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Jun 26, 2007 02:24 PM

Encinitas - New To The Area and Eating Great!

So, we moved here from Northern California a few weeks ago and are loving the food choices here. I want to express my gratitude to those of you who have taken the time to share here as you all have made wonderful suggestions. We certainly have benefited from the opinions here.

Here are some of my favorites in the area

Kaito and Tomiko for sushi.

At Tomiko I had a piece of Spanish mackerel that I still dream about and the views are truly wonderful.

Everything at Kaito was superior. Every single piece of fish just delicious

For Mexican we have eaten at Bety's, La Especial Norte, and El Torrito Market.

I enjoyed them all for different reasons and could not possibly choose a favorite.

Bety's was friendly and laid back. The flavors in the food were layered and complex and wonderful. I had the rolled tacos with beef, my honey had a grilled shrimp dish, and our friend a carne asada burrito. We were all happy. I also really loved their salsa.

La Especial Norte - well the soups, the soups, yum! So far we've had the tortilla and chicken. I also had a couple of chicken enchiladas with mole sauce that were crazy good.

Last night we picked up a lb. of carnitas at El Torrito, some salsa fresca and corn tortillas. Probably the best carnitas I've eaten. That was fun, sitting at home with our pile of carnitas and toppings, stuffing our faces.

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  1. Pizza

    Today's Pizza and Salad and

    Both were good.

    Pizzicato's crust and toppings were delicious

    Today's was good. I do like their individual pizzas. I like what I like, and it is not always what my honey likes. So, at Today's we each can get what we want.

    But I am a Chicago gal, originally. I miss my deep dish

    8 Replies
    1. re: Enorah

      Today's and Pizzicato are some of the best pizza places (especially Pizzicato). Hopefully Caffe Calabria will be a new option soon.

      1. re: honkman

        I just looked up Caffe Calabria, sounds great. We are going into the North Park area soon, so we will have to stop in and pick up some beans.

        I have been buying my coffee at Pannikin and have been pleased. I am liking their organic sumatra a lot.

        1. re: Enorah

          I like Pannikin's Indo Noir, but lately I've been buying Caffe Calabria's beans at E-Street Cafe. The beans make much better espresso in my office machine which generally means they're fresher.

          And E-Street Cafe makes by far the best espresso drinks in North County. They are working hard to be a player in the espresso market and are doing well.

          1. re: Spike Costa

            I love E Street. Good to know about the beans there.

            The turtle brownie at E Street, OMG

            1. re: Spike Costa

              E-Street Cafe gives you ok coffee (they don't have good baristas) but nothing compared Caffe Calabria.(which also has great paninis). In North County you get better espresso, cappuccino etc. at Vinaka in Carlsbad


              1. re: honkman

                I personally find Caffe Calabria to be incredibly inconsistent. I really like what they're contributing to the local coffee scene, and Arnie's as passionate as they come. And they were hosts to an incredibly successful "barista jam", bringing in experts and participants from places near and far in an incredibly collegial environment. But somehow they do not seem execute well at the bar with their own roasts as some of the better baristas in S.D. with their beans. Personally I think that part of the problem is that they have too many baristas. It makes it hard to single out the good ones, as I'm sure there must be... Is there a barista there in particular that you can recommend?

                For an example of who I think does a much better job serving their roasts better than Calabria themselves is the cart in front of the Kaiser Permanente at the NE corner of I-805 and Clairemont Mesa Blvd. It's run by an espresso devotee named Yvonne, and I think she is amongst the most consistent of baristas in S.D. And like all good baristas, she really cares about what she does.

                I remember once grabbing a shot after a 2 week hiatus, and she actually remembered that the shot I had 2 weeks prior was poured right after she had loaded a new batch of beans in her grinder. Although she went through 3 grinder adjustment passes before pouring my shot, she remembered that it could have been better and comped me for my drink 2 weeks later!

                She uses Calabria's beans, and I find Calabria's beans to be tricky to use. I've personally tried them at home on a number of occaisions, but never seem to be able to dial them in. But no matter as Yvonne seems to always do a very good job with them!

                I'll have to try out Vinaka someday. I ran into the owner once at Kaito, and have always wanted to pay a visit since. Where exactly are they? I tried to find them once from the verbal description I recalled from the conversation at Kaito - as I recall it was near a !Starbucks! on the second floor near Coyote Cafe. I drove around a bit but couldn't find anything remotely cafe-like.

                BTW I second Calabria's panninis, though I find them a bit on the oily side... Can't wait for when they get to finally fire up their pizza oven!

                Caffe Calabria Coffee Roasters
                3933 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

              2. re: Spike Costa

                E Street Cafe seems to bounce back and forth between having none to one barista who know what they're doing. I wish they could manage to hold on to their better ones for longer. It's as close as any place has gotten in this neck of the woods to having baristas who are actually serious about what they're doing and do it well.

