Dao Son, I'm told literally means 'Hot Chef', and he's not kidding.This little Vietnamese/Japanese (I know, I had my doubts too) makes some very spicy, tasty dishes.
We had the Fried Catfish with Eggplant - ordered medium-hot ($6.99). The catfish was battered and fried perfectly. Crunchy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. The eggplant seared on the outside, with a wonderful molten, creamy interior. The sauce was nice and spicy, and the peanuts added a nice textural component to the dish. This was the best dish of the night.
The Garlic Chicken - ordered medium hot (5.99). Boneless, Dark Meat chicken was marinated, than battered and fried and served with a nice and spicy garlic/chili sauce, and is topped with scallions and tempura "bits". The chicken was tasty, and the sauce (seems like it was sambal based) was hot enough to bring sweat to my brow. The scallions and tempura bits added a nice counter-point to the whole meal. The only gripe I had about this dish was that the chicken pieces were pretty large and we only had chopsticks so there were some problems managing the pieces. Also, the batter was very savory and crisp, but very hard, almost like a shell, I'm thinking that this was a corn-starch based batter. All of this is relatively minor. If the chicken were smaller and bite-sized, the crunchy texture would be viewed as a positive attribute.
The Garlic Fish - also ordered medium hot ($5.99). I had thought that this would be the same as the chicken dish, but was pleasantly surprised. First off, the fish was coated with bread crumbs, and there was the distinct taste of lemon grass all through the dish. Other than the addition of lemon grass this was essentially the same as the chicken dish. The fish was prepared well, though the fish was relatively bland, the toppings and sauce made up for any deficiencies.
Tonight I had the Red Chicken ($5.50) medium hot. This is almost a perfect dish! Chicken stir fried over high heat, in a spicy "red" sauce that is both sweet and spicy, with tomatoes, red peppers, and chili. This was a most excellent dish.
Worth a try for those serious chili-heads.
Dao Son Noodle House
2322 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103