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Restaurant Reviews

Captivating cuisine from India’s tropics

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Forget the pakoras, naan bread and chicken tikka masala flaunted in most Indian restaurants. Those are standard provisions from the country’s northern regions far removed from the menu choices at Flavors of Mayura, which specializes in a rare lineup of dishes common to India’s tropical southwest province of Kerala. (Mayura is a Sanskrit word for peacock.)

Indeed, you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere things like ultra-thin dosa crepes made with a batter of rice and lentils and stuffed with turmeric-kissed potatoes. Dramatic in size, they sport the length and girth of a loosely rolled-up wall poster.

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Let them eat soup (at Nordstrom)

Posted: April 14th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. It was one of those rare times that I took myself to lunch at a cost nearing what I’d pay for dinner in a moderately priced restaurant — $27 plus tip, to be exact. For at least two decades I’ve heard from shoppers with loose purse strings about Nordstrom’s lovely third-floor restaurant, Marketplace Cafe, and its renowned tomato-basil soup, in particular.

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Corned beef for the birthday boy

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

My spouse’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day and I’ll be damned if I take another chance cooking him corned beef for the occasion. For two years in a row, they’ve yielded gross amounts of incorrigible fat. This time around, he gets homemade lasagna with a green candle in the middle.

Though in the week leading up to the celebration, we sated our corned beef desires over brunch at McGregor’s Grill & Ale House, which opened a stone’s throw away from Qualcomm Stadium, 20 years ago.

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Curry cravings

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Thai restaurants tend to sneak onto the landscape without any hoopla and then take months to discover if you don’t have a friend who’s an addict to drunken noodles to tell you about them.

Such is the case with Veganic Thai Café, which opened quietly more than a year ago in the heart of Hillcrest, where House of Khan resided briefly, and Mama Testa before that. Given its understated signage and a general lack of buzz, it’s easy to overlook.

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San Diego’s big Persian buffet

Posted: February 17th, 2017 | Features, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

As with most commercial buffets, the food is mediocre, if not lousy, and I invariably get caught in line between a slowpoke in front of me and an aggressive raven breathing down my neck from behind.

In comparison, my recent experience at the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Sufi Mediterranean Cuisine revealed some winning dishes, and without any jam-ups or arms reaching over mine as I thrice sailed down the tread.

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A tribute to Kensington’s ‘play caves’

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | Features, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

The story behind The Haven Pizzeria’s name is a strange one.

For those unfamiliar with the existence of a maze of caves residing some 70 feet beneath a nearby home, a visit to the restaurant’s gender-neutral restroom provides a couple photos of the tunnels that once attracted neighborhood kids and their elders with ping pong tables, a slide connecting one cave room to another, and a refrigerator stocked with sodas.

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Big bowls of richness

Posted: January 6th, 2017 | Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Winter is for ramen. Particularly tonkotsu-style ramen, which translates to a strikingly unctuous broth laced warmly with the marrow, collagen and fat of pork bones.

The craze for this creamy Japanese soup is best enjoyed at any of five locations bearing the name Tajima, which sprung onto the scene 16 years ago in Kearny Mesa before noodling through Hillcrest, the East Village, a second Kearny Mesa outlet, and most recently, North Park.

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Indoor street food

Posted: December 23rd, 2016 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. I’ve never been to Thailand, but everyone I know who has traveled there raves about the street food, insisting it’s foolproof in terms of flavor and price. Enter J&T Thai Street Food in Linda Vista. A friend of mine feels the fast-casual eatery encapsulates the basic soul of dishes he buys often from vendors lining the roads of Bangkok — clean, tasty and affordable.

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Holy bulgogi!

Posted: November 25th, 2016 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. Ask any staffer at 356 Korean BBQ & Bar what the three-digit number in the restaurant’s name signifies, and you’ll be told in rehearsed fashion that it’s “the right temperature for cooking” — in degrees Fahrenheit, of course. Then, likely before you finish reading the menu, a parade of side dishes and dipping sauces arrive, encircling the grill built into the middle of your table.

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Fried foods, be gone

Posted: November 11th, 2016 | Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

We initially delved into house-made potato chips, Buffalo-style chicken wings and shrimp ceviche stacked on a trio of delectably crisped corn tortillas — foods you’d expect from everyday restaurants that make no apologies for weaving a little grease into your meal. Yet at the new Drift eat + drink, there isn’t a deep fryer to be found, which is exactly what the kitchen intended.

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Attention to detail

Posted: October 28th, 2016 | Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | 4 Comments

Table tips and revelations from Mister A’s longtime maitre’d

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Fine-dining etiquette allows you to eat lamb chops and bone-in chicken pieces with your hands. But grabbing a wine glass by the globe instead of its stem is gauche, with or without messy fingers.

Jerry Capozzelli knows every rule in the book when it comes to dining manners. As a longtime maitre’d at Mister A’s, he is also a master at pampering customers from the moment they set foot into the 12th-floor penthouse restaurant, regardless if they can’t figure out whether to reach to the left or the right for their bread plates once they’re seated.

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Carb boosters from an established taco shop

Posted: October 28th, 2016 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. Yes, there are potatoes at Papas & Tacos Mexican Food, but not to the degree you might expect considering the Spanish word for the starchy vegetable (papas) sits at the lead of the eatery’s full name. Though if you can settle for plump and crunchy potato tacos, or soothing chicken soup fortified with tender, cubed russets, you’ve come to the right address.

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