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Convoy & Environs (SD) -need suggestions

SF Bay Area 'hound would appreciate your suggestions for good eats (Asian and otherwise) around Convoy. We've been to Dumpling Inn and Emerald various times and loved both, and to Jasmine, too, but were not as favorably impressed with the dim sum (perhaps we picked badly?). I'd love to get your suggestions for other spots in the area, including any favorite dishes. Thanks!

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  1. Chinese (which Province?), Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean or Thai?

    Price range?

    Only Convoy or all around San Diego? We are talking easily over 100 on Convoy street alone.

    Have you looked at the mmm-yoso blog?

    There is one Pizza place, two Mexican places, a Persian place, a Weinerschnitzel, Extreme Pita(sort of local chain), a Burger King and Carls Jr, a beer and burger place and a Cajun-ish place run by a Vietnamese family. Also a few boba places with snacks. 2 frozen yogurt places and some bakeries. It is *all* Asian.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      Around Convoy, not all of San Diego. (That's why I mentioned the street.) I also recognize that there's an abundance of Asian restaurants there, which was why I hope that you all can help me with your personal favorites. (Personally, I woudn't put the chains like Burger King and Carl's Jr. in the "good eats" category, especially when there's so many other fine choices available.)

      How about your top 2-3, with any dishes that particularly caught your fancy?

      1. re: Food Fiend

        I was more telling you there isn't much else on Convoy but Asian, although OBrien's Burgers and beer is a great place. Huge selection of beers.

        In that same mall is Crab Hut, which is excellent if you are craving that kind of cajun-y food, as well as Tapioca Heaven, which has beverages and wonderful snacks and plates (menu is on the wall when you walk in-the snack bags are quite filling; fried squid, fired chicken bites, wings.) (I ask for no spice and there is still a light coating of some spicy salt and that level is perfect for me) The snack plates are quite large.

        Chopstix is always good. Katsu curry. Yakisoba. Mabo ramen. Side order of tempura.

        Convoy Noodle House is Vietnamese and very good. 7 course beef if you are new to VN or are taking out someone who hasn't been. I like the Bun bowls with whatever topping I am craving that day -cha ngo or BBQ pork or the shrimp wrapped in tofu skins.

        In that same mall Nozomi is kind of different. I don't crave rolls, but they have a huge selection that everyone seems to order. In winter the green noodle soup and always the chirashi.

        Again, way too many to tell you about. If I go someplace new. I look to see what others are eating. Older people have lost a sense of smell and taste and usually are eating spicer/more flavorful things. Else I try a 'basic' which is usually less expensive and should be done right or very well everywhere (even at a taco shop- I get a quesedilla and bean burrito the first time I go-if they can't do that right, I don't bother going back..and yes, some places can't)(I get a plain/no cheese burger or double burger; I get Pho Tai or Pho Ga; I get basic pot sticker dumplings or rice/vegetables/tofu or maybe a beef teriyaki- something in the name/theme of the restaurant..something they *should* be good a doing and then if they can't, I most likely won't go back..and if they can, I expand my choices on future visits).

        Far too many favorites to limit it to three. My husband works near there so we end up eating somewhere in that area for lunch or dinner a few times a week.

        Best Japanese is Sakura. Izakaya. I the mall wth Original Pancake House- in the back corner by the Military Recruiting place- the *only* sign you see is 'OPEN" neon in the window. Sushi in evenings. Lunch. Everything is good and it depends on your craving that day. Cold noodles in summer were excellent. It is Izakaya style, so lots of little dishes. I have eaten everything and there isn't anything I would not order here. Always prepared correctly. It is the best of any place on Convoy.

        1. re: Cathy

          Sakura is great, definitely don't miss it.

          I had a good meal last night at Tajima, actually. It's more casual than Sakura, and they have entree plates at dinner, and ramen and other soups. I had a roasted pork ramen, which had some really nice tender chunks of pork belly.

          Tajima isn't in the same league as Sakura, but I don't think it's trying to be either.

          1. re: Josh

            Agree completely, Josh. I don't like getting locked in to a two or three favorites list; it changes constantly with the weather, my mood, my wanting to eat well but leave quickly...or the fact that I haven't been to the cash machine in a while... :) Tajima is great. Hmmm...now I am getting a craving.

    2. OK. When you are parked for Dumpling- have you walked inside that Grocery Store in the back of that mall? Just to your right inside the entrance door are 6 chairs and the counter. Korean and Japanese food. Family run. Menu is on the wall above you. Are you looking for something like that or more like Emerald?

