Thursday, June 30, 2011

South Bay: Dishdash

I was able to get back to San Jose early last Friday thanks to the President of the union letting us out an hour early.  My mom and I were picked up by my ahyi to head over to Dishdash for dinner:

I'd been wanting to try Dishdash for a while now because of all the great reviews online.  As expected, there was a bit of a wait when we arrived.  Unlike me, my ahyi and my mom aren't so gung ho about waiting for food.  My ahyi said that if we come again, she's going to make a reservation.  As for me, a 30 minute wait is nothing.

The weather was great that day, so a lot of people sat outside.  I wasn't too keen on sitting outside though, because I knew it would get colder as the night progressed.  Luckily, we were led to a table inside:

We noticed a bar in the backroom, but I didn't go check it out.

First, we were brought pita and some kind of dipping sauce:

I think we went through 2 bowls of pita before our entrees even arrived.

Eating with my ahyi is a bit scary because she always wants to try EVERYTHING.  That's how we ended up with the Mediterranean maza for two:

It was basically a sampler platter of various appetizers.  There was hummus, babaghanouge, tabouli, rihan, m'nazaleh, khyar b'laban, and falafel.  My favorites were the smoky babaghanouge, the m'nazaleh (marinated grilled eggplant) and the khyar b'laban (cucumber and yogurt salad).  The random pieces of roasted garlic sitting in a few of the appetizers were the best part.

My ahyi went with the tika kebab, which had cubes of charbroiled beef with seasoned grilled veggies and rice:

For my mom, I ordered the beriani dajaj:

The beriani dajaj was made of thinly sliced chicken breast, potatoes, almonds, golden raisins, and garbanzo beans, topped with aged yogurt sauce and served with rice.  According to our server, it's the second most popular dish on the menu and I can totally see why.  The sauce was just AMAZING.  Rich, creamy, slightly sweet from the raisins...ah.

For myself, I ordered the mansaf:

I'm a huge lamb lover and apparently so are most of the people who dine at Dishdash because the mansaf is their number one seller.  The mansaf is made of tender lamb pieces cooked in aged yogurt sauce.  The rice sits like an island in the sauce and is topped with roasted almonds.  It looks like the same yogurt sauce as the one in the beriani dajaj, but it couldn't taste more different.  Instead of a subtle sweetness, the mansaf sauce is suffused with an awesome lamb-y flavor.  Guh.  Just thinking about it is making me salivate.

As I mentioned before, my ahyi is a beast when it comes to eating out.  Here's a prime example of why.  Despite all three of us being uncomfortably stuffed (I couldn't even finish half of my mansaf), she ordered not one, but THREE desserts.

There was the m'halabieh, which is a Middle Eastern pudding with rosewater, cardamon, pistachio, and shaved almond:

The assorted baklava:

And the kenafeh:

The kenafeh was really interesting.  It's made of shredded filo dough and colored this pretty pink hue, stuffed with sweetened cheese, and garnished with pistachios.  It's made fresh, so expect to wait 10 minutes for it to be ready.

We were told to pour all of the rosewater onto it and just let it soak:

Both my ahyi and my mom found the desserts to be overly sweet.  The sweetness didn't bother me so much, but the fragrance did.  There's something about eating things that smell and taste like flowers that just doesn't sit well with me.  I always feel like I'm eating potpourri...

The kenafeh was the least sweet of the bunch.  I did enjoy the crunchiness of the corners not saturated with rosewater.  Though, the pudding did grow on me.  Maybe because our server told us it was on the house.  Hahaha...what can I say?  I'm easy to please.

Definitely would love to come back to Dishdash.  There a mansaf and a beriani dajaj with my name on it.  Note to self:  next time, don't pig out on the pita.  Three bowls are a bit excessive.

190 S Murphy Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 774-1889

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

San Francisco: The Sentinel

It felt wrong to stay cooped up in the office all day when the weather was so nice last Friday.  So during lunch, I gave myself an hour to walk around the city.

While I was walking, I had an intense inner debate over whether I should get lunch since I had a big dinner planned with my mom and my ahyi that night.  The debate, though intense, didn't last long.  My subconscious made the decision for me because I suddenly found that my feet had unconsciously brought me to the doorstep of The Sentinel:

The line was pretty long when I got there, which was how I knew I was at the right place.  The Sentinel is a sandwich shop that only opens on the weekdays during the peak lunch hours.

The staff at The Sentinel are very efficient.  One lady came out to take the orders of people in line, scribbling away with a sharpie on post-its stuck to her arm.  Another lady stood at the cash register, while another called out the ready orders.  A little army of people were crammed into the small kitchen, working away at preparing sandwiches.

After paying for your sandwich, you emerge on the other side of the street corner to wait:

I'd heard that the corned beef sandwich with cabbage ($9) made the 2011 San Francisco "100 Things to Try Before You Die" list:

Though many things on the menu look good, my curiosity got the better of me.  How good could a corned beef sandwich get?

