Restaurants & Bars 33

Imperial Ave. Chowdown (San Diego)

Josh | Feb 2, 200803:32 PM

Met up today with AliceQ, jturtle, and kare_raisu for an exploration of the food in the Farmer's Market building on Imperial Ave.

We started off with a quick overview of the different food vendors, before starting off with some mariscos. We had ceviche de pescado and aguachile. The ceviche was delicious, citrusy and bright. It had a little bit of heat to it as well, but was better when augmented with one of the numerous hot sauces available.

The aguachile was also great, and was like nothing I've had before. It's made from raw shrimp, "cooked" in the manner of ceviche via a soaking in citrus juice. It comes on a platter, with shrimp, onions, and sliced cucumbers visible, with sliced tomatoes underneath. Like the ceviche, this is meant to be eaten on tostadas. They didn't tell us that, and were chuckling as they watched us eat the first few mouthfuls of shrimp on cucumber slices. This dish was very spicy, and we found out they season it with fresh habanero. I really liked it a lot, and thought the spiciness level was perfect since I didn't feel the need to add any hot sauce.

We then moved on to the carnitas stand. This is a second location of the Carnitas De Michoacan restaurant next to Super Cocina. In the display case we saw lots of interesting looking cuts of pork that had been deep fried. There were ribs (!), kidneys, ears, pork belly, and the standard pork shoulder. I ordered tacos made from the rib meat, the pork belly, and the ears.

When handed the tacos, though, it was clear I was misunderstood because instead of pork belly, I was presented with two pungent pork stomach tacos. Not being one to shy away from weird food, I figured it was worth trying at least. I didn't totally care for them - the pork stomach is very strong tasting, and had an almost liver-like flavor to it. kare_raisu found that by dressing it with lime juice, cilantro, and onions, some of the rich gaminess was mitigated. He was right, and I managed to eat half of the taco. Still, not something I'd get again!

The tacos made from the ribs, though, they were awesome. This might be my favorite type of carnitas, in fact. They were a lot more flavorful than the standard pork shoulder carnitas that we also sampled.

kare_raisu really liked the ears, but they weren't really my thing. Crunchy cartilage doesn't do much for me.

jturtle and I then paid a visit to one of the guisado vendors, and got a plate of barbacoa de res and chile relleno. We all really enjoyed both of these items. kare_raisu was detecting the flavor of pork fat in the barbacoa, speculating that the meat might have been browned in manteca prior to braising. Whatever was done to it, it was really delicious. The chile relleno was also very good, though I prefer the cheesier ones at Super Cocina.

The only clinker of the outing was a torta ahogada that I got from one of the vendors. kare_raisu and I each had a bite of it and thought it sorely lacking. The sauce it was served in was very bitter, and had no other discernible flavors. It was so strong and overpowering that the flavors of the bread and meat couldn't even be detected.

AliceQ brought the meal to a close with some pan dulce. I'm not much of a sweets person these days, so someone else will have to comment on that part of the meal.

Having gone on a few chowdowns, I have to say it's pretty cool to meet up with people who are so interested in trying new things. It's very refreshing to bring something like pig stomach tacos to a table and not have people recoil in revulsion.

Here are some pix:

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