Best Things I Ate This Month: December 2016
Red-Eye Rubbed Brisket at Campfire, Compart Duroc Pork Chop at Flying Pig, and Monchong at Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub
Red-Eye Rubbed Brisket @ Campfire
Brisket is to Texas what bagels are to New York: not good elsewhere. I’ve really struggled to find good brisket in San Diego. Mostly it’s too dry, not fall-apart tender like it should be after long hours in the smoker. But Campfire in Carlsbad—my review for the next issue—nails it. Get the brisket plate (not the sandwich, though it may be good as well). A log of tender brisket comes topped with a poached egg over a bed of sushi rice. But it’s what’s between the brisket and the rice that makes the whole thing sing—housemade furikake (a Japanese spice mixture usually with dried fish and/or bonito flakes, sesame seeds, seaweed for umami, etc.)—that’s inescapably delicious. The chimichurri on the side isn’t bad, either, the vinegar cutting through the fat of the meat and the egg.
2725 State St., Carlsbad
Compart Duroc Pork Chop @ Flying Pig
The Flying Pig was one of, if not the, first gastropub in Oceanside, opened by a husband-and-wife team of restaurant lifers (husband Roddy, for instance, spent years with Carl Schroeder at Market). They opened up in Vista. Vista doesn’t sound sexy. For a long time it wasn’t. I know, I grew up near there. But this little rejuvenated downtown area is pretty inspiring, with Belching Beaver and the Pig and a few others. Go sit on their huge outdoor patio, where the “fire pits” are actually old, rusted metal stoves like you’d see in a Dickens novel. And eat the pork chop, which has been their most popular menu item for years for a reason. It’s got creamy polenta, sherry-braised Castleveltrano olives, shallots, garlic, petite mustard greens, and then that luscious, juicy, sliced chop tucked into the glorious mess. Doing the south proud in Vista.
230 S. Santa Fe, Vista
Monchong @ Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub
After years of being harassed by my friends who know when they see good sushi, I finally made it up to Wrench & Rodent, run by Davin Waite. Davin made his name at Japengo, back when Japengo was the name in sushi in San Diego along with Ota. He’s a devout, serious disciple of the art, but he also breaks the rules. The place? It’s all funk and punk, with garage sale objects and creepy yard sale décor that makes me, for one, feel inspired and at home. I’d suggest doing an omakase—which means you just ask Davin to send out his best dishes, one by one, until you surrender—but if ordering one thing right now, try the monchong. Mongchong is a bycatch, which means it’s hyper sustainable. And it’s such a clean, good-eating fish. Waite floats his in tomato water with tangerine koshu, candied red jalapeño, and pea shoots. You get the subtle ghost of sweetness from the tomato water, the tartness of the tangerine koshu, and the sweet heat of the pepper. Just about perfect.
1815 S. Coast Hwy, Oceanside