Thursday, December 26, 2013

Huge Tree Pastry--Monterey Park, CA

We ate at Huge Tree Pastry in Monterey Park for brunch this morning. It's a no frills, order-as-you-go restaurant focusing on smaller items such as pastries, soy milk and even xiao lung bao. I found it best to stick with the breakfast items here. The you tiao (Taiwanese donut on the menu), is served hot, crisp and, in the inside, soft. It went well with the soybean milk, which we got "sweet" (you'll need to add sugar to make it actually taste sweet).
Probably the favorite dish at the table was the baked sesame bread with egg--basically an egg sandwich. The other egg dish we got, the pan fried green onion pancake with egg, also hit the spot.

Perhaps the heartiest single item we got was the baked sesame bread with beef. It wasn't anything elaborate, but it came early in the meal, when we were pretty hungry. So, it was well received.

Other items we got include the ham and radish pastry, which was exceedingly small (not much larger in diameter than a silver dollar) and a salty fan tuan, which was a roll with pork sung.

I was slightly disappointed by the xiao lung bao, which I found to be leaky and the skin a little tough. It's hard to do this well and it's hard to blame the restaurant for its effort.
While Huge Tree was hit and miss, I don't question its value. We ordered nine items in all and with tax and tip the eight of us were fed for $44. Again, if you go here, stick with the meat- and egg-filled pastries and maybe the soy milk.

Note: The men's restroom had no soap and no paper towels.

Huge Tree Pastry
423 N Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 458-8689

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tony's Kitchen--Mountain View, CA

I had my first-ever burger with hash hash browns today (the "Ultimate Burger"; see photo above) and must say I was very pleasantly amazed. If there's one thing that must be said about Tony's Kitchen it's that the food comes out fresh and hot. The hash brown patty was super crisp, yet warm and fluffy inside. If the burger looks like a heart condition on a plate, it sort of is. Just dance or go for a jog afterwards and call it good. It'll be worth it.

My wife opted for the mushroom burger. She liked that the mushrooms were fresh (she's good at telling stuff like that).

The kids shared fish and chips (the big ticket item at $10.99), which came with three fillets and fries. As you'd expect, the fish came in a crisp batter and was good and flaky inside.

To get a good deal on the Ultimate Burger, go to Tony's on a Monday and get it for $6. Go Wednesday and you can get a gelato for $1. Friday, $5 gets you the pulled pork sandwich. Whenever you go, you don't have to worry about a wait. They'll fit you in and fill you up.

Tony's Kitchen
856 W El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 938-1333

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ocha Tea Cafe--Mountain View, CA

We went to Ocha Tea Cafe for lunch today. Jenny shared the stewed ground pork and mushroom (above, with "dry noodle"). Tyler, who had portions of all the dishes we ordered, liked this one the best. The noodles were just right and the dish wasn't too salty. Of all things, I liked the lettuce, which was crisp.

I ordered the pork chop (above) sizzling plate and it was my favorite of the three. It comes with a raw egg you'll need to scramble before the plate cools. The chop is boneless and pretty thin (1 cm. maybe?). It's incredibly tender and the sauce on top goes with just about anything savory, like the fried rice below. I really liked the shrimp.

We usually don't order drinks when we eat out, but this time we got three and enjoyed all of them. We got a cold mango milk tea and a peach oolong milk tea. What I liked most, though, was the taro snow (below). The flavor was fantastic, with the taro really standing out. It wasn't much of a thirst quencher, though, as it had the consistency of a slushy.

Before tip, the lunch was a hair less than $40 after tax but before tip. The three drinks were $3.50 each. (Menu below)

The kids liked Ocha and I liked that it wasn't that crowded. We'll go again, but I wouldn't characterize this Ocha as a go-to in a pinch. At this mall at least, for emergency dinner pickup I'd go with the value play in Sushi 85's teriyaki chicken.

Ocha Tea Cafe
1350 Grant Rd., #8
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 961-1813

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shanghai Dumpling--Cupertino, CA

Saturday my dad took us to Shanghai Dumpling, which we passed by when we ate at QQ a little more than three weeks ago.

We got the obligatory xiao lung bao, which the boys loved. Though slightly bigger than what's often found elsewhere, they were nevertheless juicy, hot and the skin held its own. Tyler, a 3rd grader, scarfed down four and loved each one.

The pan fried Shanghai pan fried bun stuffed with pork was delicious. The bun was pillow soft and perhaps a little sweet. My dad, who was raised in Shanghai, commented the pan fried buns were about as authentic as he's seen among the dozen or so Shanghainese restaurants he's tried in the Bay Area.

The most pleasant surprise was the smoked duck. It was fall-off-the-bone tender with a strong flavor. I can't wait to get it again!

To satisfy the kids' need for pasta, we got the Shanghai Noodles, a dish that was widely popular at our table. No surprises, but very good.

