Sunday, December 19, 2010

San Diego

When we were going to San Diego all I could think of was sun and warm weather.  And then it hit me that San Diego is the home of the fish taco - and I looooooooove fish tacos.  Give me fish tacos grilled, fried, whatever.  I love them all.  And one of my friends who used to live in San Diego gave me a recommendation for a restaurant that she claimed served the best fish tacos in the city called South Beach Bar and Grille.  That was the one non-negotiable thing for me on this trip.  I didn't care what else we did, so long as we hit that restaurant for some fish tacos.  So our first full day in the city, we went for dinner.  And wow.  They were delicious.  Perfectly fried - not at all greasy, and very flavorful.  And during happy hour from 3-6 pm, the baja fish tacos (pictured above - I know it is crazy over-exposed, but the restaurant was so dimly lit that I had to use my flash) and the grilled mahi mahi tacos were only $2.50.  Being from NYC I assumed that they would be absolutely tiny, but they were much larger than I expected.  So we over-ordered just a little bit...  We tried two baja tacos, two mahi tacos, and one wahoo taco, plus a ceviche cocktail.  If I were to go again, I would avoid the ceviche cocktail and stick with the tacos (particularly the baja and the wahoo) because they were delicious.  This was definitely my favorite meal of the trip.

More after the jump!

The next day we went to Old Town for lunch and had more Mexican food.  I had an excellent shrimp enchilada, but the fish tacos there just couldn't compete.  I should have known better than to eat fish tacos anywhere else and expect them not to absolutely pale in comparison.  Oh well.  While in San Clemente we also ate nice French food at a restaurant called Cafe Mimosa that had excellent duck confit and a really nice braised pork shoulder.  The sides and the escargot appetizer at Cafe Mimosa weren't particularly memorable, but those entrees were.

During our last full day in California we drove up to Westminster (a suburb of LA that has a very large Vietnamese population) to hit Little Saigon.  At the recommendation of the really friendly Vietnamese ladies who did our nails on Thursday night we visited a restaurant called Bun Bo Hue So 1 that served bun bo hue (a beef noodle soup from Hue).  We tried the bun bo hue (pictured above), the baby clam salad and the banh beo (steamed rice cakes topped with ground shrimp and pork) combination platter (pictured below).  The banana leaves on the combination platter contained some other form of steamed glutinous rice substance that I don't know the name of.  The banh beo are the little dishes of steamed rice "cake."  Anyway, the bun bo hue was interesting, but I prefer a nice bowl of pho.  This version of bun bo hue had pigs blood (the dark cubes at the bottom of the bowl pictured above), some cut of beef, pig knuckle and cha (a steamed pork sausage).  The broth was neither as spicy, nor as flavorful as I was hoping for.  You can tell by the color of the broth that it wasn't particularly spicy.  And while I liked the thicker, springier rice noodles, I thought that they didn't absorb the flavor of the broth as well as the thinner rice noodles in pho do.  Along with the bun bo hue they served a plate of banana blossoms (those thinly shaved purple things on top), bean sprouts, some form of Asian mint and limes.  I thought that the baby clam salad was very nice, and it was a lot brighter and fresher than versions I have had in the past due to the addition of various herbs, vermicelli noodles, scallions, and onions.  After lunch we picked up some banh mi at Banh Mi Che Cali, which served gigantic (each sandwich was about a foot long) and delicious banh mi for less than $3 per sandwich, and if you buy three you get one free, which meant that we got 4 sandwiches for less than $10.  It was awesome.

While it was wonderful to travel around San Diego and eat wonderful meals, I have to admit that it is nice to be back in NYC.  But if you're ever in the area, definitely go to South Beach Bar and Grille.  It's totally worth it.

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