Apparently, very, very good:

The sandwich came with a mound of corned beef, pickled cabbage, Russian dressing, and swiss cheese, all packed between the most amazing flatbread EVER.  I could eat that bread by itself with no complaints.  It was almost focaccia-like in texture.  Soooooo good!  The sweetness of the cabbage balanced out the savory beef to perfection.

I.  Am.  A.  Fan.

Bonus points for the complimentary Andes mint:

I love that stuff.

I initially planned on enjoying my sandwich on the lawn of the Yerba Buena Gardens, but when I saw how juicy the sandwich was, I changed my mind and brought everything back to the office, where I had easy access to napkins and a sink.

What made my day even more awesome was the President of the union letting us off an hour early under the guise of celebrating Pride weekend because the weather was so nice.  Woot woot!

I love San Francisco.

The Sentinel
37 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 284-9960

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

San Francisco: Burma Superstar

When my best friend asked me if I wanted to meet up for dinner, I immediately thought of Burma Superstar.  My best friend unfortunately got sick at the last minute and couldn't make it, so I ended up going with AF and a Chicago friend who is in SF for a 2-week rotation.

The MUNI bus dropped me off right across the street from the restaurant:

Good thing I got there early.  I put my name down for a table and was told the wait would be 30 minutes.  Not bad, not bad at all.  Given the popularity of the place, I was ready to wait for an hour.

We were seated pretty quickly after my friends arrived:

The interior is quite small, so I can see how the wait can get pretty atrocious.

The lady who took our order was super cute and very helpful.  She efficiently broke down the menu and highlighted the most popular dishes.  One of them was the vegetarian samusa soup:

A samusa is sorta of Burmese cross between a samosa and a fried wonton.  I enjoyed the curry soup base, but the soggy samusa wasn't that appealing to me.

Burma Superstar is known particularly for its tea leaf salad:

The salad comes with a pretty array of fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, tomatoes, jalapenos, and other ingredients that I've forgotten.  What makes the salad special is the fermented tea leaves brought in from Burma.  The server who brought the dish stood at our table for 5 minutes mixing that salad.  There's definitely a certain technique to it.  Unnecessary?  Maybe.  But entertaining all the same.

We were warned that the chili lamb would be scarily spicy.  I decided to tough it out:

We got an order of coconut rice just to be safe:

The chili lamb is basically stir fried lamb with dried and fresh chili, onion, and basil.  I was surprised that I didn't actually need the rice.  It was spicy, yes, but I COULD TAKE IT.  I guess I should thank my Chicago roommate for the extensive training she put me through the past two years.

My favorite of the night was the nan pia dok:

It's a coconut chicken curry with flat noodles, chopped string beans, split yellow pea, cabbage, and chilis.  The same server who mixed our salad also came by to mix the noodles.  Again, he took about five minutes before he felt the noodles were mixed to his satisfaction.  No complaints here.  The noodles were delicious!

Apparently, you can get a free Thai iced tea if you check in on Facebook in front of the restaurant staff.  If there's any reason to get a smart phone, this would be it.  Ugh.  Damn my phone and its lack of Internet capabilities!

Burma Superstar
309 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 387-2147

Monday, June 27, 2011

San Francisco: The Grove

During our last get-together, CL brought up the possibility of an August trip to S. America.  She got AF and I all fired up about it.  Machu Picchu!  Iguazu Falls!  We each started doing our own individual research, but when that wasn't producing anything concrete, we met up last Tuesday to just sit down and figure out the logistics as a team.

Before we got down to business, we took a little detour to The Grove for dinner:

The Grove is like a mix between a restaurant and a cafe.  People were eating full-on meals while typing away on their laptops.  The tables even had outlets within easy reach.  Too bad we left our laptops at AF's house.  We could have gotten quite a lot of work done during dinner.

First you place your order at the counter:

Then you take a letter and wait at your table:

CL ordered the chicken pot pie:

There's something about CL and getting overly smoky food.  The crust on her pot pie came out more than a little burnt.  Not going to lie...I found it hilarious.

Her burnt chicken pot pie also came with a salad:

AF went with the chicken enchilada:

As for myself, I had the steak florentine sandwich:

The sandwich was very, very good.  The bread was perfectly toasted.  The avocado, tomato, and salsa verde  bound everything together nicely.  My only complaint would be that the steak was overcooked and tough to chew.  I couldn't take a bite of the sandwich without ending up with a piece of steak hanging out of my mouth.    Not attractive at all.

Good thing we grabbed dinner because the three of us stayed up until 2:00 am putting together a spreadsheet of how much travelling to and around S. America would cost.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll be putting that spreadsheet to good use.  Due to various complications, at this point, the trip seems unlikely.

Oh well, at least now we know more about Peru and Brazil than we ever did before.  And it'll definitely save us time when we do decide to go in the future...because we definitely will one day.  Mark my words.

