Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Invite only, at an undisclosed location till the morning of.
To get there, you ring a bell on an unmarked door and get buzzed up.
So I'm looking for this place with eager anticipation.
I walk in and see the Chef in the kitchen cooking up a storm.
In addition, and prolly more importantly, there were 2 amazingly (eye popping) beautiful ladies fixing up the place and coordinating with the waitstaff on what to do incase of ....
They were the Hostesses / Promoters of the event. I grinned and introduced myself immediately.
I was a bit early because I wanted to go over the menu with the chef one more time.
I was the resident Sake Sommelier for the night so I wanted to make sure I had full understanding of all the course going to be sent out.
An intimate setting in the middle of chaotic Meat Packing District. I was loving it.
Cocktails were passed around at 7:30pm and dinner was served at 8pm.
My sake went out with each course and I did my schpeel.
There were 12 bottles of Sake for 24 guests. Ah, yah...
We were there till 11:45pm.
By the end of the night, everyone was pretty "happy" and exceptionally "friendly".
Hooch does that to people... And I'm glad to say I was the hooch-man last night.
I'm definitely looking forward to more of these little soirees in the future.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Again, I didn’t have the craving when there. And it’s not like you can’t get this food when there (for the most part).
Stay tuned, mon. (Okay, they didn’t say “mon” there, but you DID hear a lot of “man.”)
P.S. Picture is Flamenco Beach located on Culebra Island located a little east of the main island of Puerto Rico
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Kabocha with Jidori Chicken Soup
(Served Hot or Cold)
Take the carcass of 4# chicken, season and roast (at 400 degrees) along with 6 cloves of garlic on the same roasting tray for 45 minutes.
Take carcass and submerge into 500cc of boiling water. Add 3 T of salt and 2 whole shallots. Gently simmer for 40 minutes and remove stock for later use. Let the carcass cool and shred meat and reserve for plating.
Break down 1/2 a Kabocha and cut up into 1 inch dice.
Sautee in 4 quart pot, along with the roasted garlic cloves for 10 minutes then add 300cc of just made chicken stock.
Let simmer and cover for 20 minutes. (Kabocha should be fork tender)
Then add remaining stock and bring out stick blender.
Puree till smooth. Add 3 T of cream and pulse another 5 to 10 seconds.
Bunch in the middle of a soup bowl 2 T of the shredded chicken.
ladle in the Kobocha Soup and serve.
In hindsight, I would substitute the shredded bits of chicken with grilled prawns.
And with the unused shredded chicken, I think I could make a pretty good Ban Ban Ji or even a chicken salad with it.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Heat documents Bill's time at Babbo. He was previously an editor (and terrible cook) at the New Yorker, but he took 1 1/2 years off to work at Babbo and then subsequently trained with a famous butcher in Tuscany. The book is very easy to read and great for those short on time - some sections are only 2 pages long.
It also gives a great insight on the true Mario Batali, not the fun/loveable Food Network icon. With that huge personality, you know he liked to par-tay and this book documents his voracious appetite for food, drink, drugs (doing coke off of a pizza pan), and women. It also shows that he doesn't know what's going on in his kitchen. When they were opening up Otto, Mario obviously was never paying any attention to what was going on at Babbo. During that time, 5 of his top chefs quit, which may have explained my two mediocre experiences at Babbo since it was around 2003-2004. It seemed Mario's partner Joe Bastianich is the one that knows the ins and outs of their empire. Joe was the one that actually gave the go ahead on the new head chef at Babbo, not Mario.
Love Mario as a teacher of la cucina italiana and he's probably cool to party with, but I will never go to any of his restaurants again. He doesn't have a handle on his kitchen and the fact that he opens up restaurants every other day means it's not going to get better. However, with that being said, Heat is a great book and highly recommended and I'm already looking for my next food related book.
A great excerpt describing a break during Mario's ex-Food Network show Molto Mario - enjoy:
"Finally, there's a break (Whew!), and you can relax, except that Mario pent up by the effort to present a wholesome version of himself lets loose with everything he's kept contained, an anarchic spilling out of naughtiness, involving whatever food item is to hand: like an artichoke ("Because it gives me so much wood") or cobra meat ("because it gives me even more wood than an artichoke, big wood, strong like-a-tree wood," whereupon he embraces two female prep cooks bearishly and invites them to imagine they're in a post-cobra-eating circle, "deeply satisfied.")
In addition, the Bay Area has such a great diversity in cuisines just like the Big Apple. Unfortunately, on this trip, that didn't include Italian. A couple of the pastas I had were pretty subpar. Even with the pasta deficiencies, love the place and can't wait to go back.
Goals for the next Bay Area Trip (besides Swan Oyster Depot and Cioppino from Tadich Grill)
- Revisit Gary Danko to see if it still lives up as my best restaurant experience
- Visit Chez Panisse and see where the whole California cooking movement started from
- Find great pasta. Considering they have a good Italian Area in North Beach, they definitely have to have some great pasta somewhere in the Bay Area.
- Find out what the best sushi in the bay area is
- Get some stinky tofu - a Taiwanese/Hong Kong specialty that is supposedly killer in SF literally and figuratively
- Check out Napa in more detail. Mainly went to Napa for French Laundry, but some of the wines were pretty tasty and driving around Napa is a blast. My fave was V. Sattui...
Masses Pastries -1469 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 - Highly Recommended
Comments - Great pastries in a fun town.
