Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sushi Tomi--Mountain View, CA

During the workweek, a frequent meeting place for my wife and I is Sushi Tomi in Mountain View off Castro. Today I enjoyed their lunch combination, where I chose the broiled saba (mackerel) and sashimi. Included was miso soup, more rice than one would need to go with the saba and sashimi and salad.

The highlight, of course, was the fish. The mackerel was tender, juicy, flavorful, abundant with fat and went well with rice. Also on the plate were six thick blocks of sashimi--three tuna and three salmon. They were fresh and rich in color.

Sushi Tomi over the years has been consistent and can even offer a pleasant surprise like today's mackerel. Get there before 11:45 for lunch on a weekday and you should be able to get a table without a wait. By the way, I also recommend their green tea, which is strong, hot and meant to be sipped.

Sushi Tomi
635 West Dana Street
Mountain View, CA 94041-1301
(650) 968-3227

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brian's Restaurant--Los Altos, CA

We celebrated Father's Day at Brian's, where I had the Brian's Special Breakfast. For this dish, three scrambled eggs and linguica sausage came on top of sticky rice, a combination that tastes as odd as it sounds. It was difficult to get the scrambled egg to mix with with the clumpy rice--and I didn't want to eat any of the flavorless rice without some egg or sausage. Advertised as "a hearty meal that will last all day", it did carry me all the way to dinner.

For $5.50 each, the kids had a plate with five 4" buttermilk pancakes and two sausages. My wife got the wheat pancakes, which were more healthy than they were indulgent.

To celebrate Father's Day, each adult was offered a glass of champagne, which was a nice touch. The outdoor area is dog friendly and there were never fewer than three dogs on the patio at any time. In general, though, brunch was expensive. The $12.50 for Brian's Special is hard to justify. And, the two pancakes with one egg and sausage for $8.25 is an equally poor value. It makes me want to run off to Denny's where I can have all the pancakes I can eat for a mere $4.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pho Nam--Sunnyvale, CA

At Pho Nam today for lunch I went with the "House Special" pho, which included generous amounts of steak and brisket, both of which were tender. It was disappointing, though, that there was very little tripe and tendon (only two small pieces). The vermicelli was soft, chewy and didn't clump. The soup came in the smallest "large" bowl I'd ever had and was only barely larger than what would be considered a "regular" anywhere else.

My wife's bun (sounds like "boon") was so-so and included pork that was a little dry. My younger son's bowl included without question the toughest chicken I've ever eaten in a noodle soup. The older one had the best dish of the four of us. All of us enjoyed his grilled chicken and the rice was topped with green onions and even had a hint of broth.

My search continues for a consistently good pho restaurant north of the Santa Clara/San Jose area. Today's experience simply didn't make me want to return. I wouldn't recommend against it, though, especially considering how fast lunch arrived--fast even for a pho restaurant. So, if you have a hankering for pho and if you happen to be around El Camino and Mary in Sunnyvale, you'll easily find Pho Nam--just look out for its kitschy, A-framed roof (think Weinerschnitzel) at the end of a strip mall.

Pho Nam Restaurant844 West El Camino RealSunnyvale, CA 94087-1153(408) 737-1086

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chez Shea--Half Moon Bay, CA

Today's escape from the mid-90s heat took us to Half Moon Bay. After spending the morning and early afternoon at the beach we went downtown and ate at Chez Shea for lunch. The restaurant features influences from around the world, but perhaps none more than Mexico.

As a rule, I go with mole whenever it's on the menu. So, for lunch today I had pork "Tamales Autenticos" with mole. The sauce was adequate, although I would have liked the chocolate flavor to stand out more. The mole at the Mexicali Grill in Santa Clara is superior to this one and I ate lunch today missing it. The bigger issue, though, is the pork was severely lacking. The tamale was dominated by the corn flour and really made me wanting more meat. At $10 for two of these (including black beans and rice), the plate was overpriced.

My wife enjoyed the East-West Fish Taco for its flavor (truly representative of near and far, including an Asian influence), the tenderness of the fish and the shell, which reminded both of us of naan.

At $3 each, the kids' dishes were a good value. One of our boys had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich 0n toasted wheat and the other a grilled cheese sandwich. All four of enjoyed the fruit side dishes, which had diced mango, pineapple and strawberry.

To summarize, Chez Shea offers good food overall with a distinctive menu. However, there are misfires mixed in with the gems.

