Sunday, March 31, 2013

Oakland: Shan Dong Restaurant

Everyone listen up!  This is important: I have found my favorite place in Oakland Chinatown.  


Oh, Shan Dong Restaurant, how I love you:

I love your complimentary hot and sour soup:

I love your special Shan Dong dumplings:

With your pork filling and special soy sauce:

But most of all, I love your noodles.  I love them in every form.  I love them in chicken chow mein:

I love them in sesame paste (my favorite so far) and in spicy meat sauce.  I love how they're thick and Q and SO DELICIOUS.

I also love how your servers are so friendly even though you're a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.

I do wish, however, that you would open on Mondays.  Because I would like to get noodles on Mondays from time to time.  Why must you deny me, Shan Dong Restaurant?  Why?

Shan Dong Restaurant
328 10th St, Ste 101
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 839-2299

South Bay: Hue Restaurant

Kinda out of nowhere, CK decided she wanted to escape Chicago and come visit my family in February.  We were a little confused by it (as she would have to spend most of her time at home with my parents while I was at work), but there was no deterring her.

We did, however, get to have some fun when the weekend rolled around.  TT came back from SF Friday night and she took us to Hue for some Vietnamese goodies:

Despite the late hour, the restaurant was plenty full:

As this was TT's area of expertise, we let her do all the ordering.

Hue is known for it banh beo or steamed rice cakes:

Add a spoonful of fish sauce on top, loosen the rice cake around the edges, and then slurp it all down in one tasty mouthful.  $3.50 is a fabulous price for a ticket to rice cake heaven.  TT says the banh beo at Hue isn't the best she's ever had, but it was certainly good enough for me.

The banh bot loc was something new for me:

The menu describes them as pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings.  I love glutinous things, so this was right up my alley.  The fried pork skin was another bonus.

I was a huge fan of the banh ram it:

The steamed glutinous dumpling on top contrasted interestingly against the fried glutinous dumpling below.  Loved the texture contrast.

To give us a break from all the rice flour, TT ordered hen xuc banh trang or stir fried baby clams with crispy rice chips:

The clams weren't too flavorful, but that's what fish sauce is for.  Break off a piece of rice chip, scoop up some clams, spoon on some fish sauce, and insert into your open mouth.  Easy peasy.

Super cheap.  Super quick.  Hue is a great place to hang out and eat to your heart's content.

The next day, the three of us went on a whale watching adventure in Monterey.  After almost freezing our asses off, we saw a few grey whale flukes (which I only scored one photo of) and a lot more water spouts.  While cool, I was rather hoping to see a whale leap out of the ocean.  Sigh.

Hue Restaurant
3005 Silver Creek Rd Ste 190
San Jose, CA 95121
(408) 223-1021

Friday, March 29, 2013

South Bay: Bob Sang Korean BBQ & Tofu

My mom's favorite Korean place is in Fremont.  It's called Bob Sang and it's kind of located in the middle of nowhere:

But boy, is it popular:

If you don't go early enough, prepare to wait.

The main reason why my mom loves Bob Sang so much is its abundance of banchan.  There's japchae:

Potatoes (my personal favorite):

Pickled daikon:

Fish cake:

Acorn jelly:


Bean sprouts:


And daikon kimchi:

Everything is refillable.  Except maybe the japchae.  We've never had that one refilled before.

My mom and ahyi always order the same thing, but my dad likes to switch it up every once in a while.  That particular night, he tried the spicy squid saute:

Not as much squid as he would've like, but I enjoyed it.

I put up with my mom's frequent requests to go to Bob Sang because of this:

Corn cheese.  I don't need anything else.  The corn sizzles on the hot plate with some kind of cole slaw sauce.  Sweet and creamy and yummy in my tummy.  Much better than what I had at Toyose.

My mom always orders the mushroom tofu soup:

While my ahyi always gets the kimchi tofu soup:

I got the doenjang jjigae or Korean style miso stew:

After the meal, everyone gets a cup of ginger rice water:

I love that stuff.

The service at Bob Sang is kind of impatient, but doesn't yet cross the line into rudeness.  It certainly doesn't keep people like my mom away though.

Bob Sang also has all you can eat BBQ for those who have that kind of stomach space.  If one person orders it, everyone at the table has to.  At $19.99 per person, it's not too bad.  You get unlimited raw cuts of meat that you can cook yourself at your table, unlimited BBQ prepared in the kitchen, and side dishes.  I've never done it before because I'm weaksauce and I never eat my worth in buffets.

For the corn cheese alone, I'll go to Bob Sang as many times as my mom wants.

Bob Sang Korean BBQ & Tofu
4185 Cushing Pkwy
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 252-9844

South Bay: Amber

It is no secret that my father doesn't particularly enjoy Indian food.  According to him, the flavors are too intense, too heavy.  He makes an exception for only one Indian restaurant: Amber.

He went there once for a business dinner and ever since then, he brought up Amber every time my sister or I mentioned a craving for Indian food.  I was never too excited about the idea.  Amber is located inside Santana Row and we all know what that means.  Big dollar signs.  No thanks.

But my dad finally wore me down.  It just got to a point where I couldn't say no without hurting his feelings.  My dad succeeded in dragging my mom, my ahyi, and me to Amber one Saturday evening:

We arrived pretty early, so the restaurant was pretty quiet:

Super swanky decor, as to be expected.

When our server brought us a plate of samosas that we didn't order, we thought it was complimentary:

Our glee quickly evaporated when he came back to apologetically whisk it away.  Sigh.  Should have known it was too good to be true.  Well, at least I got a picture of it, right?

Our server recommended the garlic naan, so that's what we ordered:

Not all you can eat, so eat sparingly!