      8 Replies
      1. re: Cathy

        No, I haven't seen the restaurant inside that grocery store; we'll have to check it out. The food itself is more important than the decor.

        1. re: Food Fiend

          Convoy Street goes from Mesa College Drive to Clairmont Mesa Blvd.

          Hole in the wall. Best VN (Hue family run) is Mien Trung on Mesa College. Go into the Parking lot with K Sandwiches and park there and it is just behind facing MCD. 8 tables. Best Bun Bo Hue, but haven't had anything bad. Menu has all of 28 items. Depends on your preferences for Vietnamese food. If new to VN- get Pho Tai.

          Everything at K sandwiches is great, fresh, inexpensive. Croissants and bread made there. Lines from the hospital area to buy VN sandwiches as well as croissant sandwiches. Steam tray items are great also. Boba and other beverages. Free wi fi. Walk in and look. I am happy with the BBQ pork sandwich and the tuna croissant.

          1. re: Cathy

            Thanks Cathy! I look forward to checking out as many of your suggestions as I can. (Another good reason to keep coming back here!)

            1. re: Food Fiend

              Oh- I figured you were working nearby and wanted to walk...you are here in a limited way.

              Definitely do Sakura. Lunch or dinner.
              For a quick lunch, or even breakfast, K sandwiches is just right.

              Oh, just keep coming back. We all have to live somewhere and the world is so accessible nowadays.

              1. re: Cathy

                We are in the area a several times/year (next time in a couple of weeks), and look forward to eating our way through the neighborhood.

            2. re: Cathy

              cathy, where exactly is that good bun bo hue place? i'm new to the area and i tried to go there last night...i googled the restaurant and it said it was on the corner of mesa college and linda vista...is that right? i couldn't find it and ended up at the vietnamese place, in the same center as K sandwiches, which was very disappointing. i ordered the bun bo hue (lacked flavor, noodles overcooked) and eggrolls (super greasy and soft)...thanks!

              1. re: californialoving

                Ah, you went to Pho Ahn Trang, (where I like the #123D Bun Tau Hu Ky - cold noodles, salad on bottom, peanuts, shredded carrots and cukes and topped with bean curd skin wrapped around ground shrimp)(When in a group, we order the whole catfish.) It sn't a bad place, just different.

                You were right there.

                Look at the front door to K Sandwiches standing in the parking lot.- now to the right (West)- parking lot, wall, first building. You can walk to it just around the wall. It is red and yellow, looks like a Taco Shop. Sometimes is closed on Mondays or Tuesdays and the month of June. It is the most authentic Hue food. The family- mom the cook in back- is from Hue. If you are White you have to tell them spice is OK.

                (Next to it another small building is a new place- sushi deli. That is new and I have not tried). There is parking next to that building, but when you pull out, since it is Mesa College Drive, it is one way and you have to go to the light to pop a U and so that as why I said to park in the K Sandwich lot.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Darn it, I didn't read your directions the first time I read the post! I remember seeing that sushi deli, so next time I will definitely know...and thanks for the tip about when it might be closed...

        2. dim sum in San Diego will not compare to what you can get in SF, San Jose and the Bay Area. China Max has dim sum but it's "order off the menu" style and I haven't been there yet, so I can't vouch for it's quality.

          Ba Ren (spicy Chinese) off Clairemont Mesa Dr
          Spicy City (more spicy Chinese)
          Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa Dr
          Tea Station (boba tea) on Clairemont Mesa Dr
          Boo Cho Korean BBQ on Clairemont Mesa Dr
          Tofu House on Convoy (next to O'Brien's pub)
          Yogurt World in the same plaza as Tofu House for self-serve Pinkberry style yogurt
          Tapioca Express for boba tea
          Chopstix for udon, donburi, cheap tempura
          Tajima for ramen, izakaya menu
          Yakitori K-1 in the Nijiya market center
          Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ in the Original Pancake House complex
          Izakaya Sakura for sushi and izakaya menu
          Phuong Trang for Vietnamese
          Red Berry for Pinkberry style yogurt. I have not tried it yet but a friend liked it.

          do a search on the board for "Convoy" or the restaurant and you will pull up many threads.

          1 Reply
          1. re: daantaat

            Absolutely agree with daantaat regarding the Dim Sum here. Unfortunately San Diego still doesn't seem to posess the "critical mass" necessary to support a good Dim Sum restaurant.

