Farewell Dinner = Sushi Win for Me!

“It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.”
Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Tonight The Husband and I took The Girl out to get dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. She is leaving this week for college and is she filling up on In-N-Out? The best Mexican food this side of the border? Nope. She wanted to sit at Nakamura-san’s counter at Akai Hana, one of the best restaurants for sushi in the San Diego area.

Her farewell dinner = my win!

Tonight’s new-to-me masterpiece was salmon roe. Previously familiar to me only as bait that I once used to fish in our local lakes with my father, our Sushi Chef caught this fish on an Alaskan trip and prepared the roe with mirin (a sweet cooking wine) and other ingredients that he said way too fast for me to understand…

Salmon Roe Sushi
Salmon Roe Sushi

The flavors were so fresh and light, I could hardly believe how delicious the tender roe could be.

Adios, muchachita!
Adios, muchachita!

It was a great meal spent with wonderful people… just the three of us. “My sense of humor is packing up and leaving,” I joke about her inevitable departure. On to bigger and better things for her!

San Diego Ramen Scene- Ikura Sushi & Ramen, Scripps Ranch

Ikura Sushi & Ramen just opened up last month in the Poway/Scripps Ranch area of inland San Diego. Do a Yelp search on the restaurant and the top two comments are:

  1. Yea! Now we don’t need to drive all the way to Kearny Mesa and Convoy Street for our ramen fix!
  2. Try the Tonkotsu Ramen, it is fabulous!

With four teens to taste test with me, I knew I’d get a good overview.

  • When the Chinese kid gives it a thumbs up, you know that the restaurant doesn’t stink (this gets tricky, because he says he isn’t picky and will eat anything…).
  • The Girl wasn’t wowed by her Miso Ramen, but…
  • I ordered the same and LOVED mine.
  • The Boy liked his Teriyaki Chicken, and was jazzed that they let him swap out the salad for edamame.
  • The Boyfriend gave his sushi roll high praise, and liked his Miso Ramen just fine.

Props to Ikura Sushi & Ramen for their online coupon offering a free California Roll with over a $12 purchase for an eat in special. They also offer a 10% discount coupon, also available online, for takeout orders. Our California Roll was one of the best I’ve had in a long time- I highly recommend it. Bottom line: I liked Ikura Sushi & Ramen better than the last Ramen joint, Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen.

Chicken Teriyaki
Chicken Teriyaki
Miso Ramen
Miso Ramen
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12205 Scripps Poway Parkway Suite 106 Poway, CA, 92064

Yaki Soba! (Raiding the Japanese Market Frozen Food Section)

IMG_7659Here’s a good recommendation: want some Japanese noodles that can stand sitting in your freezer and still taste great? Try this bag if you have a Japanese market nearby- we usually go to our nearby Mitsuwa Japanese market Anyone here read Japanese? Looks like the brand name is “Myojo,” and there is a rooster up near the top, too… just under one pound for the two packets each of noodles and sauce in this bag. I think I might have spent $5 on this? I love noodles with sauce from anywhere in the world and these were great.

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1/2 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, let the noodles steam and defrost. Stir in sauce packets and lunch is ready.

I pulled these out of the freezer where they have sat for at least four months, heated them in a skillet with a little oil and water, added the sauce packet they came with and in the same amount of time it took to boil my edamame and slice up a peach, lunch was made. It served two of us with enough left over for The Husband’s lunch tomorrow.

Even better when topped with toasted sesame seeds, yum. I added chopped chicken and a little teriyaki sauce to the leftovers to make them into a more substantial lunch for the man.

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San Diego Ramen Scene #1- Rakiraki & Tsukemen

Kearny Mesa has a bounty of international restaurants, especially Asian shops. From Chinese dumpling houses to Japanese ramen restaurants, this seems to be the area to hit. It took us several years, but we finally made it to one of the more talked-about noodle joints: Rakiraki & Tsukemen on Convoy Avenue. One of the biggest reason we have never eaten here is because it is on the same corner as O’Brien’s Pub, and it is hard to pass by this pub even when you want to try a new place… O’Brien’s is just that good.

