hao vi chinese restaurant / city heights – san diego, ca

Hao Vi is this little restaurant is smack in the middle of City Heights. Jake and I used to pass it all of the time on the way to his old apartment in the ‘hood and for some reason, I always wanted to go here. It didn’t look like much, just this tiny little place on the corner, but I wanted to go exploring. The day we were going to actually go we couldn’t, since Jake didn’t have any cash and I had a brain fart and couldn’t remember my pin number. I racked and racked my brain, but I just could not think of it! It was like one day I remembered it, and the next day – poof! That memory was gone.

Ah well. I got a new bank card and reset my pin to something I would actually remember and we were finally able to go here.

As you can see from that sign on the counter, this place is definitely “CASH ONLY”.

And yes, that giant light in the back is probably one of two lights in the whole place. The other from the front of the place, where the outside sign is located. They aren’t into interior lighting in this place. It also looks kind of dirty and there’s a weird tray of condiments at every table. Oh, and the parking is this weird tiny lot in the back off of a side road, with no lights there either.

This place screams “hole in the wall” on so many levels.

They’ve got a shorter menu then I’ve seen at other Chinese restaurants. No descriptions on it at all with a vague idea of what you’re going to get. We tried to ask the waitress what a few things were but it was hard for her to explain in broken English and it was hard for us to understand. We just went with it and ordered the best we could.

Menu Page 1 | Menu Page 2 | Menu Page 3

[beef chow mein (dry) – $7.99]

When we got our dishes, I actually confused them. And then I confused them again while writing this post. The names of the dishes didn’t quite match up to what I thought – why does it say dry in parenthesis? No idea. What we did get was a veggie laden dish with some delicious stir fried beef and yellow noodles.

You can’t really see how much (or what kind) noodles is in the dish from that first photo so here’s another shot. Under the layer of veggies lies this bed of noodles with a lovely little sauce. In the mix are bean sprouts, cabbage, onions, carrots and topped off with a sweetish sauce that’s made with pork and beef stock. There’s definitely a ton of veggies in this dish (much to Jake’s dismay) but the beef is tender and well seasoned. A surprisingly excellent first dish to start off with.

Another note here: we ordered three dishes, and each dish came out one at a time – long enough for us to polish off a majority of the dish before the next item came out. The dishes are served family style and it’s plenty of food for sharing!

[bbq pork vegetable crisp noodle – $6.50]

The second thing I picked was under “Chow Fun & Mein” – which was Chow Fun and which was Chow Mein I’ll never know.

Now this one sort of came out like what I thought – with crisp noodles on top. They look a lot like the noodles from the previous dish – except the noodles are crunchy and there’s a tasty sauce underneath. Continue reading “hao vi chinese restaurant / city heights – san diego, ca”

minh ky restaurant / city heights – san diego, ca

We went here because A) the place I originally wanted to go to was cash only and for the life of me, I could not remember my pin number that weekend and B) it had a fairly high rating of over 300+ reviews on Yelp. I’ve learn to take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt though, since people tend to rate with no rhyme or reason (“the parking sucks, 1 star” or “it looks dirty, I walked out and didn’t actually try any of the food, 1 star” or on the opposite end with highly overrated food and other shenanigans). We ended up here on kind of a whim, a second choice location, but as it turned out, it was a pretty good whim after all.

Parking here is actually pretty weird. There’s a tiny, almost unnavigable parking lot in front of the tiny strip mall and a sketchy parking lot in the back, behind the restaurant. We parked in the back since it was the only space we could find, though the area made me cringe with the obscene amount of trash littered about.

We went inside and saw a small, cozy, 12-table restaurant. Every table was full but we must have had a stroke of good luck since we didn’t have to wait long to be seated.

They have an enormous six page menu with over 200+ items on board. A little baffling, to say the least.

Menu Page 1 | Menu Page 2-3 | Menu Page 4-5 | Menu Page 6

There’s also a specials board on the right side, listing about 5 different specials. We decided to try the Shrimp Tempura and BBQ Pork.