The Grove
2016 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 474-1419

San Francisco: Mara's Italian Pastries

While we were walking through Little Italy, AF and I came across this little shop:

We swore that we would come back after dinner for dessert.  I mean, how could anyone resist this spread in the window?:

There were even more goodies inside:

AF and I took forever to decide on what we wanted, but we finally picked profiteroles:

And a cinnamon crisp:

Unfortunately, the pastries looked a lot better than they tasted.  We were totally deceived!

I took one bite of the profiterole and just stopped dead.  There was so much alcohol in the cream filling that I couldn't take another bite.  AF ended up scraping off the cream and eating the pastry parts.

As for the cinnamon crisp, it would have been quite delicious had it been fresh.  Instead, it was super stale and very disappointing.

Sigh...Mara's Italian Pastries really looked like it had a lot of potential.  Maybe it would've been a different story if we had gone early in the morning when the first batch came out...

Mara's Italian Pastries
503 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 397-9435

Sunday, June 26, 2011

San Francisco: Trattoria Contadina

The original plan was to check out Yat's for some cajun food.  But when AF and I got to The Boardroom (a bar where Yat's was supposed to be located), we found out that Yat's was no more.  Sadness!

We weren't really in the mood for bar grub, so cast onto the street, we started aimlessly wandering around.  We soon found ourselves in Little Italy, standing in front of Trattoria Contadina:

It looked popular enough, so we walked in.  The downstairs dining room was packed, but luckily the one upstairs still had plenty of seats.

First came the bread:

AF tried to pour some balsamic vinegar into the olive oil, but because the dish was too deep, despite being soaked in oil, the bread would barely be able to pick up any vinegar.  Super fail.

We decided to split two pastas.  The first was the carlesimo, which is rigatoncelli pasta with pancetta, porcini mushrooms, peas, and sun-dried tomatoes in a mildly spiced tomato cream sauce:

That was my favorite of the night.  People who know anything about me know that I hate peas.  Pockets of evil, I call them.  But ohmygoodiness!  These peas were fantastic!  I usually swallow peas whole, but when I accidentally bit into one, the burst of sweetness it added to the creamy sauce was simply amazing.

Our second pasta was the guglielmo, which is linguine with prawns, mushrooms, onions, prosciutto, and roasted peppers in a cream sauce:

The dish was sadly quite...bland.  It was nowhere as good as the previous dish, despite the fat prawns sitting in it.

Not bad for winging it in Little Italty, eh?  Next time I head up to that part of town, I'm going to do some research beforehand to see what else is good in the area.

Trattoria Contadina
1800 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 982-5728

Friday, June 24, 2011

San Francisco: Le Central

One of my college roommates just graduated grad school this summer from Stanford.  Luckily, she's planning on staying on in the Bay.  I contacted her to see when she would be free to meet and through a series of text messages we managed to coordinate time, date, and location.

She wanted steak, so my other old roomie gave her two Dine About Town dinner options.  Of the two, she chose Le Central:

Okay, this is going to get confusing if I don't give monikers to my friends because I was roommates with both of them back in undergrad.  So my friend from Stanford I'm going to call CL and my friend who is living and working in San Francisco I'm going to call AF.  There.

Now back to business.  Dine About Town is the SF Restaurant Week.  A 2-course lunch was set at $17.95 and a 3-course dinner went for $34.95.

Before walking into the restaurant, I saw this sign:

Guess what I ordered?

I'm getting ahead of myself here.  Take a look at the interior first:

So...empty.  Okay, so it was a Tuesday night, but still.  I guess that should have been our warning sign.

The bread was a good start:

There were 3 appetizers to choose from.  I picked the onion soup gratinee:

Since both CL and AF wanted the crab cake beurre blanc:

None of us were interested in the butter lettuce salad.  We all have more sense than that.

Both AF and CL ordered the angus ribeye steak with bordelaise sauce:

Just to break the pattern (and because of the sign outside), I decided to try the "Le Central" cassoulet:

The cassoulet was a white bean stew with duck confit, lamb, sausage, and pork.  It was very thick and meaty.  I was smart to take the different route because my dish was way more appetizing than the steak my friends ordered.

In fact, CL's steak was so smoky that she couldn't finish it.  When she tried to ask for another one, the server advised her to switch to the grilled salmon beurre nantais instead because it would come out faster:

She took that advice, but the salmon came out super smoky as well.  Must be something about Le Central's grill.  Or it could just be CL's bad luck.

There were 3 dessert options and we ordered one of each.  Starting with the creme brulee:

The tiramisu:

And the lemon tart:

I think the only thing I liked was the whipped cream that came with the lemon tart.  The creme brulee had more of an egg tart consistency, which AF loved, but I was not a fan of.

Probably not the best DAT choice, but oh well.  Better luck next year?  Definitely my least favorite meal in SF so far (and that includes the food court food I got from a union meeting).

Le Central
453 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 391-2233
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