For the Costco Sampler:
Your birthday is a delicate day, a day when you blossomed from a bud into being. Wouldn’t you just hate to read that on a fortune cookie slip? Emerald Chinese Cuisine can guarantee that you won’t have to. They will, however, treat you to a dainty, yet hearty, array of steaming-hot dim sum items.
A stylistic step up from its mega dim sum Convoy rival, Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, Emerald appeals to the most intricate of senses with a loungey, modern take on standard gung-ho Chinese dining decor. Cool tones and black and white sketches break from the usual red and gold dragon statues that leer down on fearful feasters.
Dim sum is traditionally served as brunch, so Emerald offers a slightly more compact dim sum selection for dinner. No problem– this opens up the happy hour dim sum menu, and my taste buds have never been happier than at Emerald’s happy hour.
When it comes to Chinese food, I always find the classic items to be the tastiest, and Emerald’s are no exception. Dish after dish is brought out at precisely the right intervals, allowing the palate to rest just to the point of renewed desire f
or the next personal-sized item. The shrimp shumai sits just right, as if the little guys were honored to sizzle in a wok for your satisfaction. Even simple spring rolls dipped in soy sauce with some unplaceable, harmonious aromatic, were exquisitely browned and crunchy with a spicy-sweet swagger.
But the barbeque pork buns, deserving of their own paragraph, were the unmatched competitor. I have dreams of this delicacy. The bun, caramelized and pillowy, so much so that I could slumber on it, and the meat, tender and juicy and gushing with a tidal wave of flavor, will complete your birthday taste-testing extravaganza and carry you through to next year.
Emerald Chinese Cuisine | 3709 Convoy St #101, San Diego, CA 92111 | $$
For the Sweatpants Resider:
I am not a mac and cheese person. I am not a burger person. I am not even a cheese person. In fact, I don’t tolerate lactose too well. But I do like pants that easily expand to make room for Grub Burger Bar’s mac and cheeseburger in my birthday belly, which I also like, so much so that I would take lactose-fighting pills for it and suffer the crampy consequences.
Granted, I used to work at Grub, but I can vouch that every time, yes, every single joyous touchdown moment made by this burger on a customer’s table was met with the same gasps and wide-eyed, slobbery-mouthed reactions. The velvety cheese sauce continues to melt on the patty and in your mouth, giving way to the cheddar-cocooned macaronis, and finally to the seared beef patty and buttery, toasted (gluten-free or whole wheat, if you so desire) bun.
Top that all off with a cherry, or better yet, crumbled oreos, pretzels, potato chips (surprisingly delicious), gummy worms, crackly sea salt, minty-fresh chocolate chips, or a fresh-baked cookie resting on a bed of whipped cream floating on a handspun milkshake of your choosing. The best part for me is that every shake is dairy free, although you wouldn’t know it if you hadn’t heard it here.
Grub Burger Bar | 12045 Carmel Mountain Rd #303, San Diego, CA 92128 | $-$$
For the Carnivore:
Sorry, vegs, make way in your garden for some other grass-guzzlers. Rei do Gado is Portuguese for Meat on Meat (or Cattle River, if we’re getting technical), which is handcarved at your fine-dining table. The Brazilian steakhouse’s version of farm-to-table is jumbo skewer-to-table, and it’s a change you won’t miss, at least for the evening.
One diner summed up his experience as “big sticks of meat”, which could be considered as slander if it weren’t true. Imagine
the best cut of meat you have ever beheld, either on your plate or from behind breath-fogged glass.
Now quintuple, at the very least, that amount, and envision it, smoking off the grill and sliced to exactly your liking directly onto your patient plate from a giant, glistening skewer. Now reimagine it with another type of meat– lamb chops with mint jelly, a whole top sirloin, filet mignon com bacon, perhaps. Now again. And again. And again. And again. And– you see it now? All thanks to a little, die-like device whose green or red side up you must merely flip up. Green means go, servers go! Red means you need to come up for air. Prices range in accordance to time and number of meat varieties you would like; none are cheap, but all are well– or rare, or medium-well, or however you prefer it– worth it.
Rei Do Gado Brazilian Steakhouse | 939 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 | $$-$$$
For the Pâtissier Protégé:
The dessert dilemma is solved in bustling Little Italy amid wafts of handcrafted gnocchi, steaming oysters on the half-shell, and Mamma’s plum tomato sauce, which will all have to wait because you need dessert. You need it fast and fresh and fun, and iDessert is all that in a chocolate shell and then some.
After gazing into patisserie fronts, binge-watching “The Great British Bake Off”, and finally giving the tedious art of dessert decorating a go myself, I have come to the conclusion that “pastry chef” is nowhere in my cards. I am not alone, as the line extending onto the sidewalk out of iDessert every weekend after sundown tells me. This is because here, in this immaculate, colorful hub of sugary innovation, anyone
can be a dessert designer. Orders have the potential to become masterpieces after some swipes and taps on a compact white tablet, which replaces a waitress or cashier, who may otherwise interrupt your artistic process. Choose from springy, airy cakes, classic gelato flavors, rich or fruity domes to hold it all in, and a luxe sauce that you spread over top your sculpture with an artistic tool resembling a dropper. Or, add or subtract from that list– tu es l’artiste pour la soirée.
iDessert | 1608 India St #104, San Diego, CA 92101 | $$