                Right now they have a very good one who has trained at Blue Bottle in S.F., but I forget her name - maybe Jesse? Sometime before she came along there was another barista who trained at, if I recall correctly, Lighthouse Roasters in Seattle, who was also very good.

                But outside of those two I really haven't come across any outstanding baristas there. Not to knock them, though - if it's going to happen anywhere in North County, I think it'll be at E Street.

                E Street Cafe
                128 W E St, Encinitas, CA 92024

          2. re: Enorah

            We are also enjoying Manhattan Giant pizza on D Street

          3. Might want to check out Yu Me Ya for Japanese izakaya style food - not a sushi bar. Excellent sake and Japanese beer selection.


            1246 N Coast Highway 101

            9 Replies
            1. re: Pablo

              Yu Me Ya is so on our radar, Pablo, thanks.

              1. re: Pablo

                We ate at Yu Me Ya this evening and it was a wonderful dining experience from start to finish. We felt transported to Japan during our meal, the flavors and aesthetic of the place and presentation of the food.

                Thank you Pablo for your recommendation and the very extensive thread you started on yu me ya. We sampled many of the dishes discussed on your thread.

                1. re: Pablo

                  Pablo, just wanted to thank you for post you did a while back about Kaito - pictures and all. Also the advice about being respectful when ordering at the sushi bar. We love Ota and always ask for omakase, but never know if the chef will give us the really unbelievable experience or not. One week live sea snail, the next week standard fare.

                  Anyway, we went to Kaito the other night and had a fantastic experience. We're in F&B and came here by way of New York and San Francisco thinking the San Diego restaurant scene was just about to "happen". Sort of disappointing, but worth it when you search out gems like Kaito. Morita-san was great and once he began to trust us and experiement a little we had some unbelievably fresh and interesting fish.

                  Thanks again for the recommendation.

                  1. re: feed_me_please

                    So glad you made it, we love it! I was involved in F&B in SF and we never found a place like this. Last week we had the most amazing Mediterranean Toro, it literally melted down my arm as I was eating it! And the Japanese Saba was outstanding, been waiting the whole summer for it. Hope you make it back soon! Some recent pics:

                    1. re: feed_me_please

                      Pablo - your pic of the kinmedai looks delicious and has my mouth watering! Reminds me of a heavenly hirame I had just two nights ago with yuzu and Korean sea salt - the best I've had yet: incredible texture with a perfect balance between the various components, including the konbu that was used to delicately season the tane. I almost never ask for seconds (per the Thomas Keller philosophy of not exhausting the palate), but this one was so good that I had to ask for another round!

                      feed_me_please - from yet another Kaito fan, that's great to hear. You'll apprecaite that Morita-san practices his craft with a keen eye on the Japanese concept of "sekki", which are the 24 seasonal divison of the calendar year. (The seasonality of classical Japanese cuisine considers 2 weeks on the calendar to be a substantive change in determining what ingredients are at their peak...) He is constantly keeping an eye out on what's coming in season, what's coming out of season, and when a particular tane is at its peak.

                      Therefore to get a full appreciation for the remarkable work that Morita-san does at Kaito one can treat themselves to an extended culinary tour by frequenting them often, at least once every 2 weeks. In fact some items makes such a brief appearance that it may only be available for as little as a week or less.

                      (How many "sushi bars" out there would even bother to carry such briefly seasonal, exotic ingredients, let alone know what to do with them once it has arrived? I'd say at best it's left to just a few, and as to the others I'd argue that they're really not sushi bars if they thought of such attention to seasonal details as being optional...)

                      And outside of the items needed for the "roll customers" or the table customers, I've often found that he will not purchase an ingredient just because it's available at market (early in the season or at the end of its season), but only when it's at its peak.

                      And if you frequent Kaito enough you'll inevitably catch him talking about and anticipating the next sekki. For instance you may hear about a certain item in the market that should be at its peak next week, or that an item that had just arrived will peak in 3-4 days, the latter due to the fact that, contrary to popular belief and practice, many sushi items improves dramatically with age (when watched with a knowledgeable eye). In fact if you go often enough you can track the evolution of certain items such as the differences between a 0 day kohada, versus one that is on its 3rd to 4th day, or hear how tuna improves steadily with age from day to day, but only so far as it falls off precipitously if kept any longer.

                      So armed with his extensive knowledge day in and day out he does so much behind the scenes to give his loyal customers as good an experience as is possible here in the States. All that in a free-wheeling, perhaps sometimes too free-wheeling, environment that is never intimidating to either the roll customer or the more serious sushi lover. And as to the roll customer I cannot think of a better place than Kaito to be introduced to traditional nigiri sushi, as in addition to everything else Morita-san has created an environment where he will help them explore the traditional items they are most likely to enjoy once being informed of their personal taste preferences.

