David and Andrew Fung are back in California as they take on “America’s finest city,” also known as San Diego, also known as my hometown. They’re in it for the burritos, Spanish octopus, tempura buns, lobster mac and cheese, and more.
First stop is Lucha Libre in Mission Hills, where Chef Jose’s secret recipes and Mexican wrestling obsession reign supreme. His burritos are so good they were voted best in San Diego six times during the last seven years (burritos are a big deal in San Diego, considering a majority of our population are hungry surfers). The place is Nacho Libre-chic complete with masks and garishly colorful decor that makes this place a must-see. The brothers try the popular Surfin’ California Burrito (the restaurant sells about 450 every day). It’s essentially surf and turf wrapped up into one burrito with all kinds of special seasonings that you can’t find anywhere else. In the kitchen, Chef Jose grills the flat meat steak, then the shrimp, which is doused in his secret garlic and parsley marinade. The steak and shrimp are placed on a giant tortilla and topped with french fries, pico de gallo, cheese, avocado slices and a secret chipotle sauce. The brothers declare that the $7.95 burrito is the juiciest and creamiest burrito of them all, and with one burrito each, they’ve got $84.10 left to spend.
Next up is Waypoint Public in North Park (San Diego’s budding gourmet neighborhood). The restaurant is famous for the Waypoint Burger, but head chef Amanda (former contestant on Top Chef), suggests the Grilled Octopus Salad instead. The octopus is cooked sous vide, which is a method of cooking food evenly inside and out by vacuum sealing the octopus and then submerging the bag in water that heats up “jacuzzi-style.” Before vacuum-sealing the meat, lemon zest, black peppercorns, bay leaves, arbor chiles, thyme, garlic and olive oil are added for it to marinate, vacuum-sealed, for 10 hours. After the 10 hours are up, the octopus then is charred on the grill, and Chef Amanda explains that she likes to char the octopus to make the suction cups nice and crispy, which makes Andrew declare “Me likes me some crispy cups.” For the salad, Chef Amanda shaves fennel, dices dill and hard boiled eggs, and adds orange and lemon to make one heck of a salad with some #TastyTenticles. Considering the octopus takes 10 hours to make, $13 isn’t a bad price for a salad as artfully crafted as the one Chef Amanda serves. Two salads leaves the brothers with $58.10 to go.
Later on, Andrew and David get their raw seafood fix at Ironside in Little Italy, where the raw bar is surprisingly affordable thanks to their “bucket shuck” happy hour. Oysters, which are normally $3 a piece, are $1 each Monday through Friday between 3 PM and 6 PM. Chef Jason aka the “Bad Mother Shucker,” explains that their raw bar happy hour is insanely popular due to the good prices for the awesome quality of seafood. He also explains that the farmed oysters he serves are sustainable and great for the environment. Did you know that adult oysters can filter water and “be delicious” at the same time? Neither did the Fung bros. Before their oyster odyssey begins, Chef Jason serves the brothers Imperial Stout beers to pair with the oysters. The smooth, rich maltiness of the stout complements the creaminess of the oysters for happy hour delight. $24 total for the two of them isn’t a bad price for raw oysters in downtown San Diego, and they’re left with $34.10 left to explore the rest of southern San Diego.
Back in North Park, they visit Underbelly, a ramen house that uses Asian influence to create food with that famous San Diego originality. Even though their host Shane admits Underbelly is a ramen house, he recommends the Tempura Eggplant Buns, which consists of spicy mayo, sautéed mushrooms and eggplant tempura in a steamed bun (it looks like an Asian hamburger). Asian cultures are mishmashed with the Chinese bun with Japanese tempura. The mushrooms are also a medley and include shiitake, hon-shimeji, enoki and oyster mushrooms. All in all, this $6 burger makes for a flavorful vegetarian dish, and the brothers have $22.10 left to spend on gourmet mac and cheese.
At BarleyMash in downtown, Chef Kevin wants everyone to know that all his food is “made with lots of love and liquor.” He blends beer, bourbon and tequila into food as his way of paying homage to San Diego’s massive beer scene. The Maine Event is a drunken lobster mac and cheese, and we get to go behind the scenes to make it. Start with chili butter made of yellow, green and red chilis combined with Sriracha and tequila, then add two cheese sauces; the first being pepper jack beer cheese sauce and the second being the roasted poblano beer cheese sauce. Combine with the macaroni then add more cheese on top of the cheese such as Monterey jack, provolone, and white cheddar. By the time the dish is halfway finished, there’s at least five cheeses on there. Chef Kevin can’t even count them all. He tops the mac and cheese with bread crumbs made from onion strings, croutons and crackers, then pops the dish into the oven. We move onto the lobster, where the meat is poached with water, veggie stock, and, of course, tequila (#PourOneOutForTheLobster). After the mac and cheese is baked, add lobster meat, truffle oil and fresh herbs to top off the decadent dish. Andrew, mac and cheese’s biggest fan, gives this $19.00 entree dish an enthusiastic seal of approval (complete with cheese all over his face) and this ends the Fung’s culinary adventures in America’s finest city with $3.10 left to spare.
Watching this show made me realize how unadventurous I am when it comes to food. Almost all the restaurants mentioned in this episode I knew about, but never actually got to try. Now I know exactly what I’ll going to be doing this weekend, and it’s definitely not going to involve eating in. Stay tuned for the brothers’ adventures in Fort Worth, Texas!