Aw yeah, Doug is in the hizzay! He’s under threat of imminent employment and made this last desperate roadtrip before he went back into the ranks of the wage-bound. He blessed us with his presence for the new year’s weekend, dropping in late the night before, too late for me to join in for a second round of bar moves. But we were all good the following day for new year’s eve fun.
Mac and Hannah are also in town, our friends from England, now living in Ecuador, now visiting for the holidaze. We were all going to head down to the Pescadrome for a little celebration, but we needed much food beforehand. Mac and Ted have fond memories of Edomasa, so that’s where we went.
After starting with the Edomasa traditional mug of green tea and sunomono salad, Doug went with the pork ramen. Meeeeh, we weren’t that crazy about it. It was loaded with ginger (good!) and pepper (bad!). Like, seriously lots of pepper, it was overwhelming. If that’s how it’s done here, then no thank you. Doug made a valiant attempt at eating his stuff, though.
The boys and I splurged on sushi, and we shared a whole mess of it, which also allowed Doug to dip in to supplement his pepper ramen.
We got the sushi and sashimi combo, times 2. One with California roll, the other with a spicy tuna roll. The nigiri is about size items of the usual albacore, maguro, salmon, octopus, etc.
Our a la carte sushi is as follows from the top, clockwise:
Hannah got a teriyaki chicken bento box with a lot of salads. No photo. She’s been very patient putting up with Mac’s “odd” culinary desires, coming from a small village in England and having no interest in raw fish. I’m not sure she enjoyed the bento much either. But props for her giving it a try. She did, however, enjoy her mango ice cream mochi with the rest of us.
So, hey, happy new year! Goooooooo 2011.
There was a time when I was under the impression that this little Japanese hole in the wall was much like the Japanese hole in the wall near my home. Maybe there was shared ownership at one time?..
Anyway, I was working remotely on this day and went to the harbor, initially in search of fish and chips. Well, the fish and chips restaurant was packed with a 30+ minute wait, so that plan was scuppered and there was no way we were giving up our awesome parking spot in the Marina. So, Sushi GoGo it was!
I got the Korean BBQ beef bento, which was a lunch special, at a good price. About $7. The food was filling, but a little underwhelming. What you get in compensation, outside of the price, is eating in the Marina. Personally, I’m not that cuckoo for a view of the ocean (prefer the mountains or gardens myself) so I wasn’t hugely enthused. The Korean beef, like just about all Korean food in Santa Barbara, was disappointing. But the remaining items were perfectly adequate.
The winner item was the eel bowl. This had a higher price, and was less food, but did taste more interesting. It’s hard to go wrong with the sweetness of eel sauce. Unfortunately, I don’t really recall exactly what all was lurking underneath all the bonito flake. Rice, eel, eel sauce, flying fish roe…and other mysterious items.
Our greatest entertainment of the lunch was the tourist couple dining next to us. They were Australian and the guy was a bro and the chick had big big fake boobs. It’s reassuring to know that white trash isn’t confined to just Americans.
Today was an event at el Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park to celebrate the area’s Asian American Neighborhood back in the 1900s-1950s. Jimmy’s was from that era, where Chinatown was on one side of East Canon Perdido Street and Japantown, or Nihonmachi, was on the other side of the street. It was free to attend, all were welcome
First was a mochi pounding demonstration, mochitsuki, presented by the Bethany Congregational Church. They do an annual mochi pounding event at their church around February or March which I’ve attended before and gorged myself on endless mochi, prepared right on the spot. Today was purely demonstration – anyone could help pound the mochi, but it wasn’t available for tasting.
Mochi is made by taking cooked glutinous rice and pounding it with a wooden mallet in a mortar. Two people work together, one pounding while the other turns and wets the rice. It’s a carefully timed task, and results in the smooth sticky mochi that can be cut, shaped, and served in many sweet and savory ways.
Inside the Presidio was an exhibit of photos and artifacts from Nihonmachi, most were labelled well, with names and dates. Everyone was charmed by the photo of two adorable young girls in 1934, named Barbara Saruwatari and Laurie Fukamaki. Cute overload! Kawaii!!
Of course, I was drawn to an excavated porcelain bento box. Nowadays, most bento boxes are plastic, or lacquerware for the fancy ones.
