Follow by Email

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Great Seafood, Views and Service: The Bali Hai Debut

Bali Hai Restaurant - Shelter Island, Point Loma, San Diego

630pm Tuesday, July 18th



Pretty darn content at the moment I must say!


For someone who lives in Point Loma just a couple miles away from the Bali Hai restaurant on Shelter Island, it's just wrong that it took me 2.5 years as a resident here to finally get in here and check them out! I now see I have in fact been missing out BIG TIME on their dinner menu, views, stuff drinks and incredible service for far too long. Not the case anymore. I had known all about their famous Sunday brunch but even that never got me in the doors due to my Sunday morning schedule most weekends. But now I feel that may even have to change having gotten a true taste of what the Bali Hai is all about.

I arrived to find the place fairly busy but nothing crazy. Some JROTC event was happening downstairs and outside on the waterfront patio area. I dined in the primary upstairs dining room space which hit me with 3 things very clear right away. 1) The amazing and spectacular almost 180-degree window view of the bay and downtown but also 2) the seating with ample space between all the tables. This made for a very open and non-cramped feel which I really enjoyed. You could probably fit more tables in the dining area but that would certainly dampen the open and free flow of traffic the room has. 3) A clearly distinguishable feel of the Pacific islands and Asian fusion. I cant really describe it as its something that hits all the sences collectively. You really need to be there and see it for yourself. It's like Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz said, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."


Lets get to business and show you the goods shall we?







The famous Bali Hai Mai Tai-                 
One really is enough, pace yourself folks!







































     The Hawaiian Tuna Poke - flavorful, fresh and simple. Prime dinner starter choice!







Steamed, stuffed whole market fish. The BEST I have ever had period. Melt in your mouth tender fish and superb flavor. The new standard to which I measure whole fish plates from now on. I love being able to eat well and truly savor every bite of a meal knowing its doing the mind and body good!




Szechuan style Vegetables - A simple and welcome pairing side dish to any entree. Gotta get your veggies in right?


Thai brussel sprouts with Chinese Sausage - has to be in the top 5 I have had in San Diego so far. Not swimming in too much balsamic, soy or oil/dressing. Just enough to allow the sprouts to explode with flavor. Char level was perfect as well.








Flash fried shishito peppers- also done just right. Not doused in soy, sauce, salt or vinegar any more than needed. Perfectly blistered and not overly done.








Chef Dion is working some genuine culinary magic in that kitchen let me say that much! Nothing I had was less than impressive. From the service I received, the wholesome and delicious meal I had and the stunning views I took in, Bali Hai makes for an experience as much as a dining destination. A healthy one at that! I cannot imagine too many other places in town offer the kind of unique experience one can have here. I can say right now, I will be making several return visits from now on, starting with a visit to the famous Sunday brunch everyone raves about! See you all there I hope!


View from my seat inside along the window seating. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Better Bite SD goes back to its origins! 3 spot super-feature!



I am going to be taking a little return trip to the original concept of this blog which for the most part has actually been intact all along with now 84 blog posts in the 15-month existence of my blog.

The concept I had in mind is for "A better bite" to stand for "better for you" as well as what taste and looks good. The vast majority of the blog posts and featured venues I have done so far have been on par with this concept with the exception of two donut shops (Nomad & Marys Donuts) and a top 5 favorites list for San Diego carrot cake.

From this point on I will be looking to capture the full concept of "a better bite" in seeking out and sampling, reviewing, photographing and sharing the many new and unique places in and around San Diego that are of a more healthy, natural, wholesome, better for you theme.  In so doing I am also going to narrow down the coverage of which I take in and at one venue. My intent is to blog about the food first and foremost. So the pictures and reviews I do will be center around primarily just that. I'll still make comment to service, cost, value, unique features etc......but not as deeply as I have been doing lately. You're here to read and learn about unique San Diego food and food venues so thats what I''ll give you!

To kick off this "return to origins" concept, let's dive right into three recent places I dined in at. One for the first time and the other I have been to many times but never got around to blogging about it, till now that is. Here we go....


The Gourmet Bagger- Visited 4pm Monday June 3rd.
3357 Rosecrans St
In the Loma Square shops off Midway Dr.



