Sunday, February 26, 2017

San Francisco: Cheung Hing Restaurant

After our last naturalization workshop in San Francisco, I met up with my sister for dinner before heading back home to the South Bay.  About a week prior, my sister had told me she was craving beef and scrambled egg over rice.  Which of course led me down memory lane to my undergrad days and caused me to start craving it as well. 

So when she told me she'd found a place that had it, I demanded that we go there.  I didn't even mind driving and finding street parking.  That's how much I wanted it.

Cheung Hing looked exactly as I expected it to:






















Roasted ducks hanging in the window, not much décor to speak of, basically your typical Chinese hole-in-the-wall:
















We were lucky enough to get the last open table right by the door.  Soon after we sat down, a line started forming.  Most people were there to buy barbecue meat to go.

We, however, were there for this:
















The beef and scrambled egg over rice ($7.95).  It was everything I remembered it to be.  Saucy, goopy, and glorious mixed in with the rice.

We also got the minced beef with egg over rice ($7.95):
















When we didn't see the egg at first glance, we asked our server about it.  Like Shaun T, she told us to dig deeper:
















This is one of the rare occasions when I am perfectly okay with popping an egg yolk.  You gotta mix it in until it's all one big sloppy mess.  Ah.  So good.

Real love is eating all the peas for your sister because she hates them with a fiery passion.  Thanks, boo.  You're the best.

We probably shouldn't have had all that rice, but it's so damn satisfying.  These types of rice plates are the ultimate comfort food for me.  There's something about warm goopy rice that just hits the spot.  Even if it's carb overload.

Thank you, Cheung Hing, for bringing me back to my childhood. 


Cheung Hing Restaurant
2339 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-3271

Saturday, February 18, 2017

South Bay: Oren's Hummus Shop

My parents were in Taiwan over the Lunar New Year, so my sister and I semi-celebrated by first going to my father's cousin's house for dumplings and then later having dinner with my Ahyi.  While throwing out ideas for where to go, Meet Fresh came up and I glomped onto that real fast.  (As you've probably already figured out, I'm a huge fan.)  Then it became a matter of where in that plaza we should get actual food before dessert. 

My sister got stuck on the fact that Oren's Hummus Shop has unlimited pita, so there we went:
















I don't know why I was expecting something simple (it is Cupertino and the land of Apple after all), but I certainly wasn't expecting the almost glitzy décor at Oren's:






















So many chandeliers!  That's some pretty fancy lighting going on there.  My Ahyi told us that the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows are open during warm days.  I can see how it would be a relaxing place to chill.

The meal started out with some complimentary pickled cabbage:
















When the restaurant is a hummus shop, you definitely have to order hummus.  We went a little overboard and ordered two for the three of us.  We got the hummus with lamb ($12.50):
















The lamb was braised with pomegranate and topped with fresh mint, which gave it this sweetness that my sister and I loved.  And the hummus!  So smooth, so creamy!

Since my ahyi isn't a big lamb eater, we also got the hummus with beef ($11.95):
















The Moroccan spiced ground beef came with pine nuts and strangely reminded me of the dry Chinese beef jerky my father used to make at home.  I guess Moroccan spices are similar to Asian ones?

We probably should have stopped there, but we couldn't help also wanting to try some sides.  An order of three costs $11.95 and you can choose from a long list.  We're eggplant fiends, so we got (starting from the bottom of the photo) the babaganoush, the Romanian eggplant (fire roasted eggplant with red bell peppers, lemon, cilantro, and garlic), and the Oren's eggplant (a puree of fried eggplant, caramelized onion, hard boiled egg, and spices):
















Our selection of three also came with Moroccan carrots, marinated beets, and some amazingly thick yogurt.  We LOVED all of the eggplant sides.  The babaganoush and the Romanian were both fire roasted, so they kind of tasted the same...smoky.  Oren's eggplant, on the other hand, was completely different.  It was savory and sweet and delicious and I would highly recommend trying it out.

I was originally most excited about the cauliflower fries ($4.95), which came with a pesto yogurt:
















But in the end, it paled in comparison to the eggplants and the hummus.  Fried cauliflower is awesome while crunchy, but if you don't eat them quickly, sogginess settles in fast.

And finally, the pita.  The unlimited pita.  You can choose between wheat or regular or you can do what we did and get both:
















They come piping hot and super fluffy.  The perfect vessel to scoop up all the hummus and eggplant your little heart can desire.  We had so much pita that I felt like one by the end of dinner. 

The portion sizes at Oren's might not look like a lot at first glance, but together with the all-you-can-eat pita?  It's a lot.  We had so much food leftover that I was able to make two separate meals out of it.  When our server asked if we would like a separate bag for our leftover pita, my sister jokingly asked if the bag came with extra pita.  It did.

Bless him.

