Friday, May 17, 2013

Oakland: Cafe Colucci

It'd been a while since LN, my former coworker, went back to Socal, so quite a few of us (both former and current volunteer attorneys/interns) were very eager to see her and bask in her presence when she came back to the Bay for a visit.

LN said she'd been craving Cafe Colucci for some Ethiopian for the longest time.  Six of us gathered there for a much needed catch-up session:

And dinner.  Most importantly for dinner.

LN got me really excited about the fried potatoes at Cafe Colucci.  I don't know who was more disappointed, LN or I, when our server informed us that they'd run out.

How do you run out of potatoes?!  Really?

Our expressions must have looked quite tragic because our server brought us some veggie sambussa on the house:

Helloooooo sambussa!  I can't even complain about them being vegetarian.  Filled with lentils, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and green onion, they were fantastic.

My favorite part about Ethiopian cuisine is the injera:

Spongy, sour, and so addictive.

We let LG and LN take charge of the ordering.  LG because she's Ethiopian so she's the expert.  LN because, well, she's been to Cafe Colucci so many times that she probably knows the menu inside out.

As I was not a part of the selection process, I can only guess at what we ate that night by pouring over the online menu after the fact.

Two platters were brought to us.  The first came with the veggie combo, one chicken, and one beef:

The veggie combo came with azifa (lentils), buticha (chickpeas), messer wot (spicy lentils), kik-alicha (split peas), gomen (collard greens), and ata-kilt (cabbage, carrots, and potatoes).  The chicken entree was the doro tibs or marinated chicken sauteed with onions, jalapeno, garlic, and tomato.  The beef entree was the sega tibs, prepared very much the same way as the chicken with the addition of rosemary.

Our second platter came with two lambs and a shrimp:

The shrimp tibs was made just like the other two tibs.  The two lamb dishes were the begue wot (lamb cubes and shank) and the begue alich fitfit (bone-in lamb).

We rotated the platters around so that everyone could try everything.  You can tell how well our parents have trained us from how no meat was left at the end of the meal.  Only veggies.  Lots of veggies.  I could hear my father's voice in my head, "Eat the expensive stuff and leave the rest if you must!"

We all left Cafe Colucci in pain.  From eating too much and laughing too hard.

Love the food, especially how the meat dishes come on a sizzling plate and are scraped onto the large platter tableside.  Love the laid back ambiance.  

Miss you, LN!  You should come back...permanently.  Really.  Move back.  We need you here.

On a totally unrelated note, I'm off on my two-week Europe whirlwind adventure tomorrow with T, AF, and my sister. The next time you hear from me, I'll be blogging about croissants and shepherd's pie.  Woot!  Until next time!

Cafe Colucci
6427 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 601-7999

South Bay: Marina Supermarket

I saw pictures of my parents on Facebook eating a really yummy-looking Taiwanese breakfast, so I kicked up a fuss until they promised to take me.

Who knew good breakfast could be found at Marina Supermarket:

Head straight to the hot food section:

Get in line, point at what you want, and voila!:

The lady behind the counter asked my mom if she wanted the large soy milk or the small one.  My mom scoffed at the small size, laughing at how tiny it was.  We should have suspected something was off when the lady's eyes almost bugged out once she verified that my mom did indeed just order three large soy milks.

Soy milk is delicious hot.  An added benefit is that you can add as much sugar as you like:

We ended up sharing one between the three of us.  Oh, mother.

The most basic Taiwanese breakfast consists of soy milk, you tiao (fried doughnut), and shao bing (a type of sesame flatbread):

The right way to eat shao bing you tiao is to make it into a sandwich:

Oh man, oh man.  Fresh fried you tiao is the best.  The shao bing at Marina was flaky and warm and wonderful.

If you have leftover you tiao you can dip it into your soy milk.  Some people like it, some people don't.  I vary depending on my mood.

