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Table 926

Table 926

20140316_105526

Darren and I were invited to try out Table 926 this past Sunday for their Champagne Brunch.  Although we stuck with orange juice and ice tea to drink, we did notice they had a nice flight of Bellinis that most patrons would enjoy.  Table 926  has become a popular destination recently.  They only serve brunch once a week on Sundays, so other than that you’ll need to catch them for dinner.   

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The inside of Table 926 was not too small, but still felt quaint with it’s warm modern decor.

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As you can see there were a number of choices for brunch.  Lucky for us, Chef Matt took the decision making process away and simply began sending us out some of his choicest brunch selections.

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To start, we were brought a couple almond scones.  They were nice and warm, with a subtle sweet and buttery flavor.  If you enjoy flaky scones, these are definitely for you.

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Next up were the soy chorizo tacos.  These were interesting and both Darren and I particularly enjoyed the crispy potatoes inside.  The soy chorizo flavor wasn’t too strong, so the egg stood out a bit more in my opinion.  The side salsas were nice, but mild.

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The following dish was the duck confit chilaquiles.  This was probably one of my favorites as the duck confit had a rich and bold flavor that paired well with the acidity of the chile verde sauce.  The chips still retained some texture, so the crunch was a nice additional layer that typically doesn’t occur in a typical chilaquiles (many times it’s over saturated).  The pickled onions added a nice sourness to the dish as well.

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…and the perfectly poached over-easy egg was the cherry on top!  Delish.

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Next we had the breakfast empanadas.  These were piping hot and took a couple minutes for us to be able to pickup!  I don’t think I’ve ever had an empanada before with egg inside, but it was certainly interesting.  While it was solid overall, I think the prior dishes with egg stood out more.

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Finally, we tied up brunch with their signature bread pudding french toast.  It came with a nice tart fruit compote of what I believe were blackberries and cranberries.  This provided a perfect contrast of tartness to balance the sweetness of the french toast.  It came a side of syrup, although we only need a couple dabs.  I’d definitely order this one again.

Overall, we had a very memorable brunch at Table 926.  In addition to some nice flavors, the presentation was very well done as you can see by Darren’s pics.  Thanks to Holly and Matt for making this possible.  We’ll certainly be back on our own soon and eager to checkout the dinner menu too.

 

Table 926 on Urbanspoon

Table 926
926 Turquoise St, Ste H
La Jolla, CA 92109

 

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Interview with Arturo Kassel of Whisknladle Hospitality

Interview with Arturo Kassel of Whisknladle Hospitality

Prepkitchen has recently opened a new patio at their La Jolla location, just in time for their five year anniversary. We interviewed Arturo Kassel, owner of Prepkitchen and Whisknladle to get the scoop on the new patio and some other fun topics including a new restaurant concept, beer in San Diego, and places he likes to go out to eat. Prep Kitchen La Jolla.5

How has the newly renovated patio space been received, and do you see the patio space as something you’d like to incorporate into future restaurants?

It’s been great. We’re obviously benefiting from it. It’s so inviting for people to dine there. The great thing about it is, it has benefited all of the tenants. It’s such a nice place to hang out, so I’d say as far as I’m concerned mission accomplished. We love al fresco dining. That’s why we live here. We pay the sunshine tax like everybody else but one of the perks is being able to dine outdoors. It just depends on taking whatever the space gives you. If you find a location that has that component to it, that is a definite plus.

Is there a signature dish at Prepkitchen?

Of all of our locations we pride ourselves on staying within season and having what’s in season dictate what’s on the menu. We definitely have some classic dishes we always go back to. We have now been in La Jolla since 2006, when we first took over Fresh Seafood Restaurant, which is what became Whisknladle. Over the years we have had a lot of really successful dishes. Many regulars suggest we open a restaurant where we would exclusively serve our greatest hits, and that is what Prepkitchen La Jolla has sort of become. We take the best dishes that we have had success with at our other locations, and we serve them at Prepkitchen La Jolla. And we just sort of rotate through to stay within season as much as possible.

What are some places you like to go eat at in San Diego? 