The pork chop over rice was good, but largely because of the salted fatty pork bits in the rice. I thought the fried chop was a little heavy with the batter (and that's saying something).
The gluten puffs were OK, but not as good as what you'd find at Shanghai Garden on Homestead.

An internet search on Shanghai Dumpling will quickly reveal they charge 20 cents for water, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. At least the non-zero cost makes you think before asking for water.

With so many Shanghainese restaurants coming and going over the years around here, I really hope this one makes it. You can come by at just about any time and there will probably be space for you. This restaurant does a tremendous amount of take-out business.

Shanghai Dumpling
10895 S Blaney Ave
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 777-8786

Thursday, November 28, 2013

QQ--Cupertino, CA

Last Saturday night was a cold one here and we warmed up to the idea of some hot brothy noodle soup. So, we dropped by QQ in Cupertino.
Braised beef noodle soup
Each of the twins got the braised beef noodle soup, which was very fatty but would hit the spot for anyone with an empty stomach and in need of a warm up.

Soups like mine and my dad's (respectively spare ribs and chicken with black mushroom) came with the noodles and bok choy separated from the soup.

Lamb with pita bread
I wish they'd done the same for the pita with lamb. It's remarkable how much pita can taste like pasta. The downside, though, was after a while the pita got a bit soft and doughy.
Garlic sauce with pork noodle--Oh my was this a good one.

The best dish of the night wasn't a soup. Jenny's pork noodle was the best. The extra-wide noodles were chewy and simply amazing. I was delighted that she couldn't finish so I could take over and it's what I'll get when I go back.

QQ is cash only.

QQ Noodle
10889 S Blaney
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 253-5858

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Port Restaurant--Cupertino, CA

There are two things to remember about New Port, where my dad took us for dim sum last weekend: 1) Get there before 11:30 and 2) Stay hydrated because New Port's food is nothing if not high in sodium.

To their credit, New Port keeps the food coming. You won't have to wait long before a caravan of four or five carts will swing by your table. The har gao will come by fairly frequently, the sui mai won't. But, when it did for us, it was impeccable.

Perhaps the most distinctive dish of the day was a spinach and fish dumpling (below). The fish was cooked to perfect doneness. I regretted we got only one serving.

The Hong Kong style egg puff (below) was soft and as light as air, but it was served cold. So, it can't really compare to the offering from Cooking Papa.

Again, remember to get there before 11:30! By noon, the line will run outside.

New Port Restaurant
1696 S Wolfe Rd.
Cupertino, CA 94087
(408) 737-9976

Sunday, November 3, 2013

De Afghanan Kabob House

On our way to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland last weekend we dropped by De Afghanan Kabab in Fremont. Mainly a to-go restaurant (there are only three tables inside, one outside), the line to order for most of the evening went out into the street.
Chicken kabob: As succulent as it looks
Everything was made to order in front of us. We ordered lamb and chicken kabobs initially, but were enticed by the gigantic potato turnover (see in photo below underneath the big metal paddle) and ordered one of those as well.

The cook was very diligent about snipping any charred parts of the meat and the result were kabobs that were as pleasing to the eye as they were tender and juicy. The dishes were salty, though, and we spent the rest of the night searching for water at Chabot wherever we could find it.

Lamb loin chop kabob
The most distinctive and memorable order was the Bolani Kachaloo, a turnover filled with potato and leeks. Jenny likened it to a big onion pancake one might get in a Chinese restaurant. I tend to agree with her, though the Chinese version is a tad more crisp and maybe even greasier still.
Bolani Kachaloo: A turnover filled with potatoes and leeks
One thing I didn't like that left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak, was how the bill was totaled. There was no paper bill; I was only told what the total would be. He just rounded it up generously (generously to the restaurant) to $35. The place was busy and we were in a hurry, though, and I didn't fight it. All that said, the restaurant will continue to get away with accounting shenanigans like this. It's like Bay Area housing: The seller calls his price above list and buyers will still line up.

De Afghanan Kabob House
37405 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94536
(510) 745-9599

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vive Sol--Mountain View, CA

Taking advantage of yet another birthday party, Jenny and I went to Vive Sol for dinner a couple of weekends ago. Though the restaurant was busy, we still got a table right away at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, we'd still have to do a lot of waiting at our table. Dinner took nearly half an hour to arrive as we fattened ourselves on chips. To make matters a bit worse, the server forgot the tortillas to go with the mole. I subsequently found out the tortillas--crisp and hot--were essential.
Mole Poblano (pork)
The mole was right on. It was about the best I've had in the Bay Area, rivaled only by Mexicali Grill in Santa Clara. The Mole at Vive Sol was a bit sweet, though, and the chocolate didn't really stand out.
Tacos Pescado (sea bass)
Jenny's Tacos Pescado featured sea bass and it was good, though expensive ($17.50). As such, it's not something she'd get again.
The chips were great with the surfeit of salsa!
All said, dinner was a bit far from perfect. But, you know what? I'm going back again. I just can't get that mole anywhere else.

