Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi ~ Carlsbad

The last time I was at Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi was back in 2014 a few weeks after they opened. I have been meaning to go back and explore the menu a little more but you know, stuff. So, when they reached out to me I jumped at the opportunity and grabbed my friend Chef Beau to tag along. It is always good to have a backup palate.

If you did not know, Blue Ocean is operated by the same group that owns Love Boat Sushi and their five locations around San Diego County. They opened Blue Ocean in 2014, offering an expanded menu and unique setting. More recently they opened Pokewan next door, serving poke bowls in a fast casual setting.

On a tangent, if you like poke, I would highly suggest Pokewan. In my opinion they are the best of the fast casual poke places around and benefit from being attached to Blue Ocean and their sushi bar. The quality of the seafood puts them above the competition. Hint, get your bowl with cucumber noodles instead of rice, it makes for an extremely light and refreshing treat.

OK, back to Blue Ocean…

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The interior was designed by Bells & Whistles who have also designed Starlight, Smoking Goat, and Bracero. I love the design, its modern without being sterile and has a very sexy vibe to it.

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The restaurant boasts a 20 seat sushi bar in addition to the dining area.

The menu is large enough to offer variety without being overwhelming. In addition to a great sushi menu, offering a nice selection of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, the menu also offers small plates, specialty dishes, and desserts. A robata menu starts at 4pm offering traditional Japanese charcoal grilled meat, seafood, and vegetable skewers.

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Bao Bao Buns ~ glazed pork belly, napa cabbage slaw, spicy mayo.

I love Bao and pork belly so this was a no brainer. Perfect, melt in your mouth pork wrapped inside soft fluffy bao. The thing that pulled it all together though was the slaw. It was not mayo heavy like a lot of slaws and provided the needed crunchy element and a nice hint of heat.

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5 Spice duck Tacos ~ Coconut scallion crepe, mint napa slaw, hoisin lime, fried ginger.

Another great dish. The use of a crepe instead of the overused fried won ton as the taco shell was great. The duck was tender and flavorful with the slaw making another appearance, though this time sporting a different flavor profile. To quote Beau “the kitchen knows what they are doing”.

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Screaming Yellow Tail ~ ponzu, crispy garlic, olive oil, cherry tomato, sweet onion.

Now things started to get serious. Lovely yellow tail in a very tasty and interesting sauce. It is one of those dishes that when you first taste it you get one thing, in this case sweetness from the ponzu, then as you eat it your palate starts picking up more and more depth. Beau actually broke out his phone and took notes. The consensus was the oil the garlic was cooked in was then poured over the dish slightly searing the fish adding smokiness and depth. This was recommended by our server and rightfully so.

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Albacore Delight ~ Albacore and krab mixed with miso sauce, cucumber, crunch powder
Topped With ~albacore, avocado, green onion (chili oil, ponzu).

This is my go-to roll. I am not usually a roll person, I like nigiri and sashimi, this is the exception. I always ordered it at Love Boat Sushi (which is where I discovered it). I will go so far as to say this is my favorite sushi roll ever and anywhere. I know, big statement and that includes the local big players as well as nationally. Note I said “roll”. The reason is it ticks all the boxes for me, it is light with a hint of sweetness and then you get heat (that is not overwhelming) from the chili oil. If you want more heat just dip the piece into a little more chili oil. Truly a joy to eat.

I was really glad I revisited Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi. I knew it was going to be good but it actually exceeded my expectations. They have a really good happy hour and the atmosphere really makes it a good choice for a date or night out.

 

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi

2958 Madison St., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #sushi #japanesefood #robata #carlsbad #northcounty #seafood #spicy

 

 

 

Bluewater Grill ~ Carlsbad

So, though this was only their first week officially open, I went down to Carlsbad Village and checked out Bluewater Grill. I was not too worried about them being so new ( I usually give restaurants a few weeks to settle in) due to the fact they have 6 other locations and were running test lunch services all last week.

Bluewater Grill is in its 20th year of business. Having started in Newport Beach, they now have locations from Catalina to Temecula. The Carlsbad location moves into the space previously occupied by the Fish House Vera Cruz.

