Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vietnamese Exploration Trip in San Francisco

I love Vietnamese food. I love the smell, I love the taste, I love all the fresh herbs and clean taste that you get, especially in a hot summer afternoon. Needless to say, after moving to the Bay Area, finding a good Vietnamese food is on the top of my list. So far, I've only found a couple that I would be willing to go back again, and I will put those in this post and also compare the taste of each restaurant.

Le Regal (2.75 on my Yummy Scale)
After many trials of different Vietnamese food in Oakland from reading Yelp (again, thanks for nothing, Yelpers!) I've had heart-breaking experiences and had given up the hope of finding a good Vietnamese restaurant in the East Bay. However, I did find one, close by in Berkeley. Le Regal in Berkeley looks OK from the outside, but I already know that a real Asian restaurant usually looks pretty bad, so in that sense, this place looks excellent. I tried the noodle salad (Bun) with barbequed pork and imperial roll, and the thin slice beef noodle soup. The barbequed pork was a bit greasy, and the imperial roll was tiny and, with the taro as one of the ingredients in it, was slightly removed of the typical crunchiness from the roll. The noodle soup was pretty good, but tasted a bit one dimensional. I think they prepared the soup only with one type of bone (I think it's beef bone) and some vegetables, so it's ok but not really good. Since this place doesn't really relieve my Vietnamese food craving, I had to move on and find another one.

Golden Star (4.0 on my Yummy Scale)
Then I went into the city and tried a Vietnamese restaurant close to ChinaTown called Golden Star. This was a pleasant surprise because the noodle salad was very fresh, and the barbequed pork was good. The imperial roll was also pretty good, as it has a good balance of meat and vegetables in there (without Taro, very important), and with a nice crunchiness to it as well. The noodle soup was excellent because it's made with several types of bones and vegetables, and together with the thin slice beef and rice noodle, it was a match made in Vietnamese food heaven! The beef ball in the noodle soup was springy/chewy, just the way I like it. Overall the place was an excellent find, and I was happy with this discovery.

Tu Lan (2.75 on my Yummy Scale)
This weekend I went and tried a place called Tu Lan on 6th St. in San Francisco after receiving excellent reviews from one of my friends, who told me that I just 'had' to try the place. I went there based on his suggestion, and it turned out to be just OK. First, the imperial roll is the jumbo-size type, but the filling has too much meat in there, so the whole thing tasted a little bit mushed together. The crunchiness of the roll is still there, but it just tasted a little bit one-dimensional. The noodle salad was good and had lots of fresh mint and vegetables, and the pork on there was excellent. The noodle soup, however, was a big bummer because it tasted like a regular vegetable broth, maybe with some beef bone added in there for a bit flavor, but that's about it. And the beef ball, soft and mushy, not so good. Overall, it's only OK, and I was expecting a lot better than just OK. The place is also a bit shady in a shady area, so I would probably go back there only if I'm already close to the area. It's not good enough for me to make a trip just for the food.

Overall, the Vietnamese restaurant that I've tried so far is OK, nothing mind blowing. With that, it is leaving me a little disappointed, and so I am still needing to search for the best one that will cure my craving of good Vietnamese food without driving or flying back to LA. I am hopeful of finding something good, so right now I'm still searching for that one true love.

Le Regal: 2126 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

Golden Star: 11 Walter U Lum Place, San Francisco, CA 94108

Tu Lan: 8 6th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Curry House's Japanese Curry is Oh-My-Freaking-God Good

Ok, so by the title you probably can figure out that this blog posting is a happy one. Denoting this blog as a happy blog is an understatement, because I wholeheartedly loved, LOVED this place. So here's the scoop.

I first discovered Curry House in LA (Little Tokyo in downtown LA), and I could not believe how good it was. However, when I moved to SF, I couldn't find any other restaurant that serves a Japanese curry even close to the quality that you get in Curry House. Finally, late 2007 they finally opened up a branch that's in Norcal, and my long wait was over.

For those of you who are not familiar with Japanese curry, it is a lot milder and smoother in taste than it's cousin Indian curry. Japanese curry also is roux-based, with caramelized onion and sometimes fruit puree or honey to round out the spiciness from the different spices, which makes the texture different from Indian curry. Although you can also order your curry with different level of spiciness, but even the "extra spicy" is not really that spicy. (It is Japanese food, after all.) Every time I visit the Curry House, it delivers a tasty punch that does not disappoint. (And the punch is definitely from a heavy weight champion!) The pork katsu curry that I ordered this trip was absolutely delicious. The pork cutlet is a thicker cut, so it helps a little bit when it comes to retaining moisture during frying. On top of that, a big ladle full of curry just brings the whole thing together. The big portion definitely makes sure that your belly does not go home hungry and the only bad thing is that my belly always hurts from eating all the food because I just can not stop!