Another traditional Taiwanese breakfast item is the fan tuan or as I like to call it, the rice burrito:

The glutinous rice is usually filled with you tiao, pork sung, and pickled veggies:

According to my mom, this one wasn't all that good.

I was really curious about this little thing, so I ordered one even though it cost $1.99:

Basically a pork bun in the flaky shell:

Good, but not exactly life changing.

Go to Marina if you want to try a no nonsense Taiwanese breakfast.  Bypass everything else and get the holy trinity: hot soy milk, you tiao, and shao bing.

Unless you're a soy milk beast, I would advise you order a small.

Silly mom.

Marina Supermarket
Fremont Time Square Shopping Center
46196 Warm Springs Blvd
(510) 249-9199

Thursday, May 16, 2013

San Francisco: Mr. Pollo

On May 1st, my coworkers and I proudly represented our organization at the May Day march in San Francisco in support of comprehensive immigration reform.  We marched all the way from 24th and Mission to the Civic Center.  It was a lot of fun and I ended up with the most awkward tan ever.  Ugh.

Anyway, instead of heading back home to San Jose, I decided to stay the night in SF with T.  After the rally at the Civic Center, T picked me up for dinner at Mr. Pollo:

With only four tables, Mr. Pollo's already tiny space is taken up by it's open kitchen:

With only two people manning the entire restaurant, it's no surprise the restaurant is so small.

Mr. Pollo offers a prix fixe menu that changes daily.  $20 per person for four dishes.  You don't know what's on the menu until it's placed before you and the server rattles off the ingredients of each dish.

I...couldn't remember half of what our server said right after he said it.  So forgive me as I try to reconstruct each dish to the best of my memory.

First was the soup.  A chilled watermelon puree with cucumber, Thai basil, and creme fraiche:

It sounded really interesting and it tasted interesting too.  It could have been so refreshing, but there was just something a little...weird...about the basil and watermelon combination.

Next came the salad.  It was a green papaya salad with carne asada, manga, and pumpkin seeds:

Also interesting, but a little too salty for me.  The toasted pumpkin seeds were a little strange too.  I felt like I should have spit out the shell (but I was too lazy to).

There's one thing that's not on the prix fixe menu.  For an additional $8, you can split an arepa with a friend:

The arepa was the best thing we had that night.  The chicken filling was super flavorful while the grilled shell was crispy and delicious.  I would've been happy with just the arepa.

The entree was an egg with salmon, grilled eggplant, and wasabi:

Kinda of anticlimactic for a main.

The dessert was a chocolate mousse with candied blood orange and raspberries:

A nice end to the meal.

At the end of the day, we weren't that impressed with Mr. Pollo.  We really wanted to be, but alas.  Love the atmosphere though.  And the arepa.

And immigration reform.

Mr. Pollo
2823 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(860) 912-9168

South Bay: BK Bistro

After work one day, my parents took me to BK Bistro:

Apparently my parents make it a habit to check out all sorts of restaurants while I'm slaving away at work.  Only when they have a craving for a particular restaurant do they deign to take me along.

Thanks, mom and dad.

Anyway, according to my parents, BK Bistro is quite popular at lunchtime, but the dinner crowd is a bit sparse:

BK Bistro serves dim sum all day.  You get a paper menu and mark down what you want.  We skipped the dim sum and went for the dishes.

I requested the fried fish filet:

I think each piece of fish was about $1.  That's ridiculous.  No matter how deliciously fried they are.

I swear, my parents are obsessed with pan fried noodles:

I prefer chow fun myself:

My parents wanted me to try two things.  These little daikon pastries were one:

They looked like flaky little cocoons and were filled with daikon:

The other was this sweet cake layered with salted duck egg yolk custard:

I really enjoyed the daikon pastries.  The cake, not so much.  Salted duck egg yolk is so not my think.  Something about that powdery texture just puts me off.  It's pretty though.

Not bad, BK Bistro.  I would be interested in coming back to try your dim sum.

Now if only my parents would remember to take me to more places...

