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Best of Convoy St. (SD)

Hey hounds. I want to expand my horizons and understand that Convoy St in SD has the best Asian food in SD. So...

Please tell me where to go and what to get at these fine establishments. Extra points for places open past 9pm.

THANKS!

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  1. Izakaya Sakura, discussed about often on the local boards, fits the bill if you want to discover the type of place that the average salaryman in Japan goes to with his colleagues after spending a grueling day at the office. If you are not familiar with izakayas, they're a relatively unknown type of establishment that offers small plates, usually salty or savory items that go well with beer and sake. However in the major cities izakayas have been getting very trendy, and San Diego is starting to develop a bit of the izakaya scene.

    In the past they used to be open until 2-3am, but nowadays I think they're open to at least 11p-12am.

    In a similar vein but in a much smaller format (menu-wise) is Tajima. They kind of have an izakaya-light menu, but for me the big draw here is the ramen. They make a tonkotsu-style ramen which is a really creamy (in texture) form that takes a long time to make, mostly due to the length of time that the pork bones need to be simmered in order to properly release their marrow. For me I think they do the best job so far at serving a ramen in all of San Diego.

    The other plus is that tonkotsu style is a specialty, and is somewhat hard to find even in the major cities. I believe on Thurs.-Sat. they are open until 2-3am. On those days, after around 9pm, they have what they call ramen nights, where they will also put on the menu other styles of ramen as well.

    So here are two late-night places for you to start out with!

    4 Replies
    1. re: cgfan

      Most Izakaya places are too expensive for me. I remember Kirk's review of Izakaya Sakura. Thanks for the help.

      1. re: young_chower

        Tajima is a great place as described, and is quite affordable. I also like China Max a lot...but it cost more.

        1. re: young_chower

          Understood... Well it's not on Convoy, but real nearby is Sam Woo in the Ranch 99 market on Clairemont Mesa Blvd., just off of the 805. Though I like the Sam Woo's in L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley much better, I really enjoy their Chinese BBQ wonton noodle soups. It's a real meal all by itself, whereby you essentially choose from 1-2 protein items, and then optionally add in wonton as well. Your choices for the toppings includes roast pork, roast duck, soy sauce chicken, and salty chicken. It makes for a very satisfying one-bowl meal.

          By the way they're also open for breakfast too from 8:30a-11a, when they offer their wonton noodle soup as well as congee and plenty of other items for only $2.75! Don't know how they can do it, (nor do I want to know!)...

          Also there's a place that I go to once in a while for a singular dish. It's a Korean-run Japanese family restaurant, and they make this dish that's neither Korean nor Japanese. It was "invented" by their mother, and also serves as the item for their staff meals. Luckily for us Chowhounds they also offer it on their menu.

          The restaurant is called Nozomi, and this is the only thing that I order at this restaurant. The dish in question is called "Nozomi green noodle soup", and it comes in both a hot or cold version. Note too that this is a dish that's usually split between two people, unless you are very hungry and will not be embarrassed by an oversized bowl filled with this wonderful dish.

          The slightly starchy soup features plenty of seafood and a mild use of chili peppers, but the real star in this dish are the noodles, made every morning by hand on the premises. It's a very healthy dish, and the noodles are made by cooking down a huge stockpot full of vegetables. Because of this they can only make so much each day, but so far I've always been able to order it.

          Phuong Trang is also nice, and serves a broad array of Vietnamese items. I like their Vietnamese styled wonton noodle soup here as well, and for a bit of interactive eating fun, try out their 7 course beef. But as always if it's pho you're looking for, I'd skip Phuong Trang and go to a specialty house instead...

          Just next door is a nice place to have a cafe latte, the Big Joy Family cafe. Their lattes are not the milk bombs that you get at Char$s, so you can really taste the coffee. If that's your kind of latte, then you will really enjoy the lattes here. (I didn't have my espresso fanatic hat on as I wrote this so their latte should be just fine, but I must mention that for an artfully crafted latte, complete with microfoamed latte art layered on top of a perfectly poured espresso, for that you'll have to leave Convoy St. and go clear over to Caffe Calabria in North Park...)

          However at Big Joy Family if brewed coffee is what you prefer you can also get French Press service, complete with coffee beans carefully hand-ground to order on their Zassenhaus box mills.

