Friday, June 29, 2012

Flying Fish Grill--Half Moon Bay, CA

Earlier this month on a sultry Saturday we headed for the beach at Half Moon Bay and afterwards settled down for dinner at Flying Fish Grill. The location was unbeatable with the restaurant sitting near the intersection of Route 92 and Highway 1. We started with the Crabby Cheezy Bread, which was rich and delicious. 

For their main dish, the boys each had fish and chips, chosen from the kids portion of the menu. The fish was served hot, but the Dylan thought it tasted plain.

My cioppino was loaded with goodies and filled me up. It came with two big pieces of garlic bread. It was slightly salty, but everything was cooked perfectly. We spotted calimari, salmon, mussels, clams, white fish and shrimp. I was a little under the weather and this really hit the spot. Jenny had the Caribbean Cod Wrap, which tasted lively due to the mango and wasabi.

Though the bread and the adults' main courses were worth the visit, the service was subpar: They gave us two dirty dishes, which we returned, and didn't come back with clean ones. They put pasta in my cioppino when I didn't order it with pasta. Watch out for that because on the menu they charge an extra $3 for the pasta (not worth it unless you're a pasta lover), though they didn't for me. Also, the food took half an hour after ordering to arrive. With two hungry kids that wait felt like a year.

Flying Fish Bar & Grill
211 San Mateo Rd.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 712-1126

Menu below. Click images to expand and read!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Astaria--San Mateo, CA (Father's Day buffet)

For Father's Day Jenny surprised me with a buffet at Astaria. Buffets aren't the norm at Astaria, but exceptions have been made for Mother's Day and, in our case, Father's Day. To accommodate the buffet, the food was served in a large dining hall in the neighboring Draper University. Astaria aimed to make this a "man's brunch" and with the amount of meat available, I thought they achieved that goal. 

My favorite dish of the day, though, wasn't a meat but the eggs benedict. The first one I tried was right on the mark--very soft but without liquid. Not able to believe Astaria could do this twice in a row, I tried another. Alas, it was very runny. I have the following observations of other dishes:

The spicy sausage (there were three other types) had a lot of heat, but it was great. The cream corn was delicious and crunchy. Dark meat chicken, served with other barbecue items, was tender an had a rich smokey flavor. It was my second-favorite dish of the day. Of the ribs, two were tender and scrumptious but one was tough. Chicken was also served deep fried, but tastefully so--it was deboned and tender. It could have used a little more salt, though.

I really have to credit Astaria for their presentation of some of the items. The shrimp cocktail was a work of art and another delight was the seafood pasta, loaded with mussels and clams.

The kids' favorite was the fruit (blueberries, strawberries and melon), which Astaria did a great job displaying. Astaria also had the requisite omelet station. While good, it wasn't anything above and beyond.

As for the desserts, what stood out the most was the chocolate bark. The sweetness from the chocolate went well with the embedded pretzel bits.

Sunday was hot and I'd been feverish for a day. As such, I wasn't active Father's Day and our visit to Astaria was the highlight of my day. I'd love to go again, but that said, at $39 per adult and a whopping $15 per seven-year old, it's pricey. There were add-ons, too, that were at least mildly annoying. Orange juice was extra, at $3 per glass, whereas virtually every other buffet in this price-range would offer complementary drinks. Finally, it was with some gall that they charged 18% service. I say "gall" because we were just a party of four and this was, after all, a buffet where we got our own food. That said, service was very attentive.
Astaria Restaurant
50 East Third Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 344-9444 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rose International--Mountain View, CA

When we want to grab some delicious skewered meat in abundant quantities, our first impulse is to go with Kabul in Sunnyvale. When we want meat on a stick quick and cheap, however, we turn to Rose International, which features Persian cuisine. On our most recent visit we brought home some koobideh (ground meat), chicken and barg (top sirloin). The koobideh and barg were flavored very similarly. The koobideh was delicious, as it almost always is, but the barg was overdone and chewy in some places, but absolutely perfect in others.
Keep in mind all the food is for carry out. Rose International, after all, is a grocery store. And, you order a la carte in the truest sense of the term. The rice, meat and even tomato have to be ordered separately. For example, the broiled tomato, which was a little underdone, was a dollar. You order at the register, pay, then go outside and hang a left to go to the pick up window on the other end of the building.
In the photo, the pickup window is the hole in the wall on the right side of the building. So, the rice (and there's a lot of it) makes a trip from the chafing dish in one corner of the store to the pickup window at the opposite corner of this long building. All the meat is grilled at the window. It's an odd system but it works.
You can try calling in your order, as we did, ahead of time. But, we still needed to wait in line like everyone else to pay. And only then did they start putting our order together. So, the benefit of calling in an order as opposed to showing up to order isn't clear. We ended up paying $28 to feed three adults and two kids.
Rose International
1060 Castro Street  
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 960-1900

