Friday, July 27, 2012

SF Peninsula: Back A Yard

The first thing I did after I got home yesterday from the bar exam was to toss out all my printed outlines.  My glee was cut short when my mom suddenly asked if I was sure I wouldn't need them again.

I really feel the love in my house.  Really.

Anyway, I also looked up how to get rid of my Barbri books.  Originally, a couple of us joked about burning our books.  While that sounded appropriately symbolic, it later occurred to me that the sheer amount of book pages to burn would mean a really extended bonfire.  One that would probably lose its appeal relatively quickly.  

Plan B was to return my books to Barbri and get my $250 deposit back.  The only problem is, I had to either mail all 35 lb of them to Michigan or drive the damn things up to South San Francisco.  You can probably guess which option I went for.

Of course my mom and I capitalized on the trip by stopping at Back A Yard for lunch on the way back:

Located in a pretty random spot, Back A Yard is small but cheery:

My mom and I split a few things.  First a beef patty:

Holy moly it was good:

Then 2 corn festivals (essentially fried cornbread):

Like donuts but much, much better.  Denser, chewier, and more subtle in sweetness.

We also split a combo of jerk chicken and oxtail:

My mom was a fan.  Me too.  The chicken was incredibly juicy and the oxtail was fall off the bone tender.  And the flavors!  Oh, the flavors.  Even the rice and beans was coconut-y and great.  The only thing my mom didn't really like was the plantains, but I enjoyed them enough for the 2 of us.

Back A Yard apparently has a second location right in downtown San Jose.  That's basically my back yard. Heh.  I just made a funny.

Okay, fine.  Don't laugh.

Anyway, with this post I'm completely caught up!  Right on time too.  In another 2 hours I'll be on my way to the airport to meet up with CK and her boyfriend and catch out flight to Taiwan.  Woot!  Goodbye bar exam!  Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and we come!

(Just to give you all fair warning, it's going to be a while before my next post.  Don't miss me too much.  Heh.)

Back A Yard
1189 Willow Rd
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 323-4244

South Bay: De Afghanan Kabob House

I didn't realize how stressed I was over the bar exam until my mother pointed it out to me.  I wasn't sleeping well, my tummy rebelled whenever I ate more than a slice of red bean toast, and I kept breathing weirdly on my way to the testing center.  

Needless to say, I didn't have much of an appetite the entire week.  Including the day I finished the bar exam.  Coming out at the end, I kinda just wanted to curl up somewhere and sleep for a nice long while.

My ahyi and my mom, however, had different plans.  They wanted to celebrate my surviving the bar exam with dinner out.  I didn't want to get all fancy, so even though my brain was completely fried, I rounded up my few remaining brain cells and came up with De Afghanan Kabob House: 

I was the first to spot the restaurant from our car window as we drove by.  We parked around the corner and then walked over.  We became thoroughly confused when we found out that there were two restaurants called De Afghanan almost right next to each other.  One was De Afghanan Kabob House, the other De Afghanan Cuisine.  Uh...

I couldn't for the life of me remember which one we were supposed to be looking for.  De Afghanan Kabob House was a tiny hole in the wall, while De Afghanan Cuisine was a little sit down restaurant.  The 3 of us walked back and forth like idiots for a good five minutes before we gave up and went back to our car for the paper on which I'd written the address.

De Afghanan Kabob House was the winner.

Seriously small inside:

Over half of the interior is taken up by the kitchen.  There are 3 small tables squished on the side wall and a tiny patio table outside.

We decided to order to-go.

I knew going in that we had to order the bolani kachaloo.  Filled with potato and leeks, the bolani is basically a pan fried flat bread.  It smelled so good in its cute little pizza box that we were going crazy in the car.  No joke.  I don't remember ever wanting to eat something so badly based off of smell alone.

The first thing we did once we got home was to tear into the bolani:

Damn my house and our yellow lighting.  These pictures really don't do De Afghanan Kabob House justice.  That bolani tasted just as good as it smelled.  Maybe even better.  Paired with their homemade yogurt?  Priceless.  (Except there actually is a price.  $7.99 in fact.)

We also ordered the teka kabob (beef):

And the chaplee kabob, which was grilled ground sirloin patties mixed with scallions, cilantro, and special seasonings:

Each entree came with shornakhod (an Afghan potato salad), Afghan bread, rice, and salad.

Two words: CRACK RICE.  I don't know what they put in that rice, but it's ridiculous.  Meat juices?  Secret spices?  I don't know.  All I know is that we inhaled the rice.

The meat was no joke either.  Surprisingly not dry at all and packed with flavor.  Wow.

I realize I'm gushing.  Perhaps anything would've tasted good to me then.  Maybe what I was actually moaning over was the taste of freedom after a month of torture that culminated in 3 days of pure agony.  Maybe.

But I'm definitely going back for more.  For single-handedly giving me back my appetite and restoring my faith in the world, I thank you, De Afghanan Kabob House.  You have my eternal gratitude.

