We were a table of seven, coming off of happy hour down the street at the Bitter End. We were seated right away, despite not having a reservation on a Friday night. The restaurant was busy and fairly noisy, but not overwhelming. We started out with some cocktails and appetizers - the salt and pepper calamari, tuna tartare, and flash-roasted edamame. The calamari was among the best I have tasted. It was greaseless and perfectly crisp, and was served with a delicious curry dipping sauce. The tuna was pleasantly sweet and spicy, though the mixture had a tad too much mayonnaise for my taste. It was spooned onto a crisp slice of fried eggplant, which sounds strange but was delicious. The flash-roasted edamame were sweet and smoky, seasoned with citrus zest and spices that made sucking them out of the pods that much more fun. I had their specialty cocktail, the Jade Mistress - made with peppery vodka and basil. It was sweet and spicy at the same time. I almost never get through a whole martini before it loses its chill, but I had no trouble at all with this one. Another in our party ordered the ginger lemonade and it was good too - but had lot of mint, which made it taste a bit like a mojito.
For our mains, we followed our server's recommendations and ordered the Shiao-Hsing Garlic Cashew Chicken, which seemed to be the house dish, the Black Noodles with Drunken Beef (pictured below), Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp, and Shaking Kobe Beef - with some sauteed long beans and grilled asparagus. Everything was delicious - nothing was greasy or overly sticky-sweet, and the flavors were unusual enough to be novel but not strange. The shrimp were so popular we had to order two servings.
For dessert we had a dish called the Passion Fruit Andagi - essentially donut holes with coconut gelato and a passion fruit custard sauce. It was really very good. (Considering how many restaurants have fryers, it's surprising donuts don't turn up more often on dessert menus. Even the French Laundry does them!) We also had the chocolate souffle with mandarin gelato, which was fine, but went overlooked in favor of the donuts.
The prices are very reasonable - none of the entree portions were over $15.00, and that was for the shrimp. The wine prices were on the high end of fair - we ordered a bottle of Albarino. All in all, we enjoyed a cocktail and wine-soaked feast for seven, at a cost of only $45.00 a head - including tax and tip. There are very few restaurants in San Diego were a group of people can be that well-fed for so little money.
When we go back (and I am sure we will) there are some interesting-sounding dishes I want to try, such as the Udon with Pork Belly, Fried egg and Smoky Miso, the Red Curry with Short Ribs and Pumpkin, and the Strawberry Cinnamon Ribs. Mmmm.... ribs...