Friday, November 28, 2014

South Bay: Claw Shack

Claw Shack opened by my house quite a while ago, but we were so loyal to Boiling Crab back then that we never bothered to give it a try.  Then we were tempted away by Kickin' Crab and the gates were busted wide open.  All of a sudden, we wanted to try all the Cajun seafood places in the area.

So to Claw Shack we went:


















The restaurant was nowhere as busy as either Boiling Crab or Kickin' Crab, which meant we were seated immediately:


















First things first.  We were brought styrofoam plates and plastic bibs:


















Like Kickin' Crab, Claw Shack offers garlic noodles ($7.99):


















The garlic noodles at Kickin' Crab had way more garlic, but the noodles at Claw Shack were cooked better.

Like Kickin' Crab, Claw Shack offers a couple combo options.  All came with two corn, two potatoes, and five pieces of Cajun sausage.  Combo 1 consists of 1 lb of crawfish and 1 lb of shrimp with the heads attached.  Combo 2 includes 1 lb of crawfish and 1 lb of shrimp without their heads attached.  The price difference is just three bucks, with the decapitated shrimp costing more.

We went with combo 1 ($26.99), but substituted  the crawfish with clams:


















My family has just never been fond of crawfish.  Lots of work for minimal payoff.  Clams are much tastier.  And the point of eating whole shrimp is to suck out the head juices, right?  So combo 1 all the way.

You can choose what type of sauce you want your seafood to come in and also how spicy.  We got the shambalang, which is a mix of all the other sauces (house, garlicky, spcial, casian, carlic-butter, lemon pepper, and Shackie's).  My family is a bit weak when it comes to spiciness, so we got mild.

T was with us and she loves to attempt to burn her tongue off.  When we joked about it with our waitress, she offered to bring T a side of Claw Shack's spiciest sauce:


















T barely flinched.  In fact, even my sister was able to eat it without feeling the burn.  Apparently Claw Shack's spiciest isn't really all that spicy.  I would't no.  I wasn't taking any chances.

For my mother, we got the clam chowder ($4.99):


















Which, unfortunately, tasted like it came out of a can.

I'm a lazy eater.  I prefer not to peel shrimp, so the seafood sampler ($14.99) was really for me:


















It included deep fried shrimp, calamari, and fish.

We'd heard a lot about Claw Shack's chicken wings, so we got a batch ($8.99), which came with eight fried wings and Cajun fries:























There are a bunch of flavors to change from.  We decided on half garlic honey and half lemon pepper.  I liked the garlic honey, but while the flavor was good, the chicken itself was rather dry.

Our conclusion at the end of the meal was that in all aspects, Claw Shacks loses to Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab.  In terms of sauce, Kickin' Crab has the most garlicky, which we love, and both Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab give much more of it than Claw Shack does.  The best fried fish still goes to Boiling Crab.  And even the Cajun fries are better at both Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab.

Sorry, Claw Shack.  Though your service was great, it looks like we won't be back.


Claw Shack
1696 Berryessa Rd
San Jose, CA 95133
(408) 649-6741
http://www.clawshack.com/

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oakland: Bay Fung Tong Tea House Restaurant

SY and VN invited me out for a belated birthday dinner in Oakland after work one day.  SY recommended Bay Fung Tong, which is conveniently located within walking distance from my office:


















I got there kind of early, but the restaurant was pretty much empty, so I was allowed to snag a table without waiting for the rest of my party:


















The place looked rather barren when I first arrived, but was completely transformed by the time I left.  Sometime in the middle of our meal, without us even noticing, the restaurant filled to the brim with people of all ages and ethnicities and buzzing with conversation and laughter.

 VN ran a bit late, so SY and I ordered.  We started off with the chicken and sweet corn soup ($6.95):


















I hadn't had deep fried sanddab ($9.95) in what felt like forever, so I requested that we order it:


















Bay Fung Tong is known for it's lobster noodles:


















It wasn't on the menu and I didn't get to see the bill, but I think it was around 20 bucks.  Not bad for lobster.

To add a healthy component to dinner, we added a plate of garlic sauce big pea leaves ($9.50):


















At the end, we each got a bowl of complimentary sweet red bean soup:


















Every single dish was solid.  No skimping on ingredients.  Even the lobster.  Service may not be the warmest or most attentive, but it's fast.  Almost unexpectedly so.  And prices are ridiculously reasonable.

Ever since the handful of three-dish-one-soup Chinese restaurants (Chinese peeps know what I'm talking about) around my house closed down, there's been a serious lack of fried sanddab in my life.  Bay Fung Tong is a bit out of the way, but I guess I can always swing back after work when the craving hits.

I will definitely be back.  Possibly even with my family in tow.

