Friday, May 25, 2012

Last week an equipment supplier took me to Lion and Compass for lunch in Sunnyvale. Like Burke's, Lion and Compass capitalizes on the business lunch crowd by serving food better than average but nevertheless overpriced. There aren't any entrees less than $17. Of course, such a restaurant wouldn't be complete with an up-selling waiter. Ours was relentless. Unprompted, he peddled appetizers, drinks and (don't you love this tactic) passed out dessert menus even though we were full and betrayed no interest in dessert. 
All that said, the special, the Hawaiian swordfish, was out of this world. It was the very definition of "succulent". Grilled, it was juicy and flaky. It was also a work of art. All four of us at our table who ordered it thought it a shame to stick our forks in it. 
Also, the warm goat cheese salad was terrific. It was served with a breaded dollop of warm goat cheese, sitting in the center of the plate like a thick quarter-sized button on top of baby spinach. Order it when you go. You'll love the warm silky cheese with the slightly tart flavoring of the spinach.
If you go to Lion and Compass between noon and 1:00 on a weekday, the parking lot will be full. But, don't let that discourage you. You can park in the lot of the business park across Weddell (except where it says "No Restaurant Parking", of course!). Also, I've eaten there several times and the restaurant was never filled to capacity.
Lion and Compass
1023 N Fair Oaks Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cafe Brasil--Santa Cruz, CA

Last Sunday, Mother's Day, we ate lunch in Santa Cruz on our way to picking strawberries (it's too early in the season to pick, by the way). Wanting to try something a little different from what I've been blogging about recently, we dropped by Cafe Brasil, set in an unassuming house with the dining area much like an expanded living room. 

After waiting more than forty minutes (we arrived at 12:30), Jenny and I each ordered their tilapia, albeit with different sides. One boy got a grilled cheese sandwich and the other, ham.

The fish was so plain Jenny and I both doused our plates with Tabasco sauce. It was the first time I'd ever seen Jenny use Tabasco on anything and yet she flooded her dish with the stuff just to make things at least a little interesting. Although I recognize it's a personal preference, the farofa--a sawdust-like toasted flour mixture--did nothing to add any excitement to the whitefish which itself was starving for flavor. 

The most intriguing part of our meal was the salad. Jenny and I both enjoyed the heart of palm, which added some zip visually.

Overall, Mother's Day went well, but it would have been even better if we ate somewhere else for lunch. Cafe Brasil simply wasn't worth the wait. After getting the check, though, I understood how a place like this thrives, especially in a college town. The four of us were fed for less than $30 including tax and tip. 

By the way, as far as I could tell, the wait at Cafe Brasil never stops. We got out of there just after 2:00 (the restaurant closes at 3:00 on Sundays) and there were still people waiting outside. I have to give credit to the staff at Cafe Brasil. They kept a cheerful attitude the entire time I was there despite being surrounded by a big, cold, hungry (and sometimes impatient) crowd.

Cafe Brasil
1410 Mission St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-1855

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas--Las Vegas, NV

Our next buffet during our trip to Las Vegas, and last as it turned out, was at The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. To avoid lines, we got there at around 9:30. The problem, we quickly found, was that arriving for breakfast at The Buffet entitled us to traditional breakfast items only. 

The knock-out variety we saw earlier at Wicked Spoon made this buffet look sparse. As good as they were, there were only so many different kinds of pancakes, waffles and eggs we could really stomach. And, the variety of meat, which included sausages that were salty even for sausages, was a subset of that at the Wicked Spoon.

Despite there being a steady stream of orange juice served at our table, service was also an area for improvement. The restaurant was never full, but there was a line (perhaps ten to fifteen parties?) because customers couldn't be seated quickly enough by the staff. As for our table, the server routinely left several plates pile up. However, his intention was good. It's just that he was given too much to watch over. He volunteered to help Dylan with his candied apple by cutting it up into smaller pieces. On a similar note, they really should have had milk next to the cereal--what buffet doesn't? So, the kids ended up waiting ten minutes--a lifetime to a seven year old--for milk to arrive for their cereal.
The Buffet did do many things right, though. Jenny and I both enjoyed the cucumber honeydew gazpacho, for example. The shrimp leek cake also merited multiple trips. Dylan enjoyed and finished the pork bun--something he doesn't always do. The desserts were also a hit. Dylan liked the chocolate-covered marshmallow (pictured at the top of this entry). For the kids, the aforementioned candied apple was more a treat for the eyes than the mouth. By sheer mass, the dessert was much more apple than candy. However, I enjoyed it and thought the sweetness of the coating to complement well the tartness of the apple. The gelato was great, though there were only four flavors available. 

Lunch was served at about 11:00, just when I'd finished my 3rd helping of dessert. I had to go for it, even though I was bursting at the seams. The new dishes also excited Tyler, who had three servings of pasta with Alfredo sauce. I went at the flank steak, which was terrific with its citrus marinade. Jenny and I also shared a quarter of a game hen. Items I wanted but just didn't have the tank for were the pulled pork slaw and carnitas in a tortilla bowl. You know I've reached my limit if I had to pass those up! 

There are so many buffets available on the Strip that it's hard for me to recommend that you seek out The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. That said, if you happen to be nearby and drop by The Buffet, try getting there at 10:30 or so. The lines will probably be reasonable and you'll have to wait only about half an hour to get dibs on lunch. If you get there after the cut-off, it's still worth the extra $4 charged for lunch, which is miles ahead in terms of quality compared to breakfast.
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas--Las Vegas, NV
3131 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 770-7000

Friday, May 4, 2012

International Marketplace--Las Vegas, NV

Taking a break from the Strip, we ventured a few minutes away by car to International Marketplace. Almost right away, all four of us were dazzled by the staggering array of goodies from around the globe. It wasn't just the enormous variety of goods that was stunning (Octopus in a box, anyone? Or, how about kidney pies and bangers from the UK?), but the variety of each item. 

Many staples, such as honey or olive oil, were available from multiple countries. Check out the olive oil photo above. How many brands do you see here? And, these are just the big containers! There are small ones around the corner likewise offer an impressive display. 

Not only did International Marketplace carry European candies, but they had European versions of American candies, like Kit Kat. Even sugar-free cough drops, often so hard to find in a typical drugstore, were available from Germany and the Netherlands.

Just as a test, I thought, "OK, what about red bean paste?" Not only did they have it, they carried at least three different brands. I say "at least" because, oddly, there weren't all located in the same aisle. In other words, there could be other brands of red bean paste I missed. In any case, the pricing (about $2.70 a can) was right in line with our local 99 Ranch Market. 

As you explore this immense warehouse, you'll notice that some items will have an advertised "Member Price" without telling you what the non-member price is. What a great way to get you to inquire about becoming a member! I did just that and found that a membership can be purchased for $10/year. Otherwise, you'll pay 5% on top of the "Member Price".

International Marketplace was a wonderland to walk through, especially with kids, who seemed as interested in the non-food items, mostly from Asia, as much as anything else. They carried arts, crafts, dishware and odds and ends like wooden swords. Some of their items border on tawdry, however, like the big blue Hannah Montana towel hanging from the ceiling near the checkout area. Never mind it, though. Just go to International Marketplace, budget an hour or so and you'll have a good time.

International Marketplace
5000 S Decatur Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89118
(702) 889-2888