I once read a piece written by an economist about how he looks at a restaurant menu. There was lots of good advice, but one thing that stuck out was his recommendation about weird-sounding items: Food costs are such that if a restaurant has something strange sounding on a menu, there’s probably a good reason.
4428 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa
I try to follow that advice when I go out to new restaurants -- especially if it serves a cuisine I’m unfamiliar with. It helped me develop a deep abiding love for octopus, and it’s helped me in good stead at other places like Village North, a relatively new Chinese restaurant on Convoy.
Village North specializes in cuisine from the northern part of China. I’ve seen it described as Hunan, but that’s not how the waiter-owner described it to me.
Village North doesn’t have a website, but it has a varied menu, chock full of interesting sounding goodies, including lamb testicle skewers (sadly, not available during one of my visits.
I did try something really extraordinary one time when I brought my kids -- Fried Peanuts and Dried Anchovies ($6.99). It was an appetizer that sounded bizarre, though it really shouldn’t if you think it all the way through: anchovies are salty and peanuts go great with salt.
The anchovies used by Village North are tiny, dried things. They don’t just add salt, but also a great mouth feel. I vowed to come back next time I was on Convoy to get an order to go.
We enjoyed the Beef Dry Pot ($16.99), a dish where each item is cooked one at a time in a dry pot — no oil. As the items get added — beef, vegetables, potatoes, chili peppers -- they add their own water making for a tasty broth.
The beef was tender and I liked the potatoes cut like snowflakes. I’d order the dish again, but go easy on the spice.
For a more conventional dish, we tried the Twin Dragons ($15.99), sweet and sour shrimp and calamari. It especially appealed to my kids.
Remember the rule that I mentioned at the beginning? I was excited to try the Pig Ears ($6.99). So were my kids — at least for bragging rights at school.
They were OK. Too gelatinous for me, but a good experience.
I’d say Village North is a place best enjoyed by groups. The portions are huge and a group of five people can eat cheaply per person and get variety.