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/

Monday, June 8, 2015

South Bay: VN Grill

When VN Grill first opened by my house, I kind of brushed it off as one of those places working people go to during their lunch hour because it's convenient:


















But then my sister went and had only good things to say about it.  She brought my parents and they became fans too.  So of course I had to go check it out.

VN Grill is set up like Chipotle, but instead of building your own burrito, you're building your own bowl.  When you enter, just walk straight up to the counter and follow the step by step menu posted:


















First, choose your base.  The options are white rice, rice noodles, brown rice, and salad.  Next, add your protein.  Pick from VN pork ($7.55), chicken ($6.95), beef ($8.55), shrimp ($8.55), or tofu ($6.95).  Third, select your veggies.  You can pick and choose or just ask for everything.

Lastly, pick your sauce.  You get two from VN sauce (their signature fish sauce), lime soy vinaigrette, tamarind vinaigrette, and sesame dressing (extra $1.50).  Because we were a party of four, we got all three free sauces and asked for chili sauce on the side:


















Here's what my bowl turned out like:


















I went with rice noodles, pork, and all the veggies except for the jalapenos.  As for the sauces, I didn't really know what I was doing, so I just kind of squeezed a bit of everything in.  The end result was exactly how I expected a bowl of rice noodles to taste: refreshing and light.  The pork wasn't my favorite, but the chicken my sister ordered was pretty good.

If you're trying to avoid a heavy meal, VN Grill is perfect for you.  It is filling without the food coma and while it might not be the most authentic Vietnamese food, you can design your bowl however you wish.  I would definitely go back.


VN Grill
1085 E Brokaw Rd
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 441-7900
http://www.vngrill.com/

Sunday, May 31, 2015

South Bay: Massimo's

For Mother's Day, we took our mother to Massimo's:


















We chose Massimo's because my sister got two $50 gift cards from a family friend for getting into medical school.  And because the fine print on the gift cards stated that they could not be used on specific holidays, Mother's Day included, we purposely went the night before.

That's right.  We're Asian that way.

The restaurant was pretty busy, but luckily we had the foresight to make reservations.  We definitely felt a bit underdressed compared to everyone else:


















Confession time.  I was wearing flip flops.

Though in my defense, I've always felt that simple black flip flops are the dressiest of all flip flops.  No?  Just me?

Our meal started off with some complimentary focaccia bread:























The balsamic vinegar and olive oil that went with the bread came in this awkward bottle that basically only poured out olive oil regardless of how hard you shook it or how quickly you tipped it.  In the end it didn't really matter because we asked for so many bread refills that by the time we got to our last basket, most of the olive oil was gone and we were finally able to get to the balsamic vinegar.

We wanted to make sure we used up the gift cards, so we decided to go all out.  For my family, going all out means getting an appetizer, ordering one entree per person, and finishing with dessert.  Crazy, I know.

For our appetizer, we got the cajun rock shrimp ($10):


















The battered shrimp were unexpectedly plump and were cooked in this delicious butter sauce that was supposed to be spicy, but really wasn't.

For my entree, I got the roasted rack of lamb ($39):


















It came with some kind of sweet glaze, grilled asparagus, and potatoes.  Even more interesting was the really pot of what tasted like toothpaste jello.  I know it's supposed to be a palate cleanser, but it was just weird.

My sister ordered the rigatoni ala Massimo ($16):


















The sauce was made with roasted veal, mushrooms, diced tomato, scallions, and sherry cream.  The portion size looked deceptively small because of the giant plate it came in, but there was actually a good amount of food there.

My mother actually requested a trade for my sister's dish, since she found her linguini vongole ($19) to be too fishy for her to handle:


















No surprise there as it was loaded with clams.

My father, on the other hand, loves all things seafood, so he was perfectly happy with his pasta pescatore ($26), which was one of the specials that night:


















Prawns, bay scallops, clams, mussels, fish...there was certainly no lack of seafood on that plate.

We ended our night with a mudd pie ($8):























The food at Massimo's was good, the service attentive, and the atmosphere intimate. But frankly we found it to be a bit expensive for our tastes.  The gift cards went a long way to covering this meal, but we still had to tack on another $50 to cover the difference and tip.  While there are some restaurants that I would gladly put down the money because the experience is worth the cost, Massimo's isn't one of them.

Sorry, Massimo's, but unless we get another gift card, I don't think we'll be back again.  All the same, thank you for a great day-before-Mother's-Day dinner.  My mother had a great time and at the end of the day, that's really all that matters.


Massimo's
5200 Mowry Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 792-2000
http://massimos.com/

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Oakland: i-Tea

I discovered my new favorite pearl tea place in Oakland while our office was undergoing hardcore renovations.  My colleagues and I arrived at work ready to do some heavy lifting...only to end up standing uselessly at the side while the professional movers quickly cleared our entire office of furniture.

All the same, we felt that we earned ourselves a pearl tea break.  As the only Asian in my office, it was up to me to lead everyone to tapioca nirvana.

I'd been wanting to try i-Tea, but had always been deterred by its long lines.  Given that there wasn't much left for us to do in the office, we decided to give it a shot:


















The line was out the door.  But that wasn't surprising considering that the interior was about the size of a small closet.

We placed our orders inside and then came out to wait.  When our drinks were ready, someone actually came outside to call our number.

When I try a pearl tea joint for the first time, I always like to order the regular milk tea with pearls ($3.50):


















Unlike the other drinks at i-Tea, the pearl milk tea comes in a fat cup.  The pearls were just mediocre, as was the tea.

So why is i-Tea my favorite pearl tea spot in Oakland?  After going that first time, my colleagues became addicted.  It was on one of our subsequent trips back to i-Tea that I discovered lychee de coco fruit tea ($3.50).  I don't usually enjoy green tea, but in this case, the lychee flavors mask the flowery-ness of the green tea and the bits of lychee fruit add a nice touch.  Gotta love the lychee jelly too.

Some days you just want something refreshing and milk teas just won't cut it.  i-Tea has some great fruit teas for those days.  I see myself being a regular customer in the summer months.

Especially since there are two ways to get free dinks there.  You can either slowly collect nine stamps (one stamp per drink) and get the tenth drink free.  Or buy five drinks at one time and get the sixth free.  (If you don't want the sixth drink immediately, they'll just fill an entire stamp card so you can redeem the free drink later.)

Don't let the long line scare you away.  iTea is worth the wait.  It has quite an extensive menu, so there's definitely something for everyone.  Cash only though and drinks aren't exactly cheap.  Make sure to bring more than a couple bucks with you when you go.


iTea
388 9th Street #125A
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 882-2228
http://www.itea-usa.com/
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