Sunday, October 26, 2014

South Bay: OK Noodle

My parents and sister went to OK Noodle one day for lunch while I was at work.  When they came back raving about how great the noodles were, I threw a fit.  I demanded that they go again...with me this time.

I made sure to make it happen:

We got there really early for dinner, so the restaurant was mostly empty:

OK Noodle serves Northwestern Chinese cuisine, which is known for its lamb and noodles.  I wanted to try just about everything, so I went a little crazy and ordered way too many dishes for four people.  Talk about noodle overload.

There was the cold noodle ($8.25):

It came topped with slivers of ham and cucumber.  Very cool and refreshing.

As if one cold noodle dish wasn't enough, we also got the liang pi ($5.99):

Compared to the first cold noodle, the noodles in the liang pi were chewier and less dough-y.  The cucumbers were a perfect compliment to the sauce, which was tangy and had a slight kick to them.

My sister recommended the haggis soup ($5.99):

It's exactly what it sounds like.  Soup made with lamb innards:

If you don't like offal, this is not the soup for you.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed it quite a lot.  The soup itself was super flavorful.

The star of the show was definitely the big plate lamb ($12.99):

It comes with belt noodles, which are super wide (like a belt!) and are poured on once it gets to your table:

The big plate was filled with tender lamb chunks, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes.  Good even without the noodles, but the noodles are what takes it to the next level.  The belt noodles were so good, the texture so perfectly Q, that we asked for an extra order of noodles.  Do that.  You'll thank me.

Because we can never have enough lamb, we added lamb noodles ($10.99):

While good, it paled in comparison to the big plate lamb.

I've been to OK Noodle a few times since my first visit and I've ordered the big plate lamb every single time.  I've also tried some of the other dishes.  The cumin lamb fried scone (think sliced spongy scones stir fried with loads of cumin) and the ding ding chow mein (noodles cut into tiny segments in a tomato-y sauce) are both delicious.

If you're a noodle fanatic, if you love fresh, handmade noodle, get in your car and get yourself to OK Noodle right now.

Just make sure you stop by the ATM first, because OK Noodle is cash only.

OK Noodle
5492 Central Ave
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 818-9928

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

South Bay: Shalimar Restaurant

When my dad's cousin's kids (yup, still can't figure out all that second cousin twice removed crap) invited my sister and I to late night pearl tea at Gong Cha in Fremont, our first and foremost concern was finding a place to have dinner in the vicinity.

I happened to be working from my org's Fremont branch that day, so my sister picked me up from the office and then drove us to Shalimar, which is just around the corner:

Don't wait to be seated.  Pick your own table and make a note of what number it is:

Then go up to the counter to place your order.  They're going to ask you for your table number.  After you've paid, sit back down at your table and wait.  The food will be brought out to you.  Enjoy some complimentary chai in the meantime.  Your food will arrive before you know it.

We were almost giddy about Shalimar because of this:

Brain masala ($8.95):

Yes.  Brain.  Lamb brain, to be exact.  Cooked with butter, onions, tomatoes, and a bunch of awesome spices.  So creamy, so delicious.  You have to try it.

Just avoid eating it in the presence of a doctor or a doctor-to-be.  My sister, who is currently applying for med school, couldn't stop trying to identify the chunks of brain.  Though I suppose hearing someone exclaim "braaaaaaains!" before every other bite could get annoying real fast too.  (And yes, that would be me.)

To add some healthiness to our meal, we also ordered a palak paneer ($6.95):

Spinach and cheese.  So healthy.

My sister prefers rice over naan, so we ordered a side of Shalimar chawal ($2):

Which is basically basmati rice with a hint of saffron.

I, on the other hand, will always choose naan.  I decided to splurge a bit and get the garlic one ($2.50):

There are a couple reviews on Yelp that talk about rude service.  While you won't get the warmest of greetings, I wouldn't exactly call them rude.  All it takes is a smile to soften up the guy at the counter.

My sister and I are now hooked on brain masala.  We love Shalimar.  There's nothing pretentious about it.  Just good, good food without any frills.  We've been back a few times now and the food is always awesome.  Not to mention the price is reasonable and the chai is free and never-ending.  The portions may look small, but it's just enough.

Make sure to bring cash though.  And though Yelp says it's open basically all day, Shalimar does close between 3:30 to 5:30.  We learned that the hard way when we showed up last Saturday after a long day working a naturalization workshop only to find it closed.

Spare yourself the pain.

Shalimar Restaurant
3325 Walnut Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 494-1919

Thursday, October 16, 2014

South Bay: Ten Ren

It's impossible to recover from a hiking expedition without some pearl tea.  After our lunch buffet at Red Chillies, we headed over to Ten Ren:

I ordered a mango ice teazer ($3.75), T got starfruit tea with grass jelly, we ordered a regular milk tea with pearls for my mother waiting at home ($2.75), and my sister got herself a milk jasmine green tea with pearls ($2.75):

My mango was good, but that's hard to mess up.  Ten Ren is known for its good quality tea.  No powder crap here.  While the milk teas were all solid, the starfruit tea was downright nasty.  Blech.  Not my cup of tea.