Cesar - 1515 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 - Average
Comments - Fun tapas restaurant, but the scene is better than the food. The tuna and egg sandwich were great though.
ABC Cafe - 650 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 Average
Comments - Serving American style dishes at a Chinese place which is quite odd. Bbq Duck and Noodle soup were good. Supposedly the pastries are good too.
Chef's Woo- 6154 Bollinger Road, San Jose, CA 95129 - Recommended
Comments - Good Taiwanese food. Skip the xiao long bow and go for the veggie dumpling.
Scala's Bistro - Not Recommended
Comments - Average pasta at expensive prices ($18 f or lunch pasta). Burger was decent.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Palisades Park, NJ 07650
Korean Fried Chicken.
This picture does not do it justice.
Somewhat of a Beer Hall, Baden Baden serves cold Korean Beers, excellent Fried Chicken, a few other Korean dishes that go well with a cold brew and to top it off, is equipped with a Karaoke joint downstairs.
-The Chicken -
I suspect it's first roasted, then dipped in the fryer to crisp up the skin.
Well seasoned with tons of roasted garlic in the cavity.
Nothing nothing short of delicious.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
From the days of the "Walkman", to "Betamax", to "Playstation", to "AIBO", to "Blu-Ray", and now grape juice Power Converters.
Yes, freakin' grape juice... (or any other type of high fructose juice out there) The website is in Japanese, so for ease, copy the URL and paste it to Google Translator if you have a minute.
The premise is any sugars can be converted into enough electric current to power a simple electronic device.
Click on the video on the website and see for yourself.
With a little bit more work, we may see the last days of the AA battery and instead, have connecting tubes running out of our Coca-Cola bottles.
Alright, maybe not. But it's way cool to think it...
Friday, August 24, 2007
For those of you who don't know who Sasha Issenberg is;
He has written for Slate, The Washington Monthly, Inc., Philadelphia, Conde Nast Traveler and George, where he served as a contributing editor. The Sushi Economy is his first book. He lives in Philadelphia.
Please read the interview by clicking here.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Daimaru Sushi - Recommended
290 Sanchez St
at 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-1614
Phone: (415) 863-9128
For our last dinner in San Francisco, I wanted sushi. After eating at Julia’s for lunch, the great ingredients made me think San Francisco probably has really fresh sushi. Daimaru Sushi (courtesy of our friend Dan) definitely fits the bill with some very fresh sushi and again, I was surprised how good the place was. Overall, I give the restaurant an 85/100.
Sushi and lots of it.
When eating sushi at a sushi counter there’s an ebb and flow with the sushi chef (how was the previous item, what would you like next, how full are you), so I didn’t want to take any pictures or write down what I ate.
What stood out was how amazingly fresh the fish was (especially the kanpachi) and how big the flavors were. The rice was average (too sticky and clumpy), but because the fish tasted so fresh and the price was so reasonable I really didn’t care. A big standout was the castro roll (mango, eel, avocado, with a sweet and spicy sauce). I’ve never had such a sweet mango in a sushi roll before – again California produce is shining. Other standouts were the white tuna which tasted so fresh and rich. BBQ quail egg skewers were tasty as well. Ankimo (monkfish liver) was really rich and the sweet spicy sauce matched perfectly.
Overall Restaurant Experience (85/100)
- Food 8.6/10 – Fish is really fresh and I actually like the sweet/spicy sauces on some of the dishes.
- Service 8.8/10 – The sushi chef (I’m assuming Daimaru) was really friendly and recommended great pieces of sushi. Sushi came out a little slow, since he was the only sushi chef for the whole place. Didn’t matter, since we were still so happy.
- Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Very casual place. Looks like any average sushi place. Crowd consisted of couples and also a large group.
- Price 9.1/10 – The price was amazing for the amount and quality of the food. When you get 1 order of kanpachi for example, it actually comes with two pieces (still for $5). Great deal for the quality. Unfortunately, since the restaurant aims towards low price points, they don’t serve toro unless the price drops and the quality is still good.
After eating lots of sushi with Porthos, I tend to lean towards the traditional Edo style of sushi. No crazy sauces, no huge pieces of sushi - just fish and rice. However, I truly like Daimaru Sushi because of the freshness / flavors and also the cost. I think the next time I eat sushi in San Francisco it’ll be at a high end traditional edo style place. See what some true sushi masters can do with the phenomenal fish San Francisco has to offer.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Julia's Kitchen at COPIA – Highly Recommended
500 1st Street
Napa, CA 94559
After the grand spectacle of the French Laundry, we weren’t really looking for any place in particular to eat. I heard some things about a Napa food and wine museum called COPIA, which sounded intriguing. Fortunately for us, Julia’s Kitchen is located at COPIA and I heard some good things about this place. The restaurant is named after Julia Child and although I haven’t watched many of her tv shows – I still respected her tremendously. The restaurant definitely does justice to her namesake. Overall, I give the restaurant an 89/100.
1) Copia Garden Peach Salad – Highly Recommended (must have)
2) Sauteed Dayboat Scallops – Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Chicken and Mushroom Fricasse – Not Recommended
1) After the first bite of the peach, I knew California was very special. This was unlike any peach I’ve ever had on the East Coast or really anywhere. So naturally sweet, which perfectly complemented the rich goat cheese and great vinaigrette. The hazelnuts were a surprising flavor and texture addition to the salad. A phenomenal salad.