                      1. re: cgfan

                        cgfan, we had the hirame last night and you are right, it was absolutely sublime. I think the kinmedai is unfortunately over for the season now, I really gorged myself on that fish whenever he had it this summer, loved the kama too. We also had a chance to have madai a couple weeks ago, first time ever for us. Morita-san had one day shinko for us last night, tiny little guys! Also had really great Japanese saba again. And how can I forget, the superb housemade ankimo! We are so hopelessly addicted to his food!

                        1. re: Pablo

                          That must mean I was there later that same day, as well as two days before...

                          The shinko really impressed me - I really enjoyed that one. But then again he had so much to offer - incredible mirugai, sanma, tako, saba... And that was just scratching the surface.

                          Did you see the Hokkaido tako? That was one impressive octopus. I'd hate to run across that guy when it was "whole and still alive"!

                          I still remember last year when he brought in some Hokkaido tako... He just held one leg alone with both hands and outstretched arms; it must have been at least 6 feet long!

                          1. re: cgfan

                            cgfan, do you do the fresh tako raw? I have been having it lightly seared, and topped with ume paste, still chewy, but less chewy than the raw version, which is just too chewy for me. Morita-san cooked up the suction cups, first time treat for us, they were great! You know where we are heading tonight! Hoping to see a katsuo, it's almost been a year!

                            1. re: Pablo

                              Pablo: I've had it both ways; I just leave it up to Morita-san. All other things being equal, I don' t mind the chewiness and tend to prefer it raw rather than seared.

                              Actually I'll be there later tonight too, but it's for a party so I'll be at a table rather than the bar... :-(

                              That tako from Hokkaido is indeed really chewy, but at the same time the texture is so soft and the flavor so fine. I like to joke, though, that it's like what they said in those old commericials for Bubble Yum bubble gum - the flavor just keeps on going and going no matter how long you chew!

                              Like you, I can't wait 'til we get to see some katsuo this season!

                  2. French Pastry in the Trader Joe's/Longs Shopping Center complex off Encinitas Blvd and El Camino Real has pretty decent paninis and sandwiches. Nothing that will totally knock your socks off but it's a good alternative to Panera. I haven't tried much of their desserts, although they look good. The only dessert I've had so far is a chocolate strawberry cake. Texture was light but the bottom was a tad soggy. Filling was chocolate whipped cream, nice and light and not too sweet. I personally prefer as richer, denser chocolate taste. Overall, pleasant but didn't knock me out of the park. The owner/baker is very friendly.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: daantaat

                      I have been wondering about that bakery

                      I have tried Elizabethan Desserts. Oh Mama, She can bake. We had a brownie (so full of chocolate it's almost a chocolate bar), a strawberry rhubarb pie, and an everything cookie. Really good. The pie was so good, the crust - buttery and yummy. The cookie was soft, nutty, chocolate, and coconutty.

                      We'll be back

                      1. re: Enorah

                        It's not god-awful, but it won't blow your socks off either. I haven't made it to Elizabethan Desserts yet, but suspect it's better than French Pastry.

                      2. re: daantaat

                        So we just tried the French Pastry joint.

                        It's full name is Isabelle Brien's French Pastry Cafe.

                        We had a piece of delicious chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling. Great cup of iced coffee as well.

                        We chatted with Isabelle for a bit. She is very friendly. That was a lovely experience.

                      3. I haven't been to Carlsbad in a year, so my Encinitas info may be a bit out of date. But my favorite dinner spot somewhat hidden in a bank strip mall on the north side of El Camino Real is Savory. Good french bistro fare, place has a NYC vibe with the lighting, and prices that used to be a bargain were still a value. I like the pepper-crusted ribeye with the potato gratin.

                        There are a few places worth checking out in Del Mar a few freeway exits south near the Via del Valle exit off the 5: Pamplemousse for very upscale, Red Tracton's for good steaks, better prime rib, and amazingly huge good sides of fries, and there is a decent fish place right there too.

                        Juanita's on PCH is a fine taqueria. From L.A., I ordered some fine al pastor soft tacos, thought the fish was a bit fast-foody, but loved the lines, friendliness, freshness, and envied those who were carrying the crispy-taco specials.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nosh

                          Have not yet tried Savory or Juanita's.

                          Every time I drive by Juanita's with the windows open I want to stop cause it smells so good.

                        2. Savory is good. I also really like Siamese basil for Thai.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Ela0427

                            We ate at Siamese Basil when we were here looking for a place to live. We liked it. Thanks for reminding us to go back.

                            Any other Thai places you all recommend?