Review: Muzita Bistro in San Diego

September 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

This was my first foray into Ethiopian food. I kept hearing good things regarding the vegetarian angle, and wanted to try it for a long time. For the ambiance and the yelp rating, we settled on Muzita Bistro in the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego.

We ordered every vegetarian option, with the three main dishes being the Tofu Silsi, Shiro (ground chick peas, very much like hummus but much more oily and with a tomato kick), and the Kantisha Kilwa (a vegetable dish). The food is brought out family style. Each order is combined on one large plate, which is how Ethiopian food is generally presented (although, I don’t like when restaurants insist on doing this!!!). This will pose a challenge if you go with carnivores but don’t specify to keep the vegetarian portions separate. All of the food kind of congealed together, and was topped with a very uninspired wilted salad of romaine. This was all placed on one large piece of injera bread.

Amazing Injera

Now, this injera bread is amazing. I’ve never had anything like it. It’s light and fluffy and closely mimics what it must be like to eat a thin sponge. If not for this novelty, the night’s evening would have been a bust, I’m sorry to say. The Tofu Silsi lacked flavor and wasn’t cooked in any way special. People who often cook with tofu tend to know that you can’t just throw a thick sauce on cubes and then serve. This leaves you with two distinct flavors in your mouth: 1) whatever the sauce is and 2) bland tofu. This, I’m sorry to say is what you get with the Tofu Silsi here. The Kantisha Kilwa vegetable medley had a bit of a spicy kick to it, and was the only item to go mostly unfinished at our table.

Shiro

The Shiro was another savior for the night. The dish came in a bowl separate from the congealed rif-raf in the middle of our table (pictured here). Perhaps the separation contributed to maintaining its strong distinct flavor, which was much like an oily hummus infused with tomato sauce. It was very tasty. We followed up with each of the vegetarian sides which were less memorable. The flavors are reminiscent of Indian cooking. There is the similar strong presence of the tomato base present in Ehthiopian fare. The problem here was that each of the components lacked a distinct pride of flavor, kind of like everything was cooked in the same pot.

The dessert was a nice end to the meal. A pot of chocolate, not quite literally, more along the lines of a small tea cup with a thin layer of chocolate and an overflow of whipped cream. Though the whipped cream was good, and fresh, it didn’t take away from the disappointment of realizing it was going to take a serious dig to get to the good stuff at the bottom. It did inspire the idea that I should spend some time eating in my own kitchen and maybe on experimenting with different flavors of truffles.

Order the Shiro with Injera and follow with the Pot au Chocolate and you will enjoy your meal. Skip the rest!!

Review: Spread in San Diego

September 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am so glad that I decided to try this place.

Located on an unassuming block on University Ave., you’d more than likely miss Spread if you happened to walk past. The food experience begins via the long-winded translation of the terse menu, and takes place in a hip dining room boasting Stockholm design elements. There may have even been a DJ booth in the corner! The menu options were scant -probably a byproduct of being a Tuesday night- as were the descriptions: pasta w. brussels sprout and zucchini in heirloom tomato sauce read as ‘spaghetti’, but quality scant just may be Spread’s charm.

1st course –> Bruschetta w. grape tomatoes: Syrupy vinegar and grape tomatoes, seasoned w. 18 spices on well-cooked bread: not dry, not hard, and most importantly possessing the satisfying baked-with-a-healthy-amount-of-oil chew.

2nd course –> Cauliflower fritti: Reminiscent of popcorn chicken coating w. a spicy sweet n’ sour sauce covering the tender cauliflower, which was cooked to the consistency of potato. This dish was definitely the star of the evening.

3rd course –> Gnocchi (originally meant to be a spaghetti, but the chef replaced the option with an eggless gnocchi for us): The gnocchi was tossed w. brussels sprout and zucchini in an heirloom tomato sauce. It was a good dish, but not great, missing the mark on the main course heartiness factor by a bit. The tomato sauce could have been great with a slight kick of spice and a heartier stock of tomatoes.

Dessert course –> House special spread w. assorted fruits: This pb/white-chocolate spread is Spread’s specialty. The dish is a light chaser to a wonderful meal, but nothing to write home about. I was expecting a full on fondue, which would have been awesome. The spread, however, is great and I would recommend buying jars to have at home on toast, or even as a cupcake filling.

On the whole, the Spread three course meal is really one of the best vegetarian multi-course restaurant meals I’ve had in a while, right up there with Millenium in SF, however they need to provide a more substantial dessert option to satiate the sweet tooth and turn patrons away completely enamored. I am dying to try the Sunday supper, and also to head back in the winter when the season change inspires a fresh menu.

Spread is located at 2879 University Ave. in San Diego. Open Tues-Sun, 6pm-close.

Review: Cups in La Jolla

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lactovegetarians are getting the shaft during this cupcakery phenomenon, but a rare few are offering eggless options. Cups in La Jolla is one of those and offers both a vegan (such as Vanilla Bean, Strawberry Tea Cup, Great Pumpkin, Cookies n’ Cream, and Chocolate Cheesecake) and gluten free option everyday. We stopped in today and had the Peachy Keen cups, which were dense with a crunchy exterior and syrupy peach fruit filling. The buttercream was just perfect: soft, fluffy, and not too sweet.

Cups is a good coffee shop alternative and a great option for catering a celebratory event, but I wouldn’t make a trip just for the cupcakes if you’re comfortable enough in the kitchen to whip up a quick batch from a Duncan Hines box. The cupcakes are good, but not amazing (although, I’ll need to try the Strawberry Tea Cup, Pumpkin and Chocolate Cheesecake to support this claim; I’m def. going back!!). Try stopping in on weekdays to take advantage of the two for one specials. The cupcakery offers free wifi and turns into a lounge after dark. Cups is located on Girard Ave. and is open from 10am-10pm.

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