2) I’m a sucker for scallops (my favorite seafood) and these are done perfectly, where it’s juicy and very sweet. However, the keys to this dish are again the phenomenal California produce. The potatoes had the best flavor and texture I’ve ever had of any potato. Combine that with the crispy shallots, roasted tomatoes (which were amazing on it’s own), scallops, and wonderful lemon beurre blanc sauce and this was another dish that will be burned in my mind forever. Definitely will try to recreate a version of this sometime…
3) I had a feeling this was going to be average, but I really wanted pasta since I haven’t had any on this trip (pasta is my first food love). Unfortunately, I was right and this was just OK. The pasta didn't have enough silkiness to my liking and the sauce didn’t really go well with the pasta. The chicken was moist, but nothing seemed to blend together.
Overall Restaurant Experience (89/100)
- Food 9.0/10 – Even though the pasta was average, the salad and scallop dishes were amazing. If I picked any other dish off the “A tribute to Julia” section, I would have been really happy. Unfortunately, I have a pasta obsession…
- Service 8.5/10 – Server was extremely nice and helpful. At times, she was a tad unresponsive, but that was just because we had The French Laundry experience the day before. Food came out promptly.
- Atmosphere 9/10 – A casual restaurant that is really beautiful. The colors of the restaurant really pop out and make the place very bright along with the large windows overlooking Copia’s garden. Like the French Laundry, seeing a very large garden next to a restaurant really puts you in the mindset of good eating. All along the restaurant you will see awards and certificates to Julia Child (as well as her picture at the entrance), which makes you pay homage to a great chef and instructor. The crowd is dressed very casual and when we were there was a large family there with some young children.
- Price 9.0/10 – This was 10% of the French Laundry bill and I was in some ways happier after this meal than the French Laundry.
I wasn’t expecting much from this place and I was shocked at how good the food was. I’ve had potatoes and peaches from many restaurants all over the world and they’ve never compared to the ones at Julia’s Kitchen. After being inspired by the cooking and the Julia memorabilia, I am going to get Julia's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Definitely coming back and next time I’ll stay with the French/New American dishes and stay away from the pastas.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The French Laundry - Highly Recommended (caveat for price)
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
What is the best restaurant you’ve been to? We ask this question a lot amongst our food buddies. Mine was Gary Danko in San Francisco, my first superb fine dining experience - I’ve been to Babbo and Aureole before but this was a different category. To many, French Laundry is the best restaurant in the United States and some would say, the best restaurant in the world. There was a lot of hype coming into this restaurant and I was quite worried.
I’ve been disappointed to some degree by many of these so-called top restaurants. Bouley was terrible. Daniel had some of the best dishes I’ve ever had, yet other dishes were pretty bad. Jean Georges was the most consistent, but nothing really blew me away.
I tried to remove any preconceptions about this restaurant, which was a little difficult since I’ve wanted to visit this place for the last 6 years. Finally, when our San Francisco trip was planned, the highlight of the trip was going to be the French Laundry. It took ages to book the place as this previous post can attest. Also, I’ve been browsing through the French Laundry cookbook since December in eager anticipation.
My final verdict. In my opinion, this is not the best restaurant I’ve ever been to (explanation on this later). However, this is by far the most consistent of any restaurant I’ve been to. Everything was very good and there were a few things that were excellent. Overall, I give the restaurant a 93/100.
1) Gougeres – Highly Recommended (must have)
2) Salmon Tartare Cornets – Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Cauliflower Panna Cotta – Highly Recommended
with Beau Soleil Oyster Glaze and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
4a) Chilled Globe Artichoke and Summer Truffle Veloute - Recommended
Thumbelina Carrots, Confit of Yukon Gold Potatoes and Parsley Shoots
4b) Moulard Duck Foie Gras en Terrine – Highly Recommended (must have)
Michigan Sour Cherry Condiment, Celery Branch, Balsamic Vinegar Glaze and Toasted Brioche
5a) Olive Oil-Poached Sablefish - Recommended
Black Radishes, Granny Smith Apples and Whipped Dill Crème Fraiche
5b) Grilled Sea of Japan Octopus – Recommended
New Crop Onions, Preserved Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and Watercress Leaves
6) Pinces de Homard Pochees Au Beurre Doux - Recommended
Jackson’s Farm Heirloom Squash, Oven-Roasted Early Girl Tomatoes and Garden Basil Pudding
7a) Four Story Hills Farm Poularde – Highly Recommended
Golden Chanterelle Mushrooms, Brentwood Sweet Corn, Brown Butter and Thyme Infused Jus
7b) Japanese Wagyu Tartare – Not Recommended for Price
Koshihikari Rice, Broccolini Fleurettes, Preserved Ginger and Barrel-Aged Tamari Emulsion
8) Elysian Fields Selle D’Agneau Rotie Entiere – Highly Recommended (must have)
Toasated Farro Pilaf,Fennel Bulb, Nicoise Olives, Piquillo Peppers and Olive Sauce
9) Ascutney Mountain - Recommended
Black Mission Fig, Italian Pine Nut Butter, Espelette Syrup and Arugula
10) Silverado Trail Strawberry Sorbet – Highly Recommended (must have)
au Granite de Tomates
11a) Amedi Bitter Chocolate Pave – Highly Recommended (must have)
Baked Chocolate Truffle and Terzi Coffe Bavarois
11b) Glace Aux Noyaux D’Abricots – Highly Recommended (must have)
Apricot Sorbet, Pates de Fruit, Nutmeg Franipane and Steusel
12) Mignardises – Highly Recommended (must have)
1) First item that came out was a single Gougere. I thought I knew what they were since Artisanal makes phenomenal Gougeres there. These were much, much better. The crust was very flaky and tender, and there was actually a slightly warm molten gruyere center. Taste buds were wide awake.
