The Best Things I Ate This Month: December 2018
Smoked fish bánh mì at Mitch's Seafood, trio of moles at Tahona, and Japanese sea bream at Hidden Fish
Smoked Fish Bánh Mì @ Mitch’s Seafood
I had a problem this month. My girlfriend moved out to San Diego after a year and a half of long distance. That’s not the problem. The problem was that part of my sales pitch to her included the quality of San Diego’s seafood. And at the first four meals we had here after she moved, the seafood was just off. Smelled like the bad part of subpar supermarkets. Real nose-pinchers. So I took her to the place where, for the last 12 years, they’ve been serving nothing but fresh local-caught fish. It’s run by longtime fisherman Mitchell Conniff. Located on the sportfishing pier in Point Loma, it’s an institution. And it came through. Especially this bánh mì, featuring local whitefish that’s smoked in house (both pâté and fillet), with cilantro, sliced jalapeño, pickled veggies, and a real tooth-cracker of a toasted baguette. Fish is always better when it’s smoked in house. It’s subtler, and tastes like fish instead of firewood.
1403 Scott Street, Point Loma
Trio of Moles @ Tahona
I have a love/groan relationship with Old Town. The community has done a great job preserving our cultural history with the mission, the old graveyards, the stories of the people who built this slice of earth. My class field trip made our own candles there when I was nine years old. Great history. My problem’s always been that in the pursuit of historical preservation, a vital part of our town feels out of touch in many, many ways. We can have historical homes and missions and still have modern cuisine with good, modern decor, can’t we? Well, maybe we can with Tahona. It wasn’t all perfect. But it’s a stunning modern Mexican room, candlelit for mood. The bar overlooks the historic graveyard (six feet from where you drink craft cocktails, which is creepy cool). They’ve got a mezcal tasting room, one of the largest collections in the country. The bartenders are serious (ex–George’s by the Cove), making their own avocado orgeats from the avo seeds the kitchen would otherwise toss. And the chef spent time cooking at Noma and with Diego Hernandez at Baja standout Corazón de Tierra. It wasn’t all perfect, but the shrimp tacos were excellent. The standout was this mole trio—a long flauta filled with potatoes (herbed with hoja santa), deep fried, and then topped with three housemade moles (verde, rojo, negra).
2414 San Diego Avenue, Old Town
Japanese Sea Bream @ Hidden Fish
Hidden Fish is an odd, daring concept. Sushi chef John Hong studied in LA before becoming the opening chef at downtown’s momentarily hot sushi club, Bang Bang, and then spent time with Master Ota at Sushi Ota. With this new 13-seat outpost he’s doing omakase only. Omakase is the best way to experience a good sushi chef—which means you don’t order. He or she simply sends you piece after piece after piece of what’s fresh and best from their kitchen. At HiddenFish you can choose either a 50-minute (12 pieces) or 90 minute (18 pieces) omakase. He’s sourcing his fish from all over. Some local, some from the famous Tsukiji market in Tokyo. They make their own soy sauce in house, and use red wine vinegar for their sushi rice, which makes it unlike most sushi you’ve had. And this Japanese sea bream with radish ponzu and sea salt, the first thing off their current tasting menu, is a hell of an introduction.
4764 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa