Monday, November 3, 2008
Tropical Star So Close, Yet So Far
So, we have had the same practice space for a long time now. And all this time, we didn't realize there was this south american restaurant/store really close by. I hate myself for being slow to realize things like that.
This is how horrible my memory is. We went to find this place a couple weeks ago. I forgot to write or print out the address. I said, I think it's on Balboa. But I think I was looking up other things, like a furniture store we never went to, or something. So the FP was like, are you sure it's not Clairemont Mesa? And for some reason, I felt like it might be Clairemont Mesa. So we didn't find the place and went somewhere else... I can't remember where. 99 Ranch Market, mayhaps?
Anyhoo, I mapquested it last week, and we went there. It's a little tienda/cocina in a shopping center. I don't speak spanish, but there is no other way to describe it. Here - look at the pictures:
So the menu was pretty big for such a small place with like 6 tables inside and 1 outside. It was kinda warm in there - like in the tropics, very authentic. I assumed they did a good take out business. So I had pretty much predetermined what I wanted before we walked in. But I looked at the menu anyway.
The FP wanted what I was getting, so he got ropa vieja instead. I got the Lomo Saltado, of course.
So there was a guy by himself and two women ahead of us. We watched him bring them their food, which looked really good. It was torture. Then our food came. The lomo came with fries AND a cone of rice too! Double starch!
So the Lomo Saltado. According to the internets, it's steak marinated in like soy or wine or vinegar. I guess I have an affinity to the dish because it has that soy vinegar thing going. The first bite of lomo saltado actually needed salt. So I picked up the salt shaker that the FP had already tried to use. The salt was all caked in there. They had all that rice available and they didn't think to put any in the salt shakers. As I continued to eat it, I noticed there was more salt on the bottom layer, so if I mixed it, it was fine. The big chunks of cooked tomato were great, because they kinda added to the sauce of the dish. It was perfect. I didn't both too much with the rice, but when taking a bit of lomo, fries and rice, it added a creamy aspect to it that was good. I must say, I do prefer fried yucca with this, but these fries were pretty perfectly cooked.
The ropa vieja was a nice little combo plate, although the amount of ropa vieja looked a little small the way it was put on the plate. The salad looked bigger.
I didn't taste the salad, but the FP liked it. I think we had been eating a lot of meat and starch lately, so he welcomed the roughage, if you know what I mean. I really don't recall the taste of the black beans, but I do remember the plantains. The FP is just lukewarm about plantains. I love love love them. But these babys, the FP told me how great they were and gave me two. He had about 5 -6 on his plate, and he ate the rest. This means that he really loved them! They were nicely crispy carmelized on the outside and sweet and soft and starchy on the inside. The ropa vieja was too vieja. Usually, one braises the meat to a certain point, and then you shred it by hand and put it back into the sauce. This meat was cooked to the point where it shredded by itself and it was kinda starting to disintegrate. It was really tomatoey and sweet too. Not the best ropa, but the plate overall was pretty good, considering. I really liked my lomo, though. So judging on these two plates, I'll give a chopstick rating, because I don't know when we'll have money to go back. To split the difference, I think I have to give it a \/\/\/ six chopsticks award. Give me yucca and plantains with my lomo no extra charge and I'd probably have to change that....