SY and VN, thank you for treating me to such great food and even better company.  And I haven't forgotten!  I still owe both of YOU belated birthday meals.  Let's make it happen!


Bat Fung Tong Tea House Restaurant
1916 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 832-3298

Friday, November 14, 2014

SF Peninsula: Taste In Mediterranean

Our old family friends live in Fremont, but are willing to go all the way to Burlingame just for Mediterranean food.  When we heard this, we were mystified.  How good can the food be to be worth the drive?  So when they invited my family to tag along, we jumped at the offer.

Taste in Mediterranean looked pretty ordinary from the outside:


















Nothing crazy inside either:


















Just place your order at the counter and wait for your food to come.  The gentleman who took our order was super friendly.  When we tried to pay, he told us to sit and relax and pay at the end of our meal.

We got a couple drinks to try.  From left to right: mango lasse with rose syrup & honey ($2.99), tropical tea and mint lemonade combo ($2.99), and regular mint lemonade ($2.75):


















The mint lemonade was the best.  No question.  Forget everything else and just get the mint lemonade.  So fresh and amazing.

All the platter came with pita bread:


















My mother ordered the lamb shawarma wrap ($8.99):


















Whereas I went with the three item combo ($9.49).  There were quite a few things to choose from.  I finally decided on babaghanouj, eggplant salad, and falafel:


















Oh my gawd. That babaghanouj.  Probably the best babaghanouj I've ever had.  And that eggplant salad.  Besides eggplant, it included garlic, bell peppers, onions, parsley, and tomatoes.  If you like eggplants, get both.  It'll change your life.

My father is a lamb addict, so getting the lamb kabob platter ($17.49) was kind of a no brainer:


















Not cheap, but certainly delicious.  That rice was especially yummy.

My sister got the kefta kabob platter ($15.99):


















The keftas were made with ground lamb and were also quite scrumptious.  But again, that rice tho.

Our family friend insisted that we save room for dessert.  She was really interested in the kanafeh:


















Which is a sweet cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup.  The warm cheese helps to temper the sweetness of the syrup.  While the first few bites are good, I can't really bring myself to eat much more than that.

A leisurely perusal of the dessert display cabinet drew our eyes to the baklava and pavlova:


















The baklava was flaky and perfect, while the pavlova reminded us of this Taiwanese nougat candy.  Or at least the texture did.  Be careful while chewing or it'll get stuck in your teeth.

While we were sitting there oohing and aahing over the desserts, the nice gentleman who took our order came by with some complimentary cake:


















He told us what it was, but we couldn't really catch what he said.  I think it might have been fig inside.  Regardless, it was good.  Not too sweet, though a bit hard to cut with a fork.

I'm now officially addicted to Taste in Mediterranean's babaghanouj.  It's kind of a problem.  I think about it all the time.  I even tried to recreate it at home, but that turned out to be a disaster.

I guess there's no way around it.  We're just going to have to make the trip to Burlingame.

Ah...now I get it.

The food is definitely worth the drive.


Taste in Mediterranean
1199 Broadway #1
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 348-3097
http://www.tasteinbroadway.com/

Saturday, November 8, 2014

South Bay: Sno-Crave Tea House

It's almost impossible now to walk into an Asian plaza without finding a snow ice store.  Sno-Crave is a chain that offers all sorts of sweets.  There's one in Milpitas:


















It's definitely designed with young peeps in mind:


















I feel really old whenever I step foot into Sno-Crave, but that hasn't stopped me yet.  It's a good place to sit and hang out with friends, but that's irrelevant.  What's important are the desserts.

My favorite there is the yogurt snow ice:























Kind of overpriced at $6.95 (then again, I'm comparing it to Taiwan prices), but if you're a fan of Yakult, you'll definitely enjoy this snow ice.  It's not uber sweet and tastes exactly like Yakult.  The ice is creamy, just the way snow ice is supposed to be.

I ordered the sweet butter toast ($3.95) and what came was completely not what I imagined:


















I guess I was expecting something like toast with condensed milk.  Instead, the toast came topped with this thick layer of sweetness:


















Think the topping on pineapple buns, but times fifty and much richer and creamier.  I don't know how else to describe it.  Definitely not bad, but not something I would be able to eat more than maybe a quarter of on my own.  Much too sweet to have without a glass of milk.

I've also been to the Sno-Crave in Fremont, which always seems super busy.  There, I've tried the mixed fruit tea ($4.95 for a regular):























Basically black tea with pieces of fruit floating around in it.  Worth almost 5 bucks?  Meh.  But tastes good though.

I also tried the green tea snow ice with red bean ($6.95):


















Very green tea-y.  Wish the red beans were a bit, well, mushier, but the texture of the snow ice was spot on, as usual.

