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It’s the 7th annual San Diego Restaurant Week (Jan 15-20, 2012) and I went to Roppongi in La Jolla to review some delicious dishes exclusive to this week! I frequently go to Roppongi, one of my favorite restaurants, and try some of my favorite foods like the Polynesian Crab Stack and Mongolian Duck Quesadilla, but this time, I wanted to sample the restaurant week specialties.
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When my parents and I walked into the familiar restaurant, the pleasant aroma of the delicious food filled the air. Ornate Asian decorations like terra cotta warriors, Buddha statues, and dragons decorated the walls, and lotus shaped hanging lamps were outside. Inside, we sat in a comfy booth and I admired some of the ornaments inside. Some hanging light fixtures were held by seemingly floating colored glass globes.
The chef gave us a sample as an appetizer: crunchy pickled seaweed salad in a spoon before the real appetizers. We tried all of the dishes on the menu. The first appetizer to come was the New Style Hamachi. It looked delicious, with crunchy (yet not very spicy) tempura jalapeno peppers, extremely salty ponzu jelly for flavor, and 5 slabs of tender raw fish. The hamachi was a pale pink color, with sprinkles of micro cilantro and green onion and a thin slice of radish on top. The dish looks like a work of edible art. Next, was the Asian Pear Arugula Salad, with peppery arugula, pieces of bleu cheese, Asian pear slices, and cranberry. When I tried all of these ingredients together in one bite of salad, it tasted like an explosion of contrast and flavor. Lastly, came the Kobocha Squash Lobster Bisque. I enjoyed the small chunks of lobster in it, and the creamy soup. My family and I often make soup with Kobocha Squash, so I really liked the flavor. My personal favorite dish in the first course was the hamachi, because it had delicious contrast and flavor.
After the first course, we moved onto the entrees. The first entrée was the Szechuan Pepper Crusted Grilled Top Sirloin (also on the regular menu). My dad ordered it well done, so it wasn’t very flavorful. With the steak came 2 delectable Gorgonzola Croquettes, made out of smooth mashed fingerling potatoes mixed with savory cheese and fried breadcrumbs. It was pretty tasty, but it didn’t taste like authentic Chinese food because it wasn’t spicy enough. The next entrée was the Seasonal Fish. Our waiter, Brandon, informed us that the fish was halibut caught off the coast of Baja the same day. We could tell by the firm texture that it was very fresh. My mom said that the fish tasted like Cantonese style cooking. On top of the piece of fish was light seasoning, sesame seeds, and various spices, which brought out the natural flavor. The last entrée we ordered was the Wok’d Shrimp Lo Mein, also on the regular menu. The shrimp and noodles are a bit too oily for my taste. My favorite entree was the seasonal fish, because it had a delicious fresh flavor.
Finally, came the best part of dinner: dessert! My mom and I definitely agree that dessert was the highlight of the meal. First, came the Crème Brulee Cheesecake, which included a delicious creamy cheesecake with crumbly cookie piece on the bottom. It was drizzled with tart passion fruit sauce and a sweet coconut sorbet, which was of the purest white color I had ever seen. Another dessert we ordered was the Pear Walnut Tartlet, which had a pile of syrupy chopped pears, sweet espresso ice cream, and a walnut filled tartlet with crispy crust. The last dish was the Salted Caramel Pot de Crème with a rich, creamy pudding and pieces of crunchy peanut brittle, mom’s favorite.
After the dinner, the restaurant manager, Steve Rhodes, gave some information about restaurant week. He said that half of the customers there order from the regular menu, and half try the restaurant week menu. If the customers really like a dish, the dish would be added to the regular menu. If that is the case, I would like to see the New Style Hamachi, Seasonal Fish, and all of the delectable desserts on the regular menu soon.
I would rate the Restaurant Week Menu 4 starfish. My advice is that you can’t go wrong with the regular menu, as everything I’ve tried on the menu was scrumptious. My parents and I often try their happy hour (3-6:30 pm daily, half off all Asian tapas and sushi). I especially love the Polynesian Crab Stack on the tapas menu. The enticing crab meat, the tanginess of the ripe, juicy tomatoes, the various veggies and a dash of ginger lime blend perfectly. I usually hate onion and cilantro, but with the sweet, spicy sauce, they turn into one of my all time favorite foods! The secret is in the sauce…
I also loved the Caterpillar Roll because of the two exotic seafood mixed together: the satisfying Dungeness crab meat, and the irresistible flavor of the barbecued eel, topped with a creamy avocado slice, with delicious brown sauce and Japanese flavor.
If you’re feeling more adventurous in culinary terms, go for the restaurant week menu, or try a little bit of both!
Perry Chen and Zhu Shen are Carmel Valley San Diego community residents and are a unique son-mother team of talent and aspirations. Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom