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SD CHers What's Your "Holy Grail" Dish [Moved from SD board]

Those SuperDiners are at it again. This week's column was on the ONE dish they seem to try over and over again searching for the quintessential or perfect version - http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/20...

So just out of curiosity, what is the 1 dish that my fellow San Diego Chowhounds seem to always be on the lookout for? Or the dish you try over and over again no matter where you go searching for that perfect version.

There are a couple of mine:

* Arroz con Leche - it's more than just simple rice pudding. It's more creme anglaise based, not to thick, not too thin, plump (not overcooked) rice, hints of lime and canela

* Corn tortillas & Carnitas - there is NOTHING that compares to soft, plushy corn tortillas wrapped around bits of crisp, soft and velvety pork. And nothing like eating it at Carnitas Aeropuerto on the free road just outside of Zamora, Michoacan, MX at 9 am in the morning after a red-eye flight from LAX-GDL. I've yet to find that perfect match of pork and corn NOB <sigh>

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  1. This isn't really limited to San Diego, but I guess I have a few things I feel like I always need to order
    - pho
    - foie
    - charcuterie
    - raw beef (sashimi, carpaccio, tartare, etc)
    - chinese beef roll
    - hong kong style wonton noodles
    - fried turnip cake
    - roasted bone marrow
    - cold soba with real wasabi

    1. Steak Tartare.

      I rarely see it on S.D. menus, but usually order it if it's there. I haven't found any that are memorable, though. I guess the best I've had was at L'Atelier at the MGM in Vegas.

      My favorite is the version I make at home. I like to use sirloin or chuck for the beefier taste rather than filet, which seems the norm. I grind or scrape the beef myself and serve balls of it on each diner's plate, dressed up a little with something green like parsley. On a lazy susan type device, but with at least 10 or more containers on it I'll put out every imaginable ingredient that one might like in theirs: dry mustard, paprika, horseradish, capers, quail eggs, minced onion, catsup, Worcestershire, etc. Its a lot of fun. We like to serve it with icy vodka. Quite a wintertime treat.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mcgrath

        Cafe Chloe has it quite regular as a special and it is the best version we had in SD. Cowboy Star has it as an appetizer but it was surprisingly bland and a bit disappointing.

      2. Thanks for a great topic, DD!

        I'm always seeking the perfect Espresso Ristretto.

        The pure essence of coffee and nothing more, extracted into an unctuous little cup of joy that, while tiny, clings to your palate for 15 minutes, and to your memory for far, far longer.

        1. For me it's:

          - Foie gras - life in California will be a little less enjoyable come next July!

          - Toro -

          Two different types of buttery goodness!

          1 Reply
          1. re: steveprez

            "Foie gras - life in California will be a little less enjoyable come next July!"

            It's not exactly easy to come by now.

          2. I always seem to be on the lookout for...
            ...delcious eggs benedict
            ...velvety gelato
            ...good fish tacos
            ...excellent fried chicken

            1. nieu ro mien
              nu nam noodle soup
              fresh soba
              fresh bread/croissants/pastries
              not a dish, but fresh stone fruits and berries

              1. Good bread and a reasonable selection of it - best bread was actually a rye bread at Blanca most other breads in SD (restaurant or bakery) are pretty much forgetable.
                And good gyros/doner kebab

                1 Reply
                1. re: honkman

                  Agree with Blanca bread. I thought as a whole it was best in town. I know that Chef Gavin worked hard (trial and error) to get it the way he wanted it.

                2. Bagels
                  Jewish Deli
                  Lobster shacks like they have in Maine
                  Ferry Building SF
                  Pie Shops

                  1. Seafood noodle soup. It's close to being my favorite food, and like pizza, it's never really *that* bad. But it's also never really perfect. Sometimes the broth is too oily. Sometimes the noodles are too clumpy. Sometimes the accompanying hot sauce is too boring. Sometimes the seafood is "phoned in," if that's even a phrase that applies to seafood - I mean that it seems like a bagged frozen seafood mix was just dumped in there. Sometimes there aren't enough vegetables, or they're the wrong vegetables (begone, carrots).

                    I keep trying, though.

                    1. You have established a new holy grail for me. There is really nothing more fulfilling. Risotto ai frutti di mare maybe.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                        SR, do you mean to tell me that there isn't a food item or dish that you just adore to pieces, or perhaps had such a great (quintessential?) rendition of the dish once, that you don't keep trying to repeat the experience or find another great rendition of the dish?

                        I know you have great taste (you do, after all play the cello) there must be at least 1 or 2 food items that send you over the moon, so to speak

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          Thanks, but not so sure of my taste credentials: I do enjoy McD's egg McMuffins or a plain hamburger with an order of fries from time to time while listening to Katy Perry. Putting that aside for now...

                          Like I said, I'm regularly drawn to order anything (especially risotto) 'ai frutti di mare' even when all all signs point to it arriving with some frozen calamari rings, a single rubbery scallop and salmon chunks. I know I can make a good one myself with some cuttlefish, good mussels, a mantis shrimp or two etcetera, but stupidly still have to order it hoping that it might be better than others I've had. Stupid like if they put it on the menu at Denny's, I'd order it kinda stupid.

                          Your tortillas with carnitas is kinda perfect, since the bad ones probably won't kill you, unlike bad crustaceans. I remember eating them in Guad when I was about seven year old the way you described them, and realized that I regularly order my tacos with carnitas, pura carne. I am also a sucker for pozole. Good ones do send me over the moon.


                      2. Polpo alla Gallega and a nice crisp Albarino.

                        I've had it all over Spain but not in Galicia (as I've not been to that part yet).
                        Definitely need to go there soon.

                        1. Good, quality freshly churned ice cream.

                          1. Fish and Chips - I doubt I will ever find the perfect one (and I've literally eaten it all over the world). My imagined standards are unrealistically high. I am continually disappointed by every place I've tried.

                            Baguettes - I guess the best ones I've had are still from their homeland. Have not found anywhere in the US that approaches the upper echelon of French baguettes.

                            Soup (specifically vegetable-based) - still searching for that elusive purity of flavour...

                            1. Duck confit without sauce of any kind, nice and crispy.