Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oakland: Bay Fung Tong Tea House Restaurant

SY and VN invited me out for a belated birthday dinner in Oakland after work one day.  SY recommended Bay Fung Tong, which is conveniently located within walking distance from my office:


















I got there kind of early, but the restaurant was pretty much empty, so I was allowed to snag a table without waiting for the rest of my party:


















The place looked rather barren when I first arrived, but was completely transformed by the time I left.  Sometime in the middle of our meal, without us even noticing, the restaurant filled to the brim with people of all ages and ethnicities and buzzing with conversation and laughter.

 VN ran a bit late, so SY and I ordered.  We started off with the chicken and sweet corn soup ($6.95):


















I hadn't had deep fried sanddab ($9.95) in what felt like forever, so I requested that we order it:


















Bay Fung Tong is known for it's lobster noodles:


















It wasn't on the menu and I didn't get to see the bill, but I think it was around 20 bucks.  Not bad for lobster.

To add a healthy component to dinner, we added a plate of garlic sauce big pea leaves ($9.50):


















At the end, we each got a bowl of complimentary sweet red bean soup:


















Every single dish was solid.  No skimping on ingredients.  Even the lobster.  Service may not be the warmest or most attentive, but it's fast.  Almost unexpectedly so.  And prices are ridiculously reasonable.

Ever since the handful of three-dish-one-soup Chinese restaurants (Chinese peeps know what I'm talking about) around my house closed down, there's been a serious lack of fried sanddab in my life.  Bay Fung Tong is a bit out of the way, but I guess I can always swing back after work when the craving hits.

I will definitely be back.  Possibly even with my family in tow.

SY and VN, thank you for treating me to such great food and even better company.  And I haven't forgotten!  I still owe both of YOU belated birthday meals.  Let's make it happen!


Bat Fung Tong Tea House Restaurant
1916 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 832-3298

Friday, November 14, 2014

SF Peninsula: Taste In Mediterranean

Our old family friends live in Fremont, but are willing to go all the way to Burlingame just for Mediterranean food.  When we heard this, we were mystified.  How good can the food be to be worth the drive?  So when they invited my family to tag along, we jumped at the offer.

Taste in Mediterranean looked pretty ordinary from the outside:


















Nothing crazy inside either:


















Just place your order at the counter and wait for your food to come.  The gentleman who took our order was super friendly.  When we tried to pay, he told us to sit and relax and pay at the end of our meal.

We got a couple drinks to try.  From left to right: mango lasse with rose syrup & honey ($2.99), tropical tea and mint lemonade combo ($2.99), and regular mint lemonade ($2.75):


















The mint lemonade was the best.  No question.  Forget everything else and just get the mint lemonade.  So fresh and amazing.

All the platter came with pita bread:


















My mother ordered the lamb shawarma wrap ($8.99):


















Whereas I went with the three item combo ($9.49).  There were quite a few things to choose from.  I finally decided on babaghanouj, eggplant salad, and falafel:


















Oh my gawd. That babaghanouj.  Probably the best babaghanouj I've ever had.  And that eggplant salad.  Besides eggplant, it included garlic, bell peppers, onions, parsley, and tomatoes.  If you like eggplants, get both.  It'll change your life.

My father is a lamb addict, so getting the lamb kabob platter ($17.49) was kind of a no brainer:


















Not cheap, but certainly delicious.  That rice was especially yummy.

My sister got the kefta kabob platter ($15.99):


















The keftas were made with ground lamb and were also quite scrumptious.  But again, that rice tho.

Our family friend insisted that we save room for dessert.  She was really interested in the kanafeh:


















Which is a sweet cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup.  The warm cheese helps to temper the sweetness of the syrup.  While the first few bites are good, I can't really bring myself to eat much more than that.

A leisurely perusal of the dessert display cabinet drew our eyes to the baklava and pavlova:


















The baklava was flaky and perfect, while the pavlova reminded us of this Taiwanese nougat candy.  Or at least the texture did.  Be careful while chewing or it'll get stuck in your teeth.

