Friday, October 28, 2011

Blue Rock BBQ--San Jose (Catered)

A couple of weeks ago my organization celebrated an achievement by throwing a party. We had Blue Rock BBQ cater the event. What a fine choice! I packed myself silly with delicious, fatty meats. The chicken was tender and the brisket was well marbled. Blue Rock also supplied us with paper-wrapped buns to fill with whatever you wished. Nice touch. The portobello mushrooms were wildly popular and it was the only dish to run out.

The star of the day, though, was not a product of the barbecue, but the oven. The mac and cheese could very well have been the best I'd ever had--certainly the best in memory. This baked dish featured thin layers of pasta sheets with melted cheese holding it all together. It settled in the mouth like a soft rich cream.

For a celebration such as ours, Blue Rock BBQ was an ideal choice. The devil-may-care atmosphere was perfect for a good old fashioned belly stuffing with delicious, heavy meats. The kind of free for all where you eat so much that lunch makes you undo your belt a little and skip dinner and maybe even breakfast the day after. I know I did.

Blue Rock BBQ
3001 Meridian Avenue
San Jose, California 95124
(408) 978-2583

Friday, October 21, 2011

Evvia--Palo Alto, CA

First off, I want to give photo credits to (octopus) and (steak fries) for the photos here. I didn't have my camera with me when I went to Evvia with Jenny yesterday to celebrate her birthday. The lamb chops, including the steak fries, appeared very similar to the photo. The image of the octopus is right on, just like the dish itself, in fact. Oh, that octopus (or, "octapodaki tou Yiourgou", as it appeared on the bill). If you get only one dish at Evvia, get the Octopus appetizer. It won't fill you (but you can load up on bread) and the chops taste better. However, eating the octopus at Evvia is an experience and, as far as I can tell, you can't get anything quite like it around here.
The octopus was served warm with lemon, olive oil and oregano, drowning out any intrinsic flavor the meat may have had. The real feature is the texture. One may associate octopus with a rubbery feel, but yesterday's was soft, even doughy and to a certain extent melted in the mouth. I kept grabbing one piece after another because I couldn't quite believe what I'd just tasted.

Jenny's aforementioned lamb chops ($27.50 for two chops) and my snapper followed after a long wait. I ordered a whole snapper (a steep $34), mesquite grilled. It came filleted and hot. One portion, near the belly, was well done but the rest was delicious. My wife's chops were as tender as red meat can come. I noticed she ate every cubic micron of meat on each bone--something she normally doesn't do.
The day's downside? The service was slow, slow, slow. The octopus came fast enough, but our main courses didn't arrive until more than half an hour after we ordered, or 50 minutes after we walked through the door. The food is certainly worth coming back for--even at these prices--but the length of time needed for a meal makes a visit impractical, especially in the middle of a workday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pho Vi Hoa--Los Altos, CA

With Tyler aching for pasta and the rest of us wanting something savory, we tried the nearby Pho Vi Hoa in Los Altos. We talked the hungry twin into the kids' lay banh pho, a wonton noodle soup. He slurped every inch of noodle in the bowl and and really liked the wontons.

Dylan had the thit nuong (grilled pork), which was good and greasy. My, how it gleamed! His brother like it, too and ate about half of Dylan's dish.

The tai chin (pho) had some of the tenderest slices of beef I'd had in pho. The broth was good, but Jenny and I were both thirsty after dinner, probably because of the soup. I can't say if they used MSG; in fact I doubted they did, but the soup was a little salty.

The bo nuong, beef rolls with onion, looked and tasted good. We saw it at the table to my right and were inspired to get it. Then, after it arrived, for the first time in years, I was asked about a dish I'd ordered by another customer, this one on our left. Perhaps because it was oily, though, I wasn't able to finish it.

Pho Vi Hoa proved to be a pleasant surprise. During our previous visit, the service was slow and the food quality mediocre. We went again last weekend really out of convenience. As interesting as the beef rolls were, though, it was the melt-in-your-mouth beef in the pho that will bring us back.

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

Friday, October 7, 2011

Martin Yan--Santa Clara, CA

Martin Yan visited my company's cafeteria earlier this week and put on a cooking show. With his charisma, sharp wit and sense of humor Martin Yan is hard not to like. So, none of us minded that he spent close to an hour selling us autographed cookbooks and cleavers bearing his name while giving what amounted to a live infomercial. It was quite a cleaver he wielded, though, as he dazzled us by cutting cucumber slices thin enough to read through. His cooking demonstration, which featured deboning a chicken in less than twenty seconds (the trick, apparently, is to massage the bird before attacking it with said cleaver) yielded stir fried chicken and beef dishes, each with ginger, garlic, green onions and peppers. Though tasty enough (food often tastes better after seeing it prepared--ever notice that?) both were a bit heavy with the salty sauces (like soy and Hoisin).
This style over substance continued with our featured cafeteria dish, kung pao, which was prepared from a Martin Yan recipe. The kung pao could be ordered with shrimp, chicken or tofu. It was so-so. The dish was served over fried wonton strips and yakisoba noodles, making the presentation rather Americanized (if not reminiscent of the 90s). Thought the shrimp was well prepared, the entree wasn't as spicy as one would expect from a kung pao dish.

We came for the show, though, as much as for the food. And in that respect Martin Yan didn't disappoint. He made us all smile and laugh smack in the middle of the workweek--something that food, no matter how delicious, doesn't do.