Sunday, March 19, 2017

South Bay: Hi Pot

When a good high school friend came to visit from DC, a bunch of us got together to catch up.  One of the group was an old elementary school friend who I hadn't seen in about a decade.  We were the best of friends as children, but I knew virtually nothing about who was now.  However, just from that short get together, I could tell that she was good people.  So I made it a point to reconnect with her.

We quickly realized that we both love food.  Since we both had President's Day off, we met up for lunch at Hi Pot:

Guess everyone else still had to work.  The place was nearly empty when we arrived:

Though by the time we finished, there was a line out the door.

The lunch special came with rice and an ice tea (you get a choice of black or green):

Hi Pot is known for its spice dry pot.  There are plenty of pre-set combinations on the menu or you can design your own.  Too lazy to do that, I just went with the pork combination spice pot ($11.95 for a small):

It came with pork stomach, pork intestine, pork belly, cauliflower, potato, celery, and bean curd skin.  Because I'm weaksauce, I got my pot not spicy.  I know, I know.  Judge away.  But the pot was delicious all the same.  A little oily, but nothing a little potato and rice won't soak up.  I was beyond tickled that the potato actually came in the form of French fries. 

Every time I've passed by Hi Pot since then, I've seen a giant crowd of people waiting at the door.  I get it though.  The prices are decent, the portions are generous, and the food is good.  What's not to love? 

Hi Pot
19066 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014 
(408) 366-2318

Thursday, March 16, 2017

San Francisco: Lam Hoa Thuan

My family has a new favorite place to get dinner when we take my sister back to the city.  It is now my goal for us to become regulars there.

My parents and my sister discovered Lam Hoa Thuan without me.  My father can't resist roast duck, so I can see what first drew his eye:

You know you're in a legit Asian place when there are menu items written on 8x11 paper posted on the wall and when most of the tables are filled by middle age/elderly Asians:

We've been to Lam Hoa Thuan a few times now and my sister, my mother, and I always get a glass of hot soy milk ($0.99) each:

I don't know how the servers carry the glasses over with their bare hands.  Those things are HOT.  I love how thick the soy milk is and how there's just enough sweetness to make it delicious.

My sister and I are obsessed with gravy egg and beef over rice ($7.75):

My mother likes to try different things each time we go.  Such as the combination over rice with gravy ($7.75):

My father, on the other hand, is a creature of habit.  He always gets the roast duck with rice ($8.00):

Most of the time, he also adds soy sauce chicken.  The first thing he does is pour all of the soy sauce over the rice like a giant kid.  I can't judge though.  I would do the same thing.

The first time I was there, I tried a combination plate with BBQ pork and roast pork ($8.25 + $3):

That was some beautiful roast pork.  That skin.  Oh, that gorgeous, crackly skin.  So yum.

The second time I went, I tried the tomato beef over rice ($7.75)

I would skip this.  A little too ketchup-y for me.

Lam Hoa Thuan is everything you can expect from a good hole-in-the-wall Chinese joint.  Bomb barbeque items, goopy rice, minimal service, dirt cheap, and cash only.  It actually offers both Chinese and Vietnamese food.  I have yet to venture over to the Vietnamese side of the menu, something I plan to fix the next time I go.  There's a bun bo hue with my name on it.

I'll certainly be back, Lam Hoa Thuan.  Soon.  We're going to be regulars if it's the last thing I do!

Lam Hoa Thuan
2337 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-1688

Monday, March 6, 2017

South Bay: Taqueria La Placita

In February, my co-workers and I went down to Hayward to do a free immigration consultation day at the Hayward Unified School District.  There were over 30 people signed up for consultations, so we knew it would be an action-packed day. 

The only thing that kept us going was the prospect of getting tacos for lunch.  When we knew we were going to Hayward, the first thing we did was look up restaurants in the area.  The one we ultimately decided on was Taqueria La Placita.

We had only an hour for lunch, so time was limited.  In the rush to eat and then to get back to the school, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the exterior.  Sorry.

But one look at this interior of Taqueria La Placita and you know it's legit:

When you find construction workers eating at a Mexican restaurant, you can tell you're in for some great grub.

The place was tiny and completely packed.  We were lucky to snag not only a table, but one with a paper towel roll. 

I got myself a regular-sized horchata:

And the taco plate ($8.50), which came with three tacos, rice, and beans:

I could have gotten as many tacos as I could've stuffed in my mouth for $2.50 per taco, but I wanted to stay under $10 and be as full as possible.  Instead of a fourth taco, I figured rice and beans would do the trick.