De Afghanan Kabob House
37405 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94536
(510) 745-9599

South Bay: Honeyberry

TT and I planned on hitting up Honeyberry for dessert after 99 Chicken, so imagine our surprise when we drove into the 99 Chicken parking lot only to find that a Honeyberry had opened up 2 doors down:

I'm not sure how long it's been there (grand opening signs tend to stay up there for way longer than they should), but it was a sign.  God REALLY wanted us to get a roti bun.

It smelled very sweet inside:

Honeyberry offers all sorts of desserts, but the one you absolutely need to try are their roti buns.  There are 3 kinds: plain, butter, and cream cheese.  We asked which one tasted the best and were recommended the butter roti bun:

I haven't tried the plain or the cream cheese, but damn.  The butter roti bun is GOOD.  Really, REALLY good.  They're made fresh so they come to you hot and smelling divine.  The butter inside adds a slight salty twist:

We also ordered the waffle:

It came topped with 2 scoops of our choice of gelato, strawberries, and banana.  To be honest, it was meh.  I kinda wish we skipped the waffle and bought a couple more roti buns instead.

So yea.  Hit up Honeyberry and get a roti bun!

2785 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 247-7216

South Bay: 99 Chicken

I made an exception during my lockdown for TT.  We were originally planning on meeting for lunch in SF, but I chickened out.  The more I looked at my Barbri books, the less comfortable I felt about taking time away from studying to get to the city.  TT was very understanding and we changed the fun fat day (fat fun day?) game plan to eating in the South Bay.

I emailed her a couple of options and we settled on 99 Chicken:

The place was pretty quiet when we got there, but quickly filled up by the time we were getting ready to leave:

There's a salad buffet bar where you can munch on veggies to your little heart's content:

I particularly loved the peanut-y salad dressing.  If I had a bottle of that stuff, I would never complain about eating salad.  Ever.

The real draw of 99 Chicken is its fried chicken:

Of course we had to try a bit of everything.  Combo power!  10 pieces in total including 3 regular, 2 honey, 2 spicy, and 2 sauce.  Not exactly the cheapest fried chicken at $15.99, but man, was it good.  I think my favorite was the regular.  The sauce and the spicy one were good, but nothing beat the taste of straight freshly fried chicken.  Love the batter too.  The honey...meh.  I would skip that one.  

TT actually wimped out on me and couldn't finish her last wing.  If she wasn't going to, I certainly wasn't going to stuff myself.  So we packed it home.  

Fail, fun fat day friend.  Fail.  You really let me down there.

99 Chicken
2781 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 244-5599

Thursday, July 26, 2012

South Bay: Orenchi

My family has been talking about Orenchi since before I moved back to the Bay.  We finally seized the opportunity to go when my cousin came to visit from Taiwan:

The lines get pretty crazy at Orenchi, so get there early.  As in 30 minutes before they open early.  You probably won't be the first.  But you'll be able to get your name on the list and get seated in the first round:

The servers at Orenchi are incredibly cute and very Japanese.  They crouch by your table while taking your order and it takes a bit of concentration to understand their English.

Here's what my father loves about Orenchi:

Their tako wasabi or wasabi octopus is really, REALLY fantastic.  The wasabi gives it a great kick (and nose cleanse) and the octopus is fresh fresh fresh.  So light and refreshing that I wish I had some right now.

My mom wanted to try the karaage (fried chicken):

And the age takoyaki (fried octopus balls):

The takoyaki tasted like every other takoyaki that I've ever had.  Tasty, but nothing particularly mind-blowing about it.  The karaage was freshly fried and delicious.  But in the end, the tako wasabi blew both out of the water.

Because we were one of the first parties seated, my mom was lucky enough to order the tsukemen or dipping noodles:

The only serve 15 at every meal.  That's right.  15.  Total.

The rest of us each ordered a orenchi ramen:

The orenchi ramen has a tonkatsu soup base with pork, green onion, bamboo shoot, mushroom, sesame, and nori.

And an onsen egg:

Just look at that beauty.  Biting into one of these makes me so, so happy.  After eating these at Orenchi, my went home to try to master it himself.  Thanks to Youtube, my dad now has it down.  (Boil for 6 minutes and then immediately soak in a ice water bath.  Easy peasy.)

I absolutely loved Orenchi.  The soup got a bit salty toward the end there, but overall the noodles were Q, the pork was fatty, and the egg.  Oh, the egg.

I love eggs.

3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 246-2955

South Bay: Loving Hut


But the relief hasn't hit me yet.  The only thing I feel is drained.  And still slightly anxious.  

Instead of packing for my month-long trip to SE Asia as I should be doing (I'm leaving tomorrow night after all), I'm going to take a crack at catching up on my blog posts.  What do you think?  Possible?

We shall see.

