Food


I saw Cars over the weekend with Jon. Cars, of course, is based on a true story: the life, death, and rebirth of Route 66. It was astonishingly accurate in its renditions of roads, road signs, and maps. Pixar definitely had some roadgeeks advising them. In addition, Pixar got the author of one of the most celebrated books on Route 66, Michael Wallis, to be the voice of the Sheriff, which explains how the movie could tell the story of Route 66 and roadside America was so well. It also explains some of the dewy-eyed nostalgia in the film, but that’s okay. Cars is a family film, not a PBS documentary.

Afterwards, we went to Willow Glen for dinner. Aqui is a “fast casual” Cal-Mex restaurant [photo]. It’s definitely got the “Cal” part going; I’ve never been to a Mexican place that serves tortilla chips with black beans, hummus, and polenta. Their Pork Ranchero Tamales and Cuban Pork Enchiladas were also tasty. And since they don’t have waiters, none of their dishes are above $11. For dessert, we couldn’t resist our third visit to the Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt Company [photo].

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Two Saturdays ago Brian, Will, and I went to the Tech Museum of Innovation to check it out. None of us had been there for years, so we wanted to see what it was like now. Well, sadly, we all found that it was mainly focused on kids and that we had outgrown it. So while it was good to go once, I don’t think I’ll be spending $10 for the museum again.

Now, the IMAX movie at the museum, Roving Mars, was excellent for the most part. The photos of Mars were amazing, especially when they’re 80 feet tall. But the transition between actual footage of the launch from the ground and computer graphics of the rover flying through space was seamless — so seamless that it made me start to question the other images I was seeing. Were the images of Mars artists’ renditions or real satellite photos? (I think they’re the latter.) Still, I’d recommend the movie to anyone interested in the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which have lasted much, much longer than anyone dreamed.

Afterwards, Tao joined us for Cuban food at the nearby Los Cubanos restaurant [photo]. Very tasty, and very filling — we completely stuffed ourselves and still had leftovers. By the way, when I did a web search on the restaurant, I found two addresses and two phone numbers. Ugh. The real address is 22 N. Almaden Ave (not Blvd, and not San Pedro St), and I don’t remember which phone number is right.

Courtesy of San Francisco magazine and Check, Please:

I consider myself pretty open-minded when it comes to food. But this makes even my stomach turn. The Gateway Grizzlies minor league baseball team have teamed up with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts create “Baseball’s Best Burger“: a bacon cheeseburger with a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut for the bun. Yeah.

(via Ned Batchelder via Planet Python)

After visiting SFMOMA, Norman brought me to a Thai restaurant called Osha on 2nd Street for lunch. The food was great, but we were so hungry we overate, so much so that neither of us ate dinner at all [photo].

The next day, Sophie, Mike and I went to Chef Woo in west San Jose for Chinese/Taiwanese-style breakfast: shao bing, you tiao, soy milk, and so on. Good thing Sophie can read Chinese… [photo]

Then last week, when I went on a business trip to the Boston area, Steve brought Clemens and me to Pizzeria Regina in Boston’s North End. It’s a true neighborhood joint, where the waitresses yell at you to close the door because it’s so cold outside. But the thin-crust pizza itself is excellent.

Later on in the trip, we went to a restaurant called Bamboo in Westford, MA. The tag line was “Fine Asian Cuisine,” which I predicted meant that it served Chinese and Japanese food. Bingo! The Chinese food was okay: Americanized and expensive. Well, at least the decor was nice…

There a few restaurants that have been featured on Check, Please! Bay Area on KQED Channel 9 that I want to try out.

  • Ninna in Oakland: Mediterranean/Thai fusion. Sounds weird, but all three reviewers thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Piperade in San Francisco: Basque
  • Bissap Baobab in San Francisco: Senegalese
  • Aziza in San Francisco: California-inspired Morrocan (or is it Morroco-inspired Californian?)
  • Salang Pass in Fremont: Afghan
  • Manresa in Los Gatos: but only if I win the lottery

With Check, Please! reviews, your mileage may vary. For example, Vik’s Chaat House is a favorite place of Berkeley students for chaat. 2 out of 3 reviewers weren’t impressed with it, but one of them doesn’t like Indian food in general, and the other one usually orders Chicken Tikka Masala and was bewildered by the chaat menu. Argh! This place definitely deserved better reviews. Thankfully a ton of people have defended the restaurant on the Check, Please!‘s web site. I’m tempted to chime in.