For my meats, I went with my holy trinity: tripas (tripe), lengua (tongue), and cabeza (head meat).  I think two of the three cost extra, but I honestly don't remember which.  All three were delicious.  I could have eaten another one of each.  Maybe two.

Loved Taqueria La Plactia.  We go to Hayward once a year for consultations, so I can definitely see us going back.

Taqueria La Placita
27548 Tampa Ave
Hayward, CA 94544
(510) 784-0583

Friday, March 3, 2017

San Francisco: TJ Cups

After dinner at Cheung Hing, I insisted on finding some pearl tea to round out the meal even though we were both bloated from all the rice we had.  I figured we could digest a bit as we block down to TJ Cups:

The space was cute and modern:

We could have sat there and played board games, but it was getting late, so we took our drinks to go:

My sister ordered the Hong Kong style milk tea with pearls (darker one toward the front), while I got the TJ signature milk tea with pearls.  Both cost $4.25 for a large sized cup ($4 for a regular). 

Definitely not the cheapest pearl tea around, but they take their tea seriously at TJ Cups.  When I dropped my sister off at her apartment, we couldn't tell in the dark which cup was which.  But one sip of the HK milk tea and I knew it wasn't mine.  The signature milk tea had a strong tea flavor, but it definitely wasn't nearly as strong as the HK one.

Expensive, yes, but I wouldn't mind going back once in a while.  I just probably wouldn't go out of my way to Noriega to get it.  Seems like a chill place to hang out with friends though.

TJ Cups
2437 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122 
(415) 681-2877

Sunday, February 26, 2017

San Francisco: Cheung Hing Restaurant

After our last naturalization workshop in San Francisco, I met up with my sister for dinner before heading back home to the South Bay.  About a week prior, my sister had told me she was craving beef and scrambled egg over rice.  Which of course led me down memory lane to my undergrad days and caused me to start craving it as well. 

So when she told me she'd found a place that had it, I demanded that we go there.  I didn't even mind driving and finding street parking.  That's how much I wanted it.

Cheung Hing looked exactly as I expected it to:

Roasted ducks hanging in the window, not much décor to speak of, basically your typical Chinese hole-in-the-wall:

We were lucky enough to get the last open table right by the door.  Soon after we sat down, a line started forming.  Most people were there to buy barbecue meat to go.

We, however, were there for this:

The beef and scrambled egg over rice ($7.95).  It was everything I remembered it to be.  Saucy, goopy, and glorious mixed in with the rice.

We also got the minced beef with egg over rice ($7.95):

When we didn't see the egg at first glance, we asked our server about it.  Like Shaun T, she told us to dig deeper:

This is one of the rare occasions when I am perfectly okay with popping an egg yolk.  You gotta mix it in until it's all one big sloppy mess.  Ah.  So good.

Real love is eating all the peas for your sister because she hates them with a fiery passion.  Thanks, boo.  You're the best.

We probably shouldn't have had all that rice, but it's so damn satisfying.  These types of rice plates are the ultimate comfort food for me.  There's something about warm goopy rice that just hits the spot.  Even if it's carb overload.

Thank you, Cheung Hing, for bringing me back to my childhood. 

Cheung Hing Restaurant
2339 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-3271

Saturday, February 18, 2017

South Bay: Oren's Hummus Shop

My parents were in Taiwan over the Lunar New Year, so my sister and I semi-celebrated by first going to my father's cousin's house for dumplings and then later having dinner with my Ahyi.  While throwing out ideas for where to go, Meet Fresh came up and I glomped onto that real fast.  (As you've probably already figured out, I'm a huge fan.)  Then it became a matter of where in that plaza we should get actual food before dessert. 

My sister got stuck on the fact that Oren's Hummus Shop has unlimited pita, so there we went:

I don't know why I was expecting something simple (it is Cupertino and the land of Apple after all), but I certainly wasn't expecting the almost glitzy décor at Oren's:

So many chandeliers!  That's some pretty fancy lighting going on there.  My Ahyi told us that the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows are open during warm days.  I can see how it would be a relaxing place to chill.

The meal started out with some complimentary pickled cabbage:

When the restaurant is a hummus shop, you definitely have to order hummus.  We went a little overboard and ordered two for the three of us.  We got the hummus with lamb ($12.50):

The lamb was braised with pomegranate and topped with fresh mint, which gave it this sweetness that my sister and I loved.  And the hummus!  So smooth, so creamy!

Since my ahyi isn't a big lamb eater, we also got the hummus with beef ($11.95):

The Moroccan spiced ground beef came with pine nuts and strangely reminded me of the dry Chinese beef jerky my father used to make at home.  I guess Moroccan spices are similar to Asian ones?