To answer your question, we like to keep it simple. We love going to low key restaurants like Hane(Sushi), The Fishery (Seafood), Fidels (Mexican), Blue Ribbon (Pizza), PK Del Mar (We live in Carmel Valley so that’s our date spot). At the end of the day, we have two kids and one on the way so we’re usually spent by the days end. Add that to the fact that we’re both home bodies and we really like to stay home and cook. I wouldn’t make it as a chef and I’m okay at best as a home cook, but I love the process. And my wife and I have an understanding where I cook and she cleans, which makes it all the more enjoyable knowing I can make a huge mess and not worry about cleaning it up.

What are some tips for running a successful restaurant?

The first is a disclaimer. This is a lifestyle and not a business. That is a hard truth that a lot of operators find out the hard way. Running a restaurant and owning a restaurant seems very glamorous. It’s really not. It is however, a very fulfilling career and I would recommend it to anybody. But I think that before anybody takes that leap, they need to know that it is a lifestyle. Your life revolves around the ebb and flow in the seasons of the restaurant and not the other way around. That’s something that is difficult for people to accept. So that would be the first tip. The primary thing for me is do what you love. Cook the kinds of things you love to eat. Create an environment that appeals to you. Put your heart and soul into it and do it well. Chances are you will be fine. As long as you stick to that, and do what you are passionate about and really commit to that, people for the most part end up doing really well.

Would you say it is harder to expand your brand now or was it harder to get the first restaurant off the ground?

In some ways it was easier to start, as they say ignorance is bliss. What I mean to say is that the more professional we become, the more we learn the ins and outs of the business, and the more mistakes we learn from.  In some ways we keep raising the bar for ourselves. The business has become more complex. There are a lot of changes in the industry which we have to adapt to. A lot of changes in minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act. There’s a lot of moving parts. I think things have gotten progressively more complicated but we’ve also become better operators through our collective experience and hiring the right people.

What is your least favorite cooking/food trend?

In San Diego by large, I am a huge supporter of the craft beer movement. I think the breweries are putting out some great product.  They really are doing some tremendous stuff with beer and I am all for it. I would hate to see San Diego go so heavily in the direction of that, where suddenly beer becomes the focus and the food is just secondary. I’d love to see a balance to that. If you are a brewery and are going to have a tasting room, they should put as much pride into the food they serve as much as the beers they make. And it seems like oftentimes it is an afterthought. Traditionally speaking, they have been food focused and the beer and wine complements it. But that is going to ruffle someone’s feathers. C’est la vie. I’m just one person!

What are your future plans for Whisknladle Hospitality?

As for the next restaurant, I can tell you this much, it’s not another Whisknladle or Prepkitchen. We have wanted to use a different side of our brain for some time now. You can expect delicious food, exceptional service and genuine hospitality like our other restaurants, but other than that, we’re going to mix it up.

Photo credit: Pasagraphy

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Tako Factory (La Mesa)

Tako Factory (La Mesa)

 

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Happy Friday!!! A new taco place opened near my house late last year and we stopped by to find out what’s behind the mustache. As you know there is no shortage of taco stands throughout San Diego. Because of the saturation it can be hard to find one that stands out. We’ve only been once, but our lone visit encourages us to head back and explore the other options on the menu.

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I liked how the menu was easy to read with clear categories to choose from. There’s only room for about a dozen people to sit inside, and we were feeling like lazy bums that day, so Anh and I got our order to go. As we were perusing the menu, what appeared to be one of the owners of the shop was talking to someone in line who didn’t know what to order. With animated hands swaying back and forth, and bold conviction he told the customer, “you can’t really go wrong with anything. The chicken burrito is the best one you will ever try…the tacos are really good too…” From that point there were really only two ways it could have gone for us: really amazingly good or does not meet expectations. Going into a hyped place is a tough position to be in.

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Here’s what we ended up bringing home: adobada fries, rolled tacos, carnitas taco, carne asada taco, and mahi mahi taco.

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The adobada fries were delicious! It had everything you’d expect and more. We normally order carne asada fries but after seeing the adobada rotating round and round in front of us on the vertical grill, it was an easy call to make. It took about three meals to finish it all. Parts of the adobada were crispy while other parts were moist, salty, and smokey. The cheese melted uniformly over the heap of french fries and adobada. We’d order it again and again.

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I enjoy rolled tacos that have a crispy fried exterior, with a generous portion of juicy and flavorful meat inside. It brings me back to my college days. These were some of the better rolled tacos I’ve had in recent memory. The filling was plentiful, toppings lasted until the last bite, and the rolled tacos were not overly oily. We were off to a great start!