Other than curry, I also ordered their corn potage, which has an eerie similarity to cream corn. (Of course, I got this comparison from my Caucasian husband because I did not grow up with cream corn. So to me it tasted like corn potage.) It's kind of like a lobster bisque but substitute the lobster with corn. The sweetness of the corn and the creaminess of the soup is definitely a good compliment to the curry.

Overall, the Curry House gets a 5 on my yummy scale. To this day, the search for another restaurant that serves the same quality of Japanese curry comes up empty. There is definitely no substitute for something this good. I imagine this is what heaven would taste like, if it's made with curry.

If you would like to try the Curry House and get a little taste of heaven, you can find it at 10350 S. De Anza Blvd., Cuppertino, CA 95014 (a couple of doors down from Apple and Symantec, you lucky bastards!!!)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Angry Asian Food Critic Score - Now With Easy To Identify Graphic Scoring System (GSS)!!

Well, for all of you reading from home/work/in traffic/on the toilet (totally not judging), the Angry Asian Food Critic strives to make your lives easier with a new, exciting, easy to read scoring system:

5 - This food has reached the highest plane of culinary excellence (read: it's so good you will shit your pants in excitement!!!)

4 - Pretty excellent, but there is still room for growth (read: Tom Cruise as compared to L.Ron Hubbard, for all you Scientologists out there)

3 - Not hatred, not love. Kinda in food limbo...

2 - Now you're just wasting my money and stomach space. (read: you're really starting to piss me off with your so-called 'food')

1 - The restaurant may have passed the Health Inspector, but gets a big "F" from taste inspection. This place need to be shut down immediately.Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

So, there it is. Straightforward, no b.s. The Angry Asian Food Critic has your back, word up.

If you're still confused, I really can't help you any more (and you might need to seek medical assistance). For everyone else, happy eating!!

Uzen - The Sushi Heaven on the East Bay!

There are many things I enjoy, and having a good meal is definitely one of them; and having good sushi is very high up on the list. Ever since I've moved to the Bay Area, I've been trying to find some place that has good quality sushi, and at the very least close to my favorite sushi place in LA (please refer my "Some Food for Thought If You Are Going To Los Angeles" in June 2006). It has been a somewhat difficult journey because I had no reference for good restaurants here, let along good Asian restaurants. So I had to consult the Yelp. BIG MISTAKE! Why, you ask? Because people rating restaurant on Yelp have no taste buds (and I had to find that out the hard way!), Anyways, back to my point, I was finally able to find a really good sushi place in Rockridge!

The first time I tried the place, it was after i was battered and bruised from following Yelp's recommendation (thanks for NOTHING, Yelpers!) and I was in no mood of eating another plate of shitty sushi. However, I was pleasantly surprised once the food arrived. The fish quality is definitely great (and fresh), and the small dishes that they have on the menu definitely hits the spot. I got my usual order of yellowtail, scallop, and toro (their special). And they are all excellent! The yellowtail texture was perfect. If you never had yellowtail, definitely try it. It's a little bit like tuna but with a bit more fat in there, so the texture is smoother. The scallop is very fresh, and has that natural sweetness to it. The toro special that they have is the medium grade toro, which is the one I like because it's doesn't have too much fat and the meat just melts in your mouth. We also ordered a couple of other dishes other than the regular sushi items. One dish is the oyster on the 1/2 shell. I rarely find oyster on 1/2 shell that is fresh enough that doesn't have the "oysterness" or that stinkyness that comes naturally with oyster. However, the oyster in Uzen is top notch because I cannot taste any oysterness at all! The fried soft shell crab is pretty good too. The breading was a little bit too much, but the quality of the crab was great and very meaty. They also have a grilled ground chicken wrapped in shiso leaf. That was excellent and also will put you in the mood for a glass of beer (even tho I do not drink)! The ground chicken is seasoned and the mintyness of the shiso leaf gave it a very fresh twist to the otherwise widely popular grilling item.

Overall the place was great, and definitely cured my overwhelming sushi craving. I definitely recommend this place if you ever need a place for great sushi. Uzen gets a 4 out 5 on my yummy scale, only second to my favorite Japanese sushi restaurant Kiyosuzu in LA.

