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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Happy Hour: Coast – Santa Monica, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Drive west far enough on any of the streets in Santa Monica and before long you’ll find the beach. Cass and I were scoping out some beachfront locations and decided to stop in at Coast for happy hour which runs from 4pm-7pm, Monday through Thursday at the bar. Located in the beautiful Shutters on the Beach hotel, immediately adjacent to Casa Del Mar, Coast offers ocean views, fresh seafood, and great mixed drinks. Bonus: the happy hour menu features special pricing on appetizers as well as house wines and select cocktails.

Coast - The Open Kitchen

Coast – The Open Kitchen

Cass and I like to plan ahead, so when the bartender asked us what we would like from the happy hour menu, we said “One of everything!” Really. I’ve always wanted to do that. In fact, for the fish tacos and oysters, we had to order two. The bartender chuckled as she entered our order in the POS.

Blackberry Bramble

Blackberry Bramble – $14

To celebrate it being Thursday, I ordered a Blackberry Bramble – Hendricks gin, lemon juice, agave, blackberries. I had spotted it when I first glanced at the menu and knew I had to try it. Full of muddled blackberries and a generous pour of refreshing cucumber gin, this drink was perfect for enjoying the beautiful summer day.

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

The far end of the bar features a glass display housing a mountain of ice and fresh oysters. That day’s varieties were Misty Point, Malpeque, and Kumiai – a respectable selection for August. (Though I recently learned that the mnemonic of eating oysters only in months that end in -er is actually an outdated myth.)

Oyster of the Day - $2 each

Oyster of the Day – $2 each

We ordered two of the Oyster of the Day (Misty Point, I believe). Shucked to order and nested on a bed of crushed ice, the oysters were served with a spicy cocktail sauce and a vinegary tart mignonette. Not too sweet and not too briny, these oysters were a great way to whet our appetite for the fried goodies to come.

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce - $6

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce – $6

The fried calamari were crispy with a light coating of batter and a tangy house-made tartar sauce. These were good but not particularly special, and personally I prefer my calamari with a bright marinara sauce rather than a creamy tartar.

Fish Tacos - $2 each

Fish Tacos – $2 each

Grilled fish tacos (by far my favorite over the deep-fried kind) on a house-made corn tortilla and topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded lettuce. The epitome of California beach cuisine, these fish tacos made us feel right at home.

Meatball Sliders with Provolone - $6

Meatball Sliders with Provolone – $6

These sliders were Cass’ favorite dish of the night – a pair of little round buns sandwiching savory, moist meatballs completely enrobed in melted, stringy provolone cheese, layered with a thick dill pickle slice. Taking the first bite was a bit of a challenge (it’s so tall!) but it’s well worth the effort to get a bit of everything in each bite.

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips - $5

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips – $5

This was my favorite dish of the evening. With hearty, sizable chunks of  white fish marinated in lime juice with diced tomato, brunoise of shallots, and plenty of cilantro, the ceviche was the perfect light and refreshing summer dish. The warmed tortilla chips, in both regular and blue corn, added a colorful contrast.

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp - $6

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp – $6

Both of us agree that our second favorite of the night was the corn meal crusted rock shrimp. Nuggets of fresh, sweet shrimp coated in a thin crispy layer of corn meal (and fried, of course), these were too easy to just pop in your mouth and devour them all!

The Dessert Display

The Dessert Display

We were debating whether we should order more food when we recalled the cake display we saw right when we walked into the restaurant (genius, we thought!). It was hard for us to decide, so we asked the guy behind the counter to please bring us a slice of his favorite…

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake - $10 a slice

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake – $10 a slice

…the Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake from SusieCakes in Brentwood. An impressive monstrosity of super moist semisweet chocolate cake, thick and velvety ganache, and a thin layer of sugary frosting, this dessert was exactly what we needed to finish our meal. Surprisingly, it was not too sweet despite being so decadent and satisfying.

Saltwater Taffy

Saltwater Taffy

The offerings on the happy hour menu here are Coast are perfect for sharing with a friend. We were glad to have had the opportunity to try all of the delicious appetizers and by the time we polished off the last bite of cake, we were stuffed, though not too full for just one more little treat — a colorful piece of saltwater taffy! If you live or work in the Santa Monica area, definitely mosey on by to Shutters on the Beach and enjoy sunshine and HH here at Coast.

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Check out Coast: shuttersonthebeach.com

1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405

See their Yelp reviews here!