            Food_Fiend: If in your travels you happen to be in L.A., then the San Gabriel Valley for a long time has been The Place for Chinese food in all of its forms. It's not so much one concentrated Chinatown as much as it is a multi-city regional Chinatown. It really is quite incredible. There are also several establishments from the mainland whose only overseas location is in the SGV, quite a testament to the culinary vitality and energy of the area.

            My long-time favorite for Dim Sum there would be Ocean Star, though I haven't been able to sample any of the newer arrivals for quite a while. But Ocean Star has always remained top notch.

          2. Dim sum at China Max is also quite good.

            1. It's been mentioned, but by all means don't miss lunch at Sakura. Best bento around, IMO, and there are many, many other dishes that are fantastic. Dinner is good too, if a little more pricey, in part because of the izakaya small plates style of many dishes, and then there's the alcohol, but split with friends it can still be reasonably priced.

              Tsurahashi is a great place too. Go early for the best selection of the prime cuts to grill.

              9 Replies
              1. re: amyzan

                I's second Sakura, but with a clear emphasis on dinner. An izakaya really doesn't get going until the later hours. I'd recommend going there with the thought of ordering much as one might at a tapas bar. Compose an entire meal around ordering many small plates along irwith your favorite drink. To get the best food tour out of an izakaya, try to sample at least one item per cooking style, which is how an izakaya menu is laid out.

                Sakura's sushi gets talked about a lot on these boards, but in my opinion the main reason to go there would be for their wonderful kitchen. On the other hand if sushi is what you're after, then right up the street is one of San Diego's best, Shirahama, with the only caveat being to not go there if you are going to be ordering any Americanized rolls. (There are only a handful of traditional rolls - kappa maki, tekka maki, and futomaki are at the top of my head but may be all that's commonly known...)

                And I also second Tsuruhashi - fantastic place for yakiniku - Japanese style Korean BBQ. All their cuts are of impeccable quality, regardless of whether or not you order the Kobe beef or the jyo (premium) selections. And expect a wait of up to 1 hour. Perhaps leave your name and cell number and sit down for a drink and appetizer at Izakaya Sakura (in the same mini-mall), or walk to the next mini-mall south and have a tart (plain) frozen yogurt at Red Berry.

                1. re: cgfan

                  cgfan, how does Red Berry compare to Yogurt World?

                  also, how are you supposed to eat komochi mochi? It is supposed to be tougher than suama mochi?

                  1. re: daantaat

                    Komochi just means small mochi, ko using the kanji for child. This type of mochi is not generally for eating as is like suama, and is the type of mochi that is typically created in the weeks and days leading up to New Year's. It's nothing more than the steamed and pounded mochi rice formed into various shapes, from flat rounds to large sheets that are cut into small rectangle shapes.

                    Suama is a type of nama-gashi ("fresh wagashi" or fresh Japanese confection) that is meant to be eaten while still fresh and soft. Komochi, though best when freshly made and still hot, is normally kept longer by freezing and eaten hot after lightly toasting.

                    Komochi can be toasted over a dry heat. The Japanese typically will use an ami, which is a simple black sheet metal grate with slits cut into the bottom to pass the heat of the stove, with a wire grate on top. They are very inexpensive and can be found in the dry goods section of most Japanese food markets.

                    Toast the mochi on the ami until just parts of the mochi turns a light brown, but turning frequently and controlling the heat enough such that the mochi doesn't "puff up" too much. (Sometimes the mochi will start to puff up in spite of all of your attempts to postpone it, in which case it gets taken off the heat early. When allowed to ff up parts of the mochi will start to dry out.) You can eat this with a dip of soy sauce, kinako, a lightly sweet powder made up of powdered soy beans, or soy sauce and sugar. (Kinako is a dry powder so it will only stick to the mochi once you bite into it and expose it's moist interior...)

                    Mochi cooked in this fashion is also used in the New Year's meal (osechi ryori) in the clear soup called ozoni. It also accomodates the sweet bean soups known as oshiruko and zenzai, where sometimes the mochi is called shiratama, for "white ball".

                    It is also made into three flat rounds of varying size to form a ceremonial pyramid of mochi, topped with a sheet of kombu and a mikan (similar to a clementine) still attached to its green branch and leaf. Kagami mochi, as this is called, is commonly used as part of the Japanese New Year's decor.

