Tuesday, January 31, 2017

South Bay: Ding Tea

When your friends are willing to get pearl tea after a Korean barbecue buffet, you know you've found some good peeps.  After rolling ourselves out of Q-Pot, T and CV introduced me to Ding Tea:

There were only about three tables in the main area, but there's actually a smaller side room with more (not shown here):

T has been obsessed with white pearls (made of agar) recently.  Apparently Ding Tea is the reason why.  She ordered a milk oolong tea ($3.75) with white pearls (+$0.50) while CV got herself the kumquat lemon iced tea ($3.75):

Personally, while I like the white pearls, I prefer them in fruity drinks and not in milky ones.  The pearls themselves have an almost fruity flavor that just seems a bit weird with milk teas.  And though I love myself some lemon iced tea, the one at Ding Tea has salted plums in it, which is a no bueno for me.

I was about to order my usual test for new pearl tea joints, the plain old pearl milk tea, when I saw a cup of bright red liquid sitting on the counter waiting for its owner to pick it up.  Curious, I asked the guy taking our order what it was.  He said it was a strawberry yakult.  Before I could say anything else (such as, "Cool, can I get a pearl milk tea?"), T jumped in and asked if we could get a sample.  Apparently when you ask for a sample at Ding Tea, they make an entire whole cup of the stuff to pour out tiny little taste tests. 

After seeing all the effort that went into getting us a sample, I felt obligated to order the dang thing, even though it tasted like a cavity in a cup.  It wasn't bad, don't get me wrong.  Just super sweet.  (And obviously artificial.)  So I bit the bullet and ordered one...but at 75% sweetness.  I should have gone with 25%.

I figured I would at least get a great bright red photo out of it, but alas, my strawberry yakult ($4) came in a solid paper cup:

Sweetness can be modified, so I haven't been scared off Ding Tea for life.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Though the prices are a bit on the high side, the drinks are pretty solid.  It's also a nice place to just hang out with your friends and play Sushi Go! (also something new T introduced me to that day).

I would go back.

If I was in the area.

Ding Tea
3151 Senter Rd
San Jose, CA 95111 
(408) 300-1232

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

South Bay: Q-Pot

My diet plan continued to deteriorate over MLK weekend.  Actually, I think I can say that it was completely obliterated by T's text to me on Sunday, asking if I wanted to try out Q-Pot:

Somehow, a giant Korean BBQ and hot pot buffet restaurant managed to open for months in my city without my knowing it.  How did I let this happen?!

Even though it was a Sunday afternoon, Q-Pot was probably only slightly over half full.  There would have been no wait, except I arrived first and had to wait until my party was complete before we could be seated.  Once T and CV showed up, we were immediately led to a table.

I know the name of my blog is "No Shame", but I actually get embarrassed pretty easily.  While I have no issue when it comes to snapping photos of my food, I find it difficult to take pictures of the interior of a restaurant without becoming very self-conscious.  Which is how I often end up with photos that don't really capture the entirety of the space:

Yea.  Sorry about that.  But trust me when I say that Q-Pot is huge and very modern.

Each table has a grill and individual hot pot burners:

Each table also comes with a mounted Microsoft Surface tablet with which you can place all your orders:

All you can eat BBQ or hot pot alone is $24.99 per person, but you can do both for $27.99.  Whatever you choose, the entire party has to do the same.  It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of hot pot, but when I saw T and CV considering giving up hot pot for me, I told them YOLO and to get both.

The tablet ordering system is really cool, however it also requires a bit of strategy.  You can only order up to four seafood and meat items every three minutes.  You can order up to eight items of everything else every one minute.

Once you put in your first round of orders, you can check out the sauce bar:

Again, I'm not really a hot pot person, so my sauce selection was made with the BBQ in mind.  I got matcha salt, ssamjang, and sesame sauce, which were only three out of plenty, plenty other offerings:

There are quite a few soup bases to choose from.  There's miso, pickled napa and pork, healthy herb, kimchi, milk, tom yum, Taiwanese spicy, and spicy tofu.  I went with pickled napa pork:

Honestly, I turned off my hot pot burner less than a quarter way through our meal.  Having boiled meat just pales in comparison when you can have this on the grill:

There were quite a few meat options to choose from.  Pictured above are the premium steak and the marinated finger short ribs.  There was also chadol (brisket) and beef tongue:

Both were sliced way too thinly in my opinion.  The pieces were so small that they almost melted away upon hitting the hot grill.