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Wing Wah Restaurant

Have you ever had a craving for some dim sum but decide you can't go because it's 12:00 on a Sunday and you'd have to wait outside the restaurant for an hour? If you're in the Los Altos/Mountain View area, I have a solution. Try New Wing Wah Restaurant, which is in downtown Los Altos (which also means there's always parking). There's a caveat, though. I'm not sure all the food there is 100% freshly made.
The fried bao (sheng jian bao) was tasty, sure enough, but it was mushy inside and the skin came out cracked in many places, suggesting it wasn't exactly hot out of the frying pan. But hey, the har gao was a hit with the kids.
The green beans were crisp and delicious. One word of warning, though. The dish was laced with cut jalapeno peppers. So, you've got to navigate through that mine field pretty carefully, especially with kids.
I thought the lobster was great. My dad thought the meat a little thready, but perhaps this was due to May not being an "r" month. Nevertheless, they cooked the crustacean just right and it was good and meaty. At $17.95 (a special), it was a steal. 
If you go to New Wing Wah, keep in mind the service can be so-so. The servers seem overwhelmed at times and they forgot not one but two of our orders. If you don't want to take a chance on the service, New Wing Wah of course has just about everything to go. We've gone that route also and it all turned out just fine. Just check inside your takeout boxes before you leave.

New Wing Wah Restaurant
132 State St.
Los Altos, CA 94022
(650) 948-4651

Friday, June 1, 2012

Shanghai Garden--Cupertino, CA

With a Shanghainese restaurant near our house receiving a lot of praise on the internet, we had to give it a try when my dad, who's from Shanghai, visited a few weeks ago.
The highlight of the entire meal featured gluten ("Special Fish Gluten with Seafood" on the menu). Picture a soft saggy shell with some fish inside. My dad said the material making up the shell, translated from Chinese, is "flour tendon". The flour is beaten to bring out the protein and the flour becomes glutinous, giving the dumpling a distinctive texture.We had ours with seafood like shrimp, fish balls and squid. The dumplings were soft and slightly chewy. I would best describe it as having a feel similar to that of the egg sheet of an omelet, only a little smoother.
The ribs ("Shanghai Style Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs") were great, too. The sauce at first seemed too strong, but after a while it grew on all of us and we thought it delicious. The ribs were cooked to a state where the bones were soft, so I ate them whole, chewing and swallowing the bone. The ribs were fried first, then simmered with the sauce. Delicious!
The shen jian bao ("Shanghai Pan Fried Juicy Pork Buns")  fried baos were a joy to behold and to eat. They were appealing to the eye and the name didn't lie: the pork was indeed juicy. Take as much care eating one of these as you would a xiao lung bao--the hot soup can come squirting out at first bite. The bun was the best part, especially the hard, crispy bottom.
Instead of the traditional lion's head, we went with the crab lion's head ("Crabmeat Pork Meatballs"). While the crab made this dish deviate from the traditional Shanghainese dish, it was a delightful twist. The visual effect of the crab was to make this a pinkish dish rather than the customary brown, but boy did the pork and crab go together well! The giant meatballs were soft.
There were a few dishes in the "merely adequate category". For example, the Shanghai fried rice was OK. The rice was a little moist and sticky, but the fatty pork mixed in gave the dish a welcome flavor. The xiao lung bao ("Shanghai Steamed Juicy Pork Buns") were overcooked a little and a bit salty. Tyler loved them nevertheless, consuming an entire basket of six dumplings on his own. Both Tyler and Dylan enjoyed the crystal shrimp ("Sauteed Prawns"), but being pink and plump they weren't the authentic Shanghainese crystal shrimp one sees all too rarely in the US.
Because the xiao lung bao  fell short, I can't say our experience tonight was a religious one, but I definitely want to go back. The fresh ham at another table had me at first sight. Beware to the customer who shows up at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night, like we did. We were told we'd need to wait 15 minutes, but it ended up being more than 45 minutes. But, you know what? There were so many great dishes: The lion's head, the fried baos, the glutinous dumplings, that I'd wait 45 minutes again.
Shanghai Garden
20956 Homestead Rd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 517-9812