Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oakland: Vien Huong

With only an one hour lunch break, eating out for lunch on a workday can be pretty tricky.  My options are limited to places that I can walk to from my office at noon, eat, and get back by 1:00pm.  This means that any place with a long wait doesn't fit the bill.

Which is why the first time I tried to meet VN at Vien Huong, we had to make a U turn and find somewhere else to eat.  There was a line out the door and that simply wouldn't do.  But we really wanted to try it, so we gave it a second chance:




















This time I made sure to leave my office a bit before noon.  Vien Huong was already busy by the time I got there, but there were still a couple tables left for VN and I to squeeze in before the real lunch crush started:




















There's a big fuss on Yelp about the Chow Jew ho fun (#21), so of course I had to order it:




















VN ordered the same thing.

Thick rice noodles, clean broth, and a generous amount of meat.  All for $7.  My favorite was the kidney.  Mmm...so good.  How many noodle soups can you find in the Bay Area with kidney in them?  The answer is not that many.

No nonsense food.  No nonsense service.  No nonsense price.  Get your butt down there for your next lunch break!


Vien Huong
712 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 465-5938

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

San Francisco: R&G Lounge

The Lost Weekend came to a close at R&G Lounge:




























We didn't really plan to end up there, but we were wandering around Chinatown, it was dinnertime, and we didn't know where else to go.  Shows how well we know SF.

Anyway, it was a Sunday night, so of course the wait was monstrous.  We must have waited about an hour before we were led downstairs:




















The whole reason why we went to R&G was this:




























The salt and pepper crab is R&G's signature dish.  It's market price, so expect to pay around $30.  Yes, it's quite steep for one crab, but it's really fried to perfection.  I'm usually too lazy to crack my own crab, but for R&G, I make an exception.

We felt kind of embarrassed to only order one crab (even though that's really all that we wanted), so we tacked on the honey spareribs ($15):




















And the braised e-fu noodles with pork, mushrooms, and chives ($12):




















 As well as the eggplant and salted fish in a clay pot ($15):




















A lot of extra stuff for one crab, eh?

At the end of the meal, we were brought a complimentary red bean jelly for dessert:




























In my opinion, R&G is overpriced.  The food is good (and very salty), no doubt about it.  But you can get equally good Chinese food elsewhere for much cheaper.  The only thing that makes R&G Lounge worth the trip is the crab.  Again, no cheap, but it's that good. 

Now that I think about it, it's not even the crab itself that's delicious.  It's the fried batter.  The fried crack batter.  I wouldn't mind cleaning off all the fried goodness and leaving the crab behind.

Now that The Lost Weekend is all properly accounted for, I am finally all caught up.

Not.

Ugh...I have about five months worth of posts to catch up on and I want to accomplish that before my trip to Southeast Asia in January (more on that later).  I'm so screwed.


R&G Lounge
631 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 982-7877
http://rnglounge.com/

Berkeley: La Note

On the final day of The Lost Weekend, CL, AF, T, and I headed cross the Bay to watch Chinglish at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.  The play is about an American businessman trying to make it in China and the cultural awakening he experiences there.  Witty, funny, some pretty bad Chinese, and an overall good time.  Thanks, Awkward B for inviting us!

Before we were due at the theatre, we stopped by La Note for brunch:




















As usual, the wait on a Sunday morning was pretty brutal, but we toughed it out and eventually made our way in:




















La Note was one of my favorite haunts back when I was in undergrad.  Anyone who knows of my love for potatoes knows that I've always considered La Note to have the BEST HOME FRIES IN THE WORLD.  Every time I have home fries, I compare it to La Note.

Or at least what I remember the home fries at La Note to taste like.  It'd been so long since I'd gone back that I was starting to wonder if the La Note home fries in my head was just an exaggerated fond memory.  This visit was meant to test that theory.

The four of us each picked an entree and we shared everything by rotating plates.

I ordered the cote ouest or three egg omelette with ratatouille ($12.50):




















It of course came with home fries and toast.  La Note's raspberry jam is just ridiculous.  The best way to eat toast there is to slather it with a layer of butter and then a layer of jam.  You can also do the same thing with the home fries.  Yea.  Don't knock it until you've tried it.