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The carne asada taco left something to be desired. It lacked flavor, was a little cold, and just didn’t pop like street tacos should with the fat, salt, and beefiness you normally get.

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The carnitas faired a little better than the carne asada, but was no stand out either. Again, something seemed to be missing here. It was more crispy than juicy and did not leave a good imprint or give us reason to order it again. IMG_0664
The shining star of the taco trio had to be the mahi mahi. What the previous meat tacos lacked, the mahi mahi had in abundance. It was moist, flaky, flavorful, and was very pleasant to bite into. I get a little bit of a kick and my internal dance cartoon character busts a move when a satisfying bite like this captures my attention. 

One visit down. Even though there were some misses, we’ll venture back in the future to give it another go and see if we happened to catch them on an off day for the two tacos. One last thing I’ll mention is I noticed one of the chefs wearing a chef’s coat from Twisted Vine. It looks like Twisted Vine closed last year so perhaps one of the chefs now has a new home at Tako Factory.

Tako Factory
7287 El Cajon Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91942

 

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La Jolla Brewing Co.

La Jolla Brewing Co.

As I always say, when you pass a Ferrari dealer on the way to the restaurant, you know you’re headed in the right direction. La Jolla’s newest culinary gem comes in the form of La Jolla Brewing Co, only opening its doors at the end of this January. This is currently the only place in the neighborhood serving in-house brews and they are earning their keep. With some stiff competition next door and a less-than-loveable parking situation, I was a bit leery pulling up. Happily, I brushed it off the second I walked in the door.

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The space is beautiful; dimly lit and well-spaced with big copper brew kettles and light accents hugging the walls. You enter the main eating area through the front door, but I recommend seating in the rear, where a second bar and more intimate space is tucked away.

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First things first, the beer is good and the price is right. 4 bucks gets you a glass, 5.75 gets you a pint. Big and small growlers are also available if you’re feeling adventurous. The only way to go, however, is the flight of all 5 beer recipes for only $10.

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They range from the lightest golden ale to the happiest stout. I particularly enjoyed the Glider Port Pale and the Bird Rock Brown, comparable to Newcastle but dare I say smoother and more flavorful. Beyond the in-house beers, LJBC taps over a dozen local favorites like Stone, Alesmith, Green Flash and Ballast Point.

The menu is extensive and has something for everyone. It breaks down into shares (appetizers for 2 or more, probably more), mac bowls, salads, flatbreads, sandos and entrees. I noticed, however, that the menu repeated main ingredients in different preparations, somewhat limiting the options, but there was plenty to choose from.

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We started with the duck egg roll; definitely sharable. They came 6 halves to a plate served with house-made peanut and sweet chili sauces and soy. The rolls are perfectly crunchy, stuffed with duck confit, cream cheese and beer-braised onion, of course. I did not enjoy the duck fat dripping out the ends, but the flavor was undeniably decadent and creamy. Also, something must be said for these sauces; they perfectly paired with the rolls and really brought the flavors to the next level.

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Mac and cheese done right can be the best thing in the world. This is one of those instances. A perfect blend of American, cheddar and pepper jack smothers noodles and lump crab meat with a perfectly light and crispy crab cake riding on top. Everyone raves over lobster mac but this crab put any to the test and I’d come back for just this plate.

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The Hangar Steak Sando left just a bit to be desired. The sandwich was dressed in onions, mushrooms and gorgonzola and came with house made chips that were deliciously light, airy and seasoned. The flavor and cook of the steak was absolutely on point, but for a beer place that produces such big appetizers, I wanted more of it.

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Our entree, the ocean stew, of mussels, white fish and shrimp with crostinis was absolutely delicious. The broth is seasoned with saffron and fills your nose and your palette with all the best sensations. All the seafood was prepared just right and as hoped with being so close to the ocean, they nailed this dish.

In a tough crowd, La Jolla Brewing stands out and I see this place sticking around for a while. Next time you catch yourself in La Jolla,  grab a glass of beer and a mac and cheese and see how it makes you feel. Special thanks to Robbin for coordinating and all the staff at LJBC for an enjoyable evening.

