Min Sok Chon – San Diego, CA

Food Adventures, San Diego

What’s the easiest way to feed a ravenously hungry fourteen-person reunion in San Diego? Korean barbecue, of course! According to our local friends, Convoy Street is where all the good Asian food can be found, and this Korean barbecue joint is just one of many great eats in the area. Though Min Sok Chon is not all-you-can-eat, the a la carte orders are large and great for sharing among friends. Bonus – since we were eating an early dinner, we got to take advantage of the Happy Hour pricing on cocktails and soju. Score!

Party Time at Min Sok Chon!

Party Time at Min Sok Chon!

Our party was seated at a long table, so we thought it would be best to pick out a few crowd-pleasing dishes and order a set of everything for each segment of the table. Luckily, I was near the decision-makers so I got to squeeze in a few requests (and luckier still, everyone seemed to enjoy the food). We had barely placed our food order when about half the table got up to order drinks at the bar.

A Glance at the Cocktails List...

A Glance at the Cocktails List…

I spotted a very distinct Shooter on the cocktails menu that I wanted to try — The Hello Kitty. A splash of vodka topped off with watermelon soju, this adorably pink elixir was deceptively potent under its sweet and sour notes. If pink’s not your thing, check out the Scooby Snack or just go for a carafe of flavored soju.

Hello Kitty Shooters

Hello Kitty Shooters

Before long, plate after plate of food started to arrive. First, the kalbi (galbi). Sweet and salty marinated beef short ribs sizzling on a bed of caramelized onions, kalbi has to be my Korean barbecue meat of choice. The thick slices stay juicy and tender while picking up the wonderful smoky charred essence of the grill. So good.

Kalbi - Marinated Short Ribs

Kalbi – Marinated Short Ribs

Next up was a particularly comforting Korean dish — seafood pajyun (also romanized as pajun or pajeon; pancake). A flat disc made of scallions, squid legs, shrimp bits, and other goodies strewn throughout a flour & egg batter and pan-fried till crispy. The server cut it into wedges like a pizza and we all dove in.

Haemul Pajun - Seafood Pancake

Haemul Pajun – Seafood Pancake

Although originally intended as an appetizer, the third item to arrive was the spicy chicken wings, described on the menu as their best selling dish. Crunchy Korean-style fried chicken wings served alongside a sweet, sour, and spicy dipping sauce, these wings reminded me of college days when I would walk down to Westwood and grab a box from BBQ (Best of the Best Quality) Chicken off Le Conte. Yummm….

Spicy Chicken Wings

Spicy Chicken Wings

I have a confession to make. I love noodles. I’ll eat any sort of noodles — ramen, udon, soba, somen, rice noodles, glass noodles, egg noodles, pasta, handmade fresh or dried from a package. Any day of the week. So when I go out for Korean barbecue, the first thing I look for on the menu is japchae. Japchae is one of my all-time favorite Korean dishes. Period. An elegant stir fry made of strips of beef, fine julienne of carrots, long wilted green bits of scallions, sliced white onion and of course, a sweet potato based chewy glass noodle, all tossed in a savory mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil, japchae is a wonderful thing.

Japchae - Stir Fried Glass Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

Japchae – Stir Fried Glass Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

And last but not least, sizzling skillets of bulgogi finally grace our table. Thinly sliced marinated beef also grilled and served on a bed of caramelized onion, bulgogi is not usually my favorite because of its tendency to be overcooked and dry. Not so here at Min Sok Chon. The beef slices were juicy and flavorful and excellent over the complimentary white rice… or to add a bit of extra beefiness to the japchae. (Guilty as charged.)

Bulgogi - Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef

Bulgogi – Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef

Min Sok Chon seemed to attract a younger crowd, and as day grew into night, someone turned up the volume and the jams transitioned to familiar electronic dance music. A huge plus in my book! The service was prompt when we used the call button (standard for Korean dining tables) and we did not feel rushed even though we lingered nursing our drinks and picking at the last bits of each other’s plates of food. Apparently they even have karaoke in private rooms you can book for parties or hanging out with friends. If you’re in the San Diego area and craving some good Korean noms, definitely consider swinging by Min Sok Chon. Geon bae~! (건배)

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Check out Min Sok Chon: mscsd.com

4620 Convoy St
Ste D & E
(between Dagget St & Opportunity Rd)
San Diego, CA 92111

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Cowboy Star – A Taste of the Wild West

Food Adventures, San Diego

During our meal at Melisse’s Norcal vs. Socal Foie Battle we had the fortune of meeting Angie Weber, one of the owners of Cowboy Star in San Diego. So this past weekend we decided to take a trek down to the Gaslamp District for Memorial Day Weekend and paid a visit to her restaurant and butcher shop. Angie invited us to sit at the Chef’s Counter that evening and we delightedly accepted. So follows is a recollection of our taste buds’ adventure to the wild west!

