East Village Asian Diner all about consistency
These days, many restaurants are constantly changing their menus, whether it’s seasonally, weekly or even daily.
East Village Asian Diner is an exception — and for good reason.
“We want to be that place where that one thing a person likes, it will always be there,” owner Daniel Bohlen explained.
The casual eatery has been a model of consistency since it first opened at 628 S. Coast Highway 101 in 2010. Although Bohlen attended French culinary school in New York, his restaurant’s menu is heavily influenced by Far East cuisine, with a bit of a California twist. Much of Bohlen’s inspiration is drawn from his Korean ancestry and his mother’s recipes; his wife’s Japanese heritage also plays a role. The dishes are characterized by an abundance of vegetables, and nothing is double-fried, providing options that are generally healthier than a typical diner.
For starters, there’s the juicy Pork & Shrimp Potstickers: pan-fried dumplings plump with a meat-and-seafood filling spiced with ginger and garlic. There are also Vegetarian Spring Rolls and Crispy Coconut Shrimp. The crispy and savory Kimchi-Chive Street-Cart Pancakes are created from mung beans mixed with kimchi, chive and garlic, and can be enhanced with the house sauces. And there are Carnitas Dynamite Fries with pulled pork, fried onions, jalapenos, scallions and cheese, drizzled with sour cream and a house-made Korean red pepper paste known as Monk’s Sauce.
The entrees range from salads and bowls, to noodles, hot plates and Asian burritos with fillings such as beef and kimchi.
The signature item is the Monk’s Stone Pot, based on bibimbap, a Korean rice dish with mixed vegetables that’s served sizzling in a very hot dolsot (stone bowl). Bohlen put his own spin on it by changing up the toppings, but it’s the same concept: His version features a base of baby spinach, julienned zucchini, sautéed mushrooms, white or brown rice, over-easy egg, marinated bean sprouts and a bamboo shoot-and-carrot kinpira mixture. Customers are welcome to add additional ingredients such as shrimp, marinated rib-eye, chicken and tofu for an extra cost. When it’s brought to the table, patrons can season it with a house sauce to taste, and then stir it well with a long spoon “so that every bite has a little of everything,” Bohlen said.
Another meal of note is the Sweet & Sour Chili Shrimp. The seafood, onions, green beans and red bell pepper slices rest on a bed of rice, covered in light, flavorful chili sauce.
The Beef Power Noodles also garners attention, with marinated rib-eye and a medley of vegetables.
Desserts are available, as well, which include options such as the House Baked Brownie a la Mode, Fresh-Baked Artisan Cookies and Apple Wontons. The latter is like a warm, gooey bite of apple pie, encased in a crispy cinnamon-sugar shell. Nearly a half-dozen of them surround a two-scoop tower of vanilla ice cream, and it’s all laced with caramel.
Finally, there’s a well-rounded beverage list that includes San Diego craft beers, Japanese microbrews such as the light and citrusy Hitachino Nest White Ale, sparkling sake and plum wine.
East Village Asian Diner is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call (760) 753-8700 or go to eat eateastvillage.com.