2) This was what I was waiting for. Keller is famous for his Salmon Cornets and I took a bite of the salmon tartare and it was nice, but I was wondering what the fuss was all about. Then I realized it was meant to be eaten together with the cornet and man I was so happy. Inside the cornet, there was crème fraiche which matched perfectly with the crispy and subtly sweet cornet. Great stuff.
3) Cauliflower panna cotta was very surprising. A nice delicate sweetness to the cauliflower which matched perfectly with the saltiness of the caviar. I’m noticing a very nice mild balance of flavors at this restaurant.
4a) Fiancee got the artichoke veloute which had an intense artichoke flavor. A very nice refreshing veloute.
4b) I went for the $40 Foie Gras supplement which came with three salts – Japan, France, and a Jurassic one (yes like from the dinosaur ages). I’ve had a good share of foie gras including D’artagnan’s parents home-made foie gras and the best I’ve ever had – Brasserie Flo in Metz, France. This one was different from any FG that I’ve ever had. Very light and very sweet. It was truly an epiphany how good this was. This was the dish that said – you are at the French Laundry and are having a very special meal. The Japanese salt made the foie taste even sweeter while the Jurassic one gave it a more rich flavor. Very fun stuff adding your own salts. Side note – Brasserie Flo’s FG is still my favorite.
5a) Fiancee ordered the sablefish which was so tender. Again great cooking technique here. However, this was a little bit of a letdown flavor-wise after the ridiculously good FG. I guess what wouldn’t have been a letdown? Still tasty though.
5b) The grilled sea octopus was better than the sablefish. Perfectly cooked and the acidity of the meyer lemon, bitterness of the watercress, and sourness of some preserved onions worked well together.
6) Sounding like a broken record, but the lobster again was perfectly cooked. This married perfectly with the sweet piquillo peppers. However, for some reason I actually would rather have a steamed lobster with drawn butter.
7a) Fiancee went with the poularde. I always say you can tell if the kitchen knows what they’re doing if they create a moist, flavorful chicken. At Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill the chicken was so dried out, I wanted to get up and leave the restaurant. Unsurprisingly, the Poularde here was perfect. Juicy and flavorful matching perfectly with the sweet corn and nutty brown butter.
7b) I went with the $40 Japanese Wagyu tartare supplement. This was a decent dish if it was part of the tasting menu, but was not worth the extra $40 (I should have ordered another piece of Fois). The wagyu was insanely rich and flavorful, however it didn’t meld well with the other ingredients. Having a bite of the rice (a tad too hard), ginger, wagyu, and tamari was decent but didn’t work so well. I tried other combinations (rice, broccolini, wagyu – better) but wasn’t phenomenal.
8) Maybe the best lamb dish I’ve ever had. Perfectly tender and juicy, really intense lamb flavor that matched well with the bitter/salty olive sauce. So good.
9) After going to Artisanal for the second time this month (I like that place a lot), it’s hard to compare any cheeses to the ones at Artisanal. However, this was interesting especially with the amazing figs and decent cheese. Decent plate.
10) Wow, best palate cleanser ever. This was like a Marcel (from Top Chef) dish. Tomato foam which really tastes like fresh tomatoes and the granitee which again really tastes like tomatoes. After combining the sweet strawberry sorbet with the foam and granitee I was in heaven. It was like a bite of summer, which is so California. Maybe the most memorable dish of the meal.
11a) Fiancee ordered the chocolate pave which was so rich and intensely flavored. The subtly sweet coffee crème perfectly offset the rich chocolate. Ridiculously good.
11b) At first I didn’t like this dish. The sorbet tasted like a slightly sour apricot. However, like most of the other dishes, combining the sour sorbet with the rich and sweet frangipaine put a tear to my eye. This was a crescendo of the desserts and showed how great the dessert chef was here.
12) Mignardises, meaning pretty or delicate in French, describes the little after-dessert desserts. Again, these were out of the ball park. My favorite were the chocolate, caramel crusted macadamia nuts. No need to describe – just think about how that would taste. Crème brulee was perfect. There was another side crème dish with some type of fruit compote which was phenomenal. Olive bread was sweet and salty and very good. Chocolate truffles were on and so good.
Overall Restaurant Experience (93/100)
- Food 9.3/10 – Everything was perfectly cooked and using the best ingredients. Not as many mind blowing dishes as I expected for the entrée portion, but still amazing stuff. Desserts were sublime and were the highlight of the meal. As you can see from the pictures, the plates were presented beautifully. Like works of art using very large white plates/bowls, the colors of the food seemed to jump of the plate.
- Service 9.0/10 – Servers were nice and the food came out very promptly. About 5 minutes per course. Fiancee noted (and I agreed) that the service was good, but we’ve been to a lot better places for service – Daniel, Gary Danko etc. At Daniel they had so many floor managers, that they would come by without me motioning someone if I wanted wine or if my wine glass was empty.
