Sunday, December 30, 2007


Ice cream in Berkeley at Ici.

Pink Peppermint, nice minty flavor with small chunks of sweet peppermint candy. Interesting color. Candied Tangerine, not a very strong citrus flavor. The candied chunks taste just like the pieces of fruit in fruit cake, but a little too small to add enough interest to this very subtle flavor of ice cream.

College near Ashby

Thursday, December 27, 2007

SEA SALT Lunch**'

Back to Sea Salt, this time for lunch. Started with some cold items, Hawaiian Blue Prawns, Kumamoto, Kushi (?), and Luna Oysters. The Kumamoto had a lightly sea flavored brine with a sweet finish, the kushi had a very salty brine and a creamy texture a little more substantial than the kumi, the luna was creamy and had a neutral brine taste. The kumamotos are still my favorite. The prawns were fresh and cooked well and chilled. A good start. For our mains we tried the BLT (bacon lettuce and trout) sandwich and the salmon and goat cheese terrine.

The trout was pan fried with a nice crispy skin, full trout flavor and topped with two slices of smokey bacon. The portion was substantial even without bread. The accompanying greens were fine, but the coleslaw was a little disappointing. The slaw did not have much flavor and lacked crunchiness. This is something to order again just for the delicious trout.

The terrine of salmon and goat cheese was also disappointing. The smoked salmon was good, but served too cold to show off salmon flavor. The amount of goat cheese was a bit overwhelming and overall the texture of the dish was soft and mushy, it could've done better with a crunchy starch element.

Service was fine and the restaurant is comfortable, light and airy. After an excellent dinner at there, it was nice to find that it also worked well for a casual lunch. I'll definitely return to sample more of the interesting lunch offerings.

Previous Sea Salt Post

Berkeley, San Pablo at Dwight

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


It seems rather odd to me that there is such a dearth of good ramen shops in the City. While visiting a friend that lives in J town we headed to Tanpopo for a quick bite. Not bad. After a couple more trips, I've tried the Karamiso and Ankake Ramens, as well as the Chahan. The karamiso was a spicy broth with good flavor, not overly salty and the noodles were slightly chewy. The soup was good, though the three pieces of cha-su were on the dry side and lacked any fat. The noodles themselves were o.k., but not chewy enough.

The next time I had the ankake ramen, a thicker soup with ground pork and cha-su. This time the cha-su had some fat and was much juicier, however the noodles were slightly over cooked. This was a late lunch, so perhaps they had pre-cooked the noodles for too long. Again a decent showing of ankake style soup, though I prefer the karamiso.

On a ramen rampage, I had recently been to Ramen Halu in San Jose. The ramen noodles at Halu were much better than those at Tanpopo, but the Halu soup was over salted and lacked the depth of the karamiso soup here. So Tanpopo could improve a bit on the noodle front.

Finally, I had a bowl of the cha-han which was light and flecked with smokey bits of dark brown flakes of pork. Good enough to order again, though nothing particularly outstanding. Judging by the tables around us, it is a very popular item.

The lunch menu is a good deal and the place is always busy. The service is efficient, making everything move pretty quickly, so there's no wait for a table.

Buchanan at Sutter

Thursday, December 20, 2007


For my friend's birthday dinner, she said she was in the mood for some pig. Incanto immediately came to mind. Perfect timing because I had just finished a race and felt it was reasonable to indulge myself for an evening. We started with a Pork Trotter served on a piece of bruschetta with a layer of foie gras then a cover of bacon accompanied by poached pears and topped with a savory pork sauce. A ridiculously porky dish and absolutely delicious. The creamy texture of the trotter went well with the slightly caramelized foie gras and salty bacon. The sauce was savory, but not heavy. The pears made a perfect sweet slightly tart counterpoint to the rest of the dish. Definitely something to order again.

The following dish was the
Braised Pork. A huge piece of pork braised so that it was tender and falling apart with a subtle five spice flavored juice. I liked that there was a decent amount of fat within the piece giving it a soft texture. It came on a bed of ramps which had a slight pickle flavor and some mashed potatoes. Perhaps the starter had put us over the top, as my overall impression of the braised pork was that it was good one which I would gladly order again, though not on the top of my list.