La Jolla Brewing Co.
7536 Fay Avenue
La Jolla, Ca 92037
http://www.lajollabeer.com

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Peri Peri (San Diego)

Peri Peri (San Diego)


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We were invited to a preview dinner of Peri Peri in Torrey Highlands last Wednesday. The restaurant is set to open tomorrow (Saturday, March 1st). Here’s how it all went down!

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The restaurant itself is fairly spacious, with 3,000 square feet of indoor as well as outdoor seating in the patio. Having grown up in South Africa, owner William Sussman is hoping to bring the unique South African flavors to San Diego. According to William, peri peri was created many years ago in the 15th or 16th century when Portuguese explorers were introduced to the African bird’s eye chili from the local indigenous Africans of Mozambique. The Portuguese quickly added it to their cooking and spicy peri peri sauce was born. Currently peri peri is becoming ever more popular as people become more familiar with it.

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All dinner menu items are less than $20 with the exception of the Hot Rock Filet Mignon. The meal was served family style with various dishes coming out to tables throughout the night.

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Our first course was the Prawn Bisque. The thickness of the bisque was just right being on the thicker side, which I prefer. There were pieces of prawns within the bisque and a few croutons on top to add a little texture. However, I thought the prawns were a little rubbery. Each spoonful left you with a good comfortable heat sensation. The bisque could have used a touch of salt for my taste.
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The Lamb Shank with cous cous and tomato based sauce was not on the menu. Our server mentioned it was a special for the evening. The lamb was fall off the bone tender and juicy. The sauce didn’t have any spice to it, nor was it overly powerful on its own. But it did mellow out the lamb. If you don’t like the inherent bold flavor of lamb meat, adding more of the sauce would help balance it out. The dish was tasty but again, I’d prefer a dash of salt.

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Next we finally get to meet the infamous Peri Peri Chicken. It came on a bed of rice with fries on the side. The peri peri sauce is pictured on the bottom right. The chicken was cooked perfectly, very moist and juicy. But the star of the show was the peri peri sauce. It gave the chicken another dimension and features a complex layer of flavors that comes off so smooth and so spicy, you get blindsided in a flash. It is as if a silent, spicy sniper sauce infiltrated your mouth, nose, and throat while playing puppet master for a few minutes as you sit still in the most vulnerable, serene, catatonic state possible. That doesn’t sound like the most pleasant description, but trust me, you’ll want to be held hostage just as we were. The immediate comparison that popped into my head was giardiniera. However, the peri peri was much more refined, clean, and complimentary. I have had my fair share of spicy foods, from ordering curries in Thai restaurants with a spice level of 10 to exploring tourist trap spicy sauce stores looking for the ones with the highest scoville ratings. The peri peri here somehow has the ability to exhibit a high level of spice without being uncomfortable or intolerable. I thoroughly enjoy the sensation of a spicy bite. The difficulty is finding one that allows you to enjoy each subsequent bite as much as the first. The peri peri here allows you to do just that.

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How do you follow that up? Well, you can try with the next dish, Sosaties. Basically here we have a skewer with lamb marinated in a mild curry, with apricot and chutney sauce. There are also onions and again, rice and fries. Same meat, but very different dish than the lamb shank. The apricot component left a sweet sensation on the palette. What a nice followup after the Peri Peri Chicken. I’m not going to lie though, Michael saved the peri peri sauce and was dipping the lamb pieces in it! Yes, it was that good.   
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Our final course consisted of three house made ice creams: vanilla, sea salt caramel, and curry. You may find this amusing but my favorite of the bunch was the sea salt caramel. Not because it had a lot of salt, but because it was the cleanest and smoothest of the three. Funny thing is I’d actually prefer a touch less salt in it. And yes I understand it is sea salt caramel flavored ice cream. The vanilla was nice and sweet while the curry was unmistakably curry. This was probably one of the best curry flavored ice creams I’ve had. As Michael and I were discussing after our first bite, “this is about as good as curry ice cream could be.” We finished it, but probably would order another flavor before curry.

We saw other dishes like the Hot Rock Filet Mignon and Seafood Corn Husks pass our table onto others. Man those looked and smelled great! Perhaps next time we’ll get to sample more of the menu. With so many interesting items to choose from, you’d need an army to be able to sample all of them in one go. Special thanks to Emily over at Bam for the invitation and William for giving us a tasting tour of Peri Peri.

Peri Peri
7845 Highland Village Place, Suite C101
San Diego, CA 92129
http://www.periperisd.com

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