The yogurt snow is still the best.  At least in my opinion.  Feel free to disagree.

Not sure when I'll get a chance to go back to Taiwan again.  Until then, I'll just have to make do with Sno-Crave for all my snow ice cravings.

And cry inside as I fork over the cash.


Sno-Crave Tea House
1777 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 956-9588
http://snocrave.com/

Sno-Crave Tea House
43773 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 651-8888
http://snocrave.com/

Friday, November 7, 2014

South Bay: General Pot

What's great about my mother is that whenever she finds a good restaurant, she always makes sure to take us.  Of course, she might do it out of purely selfish reasons, but hey, I benefit, so why do I care if she takes us only because she wants to eat there again and doesn't want to go alone?

I wouldn't have discovered General Pot if not for her:


















General as in military, not the adjective.

It might not look fancy, but trust me, the food is awesome:


















There's a portable stove on every table because General Pot is known for its, well, pots.  But we never order them.  I'll explain why in a bit.

My absolute most favorite dish at General Pot is this:


















Sliced beef with caraway ($6.99).  The thin beef slices are cold and well seasoned with chili oil, caraway, and cilantro.  The flavor is bright and refreshing.  I love it so much.

My sister's favorite is the bean jelly with chili sauce ($5.99):


















It's a bit of a struggle to pick up the jelly with chopsticks, but the effort is worth it.  When it finally reaches your mouth, the chili sauce has this amazing tang.  Not exactly spicy, but delicious all the same.

The crispy tofu is pretty damn good too ($8.99):


















The fried soft tofu is buried under this ground pork sauce that goes awesome with rice.

Now let me explain why we don't like to order the pots despite that being what General Pot is known for.  The only pot that we would be interested in is the spicy pig intestine one.  But it costs almost 20 bucks, not counting the add-on ingredients (e.g., noodles) you can throw in your pot for an additional cost.

You can also order the spicy pig intestine non-pot version, which only costs $9.99:


















The only differences are that it doesn't come in a wok, you don't need the portable stove, it's smaller in portion, and there are no add-ons.  Which is totally fine with us.  All we want is the intestine anyway.

The intestine is stir fried with chilies and celery.  The chilies may look intimidating, but the dish isn't all that spicy.  If I can handle it, anyone can.  The intestine itself is fatty and lovely.  Easily my second favorite dish at General Pot.

I've been back to General Pot a couple times now and we always order the same things.  We keep saying that we should try something new, but we love these dishes so much that we find it difficult to deviate.  Though the last time we went, we were told that they'd run out of intestine (*GASP*).  We scrambled for a replacement and finally went with the crispy shrimp balls...which turned out rather soggy and disappointing.

Skip that and stick with the pork intestine.

Now here's a nifty tip for of you: if you pay with cash at General Pot, you get a 5% discount.  The food isn't expensive to begin with (unless you order a pot), so 5% may not seem like a lot, but that's still a couple dollars you can save for a pearl tea or something.


General Pot
43767 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 657-8188

Saturday, November 1, 2014

South Bay: Chatime

Of all the pearl tea places we've tested out since Barcode closed, Chatime seems to be T's favorite:


















We tend to only go after dark.  The parking lot isn't the most well lit, which adds to the sketchy as hell feel of the plaza, but Chatime itself is very...purple:


















We've been back quite a few times now and the people behind the counter have always been super friendly.  In fact, there's one girl that we see most often who is super chipper and cute and we all love her.

I'm not the most adventurous when it comes to pearl tea.  My usual drink of choice is a plain old pearl milk tea.  Once in a while, I go a little crazy and get a lychee black tea or a smoothie, but only when the mood strikes.

I've tried the lychee black tea at Chatime, but was burned by the experience.  The tea was incredibly bitter, unpalatably so.  Since then, I've stuck with the tried and true pearl milk tea ($3.50 for a medium sized cup):























T loves the grass jelly at Chatime, which is why she's such a fan of the place.  Me?  I'm kind of meh about it.  The tea is a bit on the sweet side, so I usually ask for 70% sugar.  The tea is also a bit on the watery side, but not too bad.  The pearls are so-so as well.  (Though I recently tried their taro milk tea and that was pretty brilliant.  Made with real taro.  None of that bright purple stuff.)

All in all, not my favorite pearl tea in the world, but I go back because of T and because of that nice girl behind the counter.  But now that Gong Cha has opened walking distance from my house and a Sharetea is opening in the near future, we'll probably be going to Chatime less and less.

It's been good, Chatime, but better alternatives are coming soon!


Chatime
311 N Capitol Ave
San Jose, CA 95133
(408) 729-1537
http://www.ichatime.com/
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