Chez Shea
408 Main Street
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 560-9234

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tofu House--Santa Clara, CA

With it being in the mid-80's and sunny today, I thought to myself, "How about a big bowl of boiling spicy tofu soup?" So, I went to Tofu House in Santa Clara. I was greeted by the jolly host--who plays uncle to everyone young and old--who thanked me for coming back. He's got a good memory; it's been at least six months since I've eaten there.

Upon entering I was struck by the fact that the legs of all the chairs were fitted with ripped tennis balls to ensure they didn't scratch the new wood flooring. They should have used adhesive pads, which work just as well for that purpose. My purpose today was to eat sundubu, but still, the rows and rows of tennis balls were unsightly in a restaurant.

I ordered my standby, which was the "Original Soft Tofu" with beef. I got it "hot" (the spiciest of the four levels offered). It came with six kimchi dishes. They were mostly pedestrian--and mostly cabbage in one form or another--but the variety wasn't bad for lunch. Lunch took a little longer than expected, which was a surprise, since I came in just after 1:00 and the restaurant wasn't crowded. A server even apologized for the wait, which, as it turned out, was worth it. When it arrived, the bubbling pot splattered soup all over my side of the table (remember to get your napkin up if you want to protect that shirt of yours!). The dish came with a raw egg, which I cracked while the soup was still boiling.

I have a weakness for so-hot-it-will-scald-your-palate-off soup of just about any kind. Moreover, Tofu House uses a wild sweet rice that went superbly with the hot tofu soup, which in addition to the beef also came with green onions and mushrooms. One may think, as I did, that the rice comes with a purple bean, but that's actually the bran. The combination of the soup temperature, the spiciness and the fact the restaurant decided to open their door to let in the heat left my face and shirt drenched.

Although the quality of the sundubu met my expectations, I did end up leaving with a slightly bad taste in my mouth. They never refilled my glass of water, which would have been easy considering the restaurant was nearly empty at the time. I was asked if I wanted more kimchi and I said yes. However, they never followed up. When I paid my bill with cash, the kindly uncle didn't ring it up, which telegraphed to me that the tax they charged me would go straight to the restaurant. Add to all of that that lunch took a long time--nearly twenty minutes--to be served and I couldn't give the kind of tip I usually do (though I can't blame the server for the tax issue), but still more than Rachael Ray or Tiger (use your favorite search engine to look up "Tiger Woods" and "tipper").

SGD Tofu House
3450 El Camino Real
# 105

Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 261-3030

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sam's Chowdermobile

My nicer half was looking for new material, so asked me to add an entry of my latest food adventure. I've been swept up by the hype surrounding the gourmet food truck trend. After reading a review in the Mercury News of Sam's Chowdermobile, I eagerly anticipated trying one of their lobster rolls. I still have a vivid recollection of an extraordinary lobster roll I had in Maine in the '90s which was full of large pieces of lobster tail in a butter sauce. Thus, I checked the Chowdermobile's website to see when they'd be in my area, and marked in it my Outlook for 11:30AM. Unfortunately, I was stuck on the phone with IT until 12:15, and by the time I got to the truck, there was an extremely long line. But I figured I'd had the lobster roll on my mind for a while, so I might as well stick around. I ended up getting my food an HOUR later, but was denied my lobster roll : ( -- they ran out shortly before I placed my order. I was not a happy camper. I ended up ordering two fish tacos ($5/each). Each taco had a large piece of fried fish on a bed of cabbage and some kind of slightly spicy orange sauce. Given that I was rather cranky after the long wait and no roll, I was pleasantly surprised to find the taco exceeding my expectations. The fish was hot, perfectly cooked (I think it was cod) and coating was crisp. However, the efficiency of the ordering process was unacceptable. In addition to running out of the lobster roll, the Chowdermobile also ran out of clam chowder, which many in the line were hoping to order. I felt that the people in the truck should have updated the whiteboard listing the items to indicate that an item was no longer available. Instead, the waiting time in the line was unnecessarily prolonged because people often ordered one or more items only to be told that it was no longer available. From what I saw, the lobster roll had a fair amount of lobster, but consisted of many small pieces of claw/legs and not large chunks of tail. I don't think I'd go back for the lobster roll if I had to wait more than 15 minutes. For the real thing, I guess I'll have to wait until my next trip to Maine.