Nozomi Sushi and Teriyaki

Nozomi

Nozomi

When Nozomi first opened, I used to come here a lot because their sushi rolls were cheap, tasty and HUUUUGE. As my taste buds migrated to preferring nigiri, I stopped coming here.  Last week, I wandered back for dinner last night with a friend. I noticed that while they still had their mile-long list of specialty rolls and non-sushi menu, they had added an “all you can eat” sushi option for $25-ish. Starving, my friend and I chose to try it out. BIG MISTAKE. I’ve been to different sushi restaurants in San Diego that had all you can eat options and was never disappointed…till now.

Nozomi - nigiri (scallops, salmon, albacore, hamachi, tuna, unagi)

Nozomi - nigiri (scallops, salmon, albacore, hamachi, tuna, unagi)

Nozomi - Rolls (Dragon and ???)

Nozomi - Rolls (Dragon and ???)

The nigiri and some of the rolls are half-portions, meaning instead of the usual two pieces of nigiri, you only get one. Not really a problem…just got to remember to mark twice as much as you wanted. The huge issue was the quality. It was like they wanted to get rid of whatever old fish they had lying around. The nigiri didn’t taste fresh at all and frankly, some of it was disgusting. The rolls were better because there were other things like sauce to mask some of that fishy flavor.

I ordered an amaebi nigiri and this was probably the most foul thing of the night. There was still a piece of shell. The flavor seemed…off and I almost spit it out. The shrimp head wasn’t fried enough either.

The quality of Nozomi seems to have gone down and yet this place was packed. Frankly, even though the rolls were still okay, after that horrible nigiri experience, I’m not sure I’m keen on coming back here.

The location in the La Jolla/UTC area (Nozomi 2) seems to still retain some sense of fish quality as only a couple of weeks before, I shared a sashimi platter with a coworker and was quite happy with it. I think I’ll stick with that location instead of the Convoy St. one. Also, there seems to be some differences in the menus between the two Nozomis.

I would have given Nozomi a higher rating before but after this visit, they only get 2 NOMs from the Catty Critic.

Nozomi
4637 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 569-7773
Nozomi Noodle & Teriyaki on Urbanspoon

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Memorial Day Weekend – Solvang

On our 2nd day of vacation in the area, the husband and I decided to venture to Solvang in the morning.  Since my other half detests vegetables, he didn’t eat his breakfast quiche at our B&B, claiming it had been “tainted” and instead, drank an entire carafe of Ghiradelli hot chocolate. (facepalm)  When we reached Solvang, he was starting to get hungry so we had an early lunch.

Solvang - view from our patio table

Solvang - Clock Tower

Solvang, being a tourist destination, does not have a shortage of places to eat.  We decided to stop in at a cafe that had patio seating.  I can’t recall the name of the place but it was near the clock and was part of a little shopping center that had an ice cream shop and a sandwich shop.

Solvang - hot dog

Solvang - hot dog

Solvang - Heineken Dark

Solvang - Heineken Dark

After perusing the menu (which contained breakfast and lunch items), the husband opted to get a hotdog with cheese and fries along with a Heineken Dark to drink.  I went with the split pea soup in a bread bowl and a mimosa.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I never put cheese on my hot dogs.  My husband is the first person I know who does this and it strikes me as odd for some reason even though, thinking about it, it makes sense.  Anyways…  This was a pretty big plump sausage, not your little wimpy store-bought Oscar Mayer wiener.  They were quite generous with the cheese as well.  The other half thoroughly enjoyed it, stating it was a good juicy hot dog.  The french fries were great – perfectly cooked to give them  a nice crispiness and not overly oily.  I can’t comment on the Heine as I’m biased against most beers.  Guinness is one of the few that I will drink.  And only from tap.

Solvang - Split Pea Soup

Solvang - Split Pea Soup

Solvang - Mimosa

Solvang - Mimosa

My split pea soup was disappointing.  I was hoping that being in a Danish town, the soup would have been excellent.  I found it a little bland and grainy.  The bread bowl seemed a little stale so I barely touched it.