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Dinning room. Psst. those people look a lot like the owners of the Flying Pig:) They loved their lunch as well and were quite surprised at the price for quality. Restaurant and food cost stuff which I love talking about. That is not irony, I’m a nerd.

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Bar area.

The renovation changes out the dark motif of the Vera Cruz for an open bright dinning and bar area.

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Like their predecessor, they also have a fish market element.

It is nice now we actually have some good fish market options back in North County again with Pelly’s, Top Choice Fish, and now Bluewater.

The menu is straight forward with appetizers, salads, a few specialty dishes and of course fresh fish.

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Seared Scallops ~ Jalapeno aioli, chopped bacon and cilantro.

Perfectly seared U-10 diver scallops using a classic flavor combo. These were so delicate and sweet.

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Swordfish Espana ~ Fingerling potatoes, pine nuts, and smoked paprika.

Since they own their own Swordfish boats and the season is drawing to a close I had to go with this. Swordfish is one of those fish that can be boring, not in this case. Seared so it had just the thinnest of crusts, light, and flaky. Really nice. If they have Swordfish on the menu I highly recommend ordering it.

If you are looking for great non-sushi, sustainable seafood in downtown Carlsbad, I highly recommend Bluewater Grill.

Bluewater Grill

417 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #seafood #swordfish #carlsbad #northcounty #fish

 

 

 

BattleMage Brewing Company ~ Vista

Here is the full report on our visit to BattleMage Brewing Company in Vista

All words and photography by : Justin Kunert

A little over 5 months ago, BattleMage Brewing Company entered the densely populated brewing scene of southern Vista, joining a long list of great breweries in the area (at least 10 breweries in a one-mile radius!).  Chris and I ventured into this region, which embodies what beer dreams are made of.  In a crowded field, BattleMage rises to the occasion by providing delicious beer, a solid array of styles, affordable prices, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.

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The display board of beer offerings

Amid the decorations and artwork, I drew my focus to the most important part – the beer.  To put it simply, BattleMage is making really tasty beer.  I elected to order five tasters of the eleven beers on tap: Summon Ifrit (Hoppy Amber, 6.1%), Hooded Assassin (Old Ale, 10%), Chaotic Evil (Hazy Extra Pale, 5.9%), Shroud of Mist (Hazy IPA, 6.9%), and The Beer is Dark and Full of Caffeine (Milk Stout, 6.3%).

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Our weapons of choice

All five of my samples were outstanding.  My personal favorite was the Shroud of Mist.  As the co-brewer, Chris, informed me, it is currently their most popular beer – and for good reason.  The tropical fruit aromas and refreshing taste makes it a worthy pint to satisfy anyone’s craze for hazy IPA’s.  Chris, the co-brewer, recommended we try his personal favorite – the Summon Ifrit.  With hoppy notes underlying a great balance of malt flavors, it is a beer that can be enjoyed by hop heads and malt lovers alike.

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Entryway decorations and artwork

The brewing quality, the diverse range of options, and the correlation to beer style makes BattleMage an excellent choice for satisfying that beer craving.  Pair this with an engaging, accommodating, and friendly host, Chris, the co-brewer, was eager to give us recommendations and describe the influence and style behind each of the beers, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

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Additional decorations and the seating area

Lastly, I really enjoyed the decorations and theme within the brewery.  While being unfamiliar with the rules or characters in games like Dungeons and Dragons, I found all of the decorations and artwork really well done.  The ambiance never felt over the top or tacky, but appropriate to create a fun drinking environment.  Whether you are part of the crowd playing Dungeons and Dragons on Tuesday nights or just enjoying a beer on a regular Thursday evening, the brewery and staff are very welcoming, making this new spot well worthy of a visit.

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St #102, Vista, CA 92081

#ipa #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #vista #dungeonsanddragons #magic #ale

Dija Mara ~ Oceanside

So, I do these posts called “coming soon reports”, I know creative title right? Anyway, probably the biggest interest, and most questions, I have received on one of these was regarding the renovation of the old Bessie’s place. People were clambering to know what was going in.

