Thursday, July 30, 2015

Peru: Senor Panza

After Chez Wong, we had quite some time to kill before our reservations at Astrid y Gaston.  We did our best at the Museo Larco, but ended up with just enough time to be too early for dinner, yet not enough time to fit in a trip home to rest.

Instead, we wandered around the San Isidro neighborhood where Astrid y Gaston is located, looking for a cafe of some sort where we could sit and sit and sit.  Senor Panza fit the bill perfectly:























While Senor Panza does offer food, we went straight for the drinks.  I ordered the pineapple juice (S/.5 or slightly under $2):























My sister got the granadilla or passionfruit juice (also S/.5):























Points to Senor Panza for using fresh fruit in their juices, but they should probably be a little less generous with the water.  Just sayin'.

Anyway, I can't really complain because we got exactly what we wanted: a place to sit and chill until it was reasonably early to show up for our dinner reservations.  Having fresh fruit juice (watery as they were) and free wifi were definite bonuses.


Senor Panza
Av. Conquistadores 181A, San Isidro, Lima, Peru
421 6725

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Peru: Chez Wong

Our first actual meal in Peru was at Chez Wong.  The name kept popping up when we were researching places to eat in Lima, so making reservations via their email address was one of the first things we did in planning for our trip.  Peruvians, like most of the world besides Americans, tend to eat later in the day.  We got the earliest reservation possible, which was at 1:00pm when the restaurant opened.

We flagged down a cab in Miraflores and away we went.  We were dropped off in a seemingly random residential neighborhood.  We must have looked a bit lost, because a Peruvian man asked us if we were looking for the "chifa" (the term Peruvians use to refer to Chinese cuisine).  To make sure we really understood him, he added in the seemingly universal sign for anything Chinese by taking his fingers and pulling the corners of his eyes outwards.  Slightly offended, but also slightly amused, we nodded and he helpfully pointed across the street to an unmarked door:


















The door was locked.  We hesitated for a bit before finally drumming up the courage to knock.  A few seconds later, a man opened the door and looked at us expectantly.  When we awkwardly mumbled about having reservations, he herded us in and up a small flight of stairs to the dining room:


















The restaurant is essentially in Chef Wong's house.  (Apparently he lives just upstairs.)  The converted dining room fits only about eight tables.

The staff at Chez Wong is very small, just three people besides Chef Wong.  While he does all the food preparation, everyone else is busy answering phones, handing Chef Wong whatever he needs, and bringing his masterpieces to the tables.

Water comes bottled at Chez Wong.  We quickly learned the difference between "sin gas" and "con gas".  At first we misheard and thought the server was talking about whether we wanted ice or not, but some charades and broken Spanish cleared up the error and we let him know that no thank you, we did not want carbonated water.  We did, however, definitely want the cute as shit glass that came with our drinks:























We had to control our urge to surreptitiously slip the glass into our bags and take it home as a souvenir.

How Chez Wong works goes something like this.  You make reservations.  You show up.  Chef Wong serves you whatever he wants, usually in the format of one ceviche followed by two other dishes.  Every dish contains flounder.  You eat.  You enjoy.  You shed a tear in gastronomic ecstasy.  The end.

Chez Wong takes the open kitchen concept to a whole new level.  From any table in the restaurant, you can watch as Chef Wong fillets and chops his famous flounder:


















You then watch in awe as he mixes up a beautiful ceviche of flounder and octopus right before your eyes in just a matter of minutes:


















Since we were a table of four, all three of our dishes came family style.  That ceviche was without a doubt the best ceviche I ever had in my life.  So fresh.  So refreshing.  I wanted more.

After our scraped clean ceviche plate was cleared away, we watched at Chef Wong proceeded to play with fire:


















And from the flames came this amazing stir fry made of flounder, woodear mushrooms, and surprisingly, some kind of melon:


















The melon was completely unexpected and took us all aback before we realized how genius the addition of its sweetness was.

Afterward, when the server brought us two shot glasses of leftover ceviche juice, we were a bit confused:























You could literally see the salt sitting at the bottom of the glass.  Hell, three fourths of the glass was salt.  Were we supposed to drink it?

It turns out that the answer was yes.  They'd added some pisco (a type of Peruvian alcohol) and we were supposed to down them as shots.

No thanks.

We sipped a little to be polite, chocked on the saltiness, and then left the rest alone.