                    If the mochi is fresh and still hot, which is unlikely unless you go to a mochi-tsuki (mochi making event), then grated daikon with soy sauce or just kinako is a good combination. (For an incredibly fast mochi-tsuki, check out this incredible YouTube video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZEDKsjZ1pt...

                    )

                    And speaking of fast, a quick and easy way to obtain a mochi closer to a mochi that was freshly made is to pop it in the microwave. Watch it carefully and take it out just as it starts to grow, and you will find it will be soft, hot, and chewy, without forming the browned exterior as mochi would on top of an ami.

                    FYI mochi is notorious for causing several choking deaths every year, especially amongst the elderly, due to its chewy-stretchy nature. If one has ever seen the Japanese foodie movie "Tampopo', one may recall the scene in the restaurant where the elderly gentleman chokes on the mochi, who is later saved by Tampopo who removes it with a vacuum cleaner. His life saved, he later supports her quest to improve her shop's ramen. (All this, despite his daughter's caution not to order mochi as it "almost got him last time"...)

                    As to Red Berry I found it very good and comparable to Yogurt World. It ends up being a bit pricier and doesn't have the self-serve setup of YW. This does make for a much calmer feel, not as impacted with the younger set. (While on the subject of yogurt, I did recently check out Dolce Freddo after a visit to Yakitori Yakyudori which is right next door, and while they had a plain tart yogurt, I found it completely void of any yogurt taste...)

                    1. re: cgfan

                      cgfan, thanks again for another enlightening post! I think my reaction (feh) to the komochi as I ate it plain was explained by how one is supposed to eat it. In comparison to the suama, it was denser and felt "stale." Next time we will have to toast and dip it in the requisite sauces.

                      And thanks for the info on Red Berry. A friend went and liked it b/c the toppings were free, but I wasn't sure how it compared to YW.

                      1. re: daantaat

                        Only 6 yogurt flavors.
                        One trip to topping bar ( additional $1 for the small to go to topping bar - I got mine plain so it cost less)(i.e. small plain is $3, small with toping bar is $4. Large is $6 and Extra Large is $9 and both include topping bar-one trip)
                        Free samples.
                        No tip jar.

                        1. re: daantaat

                          Yes due to its pristine nature, just rice and water, it essentially goes stale almost immediately. (Hmmmm. I can now recall the homemade craft paste that we used to make out of cooked rice and water. It's curing must be close to what happens to the outside surface of a cake of mochi...) It's indeed an ephemeral treat, but there's nothing quite like freshly made mochi.

                          Thereafter it locks in enough moisture to seed its future rebirth when lightly toasted, and would be nothing like what you had by just trying to eat it as is. When properly heated you will find it transformed, perhaps lighter than, but most definitely moister than, suama. (However mochi does gradually lose its moisture slowly while frozen, and once that happens the best one can do is to just throw it away...)

                        2. re: cgfan

                          Has Red Berry stopped playing the pounding techno music? The last couple times I was there, it was relentless. Not what I'd describe as "a calmer feel," even with fewer people crowding the place. The yogurt was pretty good, a little less tangy than YW, which is a good thing. YW's tastes a little of lemon juice to me, which isn't entirely bad but you kind of have to be wanting that pucker!

                      2. re: cgfan

                        you forgot the other caveat for Shirahama. If you want the good stuff you need to have spent quite some time and money there.

                        1. re: clayfu

                          What I've found amongst San Diego sushi bars is that there's really not that much of a price difference between them, at least amongst the ones that are worth considering. Once in a while I might find that the bill is a bit higher than usual, but market variations easily accounts for such fluctuations; and this would not be unique to Shirahama. (Honestly fixed pricing is a bit at odds with the whole idea of sushi...)

                          I like the fact that these chefs make an effort to push the quality envelope in spite of their considerable distance to Tsukiji, and I do know that their businesses would be so much easierif they grabbed the same margins on quality nigiri that sushi bars get on Americanized rolls. It would be an illuminating experiment to calculate what nigiri sushi would really cost had it enjoyed the same high margins as the non-traditional rolls.

                          In that light operations like Shirahama are all the more amazing in that they do not serve the non-traditional rolls that can subsidize the nigiri customer, yet their prices are in line with other quality sushi bars. It's a labor of love and a calling, and not the profiteering venture that some might imagine.

                          Perhaps could the real profiteers be the "sushi bars" out there that focuses on non-traditional rolls with their much higher margins?

                          -----
                          Shirahama Sushi & Japanese Restaurant
                          4212 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111