Once it was discovered it was an Indonesian restaurant called Dija Mara, people got really interested.  Their main response was they were excited for something other than another gourmet pizza place or burger joint. I was as well. What got me really excited was when I learned the Chef heading it up had worked in a number of Michelin stared restaurants, including Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.

Since I was not very familiar with Indonesian food, in this case Balinese, I could not wait to check the restaurant out.

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The new facade at 232 South Coast Highway.

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The interior has a simple comfortable feel. The art and murals are quirky without being silly.

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They turned the counter from the old diner into the bar area. Look, it is Chef Willy from 608. This is the second picture I took of him hence the annoyed look on his face. Chefs of his calibre coming in for their second visit this early in a restaurant’s operation is always a good sign.

The cuisine is interesting and delicious. Think Asian with a touch of Indian but do not think curries, think earthy spices.

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The menu is broken up into cold and hot small plates, large plates, and skewers. Prices are in line with the quality and calibre of execution. I had one hot small plate, one skewer, and one large plate plus a beverage and my bill was $45.

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Complimentary shrimp chips with sauces. The peanut sauce on the left is beautiful. Taking about twenty hours to make, it shows in-depth and flavor.

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Charred Eggplant ~ Smoked Tomato Sambal : Mayer Lemon Yogurt : Thai Basil : Fried Shallot

I wanted to try one vegetable dish and this one was a great choice. It had a nice heat from the sambal that worked in counter balance with the yogurt, the basil added freshness, and the fried shallot texture. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that is hard to get right. When you do it is great and this was great. This is a dish I would order on every visit.

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Sambal Octopus ~ Fried Shallot & Snake Bean Salad : Lemon Aoili

The octopus was perfectly tender and all the components worked together on this. The only thing for me was there was this slight bitterness I could not pin down. I would give the dish a second chance next time though.

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Beef Short Rib Randang ~ Sumatran Spice : Coconut Milk : Marigolds : Turmeric Root

Short ribs when done perfectly are melt in your mouth tender. These were exactly that, with the bonus of a crispy outer shell. This dish also comes with rice so is much larger than it looks.

Another thing I will say is the wait staff is probably the best I have seen for a new restaurant at any level. My waitress knew the menu, every dish, and not just the description of it but the flavor profile.

I highly suggest checking Dija Mara out. If you support different restaurants it will attract more variation.

Dija Mara

232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

#food #foodporn #oceanside #dijamara #indonesianfood #balinesefood

 

 

How to grow your restaurant business with video.

So, we have a great restaurant community up here in North County. Another thing we have, that may go over looked, is a great number of businesses that support that community. Whether it is Cyclops Farms providing great, local, organic produce to local eateries, or organizations like Mainstreet Oceanside and Visit Oceanside helping new restaurant owners build their networks and contacts. We are pretty lucky.

Another member of that community is “The King’s Touch Video” who specialize in video photography. I met the owners, Shawn and Roberta, over a year ago at a Mainstreet  promotions committee meeting. Not only was I struck by their experience and scope of work but also themselves as people. Since that time I have introduced them to a number of local restauranteurs and chefs, who they ended up doing video and photography for.

Because I am always doing one project or another, or just stuffing my face, I talk to these Chefs and owners over and over again and have heard nothing but high praise for the quality of work and customer service provided by Shawn and his wife .

The reason I am mentioning them here is because they want to focus more of their business on restaurants, chefs, and food as it is a passion of theirs.

Press play above to see their work. They also have a lot of food based examples on their website.

This is not a paid ad for their services. I just believe in their ability and think they are a great support business for the local restaurant community.

So, if you are in the market to expand coverage of your restaurant or bar through video, I would highly recommend their services.

The King’s Touch Video

#video #food #foodporn #business #northcounty #cyclopsfarms #mainstreetoceanside #visitoceanside #localbusiness

Halcyon, Stella Public House, plus bonus ~ San Marcos

So, I recently went to check out the new Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge and their sister establishment Stella Public House located in the new mixed use enclave that is called “Block C” North City in San Marcos.  North City is set to be, once finished, an urban living utopia or dystopia, depending on your point of view. My friend Beau said it best. “High rise upscale apartments with cacti and bicycles on the balconies and hipster coffee houses and restaurants on the street level.” Pretty dead on actually. Luckily I like hipster coffee places and restaurants, good ones anyway.