          1. re: young_chower

            Lunch there can be reasonable. Unagi don or tempura zaru soba as good there as I've ever had. And the chirashi (if I remember at $18 with a cup of miso) is a nice beautiful selection of good sashimi on a bowl of sushi rice, and it is available for lunch or dinner.

            ed

        2. I had my own little test with the two Tofu Houses on Convoy. One is North of Balboa and the other is South. Both are pretty simple menus, the one to the South having a few more dishes on the menu - but neither are BBQ. I am a big fan of Sundubu (of however one would spell it) and both are not bad. The panchan sides are comparable - not super, but do the trick. I also had a seafood dolsut (stone pot) at the one South and liked it. Its worth trying both just to see which one you think is best. I'm leaning for the more mellow one to the south, though.

          Aaron

          1. Yakitori K-1 is in the same plaza as Nijima Market. Small menu but pretty cheap and we thought the food was good. The chicken skin yakitori was my favorite, although the chicken thigh yakitori was good too.

            Buga Korean BBQ on Clairemont Mesa has a lunch and dinner menu. Easily the best Korean BBQ in SD (especially after Boo Cho changed owners and names). Lunch specials run around $10, dinner is the usual BBQ prices.

            Chopstix has good, cheap vegetable tempura. Their udon and chicken katsu are good. Big plus is that their service is fast.

            Tapioca Express on Convoy or Tea Station on Clairemont Mesa for boba tea. I like the matcha green tea snow bubble from Tapioca Expresss the best.

            go to Kirk K's blog--he's reviewed most of the Asian places around town.

            6 Replies
            1. re: daantaat

              Yes I read Kirk's blog daily. Just wanted a roundup of the best of the best. Still kinda lookin for a definitive answer in the Vietnamese department.

              1. re: young_chower

                For Vietnamese, and forgive me for my whiteness, I've had good food at Convoy Noodle House, Pho T Cali (not on Convoy though), and Phuong Trang.

                I'd have to say that Pho T Cali remains my overall favorite (on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, across from Ranch 99). Their special plate with the pork bologna, Vietnamese salami, and BBQ pork served atop fresh steamed rice cake is simply awesome. I also like their pho better than the other two places.

                Convoy Noodle House is good for the grilled beef items. They have beef wrapped in grape leaves, which are then grilled. One of my favorite items! They bring a bowl of hot water and dry rice paper so that you can roll your own rolls.

                Phuong Trang had tasty pho, but I need to go back and explore their vast menu. They have a bunch of items on there I haven't seen at either of the other places.

                1. re: young_chower

                  I like Convoy Noodle and Phuong Trang - though it is fair to note Elmomonster's comment about Phuong Trang that it is Vietnamese food for non-Vietnamese. But I have come around to the conclusion that the best Viet in SD is found on El Cajon Blvd not Convoy.

                  ed

                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    So then what's the best Vietnamese on El Cajon Blvd?

                    1. re: young_chower

                      I hesitate to respond; there are about a dozen vietnamese places on El Cajon Blvd which I have not tried.

                      However, my wife and I like the Pho at Pho Ca Dao (that is pretty much all they serve) and the Bahn Mi at Kim Chan Sandwich Shop (Cafe Dore is also good, though not on El Cajon).

                      We have not ventured much further into the complexities of Vietnamese cuisine beyond soup and sandwiches, but so far we have been impressed with Thien Thanh. The herbs and vegetables are always fresh and the flavors were excellent in the spring rolls, soup, stew and rice noodle dishes. We recommend the Bun Cha Gio, or anything else that comes with those excellent egg rolls.

                      But, to be honest, I don't think this is one place where you need to find the very best restaurant. Unlike, say, the situation with Thai or Indian or most types of Chinese food in San Diego, there are no shortage of excellent and affordable Vietnamese places in town, supported by a large immigrant population. On El Cajon, most any Vietnamese place that manages to bring in customers is probably at least pretty good.

                      It would be worthwhile to try out a few new ones; perhaps you will find that stand-out that Kirk has so far missed.

                      1. re: young_chower

                        A good place to start might be the Siagon Noodle House, it's around 47th, across the street from Hoover High School.

                        The menu is ENORMOUS and most of what they produce is very good. Like their spring rolls, like their pho. One of their best dishes is a claypot catfish. Always busy, good mix of Asian and non-Asian clientel, prices won't break a student budget.