Monday, August 27, 2012

Tea Garden

They have alloe Vera Plup.  We didn't try it.

This tea was very strange.  I think it's just not to my taste,
not anything wrong with it.

Popcorn chicken.  You can see it doesn't quite have
that golden brown-ness.  But still tasty!

Mmmm, sweet butter toast.  I wish I had
a giant mattress-sized one of these!

Sweet milk toast!  We highly recommend both.
Pro tip: the middle piece is always the best.
Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 8/27/12
Time in: 8:45 PM
Time out: 9:36 PM
Servers' recommendations: Popcorn chicken, sweet butter toast
What we ordered: Popcorn chicken, sweet butter toast, sweet milk toast, regular unsweetened iced milk tea
Number in our party: 3
Final check amount: $15.59
  • We liked the server at the counter.  (According to the receipt, her name was Claire.)   She was friendly, decisive about her recommendations, and honest when we asked her about menu items.
  • The tea Jenne got tasted like petting zoo.  Or barn.  Perhaps it would be better sweetened?  It just wasn't to our taste.
  • The popcorn chicken is similar to Tapioca Express's, but it's not fried quite as well -- like they used oil that wasn't hot enough.  VERY salty; we would prefer it a little spicy instead.  But it's still yummy!
  • I love condensed milk and fluffy Asian white bread, which means sweet milk toast is one of my favorite foods in all of creation. I mean, just LOOK at that photo.
  • That said, the sweet milk toast is pretty intense.  The sweet butter toast is excellent if you don't like tons and tons of sugar.
  • Tea Garden has a nice, super-relaxed atmosphere.  Tea Station (on Clairemont Mesa)has a similar menu, but the servers there always look harried and stressed. 
  • Tea Garden would be a great place to study, since they have both savory and sweet snacks.
Address: 4685 Convoy St, Ste 110
Phone number: 858.277.8988
Accepts credit cards? Yes
Parking: Weirdest tiny one-way lot in San Diego.
Ideal group size: Any
Available vegetarian options: Lots
Noise level: 2.5 (and the TV wasn't on!  Yay!)

Cali Baguette Express

First Visit:
This is called cơm rượu.  It looked so weird, we had to try it.
Miko thought it was truly disgusting, but I thought I could
eventually develop a taste for it if I really had to. 
Luckily, I don't have to.
We were a little bit charmed by the napkin flair.
Miko's cajun shrimp and egg sandwich.  It was DELICIOUS.
My "Dac Biet" -- not the best I've had, but tasty.
Note the contrasting straws to match the cup lids.  This man is an artist.
Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 8/27/12
Time in: 7:35 PM 
Time out: 8:27 PM
Servers' recommendations: #10 Cajun shrimp sandwich with egg
What we ordered: #1 Cali special sandwich and taro smoothie (Jenne), #2 Cajun shrimp & egg sandwich and green tea with boba (Miko), cơm rượu
Number in our party: 2
Final check amount: $16 and change
  • I wish I worked near Convoy!  I'd get sandwiches here all the time.  So cheap!  So good!
  • The restaurant definitely had x-factor.  That's rare for a chain.  But we really felt like the people who worked there cared about us and their food.  For example, the man at the counter came over to see how our food was.  Can you imagine that happening at a Subway?  Hell no.
  • Speaking of the man at the counter, he was so nice to everyone!  A girl practicing jiu jitsu next door came in to ask for water.  He told her, "You don't have to ask! I see you guys all the time; you're like family!"  A lady wanted baguettes, and he went out of his way to get her the freshest ones in the back.  He was also happy to answer all of our (many) questions.
  • We were happy that he gave us ONE personal recommendation.  All too often, when we ask for a recommendation from servers, they name the most commonly ordered items (usually the bland, Americanized options) or guide us through the entire menu.  We just want you to tell us what YOU think is the BEST thing you have!
  • Plus, his recommendation was awesome!  I know I love anything with an egg on it, but the Cajun shrimp sandwich was AMAZING and crazy-cheap.  ($4.50ish? I was too intent on devouring my sandwich to pay too close of attention to the bill total.)
  • Jenne's sandwich was decent, but not amazing, maybe because it was a cold sandwich. We went right before they closed, and at the end of the day, the baguettes aren't as fresh.  So please note: get a hot sandwich (like the Cajun shrimp sandwich with egg, OMG) if you come here in the evening, since the bread'll get retoasted.
  • The cơm rượu was "the most digusterous taste that is ever touching my teeth."  Seriously, it was what I imagined snozzcumbers to taste like.  However, I realize that I hate it because I don't like the taste of anything strongly alcoholic (except tequila shots), and I especially dislike sake.  It's not the cơm rượu's fault.  Definitely not Cali Baguette Express's fault.
  • Minus points for the TV, especially because Two and a Half Men was on.
Second Visit:

OK, this is not my most artistic photo, but deliciousness points for sure!
Rating: Two thumbs up!
Date: 10/3/12
What we ordered: Two Cajun shrimp sandwiches with egg, plain tea with boba, milk tea with boba 
Number in our party: 2
  • We realized we had been back here several times separately, but this was the first time we came back together to make it eligible for a gold star.  So here it is! *insert fairy chime noise*
  • The extremely nice counter guy told us that he does in fact try to match the straws to the drink lids.  I knew it!!
  • Definitely try the meat pies, they are delicious.  Once Miko brought me one at work and I almost hugged her, except we don't hug because she's not from California.