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Block C ( Why does that name conjure up images of Judge Dread and Mega City One for me?)

Halcyon, and Stella Public House, are part of a small chain with two locations in Texas. The new San Marcos location is actually a relocation of their East Village spot in San Diego.

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Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge

Open 7am till 2am Halcyon is a coffee bar during the day serving up breakfast items, salads, and sandwiches. At night it turns into a lounge with wine, beer and cocktail service.

It has a bright, laid back atmosphere with lots of large open roll up windows. The space flows across a couch filled lounge area into their sister establishment Stella Public house.

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Iced Tea and a daisy:)

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Stella Public House calls itself a “Farm to Pizza” establishment. I can see that. Its menu is designed around shared plates and wood fired pizzas. Plus, to be a Gastropub I think it’s law you must have a $14 burger, pork belly, and ceviche on the menu ( though technically I think you can sub the ceviche for poke and the burger for sliders.).  I do not recognize the farms they are sourcing from listed on their website but the food we had used top quality, fresh product. Plus, to be honest, I only know like six farms by name anyway.

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A beautiful open kitchen and bar area run along the North wall. Flowing and / or seamless would be good adjectives to describe the space.

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The large roll up windows / doors continue the indoor out-door theme from Halcyon. Justin ( beer contributor for NCF ) stuck with water, as due to being in soft opening mode they were not serving beer yet. They open officially 10/6. Justin lived, we went to a brewery right after this:)

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Burrata Plate ~ Burrata, prosciutto, and accompaniments.

Delicious, fresh burrata with great prosciutto. We both loved this. Easily enough for two as a starter.

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Texas Bee Sting Pizza ~ house mozzarella, serrano, sopressata, parmigiano, with local honey drizzle and cilantro.

I was not that hungry but still devoured 3 slices of the pizza. It had a nice balance of saltiness from the cheese playing off the right amount of sweetness from the honey and a little bit of spice from the serranos. A really nice pizza, I would order it again.

Also shout out to the staff for being friendly and dealing with the slight chaos that comes with a new establishment opening perfectly.

Halcyon & Stella Public House

250 North City Drive Suite #3 | San Marcos, CA

BattleMage Brewing….

As I mentioned in the title, a little bonus. After Eating at Stella we headed over to check out Battle Mage Brewing Company. Justin will do a full article on them and their beers, but I just wanted to mention them.

BattleMage started up about five months ago and is a fantasy themed brewery ( Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Game of Thrones ). Their beers have names like Goblin King, Chaotic Evil, and Hooded Assassin. They have D&D nights every Tuesday, Magic the Gathering Wednesdays, and board games available to play anytime. Basically, I love them:) Here are a few pics till Justin writes them up. Good beer in a variety of styles. I highly recommend checking them out.

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Wall of Magic The Gathering Cards.

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Beer list and kick ass mascot art work. Really good prices, flights of 4 tasters are $5, pints $5, and growlers $15. Yes, I bought a T-Shirt, wearing it right now:)

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St, Vista, CA

#food #foodporn #foodie #pizza #coffee #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #sanmarcos #northcounty #D&D #games #vista

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon ~ New Ramen & Beer Places ~ Encinitas

Really excited about both these projects. The first is Rooster Ramen from Chef David Volk. Rooster Ramen used to be a nightly pop up at the Encinitas Bull Taco. David pulled out due to factors I won’t get into with the owner, but I am happy to see some of the best ramen I have had in North County coming back. You can read about the concept here, though I do not think this location will have outdoor seating.

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Rooster Ramens new home at 914 South Coast Highway, Leucadia. Right before Leucadia Blvd.

Also, Modern Times got approval (barley) to open their new tasting room at 470 South Coast Highway. The location is across from the La Paloma Theater between Ironsmith Coffee and Filberto’s.