While we were sitting there oohing and aahing over the desserts, the nice gentleman who took our order came by with some complimentary cake:


















He told us what it was, but we couldn't really catch what he said.  I think it might have been fig inside.  Regardless, it was good.  Not too sweet, though a bit hard to cut with a fork.

I'm now officially addicted to Taste in Mediterranean's babaghanouj.  It's kind of a problem.  I think about it all the time.  I even tried to recreate it at home, but that turned out to be a disaster.

I guess there's no way around it.  We're just going to have to make the trip to Burlingame.

Ah...now I get it.

The food is definitely worth the drive.


Taste in Mediterranean
1199 Broadway #1
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 348-3097
http://www.tasteinbroadway.com/

Saturday, November 8, 2014

South Bay: Sno-Crave Tea House

It's almost impossible now to walk into an Asian plaza without finding a snow ice store.  Sno-Crave is a chain that offers all sorts of sweets.  There's one in Milpitas:


















It's definitely designed with young peeps in mind:


















I feel really old whenever I step foot into Sno-Crave, but that hasn't stopped me yet.  It's a good place to sit and hang out with friends, but that's irrelevant.  What's important are the desserts.

My favorite there is the yogurt snow ice:


























Kind of overpriced at $6.95 (then again, I'm comparing it to Taiwan prices), but if you're a fan of Yakult, you'll definitely enjoy this snow ice.  It's not uber sweet and tastes exactly like Yakult.  The ice is creamy, just the way snow ice is supposed to be.

I ordered the sweet butter toast ($3.95) and what came was completely not what I imagined:


















I guess I was expecting something like toast with condensed milk.  Instead, the toast came topped with this thick layer of sweetness:


















Think the topping on pineapple buns, but times fifty and much richer and creamier.  I don't know how else to describe it.  Definitely not bad, but not something I would be able to eat more than maybe a quarter of on my own.  Much too sweet to have without a glass of milk.

I've also been to the Sno-Crave in Fremont, which always seems super busy.  There, I've tried the mixed fruit tea ($4.95 for a regular):


























Basically black tea with pieces of fruit floating around in it.  Worth almost 5 bucks?  Meh.  But tastes good though.

I also tried the green tea snow ice with red bean ($6.95):


















Very green tea-y.  Wish the red beans were a bit, well, mushier, but the texture of the snow ice was spot on, as usual.

The yogurt snow is still the best.  At least in my opinion.  Feel free to disagree.

Not sure when I'll get a chance to go back to Taiwan again.  Until then, I'll just have to make do with Sno-Crave for all my snow ice cravings.

And cry inside as I fork over the cash.


Sno-Crave Tea House
1777 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 956-9588
http://snocrave.com/

Sno-Crave Tea House
43773 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 651-8888
http://snocrave.com/

Friday, November 7, 2014

South Bay: General Pot

What's great about my mother is that whenever she finds a good restaurant, she always makes sure to take us.  Of course, she might do it out of purely selfish reasons, but hey, I benefit, so why do I care if she takes us only because she wants to eat there again and doesn't want to go alone?

I wouldn't have discovered General Pot if not for her:


















General as in military, not the adjective.

It might not look fancy, but trust me, the food is awesome:


















There's a portable stove on every table because General Pot is known for its, well, pots.  But we never order them.  I'll explain why in a bit.

My absolute most favorite dish at General Pot is this:


















Sliced beef with caraway ($6.99).  The thin beef slices are cold and well seasoned with chili oil, caraway, and cilantro.  The flavor is bright and refreshing.  I love it so much.

My sister's favorite is the bean jelly with chili sauce ($5.99):


















It's a bit of a struggle to pick up the jelly with chopsticks, but the effort is worth it.  When it finally reaches your mouth, the chili sauce has this amazing tang.  Not exactly spicy, but delicious all the same.