RESTAURANT INFORMATION Address: 4425 Convoy St, Ste 200A
Phone number: 858.278.2525
Accepts credit cards? Yes, $6 minimum
Parking: Lot shared with Chef Chin, spaces reserved for Cali Baguette Express
Ideal group size: 1-4 (but it's not really a sit-down restaurant)
Available vegetarian options: Vegetarian loaf sandwich, fried egg sandwich
Noise level: 2.5 (because of the TV)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sushi, Roll Depot

Harris just wanted rice and seaweed,
so they brought her this seaweed salad.
I have a feeling you can buy it in 10-gallon buckets
from whatever the Japanese equivalent
of Sysco is, but it's pretty tasty.

Calm down; it's just chopsticks, people.

Red dragon roll.
Spicy dynamite roll.

Salmon skin roll.  The enthusiastic waiter highly recommended this,
but I (Jenne) thought it was entirely gross. 
I don't think the others hated it quite as much.

Crunchy roll, but the crunchies were stale.  Sad-face.

California roll.  Meh.
Rating: Two thumbs down
Date: 8/11/12
Time in: 5:50 PM 
Servers' recommendations: Salmon skin roll, red dragon roll
What we ordered: Salmon skin roll, red dragon roll, spicy dynamite roll, crunchy roll, California roll, seaweed salad, bowl of rice
Number in our party: 4 (with Anna and Harris)
Final check amount: I forgot to write it down, but it was about $10 each.
  • The punctuation on the sign sure is puzzling.  On their website, they leave out the comma.
  • The server was very nice and enthusiastic, and he tried so hard.  We didn't like the food and he could tell, which made us feel bad.  He graciously got Harris a bowl of plain rice, even though it wasn't on the menu.
  • The rice in the rolls must be pressed into some sort of mold -- they're too square on the edges to have been rolled the traditional way.
  • The red dragon roll tasted pretty good.  It was the first to come out, and we were fairly pleased with it.  Unfortunately, the meal went downhill from there.
  • The salmon skin was a bit chewy.  I didn't find it disgusting like Jenne did, but it didn't taste good either.
  • The crunchy bits on the crunchy roll...weren't.  They were stale.  Plus, the mayo sauce drizzled on top was spicy!  We all know how I (Miko) feel about spicy.
  • The rolls that were marked "spicy" were actually quite spicy.  (And some that were NOT marked spicy were too -- see above.)  That's unusual for a sushi restaurant. 
  • The ginger tasted like cleaner.
  • Harris enjoyed her bowl of rice, but Jenne and I (being the rice snobs our Conquest has made us) noted that it looked rather dry.
  • This was the second two-thumbs-down restaurant in a row!  Ouch, that's never happened before.  And we felt bad that we invited Anna along for the first Convoy experience of her life, and THIS was what she got.  Boo.
Address: 4225 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.560.5345
Accepts credit cards? Yes, but there's a $10 minimum.
Crowded lot with itty-bitty spaces
Ideal group size: 1
Available vegetarian options: Vegetable roll, tamago, edamame and other appetizers, ice cream
Noise level: 2

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grandma Tofu & BBQ

I (Jenne) was mesmerized by this concert video of one or possibly several K-pop boybands and could barely listen to what Miko was saying...

Even bad Korean restaurants usually have good panchan!

This supposedly "curry" stew tasted exactly like the powdered cream of chicken soup we used to take on backpacking trips.

Miko was strangely enthralled by this rice, despite that fact that she usually hates brown rice or anything whole-grain whatsoever.

This was basically salty and spicy and nothing else.

Rating: Two thumbs down
Date: 8/4/12
Time in: 1:20 PM
Servers' recommendations: Seafood pancake, tofu stews and tofu stew combos, BBQ dishes, bibimbap, yuk gae jang, stir-fried squid/octopus
What we ordered: Curry soondobu, yuk gae jang
Number in our party: 2
Final check amount: $22.60
  • Our stews were pretty disappointing.  I (Miko) ordered the curry soondubu, and it tasted strongly of instant chicken bouillon.  Gross.  Jenne reported that hers was not horrible, but flavorless.
  • The restaurant is unnecessarily fancy -- lots of decor and not enough focus on the food.
  • The potato panchan was really good, and the rice was one of my (Miko's) favorites on Convoy.  We can't just come here for the potato panchan and rice, though...
Address: 4425 Convoy St 
Phone number: 858.277.2220
Accepts credit cards? Yes, but the bill has to be over $20.
Shared lot; there are reserved spaces for the restaurant.
Ideal group size: 2-4
Noise level: 3, but only because of the South Korea Vs. UK soccer game that was on TV.  It was pretty fun to watch the middle-aged men cheering at their tables.