My bowl of the Super-Delux
My bowl of the Super-Delux

The Girl and I hit Rakiraki tonight, and although we were only mildly impressed, we both agreed we would still like to come back for another try at the menu. Tonight we each had ramen. She tried the original with chicken: “ORIGINAL SIGNATURE RAMEN- Custom craft noodles and original chicken broth topped with green onions, bamboo shoot, organic crushed sesame, nori dried seaweed and your choice of aburi chasiu or chicken chasiu.” I had the super-delux, also with chicken: “SUPER DELUXE HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMEN- Custom craft noodles and deluxe tonkotsu broth topped with sizzled garlic chips, five-spice soy sauce pickled egg, bean sprouts, green onions, bamboo shoots, wakame seaweed and organic crushed sesame.”

The Girl is pretty squeamish about fats and oils… the texture just does not appeal to her, and she felt that the layer of oil floating on her soup was just too much for her. She dug the flavor, but couldn’t get past the greasiness. She did, however appreciate the organic chicken- have you noticed that “Organic Chicken” tends to be less fatty? I think it is… Just wondering if I am the only one who noticed. I liked my dinner overall, but was not bowled over by it. The noodles, broth and toppings were just… all right. Good enough to try the restaurant another time, but not containing any wow factor that I hoped for. I’ll try a different dish next time.

For any of you who may be interested in learning more about the Ramen scene in the San Diego area, here is a nice summary put out a couple of years ago by our main newspaper. This Union Tribune San Diego article “Who Serves the Best Ramen in San Diego?” has a good list with a short review of seven different foodie’s favorite spots. Click on for more recommendations!

When Your Mom Eats As Much Sushi As You…

The directions we received were simple: “If you beat us to the restaurant, ask for Nakamura-san”

We were following the instructions of new friends that we are really enjoying. And what is more fabulous than new friends who know more about the Asian cuisines that you love, but have actually spent time in these countries? A bunch of time? You get great advice and pointers and promises all-around to hit more restaurants, too… oh yeah!

Last night we got to find out which restaurant is really close to little bit of Japan in our own city. This restaurant served sushi so lovely that my own 75 year old mother not only tried sea urchin with me, but wasn’t grossed out, and didn’t stop there.

We’ll be back. Oh yes.

Quail Eggs on some spectacular creation that The Husband got to eat.
Quail Eggs on some spectacular creation that The Husband got to eat.

Testing Tempura Shrimp to Pick Me Up

I spent the morning poring over college websites to prepare for the visits we will make for The Girl’s upcoming Big Decision. Although I knew that this talented, intelligent and witty, Chip off the Ol’ Block (HA! See what I did there?) would be making her choice soon, it still feels like a punch in the gut. This is my first-born to whom I frequently refer as my sense of humor. This will not be easy.

Enough with sobering topics- time to try something new to cheer me up. Today, I went with two new things- my birthday Japanese dinner ware and a new tempura shrimp I picked up from Costco. Yes, I am easily cheered.

Hamachi (Yellowtail) Sashimi, caught that morning- click for a great poke recipe!
Hamachi (Yellowtail) Sashimi, caught that morning- click the pic for a great poke recipe!

I finally used my birthday gift certificates in November that I received from The Mom- and Sister-in-Law way back in April last year. This new set of Japanese dishes has sat in the china cabinet, waiting for when The Sis-in-law comes with her family for one of our sashimi-fests we’ve enjoyed when the men have caught yellowtail or ahi. Thank you Husband and his Brother-in-law for braving what I won’t- sea sickness! Holy yum, it has been fabulous every time they have caught anything.