Uzen is located on 5415 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, and recommend getting there by BART as parking is painful to find.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Return of Angry Asian Food Critic - Now in San Francisco!

Dear fellow food fans, after many months of hiatus, I've finally came out again and decide to put my two cents on different restaurants I'm trying. I was getting a bit depressed in Columbus because I was running out of restaurants that I want to pay a second visit to, and also missed authentic Asian food. At this time, a great chance came up to move to San Francisco, which is much warmer than Columbus and only has about three weeks of winter (they're horrible, tho!!!), I've decided to packed my bags and move with (my now) husband to the Bay.

A while after settling in SF, I've noticed that my taste buds has awaken and have a new meaning to life, of course, that also means I've become even more of a picky eater. I've been hesitant to write another food blog again; however, there are freaking restaurants that I tried recently that just begs me to slam their food because it was so shitty. Therefore, I've decided to lift up my finger and start typing again.

Now onto the food that brought me out of hiatus:

The restaurant that I tried which whipped me back to my blogging phase is located in Stinson Beach called "Stinson Beach Grill." (Yes, it's a very original restaurant name) First off, our party had a reservation, but we still had to wait about 20 minutes to get to our seat because there is no host/hostess to seat us - our one friend had to play the 'handicapped card' to even get us seated in that time! Once we were seated, our waiter (whom I suspected is also the owner) was not doing a good job because he barely came over three times over the course of our dinner. Since it's a nice warm day and I saw that they have paella on their menu, I quickly decided to get a mixed green salad with paella. BIG MISTAKE!

The Menu is more of a Guide...

On the menu it said that the salad comes with candied walnut, tomatoes, and sherry vinaigrette. the salad arrives, the walnut was not candied, and the sherry vinaigrette was so salty it could wilt the lettuce! There is no balance what-so-ever on this so called "salad," and more disappointment is still on the way!

When my paella came, it's supposed to have mussel, clams, and prawns. First, the plate was completely splattered with sauce (thank goodness for my manservant, er husband, who cleaned it), and I did not get my prawns. And when I asked why I didn't get my prawns, our waiter informed me that I will not get my prawns for a while because "the kitchen is backed up right now." The paella was soupy and has no saffron flavor, and the whole dish probably have about 50 grains of rice and the rest was soup. It was the most horrible paella I've ever tasted, AND IT COST ABOUT $20!!!!

Needless to say, my dinner experience was not good at all (though we were with good friends and fun conversation!), and food in Stinson Beach Grill deserves at most 1 on my yummy scale. What a disappointment after a relaxing and fun afternoon at the beach. If you ever go to Stinson Beach and need to places to avoid, Stinson Beach Grill is a good choice.

Stinson Beach Grill is located on (correction) 3465 Highway One, Stinson Beach, CA 94970.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A New Blog for A New Year's Treat!

Yes, I know, I've been lazy and hadn't posted new blog in a while, (believe me, my fiance has been bugging me about this for a long time!) which is why I'm posting this new blog on some new restaurants that I've tried these couple of months.

First stop - Oscar's Restaurant and Wine Bar.
84 North High Street, Dublin, OH 43017-2162
When people think of restaurants in Dublin Ohio, one word might comes to mind - expensive (or snobby depending on what your opinion of Dublin is). However, Oscar's of Dublin provided a great dining experience without the threat of burning a hole through your wallet. The restaurant decor has an old pub feel to it, except it's cleaner and has no smoking! (Yeh for Issue 5!) The waiting staff were friendly (but not in the fake smile and "I want your money" sort of way), and the atmosphere was great too. You wouldn't have to worry about laughing too loud and get a dirty look from your neighbor at the next table. The food was prepared and proportioned very well. We tried their butternut squash bisque, which had a delicate and smooth flavor and seasoned perfectly. I also had the Veal and Shiitake Mushroom finished in a lemony cream sauce. The Veal was tender and sweet, along with the tartness from the caper and lemon sauce, it was really a pleasant surprise! My fiance had the Beef Tenderloin Tips and Torchio. The sauce was rusty and earthy, and the pasta was paired with perfectly done tenderloin tips. For dessert, we had their freshly made Apple Turnover. The hot apple turnover had a thin dough and was not overly cinnamoned. With ice cream topped on the turnover, it was a perfect way to finish the meal!
This was definitely a surprise for me, and a very pleasant one at that. Oscar's Restaurant and Wine Bar earned a 3.75 on my yummy scale.

