Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dumpling Inn

Xiaolongbao!!!!!!!  It is so lovely.
You have many options of things to make your dipping sauce.
I like to use ALL of them.  Miko likes ONLY white vinegar...

...and just a bit of chili paste.  With exactly one shred of ginger.

I'm always so sad when they're all gone that I eat the cabbage from the plate.

Sea bass with black bean sauce.

The rice is fine.

We call these "crack greens" because we ALWAYS have to get them
Even though Miko says she hates vegetables.
Rating: Two thumbs up! 
Date: 12/23/12 
Time in: 5:40 PM (sat down at 6:30 PM)
Time out: 7:26 PM 

Servers' recommendations: Sea bass with black bean sauce. 
What we ordered: Sauteed greens, sea bass with black bean sauce, small pork buns (xialongbao)
Number in our party: 2 

Final check amount: $31.61
  • It's a teeny-weeny restaurant that's packed with tables.  They would probably hire more servers if there was extra room for staff to walk around, but there isn't any.  That means the servers are always insanely busy, so expect the service to be brusque.  They're not rude, but they won't fawn over you.
  • We had forgotten, but Dumpling Inn's xiaolongbao is CLEARLY the best when they are on top of their game.  If we were very hungry and it was a busy time, we'd lose patience and go to Red Moon, but if we really wanted xiaolongbao specifically, we'd wait in line for Dumpling Inn.  No other dumplings give us the same warm, cozy feeling that we get after we eat a plate of Dumpling Inn's xiaolongbao.  It's like the X factor is INSIDE each little bun.  "I could eat 3 orders of these without much problem," says Jenne.
  • We take great joy in mixing all the condiments together to make our own special sauces to fit our tastes.
  • The fish in the seabass dish is nice and fluffy.
  • All the vegetables in the dishes are bright colors -- nothing looks dingy and overcooked.
  • They changed the lighting from the awful fluorescent lights to hanging lamps!  It makes it cozier inside.
  • There's no restroom; you have to go next door to the Korean market.  It's a little bit gross back there.
  • You can bring your own beverage!  We recommend this, since the servers often forget to bring your water till very late in the meal.  Or not at all.
  • There's no music.  We liked that because we enjoy hearing cooking sounds.
  • We really like that they give you Starbursts with your check instead of lame-o mints.

Address: 4619 Convoy St, Ste F
Phone number: 858.268.9638
Accepts credit cards? Yes, $10 minimum
Parking: Shared lot that's not as bad as other plazas on Convoy.  Usually, there's a spot or two available.
Ideal group size: 
2-4 maximum.  If it's not a busy time, you could go on your own. 
Available vegetarian options: Sauteed greens, vegetarian dumplings, mapo tofu without pork

Who not to bring: People who don't like to wait
Noise level: 3.75

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jasmine Seafood Restaurant

Shrimp har gow

Chinese broccoli

Turnip cake cart--it was hard to get a good picture since it was right behind me, but we were charmed by the lady grilling the cakes right there in the aisle. Fun!

Turnip cake

Taro thing

Flaky pork thing

Shrimp noodle, yum.  The noodle part was more delicate
and less gloopy than others we've had.

Foreground, BBQ pork bun.  Background, egg custard bun.

"Soup" dumplings -- not very fresh, so no soup any more!


Sesame balls, still warm and so good!  Anna even liked them
despite having overdosed on them as a child --
 her mom worked at a Chinese restaurant and brought them home all the time. 

Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 12/15/12
Time in: 12 PM
Time out: 1:33 PM
Servers' recommendations: Chicken feet (we really pressed her for a recommendation and I (Jenne) wondered if she recommended that to freak us out on purpose!)
What we ordered: Dim sum
Number in our party: 5 (Laura, Kate, and Anna as guest judges)
Final check amount: $69.07
  • The restaurant is huge, loud, and festive.  It feels like you're at a wedding or a giant graduation party.
  • We broke our rule and did not order the chicken feet.  Jenne wanted to, but I have a horror of chicken feet.  Shudder.  They look like they're going to grab onto your shirt. 
  • The cart ladies were very nice and didn't mind us constantly asking what things were.
  • The shrimp har gow was simple, but tasty.  A good baseline starter.
  • The strong fishy flavor in the turnip cake was surprising, but most of us liked it once we got used to it. 
  • The greens were good, not overcooked.
  • The filling could be better for the BBQ bao.
  • The fried taro was lukewarm -- it would be much better hot.
  • The shrimp noodle was QUITE delicious.  Better than China Max's!
  • I thought that the meat filling in the potstickers should be pureed a bit more. It was a bit gristly.
  • Favorites:
    • Anna: Any steamed bun, potstickers, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Kate: Greens, sesame balls, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Jenne: Shrimp noodle, sesame balls
    • Laura: Shrimp noodle, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Miko: Shrimp noodle
  • If you want to experience the crazy but fun chaos of dim sum on carts, go to Jasmine!  If you'd like a more relaxed atmosphere where you can talk, go to China Max!  Just don't ever go to Emerald!
Address: 4609 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.268.0888
Accepts credit cards? Yes, but they take a maximum of only 2 cards per bill.
Parking: Crowded shared lot
Ideal group size: Any, as long as you're willing to wait
Noise level: 3.5

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chef Chin

Tee hee.
Wine chicken.
Pork noodle soup.
Meatball with cabbage.


Barnyardy pork belly.

Sesame rice ball dessert--Howie and I loved this,
but it reminded Miko too much of the cơm rượu
(which you may remember from Cali Baguette).
Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 12/8/12
Time in: 10:55 AM
Time out: 12:17 PM
Servers' recommendations:
What we ordered: Handmade dumplings, pork noodle soup with preserved cabbage, meatball with cabbage, wine-marinated chicken, pork belly dish that I didn't have a chance to write down the name of
Number in our party: 3 (Howie as a guest judge)
Final check amount: $68.09
  • It's cozy inside, like a Midwestern family restaurant.  They use lots of wood in their furnishings, and I expected black lacquer and fake marble.
  • When we walked in, the servers hastily removed the chopsticks from our table and replaced them with silverware.  WTF?  We have never been so speedily gaijined at a restaurant.  It would be interesting to see if their reaction is different if it's just Howie and me.  (For those who don't know us personally, Jenne is white, and Howie and I are Asian.)  Anyway, it was a bit off-putting.
  • The menu they first give you is for boring Americans.  Seriously, it's pretty much the same selection as a Panda Express. (Well, except for the Nude Party!)  You have to ask specifically for the Chinese brunch menu.  Howie suspects that there is at least one more level of secret menu. 
  • They did bring the chopsticks back once we ordered from the brunch menu.
  • I would come back for the pork noodle soup.  It was tasty!
  • The dumplings were delicious!  They were nice and simple -- the filling was satisfying and well-seasoned, and the wrapper wasn't chewy.
  • The pork belly dish was very tender, but it had a distinct barnyard taste that I didn't like.  Jenne thinks that flavor came from overcooking the meat. Howie really liked it, though, so maybe it's just us.
  • The wine-marinated chicken was surprisingly addicting.  I was a little taken aback by the boozey flavor in the first slice, but I kept reaching for more.
  • We turned to Howie, who is a greater authority on Chinese cuisine, for the final judgment.  He opines that Chef Chin is quite good -- much better than Chin's in Mira Mesa.  The pork with preserved cabbage was even better than Ba Ren's!
  • The tall lady (clearly a boss) was quite nice once we earned her respect with our order.  She packed up our leftovers and even gave serving suggestions for reheating and eating.
Address: 4433 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.499.8964
Accepts credit cards? Yes
Parking: Lot shared with Cali Baguette Express 
Ideal group size: 2-6
Noise level: 2

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Angels & Hearts: Harajuku Crêperie


They are not kidding at all with this sign.
Taro snow fluff with chocolate sauce.  The whipped cream was really good
Rating: Undecided
Date: 11/19/12
Time in: 8:40 PM
Time out: 9:34 PM 
Servers' recommendations: Taro snow fluff with chocolate sauce
What we ordered: Taro snow fluff with chocolate sauce
Number in our party: 2
  • We're coming to the conclusion that we're just not that crazy about snow fluff.  We tried the taro here, but it was watery, flavorless, and kind of boring.  We thought the Up2Yoü snow ice was better (but we would get the honey toast there anyway).
  • The girl was very nice and enthusiastic about her recommendations, but the chocolate sauce didn't seem to go all that well with the taro flavor.
  • We're going to hold off on deciding on our rating until we try the crepes. 