Would I go back to Oren's Hummus Shop?  Yes.  1000% yes.  A couple things I would do differently though.  I would skip the hummus with beef and try another one of their hummus combinations.  The ground beef was just a bit too dry for my taste.  I would also not order both the babaganoush and the Romanian eggplant at the same time, since they taste virtually the same.

Oren's Hummus Shop.  Great service, great food, great prices.  Go.


Oren's Hummus Shop
19419 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014 
(408) 982-5237
http://www.orenshummus.com/

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Oakland: Sticky Rice Cafe

VN, SY, and I met up in January to catch up at the start of the new year.  SY brought up the idea of hitting up Oakland Restaurant Week, but VN and I shot that down.  Honestly, I've never had great experiences with restaurant weeks.  I've just never found it worth the hype or the moolah.  I rather just go to a restaurant and order what I want, even if it's less of a "good deal."

With Oakland Restaurant Week out of the running, SY mentioned Sticky Rice Café.  VN and I wholeheartedly agreed:






















Located virtually in the middle of nowhere, Sticky Rice Café was small and unassuming:
















It had a tricky door that took a bit of work to shut and stay shut.  I know because it was super windy and rainy that night and I had to get up a couple times to make sure the door stayed closed when people went in and out.  No biggie though.  Just a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

And by grand scheme I mean the awesome food.

See exhibit A, the crispy rice ball ($8):
















The description on the menu said "deep fried rice ball", but it's basically deep fried rice mixed with pork sausage and peanuts.  There's cilantro, mint, and lettuce on the side for wrapping.  Add a squirt of lime juice and there you have it, perfection. 

The chicken larb ($8) was a salad of sorts made with ground chicken with onion, cilantro, and mint:
















It came with strips of raw cabbage for wrapping.  It was slightly pungent and sour and basically awesome.

The crispy salmon ($12) came covered in onion, bell pepper, and a sweet tamarind sauce:






















While delicious, the sauce was a bit intense to eat without rice, but it certainly helped add some flavor to the blanched bed of veggies.

The drunken noodle ($8) or flat rice noodle with basil, bell peppers, onion, carrot, green bean, and tomatoes came with our choice of meat.  We went with chicken since SY doesn't eat red meat:
















Even though we were stuffed, we were still in the mood for dessert at the end of the meal and unashamedly tacked on an order of fried bananas with coconut ice cream ($6):
















Freshly fried, the bananas were freakin' delicious.

My favorite of the night was the deep fried rice ball.  I'm just a sucker for that kind of stuff.  I loved the dish at Champa Garden and I loved it at Sticky Rice Café.  Champa Garden might have a bit of an edge because of their crack sauce, but that edge is very, very slight. 

All in all, I loved Sticky Rice Café.  The food is bomb, the prices are beyond reasonable, and it's quiet.  No lines, no pressure.  Just a simple place to enjoy a long meal with friends.  If only it was a bit more accessible...or had a parking lot.


Sticky Rice Café
2810 International Blvd
Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 536-4605
https://www.stickyricecafeoakland.com/

Sunday, February 5, 2017

San Francisco: Pakwan

For Christmas, CK gifted me with two tickets to see a special showing of Miyazaki's "Ocean Waves" at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.  Who else would I go with except my sister?

It was a Thursday night in January.  My sister and I met across the street from Roxie at Pakwan for dinner before the movie:
















The restaurant was pretty empty at first, but then it gradually filled up as we ate:
















You place your order at the counter and then pick it up there as well once your number is called.

Chai is $1 a cup.  I don't usually like to pay for tea, but my sister told me it's so good that it's worth it:
















She was right.  The chai at Pakwan is thick and strong, just the way I like it.  None of that watered down crap.  You cam add sugar to your own taste.  (Mine being very sweet.)  The chai is refillable, which meant that my sister went back repeatedly for more to get her money's worth.

The two of us split two dishes.  We got the saag gosht ($10.99) or lamb with spinach:
















And the bengan bhartha ($7.49), which is a smoky eggplant curry of sorts:
















Both went extremely well with naan ($1.50 each):
















Since we had a movie to catch afterward, we worked hard to avoid having any leftovers.  The portion sizes were so generous that we weren't entirely successful, but we followed the teachings of our father and ate all the "valuable" parts.  (Basically all the meat.)

I'm no expert of Pakistani and Indian food, but I have no complaints about Pakwan.  Everything we had was delicious, the chai was good, the food came quickly, and the prices were affordable.  I would definitely go back.

And as a side note, if you are a Miyazaki fan or if you love nostalgic movies that are poignant in their simplicity, "Ocean Waves" is for you.  I highly recommend you check it out. 

Thanks for the tickets, CK!


Pakwan
3180-82 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103 
(415) 255-2440
http://www.pakwanrestaurant.com/
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