Before I went into lockdown in July, I met up with my best friend for a movie and lunch.  Brave was much more interesting than its trailers made it seem.  I was hoping Loving Hut would be a hit too:

My best friend is a full on vegan, though she's willing to eat vegetarian at restaurants.  I never knew how hard it is to find a decent vegan place in San Jose.  We finally decided on Loving Hut in Milpitas.

Located in a Chinese plaza, Loving Hut seemed rather out of place:

The menu seemed to be some kind of vegan Asian fusion bonanza.  We started with some soup:

Since we only ordered one lunch entree, we were only supposed to get one soup.  But our server was super sweet and brought us each one.

We were curious about the "ocean basket":

Fries, fried mushrooms, fried...fake shrimp...and fried soy protein (whatever that means).  With some kind of thousand island dressing.  I liked the fries and the mushroom.  The other stuff I could have done without.

Our server recommended the queen's lunch:

I've learned that soy protein is not my friend.  I liked the flavors of the dish, but the protein?  Blech.  It had a strange texture that I did not appreciate.

After lunch, we stopped by the counter and my best friend picked out a vegan dessert:

Raw vegan carob mousse pie.  Also known as "Who's Your Daddy?"  The denseness of the mousse was great, but the flavor...something was off.  I eventually figured out that it was the walnuts.  It's a personal thing.  I don't like the walnut fragrance.  My best friend seemed to like the pie, but I couldn't handle more than a few bites.

Would I go back to Loving Hut?  Probably not.  Unless my best friend wants to go.  I certainly wouldn't go back on my own volition.  Sorry.  I would be happy if I never saw a soy protein again.

Loving Hut
516 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 943-0250

Sunday, July 22, 2012

South Bay: Gilley's Coffee Shoppe

My dad had a meeting after church, so my mom and I had to find a place to grab brunch and kill time.  After some furtive texting with my sister during the sermon we found ourselves at Gilley's Coffee Shoppe:

My mom wanted the french toast:

Whereas I went with the spinach omelette:

The boiled spinach was unexpected and a bit bland, but the melted cheese helped make up for it.

Gilley's is basically your typical family breakfast joint.  Nothing fancy or surprising.  Just the basics at fairly decent prices.  Not the best brunch I've ever had, but I had no complaints.

What I should complain about is my utter lack of motivation to study for the bar.  Then again, I suppose watching Property Wars on the Discovery Channel could count as reviewing real property law...if you squint.  Really hard.  

Now I just have to think of a way to justify watching River Monsters tonight.  Maybe torts?   

Gilley's Coffee Shoppe
47 N Santa Cruz Ave
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3318

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Carmel: Little Napoli

After Point Lobos, we returned to Carmel for lunch.  My parents wanted to take me to this little Italian place that they discovered on their last trip:  

Little Napoli.  When I looked up the address, oh I'm sorry, the INTERSECTION online, I found something really interesting.  Little Napoli is owned by the same man behind Carmel Bakery.  And Vino Napoli Wine Bar next door.  Apparently Chef Pepe owns Carmel.  Okay, slight exaggeration there.  But c'mon.  

It was quiet inside, but then again, it was also a very late lunch:

My mom hasn't been able to stop talking about their garlic bread:

Way better than the complimentary bread:

My mom is a sucker for meatballs, so she stuck with the traditional spaghetti and meatballs:

My sister went the pesto route with the pesto genovese, which was tagliatelle over grilled asparagus and potatoes and sprinkled with pine nuts:

My father wanted seafood, so our server recommended the il pescatore and was flexible enough to let us substitute the usual red sauce with white:

We were all pleasantly surprised by the amount of seafood loaded onto the plate.  There were prawns, scallops, mussels, clams, calamari, and crab.

I ordered the al forno "Sinatra" which consisted of baked penne, sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella:

Very filling and very satisfying.  Definitely a good stop to make in Carmel.

With the bar on Tuesday, I really should be studying right now.  So why can't I dig up the motivation?  Ugh....

Little Napoli
Dolores & 7th
Carmel, CA 93921
(831) 626-6335

Carmel: Carmel Bakery

Before my sister returned to Baltimore for the rest of the summer, we squeezed in one family trip to Carmel and Point Lobos.  Our first stop was Carmel Bakery.

Carmel must be the only place I've ever been to where there are NO ADDRESSES.  Nope.  Not a single house number in sight.  When you try to look up places, all you get are intersections.  Blew my mind.  I suppose that's part of the charm?

The last time my family visited Carmel (without me!), my mother stood at this glass window for a good while, but declined to go in.

 My mother was like a kid in a candy store:

She wanted to try everything, but we finally narrowed it down to a parmesan pretzel:

A raspberry fruit stick:

And a walnut rugulash:

My favorite was by far the pretzel.  Very doughy, not very pretzel-like at all.  The fruit stick wasn't all that impressive and the rugulash made me miss CK's sister who makes a really mean rugulash.

Armed with these goodies, we went on to spend the rest of the morning gallivanting up and down Point Lobos.

Carmel Bakery
Ocean Ave & Lincoln
Carmel, CA 93923
(831) 626-8885
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