Tuesday, April 30, 2013

San Francisco: Americana Grill

The morning after her birthday celebration, T was craving some pho.  (I'll leave you to guess why.)

Anyway, there weren't that many pho options open that early in the morning on a Saturday in the Outer Richmond.  Yelp led us to Americana Grill:

Which had us all going, "Whaaaaa?"

We entered the front door to find a diner:

A diner that offered pho right next to omelettes and pasta:


We were confused to say the least.  But strangely enough, the pho wasn't all that bad.  It wouldn't be my first or second choice, but when you have a craving early in the morning and there isn't another pho place in sight, it's passable.

Love the service too.  The little middle-aged Vietnamese uncles were very attentive and considerate.

Americana Grill
3528-3532 Balboa St
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 387-2893

Monday, April 29, 2013

San Francisco: Fresca

A Napa day wasn't enough to celebrate my precious T's 26th birthday.  Oh, no ho ho.  She had to have a birthday weekend too.  Which is how I ended up in SF on a Friday night at Fresca:

The place was packed, but T had reservations for her near and dearest (aka me...and some other peeps):

With 7 of us squeezed into a table, we ordered quite a bit of food.  First came the plantain chips:

Which went well with the itty bitty servings of ceviche tastings:

Itty bitty.  There's no other way to describe it.  With the help of our server, we picked three ceviches: ceviche ¡pasion!, ceviche de coco, and ceviche chifa.

My least favorite was the ceviche ¡pasion!, which came with salmon, passion fruit, red onion, yellow pepper, cilantro and purple corn.  Way too sour.  The ceviche de coco was interesting with its ahi tuna, lime, coconut juice, rocoto, green onions, and purple corn.  The ceviche chifa wasn't too bad either.  It consisted of ahyi tuna, soy, crisp wonton, avocado, sesame seeds, peanuts, aji, and lime.  As filler, we got black beans and yam.

T is a paella monster, so of course we had to order some to appease the birthday girl:

Lots of seafood (mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, fish, and scallops), but it was kinda mediocre to me.

The lomo saltado or wok fried tenderloin steak strips with onion, tomato, cilantro, soy, french fries, and jasmine rice was a bit better:

But the best had to be the aji de gallina or pulled chicken stew:

The stew itself was creamy from the aji amarillo cream and yukon potatoes. It was topped with walnuts and a hard-boiled egg.  And also came with jasmine rice.  So good.  Probably the only thing I would recommend ordering at Fresca.

No birthday dinner can be complete without dessert.  Or two.

We got the tres leches cake:

The only enjoyable part of that plate was the scoop of dulce de leche ice cream.  The cake itself was bitter from too much alcohol.  I didn't even know there was alcohol in tres leches cake.  Blech.

The picarones or Peruvian beignets weren't much better:

A little too hard to be pleasant and the honey citrus syrup had a strange bitter tinge to it.

In my humble opinion, Fresca was just...okay.  The food was easily eclipsed by the company.  Then again, we were a pretty spectacular group.

Happy birthday, T!

2114 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 447-2668

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Oakland: Mama's Vietnamese Restaurant

SY wanted to grab lunch at Duende, but apparently, Duende's lunch menu is still in the works.  So instead, the three of us walked around downtown Oakland until we came across Mama's Vietnamese Restaurant:

Mama's seems like a really popular place for business lunches:

I'm usually pretty wary about trendy Vietnamese restaurants, particularly those that are filled with non-Asians.  It's usually a sign of mediocre and overpriced food.  (Those of you who're Asian know exactly what I mean.)

What do you know?  Mama's turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

We started off with some complimentary soup:

It was cute how each of our soups came in different vessels.  Mine was a cup.  Not much in the soup besides some veeery thinly sliced vegetables, but it wasn't bad.

SY ordered grilled chicken with crispy rolls on vermicelli:

VN got the tofu curry in a claypot:

Whereas I got the crispy sole fish rice plate:

Fried fish plus fish sauce and rice?  There's no way that combo can be wrong.  The fish was freshly fried and actually quite flaky and juicy.

I wish the salad didn't come with ranch dressing though.  Blech.  Never liked ranch.

Not bad, Mama's, not bad.  And the lunch prices were reasonable too.  I'll be back...maybe.

Mama's Vietnamese Restaurant
365 19th St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 251-8878

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Napa: Addendum

Ever since Queen G told me about Addendum, I wanted to go.  Easier said than done.  

First of all, I rarely ever go to Napa.  And as someone who doesn't drink, it's hard to justify making the trip up there just to eat at a restaurant.  Even one that's part of the Thomas Keller restaurant family.  (Unless, of course, you're planning on dining at French Laundry.  In that case, it's entirely justifiable.  No question about it.)