Our other entree was the spaghettini, cured tuna heart and egg yolk. The portion was very large and the amount of tuna heart looked like it was too much. It was not, the salty sea flavor of the tuna heart perfectly seasoned the pasta and the egg yolk added body and texture to the dish. The tuna heart had a smokier flavor than the one at La Ciccia, which was also very good. The La Ciccia tuna heart pasta was lighter in flavor and texture, -- more like a primi piatti than a secondi. Incanto's chef did not shy away from the tuna heart at all, I thought the smokey sea flavor and the egg made this very hearty and better than traditional carbonara made with bacon. Another must order dish.

I was impressed with the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant, upscale though not stuffy. The server was knowledgeable about the menu, gracious and unobtrusive. And having been a regular viewer of the NIC series, I was happy to see Chef Chris Cosentino in the kitchen on a weeknight dinner service. So we got the real thing. Thank goodness for San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


A pleasant lunch at Lyang Lyang on a weekend. Having been here several times before, we've already established our favorites: the Sizzling Princess Tofu, Sarang Seafood, and the Kang Kung Belachan.

The Sizzling Princess Tofu are large pieces of fried tofu covered in a mix of seafood and served sizzling in a savory brown sauce. The tofu pieces have a chewy outer layer with soft fresh tofu inside. The sauce matches perfectly with the slightly caramelized tofu and the seafood adds crunch and sea flavor to the dish.

Sarang Seafood is a mix of shrimp, scallops, and squid with vegetables in a bowl made of fried taro. The seafood mix and sauce is the same as that of the princess tofu though there seemed to be slightly less seafood in this one. The best part of this is the fried taro which is light and crispy with a thick layer of creamy taro within. The taro bowl soaks up the seafood sauce making this very rich and filling.

Kang Kung Belachan is the typical kong shin tsai or ong choi or water spinach that is served at many restaurants. Here it is fresh and has a good balance of shrimp paste to vegetable.

We also sampled the
Chow Kuey Teow which I liked very much, but as I haven't had it at too many other places, I can't say if it is a good representation of the dish. The murtebak which I've had at several other places, was just o.k., the filling had a bit too much egg and weighed down the entire dish. I'd probably stick with the plain roti next time. The dipping sauce here better than the places I've tried and the roti itself is not greasy or overly buttery.

My only quibble with the place is that the seafood is most likely frozen. Though it tastes perfectly fine considering the sauces that coat it. Service is quick and efficient. I would come regularly if it were in the City.

DeAnza near Prospect, San Jose

Friday, December 14, 2007


Update: This place is now Poc Chuc.

Just returned from dinner at Chichen Itza, the restaurant formerly known as Popol Vuh. The food was a great value, the overall quality of the food was high and dishes well executed. There are few places in the City, if any, that eight people could eat this well for a pre-tip bill of $16 per person.

The restaurant was kind enough to share a two traditional Yucatecan dishes that are not on their menu. The
roast chicken leg in mole and the tamales colado. The roast chicken was tender, though I felt that the mole was somewhat thick and lacked depth. The tamales colado on the other hand had the texture of soft creamy and very fine polenta -- comforting. The filling was shredded chicken in a savory yellow sauce that had a slight cheese flavor. The flavors blended well with the creamy outer layer, this was my definitely my favorite dish of the night. Unfortunately, they don't make this regularly.

The other stand out for me were the handmade
tortillas. Almost too good to fill with lots of things, just a bit of pork or a smear of bean puree was enough to highlight the fresh handmade goodness.

Also good were
escabeche de pavo, panucho, poc chuc and the extra creamy and savory mashed potatoes that accompanied several dishes.

The only items that were not to my particular taste was the duck, which I prefer more rare and the lamb, which seemed somewhat dry. These were personal preferences not missteps by the kitchen. Service was friendly and eager to please, the food arrived quickly and the overall quality was excellent. Definitely return to try some other items.