AF went with the omelette fromage et jambon ($12.95) or emmenthal cheese and ham omelette:




















While CL decided on the cote sud or two eggs sunny side up with spicy merguez sausage ($12.95):




























To break up all the savoriness, T chose the brioche pain perdu ($11.95):




















So were the home fries really as spectacular as I remembered?  Yes and no.

The potential was there, but the execution wasn't quite perfect...this time.  The home fries were still garlic-y (love the whole cloves!) and fragrant with rosemary, but they would have been infinitely better if they had been allowed to form a crispy crust.  I could taste hints of the home fries of my dreams, but they fell slightly short. 

Well, you can't be perfect all the time.  We all have our off days.

So let me amend my previous statement.  The home fries at La Note are the best in the world...when done right.  Yes, I was slightly disappointed, but home fries aside, La Note offers much more to tempt people back through its doors.  It is probably one of the least pretentious French restaurants you'll ever find, the atmosphere is quaint and friendly, and the food is just solid.

You haven't lost me, La Note!  I'm still a believer!


La Note
2377 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 843-1535
http://www.lanoterestaurant.com/

Saturday, October 26, 2013

San Francisco: Lavash

For her birthday last year (yes, last year...that's how long ago The Lost Weekend took place), VN wanted to have dinner at Lavash:




















It was really hard to find parking in the area and we ended up taking a chance on a stretch of curb across the street from the restaurant that may or may not have been painted red.  I tried taking a flash photo of the curb to see what color it was, but the results were inconclusive.

Luckily, we were seated by the window so we could keep a eye out for meter maids and tow trucks.

Lavash was quiet when we first arrived, but it quickly filled up:




















There were four of us celebrating VN's birthday.  We started with the complimentary plate of lavash bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and fresh herbs:




















Which went perfectly with the kashk-e bademjan or roasted eggplant drizzled with sundried yogurt, sauteed onion, roasted garlic, mint flakes, and saffron ($6.50):




























We decided to go with two entrees.  To try a bit of everything, we ordered the "Taste of Persia" ($38.95), which was meant to be for two people.  It consisted of a skewer of barg (fillet of beef with saffron seasoning), a skewer of joojeh (chicken marinated in lime, olive oil, and saffron seasoning), a skewer of koobideh (mixed ground beef and lamb with saffron seasoning), and a skewer of veggies:




















Persians apparently love saffron.

We were told that the fesenjan or chicken with ground walnut in a pomegranate sauce ($17.95) was very popular, so we went with that as our second entree:




















So.  Good.  The sauce was sour and sweet and I could just eat it all day.

Each entree came with a plate of Basmati rice:




















Celebrating an awesome friend makes any night a great night, but the food at Lavash was definitely a most welcome bonus.  Especially the pomegranate crack sauce.

Happy belated birthday, VN!  I'm a sucky friend.  Both for forgetting to post about your birthday dinner from a year ago...and for not wishing you a happy birthday this year until a few days after your actual birthday. 

...

I'm sorry.  I'll make it up to you.  Really!

...But with something that doesn't involve exercise.  (I have to draw the line somewhere, right?)


Lavash
511 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 664-5555
http://lavashsf.com/

Monday, October 21, 2013

San Francisco: Mr. & Mrs. Miscelllaneous

As part of her quest to try all the major ice cream shops in the City, TT dragged me onto Muni and down to the Dogpatch for Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous:




























If you can't find the place, you need to get your eyes checked.  Yes, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere, but that sign is HUGE.

As is the line:




















Nothing fancy about Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous except for its ice cream.  All the flavors sounded fabulous, which made it so difficult to choose.  Just listen to the options we had that day: brown butter, mascarpone, black sesame, basil, almond butter with toffee, to name a few.

We finally went with a scoop of the English black tea and a scoop of the coconut cream:




























So.  Good. 

If only Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous isn't so out of the way.  Then again, its location doesn't seem to deter any of its customers if its line is anything to judge by.  Good ice cream is all the motivation people need.