View of the open kitchen from the 6-seat chef’s counter.

Painted Lady: Absolut wild tea, elderflower, cucumber.

I selected one of their many beers and Alice chose the Painted Lady. It was an interesting cocktail concoction with pretty little flowers. Alice recalled the vodka being a little sharper than she expected. Paired fairly well with her skirt steak.

Amuse Bouche: Salmon Tartare on Toast

Table Bread: Molasses Bread, one of three choices

Honestly we didn’t really care for the amuse bouche. The salmon was good but the toast wasn’t very crunchy – it felt as though they’ve been sitting out for a while. A little bit on the dry side as well.

Dinner began with a small selection of breads with the Molasses Bread being one of our all-time favorites of table breads. Great by itself but I love to spread a generous amount of butter over it.

Starter: Off-the-menu foie gras terrine with huckleberry compote and toasted brioche

This is where it gets exciting. C-Star has two off-the-menu foie gras dishes – the terrine and the seared foie. We really wanted to get both but, having already mentally decided on our favorite preparation of foie, went for the terrine.

Very vibrant dish with an assortment of eye-catching colors and tower of brioche. The terrine had a smooth consistency and easily spreadable over the brioche. Extra brownie points for one of the line chefs providing seconds of the toasted brioche after noticing how quickly we plowed through them. I discovered that the best way to eat this was to combine a hefty chunk of terrine with the huckleberry compote and sauce on a piece of toast and eat it all in one bite. The huckleberry flavor is reminiscent of blueberries and really cuts the fatty foie with its sweet and tart flavors. I think we made a good call on this one.

A’s Entree: 10-oz American Wagyu Skirt Steak

A’s Side: Roasted Bone Marrow, nice and fatty

C-Star really takes a lot of pride in cooking their steaks to perfect temperatures, advising no more than medium rare for all their cuts. This makes me smile because I have seen too many wasted steaks being ordered medium or well-done. People just don’t know what they’re missing out on!

Alice had been debating which of the variety of steaks to select for her entree but finally settled on the skirt steak. Clearly described as American Wagyu hailing from Snake River Farms in Idaho, the skirt steak was tender, cooked perfectly rare to order, and had just a bit of a chewy texture. It was served with a slightly sweet jus that balanced the flavors well. The roasted bone marrow blew her away. It was rich and decadent and piping hot straight out of the oven. She liked piling a little scoop onto each bite of steak, while I preferred to enjoy its flavor on its own.

M’s Entree: 8-oz, 21-day aged Filet Mignon w/ Seared Sea Scallop

M’s Entree: Beautifully rare center, perfect temperature

The filet was, as expected, delicious and melted in my mouth. The scallop was a great supplement to the filet, even temporarily stealing the limelight with its depth of flavor and golden sear. A quasi surf-and-turf arrangement to please the palate.

There was quite a bit of black pepper but this wasn’t a problem for me because I like copious amounts of black pepper on my steaks. However, I could definitely see how this could hinder others’ enjoyment of the dish if they are not especially fond of black pepper to begin with.

The accompanying sauteed asparagus and mashed potatoes helped to balance the umami flavors of the steak and helped to enhance the star of the dish.

Dessert: Fromage Blanc Cheesecake w/ Candied Kumquats and Honeycomb

A light and fluffy contrast to a high-protein dinner – fromage blanc is an excellent substitute for cream cheese. The candied kumquats which used mainly the sweet peel complemented the cheesecake without bringing an overly tart flavor. The honeycomb added extra excitement with a burst of sweetness but unless you want an unpleasant taste and stickiness of wax in your mouth, it’s better to suck on the honeycomb rather than to chew it. Overall a wonderful light end to a heavy dinner. I wonder if C-Star has a pastry chef?

Too bad their merchandise page isn’t up yet. I want one of those C☆ hats all the staff wears.

Cowboy Star is definitely on our list of must-eats in the Gaslamp district. The food was delicious and the service was fantastic. We’re telling all of our friends and family about it, starting with you our readers!

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Check out Cowboy Star: www.thecowboystar.com

640 10th Ave
(between G St & Market St)
San Diego, CA 92101

See their Yelp reviews here!