For the final dish, Chef Wong again turned up the heat and from the flames came this beauty:


















I don't know what to call it, but it was some kind of sweet and sour flounder with veggies and pineapple chunks.  A little spicy too.

Everything at Chez Wong was delicious and full of surprises, but heavy on the salt.  Throughout almost the entire meal, we mentioned how much better things would taste with rice around the same number of times we moaned about how good the food was.

Was it delicious enough to be worth 60 bucks per person?  Now that I'm not so sure of.  While we certainly enjoyed our meal, I'm not sure if I would go back a second time.  Chez Wong definitely caters to the tourist crowd.  Not only is the price high, but Chef Wong has a signature pose (holding up a giant flounder) when posing with people for pictures.  (We were the only table who opted out while everyone else lined up for a photo in the middle of the meal.)

At the end of lunch, we struck up a conversation with the American couple sitting at the table next to us.  They were stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Peru and were trying to cross things off their to-do list before their reassignment back to the States.  Though the husband seemed to care mostly about bars (he wrote "bars bars bars" on the map he drew for us), we were able to also score some actual food recommendations for Arequipa, our next destination.

Hooray for friendly expats!


Chez Wong
Calle Enrique Leon Garcia 114, Lima, Peru
+511 470 6217
chezwong7@hotmail.com

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Peru: Cafe Haiti

I'm back!  And I'm bursting with stories from my trip to Peru.  Now the problem is getting all these stories posted before I forget them.  (Which is a definite possibility because let's face it, I have horrible memory.  Comes with getting old.)

Anyway, just some basic info first.

Fellow travelers: my sister, CK, and CK's husband, AG

Location: Peru

Time: 2 weeks

Goals: eat everything, see Machu Picchu, make it back in one piece

We arrived in Lima very late at night.  So late that we didn't get to our Airbnb apartment in the Miraflores district of Lima until almost two in the morning.  It felt like I barely got any sleep before I was rudely awakened by continuous honking from the early morning traffic.  The other members of our group weren't as bothered, so it was another few hours before everyone was up and ready to go.

Though we had a general itinerary in that we booked all the transportation and lodging prior to arriving in Peru, we didn't really have anything concrete planned for each city except for three things.  We had tickets to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.  We had reservations for Astrid y Gaston.  And we had reservations for Chez Wong.

Notice how two of those three things were restaurants.  Priorities, man.

Our reservations for Chez Wong weren't until 1:00pm, so to kill time, we walked around Kennedy Park, gawked at all the wild cats, found an ATM to withdraw much needed soles, oogled at the McDonald's menu through the window, and then stopped for coffee at Cafe Haiti:


















Cafe Haiti had a very European feel with its awning and row of outdoor tables facing the sidewalk.  Given the late morning hour on a weekday, it shouldn't have been surprising that we were the youngest people there.  All the other tables were taken up by elderly gentlemen enjoying a cup of coffee and their newspaper.

CK and AG couldn't start their day officially without a cup of joe.  They each ordered a cafe con leche:


















I'm not a coffee person, but they seemed to like it.

With lunch on the horizon, we didn't want to overstuff ourselves.  We decided to play it light by ordering dessert.  We got the pie de limon or lemon pie (S/.16 or around $5):


















And the crema volteada or milk and egg pudding (S/.12 or $4):


















The lemon pie was rich and tart and delicious.  The pudding was basically flan, a really dense flan.  Both were kind of expensive (definitely on par with American prices), but it was worth it to have a place to sit, people watch, and...wait for lunchtime to come around.

I should mention that even though the original plan was to take it easy and leave stomach space for lunch, AG (rebel that he is) bucked the plan by ordering a full-on breakfast entree of an egg sandwich with fries.  No regrets though, because that sandwich was amazing.  Sometimes, the simplest things are the most enjoyable.  What I do regret, however, is not taking a picture of it.

Cafe Haiti may not be the most "Peruvian" of experience, but we enjoyed our time there.  Our server was this cute elderly gentleman who was extremely patient with our broken Spanish.  The food was good (albeit on the pricey side) and the atmosphere casual and relaxed.  It's definitely a place where people can go to sit for hours and hours without feeling rushed.