16th at South Van Ness

Previous Posts:
Popol Vuh Revisted October 2007
Popol Vuh September 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Lunch at Little Shanghai in San Mateo. An extensive menu of Shanghainese dishes and small plates. After surveying the tables around me, I decided to give the Xiao Long Bao and Water Boiled Beef a try. I added an order of Green Onion Pancake, just as a good point of comparison to other places. The Green Onion Pancake came first and was ordinary, the onion flavor was there, but it was not crispy on the outside and a bit oilier than I like. Next came the XLB which were a decent effort. Much more soup inside the dumplings than at other places in the City, but the skin was on the thick side and the pork filling was plain. The best of the three dishes was the Water Boiled Beef which I ordered extra spicy. It had a nice deep red pepper flavor and was full of beef sliced thick enough to stand up to the spicy sauce, but thin enough so that it was easy to bite through -- an almost silky texture. The pickled vegetables were a good texture contrast, but were somewhat overwhelmed by the strong red pepper flavor, still other flavor elements like garlic came through. I would order this again or try some of the other offerings on the menu.

E 25th Ave San Mateo

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Lunch at Fresca in Noe Valley. Best items were the Toro Steak Salad and the Ceviche. The chupe de mariscos was on the creamy side and the other dishes were fair, but not particularly outstanding. The potato in the causa washed out the flavor of the ahi. Otherwise service was attentive and the atmosphere comfortable.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


My Salvadorean friend brought me to El Patio a while ago for some pupusas which he said are good, of course not as good as his mom makes. I thought they were pretty good, the outer shell not too thick and doughy with a good ratio of cheese to beans or meat. Made fresh. This time I had the loroco pupusa which was very fragrant, but a little heavy on the cheese for my tastes. Still one of the best I've had.

sopa de menudo was another story. I should've stuck with something from the Salvadorean section of the menu, but I was distracted by the extensive list of other items. Though packed with tripe and tendon the broth was flat, with the look color and taste of powder based soup. I'm sure it's used in restaurants more than I know, but this time it made for a very flat and somewhat salty soup.

I enjoyed the neighborhood atmosphere of the place. The service is very attentive and friendly. I sat at the tiny bar counter. Soon a handful of spanish speaking locals came in and joined me there -- for dinner or a drink and watch soccer or tv novellas. If the place was smaller, it would have an even cozier feel. Will be back for pupusas and to try more of the Salvadorean items.

Mission at Fair

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Several weeks ago, dinner at Lolo. First off, extremely friendly staff some of whom hail from from Guadalajara the original home of the proprietors. The menu is a mix of the favorites from the couple's restaurant in Mexico with some influence from their Turkish co-owner. The menu is indeed eclectic with everything ranging from heirloom tomatoes with feta, kalamatas and oregano, to pistachio encrusted salmon with wasabi cream sauce to beef tongue with roasted poblano curry.

We started with the panko encrusted shrimp wrapped in jicama with chipotle aioli. The jicama was thinly sliced and served as the tortilla wrapper for the shrimp, the seasoning of the shrimp and the chipotle aioli were right on, but the shrimp were on the small side so they were overwhelmed by the fried outer shell. Not a lot of shrimp flavor, but still very tasty.

Next came my two favorite dishes of the evening. The Octopus Tiradito and the Huitlacoche Dumplings. The octopus was thinly sliced and topped with lime, red pepper powder and a squirt of chipotle aioli. The octopus was fresh and had a nice bite to it. We put the thin slices on bread like carpaccio and devoured the whole thing in about two minutes.

The huitlacoche is something that I had never tried before and was described to me as a corn truffle or mushroom growing on corn. Pronounced 'kweet-lah-coh-chay', it is essentially a fungus or smut that infects corn. The dumpling wrappers were thin and allowed the huitlacoche paste to shine through. It was a smokey savory flavor, so delicious.

For entrees we sampled the
flank steak with peach and strawberry mole, braised beef tongue with roasted poblano curry, and pistachio encrusted salmon with wasabi cream sauce. The steak was properly cooked and the accompanying peach and strawberry mole dipping sauce was savory, not sweet as we had expected. The sauce was unique enough to make me order this even though I normally enjoy steak at home.

The only miss was the braised beef tongue. The meat was tender and cooked well, but the poblano curry had a Japanese curry flavor and didn't match well with the tongue.

The pistachio encrusted salmon was also very Japanese, the crust was light and crispy and the salmon just lightly rare on a pool of teriyaki style sauce. The texture of the crust with the pistachios and the creamy wasabi sauce worked well. This is one I would definitely order next time.

22nd near Mission