Yeah, I know. Last published - Dec 12. A looooooooooooong time has passed. It seems like months. I don't even know where to start. Well, let's do Asmara. We ate there on December 1st - if my camera time/date stamp is accurate - which it might not be. Anyhoo, we went for lunch. It was a cool day. It was cool inside. We were the first customers, per usual. The walls and floors were brightly painted. It looked fresh and clean, unlike some of the other etrirean/ethiopian restaurants in the city. I won't name names, though.
So we didn't really have to look at the menu much. We got what we always get - the veggie combo and the meat combo. But we also got an order of meat sambusas. So the sambusas came.
They were good. Nice harissa sauce. Nicely spiced meat. No problems there.
Then the combos came.
So, I'm really bad at names. The meat combo all came with beef. I wish I could remember the names. Basically,one is with butter, another is with dried peppers, and another is with like onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos. But these tend to be kind of slow cooked as far as I know. In this case at Asmara, it's like they cooked off a big batch of beef and then divided it in three and added the different components to make them different dishes. They were okay. Nothing special, nothing that made me stand up and say, I'm moving to Eritrea!
The veggies were more promising, but still, nothing that said, the cook in the kitchen is speaking to me, teaching me about eritrea. I can't even tell you now which one I liked the best. But they were just okay. Harar rules! If I have to choose between cleanliness and ambiance or quality of food, I'm going to choose the latter. I realize some would disagree with me, but I probably wouldn't really want to go out to eat with them......
So, the next day, I made country style pork rib soup. Yum yum.
I walked down to the Jaycee Market, which is pretty much overpriced for most stuff. But I found a pack of these beauties for like under $5. So I bought it and walked home to scavange the kitchen for a meal. Luckily, I had some leftovers to work with. Onion, ginger, garlic, chinese broccoli, rice noodle, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce and water. What more do you need? Saute the onion, ginger and garlic, sear the meat, add water, soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar, bring it to a boil, add the meat back in, let it cook until tender, then cook the rice noodles, throw in the noodles and chinese broccoli, let it cook another few minutes, then eat. If you're not a big fan of pigfat, you might want to sit this one out. If you like pig fat, this is the soup for you.
The next week, we ate at this "vietnamese place" called Pho Pasteur Ahn Hong. It's in Kearny Mesa off of Linda Vista or something. Basically, it is not right on Convoy like all the other restaurants.
So I say "vietnamese" because the people who run it didn't really look vietnamese, more filipino or something. I could be wrong though. I don't know enough about asian culture in general to say, but they didn't look vietnamese to me. And the place was decorated the way a filipina grandmother would decorate her house, with the plastic sheeting on the table, lots of dusty mismatching knickknacks everywhere. It didn't feel like a real restaurant, for some reason.
So we ordered. The FP got the pho, and I got some shrimp and pork soup. There was some question about my soup. Some kind of language barrier thing. He asked if I wanted egg noodle with my soup. I said no, rice noodle, but he came back another time to verify. I guess it's supposed to come with egg noodle, but why was he asking if that was the case? We also got eggrolls, probably because it was cold or something.
So the eggrolls were made with thick egg roll wrapper. Not a fan. I like the thin lumpia or springroll wrapper, just my personal preference though. The filling was unmemorable. I don't remember it at all. It probably had the usual shredded pork and carrot type filling. Just not anything to write home about. In fact, I was going to send this blog to my mom, but maybe not, since it's nothing to write home about. Sorry if my jokes seem a little stale, I'm a little rusty with the writing and the joke telling, and some would say I was never good with the jokes in the first place, but who are they? Comedy critics? And if they are comedy critics, I'm honored that they would even bother to comment on my material.
Anyway, where were we? Eggrolls sucked. The FP's soup.
I believe the word is bland. If I'm not mistaken (which occasionally I am), he said the meat, tendon and stuff was tender. I love tender tendon, don't you? But the flavor was lacking. You gotta have a good broth. That's the beautiful simplicity of pho. So that was a bust.
Then there's the matter of my soup.
I didn't think it was the soup that I ordered. It had shrimp paste that looked like it was extruded right from the grinder into the soup. There was no pork. I think I ordered what was supposed to have whole shrimp and ground pork. But I didn't fight it. For some reason that was the soup they wanted me to have. And it had rice noodles, not egg noodles. So it sucked though. The broth was kinda funky. The shrimp paste was interesting on first bite, but not really what one wants to eat if one wants good tasting shrimp product. And the pork, well, there was none. That orange oil slick of a broth was what they brought me. It's not like I dumped chili oil in and mixed it up. It was orange. I did appreciate the garnish of big green onions and cilantro leaves and peanuts. But that was about all I appreciated. I ate about half of it, though, because I was hungry and scared of the guy who was serving us. So, yeah.
I'm going to rate both these places, because I don't really want to go back to either unless I get a big pay raise. But my money is so budgeted, that I can't waste it on a place that I didn't like the first time. Yeah, this means I may miss something great, but I've already had enough great experiences in my life that I can't expect to have all great experiences every time I walk into a restaurant.
So.... Asmara. I give them a \/\ 3 chopsticks. That seems pretty harsh, but when they've got stiff competition foodwise, they just don't make the cut. I've had some amazing Eritrean/Ethiopian food in the past, so all others have to compare to those experiences. Admittedly, if this were the first Eritrean restaurant I'd ever been to, I probably would have been enchanted, as some of the Yelp readers seemed to have been.
Pho Pasteur Ahn Hong. I give these guys a \/ 2 chopsticks. This place didn't have a nice clean ambiance. Asmara did. The guy was scary. Kinda moblike, but not friendly. I hope he doesn't read this. I may have to go in hiding. Anyway, I want to speak the truth though. We didn't like any of the three things we got. I can't imagine liking anything else on the menu. If you can't do a good eggroll or pho, chances are, the other stuff isn't that good either.
Where's my holiday charity, you ask? I don't know. I've been looking in the mail for it daily. It hasn't arrived yet.