BK Bistro
3113 Stevenson Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 770-8818

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SF Peninsula: Crepevine

After a wild afternoon of playing laser tag in the hallowed halls of Stanford (and around the Rodin sculpture garden) in celebration of CL's birthday, AF, T, and I stopped by Burlingame for dinner.

We walked up and down the street before settling on Crepevine:

The place was overflowing with families:

We got in line and perused the menu before placing our order at the front counter.

We got the Santa Fe crepe with house potatoes:

This crepe came with grilled chicken apple sausage, scrambled eggs, green onions, provolone, and salsa fresca.

Our second crepe was the Bombay, which I demanded come with french fries:

The crepe came stuffed with sauteed chicken breast, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions in curry sauce.

While we were still waiting in line, we all saw a majestic salad pass by.  It looked so good that we then and there agreed to add a Bangkok salad:

I know what you're all thinking.  Salad?  Me?  Even I was shocked.  But it looked that good.

The salad came with ginger curry marinated grilled chicken, red onion, mint, cilantro, roasted peanuts, and spicy lemongrass vinaigrette.  I was most excited about the vinaigrette, but I was tragically let down.  Not only was it not spicy, I couldn't detect any trace of lemongrass.  Boo.

Nothing spectacular at Crepevine, but nothing really to complain about either (besides the missing lemongrass in the lemongrass vinaigrette).  Quick service, decent prices, and good food.  That's what you can expect.

A huge thank you to CL for introducing me to the fun of laser tag.  I love how serious people quickly got about the game (including me...I think I thought I was filming an action film).  I told my sister all about how we could rent laser tag guns and she's already planning her own laser tag birthday.

Happy belated, CL!

1310 Burlingame Ave
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 344-1310

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SF Peninsula: Ramen Dojo

One of T's favorite stories is how she went to Ramen Dojo with her cousin only to be told "No ramen for T" after waiting for a good while.  The disgruntled look on her face every time she tells this story makes it totally worth the gazillion times I've had to listen to it.

T was going to get her ramen if it was the last thing she ever did.  Slightly frightened by her ferocity, AF and I really had no choice but to say yes when T "suggested" we stop by Ramen Dojo before meeting up with CL and her friends to celebrate CL's birthday.

The original plan was to get to Ramen Dojo about an hour before it opens at 11:30am.  Hah.  Instead, we got there about 20 minutes before and the line was already ridiculous. 

We waited patiently until the door finally opened and people started filing in.  Our excitement built as the guy right in front of us in line stepped out because his friend hadn't shown up yet (make sure your party is complete, people!)...only to be shattered when we reached the threshold and the hostess let in the party BEHIND us.  Because the last available table was for two.  Not three.


It's all T's fault.  Ramen Dojo hates her.  That's the only reasonable explanation.  

So for the next 30 minutes, we glared hatefully at the front door:

Though the restaurant is small (tiny, really), ramen doesn't take very long to assemble or to eat.  Thank God.  Before we knew it, we were inside:

There aren't that many options to choose from.  There are three soup bases: soy sauce, garlic pork, and soy bean.  You decide whether you want it spicy or not.  Then you figure out if you want to add any extra toppings.

All three of us went with the garlic pork broth and skipped on the extras:

The only difference is that we each chose varying degrees of spiciness.  No spicy for me, please.  The basic bowl of ramen comes with two pieces of roasted pork, fried whole garlic, kikurage mushroom, green chives, one quail egg, and chicken gravy (ground chicken, chopped shittake mushroom, and chopped ginger).

Delicious.  I'm no ramen connoisseur.  To be really honest, all ramen taste kind of the same to me after a while.  I care most of all about the egg.  Quail eggs are cute, but Orenchi's onsen egg is still the best.

The most important question of the day was whether T was finally satisfied.  Unfortunately, it seems like her Ramen Dojo experience was rather anticlimactic for her.  I think she had more fun waiting in line (and complaining about how much Ramen Dojo hates her) than actually eating.