Which is why I can totally see myself going back again.

(Omygawd, I just looked at their FB page and saw a picture of their flavor board from early September listing BLACK LYCHEE TEA.  What?!  Where the hell was I when this miraculous thing happened?!)


Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous
699 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 970-0750

Saturday, October 19, 2013

San Francisco: Outerlands

Remember the brunch place I was searching for that led to my discovery of The Lost Weekend?  Well, this is it:




















T and I walked across Golden Gate Park despite posted warnings of coyote sightings just to meet AF at Outerlands for brunch that Saturday morning.  The line was atrocious.  To spare ourselves an even longer wait, we braved the cold and took the offer for a table outside.

To combat the San Francisco autumn chill (yes, this happened a year ago), we started off with the grilled cheese sandwich with soup combo ($11):




























Seared on a cast iron skillet, the bread was thick and crunchy and oozing with cheese.  The parsnip soup was thick and creamy and sweet, but with a slightly bitter surprise whenever we spooned up a chicory leaf. 

In hindsight, sandwiches aren't the easiest to share among three people, but that seemed to be the theme of the morning.  On top of the grilled cheese sandwich, we also ordered the heirloom tomato open faced sandwich ($11):




















It came with roasted eggplant and garlic spread, basil, sherry vinegar, and crescenza cheese along with a side of greens.

We also ordered the top sirloin roast beef sandwich with cucumber pickles, horseradish creme fraiche, red onion, and cress ($12.50):




















It too came with a side of greens.

Out of all three sandwiches, the grilled cheese was my favorite.  Especially dipped in the parsnip soup.  The bread at Outerlands is made in-house.  It's dense and chewy with a crunchy crust and cut in thick, generous slices.  Awesome to eat, but not easy to cut (thanks to the crust).

Even though we were at Outerlands for brunch, we didn't technically get it.  Brunch at Outerlands is only on Sundays.  If you arrive on a Saturday as we did, you get the lunch menu.  Which is good, don't get me wrong, but we really wanted to try the eggs in jail and the dutch pancake. 

Guess we'll just have to make another trip!


Outerlands
4001 Judah St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-6140
http://outerlandssf.com/

Thursday, October 10, 2013

San Francisco: Akiba

The Lost Weekend continues!

As usual, we couldn't end the night with dinner.  Oh, no.  Of course we had to get dessert.  A quick Yelp search later, we found ourselves at Akiba:




















The minute we stepped inside we started to get weird vibes:




















Anime posters on the wall?  Fine.  Princess Mononoke showing on the TV?  Love it.  Servers in maid costumes with kitty ears?

...

Wait, what?

MAID COSTUMES AND KITTY EARS? 

Now, I've heard of maid cafes in Japan, but here in the Bay?  Kinda awkward if you ask me.

Anyway, everything in the cafe was borderline cutesy or just flat out sickeningly cute.  The cups were heart shaped.  Enough said.

Rather at a loss, we floundered a bit when it came time to order.  We ended up getting a simple pearl tea:




























And the Shibuya style honey box:




























Here it is partially demolished:




























We got to choose what flavors we wanted for our two scoops of gelato.  I remember being adamant about getting lychee for one of them, but I don't remember what the other flavor was.

To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed by either the pearl tea or the honey toast.  There's much better pearl tea in the City and as for honey toast, it will be really difficult to top the one I had in Thailand

Sorry Akiba.  Loved Princess Mononoke, but everything else kinda just made me feel uncomfortable and the food wasn't nearly good enough to make up for that discomfort. 


Akiba
3141 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 692-4556
http://www.akiba-sf.com/

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

San Francisco: Koo

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  My only excuse is...quite a good one actually.  My laptop, Toshibaba, finally decided to give out on me.  She was on her last leg for a while now, so I'm more surprised by the fact that she lasted as long as she did. 

Long story short, I'm now laptop-less and have to make do with stealing computer time on my father's desktop.

Available computer time is also cut short by the start of the new season of The Voice.  Heh.  Priorities.