And speaking of bento, there were bentos available for purchase, $5!
Guests were invited to fold origami cranes for a 1000 Crane Wish project, and I added two to the pile. There were also demonstrations of taiko drumming, bonsai, calligraphy, haiku, and other performances of martial arts and folk dancing throughout the day.
El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
This is the best restaurant in town for diners with any multitude of dietary restrictions. But that does not mean the menu is drab and limited. And that does not mean you must have a multitude of dietary restrictions in order to eat here happily.
The menu identifies which items are vegetarian, vegan, egg free, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, or raw. I have enough ovo-lacto, celiac, raw-cleansing pescadarian friends that having a restaurant like this in town is a blessing. Also, the interior is clean and lovely.
I did not feel any air of uber-healthy pretension that exists in hippie enclaves in other cities, i.e. no menu items called “I Am Manifesting Abundance” when it’s really a caesar salad.
That said, I am here to talk about the seasonal lunch special they recently rolled out. It sure did manifest my abundance, and it *wasn’t* a caesar salad!
The lunches are bento boxes, each containing a healthy starch (like buckwheat soba, roasted yams, brown and wild rice, or quinoa), protein (tofu, tempeh, seitan, chicken or salmon), and sauce. Plus seasonal vegetables.
The set boxes are $9 each. You can swap around the protein, with a $1 supplement for chicken and a $2 supplement for the wild salmon, but the supplement only applies where they weren’t originally offered in the bento. You get the salmon for the standard $9 in one of the set boxes.
I had the curry bento, which was tempeh, coconut curry sauce and roasted yams. The seasonal vegetables included crisp-tender zucchini, carrots, broccoli and “dragon beans” from the local farmers market, which I’d had before from the market and loved them.
I had a cup of raw vegetable juice, ($2 for 4 oz) containing juiced carrots, tomatoes, apples, leafy greens (kale, chard, or beet greens, depending on the season), beets, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, a touch of cayenne pepper, & olive oil. Wow, a little garlic and ginger goes a long way, and the olive oil was new to me for being in a juice. It’s certainly not a mainstream corporate chain smoothie, but it felt good to drink it. Also, that’s an outstanding price.
Regardless whether you eat in, or order takeaway, the bentos come in biodegradable boxes, and compostable birch eating utensils. It may seem a little awkward to be eating out of these lunch boxes while sitting at their dining tables, but I imagine the focus is more on providing a very healthy meal to someone on the go, and we all need this!
So, honestly, the birch utensils don’t provide all the sturdiness necessary to stab the vegetables or slice up the tempeh, but I didn’t have much issue with this, for two reasons.
1. I like eating with my fingers. :)
2. I keep my own reusable plates, forks and knives at work, so if I’d taken my lunch to go, I would have declined the disposable utensils altogether. Remember: reuse is better than recycle!
Final notes: the vibrant colors of the food! None of these pale yellow starches of mass produced buns and fries. And…AND!..no food coma.
Hey hey hey!
Came here for lunch with a co-worker and lo, the cashier area now has a display of candies and plastic cutsie stuff for sale.
I won’t even do a food review of the San Diego Comic Book Convention because it was so atrocious it really doesn’t count as food, although whatever it was, it certainly was expensive. Captive audience, I guess, if you’re stuck in long queues for panels and previews of the latest sci-fi flicks.
I, however, was hindered by no such boundaries and fled the convention center in search of better sustinance, and I ended up at Kiyo’s, in the Gaslamp district of downtown San Diego.
The restaurant was peaceful and quiet, as most comic fans seemed to be rioting at closer by bars and grills, or cheaper fast food chain sandwich shops. The half dozen patrons here were still Comic Con attendees, and there was much in common for those people to talk about. Even the chef behind the counter offered a few words.
There aren’t set bentos, but a range of mix and match items, at several price levels. I ordered the yakitori from the A menu, stir-fried noodles, meat and vegetables, and the yakizakana – broiled mackerel with salt, from the B menu. The combination price was $11.45. Items from this menu also include some salad, fruit, miso soup and rice.