I call myself "the sultan of sandwich" for a number of reasons but mainly because I am an expert of the club sandwich. It's (IMO) the best of the best when it comes to deli sandwiches. As Jason Statham would say...."cant beat a classic." Here we have 2 Killer Clubs. Whole grain wheat on the left for my dining partner and sourdough for me on the right. We both got mustard over mayo as well. Ham, turkey, bacon, avocado, and LTO round out this staple sando. Being just a miles walk from my front door in Point Loma, it's no wonder this place has a line inside from open to close weekdays. Tip for you; do as I do, call in your order ahead and just pick up and pay. By its nature a deli can be healthy and wholesome or down right sinfully "naught." shall we say. What you get and how you get it made makes all the difference as seen right here.



Elvas Bowls & Wraps-  Visited 7pm Friday June 7th.
5664 Mission Center Road #402 San Diego, CA 92108
Across from Hazard Center



Shown here is 2 large sized BYOB (build your own bowls) for $8 each. They offer 10% military discount as well so keep that in mind SD armed forces folks! Pick a protein, grain, vegetable, and sauce. Comes in small and large sizes. For the BIG appetite like me, I go with 2 large and love it! Simple, fresh, wholesome customizable food that's fast and affordable. I only wish I knew of this place sooner! I got the chicken, mixed veg, brown rice (right) and Jasmine rice (left) with ginger garlic sauce. Both very good and filling!



True Food Kitchen- Visited 7pm Saturday June 8th.
7007 Frias Rd Suite 394 San Diego, CA, 92108
In Fashion Valley Mall across from Cheesecake Factory




Shown here is the ancient grains bowl. $15 without protein added. I went with double chicken to hit my meal macro needs of protein so that tacked on $8. The kombucha (one of my favorite drinks lately) comes with the house pomegranate juice. ($7) and is a wise beverage choice to pair with any meal. This was my 5th or 6th visit in my nearly 5-year residency in SD. It would be far more often but with price tags at $30 for a drink and entree, it's a little steep in my opinion. Very much worth it as you get some of the best quality food you will ever find when dining out. Organic, natural, unprocessed, well prepared, scratch made meals that taste far better than "health food" ever should. I crave the meals I get here lets put it that way.


So there you have it. Summary of where I am going (back to) with th blog and a 2 for 1 edition of A Better Bite SD. Just in time for summer so you can find out where to eat out and eat well, stay fit and enjoy delicious meals all summer long in this great city of San Diego!

You stay healthy San Diego! Eat well, live well, be well!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wednesday's gone wild for the burger lover! Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers





THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:

Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers, 322 5th Ave, San Diego, CA, 92101
7pm, Wednesday June 28th and July 5th.




THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:

BYOB Deal for $13 unlimited toppings! How do you stack your burger?




Visit 1 creation of goodness + the best side item to any burger....sweet tater tots!
Grilled chicken, ham, bacon, avocado, LTO, pickle, and mustard on a white bread bun.




Visit 2 monstrosity + more sweet tater tots!
Double grilled chicken, ham, bacon, LTO, pickle, and hot sauce on a wheat bun.

a




View from outside bar seating down 5th.....
and a view up 5th ave....






NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY FACTS:

  • Great daily happy hour drinks and food
  • Official burger challenge and wall of fame
  • 12 perimeter TV's and 10 bar TV's all 55" and in HD, never miss the game!
  • Great indoor and outdoor seating options
  • Daily specials such as the byob night and a build your own mac on Mondays!




If I ever come back to the big eating game this would be where I do so!




MY FINAL THOUGHTS:


As for these 2 visits on back to back weeks, I can say for certain that on Wednesday's there is no other place I will be found for burgers let alone dinner, than right here at CB&CB. This coming from the guy who is a self-proclaimed burger JEDI! Anyone who follows this blog or who knows me at all is aware of my love affair with BYOB joints, most of all Slaters 50/50 in Liberty Station with my 45+ check-ins and counting. It helps I live 15 minutes walk from their place vice a drive downtown for CB&CB but its worth it as I can rock out a workout over on 4th and Horton Plaza 24 Hour Fitness and scoot on over for dinner right after to devour some burger greatness as shown above. I can't reflect on anything outside of this Wednesday BYOB special but as far as that goes, it may be the best burger deal in town for the quality, value, and consistency I have found so far. Service is fast, food is on point and the price is fantastic. Any other burger fans in San Diego want to make this a routine thing......you know right where to find me on Wednesdays! And maybe, just maybe, if you wager a bet, I might even take you on for the burger challenge they have! Takers.......??

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finding foods origins...where else but Circa!



THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:
Circa
2121 Adams Ave, University Heights, San Diego, CA
630pm, Sunday, June 18th


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (full album)

Changing seasonal menu*

  • Local Yellowfin Poke (kumquat vinaigrette is what makes this dish rock)
  • Tomato Soup (robust flavor and full bodied!)
  • House cut russet potato french fries w/ molasses ketchup and stone ground ale mustard
  • Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  • Early Grey Creme' Brulee (idea spurned from a dessert wine)



NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY FACTS:


  • Open since 2014 by Mike Almos and his wife Terri
  • Monday all night happy hour
  • Reservations high recommended
  • Open 5pm daily
  • $10 off all wine bottles on Wednesdays
  • Monthly special events posted on website and social media pages
  • Everything they serve is made from 100% scratch in house
  • Almost every dish on the menu has a story for how it came to be what it is. Just ask!
  • Mike's ingenuity as a chef is clear in his belief and concept of first finding a food ingredient he can craft into a unique dish vice a fixed dish that then ingredients to be found to make it work.
  • Mike is able to make any menu item custom for any customer. Gluten free, dairy free, wheat free, paleo, you name it, he can make it work for you.
  • This is an IDEAL place for a date night!




WORDS OF WISDOM:

Mother nature is truly the best chef, better than any human can be. She always has been. A good chef should not try and steer the car with foods but rather act as a navigator to what mother natures course of action is with the foods she provides in their purest possible form." -Mike Almos

"What we really do here is to allow people to serve other people. In between this process, there is food and drink being exchanged yes, be we never ever forget the first part of our purpose." -Mike Almos

"There is no magic sauce, preparation method, secret recipe, or technique to making a good food taste good. Real food, fresh, wholesome, organic food already taste good. A chef's job is only to amplify, bolster and pair these great tasting real food ingredients to make them work together to taste even better or to bring about flavors and textures that allow the foods authenticity to be experienced by the consumer." -Mike Almos

These 3 lines (of many) Mike dropped on me during my near 2-hour amazing stay and debut visit to Circa. Heavy stuff yes! I was schooled in local sourcing, organic foods, natural cooking methods, the importance of using only the best ingredients in every dish, using what's in season......on top of getting to try some amazing food! A welcome education and insight to how great food is being made by a local restaurant and culinary mastermind. It's for this reason I ever started a blog (Circa March 2016) lol see what I did there.....







MY FINAL THOUGHTS:


This place has the feel of a true family unit to it. Unlike I have seen almost anywhere else in town to be honest. Its a small joint, like 40 people max inside and maybe 6-8 outside. But because of this, it has a feel of a big family living room (with a bar). Intimate, casual, calm, welcoming. Its smaller size fits its intent and purpose to relate and integrate with the customers. Mike has no problems with this relating thing! Besides allowing me to feel like an old friend within minutes of sitting down, he must have spoken to every single person at the bar, gave hugs and handshakes to all the table seated guest and seemed to know everyone's first name. Not only that but Jason, my server and the primary floor server also knew everyone just the same! Talk about a family feel! If the term hidden gem ever had to be appropriately used to describe a venue I have been to then this is it. Truely tucked back on a corner block off he beaten path of Texas St and El Cajon Blvd in the very corner of University Heights, its easy to miss this place. Even I as a food blogger and 4 year resident of this city had only casually ever heard of Circa let alone know where it was. That's changed now! Amazing food that allows one to see what real food was meant to taste like, portions that are just right to hit the spot, prices worth every penny, and a staff that functions like a family. Yep.....A Better Bite is what you can expect here in the truest sense of the term.



HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My taste goes Tiki: The Grass Skirt Debut



THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:
The Grass Skirt (SDCM Restaurant Group)
910 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA
6pm, Thursday, June 15th


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (full album)
  • Professor Feather (cocktail) (tropical fruit fans gonna love this!)
  • Prime Hanger Steak lettuce Wraps (grill your own steak on mini hibachi grill!)
  • Kimchi Fried Rice (nothing like you had before)
  • Fuji Albacore Tataki
  • Skuna Bay Salmon Cone
  • Tuna Cone
  • Korean Short Rib Bao Bun



NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY FACTS:

  • Open Monday-Sunday 5pm-2am
  • First opened their doors in November 2016
  • Huge selection of unique and exotic cocktails and shareable punchbowls
  • Entrees are larger portions great for sharing
  • Most all other menu items are small plate and pupu samplers
  • Functions as its sister venue "Good Time Poke" during the day.
  • 3 drinks on the menu, when ordered, trigger a number of special effects like sounds of thunder and lightning and flames shown swirling on a screen behind the bar.



