Are the prices at San Francisco’s Jijime too good to be true?

I was in the Richmond District today and was looking for a bite to eat. A friend recommended Jijime to me. Jijime is a Korean restaurant that can also be described as Asian fusion since they also serve ramen and various Japanese dishes and appetizers.

I was thinking about ordering the Katsudon, a long-time favorite dish for me that I scoped out before my visit, but the waitress informed me quickly after seating that it was not available. The seafood pancake was also not available and clearly whited out on the menu. No matter – I decided I would move instead towards the bulgogi bowl ($12.95) and the okonomiyaki fries ($6).

Okonomiyaki Fries at Jijime restaurant in San Francisco's Outer Richmond area.

Okonomiyaki fries have become popular nationwide as a starter in Japanese pubs and trendy spots, but usually are underwhelming. That was not the case at Jijime. The fries were actually the best part.

Crispy and perfectly cooked, the texture and cut was similar to a McDonald’s french fry (recently named #1 by LA Times Food) with kewpie and katsu sauce mixed together. Yum. I was in love with these fries and devoured every last bite. The bonito flakes on top was a nice touch. I would order this again for sure, maybe with some other appetizers.

Bulgogi Bowl at Jijime in San Francisco.

Now the bulgogi. The bulgogi at Jijime was the disappointing part of my meal. It took quite some time to come out and when it finally did the actual serving of bulgogi meat seemed small and fluffed up by a huge amount of plain salad and white rice with noodles attached to the beef. The plating of it made it look even worse with large pieces of green lettuce covering most of the bowl (I actually pulled some out for my photo so it would show up in the shot).

The marinade for the bulgogi was sugary sweet and stomach acid reflux inducing. Restaurants that are catering to American sweet tooths will normally do this, but I don’t feel like it has become as common these days and especially not at an independent Korean restaurant. The actual cut of meat was fairly cheap and tasted like every bulgogi I’ve ever had at an All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ restaurant (which I intentionally don’t order to avoid it), except this portion was not unlimited.

Of course – the price for the bulgogi at Jijime is affordable at just $12.95 so I can understand that you can’t expect a great cut of meat for that price point, but to be honest I would rather be charged more and have a better cut of meat ($16-21 is standard in Florida) and actually like the meat than to pay less and be disappointed.

There were a number of things I wanted to try on the menu at Jijime and the ambiance of the restaurant is very welcoming and perfect for catching up with friends or a date.

Service was satisfactory, although I did find it a little odd that my waitress did not know what samgyeopsal is when I was asking about their pork belly dish and the taste of it. Her inability to explain the dish made me shy away from it.

Jijime also seems to be a nice spot to have a drink so that may be something to explore in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the okonomiyaki fries are excellent and that the bulgogi is completely disappointing and I will not order it again. I’ve had better bulgogi at restaurant chains and corporate concepts which is sad, but true. As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for”.

Restaurant Name: Jijime

Cuisine: Korean, Japanese, Asian Fusion

Neighborhood: Outer Richmond

Address: 5524 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

Phone Number: (415) 221-5353

Cost: $$

Website: http://www.jijime.com

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Inay’s Kitchen serves delicious Filipino Cuisine in West Orlando

Filipino food is one of my all-time favorite cuisines. The mixture of Asian and Spanish cuisine speaks to me. Unfortunately, Filipino food is not too popular in Florida and has experienced much difficulty catching on in Tampa Bay. I saw Inay’s Kitchen opened in Orlando and bookmarked it a few weeks ago.

I finally made it over today. The restaurant is a mom-and-pop dive that clearly is family-run. They have a small cafeteria-like setup in the back. You can order 2 meats and a side for $10.99, but I opted for 1 meat and a side for $6.99 (Filipino food is filling). An order of Shanghai Lumpia was added on for $2. I can’t pass that up. My friend also ordered the pancit noodles.

The server brought out our food fresh and warm and we dug in. The lechon kawali (crispy fried pork belly) was perfectly crispy on the skin and was incredibly juicy. It beat out any other business I have eaten at in Tampa Bay or Orlando so far. We enjoyed it with some Mang Tomas sauce which is similar to a gravy sauce and available upon request.

The shanghai lumpia was perfectly rolled and delicious. The pancit was flavorful and not dry at all. This restaurant was a really simple setup and nothing complex was going on inside, but everything was done well and the price was right. I would return in the future for more food and recommend it to people who love Filipino food.

There was ample seating inside and from talking to the owners it seems the weekends are their busiest time. They add more menu items on the weekend such as Dinuguan and Kare-Kare.

Check out Inay’s Kitchen – you won’t be disappointed with their food.

Restaurant Name: Inay’s Kitchen

Cuisine: Filipino

Neighborhood: West Orlando

Address: 1097 S. Clarke Rd., Ocoee, FL 34761

Phone Number: (407) 601-2126

Menu: http://places.singleplatform.com/inays-kitchen-0/menu?ref=google

Asia Fest 2012 – Saturday 04/28

The 29th Annual Celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage called Asia Fest will occur on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 from 11:00 AM-2:30PM inside Cotanchobee Park located in the Channelside District. Entrance is FREE and there will be a number of performances and cultural shows at the event. The event will be held in conjunction with the 9th Annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races.  Local Asian food vendors normally set up shop around the event and sell a variety of food to the public. The event is sponsored by Bright House Networks, Asia Trend Magazine, Asian American Journalists Association, and a number of other business organizations.

More information available at: http://www.asiafest-tampabay.com/

ASIAFest Today!

The Tampa Bay Dragon Boat Institute has teamed up with the Asian-American Coalition of Florida to host the 28th annual Asia Fest event in conjunction with the 8th Annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Race and the International Beer Festival. The expected attendance this year will be well over 5,000 people! Be prepared for an amazing day!

Asia Fest will be held in Cotanchobee Park, adjacent to the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and the location of the athlete’s village for Tampa Bay Dragon Boat Races.

Admissions: Everyone gets in for FREE!!!!!!!

When: April 30th 11:00 AM

Where: Cotanchobee Park Channelside District 601 Channelside Dr. Tampa, FL 33602

An amazing day filled with entertainment, ethnic food, a raffle to win prizes, the Dragon Boat race competition, the Miss Asia Fest competition, the International Beer Festival, and so much more!