The crispy tofu is pretty damn good too ($8.99):


















The fried soft tofu is buried under this ground pork sauce that goes awesome with rice.

Now let me explain why we don't like to order the pots despite that being what General Pot is known for.  The only pot that we would be interested in is the spicy pig intestine one.  But it costs almost 20 bucks, not counting the add-on ingredients (e.g., noodles) you can throw in your pot for an additional cost.

You can also order the spicy pig intestine non-pot version, which only costs $9.99:


















The only differences are that it doesn't come in a wok, you don't need the portable stove, it's smaller in portion, and there are no add-ons.  Which is totally fine with us.  All we want is the intestine anyway.

The intestine is stir fried with chilies and celery.  The chilies may look intimidating, but the dish isn't all that spicy.  If I can handle it, anyone can.  The intestine itself is fatty and lovely.  Easily my second favorite dish at General Pot.

I've been back to General Pot a couple times now and we always order the same things.  We keep saying that we should try something new, but we love these dishes so much that we find it difficult to deviate.  Though the last time we went, we were told that they'd run out of intestine (*GASP*).  We scrambled for a replacement and finally went with the crispy shrimp balls...which turned out rather soggy and disappointing.

Skip that and stick with the pork intestine.

Now here's a nifty tip for of you: if you pay with cash at General Pot, you get a 5% discount.  The food isn't expensive to begin with (unless you order a pot), so 5% may not seem like a lot, but that's still a couple dollars you can save for a pearl tea or something.


General Pot
43767 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 657-8188

Saturday, November 1, 2014

South Bay: Chatime

Of all the pearl tea places we've tested out since Barcode closed, Chatime seems to be T's favorite:


















We tend to only go after dark.  The parking lot isn't the most well lit, which adds to the sketchy as hell feel of the plaza, but Chatime itself is very...purple:


















We've been back quite a few times now and the people behind the counter have always been super friendly.  In fact, there's one girl that we see most often who is super chipper and cute and we all love her.

I'm not the most adventurous when it comes to pearl tea.  My usual drink of choice is a plain old pearl milk tea.  Once in a while, I go a little crazy and get a lychee black tea or a smoothie, but only when the mood strikes.

I've tried the lychee black tea at Chatime, but was burned by the experience.  The tea was incredibly bitter, unpalatably so.  Since then, I've stuck with the tried and true pearl milk tea ($3.50 for a medium sized cup):


























T loves the grass jelly at Chatime, which is why she's such a fan of the place.  Me?  I'm kind of meh about it.  The tea is a bit on the sweet side, so I usually ask for 70% sugar.  The tea is also a bit on the watery side, but not too bad.  The pearls are so-so as well.  (Though I recently tried their taro milk tea and that was pretty brilliant.  Made with real taro.  None of that bright purple stuff.)

All in all, not my favorite pearl tea in the world, but I go back because of T and because of that nice girl behind the counter.  But now that Gong Cha has opened walking distance from my house and a Sharetea is opening in the near future, we'll probably be going to Chatime less and less.

It's been good, Chatime, but better alternatives are coming soon!


Chatime
311 N Capitol Ave
San Jose, CA 95133
(408) 729-1537
http://www.ichatime.com/

Sunday, October 26, 2014

South Bay: OK Noodle

My parents and sister went to OK Noodle one day for lunch while I was at work.  When they came back raving about how great the noodles were, I threw a fit.  I demanded that they go again...with me this time.

I made sure to make it happen:


















We got there really early for dinner, so the restaurant was mostly empty:


















OK Noodle serves Northwestern Chinese cuisine, which is known for its lamb and noodles.  I wanted to try just about everything, so I went a little crazy and ordered way too many dishes for four people.  Talk about noodle overload.

There was the cold noodle ($8.25):


















It came topped with slivers of ham and cucumber.  Very cool and refreshing.