From the a la carte menu was a hamachi sushi roll, and a spicy tuna handroll. I know, they look a little lonely in the large bowl, and I should have replated the items for a better presentation, but we were more interested in hurrying up and getting the food in our mouths.
And the food was fine. I loved my mackerel! Mmm.
Today’s bento box was the collapsible sandwich case, containing a salami and caramelized onion sandwich using homemade bread, some homemade gingerbread and a couple pieces of chocolate.
The sandwich was put into the panini press for warm toasty sammie awesomeness.
The idea behind the sandwich container being more of a mesh basket is to keep the sandwich from becoming soggy over time. And once the sandwich is removed, the basket collapses down for easier storage. I love this setup, but do wish the colors weren’t so girlie. This does not make a great gift for dudes. But I know that secretly they are very jealous of my bento box and want one of their own.
Oh, I’m SORRY, I did not know Takenoya was a local restaurant. I thought it was a chain. Some friends set me straight on that, and then we went there for lunch.
The building itself is…um…how do I put it, kind of kitschy, but in that “oh my, I think they might be serious” way, which makes it kitschy scary. Outside, those deer. What? Apparently, the way they light up at night, it makes for a good landmark. But then there’s me, who felt the entire property was in my blind spot, because I’ve been driving by it for god knows how long and it was as good as not there.
Inside, check out the enormous carved tusk near the cashier counter. Wonder to yourself if it is real. Stroke it absent-mindedly, until your friends pull you away embarrassingly. j/k, I made up the last part, but the tusk really is there.
They have boba tea, which is high yay factor for me. But the food I had, perhaps a little underwhelming. One companion had the sashimi bento, which was served in a plastic boat and I was very jealous I didn’t get a boat.
The food was substantial, but I didn’t feel moved by the experience. Maybe it’s the aura of Goleta that’s numbing my sensitivities. Because, really, I normally love a kitsch type of loungey atmosphere and Takenoya’s interior definitely has a lounge feel to it.
So what’s my problem? Maybe I should go back at night, when the deer are lit up, and I can poke around the izakaya part of the menu. And I can wear my smoking jacket.
Itsuki has expanded since my last write up!
They took over the space next door, knocked down the wall and are now twice as big as before.
Well, floor space-wise, yes, twice as big. Ironically, it doesn’t look like they have loads more tables, more like the same number spread out farther. I’m sure there are more tables, though. Never took the time to count.
The hole in the wall atmosphere isn’t quite there anymore, but it is still located in a desolate strip mall with a bait shop and a gun shop, so maybe it still qualifies. You decide.
My companion and I had ramen. It was definitely a ramen night, even without watching Tampopo beforehand. And we had rice balls. Nom nom nom.
Prices have gone up a smidge, but are still reasonable.
I have two recommendations:
First, try the rice fermented beer. It’s really hard to find this kind of Japanese beer these days, especially in Santa Barbara.
Second, do *not* to sit in the newly expanded place. I swear, there is an invisible wall there. I got lucky and was seated at the cusp between the old and new space. People in the new space were as good as not there. It was kind of ridiculous the level of super attentive service we got, like offers for water refills fives times! Meanwhile, the people sitting near us in the new space couldn’t even get someone to take their order for at least 20 minutes. I sort of had my back to that area, but every time I turned around I saw really unhappy faces. So much that I got up to ask a waitress to help them.
Maybe they’ll get that sorted out soon, like put a mirror up at their prep station so they can actually see the folks sitting in that section. Meanwhile, stick to the old space, happy vibes still there.
This is the only place I come to for Japanese noodles. It’s a hole in the wall, located in an unpretentious and slightly out of the way “interzone” between Santa Barbara, Goleta, Hwy 101 and 154.
Neighboring shops include a paint gun and supply shop, a bait and tackle shop, and a gun supply shop. Talk about being out of place, but Itsuki has been here for years, I’ve been going there since the 80s.
The Itsuki lunch bento is a great deal for filling food. I think it’s about $5.50 now and includes teriyaki chicken over rice, four pieces of california roll, 3 gyoza, miso soup, salad, and a slice of orange.
No complaints about their sushi and sashimi either, although there are plenty of other places in Santa Barbara that are fine or better.
But if you’re only looking for noodles, it’s Itsuki. If you need any motivation, watch Tampopo first.