We also got the kalbi:

And the pork belly:

And though we scoffed at the chicken tab on the menu, when we peeked at it out of curiosity, we got excited about the spicy gizzards:

We ordered a lot of other meat, but by that point, I was done taking pictures and more focused on stuffing my face.  There was beef belly (also sliced unsatisfyingly thin), pork cheek, and marinated steak.  Not to mention all the things we didn't get around to ordering, like marinated pork belly, beef intestine, and bulgogi.

T and CV got a bunch of veggies to go into their hot pots:

But what they kept going back to was the seafood.  They ordered oysters and mussels and clams:

So many clams.  They just couldn't stop, wouldn't stop with the clams.  Clams in their hot pot, clams on the grill.  They also ordered shrimp, but stayed away from the calamari and fish.

It wasn't until toward the end of our meal that we though to ask for lettuce and pickled daikon for wrapping:

Apparently rice noodle sheets are available to upon request:

The most interesting part about dining at Q-Pot has to be the touchscreen ordering method.  There's a two hour limit and a countdown clock starts on the tablet once you place your first order. 

Super cool tablet aside, if I had to choose between Q-Pot and Gen, I would probably go with Gen.  Q-Pot might have hot pot on top of Korean BBQ, but since I barely tolerate hot pot, that doesn't add anything for me.  In terms of BBQ selection, Gen has more options than Q-Pot for meat, but less for seafood.  I go for the meat, so the lack of seafood doesn't bother me.  While the steak is equally good at both Q-Pot and Gen, the sliced meats are more substantial at Gen.  None of that nearly dissolving crap.  And while Q-Pot might have Gen beat in the sauce department, I don't need all that fancy stuff.  Just some salt with my steak and I'm good.  The one thing I wish Gen would add is lettuce for wrapping.  Salad just doesn't cut it.

Would I go back to Q-Pot though?  Oh, sure.  Why not?  It's huge, there's no wait, the price is reasonable, and I can always just gorge myself on premium steak. 

I'm pretty low maintenance.  Heh.

1610 E Capitol Expy
San Jose, CA 95121(669) 234-3095

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

South Bay: Dong Que Restaurant

I'm not really one to make New Year's resolutions, but even I knew that I might have overdone it with the eating over the holidays.  To make sure I will be photo-ready by the time of my Iceland trip in late March, I told myself that I would be more careful of how much I ate starting January.

Yea...that didn't last very long.

Over MLK weekend, I went hiking with T and CV to break in the hiking boots we bought for Iceland.  Post-hike chow is a must, so we started talking about what we were going to have for lunch before even arriving at the trailhead parking lot.  CV told us that Dong Que has razor clams and we were immediately sold.  (We may or may not have chanted "razor clam, razor clam" at multiple points during our hike as motivation.)

After the hike, we made our way to Dong Que:

The parking lot was a strange shape, but we certainly weren't going to complain about not having to find street parking.

The interior was much larger than it looked from the outside:

The restaurant had a swanky lounge feel despite all the tables.  Probably because of the red and black color scheme.  And the faux leather chairs.  The walls were outfitted with multiple flat screen TVs playing the Falcons v. Seahawks game.  While other parties cheered for their football team, CV, T, and I focused on our food.

To go with our clams and banh beo, we were given fish sauce and salt with chilies (and limes):

Our seafood feast started with grilled bloody clams with onion ($12.95):

T rhapsodized about the earthiness of the clams, but I couldn't get over the savory oil/clam juice with green onion and peanuts.  So freakin' good.  No additional sauces necessary.

The escargot and water spinach salad ($14.95) was also fantastic:

I was rather apathetic about the chewy texture of the sliced escargot, but the tangy seasoning of the rest of the salad was to die for.

The grilled razor clams with onion ($14.95) were surprisingly my least favorite of the meal:

The texture was great, but they were a bit bland.  Sauce definitely needed.

