Discovering San Diego is the name of the game 'round here, so to honor our county's more northern reaches, Poway - this one's for you.
Tucked away in a strip mall off Poway Road, Tong Sake House specializes in small plates, Asian fusion style. For instance, there are Tong's different applications of ahi poke, such as tostadas, or in a bowl; we tried the special that night, where simply marinated tuna came atop rice, with a spoonful of guacamole, all crowned with fried calamari tentacles. It was tasty, but the stir fried udon noodles were great.
Generally, udon noodles are served as a very simple soup, but here, they get a rock star makeover that starts in a hot wok. With a pleasantly sweet sauce, meaty strips of crimini mushrooms, bacon, spinach and katsuobushi, the creative dish packs a savory punch you won't soon forget.
As for katsuobushi, it's likely that you've experienced bonito flakes before - its more affordable knock off - at yakitori joints, but at Tong, they use the real deal. Skipjack tuna is dried, fermented and smoked to make the wispy pieces of super-seasoning. Between the chewy noodles and smoky flavor from the wok, bacon and bushi, rich Japanese mayo balances out this oh-so-comforting, indulgent dish.
For dessert, Tong's black sesame ice cream is a must. The exotic sundae comes topped with adzuki, or red bean paste, chewy cubes of mochi and a powder, similar in texture to malted milk, but almost too mild to taste against the sweet ice cream. Still, it provides an interesting texture in this dessert, best enjoyed with one of Tong's hot sakes.
Tong Sake House, 12320 Poway Road, (858) 486-3200.
Every now and then, approachable, wholesome food is just what the doctor ordered. Chicken dinner is almost always a safe bet, but the problem is that prices don't always match the simple experience you're after. At Don Pollo, flavorful, charbroiled chicken is priced so low that you'll wonder ... how good can this really be?
Don't worry, the four piece chicken plate ($7.50) is a tasty, solid value, and comes served with rice, refried beans and your choice of corn or flour tortillas. The chicken is well-seasoned, not too salty and has just the right amount of char.
The chicken soup ($6.75) which claims to be the "best in San Diego" is certainly up there. Clear, flavorful broth is packed with shredded white meat chicken, still firm zucchini and carrots, and rice, with onions and cilantro on top. With a squirt of Don Pollo's hot sauce, the flavor's just right. I recommend ordering a side of beans to go with your flour or corn tortillas, so you can roll up and dip mini burritos into the soup.
The service is super friendly here, and it's clear that their take-out game is strong. If you live in the Poway area, be sure to add Don Pollo to your hit list.
Don Pollo, 13338 Poway Road, (858) 883-2230.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at email@example.com.