Tiger Thai brand Tempura Shrimp
Tiger Thai brand Tempura Shrimp, click the pick for the link!
Close-up of yum...
Close-up of yum…

No one has been out fishing lately, but I did have that tempura shrimp and edamame in the freezer, and rice leftovers. It was Game On because I wanted to use that dishware.  Tiger Thai’s Tempura Shrimp came in four plastic wrapped styrofoam trays, five per tray with dipping sauce packs. The shrimp crisped nicely in the toaster oven in about 10 minutes while the rest of lunch got thrown together. You know how a lot of frozen foods are often poor versions of what is available from a restaurant? I thought that was going to be the case here but, surprise, surprise- I can honestly say, this frozen Shrimp Tempura was definitely tasty. Great texture, great flavor, not greasy, which is always The Husband’s complaint with tempura. I’d get it again, for sure.

T'was dee-lish!
‘Twas dee-lish!

And I love my birthday plates, tea cups, leetle-bitty sauce dishes, rice/soup bowls and tea kettle. I picked up everything from Cost Plus World Market, and if you are interested, I believe they are still available.

Fuji Blossom Dinnerware from Cost Plus World Market
Fuji Blossom Dinnerware from Cost Plus World Market. Click the Pic for the link…

The Upshot: Half the Family = Half the Bill

Plans for a nice family dinner at a favorite Japanese restaurant just didn’t materialize in the way I had hoped for.  I haven’t seen the teens much lately, which sometimes is NOT a bad thing- am I right, fellow moms of teens??? However, I do enjoy these people an overwhelming majority of the time. There are subjects to cover, jokes to hear, stories to catch up on that you can’t hear in the fifteen minutes you see them in the morning before they dash out the door, or pry out of them as they are poring over their studies.

We try really hard to sit down together at dinner every day of the week… by “we try,” it’s really “I try.” All this effort results in maybe three family dinners per week. With fencing, guitar, theater, church leadership, Academic Decathlon, and sneaky Netflix binging, (and this is just The Teens) I feel like I have to out-plan everyone in order to bring us together on a regular basis. That should be a college course for parents! “Family Togetherness 101: Stealthy and Inconspicuous Planning and Gathering- Techniques and Practices Explained.”

No le gusta el atún. Pobrecito.
No le gusta el atún. Pobrecito. Part of the the catch of the day last July. It was Poke City here. Click the pic for a recipe similar to ours
Further evidence of how deep his distaste for fish runs..
Further evidence of how deep his distaste for tuna runs…

It is probably a good thing that The Teens stayed home… one doesn’t like sushi or any fish for that matter, the other racks up quite a bill. We had half the usual bill by leaving half the family at home. Look at The Boy. He’s not kidding. This is the poster child for Mac N Cheese. And fillet mignon. His tastes run amok.

Hamachi (Yellowtail) Sashimi, caught that morning- click for a great poke recipe
Hamachi (Yellowtail) Sashimi, caught that morning

My favorite selections for sushi are always salmon and yellowtail nigiri. Tuna used to be a top choice, but we are extremely fortunate to catch our own on a friend’s boat or receive some of his haul and we have a freezer full of ahi. It. Is. HEAVEN!!

Tobiko and Scallop...
Tobiko and Scallop…

So, we lost the teens and instead were able to have a nice dinner date with just the two of us. Not a bad consolation prize, huh?! Where The Girl was going to have carte blanche with the sushi menu and do the choosing for me, in hindsight, maybe it is a good thing that she wasn’t there? Hmmm… hadn’t thought of that. Who knows what she would have tried to get me to eat? (*shudder*)

The Husband got to choose instead, and we ended up splitting orders of scallop nigiri and tobiko. Holy Yum. The scallops, especially, they were so sweet! I thought that shellfish would be on the tough side if prepared raw, since I’ve only had giant clam sushi… I don’t recommend it. Our favorite little neighborhood sushi joint prepares the scallops with a very light dressing, probably mayo based- I loved it, and so did the mayonnaise-hating husband. And I really did like the tobiko, too. Fresh and ocean-y tasting, lots of fun, salty popping going on, and very yummy.