The banh beo ($4.50) took a while to come:

The best banh beo I've ever had are from Quan Hy.  Don't get me wrong.  Dong Que's banh beo aren't bad...they're just different.  I can't really pinpoint what the difference is, but there is one.  It's been too long since I was last at Quan Hy.  This means a SoCal trip is in order.  For the sake of science of course! 

As if that weren't enough food, we added on the Thai style steamed clams with lemon leaves ($12.95)

That broth tho.  The lemongrass, the kaffir lime...perfection.  I ate a few clams and then just forgot all about them in favor of the broth.  The fun part is drinking the broth with a clam shell.  It satisfies the child in me that used to imagine surviving on a deserted island.

Apparently most of my imagination when I was a kid revolved around food.  That hasn't changed.

Anyway, everything at Dong Que was delicious.  I would go back for the steamed clam broth alone.  So many clams, so little time.

The plan after lunch was to get pearl tea, because, well, that's what you do, right?  Except T cut across a couple lanes of traffic and made an abrupt U-turn when she realized that Peter's Bakery was just down the street and she wanted to see whether it had the same cookies as Dick's Bakery, which was damaged in a fire back in May 2016.  Before I knew what was happening, I had a box with a slice of burnt almond cake in my hand.  CV had a donut.  And T had no cookies.  Poor thing.

On the way back to our car, we ducked into this little dessert shop so that CV could buy a mangonada.

Then it was off to pearl tea.

We don't mess around.

Dong Que
2852 Alum Rock Ave
San Jose, CA 95127
(408) 254-2927

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

South Bay: Slice Poké Bar

Happy New Year, everyone!  I thought I was all caught up at the end of 2016, but I should have known that was too good to be true.  I actually left out a place that I went to back in November.  I was reminded of it when my sister made it a point during her post-surgery drugged up phase to sign up for a Yelp elite event there right when the registration period opened.  (She doesn't remember signing up, but she's quite proud of herself for doing it.)

The Yelp event was hosted at Slice Poké Bar, the second poké joint to open up in my area after Poké House.

Compared to Poké House, which is tiny and has very limited seating, Slice is incredibly spacious:

Similar to Poké House, Slice has its own signature pre-designed bowls, but the fun comes in building your own.  You can decide if you want your poke in a bowl, on a salad, or on chips.  A regular with three scoops of protein is $10, while a large with four scoops is $12.  If you have an aversion to bowls, you can order a wrap ($10) instead.

If you decide on a bowl, you get to pick what you want for your base.  You can go with kale, mixed greens, brown rice (which apparently comes cooked with bacon), or white rice...or a mix of the above.  I usually get mixed greens and white rice.  I tried the brown rice once because of the bacon, but it wasn't all that.  There wasn't nearly enough bacon in it to justify the nutty texture of the brown rice.  Meh.  I'll stick to which rice.

After the base comes the protein:

There's salmon, hamachi, tuna, spicy tuna, tuna mix, scallops, tako, shrimp, and tofu.  Once you have your proteins selected, you get to choose a sauce.  There's traditional, spicy traditional, sweet soy, and citrus soy.  (You're not encouraged to mix them.)

Then comes the veggies:

One thing to note is that the seaweed salad doesn't cost extra like it does at Poké House. 

One final round of toppings (hot Cheetos is an option...what the heck?) and sauces (Slice sauce, sesame aioli, spicy mayo, and wasabi aioli) later and voila!  You have your final bowl:

My mother prefers Slice over Poké House because Slice offers more cooked protein options (she doesn't do sashimi).  My sister prefers Slice because there's more seating. 

Personally, I think they're about the same.  I think Poké House has better sauce options and might be more generous with its protein portions, but I've also heard that they don't give as much as they used to.  The woman who appears to be the owner of Slice has a bit of an attitude, but since interaction with staff is basically limited to pointing out what you want, it doesn't really bother me all that much.

In summary, if I'm looking for convenience, I would go with Poké House since it's walking distance from my house.  But if I'm looking for a place to hang out, I would go with Slice.

There.  That's my two cents.

Slice Poké Bar
1150 Murphy Ave, Ste C
San Jose, CA 95131 
(408) 326-2480
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