All excuses aside, I'm back with a new post.  Unfortunately, rather than moving forward as I wanted to, I actually have to go back in time.  Again.  A while back, Queen G asked me for some brunch recommendations in the City.  I thought of a place I went to last fall and did a quick search on my blog (yes, on my own blog), only to discover that - gasp - I'd never posted about it. 

Wut.

A bit more searching revealed that I forgot to post about an entire weekend in San Francisco.  Unforgivable.

I now bring you a post from what I'm calling "The Lost Weekend", starting with Koo:




















After work, I zipped on over across the Bay and met up with AF and T for dinner.

The place was pretty busy:




















The three of us decided to split an order of fried calamari:




















The calamari at Koo was corn breaded and served with corn verde salsa.  Quite interesting.

We also split three rolls.  With a name like Best Roll, we really had no choice but to give it a try:




























It included tempura asparagus and avocado and was topped with salmon and thin slices of lemon.

The Tokyo Crunch came with spicy tenkasu, hamachi, unagi, cucumber, and wasabi tobiko:




















 For the life of me, I can't remember what the hell this roll was:




























Two out of three isn't bad, right?  Right.

I do remember being satisfied with the meal though.  The ingredients were fresh, the rolls weren't boring, the service was attentive, and the price was pretty reasonable.  I wouldn't go out of my way to go back, but I certainly wouldn't mind a second visit.


Koo
408 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 731-7077
http://www.sushikoo.com/

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stockton: El Grullito

I have some unfinished business from pre-Europe...so it looks like I won't be clearing up my backlog anytime soon.  Not like that's surprising to any of you.

The delusion was nice while it lasted.

Anyway, the day we left for Europe was also the day of T's graduation from pharm school.  My parents and I picked up T's parents early in the morning and drove over an hour to get to Stockton in time to get a good seat at the ceremony.  T and I basically headed straight to the airport after her graduation ended.

We did make one pit stop though.  As incentive to go to her graduation, T promised to take me to get tripe tacos from El Grullito after her graduation reception:
















I'd heard T talk about those tripe tacos for so long that I was afraid that my expectations had blown out of proportion.

They hadn't.

My parents and I split three tacos.  One with lengua, one with carne asada, and of course, one with tripe:
















All the tacos were good, but the tripe taco was AH-MAY-ZING.  The tripe was lightly fried and SO DAMN DELICIOUS.  I could have eaten a dozen by myself.

El Grullito really needs to relocate to the South Bay.  I need to satisfy my tripe taco fix regularly and Stockton is just too far.

Best graduation meal ever.  Congrats again T on surviving pharm school!


El Grullito
Lowe's Parking Lot
Hammer Ln & Holman Rd
Stockton, CA 95212
(209) 688-7196

United Kingdom: Est Caffe

I'm finally at the end!  Over months after I came back from Europe, I'm finally writing my last post from that trip.  

Wow.  I'm so behind.

Okay, let's move on before I start depressing myself with all the post-Europe posts I need to catch up on.

T and I left Portugal long before the sun rose in the sky.  We stopped at Heathrow Airport in London just long enough to grab lunch at Est Caffe: 
















It wasn't a decision we made lightly.  T and I must have walked up and down that stupid terminal three times before we finally put our big girl pants on and picked a place.

The reason why we chose Est Caffe was because we didn't want to eat anything too heavy.  I think T was a little taken aback by my quick agreement to ordering a salad:
















The insalata di spinaci (9.95 €) consisted of baby spinach, roasted sweet peppers, grilled artichokes, grilled mushrooms, baby gem leaves, tomato, and avocado drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts and marinated olives.

For something a bit more filling, we added a mozzarella e prosciutto focaccia sandwich (8.25 €):
















After eating so much rich food during our two weeks in Europe, it was nice to just...have a salad.

Can't say it was the best salad or the best sandwich I ever had, but it wasn't bad.  Not bad at all.

So ended my grand European adventure.  Four countries in two weeks, mouthwatering food experiences, and countless, countless memories.  Travel plans are already in the works for next year, but in the meantime...gotta catch up!


Est Caffe
Heathrow Airport
Terminal 1
London, UK
+44 (0)20 8897 1278
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