As if one cold noodle dish wasn't enough, we also got the liang pi ($5.99):


















Compared to the first cold noodle, the noodles in the liang pi were chewier and less dough-y.  The cucumbers were a perfect compliment to the sauce, which was tangy and had a slight kick to them.

My sister recommended the haggis soup ($5.99):


















It's exactly what it sounds like.  Soup made with lamb innards:


















If you don't like offal, this is not the soup for you.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed it quite a lot.  The soup itself was super flavorful.

The star of the show was definitely the big plate lamb ($12.99):


















It comes with belt noodles, which are super wide (like a belt!) and are poured on once it gets to your table:


















The big plate was filled with tender lamb chunks, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes.  Good even without the noodles, but the noodles are what takes it to the next level.  The belt noodles were so good, the texture so perfectly Q, that we asked for an extra order of noodles.  Do that.  You'll thank me.

Because we can never have enough lamb, we added lamb noodles ($10.99):


















While good, it paled in comparison to the big plate lamb.

I've been to OK Noodle a few times since my first visit and I've ordered the big plate lamb every single time.  I've also tried some of the other dishes.  The cumin lamb fried scone (think sliced spongy scones stir fried with loads of cumin) and the ding ding chow mein (noodles cut into tiny segments in a tomato-y sauce) are both delicious.

If you're a noodle fanatic, if you love fresh, handmade noodle, get in your car and get yourself to OK Noodle right now.

Just make sure you stop by the ATM first, because OK Noodle is cash only.


OK Noodle
5492 Central Ave
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 818-9928

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

South Bay: Shalimar Restaurant

When my dad's cousin's kids (yup, still can't figure out all that second cousin twice removed crap) invited my sister and I to late night pearl tea at Gong Cha in Fremont, our first and foremost concern was finding a place to have dinner in the vicinity.

I happened to be working from my org's Fremont branch that day, so my sister picked me up from the office and then drove us to Shalimar, which is just around the corner:


















Don't wait to be seated.  Pick your own table and make a note of what number it is:


















Then go up to the counter to place your order.  They're going to ask you for your table number.  After you've paid, sit back down at your table and wait.  The food will be brought out to you.  Enjoy some complimentary chai in the meantime.  Your food will arrive before you know it.

We were almost giddy about Shalimar because of this:


















Brain masala ($8.95):


















Yes.  Brain.  Lamb brain, to be exact.  Cooked with butter, onions, tomatoes, and a bunch of awesome spices.  So creamy, so delicious.  You have to try it.

Just avoid eating it in the presence of a doctor or a doctor-to-be.  My sister, who is currently applying for med school, couldn't stop trying to identify the chunks of brain.  Though I suppose hearing someone exclaim "braaaaaaains!" before every other bite could get annoying real fast too.  (And yes, that would be me.)

To add some healthiness to our meal, we also ordered a palak paneer ($6.95):


















Spinach and cheese.  So healthy.

My sister prefers rice over naan, so we ordered a side of Shalimar chawal ($2):


















Which is basically basmati rice with a hint of saffron.

I, on the other hand, will always choose naan.  I decided to splurge a bit and get the garlic one ($2.50):


















There are a couple reviews on Yelp that talk about rude service.  While you won't get the warmest of greetings, I wouldn't exactly call them rude.  All it takes is a smile to soften up the guy at the counter.

My sister and I are now hooked on brain masala.  We love Shalimar.  There's nothing pretentious about it.  Just good, good food without any frills.  We've been back a few times now and the food is always awesome.  Not to mention the price is reasonable and the chai is free and never-ending.  The portions may look small, but it's just enough.

Make sure to bring cash though.  And though Yelp says it's open basically all day, Shalimar does close between 3:30 to 5:30.  We learned that the hard way when we showed up last Saturday after a long day working a naturalization workshop only to find it closed.

Spare yourself the pain.


Shalimar Restaurant
3325 Walnut Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 494-1919
http://www.shalimarsf.com/
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