We probably should have stopped there, but we couldn't help also wanting to try some sides.  An order of three costs $11.95 and you can choose from a long list.  We're eggplant fiends, so we got (starting from the bottom of the photo) the babaganoush, the Romanian eggplant (fire roasted eggplant with red bell peppers, lemon, cilantro, and garlic), and the Oren's eggplant (a puree of fried eggplant, caramelized onion, hard boiled egg, and spices):

Our selection of three also came with Moroccan carrots, marinated beets, and some amazingly thick yogurt.  We LOVED all of the eggplant sides.  The babaganoush and the Romanian were both fire roasted, so they kind of tasted the same...smoky.  Oren's eggplant, on the other hand, was completely different.  It was savory and sweet and delicious and I would highly recommend trying it out.

I was originally most excited about the cauliflower fries ($4.95), which came with a pesto yogurt:

But in the end, it paled in comparison to the eggplants and the hummus.  Fried cauliflower is awesome while crunchy, but if you don't eat them quickly, sogginess settles in fast.

And finally, the pita.  The unlimited pita.  You can choose between wheat or regular or you can do what we did and get both:

They come piping hot and super fluffy.  The perfect vessel to scoop up all the hummus and eggplant your little heart can desire.  We had so much pita that I felt like one by the end of dinner. 

The portion sizes at Oren's might not look like a lot at first glance, but together with the all-you-can-eat pita?  It's a lot.  We had so much food leftover that I was able to make two separate meals out of it.  When our server asked if we would like a separate bag for our leftover pita, my sister jokingly asked if the bag came with extra pita.  It did.

Bless him.

Would I go back to Oren's Hummus Shop?  Yes.  1000% yes.  A couple things I would do differently though.  I would skip the hummus with beef and try another one of their hummus combinations.  The ground beef was just a bit too dry for my taste.  I would also not order both the babaganoush and the Romanian eggplant at the same time, since they taste virtually the same.

Oren's Hummus Shop.  Great service, great food, great prices.  Go.

Oren's Hummus Shop
19419 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014 
(408) 982-5237

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Oakland: Sticky Rice Cafe

VN, SY, and I met up in January to catch up at the start of the new year.  SY brought up the idea of hitting up Oakland Restaurant Week, but VN and I shot that down.  Honestly, I've never had great experiences with restaurant weeks.  I've just never found it worth the hype or the moolah.  I rather just go to a restaurant and order what I want, even if it's less of a "good deal."

With Oakland Restaurant Week out of the running, SY mentioned Sticky Rice Café.  VN and I wholeheartedly agreed:

Located virtually in the middle of nowhere, Sticky Rice Café was small and unassuming:

It had a tricky door that took a bit of work to shut and stay shut.  I know because it was super windy and rainy that night and I had to get up a couple times to make sure the door stayed closed when people went in and out.  No biggie though.  Just a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

And by grand scheme I mean the awesome food.

See exhibit A, the crispy rice ball ($8):

The description on the menu said "deep fried rice ball", but it's basically deep fried rice mixed with pork sausage and peanuts.  There's cilantro, mint, and lettuce on the side for wrapping.  Add a squirt of lime juice and there you have it, perfection. 

The chicken larb ($8) was a salad of sorts made with ground chicken with onion, cilantro, and mint:

It came with strips of raw cabbage for wrapping.  It was slightly pungent and sour and basically awesome.

The crispy salmon ($12) came covered in onion, bell pepper, and a sweet tamarind sauce:

While delicious, the sauce was a bit intense to eat without rice, but it certainly helped add some flavor to the blanched bed of veggies.

The drunken noodle ($8) or flat rice noodle with basil, bell peppers, onion, carrot, green bean, and tomatoes came with our choice of meat.  We went with chicken since SY doesn't eat red meat:

Even though we were stuffed, we were still in the mood for dessert at the end of the meal and unashamedly tacked on an order of fried bananas with coconut ice cream ($6):

Freshly fried, the bananas were freakin' delicious.

My favorite of the night was the deep fried rice ball.  I'm just a sucker for that kind of stuff.  I loved the dish at Champa Garden and I loved it at Sticky Rice Café.  Champa Garden might have a bit of an edge because of their crack sauce, but that edge is very, very slight. 

All in all, I loved Sticky Rice Café.  The food is bomb, the prices are beyond reasonable, and it's quiet.  No lines, no pressure.  Just a simple place to enjoy a long meal with friends.  If only it was a bit more accessible...or had a parking lot.

Sticky Rice Café
2810 International Blvd
Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 536-4605
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...