[tempura shrimp + bbq pork – $5.50]

Since neither Jake or T like shrimp, I got to keep that all for myself. The shrimp are butterflied and flattened and have a thin coating on the batter with what seemed to be panko crumbs. There was a side of Thai sweet chili dipping sauce for both appetizers. I enjoyed the shrimp – the batter didn’t hide the flavor of the shrimp and the shrimp was nice and tender on the inside.

The BBQ pork was a tad dry but a few pieces were perfectly sweet and tender.

[dumplings and wonton lo mien – $5.75]

This dish actually surprised me since it came out in two bowls – one with the noodles and one with the broth and dumplings/wontons. Lo mien makes me think of noodle dishes, sans broth, and nothing like this.

Here’s the broth by itself – you can see the dumplings and pieces of char sui pork just under the surface with the scallions scattered over the top.

And a closeup of the noodles with a hint of a sauce just underneath the pile of noodles.

Jake started to eat them separately, but me – I put those two suckers together and had myself a little lo mien soup.

I loved the flavor of the broth – it wasn’t overpowering, very nicely seasoned with a good amount of flavor and (as you can see) oil. The noodles were tender and delicious as well and the meaty dumplings were really nice with the broth. I liked the pork pieces in this dish more than the ones we had as an appetizer – they were more tender and flavorful, perhaps a result of sitting in the broth? Continue reading “minh ky restaurant / city heights – san diego, ca”

el salvador pupuseria y restaurante / city heights – san diego, ca

The day we decided to go here we had originally planned on going to Slater’s 50/50. But we looked at the long line outside and I said, “Never mind. Let’s do something else.” Jake and I decided it was high time to finally go to one of the places we’ve driven by tons of times and this place popped into mind – El Salvado Pupuseria Y Restaurante. It’s a pretty nondescript building – kind of looks like it used to be a pizza hut back in the day. Not very pretty to look at, but oftentimes little hole in the wall places will really surprise you.

[peek at one of the pages of their menu]

They had a pretty large menu – this is just one of the pages. On the other side of the menu they have more familiar sounding items, such as tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas and the like. I was here to try the pupusas and with their nice pricing point (just $1.99 for one pupusa) I decided to splurge a little and try a few of them.

[pickled cabbage, salsa and chips]

We were given chips and salsa for start off with. It’s a tiny bowl though and we managed to polish those chips off lickity split.

The other bowl was a condiment to use with your food – I read on Yelp it’s a pickled cabbage slaw to be used as a condiment for your pupusas and other food. I had a tiny taste of it – very vinegary with a slight sweetness. Not my bag at all – I don’t like cabbage or pickled anything so I didn’t use this again.

[this is what’s to come!]

I’ve been doing this “above the table shot” thing lately. I think it looks kind of neat.

[beef enchiladas plate – with beans, rice and salad – $6.99]

Jake went with a safer bet and got the beef enchiladas to try. The red sauce they use is a little different from what you’d get at a Mexican restaurant. I think it’s a little bit more sour tasting than what I’m used to – I only had a bite or two before I retreated back to my own pupusas.

This plate also came with some homemade tortillas – you had the choice between the homemade or “the other kind” (aka, Mission flour tortillas) and Jake wisely choice to get the homemade ones. They taste like like the pupusa does if it doesn’t have any “stuff” in it – and quite a bit thicker than a normal tortilla. Very tasty!

[pollo asado plate with rice and beans – $6.99]

For Jake’s son, S., we got him the pollo asado plate. The pollo asado was very nicely grilled with a wonderful flavor and seasoning on it. The chicken was very moist and juicy with a nice char from the grill on the outside of the meat. I kept eating a few pieces time and time again. I kind of wished they put this kind of chicken in the pupusas instead…

[stack of pupusas – all pupusas are $1.99 each]

Since I had never had a pupusa before this trip, I didn’t know what I’d like the best. So I ordered three kinds. It’s an experiment to try new things! Pupusas are sort of like calzones – but with a flatter surface like a tortilla or a stuffed quesadilla – but fully enclosed.

Continue reading “el salvador pupuseria y restaurante / city heights – san diego, ca”