- Atmosphere 9.5/10 – Not a really stuffy restaurant, but more like staying at a nice B&B. Crowd was mainly older couples or people on business meetings. Fiancee was worried that she wasn’t dressy enough for such a high-end restaurant, but we ended up being the most dressy there – maybe a California thing of not needing to dress to the nines. We had an 11am lunch and we were seated promptly. One of the things that Cali has over NYC is the phenomenal views. It's so relaxing seeing mountains and vineyards; and across the street from the French Laundry there's a garden for the restaurant. We actually saw chefs in the garden picking up produce and bringing it back to the kitchen. This puts you in the mood to eat well and you enter the restaurant very happy.
- Price 7.8/10 – A lot of people that dined at French Laundry mentioned that it is definitely not worth the price. I’m 50/50 on this. While the experience was great, the price was very high ($700 for 2). For this price, I could’ve dined at 2 fine dining restaurants in San Francisco that may have had the same quality of food. Because of this, I say it’s worth it to maybe try once, but I probably will never go back, since I would rather spend my money at two amazing places than one.
It may be sad to say, but I only have strong memories of food that blew me away. Now that I’ve been to a lot of the top restaurants in NY and phenomenal restaurants in Europe and Asia, it’s very difficult to come away with a feeling of ultra euphoria. Only when I try new cuisines (like my trip last year to Mexico) or food that is unexpectedly good (a bianca pizza at the random Columbia U restaurant Sezz Medi) do I get a sense of insane happiness. The French Laundry was certainly a great dining experience, but in my opinion it was a very similar meal to Jean Georges in NYC (however, the French Laundry had much better ingredients). Great meal where all the dishes are consistently very good, but I want home runs on every single dish. If not every single dish than at least all the entrees. I still think Gary Danko is the best restaurant I’ve been to, however, I’m not sure it will hold up any more. C’est la vie. My next heavy hitter restaurants will be Le Bernardin and a return to Daniel. As usual, I will keep you all posted...
Monday, August 20, 2007
Hu-Chiang (HC) Dumpling House - Highly Recommended
10877 N. Wolfe Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
Tony and his wife Frankie took us to the HC Dumpling House since we were craving some soup dumplings or xiao long bao - a Shanghainese specialty. HC Dumpling House has by far the best soup dumplings I've had in the States (the reigning soup dumpling champ for me is still Din Tai Fung in Taiwan) Overall, I give the restaurant an 85/100.
1) Taro Fries - Highly Recommended
2) Melon Soup Dumplings - Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Pork Soup Dumplings - Highly Recommended (must have)
4) Crab Soup Dumplings - Recommended
5) Dong Po Pork - Average
6) Steamed Spinach - Recommended
1) Very addicting. Salty, crunchy, and a richer flavor than french fries.
2-4) My keys to a great soup dumpling are a very thin/tender skin that is difficult to puncture, flavorful filling, and rich soup. Just by looking at these expertly crafted dumplings, I could tell we were in for a treat at HC. The star of the group was the unique melon dumpling, which has a nice subtly sweet flavor. The skin still pierced a little, but I've only seen Din Tai Fung create a dumpling skin so perfect.
5) Dong Po Pork is a stewed pork dish, that is ridiculously tender and a tad sweet. Something about the Dong Po here wasn't quite right. The pork was not tender enough, the sauce was too thick and too sweet. Still a tasty dish, but my last memory of Dong Po pork was at Tien Hsiang Lo in Taipei - the best I've ever had.
6) A healthy tasting steamed spinach (very fresh) perfectly cooked topped with a chicken broth.
Overall Restaurant Experience (85/100)
- Food 8.6/10 - The best soup dumplings I've had in the states.
- Service 7.9/10 - Service was decent, but it took a while before we got our food.
- Atmosphere 8/10 - Lines are very long at this place. Took about 45 minutes to be served at 8pm on a Saturday night. Crowd was mainly Asian families.
- Price 8.5/10 - Price is very reasonable for great soup dumplings.
I love soup dumplings - such a great comfort food - and HC definitely delivers. Again, I wish a place comparable to this was in NYC. Supposedly the best soup dumplings in the city is Joe's Shanghai, but Joe's doesn't even come close to this place. Din Tai Fung is still the soup dumpling champ, but surprisingly this takes a very close second.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
11am to 12pm Monday thru Friday.
10am to 12pm on Sundays.
His radio show Food Talk was originally conceptualized by the legendary Arthur Schwartz and since Arthur's departure a few years ago, finding a successor had been somewhat of a headache.
Tyler Florence and Rocco DiSpirito both gave it a crack but they know nothing about restaurants in Manhattan. It was apparent on the radio when people would call up about recommendations and cooking advice and you could hear them thumbing through the Zagats or a Larousse trying to give sound advice.
Well, to a lot of guys in the industry, it's a deep breath of relief to know that a true professional is sitting at the mic giving good advice.
As I understand, Sara Moulton, Lidia Bastianich both wanted the job but I'm truly glad Mike got tapped for the job, and given free reign to do what he does very well. To just talk about food.
Mike also has a PBS television show called "Colameco's Food Show" where he goes around to restaurants, interviews the chef, films him doing a demo and then goes back to his home kitchen where he will try to construct a dish that you or I could make while highlighting the Chef's style and concepts. Cool stuff all around.
courtesy of JunkFoodBlog.com
The Inventure Group, who would like to be known for their Intensely Different (tm) products, has teamed up with Burger King.