#beer #craftbrewer #ramen #food #chef #encinitas #tastingroom #food #restaurant

Stumblefoot Brewing & Mother Earth Brewing ~ San Marcos and Vista

Stumblefoot Brewing Co. and Mother Earth Brew Co.

All words and pictures by Justin Kunert

Near San Elijo Hills at the bottom of San Marcos, and south of the brewing and tasting room cluster where Vista, Carlsbad, and San Marcos meet, you’ll find Stumblefoot Brewing Company.  Open since 2012, it’s likely you’ve heard of or visited this spot before, or perhaps seen their sour ale, Quadraven, at bottle shops or liquor stores. But this spot may appear different from your last visit, as the company just changed ownership earlier this year.  With the change came a refreshed logo and an updated ambiance in the tasting room.  One thing that did not change is the brewer, and judging by the amount of people in the tasting room, the beer has maintained its quality taste and consistency that has kept it running since 2012.  I was eager to sample as many beers that legal blood alcohol limits would allow.

beer 1The beer line-up

I went for four 5 ounce tasters: Take This Job And Nugget  Session IPA (5.5%), Inner Penguin IPA (6.9%), Chester Brown Ale (5.5%), and QuadRaven Sour Ale (11.5%).  Chris ordered two half pours, opting for Cher-ish the Journey Cherry Kettle Sour (6%) and Strawberry Gose Sour (4.5%).  The standout for both of us was the QuadRaven, providing a noticeable pucker, slight malt backbone, and mild booziness, even at 11.5%.  The Brown Ale was unfiltered, an interesting take on recent brewing trends.  I felt it gave the beer a creamy texture, and lighter body.  The aroma on the Penguin really threw me off, I was expecting a more tropical fruit smell given it being a hazy IPA.  But it smelt more like a Belgian beer would, which I thought was really interesting.  The Session, Gose, and kettle sour were all really refreshing, especially on a hot day.

beer 2The brewing equipment at Stumblefoot

With no food options or food truck at Stumblefoot, we ventured into downtown Vista to visit Urbn Pizza and Mother Earth Brew Co.  Order pizza at Urbn and they will deliver it to you while you drink at Mother Earth.  I love this set up, it’s like having a permanent food truck at the brewery.

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Beers and backdrop at Mother Earth Brew Co.

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Clockwise from left: Say When, ESB, Rooftop, Sin Tax

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Urbn and IPA while at Mother Earth

While here, we both ordered the Extra Special Bitter (5.4%), Rooftop IPA (7.5%), Say When IPA (7.5%), and the Sin Tax Imperial Peanut Butter Stout (8.1%).  I love the ESB here; it is smooth, balanced, light, and has a wonderful maltiness on the nose and on the finish.  Definitely order it on your next visit, as it was a bronze medal winner at the 2016 Great American Beer Fest.  Sin Tax served as a perfect vessel for my last beer of the day.  After the always successful pizza and IPA combination, the peanut butter, chocolately, and roasty stout flavors of Sin Tax made the dessert like beer a perfect finish to the evening.

Stumblefoot Brewery

1784 La Costa Meadows Dr #103,
San Marcos,

 

Mother Earth Brew Co.

206 Mainstreet Vista

#food #foodporn #beer #brewery #microbrew #vista #sanmarcos #stumblefoot #motherearthbrewing #pizza

 

 

 

Maru Restaurant (Korean BBQ) ~ Oceanside

With the closure of Aria a year or so ago Oceanside, and North County for that matter, lost its only option for Korean style BBQ.  Though Aria was a Korean / Japanese fusion place, also serving sushi, it scratched the itch for decent Korean fare.

Luckily, not only has the void left by Aria’s departure been filled, it has been upgraded in quality by the opening of the new Maru Restaurant. Even going so far as to occupy the same spot as Aria once did, Maru gives cause to smile for those, like myself, who enjoy Korean BBQ without having to drive to Convoy St. to get it. For the record Mana in San Marcos does not fit into the same quality range.

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Maru ~ 3744 mission Ave. Corner of Mission and El Camino in the Stater Bros. shopping center.