The mimosa, on the other hand, was just fantastic.  It possibly could be the best mimosa I’ve had so far.  The champagne to orange juice ratio was perfect for my lightweight self.  However, what really stood out was a sweet, almost honey-like flavor in it.  I asked the waitress if they add anything to their mimosas and she said it was the standard mixture – sparkling wine and OJ.  Hrmmm…

The service at this place was okay.  We were told to sit wherever but it did take a while for our waitress to finally make her way to our table to take orders.

As for cost, the prices here are inexpensive.  I believe we spent around $30-35 for the entire meal.  Would definitely have been less if we didn’t have our drinks but hey, we’re on vacation!

Looking around at other customers’ tables, a lot of people were getting breakfast entrees.  There were quite a number of omelettes that looked tasty.  There were also a number of large sandwiches.  This place also does dinner though I don’t know what is on that menu.

I give this place (if I could only remember the name…) 2 1/2 NOMs.

The hunt continues…

While running some errands this evening, I decided I would pick up some Dinah’s fried chicken for dinner since the husband sounded like he needed some comfort food.  I’ve never had it despite driving past the restaurant many times.  Anyways, we’ll save that review for later, after I’ve eaten some.

In the same center is a Viva Fresh…yet another Mexican restaurant chain.  We’ve been to one before, the location off the corner of Manchester and Lincoln.  We were so underwhelmed by what we got that we made a conscious decision to never go back there.  But this was a different location so maybe this time would be better?

I walked in and looked at the menu.  It was a lot…shorter than I recalled.  Hrm.  I decided to get an order of rolled tacos (3) w/ shredded beef and a fish taco w/ guacamole (option of either white sauce or guacamole) which came out to a whopping $9.12 after tax.

The rolled tacos with shredded beef weren’t bad.  They were a little thicker than what I normally see.  The beef was a little dry but overall, it was tasty.  Good crunch.  Okay, I’d probably order these again and maybe ask for some cheese as well.

Normally, in San Diego, when you order a fish taco/burrito, the fish is breaded and fried.  Viva Fresh grills their fish which is healthier but does not do much on the “want comfort-y food”.  This taco consisted of 2 small white corn tortillas serving as the shell, a good helping of white fish, lettuce and a whole lot of guacamole.  I put on some of their hot salsa and took a bite.  The first flavor to really hit me was a sharp sour note…lime.  Either they marinade their fish in lime juice or someone was using a lime as a stress relief ball.  Anyways, as I continued to eat, I caught hints of a fishy flavor here and there…a sign that the fish isn’t fresh and was probably frozen.  Maybe that’s why they put so much lime…and guacamole.  It was a bit of a mess to eat.

Sadly, this Viva Fresh turned out to be a disappointment as well.  I’ll probably just hit up Chile Verde since it is closer.  A friend, another San Diegan, informed me of a place in Burbank that satisfied her cravings.  However, Burbank is quite a bit aways.  😦  Maybe one day, if we venture there…

2 1/2 NOMs for Viva Fresh.

Viva Fresh Mexican Grill
6515 S Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(310) 338-9153
www.vivafreshmexicangrill.com
Viva Fresh Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Edit: I noticed on Yelp that this place got pretty good reviews.  You Los Angeleans are deprived.  I’m sorry but really, you are.  On your next trip to San Diego, stop at a Roberto’s or a Santana’s or El Cotixan and taste what I’m talking about.

So where’s the good Mexican food in LA?

The Mexican places in LA that I’ve been to so far have nothing on what you can find in San Diego. I miss my *bertos…

I went in, ordered a bean n’ cheese burrito for the husband and a Burrito Especial (meat, cheese, guac, pico de gallo) for myself….none of this rice n’ beans filler crap. I had the option of steak or chicken and went with steak. They got it wrong and put chicken in.

I was curious as to why my order was in a styrofoam container vs. being wrapped in paper like most other burritos. The reason – this was a wet mess. It literally fell apart when I picked it up and I ended up using a fork n’ knife. Um, drain the pico de gallo next time before throwing it in, m’kay? They didn’t skimp on the filling, obviously, since the tortilla barely wrapped around it but I don’t think there was a lot of chicken. At least not that I could taste due to the overpowering pico n’ guac.

