Monday, October 24, 2011

Caesars Restaurant - Tijuana, Mexico

On the second day of our epic Tijuana trip, we head to the famous Caesar's restaurant for a "light" breakfast. 

Call me ignorant, but I never knew that this was the place that the Caesar's Salad was invented. I always thought it was Italian, or at least European. Who woulda thunk that it was created in this small restaurant on Calle Revolucion in Tijuana.

The interior is really vintage and there are pictures of its history all over the walls. We file into the separate room and try to squeeze into this gigantic table.
Impossible. We add a few more sections to make it a bigger table.
When the bread and pastry come out, I think this is the light breakfast so I eat more than I should.
But then the fruit comes out. Well, that's also "light" so I eat it all.
Then the chilaquiles, mushroom and cheese omelette, and refried beans come out. Now I'm screwed. Especially since we're about to head out to the Baja Culinary Food Festival, where we'd be eating all day. I only eat about a third of this, even though it's pretty good.
The fresh squeezed OJ and coffee jolt me awake.

Afterwards, Abby from Pleasure Palate says there is a churros place she MUST go to. I'm not the biggest churro fan but I do enjoy the good kind so I follow.

Along the way we see ads for viagra, and a zebra painted donkey.
I don't understand who first thought about painting a donkey to look like a zebra. It's just so degrading. Poor donkey.

 On calle Juarez, we hook a left and we see this small stand for Churros Rellenos.

Here's a little bouquet of churros. If someone ever got these for me for my birthday, I'd probably squeal in happiness.
It's crispy on the outside, soft and melty on the inside. I get the chocolate and dulce de leche filling. They have vanilla, cajeta, and other flavors that change every day.This is the first time I've ever gone here but will not be the last. This has to be a regular TJ stop!
On the bus, on our way to the Baja Culinary Food Fest. 

P.S. Videos of the trip to come. I am now freelancing for KCET Food and will be filming more food related content. I'll be linking a few of my projects here. I even filmed a few things during this trip that will hopefully make it to the KCET website. A few noted foodbloggers will be starring. Stay tuned!

  • Caesar's Restaurant
  • Calle 5TijuanaMexico
  • (664) 685-5608

Churros Rellenos
Calle Juarez  and Revolucion, Tijuana, Mexico

Check out Wasima's churro write up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mision 19 - Tijuana, B.C., Mexico

Sometimes, I'm impulsive. But, I also know I have an impulsive BFF who'd be down for anything. When Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) posts a trip to Tijuana, I know we are getting on that bus. This isn't any regular road trip, it's a foodie road trip to attend the first ever Baja California Culinary Fest. The bus was full of food bloggers, food writers, and food lovers. 

After scrambling to get to Union Station on time (that's another story all together), we get on the private chartered bus to go south of the border. 
Bill appoints Gourmet Pigs as the official carrier of the tequila Volcan,
 and it gets passed around for the official start of #borrachageddon.

After a few naps, a few swigs of tequila, one rest stop, catching up with some food bloggers, and tweeting out our last messages before we start roaming, we are finally in Tijuana! Bill surprises us and tells us that we've been upgraded to the Grand Hotel in Tijuana, the twin tower hotel.

The lobby at the Grand Hotel, Tijuana
Our View from our room
There is a golf course in the back of the hotel!
The Tijuana horizon.

At night, we head to Mision 19, our first stop in Tijuana. For many of us, this is the first or second meal of the day. My companion last ate 12 hours ago for breakfast. 
Some of us choose to hang out outside in the balcony while others choose to hang out inside near the bar. 
Our special bracelet gives us unlimited Tijuana Moreno beer and Agavia tequila.
We finally get seated in groups of four.
Bill presents an award to Javier Plascencia, one of the hottest chefs in Baja and owner of Mision 19 and one of the organizers for the Baja Culinary Food Festival.
The menu consists of ten courses with wine and cocktail pairings featuring chefs from the region and from north of the border. Julian Cox is the mixologist and the Someliers are Stacie Hunt and Pauilina Velez. The chefs include Angel Vázquez, Pablo Salas (Toluca), John Sedlar (Los Angeles), Javier Plascencia (Tijuana), and Adria Marina Montaño.