Their new product is being promoted as a Burger King snack item that can be purchased outside of the fast food outlets and are free of trans fats.
They potato-based chips come in a two flavors including the Ketchup & Fries (in fry shapes), Flame Broiled Burger (in chip shapes).
Packages range from 2 ounce, 3 oz. and 5 oz. in stores as well as a a 1 oz. 100 calorie pack for vending machines.
Official Burger King website (which makes no mention of these things) and a Consumerist.com post from last month that does. Here's the original press release ... I'd like to work someplace where my email address I put on press releases ends with whopper.com.
Friday, August 17, 2007
San Tung - Recommended
1031 Irving St San Francisco 94122
Btwn 11th & 12th Ave
The fiancee's brother took us to San Tung for dinner (thanks Tony!). I never realized how good Chinese food in the bay area is. NY really can't touch the Chinese food out here. It's not generic Americanized Chinese food, but really is representative of the many different styles of Chinese cooking. San Tung represents the Shantung region in Northern China (imagine that). Overall, I give the restaurant an 80/100.
1) Preserved Eggs - Highly Recommended
2) Vegetable Dumpling - Recommended
3) Original Dried Fried Chicken - Highly Recommended (must have)
4) Three Deluxe Spicy Noodles - Highly Recommended
5) Black Bean Sauce Noodles - Recommended
1) Hard boiled eggs with Chinese five spice and a light sweet soy. I'm a sucker for hard boiled eggs, and this was done perfectly.
2) Decent dumpling, but skin was a little thick for my liking. Every Chinese place we've been to in the Bay Area does it proper providing the vinegar, soy, and ginger. Great combo with the dumplings.
3) Our friend Steph was raving about fried chicken so luckily for us, this place is known for their fried chicken wings. Perfectly crispy on the outside, yet tender meat on the inside. A little sweet, but not KFC sweet. The perfect little fried chicken wing.
4) Basically a combo of very thick rice noodles, shrimp, calamari, and scallops, with some veggies and very flavorful sauce. Again, evoking why I love it out here in the Bay. Fresh crisp veggies, fresh seafood with a wonderful sauce. Goes perfectly with white rice or the noodles.
5) Housemade noodles with a thick black bean sauce as well as beef, shrimp, and calamari. Noodles had a great texture and the sauce was surprisingly light.
Overall Restaurant Experience (80/100)
- Food 8.5/10 - Very good Chinese food.
- Service 7.3/10 - Average Service. We asked for rice 3 times and they finally brought it out on the third time.
- Atmosphere 7.5/10 - This place gets packed. We got there at 6 and there was already a 30 minute wait. By 7:30 the place was packed with people outside - had to be at least an hour wait. The crowd is mainly young Asians, but there were a bunch of non-Asians there as well. Standard Chinese restaurant motif.
- Price 8.8/10 - Price point is great for the quality.
This is the style of food that the tri-state area is sorely lacking. We have pretty good Cantonese style food, but nothing like this.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Burma Superstar - Recommended
309 Clement St, San Francisco 94118
Btwn 4th & 5th Ave
The only thing I knew about Burma was when J Peterman from Seinfeld had a nervous breakdown and secluded himself over there. J. Peterman - "You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me." I had no clue what Burmese food would taste like, but the Burma Superstar crew said we had to visit this restaurant - thanks Christine and Steph! Good food + good company = good times (that must be an equation in some textbook). Burma borders India, Thailand, Laos, and China and the food definitely draws upon these cuisines. Overall, I give the restaurant an 78/100.
1) Vegetarian Samusa Soup - Recommended
2) Tea Leaf Salad - Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Rainbow Salad - Average
4) Chicken Dahl - Recommended
5) Ginger Beer - Recommended
1) Very rich and earthy almost like a Malaysian curry, but it's awoken with a nice citrus kick kinda like good Thai food. Samusa is a tad crunchy which adds a nice contrast to the dish. Also, some sweet lentils adds a nice change of flavor and texture to the soup. Pretty good soup.
2) Wow. What a great combination of textures and flavors (even more so than the soup). Crunchy lettuce; earthy flavors from the tea leaves, sesame seeds, and peanuts; surprisingly subtle fried garlic; and good brightness/acidity from the tomato and some type of citrus. Wonderful and really surprising dish.
3) Noodles, tofu, dried shrimp, and some other ingredients make up this salad. It was ok, but not really worth recommending.
4) A very tender chicken curry, again almost like a Malaysian curry. The star here however is the sweet tender yellow lentils. Combining the two makes for a very good flavor combination. Adding the coconut rice and you have happy days. If the chicken was more flavorful on it's own, I would have highly recommended this.
5) Not the same as the amazing Caribbean ginger beer. This one is basically a beer, infused with some ginger, and brightened up (as with most of the dishes) with some type of acidity - probably lime or kaffir lime leaf. Good stuff.
Overall Restaurant Experience (78/100)
- Food 7.8/10 - Burmese food is a wonderful combination of textures and flavors - love the acidity.
- Service 8.0/10 - Friendly waitstaff. They did not need to do much describing, since Christine and Steph ordered our meal sans menu - intense.
