Archive for the 'San Diego' Category

Hash House A Go Go

December 26, 2007
Cuisine: American, Breakfast

3628 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103

Phone: 619-298-4646


Smores Coffee ($4.95)


The Kokomo – griddled meatloaf, roasted tomato and smoked mozzarella on old fashioned milk bread ($13.95)


Side Salad with Cucumber Dressing

The day after Christmas, brother and I attempted to go shopping at Fashion Valley, but failed to find a parking spot and had to make new plans. Brother was feeling a little hungry, so we drove around America’s Finest City looking for a place to eat. We ended up heading to Hillcrest to try out a restaurant I had read good things about months ago—Hash House A Go Go.

As we waited for our table to be set, I glanced around the dining room to see what others were eating. I think my jaw dropped to the ground when I saw how big the restaurant’s portions were; think Maggiano’s times two (no joke). Brother accurately stated that the plates looked more like serving platters!

Intimidated and disturbed by the portions at Hash House, brother and I shared The Kokomo. Brother also ordered a smores coffee, which arrived first. Oozing with marshmallow cream and chocolate syrup and topped with a graham cracker, the coffee was excessive to say the least. Brother enjoyed scraping the the mug to get every last bit of marshmallow, but found the coffee bitter in contrast to the sweet accompaniments. He would have preferred a hot chocolate served in this fashion because the coffee did not meld well with the other flavors.

When the meatloaf sandwich was brought to the table, we were really glad we decided to share because it was ginormous. Each slice of bread was 1.5 inches thick, toasted and smeared in butter. The meatloaf was smothered in lotsa melted cheese. Somewhere in between the meat and the bread was a roasted tomato. The sandwich usually comes with either a side of fries or a side salad, but I request half and half. The half portion of salad and fries were ridiculous; I couldn’t believe they were half-size servings.

The only spectacular aspect of the sandwich was its size. Flavor-wise, brother and I have had much better. If you’re in Philadelphia, head to the Irish Pub for the Meatloaf Melt. Brother said that the cheese was tasteless and unnecessary. I had to employ lots of ketchup to the meat to boost the taste factor. Brother didn’t like the fries. I thought the cucumber salad dressing was very good, but there were too many pieces of iceberg lettuce in the mix.

Even though I’ve only dined at Hash House once, I feel confident making a broad statement regarding the establishment. Hash House is the epitome of what’s wrong with food in America—huge portions, mediocre taste and undiscerning consumers.

Oh, and they charged us a $2 split fee for sharing an entree. As if!


Minh Ky


July 24, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

4644 El Cajon Blvd #101
San Diego, CA 92115

Phone: 619-283-4180
Website: none


Mi Bo Satay Kho – Thin egg noodles topped with beef, tomatoes and onions in a Satay sauce ($5.50)

The main difference between Vietnamese restaurants in America and Vietnamese restaurants in Vietnam is specialization. In Vietnam, restaurants expertly execute only a handful of dishes from a specific region of the country, while Vietnamese-American eateries serve up dishes from a variety of places and operate much like a one-stop shop. Choices can range from pho to rice dishes (com) to every type of noodle imaginable in these restaurants.

Minh Ky is a prime example of a Vietnamese restaurant in America. They serve everything under the sun and even throw in a few Chinese dishes for good measure. However, if Minh Ky were in Saigon rather than on El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, their specialty would definitely be Mi Bo Satay. I’ve been dining at Minh Ky for years and have never strayed from this dish.

Mi Bo Satay consists of a generous bed of tangled egg noodles topped with sautéed beef, tomatoes and onions in a savory satay sauce. The satay sauce is a bit oily, but wonderfully flavorful and not the least spicy. The noodles are garnished with cilantro and scallions. This dish can be served either wet or dry; I prefer mine dry (kho), which means the broth is served in a small bowl on the side rather than poured on top. I find that the dry preparation intensifies the satay flavors, while the wet tends to dilute some of the deliciousness.

Mi Bo Satay is pretty much flawless in my book.

Saigon Restaurant


July 20, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

4455 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115

Phone: 619-284-4215
Website: none


Appetizer: Bò Bía – stir fried jimica and carrots, Chinese sausage, shredded scrambled eggs, all wrapped in a rice paper roll and dipped into a peanut sauce ($3.50)


Banh Tam Bi – rice noodles with shredded pork, vegetable, & coconut milk ($6.75)

Bò 7 Món – Seven Courses of Beef



Course I: Bo Nuong Vi – lemon grass and sesame marinated beef cooked on a hot plate with butter



Course II: Bo Dung Dam / Beef Fondue – slices of Tenderloin fondue at your table in a simmering vinegar sauce


Course III: Bo Cha Dum – steamed Beef Meat Balls
Course IV: Bo La Nho – beef wrapped in grape leaves
Course V: Bo Moi Chai – grilled Beef Sausages
Course VI: Bo La Lot – beef Wrapped in Hawaiian Lot Leaf


Course VII: Chao Bo / Beef Rice Soup – a rich flavorful beef rice soup

During my last weekend in America, my brother and his main squeeze came to San Diego for a brief visit. On his first evening in America’s Finest City, he was aching for some beef—seven whole courses of it. My family usually goes to Anh Hong Pho Pasteur in Clairemont for bò 7 món, but Cousin Phil suggested we try Saigon Restaurant due to a favorable review from his dad. Unfortunately, his dad forgot to mention that service was terrible at this restaurant. I guess we’ll just have to stick with our old stand by Anh Hong from here on out for good eats and prompt service.