I kind of agree.

Ramen Dojo
805 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 401-6568

San Francisco: Super Duper Burgers

At my supervisor's urging, my friends and I booked tickets for Stuck Elevator at the American Conservatory Theater.  To kill time before the show, T and I did some shopping.  We walked down to Jeremy's and back before stopping for a quick bite to eat at Super Duper Burgers on Market:

Place your order, get a buzzer, wait for your food, then find a table to eat at:

The two of us split a cookies and cream shake:

Garlic fries:

And a super burger:

Pretty basic, nothing too crazy:

Not a bad burger, but not exactly cheap either.  For sure a good place to grab a fast meal (but not fast food) when you find yourself downtown on a weekend.

Stuck Elevator had a great message behind the story.  It's a musical about an undocumented Chinese immigrant who was stuck in an elevator for 81 hours because he was too afraid of being deported to seek help.  The craziest part is that the show is based on a true story.

Check it out if you're interested in immigration issues.  Expect awesome voices, but prepare yourself for some awkward Chinese and some even more awkward lyrics.

Super Duper Burgers
721 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 538-3437

Saturday, May 11, 2013

San Francisco: Good Luck Dim Sum

Looking for a quick dim sum fix?  Head on over to Good Luck Dim Sum:

There was a little line when T and I arrived:

Which quickly grew to a big line after we ordered.

If you know what you want, good for you.  For indecisive people like us, grab a paper menu and a pen and circle away:

We may have gone a little overboard with the ordering:

We got taro puffs, turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings, pork siu mai, and chive dumplings.

As if that wasn't enough, we also got a sweet rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaves:

Don't expect attentive service at Good Luck Dim Sum, but the dim sum is decent (when fresh) as are the prices.  Make sure to bring cash!

Most of the dim sum options come in sets of three.  AF was originally going to come with us, but she ditched us last minute.  Because of that, T and I ended up with what was supposed to be AF's portion left over: one siu mai, one shrimp dumpling, one turnip cake, one chive dumpling, one taro puff, and a fat lot of rice and chicken.

T and I crammed what we could into our stomachs, but ultimately had to give up.

Learn from our mistake and drag your third friend kicking and screaming if you have to.

Good Luck Dim Sum
736 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 386-3388

Friday, May 10, 2013

San Francisco: Pollo Campero

My coworkers talked so much about Pollo Campero and how good it is that I forced T to schedule it in:

According to my sources (aka my coworker), Pollo Campero is a Central American fried chicken chain that started in Guatemala.  You know it's legit when they have a bouncer outside.

Then again, it is the Mission.

Anyway, the bouncer kindly let us through the door (which looked more like a side door than the front door) and we found ourselves in a long hallway at the back of an equally long line:

The wait wasn't bad at all.  Before we knew it, we were inside...and the only Asians in the sight:

Apparently we had complimentary chips and salsa:

I don't remember them because what came next completely occupied my very limited attention span.

The family meal came with tortillas and dinner rolls:

And a choice of two sides.  Our server recommended the mashed potatoes:

The way he waxed poetic about it, we thought it was going to be out of this world amazing.  Instead it reminded me of KFC mashed potatoes.  Not bad, but rather meh.

For our second side, we went with the sweet plantains:

Definitely a step up from the mashed potatoes.

What stole the show, however, was the fried chicken:

OMYGAWD THE FRIED CHICKEN.  We ordered eight pieces for the three of us.  I was tricked into eating an extra piece, but it hurt so good.

Out of curiosity, we tried an empanada:

There were three to choose from.  We decided on the spicy chicken, which consisted of chicken, green tomatillo salsa, Monterrey jack cheese, and cilantro:

Forget everything else.  Get the chicken.  GET IT FRIED.  You won't regret it.  Even when you eat so much that you're going to die.

Trust me.  It's a good way to go.

Pollo Campero
2740 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 401-8226
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