Whipped cream on the side, because Miko is CRAZY and doesn't like it.  WHO EVEN ARE YOU.

See how charming?

They certainly have an...aesthetic.

Rating: Two thumbs up!
Date: 11/19/12
Time in: 6:45 PM
Time out: 6:57 PM 
What we ordered: Banana nutella crepe
Number in our party: 2 
Final check amount: $5.48
Price per person: $2.74 each
  • It's kind of expensive for what it is, but the crepes are so good! They're fluffier than  crepes at other places, and it looks so cute, all rolled into a cone that looks like a flower bouquet.
  • They remind me (Jenne) of the crepes I used to get in Japan.  Nostalgia!
Address: 4646 Convoy St
Parking: Craziest parking lot on all of Convoy (and that's saying a lot), although Jenne seems to have good luck
Noise level: 3
Ideal group size: 1-3
Available vegetarian options: So many!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ristorante Kaz/Restaurant Kazu


Shrimp and crab croquette.
Salmon and spinach pasta with cream sauce.
Shishito pepper pasta with mushrooms and yuzu pepper.
Rating: Two thumbs up, gold star potential
Date: 11/4/12
Time in: 6:20 PM
Servers' recommendations: Salmon and spinach pasta with cream sauce; pasta with crab meat and creamy tomato sauce; cod roe, seaweed, and shiso pasta
What we ordered: Shrimp and crab croquette, salmon and spinach pasta with cream sauce, shishito pepper pasta with mushrooms and yuzu pepper
Number in our party: 2
Final check amount: $35.56
  • We realize that a Japanese-Italian restaurant sounds odd, but they really do know how to make their pasta. 
  • Are they going to follow their sister restaurant (Izakaya Sakura)'s example and not have a sign?  That's so ballsy!
  • The restaurant is very pleasant and cozy.  Ideal for nice dates.  The music is super-romantic.
  • The olive oil that they serve with the bread is good stuff.
  • The servers are enthusiastic, friendly, and competent -- we've come to expect less from a Japanese restaurant!
  • The croquettes are so yummy!  I was worried when I saw that they didn't come with a sauce on the side, but they didn't need one.
  • The pasta dishes are also delicious, and the flavor combinations are creative and unusual.  They're not greasy or heavy; the cream sauce is nice and light.  The spaghetti is cooked perfectly -- al dente, but not chewy.   
    Potato soup (left) and corn soup (right).

    Caesar salad.

    Caprese salad.

    Carbonara (with cream, why?)

    Tomato, garlic, and shrimp.
Rating: One thumb up, one sideways
Date: 11/17/12
What we ordered: Fixed lunches: carbonara + corn soup + caprese (Miko), garlic tomato sauce with shrimp + potato soup + Caesar salad
Number in our party: 2
  • We know that this place is going to end up with a gold star, but not for their lunch special.  They do pasta beautifully, and they are a perfect dinner restaurant.  It is lovely for an evening date, where you stare into each other's eyes over glasses of wine.  For lunch, I want something easier and less fussy.
  • I also just happened to order a dish that I didn't end up liking.  Jenne's garlic tomato sauce with shrimp was delicious!  Their carbonara, however, proved disappointing. Their salmon and spinach in cream sauce is so light that I could happily finish a plate of it every day of my life, but the carbonara was really heavy.  It reminded me of why I don't usually go out for Italian -- it sat in my stomach like a bag of wet cement, and I had eaten barely half.
  • Their salads are also kind of meh.  The tomatoes in the caprese were not ripe, and Jenne suspected that the croutons were from a bag.  Surprising in a restaurant that seems to focus so much on detail!
  • Also, we would really have liked a little dessert included in the fixed lunch.  Just a single piece of chocolate.  A tidbit of panna cotta.
  • They don't have x-factor, which makes a restaurant cozy and homey, but what Ristorante Kaz DOES give us is the feeling that we're on a romantic getaway.  It's a lovely place, and we'll be back again for dinner soon -- I've been eyeing the uni (which is one of my favorites at Izakaya Sakura, their sister restaurant) and the crab pasta.
Address: 3904 Convoy St, Ste 105 
Website: Whoa, these guys aren't even on Yelp yet.
Accepts credit cards? Yes
Parking: Shared lot with a good number of spaces
Ideal group size: 1-4
Available vegetarian options: Oil and pepper pasta, tomato and garlic pasta
Who not to bring: People on a budget, first dates
Noise level: 2