Next Stop - Bexley's Monk
2232 E. Main Street, Bexley, OH 43209
Before I went to Bexley's Monk, I've always had this image of upper scale dining attached to the name. When my friends and I were there, it turned out that Bexley's Monk was more casual and family oriented than I've imagined. We each tried their salads to start, and each salad was fresh with variety of lettuces and balanced dressing. It was definitely a great way to start the meal. We each ordered different things on the menu so we could share and compare. And I started out with the grilled prawns with wild rice pilaf and green beans. The prawns were perfectly done and were very fresh. The natural sweetness of the prawn was emphasized with the slightly lemony green beans while the wild rice pilaf provided a different texture to the dish, and I absolutely loved it! I also tried the stuffed chicken breast as well. The chicken breast was juicy and the sauce was not overly creamy, which complemented the dish well. Another dish that we've had was their bone-in NY strip steak. The steak was nicely done and tender, and the gorgonzola butter on the steak gave a layer of complexity. The last dish we had was duck breast. Even though the duck breast was done well, the portion was not controlled nicely.
To finish our meal, we had a marscaponi cheese filled pastry with berry sauce and a double chocolate cake. The marscaponi cheese pastry was piping hot when it came out, and the filling was not overly sweet. Paired with the berry sauce, it was actually a nice dessert. The double chocolate cake was good, but it was a pretty regular chocolate cake though.
The overall experience was nice, and the food earned a 3.25 on my yummy scale.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Alinea Creates New Wave of Cuisine

This past weekend we went on a trip to Chicago. This was my virgin trip and quite a memorable one too! The most exciting thing that happened in this trip was our journey to try the new restaurant Alinea. The whole restaurant was well thought and carried out down to the very little detail, even with the stairs. The whole restaurant was chic and full of exquisite detailing and surprises, from the time I walked in feeling like Alice in Wonderland, until I was surprised by the stainless steel doors springing open and revealing a whole new adventure. I could go on and on about the restaurant, but the main focus was on the food, which was what I shall elaborate on below.

There are only two choices for the menu - Chef's tasting menu, which had 13 courses, or the full menu, which had 24 courses. Each menu items created new sensations in my mouth, and all were amazing. We accidently picked the tasting menu because of some confusion created when my fiance did the reservation. The first course was an ice cube of corn and coconut broth, with cayenne, lime zest, and a drop of mint sauce presented on a flat aluminum spoon on top of a glass block. The presentation was great, but the flavor of the cube was explosive. The small 1" cube packed complex flavor and tasted like a condensed cold soup. Even long after I swallowed the ice cube, the flavor of corn and coconut still lingered for a long while. The second course was a tomato course, which was butterflied and topped with various toppings, including african cous cous, dried salami, dark crouton, saffron and mollasses jelly, curry sauce, and along with a mozzarella balloon filled with a tomato foam. Each flavor gave a slight twist to the tomato, and the tomato foam and mozzarella was exceptional. The third course was poached mackerel topped with turmeric, bee balm, and poppyseed broth. The mackerel was soft and tender, with the turmeric giving a little tartness. Along with the broth, it was a small bite of heaven! The fourth course was lobster with vacherin, ginger, and litchi, tempura battered and fried and served on a vanilla stick. This provided a familiar flavor since Japanese food was my love, but the dish also provided new flavor such as the combination of vanilla and litchi. The litchi and ginger were hard to tell in the dish, but the vanilla aroma added an interesting layer to the simple dish. The fifth course was black truffle on top of a broth-filled ravioli with some parmesan. The ravioli melted in the mouth and the black truffle did not overwhelm the dish at all. The sixth dish was porcini paste with sauteed porcini mushroom, with ham, cherry, and some garlic cream. The porcini paste was a little strong in this dish, but the combination of the porcini, ham, and cherry was good.

The seventh dish was Peach and carrot puree with some smoked paprika. This was defintely my favorite dish because the dish was taken as a shot, and the first layer of flavor I got was the carrot, then the sweetness of the peach took over with a smoky overtone from the paprika as it exploded in my mouth (seriously!!). It was just heavenly. The eighth dish was Kobe beef with cocoa-dusted watermelon and chilled marinated watermelon. I've never tried a beef and watermelon combination, but this was a very pleasant surprise. The cocoa provided a slight smokiness and the sweetness of the watermelon and Kobe beef were actually extremely compatible. The ninth dish was three cubes of lamb, one with a mastic jam (tasted kind of like mint, but it wasn't mint), one with some sort of garlic cream, and the last one was with various pepper in southwestern flavor. Each lamb gave a different flavor, and the gradual increase of flavors made this dish a very interesting one. The tenth dish was a hot potato cube with parmesan cube topped with white truffle with cold potato soup. The difference in temperature was the interesting point in the dish, and the different earthy flavor combination also worked extremely well together. The eleventh dish was a pan-seared squab with peppercorn pudding, duck hash, and strawberry. This was not my favorite dish even though the squab was very tender. The dish was very "ducky" in flavor and also the combination was fairly common. But, moving on.