Heh.  See what I did there?

Ten Ren
1732 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 946-1118

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

South Bay: Red Chillies

The first time we attempted Alviso Marina County Park, we had no idea what we were getting into.  We kept thinking there would be a shortcut somewhere, but when we realized that the park was essentially one gigantic loop (of unknown length), we called a halt and turned back before we reached the point of no return.

We retreated to Red Chillies to lick our wounds:

And to stuff our bellies.  We figured we'd hiked enough to justify an Indian buffet.

My sister has her favorite Indian buffet in Baltimore.  She's on a quest to find an equivalent in the Bay.  She read about Red Chillies' Sunday lunch buffet on Yelp.

The first thing we noticed when we entered the restaurant was the buffet spread:

As well as the fact that we were the only non-Indians in the place.  A good sign.

There was a lot to choose from, so I got a bit of almost everything:

I think the only dishes I skipped were the ones on the kiddie table.  Yes, there was a kiddie table.

There was also quite an extensive dessert section:

There was a carton of ice cream resting in a bucket of ice.  We expected some kind of exotic flavor, but it turned out to be vanilla with chocolate swirl.  Which made us laugh.

Red Chillies is known for its Kerala cuisine.  While I can't explain what Kerala cuisine actually is, I can tell you that it doesn't include naan.  So if you believe that an Indian meal is incomplete without fresh, buttery naan, Red Chillies is not the place for you.  But if you love rice and/or papadum, head on over.

At over $10 a person, Red Chillies isn't the cheapest Indian buffet in town, but it's pretty legit.

Red Chillies
167 S Main St
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 418-4778

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

South Bay: 85°C Bakery Cafe

My dad's cousin's son (those of you who understand all the second cousin twice removed stuff, please tell me what I should call him) is some kind of manager at 85°C.  The 85°C branch in San Jose opened not too long ago.  We found out that my dad's cousin's son (seriously, what is he?) was working the late shift one night, so we went down there to take advantage of the two $10 gift cards he gave us previously.

Our immediate reaction upon arrival was something along the lines of "Damn, that's big":

That is, until we went inside and realized that most of the space was taken up by tables and a giant counter.  The actual bread section was small and prone to clogging with 85°C bread enthusiasts.

We picked a bunch of bread to gift to a family friend and then ordered two drinks for ourselves.  We asked our 85°C insider for a recommendation and he told us to try the Lemon°C.  Apparently it's lemon tea with an entire lemon sliced into it.  Just to cover the basics, we also ordered a milk tea with pearls:

The milk tea was forgettable, but the pearls were BOMB.  Perfect texture, perfectly sweetened.  We couldn't stop talking about how great they were.  When we told our findings to my dad's cousin's son, he laughed and said that the pearls at 85°C are hit or miss.  Apparently we went on a good night.  Lucky us.

The Lemon°C, however, we were not fond of.  We felt that the whole lemon, while cute in concept, was ultimately a waste of space.  Between the entire freakin' lemon and all the ice, the actual amount of liquid in the cup was much less than it should have been.  Also, the lemon made the tea slightly bitter, which was unpleasant.

I still don't get the big hype about 85°C.  The idea of people lining up for two hours just to get some bread when the store first opened boggles my mind.

It's good, but it's not THAT good.  Sorry, dad's cousin's son.  We certainly wouldn't turn down another gift card though.  Heh.

85°C Bakery Cafe
1183 S De Anza Blvd #10
San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 252-7885

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Berkeley: Turkish Kitchen

Back in August (yes, I'm really behind on my posts), a Chicago friend came to visit the Bay.  She was staying with her sister in Berkeley, so that's where VN, SY, and I met up with her.  Since she had more dietary restrictions, we let her pick the restaurant.  She went with Turkish Kitchen:

Turkish Kitchen didn't exist when I was a student at Cal.  That particular space used to be a Mediterranean restaurant with a blue awning, the name of which escapes me now.

They really spruced up the place.  I don't remember it being quite so fancy inside:

Yelp reviews mentioned that you had to request the complimentary bread or it wouldn't come.  Before we could even open our mouths to make the request, our server asked us if we would like some bread.  Uh, yes please?:

My cheap Chinese self warred with my desire to have mousakka again (I'd only had it once before in Chicago) and also to just say mousakka out loud.  Mousakka is such a fun word to say, isn't it?  Mousakka.  Mousakka.

Ultimately, mousakka was victorious:

It wasn't even all that expensive at $11.95.  It's just that when there are cheaper options on the menu, I feel pressured by my ancient Chinese ancestors to let frugality dictate my decisions.  Sad, I know.

Anyway, I digress.  The mousakka was brilliant.  Ground beef between mashed potatoes and eggplants and topped with bechamel sauce and cheese...what's not to love?  And the rice.  Omigawd, the rice.  Most fragrant rice ever.  I would eat the rice by itself.  Nothing else necessary.

The food at Turkish Kitchen was great, but the company was even better.  Especially when said company let you taste what they order.  I had a bite of everyone else's dishes and everything was delish.

If only Turkish Kitchen had been around when I was still at Berkeley.

Turkish Kitchen
1986 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 540-9997
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