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Licking the Plate at Birdseye Kitchen in Leucadia

David Boylan

Curry noodles at Birdseye Kitchen in Leucadia
The Curry Noodles at Birdseye Kitchen are now on my go-to winter comfort food list. Photo David Boylan

First off, Birdseye Kitchen is a beauty of a restaurant. It’s simple, clean and elegant and located in the heart of Lecuadia on Coast Highway 101. I happen to love that trains whip by on a regular basis and that there is an old-school building supply company across the tracks. The front windows roll up when weather permits, wait, did I just say that? Let’s just say they are open most of the time. The aesthetic of the restaurant fits in nicely with the changing face of Leucadia and let’s face it, that funky vibe is slowing fading yet I would be hard-pressed to find someone who would not agree that Birdseye is a fine looking restaurant. On top of that, they feature local artists and on my last trip in one of my favorites, Mary Fleener was featured. If I had space on my walls her “Surfin Bird” piece would be mine. If you are not familiar with Mary and her illustrious career and her art you should definitely check her out.

OK, now that I’ve established that it’s a great place to hang out, let’s move on to the food. Owner and chef Vasama Morris features recipes on that come from her family’s vast repertoire of dishes. It should be noted that they do have a heat scale of 1-10 for most of their dishes. I’ve never ventured over 6 but I am kind of lame that way among my heat-seeking friends.

On the starter side of things, I could eat the Spring Rolls with veggies, tofu, cilantro, mint and your choice of peanut or plum sauce every day and they are how I start my meal every time I go to Birdseye. I have tried the crispy shrimp and the chicken wings but keep coming back to the light, fresh, perfect prelude to a main course that the Spring Rolls provide.

If you are a fan of chopped salads, The Larb Gai, or minced chicken salad will be right up your alley. It contains Mary’s free-range chicken (as do all the chicken dishes) lime, chili, roasted rice powder, shallots, mint, scallions and cilantro and it’s fantastic. I had no idea what Larb Gai was so I had to do a bit of research. Turns out its a type of Lao meat salad that is often regarded as the “unofficial” national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in parts of Thailand where the majority of the population is of the Lao ethnicity. It’s most often made with chicken, beef, duck, fish or pork and flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek and roasted ground rice which is a key component of the dish and fresh herbs. It was all new to me and I’m a big fan of the Birdseye version.

Another dish that I absolutely loved was the Curry Noodles or Khao-poon ga-lee gai that consisted of coconut curry broth, chicken, rice vermicelli noodles, onions, mint, bean sprouts, organic potatoes, carrots, cabbage and cilantro. Vegan and wild shrimp are options as well. The combination of flavors and textures and mild heat is my new winter soup option that is enabling me to mix things up a bit from my go-to La Especial Norte chicken soup. I really did not think that would happen, locally at least.

I’ve also tried the Chicken Pho and well, while it’s perfectly acceptable, there just seemed to be something missing. A richness or depth that I’ve found in other pho was lacking. I will admit that my favorite pho has come from old-school joints that specialize in it so I am a bit jaded that way. There are just other noodle bowl options at Birdseye that I prefer.

The rice plates consist of a variety of red, green and yellow curries and are served with jasmine white rice and your choice of chicken, pork, beef or vegan. A full range of wok noodles and fried rice are available and it should be noted that the sour pork option in the fried rice is house cured. Again, if you are not familiar with the heat scale, I’d lean towards the lower end of the spectrum until you get a feel for it.

They keep it simple for dessert with either gelato or vegan coconut ice cream. There is also a very nice wine list and selection of local beers on tap and in bottles. This place gets very busy during prime time so I prefer to eat there during off hours. Either way, it’s a fine addition to the dining scene in Leucadia and worth checking out.

540 N. Coast Hwy, Encinitas, CA 92024 (760) 479-0488

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