- Atmosphere 7.5/10 - Decent casual Asian decor. Crowd again is a mix of Asians, non-Asians, younger and older groups. Watch out though, the lines at this place are very, very long. We got there at 11:45, so we were lucky and seated right away.
- Price N/A - Christine took care of the bill, but it looks this place is reasonably priced.
Burmese food does not taste like Chinese food. The problem with a lot of Asian food served in America (e.g. Thai Curries, Japanese teriyaki), they all taste like Chinese food when they definitely should not. It seems to be a reoccurring theme, but San Francisco again treats Asian food properly. A caveat though - if you're staying in downtown San Francisco with no car, I would say it may not be worth traveling out to Richmond to come to Burma Superstar especially if there's a long wait. Food is enjoyable, but may not be worth a trip out there unless you're curious about Burmese food or you plan to visit the area - the new Chinatown is out there.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Swan Oyster Depot - Highly Recommended
1517 Polk St, San Francisco 94109
Btwn California & Sacramento St
As soon as we landed in San Francisco, I knew there was one place I had to go right away - Swan Oyster Depot. That first bite of fresh crab immediately put me in the mindset of San Francisco and great California ingredients. Swan Oyster Depot does seafood properly and is one of my favorite places on this planet. Overall, I give the restaurant an 90/100.
1) Clam Chowder - Recommended
2) 1/2 Cracked Crab - Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Oysters and Clams - Highly Recommended
4) Smoked Salmon and Crab Salad - Recommended
1) Great clam chowder. Nice and light without having the cream overpowering the clams. However, having been to Newport, RI a month ago Black Pearl's clam chowder definitely takes the cake.
2) 2 dishes here. You get the crab butter which tastes like the ocean that also has a nice richness to it. The star here is definitely the crab meat. It's so sweet and tender and meaty which goes perfectly with butter - they even crack it for you! Again, after recently having crabs in Providence/Newport and also in Baltimore, this crab destroys them all - no contest. Funny thing, is the crabs are not even from San Francisco (SF crabs are only in season November-June), they were sourced from Alaska. Still amazing...
3) The oysters and clams tasted so alive and again tasted like the ocean. The oysters from Nova Scotia were insanely creamy. Again, having had oysters in Providence, these oysters win hands down.
4) Smoked salmon was very good and the combo with the rye bread, capers, and red onion were so tasty. What was phenomenal was the crab salad however. Basically crab meat with some type of mayo sauce and lettuce. Heaps of sweet crab meat went so well with the mayo sauce.
Overall Restaurant Experience (90/100)
- Food 9.2/10 - My idea of the perfect seafood. Make sure to get an Anchor Steam (local SF brew) while you're there, since it complements the crab so well.
- Service 8.5/10 - Definitely a guys place. Funny guys who definitely know their seafood and relatively attentive.
- Atmosphere 9.0/10 - Be prepared to get here early since the lines are very long. We arrived Wednesday at 2pm and there was still a 10 minute wait. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists who all are very happy eating there. Cramped seats like a bar, but for some strange reason I still love it.
- Price 9.0/10 - Price point is medium, but for the quality it's phenomenal. Way cheaper than Providence Oyster Bar and about three levels above it in quality.
Great way to start the trip and I'm already looking forward to going back. Although I love the Newport/Providence area, SOD wipes the floor with every single restaurant we went to on the Newport/Providence trip.
Tadich Grill - Recommended
240 California St, San Francisco 94111
Btwn Battery & Front St
I wanted some Cioppino and the chowhounders were all pointing to Tadich Grill. Cioppino is an Italian/Croatian immigrant seafood stew actually invented in San Francisco. Some say the first cioppino was served here. As usual, the chowhounders did not disappoint. Overall, I give the restaurant an 75/100.
1) Calamari - Recommended
2) Seafood Cioppino - Highly Recommended (must have)
3) Seafood Cannelloni - Not Recommended
1) A surprisingly lighter calamari that was not soaked in oil and very crispy.
2) This is where it's at. Never had Cioppino before and man I have definitely been missing out. An insanely flavorful thick tomato concoction - midway between a soup and a thick sauce, that again tastes like the freshest of seafoods. The cioppino is packed with clams, prawns, scallops, crab meat, and white fish. Goes perfectly with garlic bread. Might be one of my favorite dishes on this whole trip...
3) Basically a tuna casserole with lots of cheese. You can barely find any pasta in this dish. Although it's decent comfort food, I can't recommend this at the price they charge - $16.
Overall Restaurant Experience (75/100)
- Food 7.8/10 - Phenomenal Cioppino, but the rest was just ok. The whole menu looked just ok to me also.
- Service 7.8/10 - Friendly Croatian waiter, but was just Ok with the attentiveness.
- Atmosphere 8.5/10 - A dark bar that has a classic San Francisco look. The crowd was a mix of tourists and powerful people (lots of suits). We got there at 9:30 and there was still a wait of 25 minutes.
- Price 7.5/10 - A little pricey for the quality of the food, but I would pay a lot for that cioppino.
This place is a little out of the way (in the Financial area), but well worth the visit just for the cioppino. I would pass on all the other dishes though. Surprisingly, they don't even serve anchor steam which I think is ridiculous...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I was in the mood forGyoza (pot stickers / dumplings) this weekend.
This is the first thing my mother ever taught me how to make so there's that sentimental aspect as well.
I remember coming home from elementary school in Tokyo and when my grandmother would come visit, we would all sit at the kitchen table making these dumplings together.