The Tiradito de Hamachi
Rabanos/charales/chicharron/limon en conserva/habanero/sal negra
Chef: Angel Vazquez
with JC Bravo - Palomino 2010 wine pairing

The first course is amazing. The anchovies are crisp in contrast to the soft and sexy feel of the hamachi on my tongue. I end up rolling a bunch of anchovies with radish and hamachi for a perfect bite.
Tuetano de Res Rostizado
Atun aleta amarilla/tobiko/aire de serrano
Chef: Javier Plascencia
Cocktail: Cocktail Negrito Sandia (Julian Cox)

The bone marrow is absolutely delicious. It rests on top of coarse salt, though it does look like rice from afar (some people make the mistake of eating it). The bone marrow is topped off with tuna, thinly sliced and toasted bread, and some micro greens. I spread some marrow on the bread and I'm in heaven. More bread for spreading would be nice though. Julian Cox's watermelon cocktail is out of this world. It reminds me of a watermelon and lime aqua fresca but with alcohol. Can I get a refill?!

Ensalada de berros con vinagreta de piloncillo
Queso de Rancho Alegria
Chef: Pablo Salas (Toluca)
w/ Paralelo Emblema 2010 wine pairing

The greens are a welcoming break from all the meat. The watercress is dressed in an amazing vinaigrette and the fresh farmers cheese is a nice textural contrast. This is a salad I'll be remembering the next few days.
Bread courses in between, fried tortilla, zucchini bread, 
cheese/tomato/jalapeno puff

Flan de elote/ quinoa negra/ flor de calabaza
Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
paired with Pijoan Dominica 2009

A corn custard dressed with black quinoa and squash blossom sauce. This Steamed egg and corn custard is to die for. Visually, the quinoa looks like caviar from afar, and the contrasting colors as well as the soft, buttery texture makes this the sexiest dish of the night. I've never been to Rivera in Los Angeles, where John Sedlar makes this dish every day. Now I have a reason to visit!
Codorniz de Valle de Guadalupe
Chile verde/duxelle de champinones
Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
paired with Pijoan Dominica

This is probably the most flattering picture I can find of this dish. This particular plate displays the cornish game hen in an interesting position. The green chile stuffed with mushroom is full of spice and flavors and contrasts well with the cornish game hen, which veers on the sweeter side. 
I suck on these bones like I have no morals, almost tempted to use it as a toothpick.
Cerdo Almendrado
Papa cambray/aceitunas
Chef: Pablo Salas (Toluca)
paired with vino-yumano 2009

The almond sauce reminds me of the red pipian mole sauce because of the nutty flavor. Trade pumpkins for almonds and you get an amazingly nutty, full flavor. The potatoes and olives round out the pork dish but this one's all about the sauce.
Pork Belly
Platano/vainilla/naranja/relish de tomate verde con frijol de olla/reduccion de cocoa
Chef: Angel Vazquez
paired with Estacion porvenir-textura 3 2009

One of my favorite dishes of the night, the pork belly is crispy on the outside reminiscent of a chicharron texture while soft and tender on the inside, pliable with a fork. The sweetness from the chocolate, vanilla, and plantains brightens up the meat and the beans and chile verde reminds you where you are. 
Pato Añejado en Seco
Persimo fuyu/granada/col de Bruselas/mazapan
Chef: Javier Plascencia
paired with Viñas Pijoan-Leonora 2009

The sweet duck is tender, juicy, and nutty. Slightly too sweet for me but by this point, I'm so full and wasted (hey, we started drinking on an empty stomach!) it's hard to tell how accurate my judgement and notes are. 
Quesos Regionales
Miel de abeja/mermelada artesanal

From soft and fresh to Rustic to ones with rosemary, honey, and jam. My favorite of course is the oldest and stinkiest one. We skip out on dessert, which is in paste form and apparently amazing according to The Glutster (you can read his rave review on Mision 19 here). My friend is feeling sick and I'm not doing any better with so much alcohol in my system so off we go to our hotel room to rest it off for another full day tomorrow. Thanks Bill and Javier, for giving us a powerful first taste of Tijuana.