Secondly, Addendum isn't open all the time.  It's only open in the spring and summer months and even then, only for lunch (11:00am to 2:00pm) Thursday through Saturday.

The stars aligned for T's pre-birthday Napa trip.  It was a Saturday.  In April.  And we were going to be there for lunch.  I could barely contain my excitement.

To be on the safe side, I pre-ordered our food via email the day before and then confirmed the order over the phone.  Super easy.

As I mentioned in the previous post, our original plan was to fit in a winery in-between the bakery and lunch.  Unfortunately, breakfast took a bit longer than anticipated and because we didn't want to miss our pick up time, we headed straight to Addendum after Model Bakery:

Addendum is tucked behind the parking lot of Ad Hoc, the main restaurant.  If you follow the sounds of people enjoying themselves, you'll find Addendum's one room shack:

All the food is prepared in the Ad Hoc kitchen.  Just place your order at the window, stake out a picnic table, and wait for your bag of goodies to come.  No plates and cloth napkins here.  Only take out boxes and disposable silverware.  Love it.

For $16.80, you can choose between two main entrees.  The buttermilk fried chicken (3 pieces):

Or the pulled pork and pork ribs:

Both come with cornbread and two other sides.  On the day we went, there was potato (rainbow!) salad:

And baked beans:

I wasn't wowed by the sides, but I was FLOORED by the fried chicken.  The breading is thick and crispy and fragrant with rosemary.  The chicken itself is seasoned and so very juicy.  As in really, really juicy.  As in Lord-I-want-some-right-now juicy.

The bbq option was also fantastic.  Those ribs...that pulled pork...that cornbread soaked in all that pork juice...holy moly.

Bless you, Addendum.  Bless you, Thomas Keller.  Just bless you.

As if all that wasn't enough, we made a pit stop at Bouchon, Thomas Keller's bakery, after Addendum for some sweets.  Only after that did we deign to check out a couple of wineries.  

I could care less about the wineries.  In my mind, my day ended at Addendum.

6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-1565

Napa: Model Bakery

In pre-celebration of T's birthday, a bunch of us took a day trip to Napa.  The original plan was to proceed in this order: food, wine, food, wine, food, wine.

Instead, here's what we did: food, food, food, wine, wine, wine.  It's pretty clear what our priorities are.

After a quick stop at the Napa information center, we started off our Napa adventure at Model Bakery: 

So much bread and other baked goods to choose from:

Model Bakery is famous for its English muffins:

Now, I've never been a fan of English muffins, but I figured I had to give these a chance.

Thank God I did.  Model Bakery has completely altered my outlook on English muffins.  T and I split a breakfast sandwich:

It came with hash browns, avocado, fried egg, tomato, ketchup, mayo, and provolone cheese.  We elected to add bacon for an additional $1:

I really don't know how to describe Model Bakery's English muffin besides by saying that I've never had one like that before.  Lame, I know.  But I'm trying to be honest here!  It was toasty and soft and just crazy good.

We also tried a blueberry and cheese pastry, but it was nowhere as revelationary as the English muffin:

It certainly looked pretty though:

I never thought I would ever like English muffins, but thanks to Model Bakery, I'm a changed woman.

You win, Model Bakery.  You win.

Model Bakery
644 1st St, Bldg B
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 259-1128

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oakland: Enssaro

Met up with my Chitown chicks at Enssaro after work because SY was in the mood for Ethiopian:

We got there pretty early, so things were rather quiet at first:

The three of us decided to split one meat entree and a veggie combo:

For our meat entree, we went with the ye doro tibs or cubed chicken with green peppers, onions, garlic, and Ethiopian spices.  The veggie combo included messer wot (spicy lentils), kik-alicha (yellow pigeon peas), ata-kilt (cabbage, carrots, and potatoes), and gommen (collard greens).

Don't get me wrong, everything tasted great, but what I love most about Ethiopian cuisine is the injera:

I love the sour, spongy, soft bread.  I especially love how it came rolled like a tape bandage.  We quickly mowed through that bowl and started ripping away at the injera lining the platter.

Like vultures, we were.

Enssaro Ethiopian Restaurant
366 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 238-9050

South Bay: Zam Zam

Last month, my coworker and I did some outreach for my org's Citizenship Day event in Fremont.  We stopped by a mosque and then Zam Zam, an Afghan grocery store:

Okay, so we had an ulterior motive when we chose Zam Zam (which means holy water in Farsi).  Zam Zam is grocery store plus restaurant:

According to my coworker, the food section of Zam Zam is great for buying party trays.

Instead of waiting at the counter like I thought she would, my coworker walked straight up to the window and started chattering away in Farsi with the lady in the kitchen.

My coworker is Afghan, so I knew I was in good hands.

And I was right.  My coworker's got my back.  As you can see with this awesome bolani:

Now, I don't know if I've made this clear enough in previous posts.  I.  Love.  Bolani.  Like, yea.  A lot.  The two of us were supposed to share, but I think I ate most it.  Something about the smell, the yogurt, and the potato filling just tickles all my yummy senses.

My coworker wanted to introduce me to shirpera, an Afghan dessert:

Shirpera is a sweet milk fudge flavored with almonds, pistachio, cardamom, and rose water.  Super sweet, super fragrant.  We brought the leftovers back to the office and it all disappeared in a not-so-surprisingly quick period of time.  (My office is notorious for loving sweets.)

Love Zam Zam.  I think it's a bit intimidating to walk in by myself, but for that bolani, I would suck it up and do it.  Wait for me, bolani.  Wait for me.

In other news, there's less than one month before my trip to Europe.  Think I can do this?  Can I catch up before I leave?

We shall see.

Zam Zam
40645 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 226-1777

Thursday, April 18, 2013

San Francisco: Chile Pies Baking Co.

T was really, REALLY looking forward to trying Bombay Ice Cream.  For that matter, so was I.  So when we pulled up to the address only to find the place completely cleared out, we were devastated.  Cleared out as in emptied.  No furniture.  No signs.  Nothing.  Not even an ice cream cup.

Dejected, we wandered around for a bit before T rallied and drove us to Chile Pies Baking Co.:

Very woodsy and hipster-y.  Super cute.

Very interesting pie flavors too.  We went with the green chile apple pie with cheddar crust:

The chile was what made the pie.  I wish the cheddar was a bit more noticeable though.

We also selected a Mexican chocolate pie, but we wanted it in a shake:

That's right, a pie shake.  You pick a pie and an ice cream (we went with vanilla) and watch them blend away.  Guh.  So amazing.

To counterbalance all the sweetness, we got the red chili carne asada pot pie:

Flaky crust and yummy filling:

The best thing there was without a doubt the pie shake.  If you don't get anything else, get the shake.  Yes, it's $6, but it's worth it.


Chile Pies Baking Co.
601 Baker St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 614-9411

San Francisco: Mandalay Restaurant

AF, CL, T, and I originally planned on waking up early and grabbing brunch Sunday morning.  Hah!  We were only fooling ourselves.

What we did instead, was sleep in.  Then we got lunch at Mandalay Restaurant:

According to T, if you want real authentic Burmese food, Mandalay is the place to go.  Even more so than Burma Superstar.  Wut?  This I had to check out.

The decor was quite charming:

Especially the Christmas ornaments.

CL ordered a coconut drink:

We started off with the tea leaf salad or lap pat dok:

Unlike Burma Superstar, the tea leaf salad at Mandalay has no lettuce filler.  No, sirree.

Only Burmese tea leaves, toasted lentil seeds, ground shrimp, fried garlic, peppers, sesame seeds, and peanuts.  Our server barely let me snap a photo before he started mixing everything up:

Crunchy, pungent, and very, very yummy.

My favorite, however, was the fish chowder or moo hin nga:

The fried ground catfish added a crunchy element to the thick chowder.  Love it.

The rainbow salad was a bit less mind-blowing:

I couldn't take a picture pre-mixing because the lady server who brought us the rainbow salad told me no photos allowed in the restaurant.  Which was strange because the man who brought us the tea leaf salad didn't say anything as I took pictures of him merrily mixing away.

Fine then.  I just waited until she left.  (I'm a bad person.  I know.)

The description of the rainbow salad said that it's made of 20 ingredients.  Not sure what those 20 ingredients are, but the dish as a whole was rather tasteless.  Especially when compared to the tea leaf salad and the fish chowder.

Another hit with our group was the Mandalay special noodle:

Again, photo post-mixing.  The flat noodles came with mild coconut chicken, yellow peas powder, lime juice, onion, and fried noodle.  So creamy and delicious.  Coconut is always a plus for me.

I was a bit less excited about the Mandalay eggplant:

Normally, I can't get enough of eggplant.  But this one...meh.  It came fried, but soggy.  I nibbled on a few and then focused my attention back on the fish chowder.

At the end of the meal, we were brought complimentary sweet potato desserts:

Complimentary is always good, though I'm not sure I would ever order this of my own accord.  It's not bad. Just not awesome.

I would definitely choose Mandalay over Burma Superstar.  Less wait, less fuss, and better food to boot.

Thank goodness we couldn't wake up on time.

Mandalay Restaurant
4348 California St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 386-3895
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