Childhood memories are truly priceless.
Monday, August 13, 2007
August 10, 2007, 10:39 am
Q and A: Tom Colicchio
By Frank Bruni
It’s been a busy year for Tom Colicchio, a chef who was plenty busy already. “Top Chef” entered its third season, and Mr. Colicchio was still along for the ride, telling aspiring chefs where they went wrong and right, lending the show a kind of gravitas that keeps it from feeling too silly and melodramatic.
He expanded his Craft empire into Los Angeles, opening a Craft there. Here in New York, he tended to the original Craft as well as Craftsteak, Craftbar and all those ‘wichcrafts.
He nonetheless squeezed out some time to answer our list of chef questions. Without further ado:
Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most?
I don’t consider anyone a mentor, but if I had to highlight one experience that had a lasting impression on me as a young cook/chef, it would be the two months I spent in Michel Bras’s kitchen in Laguiole, France.
Which book has had the biggest impact?
“La Technique,” by Jacques Pepin.
Which foreign country (or region) do you most enjoy eating in?
It’s very difficult to narrow this down to one specific place, but I would have to say Piedmont, Italy, during white truffle season.
Which restaurant meal from the past lives most vividly in your memory?
About 20 years ago, I was a cook at the Hotel de France in Gascogne, where I met Kerry Heffernan. While on a road trip, we visited the celebrated French chef Michel Guerard’s restaurant, Les Prés d’Eugénie, a Relais & Chateaux property. This was my first (Michelin) three-star dining experience. And although I can’t remember exactly what I had, it left a huge impression on me at the time.
Which three cooking tools or gadgets are your favorites?
Ten-inch chef’s knife, peppermill, kitchen scissors.
What’s your favorite music to play in the kitchen?
It really depends on my mood, but I generally want something upbeat and with a groove, so I would have to say reggae.
Which are the most overrated — and underrated —seasonings?
The most overrated seasonings are truffle oil and micro-greens. I don’t want to see micro-greens in my kitchen. The most underrated has to be salt and pepper. These seasonings are so essential, but something home cooks especially tend to ignore or not appreciate the importance of.
Is there a guilty secret — something canned, something hokey — in your arsenal of ingredients?
Is there a rule of conduct or etiquette in your kitchen that you enforce above all others?
Clean up after yourself!
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in a restaurant kitchen?
Well, I did do something recently that was quite embarrassing. I had a cook-off in Aspen with Bobby Flay, and I was roasting a whole bacon-wrapped liver in the oven. I completely failed to consider the problems that the altitude was likely to cause, and when I removed the liver from the oven, it was completely raw.
Which item in your home refrigerator would you least like to cop to?
Frozen pizza, I guess.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to like?
Okra! It’s just slimy. And sea cucumbers. And grated mountain yam.
What’s the best New York City restaurant that no one talks that much about? (We’ll trust you not to plug a friend.)
Etats-Unis on the Upper East Side.
You did something awful and are sentenced to die. Dead Chef Walking! What’s your final meal — and we’re not talking five or six courses, though you can have dessert — before you go?
My mom’s gravy (and I’m talking about Italian red sauce).
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Japanese Food Engineers have taken it one step further and engineered a stronger, more powerful "snack" for all those calorie deficient individuals out there.
Estimated 660 calories per slice.
Disguised as a pizza... you have pigs in a blanket with not only sausage but also bacon, hamburgers, cheese rolls, and a pepperoni/mushroom pizza all in one.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
It was very good but wasn't magical. Perhaps it's a little unfair to expect a restaurant to produce a "magical" meal because first of all, magic doesn't exist. And second of all, how would you like it if somebody you didn't know put that kind of pressure on you at work. 'nouf said...
I asked my colleague if she had any recommendations and the first answer out of her mouth was Robuchon. It just made sense. I called up the chef and booked a table for that friday.
And boy am I glad we went there. It was the best French dinner I have ever had in my life. Absolutely perfect execution on every dish.
It's an understatement when I say I love Foie Gras, Squab, Quail, Lobster, Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Souffle, Baba. So when they all came out, one by one from the kitchen, like floats for the Macy's Day parade, I was in heaven. For all I knew, I was the Grand Marshal.
It was absolutely perfection after perfection. Wow!
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I find it funny that there's been an influx of new hybrid ingredients. Grapple is another item that is showing up in grocery stores, but is gross. It's an apple that tastes like a grape, but done so with artificial flavors. It smells like a grape magic marker and tastes like such. Also, there's the mango nectarine. Outside texture is like a nectarine, but inside flesh is like a mango. I'm just waiting for the cross breeding of animals, which would be maybe unethical, probably not very unhealthy for you, and more than likely not very tasty...
We dined at Chef Lomonaco's Porterhouse in the Time Warner Building before the "festivities".
It was right out of a movie... 12 men consuming obscene amounts of red meat.
I surveyed the table and counted about 15 pounds of meat sizzling in front of us.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Thursday, August 2, 2007
I thought I was big on fish...
Then I was introduced to Trevor Corson by my friend Mike.
Trevor's Sushi Blog - click for sushi here
Trevor's Lobster Blog - click for lobster here
Trevor is the author of 2 books...
1) Zen of Fish
2) The Secret Life of Lobsters.
This book is grabbing the attention of foodies and professionals everywhere.
If you are looking for a good food book... you now have 2 more to go check out.