The next dish was applewood bacon with butterscotch string and thyme, swinging on a wire trapeze. The flavor combination was absolutely amazing, and, while the dish was not overly sweet, the applewood smoke was enhanced by the sweetness of the butterscotch and thyme. The next dish was a raspberry with goat milk cream, red pepper taffy, and pistachio crisp. I've never been a pistachio fan, but this dish has turned me into a fan! The red pepper taffy was not too sweet and was great with raspberry. The cream gave a well-rounded finish to the dessert. The next dish was poached fig with semisweet chocolate and served with infused tea. The infused tea and fig was absolutely incredible. Along with the semisweet chocolate, the flavor was simple and the combination perfect. And, FINALLY, the last dish was a salty dry caramel. The caramel was simple and excellently done, as it was liquified within your mouth. The salt excentuated the caramel's sweetness, but the caramel was not as sweet as some of the dry caramel in the market. This finishing dessert was just amazing.

After the 13 course amazing food adventure, we went on our way back to the hotel(and, with the help of Al Unser, JR. as our cab driver, we were back very quickly!). I really applaud the chef for trying new boundaries with food combination and presentations, and I think he truelly understand that we eat with our eyes first. The restaurant was absolutely amazing, with true 5 star service by the fantastic wait staff, and I hope the new wave of cuisine created by Alinea would move toward Columbus soon. If you want to experience absolute pleasure for your taste and visual senses, and if you just to happened to be in Chicago, please go to Alinea on 1723 N. Halsted, Chicago IL 60614.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Oodles Has Oodles of Crap!

Though I usually read The Other Paper for new restaurant suggestions, however, I've never trusted their reviews simply because the food critiques on there seem to be unbiased jokes! Case in point, after reading the latest The Other Paper, I learned that there is a new noodles and dumpling restaurant in town, which was extremely exciting for me because I LOVE dumplings. So the day has come for me to go try this new place called Oodles, and, sadly, it was one of the most horrible food experience I've ever had (even worse than Zen Sushi!).

To start out with, the menu is 90% noodle dishes, and you do NOT have a restaurant named "Ooodles noodle & dumpling bar" that has a lack of dumpling choices. Then I've decided to try the pot stickers along with the dumpling soup with meat and chicken broth, and my fiance tried their Shanghai-style pan fried noodle. The pot stickers tasted exactly like the ones that came out of the factory-sealed Japanese brand pot stickers, complete with a hint process taste. And nothing gets me more excited than factory processed food! (that's meant to be taken sarcastically) The taste of the pot sticker was bland at best. Despite my disappointment, I decided to suck it up and went on with the dumplings with meat, swimming in chicken broth. Unfortunately, it was even more horrible than the pot stickers, because the dumplings were the same factory-sealed Japanese style dumpling, and on top of that, the meat was sauteed with veggies WITHOUT seasoning and then dumped into the canned chicken soup! The soup was greasy because of the sauteed meat and veggies, and the meat and veggies has no taste because it wasn't seasoned!

My fiance's Shanghai style noodle was also terrible. First, when the noodle was served on the plate, you could see about 1/4" of oil on the bottom. Second, the noodle was spicy (and not in a good way), and Shanghai style cooking is NEVER spicy! Third, the noodle was just tasteless and there was nothing special about it! Apparently the owner of Oodles wants to push the store into Chipotle-like chain(per the word of the Other Paper), and for that I applaud the owner's ambition because no one in their right mind would try to create a restaurant chain serving bland and crappy tasting food that you might as well eat McDonald's! (And McDonald's has a Dollar Menu!)

With all that said, Oodles could only get a 1 out of 5 on my yummy scale. And after the horrible food experience, the food also gave my fiance tummy aches as well. So if you need to clean out your system via alternative methods (instead of taking Metamusal), please don't be hesitate to try Oodles on 765 Neil Ave. Columbus, OH 43215.