MY FINAL THOUGHTS:

Having never been here before, this was a truly novel experience for both the taste buds and the eyes and ears. A true tiki style venue all decked out in traditional decor to really make one feel like they are in a fun, lighthearted, escapist tiki culture. The staff are kind, helpful and informative about all the drinks and menu items. Ben, the GM of Grass Skirt is a cool dude and seems to know every single person in the place I swear! Shaking hands and speaking with everyone. Chef Erin prepared all the amazing foods I tried and he is one smart dude! The little things he is doing to make dishes familiar yet different are very clear. He was able to walk me right through each dish as it came out as to what it was, why it was that way and what made it unique. I must agree, the bites I had were just that. This is the kind of place you come to with friends to for unique eats and great drinks/cocktails while rocking out your wildest tiki/Islander shirt. You forget your worries at the door and enjoy the momment......and this saying they have listed inside says why....



HOW TO REACH THEM:



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Better Bites gone Baja Style: Pueblo



THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:
Pueblo, Modern-Baja-Costal
877 Hornbled St. Pacific Beach, San Diego, 6pm, Tuesday June 13th.

THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (full album)

  • Tuna Tartar
  • Yellowtail Sashimi 
  • Grilled Octopus Crudo w/ blue corn chip base and black bean puree (crudo has never looked or tasted this good!)
  • Mussels w/ Mesquite smoked chorizo (the broth these are cooked in is amazing!)
  • Shrimp, Lobster and Carnitas Tacos
  • Pueblo Dessert Special






NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY FACTS:

  • Opened in Sept 2016
  • Menu is reflective of true Baja style modern seafood and Mexican cuisine
  • Chef Eduardo is now at the helm of the kitchen and his take on making distinct food is obvious
  • Daily happy hour and daily specials
  • Full bar area
  • Some of the most unknown but amazing tacos in town! Tuesday only lobster tacos not to be missed
  • Sunday Roast, Roasted Mesquite rotisserie pig AYCE tacos starting at 10am


MY FINAL THOUGHTS:
If any one thing stands out for me at Pueblo it's the hospitality you get as a guest here. The food is amazing yes, no doubts. But this was my 2nd visit since they opened. My last having been in late November last year for drinks and some apps with friends. This visit was solo and I was all about checking out the unique tacos and seafood they have on their menu. The owner Mark, new head Chef Eduardo and my server Marina were all amazing. Super kind, very tentative, eager to please. Marina knew the menu quite well and helped me navigate the ingredients used in the dishes I tried. Mark introduced himself as well and made sure I was taken care of which I was. Chef Eduardo and I spoke at length about what he is doing, how the menu has adapted, what he plans on coming out with and what makes the venue different. This guy is a blazing a unique trail all his own and even looks to network with other local chefs of both Baja and Mexican cuisines to help offer and obtain concepts that are soon to please the pallets of San Diegans everywhere. The venue alone is situated in a neat corner spot of PB just between Garnet and Grand. Super chill but modern, casual but classy, just the right feel for family dinner, business drinks or even a date night.

HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Homestyle classics that always deliver: Crest Cafe




THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE:
Crest Cafe, 425 Robinson Ave, Hillcrest, San Diego, CA. 3pm, Monday June 12th.

THE BETTER BITES I SAMPLED: (full album)

  • Turkey Club (w/ side of cottage cheese)
  • Crest Chicken Cobb Salad
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup (add Tapatio for a nice kick)
  • Carrot Cake (the BEST carrot cake I have ordered from a restaurant in SD in my 5 years)






NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY FACTS:

  • Open 365 days a year 7am-midnight
  • Been open for 34 years now
  • Everything on the menu is made from scratch in house
  • Daily specials Monday-Thursday

MY FINAL THOUGHTS:
This has been one of my go to places for about 2 years now when I have a fix for soups, Cobb salads, and club sandwiches. I had not ever thought to try their desserts before and when it dawned on my they had my all time favorite.....carrot cake! I had to know how it stacked up! Too bad I had not known of this before in this blog post! The meals I get here no matter the day or time, have always been consistently delicious! I can be 100% sure my meal is correct, fresh, scratch made, home cooked, and rib- sticking good each and every time. Chef Ruben even tells me that's the one thing he urges his cooks every day...."be consistent with every plate all the time! People expect that from us and we deliver on it!" Cecelia Moreno is the owner of Crest. Ruben the head chef, his daughter Sophia was my server and she was spectacular! Kind, helpful and very positive attitude. In the end, Crest Cafe is the place you go when you want hearty, home cooked comfort foods but none of the work to go with it. So head on in, pull up a seat, A Better Bite awaits you!


HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website