Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mint & Basil in San Jose, California

Phở

This small chain of restaurants in San Jose is a bit of an odd one. They serve Southeast Asian food, but vegetarian. And they don't make that vegetarian label very obvious either, as the items on the menu just freely say things like "shrimp," "chicken," and "fish" without any qualifiers in front of them. True, the first page of the menu says "vegetarian," but only in small print, and I've heard of folks who left here frustrated after realizing that what they ate was really just tofu.

Still, I had a better-than-expected experience with vegan phở at Loving Hut last year, so I figured that maybe this place would be as good. Unfortunately, it wasn't. A lot of it tasted like processed sauces, and some of the dishes that we got were slightly sweet too, perhaps because they also refused to use MSG in anything. Now, there was a crispy chow fun that was kinda interesting, but it came with a bunch of crudely cut and tasteless cabbage on top. I left here stuffed but unsatisfied.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pho Viet (or is it Pho Bel-Air?) in San Jose, California

Phở

I needed a quick lunch after getting into San Jose today, and what could be more local than a piping hot bowl of phở? Conveniently enough, there's a phở place near the airport, and it's nearly walkable...or a quick ride on the free VTA Airport Flyer bus number 10 if you so choose. Oddly, the signage and listing on Google Maps calls it Pho Viet, but the cover of the menu says Phở Bel-Air (1751 N 1st St #60, 408-452-1060).

Anyway, that was a refreshing bowl above, with not just some finely sliced tripe but also an impressively tender and chewy tendon (admittedly, I didn't order the tendon, but the lady messed up my order and I figured that I'd go for it anyway). The broth wasn't as punchy as I would've liked, and thus I didn't drink it all. Still, this is a pretty convenient place to hit up next time I need to transfer from the airport to the light rail.

The Counter Custom Burgers: Third Time's A Charm

Create Your Own Burger

It's funny how my opinion of this place keeps changing each time I eat here. This is my third time here, and I loved what I had today. And yet it was largely using the ingredients that I picked out previously, including tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese. I don't know if it was just because I was starving or maybe because choosing horseradish aioli instead of mustard let the fresh jalapeno slices shine in front of a beefier-tasting patty this time. I want to get another one.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Another Run to Humberto's Taco Shop in San Diego

Combination #5

I'm only in San Diego for one night, so I took advantage of it to do one last run to Humberto's, this time grabbing a taco with my enchilada rather than tostada like I got the other night. I'm having trouble putting my finger on what makes these X-berto's shops in San Diego so unique, but I just love the greasy combination of beans, cheese, lettuce, and salsa in a foam takeout box.

Craft & Commerce in San Diego, California

Grilled Oysters

Back on the other side of the border, I needed dinner. So I came to this Zagat-rated place (675 West Beech Street, 619-269-2202) that does craft cocktails and craft beer along with food. The drinks were good, as were those grilled oysters above. Normally I prefer my oysters raw and unadulterated, but this one came together nicely with a smoky aroma from the grill pervading it; I liked it so much that I nearly got seconds! It's too bad then that I didn't really like some of my other items, like an eggplant dip that was too tangy as well as a grilled broccoli that was too sweet. I'd still come back here though.

Karnes en su Jugo in Tijuana, Mexico

Karnes en su Jugo

I noticed this shop the other night while walking to El Taller, and I thought, wow, it's been a while since I've had carne en su jugo! I guess it must've stuck in my head over the weekend, because I came here for lunch before crossing back over the border (Boulevard Agua Caliente #1252, 524−9887).

To be sure, it wasn't as good as Karne Garibaldi, not only since they were much slower, but also since they weren't as generous with the garnishes. But their piping hot corn tortillas were delightful, and I still gobbled everything down with ease. I should get back to Guadalajara one day.

Pozole From My Hotel Breakfast in Tijuana, Mexico

Pozole

I love me a piping hot bowl of pozole in the morning, especially after a night on the town. And fortunately, my hotel's breakfast spread featured it this weekend, along with a number of pleasant surprises like tamales in addition to the requisite chilaquiles and frijoles. Normally I'm not one to care much for hotel breakfasts, but this was both convenient and delicious.

Taconazo in Tijuana, Mexico

Tacos

After quite a number of drinks, a local friend drove us to an outlet of Taconazo, which he says is one of the best taco shops in town. And I could see why. Not only were the tortillas delicious, but the tripe tacos in particular had some kind of rich smooth depth in there; I think they slathered a thin layer of frijoles and maybe some other stuff onto the tortilla first. Anyway, this hit the spot, even if (I never thought I'd say this) I'm admittedly starting to get sick of all of the tacos that I've been eating lately.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Taco Stand at Plaza Fiesta in Tijuana, Mexico

Taco

It turns out that Plaza Fiesta in Tijuana is a wonderful little densely-packed area of craft beer bars. We grabbed a number of beers, but we also needed food. Conveniently enough, there was a taco stand sitting right outside. I got a few items, including a chicharron taco, a bistec en chipotle taco, and a mole taco. All of them were rather saucy and wet, which didn't occur to me when I ordered them, but in retrospect should've been obvious at that time, especially the slightly sweet mole. Anyway, this was just to line our bellies before proceeding into the evening.

A Tacos Aaron Truck in Tijuana, Mexico

Quesabirria

This fleet of trucks across Tijuana has been hyped up quite a bit in the past few years, so my expectations were pretty high going in. I grabbed one pollo adobado and one quesabirria, both of which were very tender. But I wasn't blown away by how they were seasoned, as the former was slightly sweet and nutty, while the latter was rich and gooey from the cheese. Of course, rich and gooey can be a good thing, but I preferred the quesataco from La Taqueseria instead. Even when I spiked these tacos with limes, salsas, and pickles, I had trouble getting excited about them. Maybe I ordered the wrong things?

Taquesos y Papas' Quesataco at La Taqueseria in Tijuana

Quesataco Camarones

Last time I was at La Taqueseria, I forgot to get their famous reverse cheese taco, where the cheese is melted directly on the grill with your choice of protein before throwing it onto a tortilla. I made a quick stop today to try one, and yeah, it certainly was unique, even if ultimately the taste wasn't as radical as its appearance suggested. His wide array of salsas helped though (including two different habanero ones), and I was happy to have tried it either way.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Taqueria Los Albañiles in Tijuana, Mexico

Barbacoa Taco

My Uber driver recommended this place (Calle Benito Juárez, +52-664-685-8834), saying that the tacos were huge. I admittedly flinched a bit when he said that, but nonetheless figured that he would know better than me, and thus I came here to try it out tonight.

The good thing was that the corn tortilla was lovely, as was the huge array of salsa, pickles, and garnishes. He was right in that these were huge, but that's precisely why I didn't like this place that much, as I just ended up with giant clumps of meat in my mouth. I should've gone to Las Ahumaderas instead.