Mision de San Javier 10643
Segundo Piso, VIA corporativo
Zona Urbana Rio
Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Tel: 011-52-664-634-2493

Other reviews:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Olympic Cheonggukjang

Whenever I crave "REAL" Korean food, you can find me at Olympic Cheonggukjang. Not only was I the first to review this place, I kept it a secret for a long time because hell, this restaurant is NOT for everyone. But, Jonathan Gold reviewed it early this year so the droves of people are already flocking to this restaurant.

The moment you walk in, you will be greeted with a pungent smell that can only be described as nasty sewage poo fart. The reason for this is the Cheonggukjang, a way stinkier and more fermented version of Daen Jang jjigae (but also, apparently, much healthier).

You will also realize that for the most part, this restaurant is full of old people. I first came here with my health nut dad and mom because my dad was in the mood for Cheongukjang, a specialty that even many Koreans cannot stand to smell or eat in the same vicinity (hence, most restaurants with typical Korean menus will not serve this dish. Think of it as offensive as Durian). 

I personally thought I was going to hurl when I first came here (and I love Durian). However, as soon as I ordered my tamer and less smelly dish of Corvina (jo gi goo eeh), I was floored. So crispy on the outside and meaty and juicy on the inside. 

Jo Gi Goo Eeh (Corvina): fried to a crisp! 

I realized that even though this place specializes in Cheonggukjang, there are few other places in Koreatown that has such high quality food as this place. Sure there are some hit or miss items (I'm not a fan of the duk gook here, for example), but their jjigaes (stews) are to die for and hit a nerve in your soul, and the banchans (side dishes) are all homemade, delicious, and super fresh. My favorite is their crispy gheem (seaweed lavers) that come with a toothpick stuck in the middle so it doesn't fly everywhere. The Spicy Pork Bulgogi even won an award last year.

The Spread: Pork Bulgogi, Daen Jang Jigae, Crispy Corvina with banchan

The Jak gok bap (brown rice and beans medley) is the legit version, not the white rice kind with a few beans in it.

Legit jak gok bap

Kimchi Jigae

Spicy pork bulgogi: winner of 2nd annual Korean bbq cookoff

banchan (their kak doo gi - the radish kimchi - is to die for)

more banchan.

If you can brave the smell and all the Korean (although their menu now has English translations) and sometimes, a wait, you will definitely be a return customer. There is no English sign outfront so just look for the suite number or a line of people waiting at lunch/dinner. Parking lot is usually crowded but never an issue.

I wasn't initially going to review this place since I've never ordered the Cheonggukjang before but since this is my go-to place for all things authentic Korean, I feel it deserves a review. I mean, considering that they even won "best pork" at the 2nd annual Korean cook off proves that they can serve more than just Cheonggukjang. Besides, I might try to brave the smell and order the Cheonggukjang next time and realize what I've been missing.

Olympic Cheonggukjang
2528 W Olympic Blvd
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 480-1107

Olympic Cheonggukjang on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cebicheria Erizo - Baja California, Mexico

One of my favorite places in Tijuana is Erizo Cebicheria.


The seafood here is so fresh. 


The Callo. Bill introduced us after I had eaten its cousins. They are a type of scallops that are local to Baja that have a totally different texture from the scallops we are used to. It's in between a scallop and a fish. 


 tamarind margarita, found in a few of Javier Plascencia's other restaurants, shows up on Erizo's menu as well. I can't help but order it so I can finally try it. Probably the best thing that's ever happened to a margarita.



This is simple and yet so good. At the bottom of this tangy, limey yellow juice lies the sea urchin. the cucumber and the tuna jerky contrasted really well with the sexy sea urchin. some olive oil, red onion slices, and lime  juice came together in an interesting symphony of flavors.


chicharron and callo ceviche


The marlin tostada, probably now my favorite kind of fish after this trip.

Cebicheria Erizo
Ave Sonora No 3808-11
barrio Chapultepec, south of Agua Caliente
Tel 686-1564