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Red Moon Noodle House


Milk tea.  I (Jenne) liked how it wasn't mixed up--I enjoy having a job to do.

Singapore noodles--guess what sold Miko on this dish?

Salt and pepper shrimp--again, not fried hot enough!  What is with the Convoy fryolators lately??  But the shrimp itself was good.

We don't really like Chinese-style rice anyway, but it was dry even so.
Rating: Two sideways thumbs
Date: 10/20/12
What we ordered: Milk tea, salt and pepper shrimp, Singapore noodles, rice
Number in our party: 2
Final check amount: About $12
  • I lost the scrap of paper that I wrote my Red Moon Noodle House notes on.  Fail.
  • Jenne and I both love curry-flavored Singapore noodles, and when I saw that there was an EGG on it, I couldn't resist.  I would've really liked the noodles if the seasoning wasn't still powdery on them -- it lingered on the tongue.
  • The lady who served us was very nice.


Singapore noodles again!  The egg was especially good this time.
We also had the champon (Japanese noodle soup) but I forgot to take a picture.
Xiaolongbao -- not on the menu!

Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 11/19/12
Time in: 8:40 PM
Time out: 9:34 PM
What we ordered: Singapore noodles, champon, xialongbao sample
Number in our party: 2
Final check amount: $18.09
  • This day, Jenne and I decided that we should meet in this plaza and have dinner in one of the restaurants there.  Despite the fact that we gave Red Moon sideways thumbs last time, we found ourselves skipping our RakiRaki revisit and coming here instead.
  • Thomas (the owner) is a super-nice guy who speaks Chinese, Japanese, and English fluently.  Impressive.  He was curious to know how we heard about Red Moon and amazed to hear that we were trying every restaurant on the street.  He immediately sat down to check out our blog on his phone, and he was fascinated by our project.  We are definitely not immune to flattery.  Thankfully, he didn't take our previous lukewarm reviews on Red Moon personally.  "As long as you're fair and honest, and you were," he said.  Which made us like him even more.  
  • The Singapore noodles were STELLAR this time.  There was no powdery seasoning residue, and the vegetables were crisp, but cooked through (which my mom tells me requires frying at very high temperatures.)  The shrimp in it was also cooked well -- not overdone and chewy, like it often is at other restaurants.  This dish is a great comfort food, and I've gone back for it several times.
  • We wanted more salt in the champon, and I wanted shichimi to add to it. 
  • We'd like a bigger assortment of condiments on the table; specifically, we request chili paste, sesame oil, and sriracha. Especially since they have a...
  • SECRET MENU ITEM: XIALONGBAO!  Sick of waiting in line at Dumpling Inn?  Red Moon is right across the street!  There are few good choices in San Diego if you want soup dumplings.  Dumpling Inn's xiaolongbao has a more refined flavor, but Red Moon's gives them a run for their money.  Plus, because Red Moon is careful to space out the individual dumplings in the steamer, they don't rip on you as easily.  After all, a torn xiaolongbao is pretty much ruined. 
    There's no line here, and the staff at Red Moon is miles friendlier! 
Address: 4646 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.576.7466
Accepts credit cards? Yes
Parking: Private lot shared with rest of plaza -- it can get a little crazy, but you can usually find a spot if you drive around a few times.  But the spaces are teeny.
Ideal group size: 1-4
Noise level: 1.5

Bonus secret menu item--daigaku-imo!!  These are candy-coated sweet potatoes and they are AMAZING.  Thomas says they can only make them when it's not busy so they aren't on the menu.