At the time we were there they were in soft opening mode. They were still training staff, hiring, and did not have a full menu. By the time this post is out they should be up and running fully. We talked with one of the owners and the manager and they are very dedicated to quality of the food and the restaurants success. At the time they were commuting daily from LA to run the restaurant while looking for a place to live down here.

The menu spans appetizers like edamame, goyza, and tempura, to entrees like hot stone bibimbap, chicken and pork katsu, and of course an array of meat choices for table top Korean BBQ.

We started with the assorted Kimichi appetizer.

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Assorted Kimichi Appetizer ~ Cucumber, radish, and Napa cabbage kimchi.

All their Kimchi is made in-house, which results in a less brine and fresher Kimchi free of MSG. All were great but my favorite was the radish, followed by the Napa.

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Short Rib. The meat was wonderful with lots of marbling. Condiments of Salt, sauce, and a spicy dip accompanied the ribs.

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Grilling action.

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Kalbi Shio ~ Delicious marinated short rib. The marinade packed tons of flavor and again the quality of the meat was top-notch.

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Our spread.

My guest also had the hot stone bibimbap, which was also very tasty.

Meat choices run from $15 to $20. I would say for two people two meats and an app. or two would be a good meal. They also have lunch specials and bento boxes which are good for single diners.

Sake and beer is also offered.

The manager had mentioned “all you can eat” but I do not think that has been implemented yet.

Mana Restaurant

3744 Mission Ave. Oceanside

#food #foodporn #koreanbbq #koreanfood #oceanside #foodie

 

Re-visit report: Panca Peruvian Cuisine & Rotisserie ~Oceanside

So, while it has only been about a year since my last visit to Panca (that’s pretty good for me with my schedule.) I wanted to stop by and try some of the dishes I have passed over during my previous visits. The thing I love about Peruvian food is that it truly is a “fusion” cuisine. In addition to the variations of flavors and ingredients based on geography and family tradition, you see the influences of Peru’s diverse cultural make up. “Peruvians view themselves as a racially mixed people: a “half indigenous, a third European, a sixth African and one part Asiatic”. Add to that the creativity of a talented Chef like Ioli and you get great Peruvian staples through an exciting lens.

I dragged my friend Chef Beau Bonham along for the meal. I learned he had not been to Panca so, this was going to be a treat for him to experience it and me to have someone along with another strong pallet to “food nerd” out with.

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Tiradito ~ Fresh fish slices with a Peruvian yellow pepper lime sauce, Rocoto and Aji limo.

This along with the Wonton scallops are a must have dish when visiting for me. Unlike Ceviche the fish is not marinated in citrus. It is raw with the sauce added right before service. The freshness of the fish is highlighted against the citrus and heat from the sauce. It is quite spicy and will quickly catch up with you.

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Aji De Gallina ~ Chicken in creamy spicy sauce made with Parmesan, Peruvian yellow pepper, and walnuts, served over a bed of potato and a side of Peruvian white rice.

This was my first time trying this dish and both of us agreed it was the star of the meal. The sauce, while reminiscent of a curry is something unique. It has a body to it which we guessed was probably from slowly introducing parmesan into it while cooking.

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Ocopa ~ Homemade Peruvian spicy sauce, Ocopa is made with Huacatay (black mint), peanuts, animal crackers and Peruvian yellow pepper, over a bed of potato.

Another fantastic interesting sauce. Thick with a mild bitterness or earthy quality. The closest comparison would be a mole sauce. The dish is Served chilled over boiled potatoes. This is an appetizer and like all her appetizers is easily sharable.

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Alfajores ~ Two short bread cookies with “manjarblance” (dulce de leche) in the middle; then topped with powdered sugar.

Beau insisted on getting their famous Alfajores. If you want a perfect example of how a text-book short bread is supposed to be, this is it. Perfectly light and flaky.

What a great meal, I’m glad I took the time to re-visit them. I whole handedly believe Panca is the best Peruvian food in San Diego County. Q’ero gets more attention (and is good) but Panca is a notch above and slightly less expensive.

Panca has future expansions in the works Here.

Panca Peruvian Cuisine & Rotisserie

1902 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

#food #foodporn #oceanside #peruvian #southamerican #peruvianfood #restaurants