahead to find out if restaurants would be open and what time the first lechon pig would be ready.

After a lovely day touring Balboa Park we decided some suckling pig was exactly what we needed and headed to National City. National City looked more like the Southern California we envisioned with wide boulevards littered with strip mall after strip mall surrounded by brown hills. We arrived at Porky's Lechon and Barbeque at 5:09pm to find the tiny restaurant closed. We even called that morning, but forgot to ask what time they closed. Not to worry National City had Filipino restaurants everywhere and on the way we had noticed what looked like an old Village Inn Restaurant building with a large sign saying "Villa Manilla - famous fried chicken". The strip mall parking lot was full, but the restaurant was fairly empty. We were unsure if we were making a good decision, but the waiter was so nice and we were already there so we sat down and decided we would make the best of the situation. The menu was foreign to us, which made it even more exciting. There was no suckling pig however, so we opted for their famous fried chicken and some sauteed pork belly.

The pork was palatable, dry and smokey, but nothing spectacular. The fried chicken on the other hand was delicious. Villa Manilla boasted their chicken was not battered and came with banana ketchup. The lack of batter actually made the skin the highlight, crispy, crunchy and flavorful. We quickly declared this fried chicken to be one of the best we've ever had. We may not have been successful getting some Filipino suckling lechon, but the fried chicken made us feel as if the evening wasn't a total bust.

Filipino Fried Chicken

Villa Manilla's Pork Belly

We took the quick bus ride back to the hotel and enjoyed a late night chocolate cake and old fashion cocktails, so all in all a nice end to a lovely Easter Sunday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Balboa Park Easter Part II

The Crowds Inside the Botanical Building
We knew we were taking a risk of big crowds in Balboa Park for Easter, but it was the only day we had to go so we braved it and it turned out to be a lovely day. Had we known the Prado Restaurant in the middle of the park was having a Easter Brunch Buffet we may have even joined the crowds for the impressive brunch.

Prado Restaurant Courtyard
We had a great afternoon wandering through the Spanish inspired buildings and courtyards. We especially enjoyed the unique vegetation in the park, many plants we would never find back home.

Lily Pond Infront of Botanical Building

Spanish Style Alcantar Garden

Alcantar Garden

The Performing Arts Tower

The Alcantar Garden

Tropical Plants and Spanish Architecture

Spanish Style Arched Walkway

Blooming Palm
The highlight of the park for us was the Botanical Building. The open structure held an impressive collection of palms, succulents and cactus. These colorful plants were exactly what we expected to see in the warm climate of San Diego.

Front of Botanical Building

Huge Trumpet Flowers

Botanical Building

Roof Inside the Botanical Building

Inside the Botanical Building

Blooming Cactus


Orchid Growing Out of Mossy Tree

Orchid Growing Out of Tree
The flora wasn't the only interesting things we saw, this little lizard was calmly sunning himelf, which gave us ideas of our own.

Sunning Lizard

Mike Soaking Up the Sun