Saturday, January 30, 2010

Boston Market--Mountain View, CA

We went to Boston Market tonight because we found out through their website that their kids-eat-free promotion was extended till the 30th (tonight). However, when we arrived, we were given the old bait-and-switch. The cashier behind the counter didn't know of the promotion. He asked a co-worker if there was a special for kids and was told "no". After the dinner we tried to complain through their feedback website, but there was no mechanism available online to relate the specifics of our experience.

It was getting late, however, and we didn't have a backup plan. So, we ordered the family meal for three (featuring their beef brisket). The three sides we chose were corn, green beans and potatoes. The brisket was surprisingly good and the au jus made it even more delicious. The potatoes were underdone and hard. The corn was good, but came with a little too much butter. The green beans came in a variety of colors ranging from dark green to brownish green, which was unsettling. Moreover, they were drowning in butter. However, eat them with your eyes closed and they'd taste fine. The twins loved the corn bread and couldn't get enough.

The men's bathroom was in miserable shape and even compromised my appetite (not easy to do). If the restaurant isn't going to clean their toilets, they should at least have the courtesy to prepare their patrons with a "Brace Yourself" sign on the door.

Boston Market
1039 El Monte Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 428-1333

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cafe Yu Long--Mountain View, CA

On weekdays when my dad's in town, my wife and I would often meet him at Cafe Yu Long, which was reliable for great dumplings. Today at lunch, however, they fell short. We ordered a plate of pork dumplings and a plate of shrimp dumplings. Both sets had skins that were riddled with holes. This is a hallmark of dumplings that aren't made fresh, but instead boiled, stored for a while then microwaved. Moreover, the dumplings were bland--almost tasteless. I could have added seasoning, but one shouldn't have to for properly prepared Chinese food. Capping the travesty was a hair found on the plate of the pork dumplings.

Another disaster (I do have positive comments in this review later on) was the xiao lung bao. When prepared correctly, one should see 24 folds at the top of the dumpling. Today, though, there were certainly fewer than half that and the folds themselves weren't distinctive. Rather, they were gooey and blended--another sign of dumplings not freshly made.

The high point for me was the smoked duck. It had a strong, smokey flavor and the meat was tender (though my wife thought it dry). However, I noticed most of the two legs were missing. Chinese restaurants will sometimes try to pull a fast one on you with the chopped duck by thinking you won't miss the legs. I find it disrespectful.

They prepared the shredded pork noodle soup correctly. It was hot, the noodles were the right texture, the broth was flavorful and they didn't skimp on the pork. It was my wife's favorite of the meal and I enjoyed it as well.

We'll go back for old times' sake, but if they serve another meal like this one they will have seen the last of me.

Cafe Yu Long
743 W Dana St.
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 960-1677

First & Main Sports Lounge--Los Altos, CA

The Vikings played tonight to get into the Super Bowl and we needed to find a spot to watch the big game. Our dentist told us about First and Main, which provided just about the perfect ambiance for our dinner. To their credit, the restaurant and bar was overflowing with flatscreens. One would have to hide under a table to miss the event on TV. "The event" for us was gripping (overtime loss for my Vikes) and, fortunately, I couldn't really pay close attention to what I ate.

I do remember, though, the sauce for my Baby Backs was strong--perhaps the spiciest I've ever had for ribs. The meat was tender enough, but the disappointment came with the quantity--at the end of dinner I counted a mere six bones for $15.95. The slaw salad and the fries that came with the ribs were both good (fries must be hot and crisp, and these were), but didn't make the meal. My dad had an angus burger which he thought was bland--I had a bite and couldn't disagree. If we were to return, my wife could very well order once again the fish tacos she had tonight. She noted, though, they lacked "zing" and she would grade them a B. The twins each had a grilled cheese sandwich with tater tots--both elements were greasy and tasty.

On the heels of a tough loss, I must admit it's difficult to write an unbiased portrayal of my dinner. However, I can say with certainty the value is missing and I'd go back only to catch a must-see game.

First & Main Sports Lounge
397 Main St.
Los Altos, CA 94022
(650) 949-1380

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Queen's House (2nd review)--Mountain View, CA

I try to make it a policy not to review the same restaurant twice, but after dinner at Queen's House I just can't hold myself back. It was quite possibly the worst Chinese meal I've had in more than twenty years (I'd have to go back to my growing-up days in Minnesota to come up with its equal).

We took the twins earlier tonight and ate the beef and broccoli, fish with black bean and combination chow mein. I have no complaint with the doneness of the beef and fish, but the vegetables were stale and the sauces used were much too heavy, salty and bland. The dishes were loaded with so much sodium, when I came home I drank half a liter of water (after drinking an entire pot of tea at the restaurant). What really made this meal special, though, was the rice. My wife and I were dumbfounded. As served, the rice was hard on the surface yet a gooey clump as we dug deeper into the bowl. If the dishes themselves weren't so bad, the rice would have ruined the dinner on its own.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Faultline Brewering Company--Sunnyvale, CA

Just as with most of my visits to the Faultine, today I ate lunch with a representative from a semiconductor equipment supplier. Through the years, I credit the Faultline for remaining a rather trendy pick for the business crowd. It's obvious the restaurant knows its clientele, as it's difficult to justify paying $15 for an entree that doesn't fill you up if you're not eating there on someone's expense account.