Vive Sol
2020 W El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 938-2020

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Village Pub--Woodside, CA

Spinach: More a feast for the eyes than the stomach (still good, though!)
Using a gift certificate given to us by Jenny's brother (Thank you AK!) and a well timed birthday party, my wife and I sneaked off to The Village Pub for Sunday brunch, where we ordered off the menu.

Ranch heirloom melon salad
The melon, which was our first course, was fine, though I thought it expensive for what it was ($13). On a good day, I can find a melon at the market that matches the quality of this one.

Halibut cake: The Pub knocked this one out of the park
The halibut cake, on the other hand, was terrific and the highlight of the lunch. It was delicate and went well with the runny egg. It made me say, "Wow", even on the second and third bites. It was one of Jenny's favorites, too.

Ricotta and Meyer lemon pancakes
The Village Pub also scored well with the ricotta cheese and Meyer lemon pancakes. It'll be hard to eat from a mix from now on (which was never an issue before). The creaminess from the ricotta really stood out. 

Warm breakfast breads
In addition to the halibut, Jenny most enjoyed the breads, which at $6 was a relative steal. The fluffy and flavorful little bricks went well with the housemade spreads and jam. I liked the lemon the most.
"Shrimp and grits" on the menu, with the shrimp replaced by lobster
They were out of shrimp for the shrimp and grits, so they replaced it with lobster and didn't change the price ($18). It was good and savory, but I thought the grits drowned out the lobster.

Carpaccio of local yellowtail

Service was efficient, though it was more of the leave-you-alone approach rather than doting. Unfortunately, despite all that we ordered, we weren't full when we left.

The Village Pub
2967 Woodside Rd.
Woodside, CA 94062
(650) 851-9888

Friday, October 11, 2013

Japanese tapas--Mountain View, CA

Scoring a date night thanks to a birthday party, Jenny and I went to have Japanese tapas in Mountain View last Friday. I visited the other restaurant in this chain back in 2008 and I remembered the rice cakes to be wonderfully crunchy. So, this time, we went with the rice cakes with salmon and salmon mayo. They were good, but the salmon was essentially there just for flavoring.

The pork rice pot was probably the best dish of the night. A runny egg was thrown in for some flavor. and our server mixed it at the table. It was a tad heavy but scrumptious and, again, had that delicious crunchy burnt rice.

The tomatoes with scallops looked good--the dish was a work of art. The tomatoes were super-juicy, too. However, the concoction was difficult to handle with chopsticks.

The cod, which was tender, could have been served on a smaller platter. What intrigued us most was the flavor. I thought it was from lemon or other citrus, though Jenny thought it was the plum soy sauce.

At $67 (including tax) with the above dishes plus a beer, we thought dinner was a bit expensive. But, the service was friendly and prompt. So much, so, in fact we got got a free bowl of edamame because we were told the food would take longer than expected. In fact, it came in less than 15 minutes. If only other restaurants could hold themselves to such a high standard of service. The restaurant opens at 6:00. At 6:30 there was plenty of seating. At 7:00, though, the restaurant was full.

Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas
1036 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 965-8301

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Extraordinary Soup and More--Sunnyvale, CA

The Gyros Platter

It's pretty clear when you walk into this charming home of a restaurant that this is a family run operation. Occupying the former Bonjour Crepes (the sign is still up), this restaurant specializes in Mediterranean food. However, they embraced the French identity of the former restaurant with artwork on the wall evoking France (like that of the Eiffel Tower) and they played an accordion track with La Vie En Rose and C'est Si Bon. How could we think we were anywhere but France?

The soups came in interesting flavors and you can tell they're homemade. The woman behind the register let us sample each creation. Some comments:
Pommegranite: A bit strong for me. If sour is your thing, give it a try.
Beef and Barley: Just the right amount of heartiness and thickness. So often this is made too weighty and gloppy, but not this one. It was my favorite of the bunch.
Yogurt Drink: Was a little sour as one might expect. It came with spinach.
Five mushroom: Creamy and savory. This is the one we chose to get a bowl of. It'll be hard to ever go back to Campbell's Cream of Mushroom.
Mexican Lentl with lime and avocado: Watch out for this one. It's spicy.
Chicken and Beef Kabob

One of our entrees was the Combo Chicken and Beef Kabob. I enjoyed the beef, which was tender and a tad greasy (which is good!), though Jenny thought you can get the beef elsewhere.

The gyros platter was delicious and filling. Jenny and I agreed the best part of both dishes was the gyro, which was tender and flavorful. It makes us think that the Gyro on a Pita for $4.59 is a steal. The falafel was fresh, crisp and hot. The woman who made them even gave us a couple on the house since they were just made. I was told the vibrant green color came from parsley and cilantro.

My advice? Get here at 5:30 on a weekday when it isn't crowded and let this family take care of you.

Extraordinary Soup and More
20371 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 973-8553