Spicy food in San Diego?
I'm going to be spending a few days in SD next week, probably near the Hillcrest area. I'll have a car, and am willing to drive at least 20-30 miles for great food. Even 40 miles if it's really fantastic. I'm seeking recommendations for some of the best spicy food in the area. I'm not just looking for intense heat (though heat is great), but also complex, layered flavors. Favorite cuisines include Indian, Thai, and of course Mexican, but recommendations needn't be limited to that. The last couple SD Mexican restaurants I tried were mediocre and touristy. I did hit some fantastic Indian restaurants sort of northeast of the city (near a military base, I think).
So, best recommendations for spicy, intensely flavored foods? Thanks!
I would head over to Pacific Beach and check out World Curry. It's a funky little inexoensive restaurant offering lots of different curries and you can specify the heat level. I always liked the Japanese curry the best. Their naan is delicious, slightly crunchy on the outside and pillowy inside. Yum! Forget about the satay skewers- too dry. I took my mom there over five years ago, and she still mentions it from time to time.
Here's a link to their menu:
Spicy City on Convoy is a winner, with unique Chinese dishes you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the area and plenty of heat. Someone else will be able to be more specific about what type of Chinese cuisine it is. I just know it's good and something different.
If you've never had authentic Mexican comida corrida, Super Cocina on University (?) is probably the best we've got. Plenty good if you know Mexican food; a fantastic treat if you've never gone much beyond tacos and enchiladas.
You are looking for Ba Ren - superb Szechuan cuisine. It is precisely what you describe - complex, layered, and intense heat. The menu is quite large (like most Chinese places) so choose carefully.
I rec hot pepper prawns and stir fried dried beef, two world class dished, IMO.
I think Ba Ren has the advantage over every other place in this category due to the complexity of the heat. Spicy City is very good, but doesn't have the layering and complexity of the best of Ba Ren, IMO. Of course, I may be ordering the wrong things (always an issue with 200 item menus).
If you search this board for Ba Ren you should find more recs. Also a very popular and informative local blog has some info:
Ba ren is just off Convoy near Clairemont Mesa and Diane (on Diane - 4957 Diane Ave. - maybe 15 minutes from Hillcrest) - looks like nothing in the middle of nowhere. Don't be fooled.
In Hillcrest there is India Princess which takes your heat requests seriously (just tell them "off the scale"). There is better indian if you feel like driving to Pujabi Tandoor.
I absolutely second the recommendation for Ba Ren.
For as close to the border as San Diego is, the Mexican food just isn't that great. What you're probably looking for is Super Cocina at University and Cherokee. They serve the best "comida casera" or homestyle Mexican food in the city. A lot of their dishes are spicy, some are not. The great thing about Super Cocina is that they will let you try a little taste of just about anything. I once sent someone there and they walked out upon seeing that the food was served from a steam table. Don't let that steam table fool you, the Mexican food here is the real deal and it's really good. The guisados are excellent, and they do a better than average version of carnitas.