I had the jambalaya with pasta. Although I took issue with the small quantity--it barely filled a small pasta bowl--the food itself was well prepared and I appreciated that it was served hot. The dish featured sausage and chicken as the main meat ingredients. There were hints of ham and bacon. Also in the bowl were linguine, onions, tomatoes and diced bell peppers. What surprised me was the level of spiciness--the plate certainly packed a punch.

Disappointed by the meager volume of food, I looked around to see if other tables got bread, but I didn't see any. So, I didn't bother asking for any myself. I requested a decaf espresso drink, but none were available--those were served only with caffeine. So, I settled for a decaf coffee to cap the lunch. The lemonade I had with the meal was average and almost certainly not homemade.

Faultline Brewing Company
1235 Oakmead Parkway
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-4040
(408) 736-2739

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pho Vi Hoa--Los Altos, CA

It being a cold winter night, I went with my family for pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup. The twins always enjoy the chicken soup and my wife ordered one for herself as well. We appreciated that the noodles didn't stick together in one underdone clump (as can happen with regularity at Pho Queen) and the broth was flavorful. However, it seems that only Pho Lanh Long in Santa Clara can deliver the delicious broth, the fine noodles and tender chicken. Tonight's chicken, on the other hand, was as tough as leather.

So, unfortunately, was the beef in my eye round steak with tendon soup. In fact, I don't remember having pho with meat that was more chewy. Still, the broth was as it should have been and the noodles' consistency was just right.

The service was passable, but it did take longer than average for our order to be taken and for our soups to arrive. From sitting down to getting served was nearly 15 minutes--quite a wait in a pho restaurant, but relatively fast compared to sit-down restaurants in general.

4546 El Camino Real
Los Altos, CA 94022
(650) 947-1290

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chatanoga--Santa Clara, CA

I met a colleague for lunch today at Chatanoga, a Persian restaurant in a Santa Clara strip mall on the intersection of Bowers and El Camino. My lunch partner being from Iran, I followed his advice and tried the baghala polo ba morg, which I had with lamb. The baghala featured an abundance of dill and basmati rice.

I'm told that with Persian dishes the rice is a main attraction and is not considered a side dish. Authentic preparation involves a vigorous boil followed by a long simmer. When the heat is turned down to begin the simmer step, oil is added for flavor. Cooking time is about 45 minutes and results in a longer grain rice due to water absorption. The rice crust--that crisp layer that interfaces with the rice cooker--is considered a delicacy by some and is often supplemented by cooking the rice with thin unleavened bread.

For my taste, though, the rice dominated the dish by its sheer quantity. The restaurant offered the boiled lamb--as tender as it was--as a mere afterthought. Also, the rice was drenched in dill, clumps of which could be found throughout the platter. So much butter was used that in recalling my meal the flavor that stands out most is that of buttered rice. My co-worker ordered the same dish, but with a chicken kabob. His plate offered a much more balanced dish between meat and starch.

We finished with a Persian tea, which I'm told actually often includes tea from India. It was actually quite delicious and aromatic, especially with some sugar.

If I go back it will be for the chicken, but it will be awhile, as this restaurant runs over my typical budget. The entree, tea and a tip on the generous side came out to $20 per person. Salad bar was included.

Chatanoga Restaurant
2725 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051-3000
(408) 241-1200

Monday, January 4, 2010

Queen's House--Mountain View, CA

I met my wife at this Chinese noodle house on Castro Street in Mountain View. The word is certainly out on this restaurant, as it was completely full before 11:50 am when the rest of Castro seemed rather quiet.

I ordered my standby, the Szechuan beef tendon noodle soup (medium spiciness) and it was a hit as always. The beef was as fatty as ever and the tendon of the perfect soft consistency. The noodles were delightfully chewy. What makes me crave their soup, though, is the broth, which has that beefy spicy-sweet flavor I just can't find anywhere else.

My wife enjoyed the wonton noodle soup. It was nothing fancy, but it was reliable.

I did leave with a bad taste in my mouth, though. It's always disappointing when I pay cash and instead of actually ringing up the cash register, the cashier merely opens the register drawer to slip my money in, which is what happened today at Queen's House. That's a clear sign they're charging me tax but not reporting it. To remove any doubt that there's some degree of fraud going on, they cover up their cash register display with photos.

Queen's House
273 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 960-0580

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fresh Choice--Mountain View, CA

I was pleasantly surprised by the pizza offerings at Fresh Choice tonight. Not only were they delicious, but they came in a wide variety: sausage and mushroom, cheese, vegetarian, sausage with squash, and so on. There was even variation in the crust from one pizza to another. And, they were served up in a steady stream. As I kept eating, the pies kept coming. In their pizzas, Fresh Choice may have finally found a differentiator in separating themselves from Sweet Tomatoes. Tonight the soups were acceptable, but the limited selection of fresh fruit was a disappointment.

As always, the place was a hit with the kids as they downed countless bowls of mac and cheese and spaghetti. My five-year-old twins got in for two dollars each. We used our AAA card for a 10% discount on the adult meals.

Fresh Choice Restaurant
2540 West El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040-1390
(650) 949-4901