Cafe Haiti
Diagonal 160, Miraflores Lima 18, Peru
+51 1 4450539
http://www.haitimiraflores.pe/

Saturday, June 27, 2015

South Bay: Icebox

We were having such a great time chatting with my dad's cousin and her son that after BonChon, we decided to look for a dessert place where we could continue our conversation.  A quick Yelp search turned up Icebox:


















If you want to check out Icebox, be prepared to possibly have to find outside parking as the parking lot is quite tiny.

I stole the bill at BonChon, so my dad's cousin insisted on treating us at Icebox.  Since I wasn't paying, I let her and her son do all the ordering.

To place your order, walk right up to the giant counter:


















After you've paid, you'll get a number card, which you'll place in the cardholder at the table of your choice.  Your desserts are then brought out to you.

Shaved ice was the easiest to share, so my dad's cousin got us a mango shaved ice:


















The ice itself was mango flavored and it came drizzled with condensed milk with fresh mango and popping boba on the side.  I avoided the popping boba (I think they're weird), but the rest of the plate was delicious.

Icebox is known for its ice cream macaron sandwiches.  You get to pair your choice of macaron with your choice of ice cream.  My sister selected an earl grey macaron and pistachio ice cream:


















We also had a regular coffee macaron and a snickerdoodle.

The ice cream macaron sandwich is huge and yummy, but quite difficult to share.  My favorite of the day was actually the coffee macaron.  It wasn't overly sweet and the macaron shell had a nice texture.

All in all, Icebox is a great spot to hang out with your girlfriends.  Or have a date at.  Or just chill with your relatives, even extended ones.

And this, I swear, is my last post before Peru.  See you all on the other side!


Icebox
19929 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 257-7564
http://iceboxtreats.com/

South Bay: BonChon Chicken

Ok.  I'm an idiot.  Let me just get that out of the way first.

I know I said that my previous post would be my last one before my Peru trip.  But I posted that before I realized I had more photos on my phone from other food outings.

Oops.

Since my goal is to be all caught up before Peru, here's we go.

Last Saturday, I dragged my family up to San Francisco to volunteer at yet another one of my work events.  The original plan was to have dinner at House of Prime Rib after the workshop to celebrate Father's Day.  Except I totally forgot to make reservations until it was way too late.

Sorry, Dad.  My bad.

Instead, because my dad is a fried chicken fanatic, my sister and I took him to BonChon:


















On our way there, we called up my dad's cousin, who agreed to meet us at the restaurant with her son.

We arrived a bit before my dad's cousin.  While we were perusing the menu, our server repeatedly came by our table, asking whether he could take our order even after we told him we wanted to wait for the rest of our party.  Then, the second my dad's cousin sat down, the server appeared tableside asking to take our order.  A tad annoyed, we sent him away once again.

To start off, we got the zucchini fries ($6.99):


















The breading was nice and thick and the fries came with ranch dressing and what tasted like sirarcha mayo.

We also got the seasoned curly fries ($4.99), which were super garlicky:


















For the six of us, we got a medium order of wings with spicy hot garlic sauce (10 pieces for $11.59):


















And a large order of wings with soy garlic sauce (20 pieces for $19.99):


















The medium came with pickled radish and the choice of one side.  We got the regular coleslaw.  The large also came with picked radish, but the choice of two sides instead of just one.  We got the kimchi coleslaw and biscuits.

The sides weren't all that great to me.  The chicken, on the other hand, was delicious.  Or at least they were so while they were still hot.  Once they cooled down however...meh.  The spicy sauce was a bit too spicy for me, so I stuck primarily with the regular soy garlic wings.

We left BonChon satisfied, but not exactly impressed.  The food was alright, but the service was a bit lacking.  Not that the servers were rude or anything like that.  They were just really...young.

Would I go back to BonChon?  Probably not.  For Korean fried chicken, my favorite place remains Crisp in Chicago.


BonChon
572 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 720-8689
http://us.bonchon.com/

South Bay: Soyful Desserts

My sister came home one day singing the praises of a pearl tea place that combines pearl tea with tofu desserts.  My chance to check it out came a lot sooner than expected.  T called over the weekend saying that VN wanted to meet up...at Soyful.

Soyful is located in the still mostly uninhabited part of the Grand Century complex.  It is, for lack of a better word, essentially a counter:























There are a handful of tables set up outside, but most people grab their drinks to go.  Luckily, a table cleared up while we were deciding what to order, so we snatched it up real quick.

