Restaurant Review: Izakaya Fu-ga

Where do I begin? This place is freakin’ fantastic!! In fact, I’m ready to head back tomorrow – no joke. I came here with a good friend on her recommendation this evening, and I am so glad I took her advice. 

I will be honest, at first I was a bit put off – when we arrived, we did not have reservations, and we were sat in a booth, which was good. However, about 3 minutes later, the floor manager came around and asked us to move to a table because the booth was reserved. We then asked to be moved to a booth against the wall, but that was reserved as well. So we ended up sitting at a table. I’m not going to lie, I kind of wanted to leave, but my friend reminded me that would be rude on our part. I am so glad we stayed.

We started looking at the menus, and ordered cocktails first. I ordered the Blushing Geisha (Freshly Muddled Strawberries, Basil, lime and sugar with a blend of premium rums Topped with champenoise served over ice) and she had the Cherry Cream Soda (Grey Goose Cherry Noir and Cherry Cream). The cocktails were great, but she preferred hers over mine. Maybe it was because I had only eaten a granola bar in the morning for breakfast, or maybe the drinks were strong, but wow, it hit me hard – I had to slow down and wait to finish it until I started eating.

The restaurant is typical Japanese Izakaya style – small plates. I love small plates because it allows you to order multiple dishes and try a greater variety of food. We ended up ordering 7 plates!

For dinner, we ordered the following:

– Ankimo Liver (Monkfish liver with citrus-based soysauce). I didn’t think I was going to like this, having tried liver on an earlier occasion. But it was good – in small bites – but it was good. Would I do it again? Maybe. Would I eat it every day? Definitely not.

– Fried Pork Gyoza (Deep Fried Japanese style pork dumpling served with ponzu ginger sauce). Yum! I love dumplings, and these did not disappoint.

– Seafood Ceviche (Marinated Albacore, Shrimp, Scallop, and Pico de Gallo with Fried Wonton). Surprisingly, this was actually one of my choices (her and I both chose our own dishes, and then we shared). I know she loves seafood, and I’m always willing to try new things. The seafood was diced and when mixed with the pico and a little lime juice, it was a perfect combination of tang, spice, and flavorful seafood. The fried wonton chips were a nice touch.

– Yakisoba Noodles (Stir Fried Japanese Egg Noodle with original receipe Yakisoba sauce served in sizzling iron plate). Really are there any better noodles than Yakisoba? The answer is no. This may sound weird, but these noodles had the perfect consistency – not tough, but not mushy. She let me pretty much eat all the noodles, and I was happy to oblige.

– Chicken Yakatori Negima (2 grilled jidori skewers). These chicken and scallion skewers were wonderful, marinated in a Yakatori sauce served with (I believe) a peanut sauce. Delicious, 

– Ginger Jidori Chicken (Free-Range Chicken Sauteed with Sweet Julienne Onions). A nice plate of jidori chicken, seasoned with ginger. If you are unfamiliar with Jidori chicken, it’s the chicken equivalent of Kobe beef. So tasty!

– Seafood Pot Pie (Miso Flavored Shrimp, Hokkaido-Scallop, Green Mussel, and Mushroom). Our final dish for the evening (and certainly the most filling, or maybe it was because we were already near-full from the previous 6 dishes) was the Seafood Pot Pie, one of her choices. While most of the dishes were small plates, this dish was a meal in and of itself. Imagine a pot pie, filled with seafood. The dish came out with a nice toasted brown crust. In a word, it was delicious. I am not a fan of shrimp or mushrooms, but the scallops and mussels were so tasty. The crust was perfect, and the combination of breading and seafood was oh so delectable! A great way to end our 7 course dinner!

Now, on to service. Kaori was incredible. Her service was impeccable! We were never left in want of anything – drinks were refilled quietly, she checked on us several times, but never seemed in the way or intrusive. During our dining, we saw her prepare risotto tableside for a table near us. When we inquired what it was, she brought it over, explained it to us, and gave each of us a sample. Note to self: get the risotto next time! The dinner was wonderful, but Kaori really added to our evening. I’m sure every other server at the restaurant is wonderful, but I will request Kaori from now on.

During the beginning of our meal, after our first meal item had been delivered (plates were brought out in succession, so as not to overwhelm the table), Thomas, the floor manager who originally sat us, brought out a cocktail for us as his way of saying, “I’m sorry” for the seating snafu. I believe it was a sake spritzer, and I let her drink it – she seemed to really like it. It was crisp, and refreshing.

All in all, this place is top notch! Please, do yourself a favor and visit!!

San Diego, California

This past week I was feeling restless, so I packed a small suitcase, grabbed the dog, and headed South to San Diego. After much searching and comparing online, I ended up at Hotel Indigo in the Gaslamp Quarter. My main reason behind choosing this hotel is because they are so dog-friendly. Many hotels claim to be dog-friendly, but will charge a deposit, a daily fee, and usually impose a bunch of rules on the owner (no dogs in the restaurants, no leaving the dog alone in the room, etc.). This is more dog-tolerant than dog-friendly.

Two hours later I pulled up to the valet, handed him my keys, and was on my way to check in. The hotel is 12 stories, and I ended up on the 8th floor, with a decent view of Petco Park. In addition, I was placed in a handicapped-accessible (ADA) room – more square footage for me. I arrived rather late, so after making sure Crissy had food and water, I changed, and headed out to grab some food.

