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Koon Thai Kitchen

3860 Convoy Street, Suite 102, Kearny Mesa

Koon Thai Kitchen
I enjoy two dishes served at Koon Thai. I usually avoid the ubiquitous “pick the protein, pick the sauce” approach and go for specialties. Once I found out that the chef is from Issan, the northeast region of Thailand, which borders Laos, I ordered the Nam Khao Tod, a crispy rice–sour sausage dish. Here it’s wet, almost like a larb, a bit different from the Lao version I love. Still, I find the flavor of the galangal and lime, along with the heat, refreshes me. The other dish that I enjoy at Koon takes me back to Thailand, the sweet-soy flavor of the Khao Karr Moo is a staple of food courts all over the “Land of Smiles.” As if having simmered pork leg and rice isn’t enough, there’s always half a boiled egg as well. The portion size of the dish isn’t overwhelming, and I’m usually happily on my way in about 30 minutes.

Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori

4898 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori
Yakyudori doesn’t serve Yakitori during lunch hours. They do have a pretty solid Shio or Shoyu Ramen, though. There are also “combos” offered during the week, which include a small ramen and one or two more items. My favorites are the Thursday combo of a small ramen with chicken karaage, Japanese-style fried chicken, though I’d gladly trade the shumai for a couple more pieces of karaage. I also like the BBQ pork bowl that comes with the Friday combo. It’s basically marinated chopped pork and sauce over rice, topped off with corn, scallions, and mayo, which I keep forgetting to tell them to 86. (Maybe I am a closet mayo lover?) If you get there at 11:30, you can be out in less than 30 minutes. Unless you get distracted by all that slurping.

Izakaya Sakura

3904 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

Izakaya Sakura
Every once in a while I’m able to meet the Missus for lunch. During these all-too-rare occasions when I can get away, we’ll usually visit Izakaya Sakura. Yes, the restaurant with no sign. The lunch menu features rice bowls, combinations, and a whopping bento, consisting of over eight items, of which there’s a limited number available each day. My current favorite is the Ebi Kakiage, a tempura of sorts, where small shrimp and vegetables are combined to form a crunchy nest. This is served over udon or soba, with a broth that can be ordered hot or cold. I’ve been enjoying the cold version over the summer and the unseasonably hot fall. All the lunch combos come with miso soup and sometimes a salad, though the Ebi Kakiage lunch comes with an extra onigiri (rice ball). The hours can be kind of spotty; they’ll sometimes open a bit late and, if busy, the service can be carried out at a careful cadence, if you know what I mean. So, plan on a leisurely lunch at Izakaya Sakura.

Crab Hut

4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

Crab Hut
Every so often it’s nice to get the folks in the office together for a lunch. Crab Hut in Kearny Mesa was where we’d have that once- or twice-a-year meal together. What’s better for team building than eating seafood with your hands while wearing a bib and the whole gang going back to the office reeking of Old Bay? I could go on about tracing the dots of the over 5000 shrimpers of Vietnamese ancestry who fished the Gulf Coast and how Cajun-influenced seafood boils made it to the West Coast. But I’ll save that for another time. The key at Crab Hut is to know what you like, your heat tolerance, and ask the young servers (all of whom I found to be forthcoming) what’s fresh today. Lately, it’s been live clams, which suited me fine with just some Old Bay in the bag. I recall asking my former coworker, Vickie, born and raised in New Orleans about how close she thought this was to a traditional boil. Her answer: “C’mon, you know this isn’t traditional, but that doesn’t stop me from licking my fingers and wanting to come back next week.” Well, that’s enough for me to brave the late opening time (12 noon) and the worst parking situation on Convoy, which says quite a bit. ■

More Feast 2012: Eats for Freelancers | Spirit of Family Dinnertime | More Than Dish or Deal | Accessible Gourmet | Fried Chicken | Places to Try At Least Once

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