T and VN both got the tofu pudding, basil seeds, and pandan jelly:























My sister got the creamy milk tea with Japanese pudding:























The milk tea was borderline too milky, but the silkiness of the pudding more than made up for it.

I contemplated getting one of the flavored soy milks, but in the end, I wanted something refreshing, so I ordered the Lily's Lychee with lychee jelly:























I asked for regular sweetness and boy, was it sweet.  Lesson learned.

A bit out of the way for me, but I wouldn't mind going back again.  That Japanese pudding was freakin' good.

My Peru trip is now just around the corner.  My sister and I will be flying out Monday morning.  (I still can't believe I'm going...probably because I haven't started packing yet.)  So this will be my last post before I return.

If in the next two weeks you hear a news story about an Asian girl at the top of Huayna Picchu demanding a helicopter lift off the mountain, that would be me.  Just giving you a heads up.

See you all in July!


Soyful Desserts
999 Story Rd
San Jose, CA 95122
(408) 216-9026

Sunday, June 14, 2015

South Bay: Burma Bistro

JH, who I met through CL during our trip to the Redwoods back in 2013, was someone who I always wanted know better and spend more time with.  When I found out that she will be moving to Singapore with her husband, I knew I had to take action before it was too late.  T, who met JH on the same trip, agreed.

It seemed like JH felt the same way because she was the one who actually reached out to us first.  And that's how we, along with CL and CV, ended up at Burma Bistro for dinner one night:


















Burma Bistro had just opened close to T's workplace, so we figured it was the perfect place to meet since T works late and we're always looking to try someplace new.

When I arrived, I found T and CV standing outside.  Apparently they had gone in to find the restaurant completely empty.  Feeling uncertain about the place, they'd backed out, saying to the servers that they would be back.

Awkward.

By the time the rest of our party arrived, Burma Bistro was still pretty empy inside:


















We didn't let that discourage us though.  Each of us picked one thing off the menu and this is what we ended up with.

We started of with some Burmese samosas ($6 for 2):























Unlike Indian samosas, Burmese ones are flatter and come in a thinner, crispy skin (think fried egg roll).  Similar to their Indian counterparts, the Burmese samosas are filled with potato and other veggies, but lack the Indian spices.

Of course we had to get the tea leaf salad ($10), which is apparently as Burmese as you can get:


















The pickled tea leaves are what give the salad its pungent flavor.  The tea leaf salad at Burma Bistro comes with Romaine lettuch, tomato, toasted garlic, crispy yellow beans, roasted sesame seeds, and peanuts.  I've had some good tea leaf salad in my time, but this one was a bit too much for me.  The tea leaves were so bitter that I gave my portion to T.

The garlic noodles ($10) had some pretty good reviews on Yelp:


















It can't get simpler than noodles, garlic, chicken, and green onions will some kind of special house sauce.  Simple, tasty, but not anything to really get excited about.  In face, it kind of tasted like instant noodles that one could prepare at home.

The pumpkin shrimp ($14) was probably one of the favorites of the night:


















The shrimp were plump and the sauce went well with rice.

The moh hin ga ($9), a traditional Burmese soup, was another favorite:


















Basically a fish noodle soup, the moh hin ga is made with fish, lemon grass, garlic, onion, ginger, crushed rice powder, bean fritters, thin rice noodles, eggs cilantro, and chili powder.  I could have done without the noodles, but the soup itself was pretty darn good.

All in all, a pretty satisfying meal, though definitely not the best Burmese food I've ever had.  Prices for certain dishes are also a little on the high side considering the portion sizes.  Service, however, was great.

I probably wouldn't go out of my way to try Burma Bistro again, but it was definitely a great place just to sit and eat and talk for a long time.  While there was never a huge line out the door (so we never felt pressured to leave), the restaurant definitely filled up over time.

Best of luck in Singapore, JH!  Can't wait to hear about all your adventures there!

Speaking of adventures, I will be going on one of my own soon.  My posts have been kind of sparse lately because I haven't been going out a lot.  Mostly, I've just been being good and biding my time until my Peru trip at the end of the month.

That's right.  PERU.  I'll be there for two weeks, so don't expect much from me until after I come back mid-July.

I can't wait to share about all the awesome things that will be going into my belly in Peru!


Burma Bistro
2135 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050
(408) 372-5422
http://www.burmabistro.net/
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