After walking around for a bit, I found all the bars had stopped serving food. After asking around at a few local bars, everyone seemed to have the same place in mind as a recommendation – a local restaurant two blocks away called Bubs. The security guard who checked my ID confirmed they were the only place for several blocks still open for food. I was instructed to grab a seat anywhere I liked, so I walked to the back, grabbed a booth, and checked out the menu. After looking at the menu, I realized I arrived on “Wing Wednesday” – 50¢ wings. Cecily was my server, a petite, pixie-ish girl with killer tattoos and an even prettier face. I asked her what her recommendations were for beer, and she recommended a local brewery called Acoustic Ales. I ordered their Honey Nut Brown Ale (6.25%), and wow, was it amazing! Their website describes the beer as such: “Honey roasted peanut and fresh coffee aromas arise from the glass of this deliciously balanced brown ale. Dark chocolate, hints of vanilla and nutty undertones are evident mid-palate, while roasted coffee beans round out the finish.”

Of course, I ordered wings, 5 Buffalo, and 5 Archie. Their “Archie” sauce is pretty much a house specialty – a combination of their buffalo sauce and honey mustard. The wings were delicious and very filling. I also ordered a basket of fries, and were happy to see they were using crinkle-cut fries – something you don’t see too often in restaurants anymore. My second beer was also from a San Diego Brewery, Ballast Point. On tap, Bubs had their Sculpin IPA. This was no ordinary IPA however. Ballast Point hops the beer at five separate stages, resulting in a gold-medal winning IPA, with hints of “apricot, peach, mango, and lemon flavors” while still packing a bit of a bite. All you need to know is it’s a great beer!

Thursday morning I slept in most of the day, watched TV, and ate junk food. My bed was so large and comfortable and had so many pillows, I never wanted to leave – save for a few trips to the 9th floor rooftop terrace to walk Crissy. Friday morning I checked out, and was greeted with an amazing surprise – my entire stay at the Hotel Indigo had been comped by management because I had not been given the room I had booked, and due to an unfortunate incident with the fire alarms Thursday morning. Needless to say, I was quite happy!

To celebrate, I headed to the best breakfast/lunch/brunch spot in San Diego – The Mission Restaurant. Founded in 1997 by San Diego restaurateurs Fay Nakanishi, Deborah Helm and Thomas Fitzpatrick, The Mission specializes in simple, healthy, tasty food with a “whimsical edge” and a focus on artful presentation at an affordable price. The menu includes everything from classic pancakes and sandwiches to modern Chino-Latino cuisine, sure to satisfy everyone’s appetite. For me, as always, I chose the Roast Beef Hash & Eggs: Grilled Meyer’s Ranch Natural beef, horseradish cream (yum!), rosemary potatoes, grilled rosemary bread and scrambled eggs. Add two slices of smoked applewood bacon, a cup of coffee, and a glass of champagne, and well, you have a breakfast fit for a king.

All in all, a wonderful few days away from home – filled with nothing but rest, relaxation, and eating (and a few ill-timed fire alarms).

Palm Springs, California

After finally going to the California DMV and taking my written test, and becoming “legal” to drive in California (after living here almost 8 years!), I decided a roadtrip was in order and headed out to Palm Springs, because what better place for someone with an adversity to heat to go than the desert? I packed a small suitcase, grabbed the camera and Crissy and headed out.

I ended up at The Saguaro, a Joie de Vivre hotel. I have stayed at the one in Scottsdale, Arizona and loved the experience, so I thought I would give this place a try. I was not disappointed. Like its sister location in Scottsdale, this hotel is painted in bright oranges, lime greens, yellows, and pinks. Palm trees adorn the property, and the hotel boasts the largest pool in Palm Springs. When I walked in, people were playing table tennis, upbeat music was pumping through the speakers and beautiful people were everywhere.

Check-in was a breeze and I found my basic city-view room had been upgraded to a mountain-view room. Yay me. My view ended up still being a parking lot, but hey, mountains, right? In five minutes I was in my room, and after dropping off my luggage, I headed back to the lobby to hit up the bar for Taco Tuesday.

The onsite bar, El Jefe, is the brainchild of James Beard-winner Jose Garces and celebrates the cuisine of Mexico City with dishes such as ceviche, pork belly posole, and of course, tacos. The bar boasts over 100 types of tequila.

I started my meal with an El Santo Gimlet – tequila, lime juice and cilantro. The cocktail was crisp, clean, and refreshing without an overbearing tequila taste. For food, I started with the Queso Fundido which came with tortillas, chips, and salsa. After enjoying my appetizer it was time for the main course – tacos! They were $2 for the Carnitas and Chicken, and $3 for the fish. I ordered two carnitas tacos and one chicken taco.

The carnitas tacos came with smoky black beans and pineapple-habanero salsa while the chicken taco was served with chicken ropa vieja, queso fresco, crema, and topped with thinly shaved radishes. (Actually, come to think of it, the carnitas were garnished with radishes as well.) In a word, magnificent. So good, I repeated my same order. Total cost was forty dollars and change. Not too bad. I would definitely come here again, even if it wasn’t Taco Tuesday.