While my dining companions enjoyed bò 7 món ($16.99—for two), I decided to order bo bia and banh tam bi instead. Seven courses of beef is six courses too many for a vegetarian-leaning, sprout-loving gal like me. The bo bia, like most of the food at Saigon Restaurant, were huge; perhaps twice the size of average spring rolls. I’m usually against super-sizing, but I may make an exception for Vietnamese treats. The extra-fatty rolls were stuffed with an abundance of carrots and jicama. Sadly, the disproportionate amount of vegetables to protein over powered the Chinese sausage and scrambled egg.

For my main entrée, I wanted to try a new dish. My mom suggested banh tam bi. Banh tam bi is reminiscent of classic vermicelli noodle dishes (bun), but with an unexpected sweetness. The coconut milk sauce in combination with nouc mam is what makes this offering extra special. I really enjoyed this selection and will be on the look out for it in Vietnam.

Even though I don’t like all seven courses of beef, there are a few that I am awfully fond of. The bo la nho is nutty and delicious and the final soup brings back fond memories of nursing childhood colds with a bowl of hot porridge.


The Brigantine


July 17, 2007
Cuisine: Seafood

9350 Fuerte Dr
La Mesa, CA 91941

Phone: 619-465-1935


Calamari Strips ($5.50)


Spinach Salad ($4)


The Brig’s Famous Fish Taco with Cheese ($2.75)


Bowl of Clam Chowder ($3.50)

Just above I-8 on the foothills of Mt. Helix, lies a hidden gem in the Jewel of the Hills. The Brigantine has been a family favorite for quite some time because of their awesome fish tacos and killer happy hour. It’s hard to believe that fish tacos were priced at 99¢ when my brother first discovered this place back in high school!

In a generous mood, my mother invited my grandparents, Aunt Phoung, Uncle Thanh, Cousin Michael, and me to The Brig for dinner. There’s nothing quite like attending happy hour with family. Trust me.

We started the evening with an order of calamari strips for the table. The calamari were served with catsup and a watery tartar sauce. I didn’t care much for the dipping choices, but the calamari was tender and curiously French fry-like in shape. I find that most battered calamari are either served as rings or shriveled up strips so these were totally novel.

To supplement the calamari, my mom and I shared a spinach salad topped with bacon, hard boiled eggs, and tomatoes dressed in a light vinaigrette. The salad certainly wasn’t cutting edge, but definitely a solid plate of greens.

A round of fish tacos followed our appetizers. In a sea of competitors, namely Wahoo’s and Rubio’s, many San Diegans believe that The Brig serves up the city’s best fish tacos. While fast food fish tacos have their merits, The Brig’s use of top notch ingredients simply puts them over the top.

The Brig’s fish tacos consist of two large hunks of flaky white fish, battered, deep fried and wrapped in a corn tortilla. The taco is adorned with a red cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and topped with mild cheddar cheese. Add a little hot sauce and this baby is unstoppable. 99.9% of the time my grandparents shun non-Vietnamese food, but they surprisingly love these fish tacos. Score one for assimilation!

Winding down our happy hour feast, everyone (minus me) enjoyed some clam chowder. Creamy soups just aren’t my cup of tea.

Sala Thai


July 13, 2007
Cuisine: Thai

6161 El Cajon Blvd Ste A
San Diego, CA 92115

Phone: 619-229-9050
Website: none


Pad See Oew – Stir fried rice noodles, broccoli, egg, and soy sauce ($7.95)


Pad Thai – Stir fried narrow rice noodles with tofu, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, egg, and Thai seasonings ($7.95)


Mango with Sweet Sticky Rice ($3.95)

Something feels a little off—I’m in Saigon blogging about San Diego. Things were a bit too relaxing in SoCal and as a result, I fell behind on food reviews. No worries though, they’ll be up shortly and I cannot wait to begin sharing my Vietnam food adventures!

My family is afraid of three things:

  1. Communism
  2. Getting fat
  3. Thai pirates

The first two fears are somewhat self-explanatory, but the third needs some insight. Pirates steal and rape. And even though Thai pirates stole and raped the Vietnamese people a good long while ago, some family members still hold a grudge. In fact, my late Aunt Van refused to eat Thai food due to her distaste for pirates (pun intended). Luckily, there isn’t any beef between pirates and my mom, so we go out for Thai food whenever my mom is too tired to cook.

Sala Thai is one of our favorite spots because of their reasonable prices and good location. As per usual, I ordered Pad Thai with tofu. What can I say? I know what I like! Sala’s Pad Thai was far sweeter than Pad Thais I’ve enjoyed in the past, but not overly so. The sweetness was delicate and welcomed. The thin rice noodles were just as I like,  al dente.

My mom ordered a noodle dish called Pad See Oew for her entrée. This dish is very similar to chow fun due to the shape of the noodles and soy sauce seasoning. She liked it well enough, but similar to me, Pad Thai is her fave.   

For dessert we shared some mango with sticky rice. The rice was warm and drenched in a creamy coconut milk. The sweet and tart flavors of the mango and coconut was a perfect ending to our meal.