It’s also unfortunate that the vast majority of restaurants that are reviewed are around San Francisco. I know there is good food down here in the South Bay — it just may not be in the most classy setting (OK fine, they’re all in strip malls). Which reminds me, there’s a hole in the wall that serves great pot stickers and noodles in west San Jose (near Cupertino): Tong Dumpling Pot. Highly recommended.

Not surprisingly, we got some great food touring Asia. A few meals stand out in my mind. In Tokyo, we ate at a teppanyaki restaurant, complete with our own chef [photos]. The beef, with a lot of marbling, was tender and flavorful, but also quite greasy — you can’t eat as much of that beef as you would normal beef. Unfortunately, it was also quite expensive — over US$110 per person. Well, we were on vacation, so I didn’t feel too bad, as long as every other meal wasn’t going to be this pricey.

In Osaka, Matt’s brother’s friend Koji took us to a kaiten-zushi restaurant. It’s like a sushi boat place, except that the plates were simply on a conveyer belt. We ate plate after plate after plate — I’ve never had so much toro (fatty tuna). In fact, I had never had toro before. Anyway, total bill: about US$9 per person. We were flabbergasted. Most food in Japan isn’t cheaper than in the U.S., but sushi is! By the way, Koji didn’t expect us to be so familiar with sushi — he was really surprised that I knew what hamachi was.

Koji’s girlfriend Kyoko took us to her favorite ramen restaurant, Golden Dragon Ramen 金龍ラーメン [photos] There are two items on the menu: ramen with pork, and ramen with more pork. To order, you get a ticket from a vending machine [photo] and give it to the staff. It’s also cheaper than ramen in the U.S. (about US$5 for the normal ramen).

In Hong Kong, we ran across a Cantonese noodle shop called Tsim Chai Kee 沾仔記 [photo]. The menu is simple [photo]: three types of noodles (egg, rice, and rice vermicelli) and soup, with one or more toppings: prawn wontons, fish balls, and beef. Vegetables with oyster sauce. That’s it! The wontons were huge: a fresh giant shrimp with a thin wonton wrapper. The fish balls were also gigantic, and the beef was very fresh. Total cost: less than US$3.

In Taichung, my cousin Mingshu took us to a hot pot restaurant called Mala Wang 麻辣王, which means “the hot-and-spicy king” [photo]. We got half spicy and half plain. Mingshu asked for the spicy to be at the low end, and then he still skimmed the hot oil off the broth. Only then could the rest of us tolerate us (I know, we’re wimps). The broth was so flavorful that I didn’t need to use my soy sauce-and-satay mixture. Mingshu eats there so often he’s a VIP customer.

In Taipei, at the Shilin Night Market, we had fried chicken at Hot Star Fried Chicken stand 豪大大雞排 [photo]. A chicken is halved and then mostly deboned, leaving only part of the breastbone. Each piece is then flattened, breaded with Taiwanese seasonings, and deep fried. The finished piece is put in a paper bag. Cost: about US$1.50. Our only mistake was getting one piece each, leaving little room for the other night market food.

My uncle to us to “the best beef noodle soup restaurant” in Taipei, Lao Zhang Niurou Mian 老張牛肉麵 (“Old Chang’s Beef Noodle”). It was quite good, and we got seated at the same table with another family, which made for interesting conversation — between my uncle and them. Unfortunately, I came down with a stomach illness the next day, which meant congee for the next few days (ugh).

The night before I came back to the U.S., my cousin Jane took my dad, grandmother, and me to a Hakka restaurant in Hukou called Ke Po Lou 客婆樓. Hakka food is not common in the U.S. (the only one I know of is Ton Kiang 東江 in San Francisco), so some of the dishes were unfamiliar. For example, the fried fish dish consisted of filets of whole small fish, battered and deep fried. The shape was like a very large French fry — long and rectangular. The fish itself was very soft and pillowy — almost like a French fry! The boiled cabbage came with a strong orange-flavored sauce with the consistency of mustard. All of it was very tasty, but since I was still sick, I literally ate only a nibble of each dish. Sigh.

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