It wasn’t bad but damn, I do miss my carne asada burritos from Roberto’s. And don’t even get me started on breakfast burritos. I don’t know what Chile Verde is thinking putting beans in theirs but from where I come from, it’s bacon, egg, cheese and shredded hash browns. And a whole lot of hot sauce….

Also, where’s the fish burrito on the menu? Do I really have to go to Rubio’s for that?

Would I go back? Probably…though I might stick with rolled tacos next time or get a bean n’ cheese burrito since that looked okay and the husband didn’t complain. Besides, it’s not like I have many options, atm…

P.S. I pronounced “Especial” the Spanish way and the Hispanic guy behind the counter looked at me funny and asked “What”? Is my accent really that bad?? So I had to repeat it, this time pronouncing it “Eh-speh-shawl”.

Chile Verde earns 2 1/2 NOMs.

Chile Verde
630 N Sepulveda Blvd
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 640-7666
Chile Verde Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

The best tortillas are in Casablanca

While my mister n’ others were out partying it up in Vegas for our friend’s 4th of July bachelor bash, the girls decided to get together for some of our own 4th of July festivities, including dinner. It took us a while to settle on a place to eat (some of our first options were closed for the holiday), but we finally reached Casablanca, a restaurant in Venice that S. has wanted to try for a while.

At first, I thought it would be Moroccan/Mediterranean given the name. Turns out, this is a Mexican restaurant. Wait, wah??? What’s a Mexican restaurant doing with a name like Casablanca? Well, whoever owns this restaurant either is a huge fan of the movie or never got around to renovating. The interior is done up Moroccan style and memorabilia from the movie decorate the walls. There’s even a wax figurine of Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine. I really wish I had a camera on me…

As we entered Casablanca, we were a little bit skeptical. Reassured by the fact that there were customers there already and they looked like they were enjoying themselves, we didn’t bolt back for America. We were quickly seated and ordered margaritas which, by the way, were great. The menu was actually surprising as they didn’t cling to the typical Mexican restaurant fare. While you could order from a small selection of “almost famous” burritos or enchiladas, the menu offered up several dishes that did not seem very “Mexican”. Apparently, their specialty was calamari but no one at our table ordered one of those dishes. There were also beef and chicken options as well as a variety of other seafood – shrimp, salmon, and Pacific red snapper. Most of the menu was variations of a set of dishes; just the meat was different. One of the choices was steak/chicken that was marinated in Dos XX and served with a mushroom sauce. There was also the criollo which involved a tomato-based sauce. S. had the cheese enchiladas; K. had the Dos XX chicken and I had the chicken criollo.

All our dishes came with a side of rice. Instead of the standard Mexican rice which, to me, seems to be just rice cooked in salsa, this rice was better, I thought. It looked to be broken grains and was fluffier. There was a hint of color to it which makes me think it was boiled in something other than water but it had a lot more flavor than just “salsa-rice”. It was also topped with cojita cheese…mmmmmm cheeeeeese.

The chicken criollo was definitely more flavorful than the Dos XX which was a little disappointing due to blandness. The criollo had an almost Italian feel to it. The chicken in both dishes, though, were cooked well and were moist.

One point of interest is the very large iron griddle in the middle of the restaurant. Yup, they have a little lady who makes tortillas from scratch. Instead of bringing chips and salsa to your table, they bring you fresh, piping hot tortillas, pats of butter and tomatillo sauce with chunks of cojita cheese in it. These seriously are the best tortillas I have had so far. They are still a little doughy and taste a million times better than anything you would find in the grocery store. I skipped on the butter and just ate them with the tomatillo sauce which was really quite tasty and had a very small kick to it.

While the food itself was mediocre, I would go back for the tortillas. I’ll probably opt to try the calamari or just get a burrito…yes, they use those awesome tortillas.

The service, by the way, was very good. We never had to ask for refills on our water; they were quite attentive without ever getting intrusive.

Casablanca gets 2 1/2 NOMs.

Casablanca
220 Lincoln Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-5751

Casablanca on Urbanspoon