Lick the Plate

A slice of city cool at East Village in downtown Encinitas

So being a marketing guy who has launched and rebranded businesses for many years, it’s always refreshing to see a restaurant that just nails their logo and whose website is equally original, especially if you like Space Invaders. Check out www. to see what I’m talking about.
I guess you could say the husband and wife proprietors Daniel and Michiru had a bit of a head start on the retro vibe of the place when they took over the former Flashbacks location. They definitely put their own touches on it and the result is a clean, original, funky space that has an urban hipster vibe without going overboard. They could probably lose the construction fence, but that’s just my hypersensitive aesthetic.
So the French Culinary Institute-trained, half Korean husband Daniel and his Japanese wife Michiru already had a head start with their small bistro in Rancho Santa Fe called Pantry.
Michiru is an accountant-turned-baker whose cookies challenge people’s diet resolutions daily, especially the brownie chunk cookie, which really is in a league of its own and sold at area markets. 
They wanted a place that served good, clean, healthy Asian food and beer in a place that was not filled with all the standard Asian clichés. The result was their Space Invader/industrial metal/beat-up wood/pan-Asian eatery with killer music. And at that, my friends, I do believe they succeeded.
Asian fusion always made sense to me. Take the best of many cultures and blend them into something unique and delicious. I’m not a stickler for authenticity when it comes to food, unless the word authentic is used when it is obviously not. Italian restaurants come to mind but I will stick to the topic at hand. The menu is divided into snacks, sandwiches and wraps, salads, and East Village specialties. The snacks range from carrot-ginger soup to curry dip with paratha flatbread to Vietnamese tofu summer roll to kimchi with many more tantalizing choices, none of them more than $9.
Sandwiches and wraps include mr. lee’s bbq pork sandwich with slow roasted pulled pork, spicy bbq sauce, fresh Asian slaw and house chips. Yes, pulled pork and slaw, you have heard me rave about that combo before now imagine it with an Asian twist. Nothing over $10 in this section.
Big salads eh? A little “Seinfeld” reference there? I like it if it is. Nothing to report on the big salads other than they sound delicious. From their simple salad to a chicken bulgar salad to the grilled tofu spinach salad, I’ll have to come back when I’m in a healthy eating mode. Salads top out at $9.75.
The EV specialties are where the fusion really starts to happen. The nihon beef curry bowl is really good. And the monk’s bowl — which I did not have, but was bummed that no one else in my party ordered either — has marinated spinach, cucumbers, bean sprouts, carrots gobo, shitake, spicy sauce, rice, then topped with an over-easy egg.
Yes, eggs make everything better.
They were out of the beef power noodles that include thinly sliced marinated beef, snap peas, shitake, carrots, scallions and glass noodles. Next time for sure. There is some more standard fare on the EV specialty portion of the menu like grilled teriyaki chicken and Chinese chicken and broccoli so it’s not all fancy fusion. The Korean short ribs are the most expensive thing on the menu at $13.75.
Daniel told me they plan on serving full dinners until at least 11 p.m., maybe later. Always a good thing in Encinitas and probably a really good thing for them with hungry Saloon and First Street drinkers looking for a late night Mexican alternative.
I liked this place a lot. Eclectic vibe without being aloof, nice funky soundtrack, and really interesting and delicious food. They have filled a void in downtown Encinitas dining and for that they are definitely worthy of many more plate lickings.
Check out www.eateast where you will find the eatery’s hours, location and menu.