He also recommended the butter chicken as Amber's most popular dish:

All the entrees came at the same time.  Before I could even lift my camera, our server scooped out a serving of each dish onto each of our plates.  Please ignore the half-eaten look of the photos.

There weren't many pieces of cauliflower in the cauliflower and cashew bezule to begin with, so this photo looks particularly sad:

The photo really doesn't do the dish justice.  Prepared with mustard, curry leaf, coconut and lime juice, the cauliflower was refreshing and creamy and so very delicious.

My favorite of the night though, was the jaisalmeri bhindi or crisp sliced okra:

The okra was so thin and fried so crisp that they had the texture of chips.  Paired with the fresh tomato  So good.

Even though my ahyi doesn't eat lamb, she urged us to order the balti gosht:

The balti gosht was made with lamb, cumin, mint onions, and peppers.

Surprisingly, the meat dishes paled in comparison to the veggie dishes.  I was shocked.  I'm a card carrying carnivore.  I never thought I would ever enjoy vegetarian options over meat ones.  But it happened.  Hell has frozen over.

The food was definitely good, but was it worth it?  I don't know.  $20.95 for that little pot of butter chicken?  $16.95 for the okra?  The portion sizes are way too small for the prices.

Sorry, dad.  I'll be sticking to my hole in the wall Indian joints.  Amber is just too posh for my tastes.

377 Santana Row #1140
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 248-5400

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oakland: Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House

My friends and I are planning a Europe trip in May to meet up with my sister after she finishes her semester abroad in Denmark.  My goal is to be completely caught up on my blog posts before I leave for London.  Given how I recently hit January 2013, I'm optimistic.  Wish me luck, people!

Okay, so one of the best lunch spots around my office is Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House:

It's one block down and the food is great.  I met up with my Chitown girls there for lunch one day.

Kamdesh is super busy at lunchtime:

I even ran into a volunteer attorney from my office at the front door.

For those who don't want a full meal for lunch, the wrap is a good choice.  I went with the Afghani wrap off the lunch special menu:

You get to pick what kind of meat you want in your wrap.  I tried the chicken on a previous trip, so I wanted to give the beef a whirl.  Instead of whole beef chunks like I expected, the meat was some some of seasoned ground beef meatball.  Very yummy.  And also very messy.  One wrap is definitely enough for two people, but I always end up forcing myself to finish it all because I don't want to take anything home.

For $7.50, it's not a bad deal at all.

Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House
346 14th St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 286-1900

San Francisco: Rickybobby

We tried to go to Rickybobby Friday night, but the mass of people waiting outside by the time we arrived was so intimidating that we immediately gave up and left.

We tried again the next night.  This time, we arrived 30 minutes before the restaurant opened.  We were first in line:

People really started to show up bout 15 minutes before opening.  When Rickybobby opened at 6:00pm, we flooded in the door and filled up the place in a matter of minutes:

It's no surprise that the wait is so long.  The place is tiny (basically two rows of tables) and the food is DELICIOUS.

The menu is pretty concise and we ordered almost half of it (okay, that's a slight exaggeration...kinda).

We started off with the sweet potatertots ($5):

I don't usually like sweet potatoes, but the seasoning on these tots were the bomb diggity.  Seriously.

...but I would probably like them more if they were made with potatoes.

The beet salad ($7) was made heavenly by the addition of fried oysters (+$5):

The oysters were so light and crispy.  They rank way, way up there on my list of fried oyster awesomeness, right under or even equal to Fish Bar in Chicago.  The salad itself came with roasted beets, fennel, grapefruit, mache, and ranch yogurt.  Very refreshing.

The rest of the meal was rich and heavy.  Just how I like it.

There was the pulled pork sandwich ($9):

Habanero BBQ sauce, green chilies, tillamook cheddar...yum.

I've never liked grits, but Rickybobby changed my mind.  Because they were out of shrimp, instead of crawshrimp grits, we had crawbacon grits ($11):

The spicy broth was amazing.  The grits were cheesy and the house sausage was great.  I've never had grits so flavorful before.  Wow.  I'll never look at grits the same way again.

My favorite of the night was the lobster mac 'n cheese ($12):

Just look at that huge chunk of lobster:

The perfect level of cheesiness.  Bowtie pasta instead of the usual elbow.  Made healthy with corn and spinach (I'm delusional, so I've been told).  SO DAMN GOOD.

We were all super stuffed, but we couldn't turn down dessert.  All the desserts sounded yumtastic, but we finally settled on the warm pecan pie:

We wimped out and got the half pie ($4) instead of the whole pie ($7).  The pie came smushed and topped with house vanilla ice cream.  Sweet without being overpowering.

Rickybobby is a new favorite for me in the city.  If the wait wasn't so crazy (and if I actually lived in San Francisco), I would be there all the time.  The menu changes, so I can't wait to go back again!

400 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94102

San Francisco: Joe's Ice Cream

To continue her quest to chomp through all the ice cream joints in the city, TT dragged us to Joe's Ice Cream:

Joe's Ice Cream is half ice cream parlor and half diner:

There were some pretty interesting flavors to choose from, like wasabi.  Here's what we came up with:

The big winners were yuzu sorbet and ginger (both chosen by moi).  The big loser was pistachio.  Which was unfortunate.  It just tasted...funny.  We also tried black walnut and some kind of berry cheesecake.

The award for most interesting went to the bubblegum flavor.  My sister is a sucker for blue food coloring.  I never understood it.  I also don't understand the joy in eating ice cream where you require a spittoon to discard gum:

Why?  WHY?

Joe's Ice Cream
5420 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 751-1950
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