Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Great Shakes--Palm Springs, CA

Mint Oreo Cookie

If the shakes at Great Shakes in Palm Springs are truly great, it's because of the ice cream. This only seems obvious, but we all agreed that the dessert wasn't so much a shake as it was a cup of soft, delicious ice cream.

The little doughnut around the straw was a nice touch. From what I sampled of Dylan's Oreo Mint Cookie, the flavor really popped. Tyler got the Chocolate Fudge. He downed all of it before I could even ask to try.

Chocolate Fudge

I also really enjoyed the date shake I shared with Jenny. With the dates ground into little flavorful crumbs, we could only imagine how much labor was involved with the gunk stuck to the blender. We didn't see any of that, of course. We got only the "great" shake and service with a smile.

Great Shakes

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Myzen--Sunnyvale, CA

Myzen Ramen with Tonkatsu base

I met my wife for lunch at Myzen in Sunnyvale near the end of last month. It was there and then that I had the most complete bowl of ramen of my life. It had everything: chewy, delectable noodles, a rich, flavorful broth, melt-in-your-mouth pork and a perfectly boiled egg with a soft, liquid center.

The curry ramen (curry and tonkotsu base) offers a punchier alternative. It has some kick, but you'll still get plenty of flavor from the stock.

Given the outstanding experience in store at Myzen, I was surprised to be able to get a table at noon on a Friday. The bigger limitation, in fact, is parking. Myzen sits in the middle of a strip mall with a lot with limited space. If you get there by 11:45 for lunch, though, you'll be fine.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Thanksgiving dinner-in-a-box from Lucky

All this plus a package of Hawaiian bread is yours for $50. You have to let the turkey thaw for 2-5 days in the fridge, though.
If you take away anything from this post, it's that if you order Thanksgiving dinner from Lucky, the turkey and most of the trimmings that come along with it are frozen. It's advised that you defrost the turkey two to five days in the fridge before warming it in the oven. (The turkey is fully cooked, which brings some peace of mind.) Having tried dinner-in-a-box for Thanksgiving from 99 Ranch and Safeway, we assumed the meal would be warm and ready to eat. Not so.

Still, the dinner packed a value. You get everything you see in the photo above plus a tray of Hawaiian bread (which we gobbled up while waiting for the turkey to thaw) for $50. My wife liked the cranberry sauce the best, the kids liked the mashed potatoes and gravy. And, the 12.3 lbs. turkey was good for several meals, lasting days after Thanksgiving. The turkey smelled great as it spent its two hours in the oven at 325 degrees. When we pulled it out the skin was crisp and the meat tender. It turned out better than the turkey we roasted last year. It turned out so well, in fact, that we're pretty sure to sign up for next year, too. We'll just have to remember to pick up the bird a few days in advance.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Nijiya Market--Mountain View, CA

It was with great anticipation today that we brought home a super sushi platter from Nijiya Market in the Mountain View Shopping Center. Order a day ahead of time and for $40 you get a platter (which itself is  plastic but suitable for keeping) with 67 pieces of sushi, nigiri and California roll.

Was it a good value? It's debatable. For $40 Sushi 85 or Masa Sushi, both also in Mountain View, can come close to filling you up just as this platter did (with one boy eating more than 20 pieces alone, this platter didn't fill the rest of us up till our bellies burst, but that wasn't the aim either). However, if it's an abundance of raw fish, rice and seaweed that you're after and you want to escape taxes and tips, we can't think of a buy around us that's clearly better.

What went without debate was the deliciousness of the platter. It even smelled great. The nigiri (salmon, tuna and shrimp) was so popular among the four of us the kids made sure they were divided evenly. Not only will we be repeat customers, we're already plotting to figure out when's the next time we can order a "super" again.

Nijiya Market, Mountain View, CA

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Voya Restaurant--Mountain View, CA

To celebrate Jenny's birthday while the kids were at school, we went to The Voya Restaurant in Mountain View. It's very rare for us to visit a restaurant a second time in half a year much less a month. Yet, it was our second time here in less than four weeks and the fact that Jenny picked Voya for her birthday shows how much we think of this restaurant.

What Voya does best is offer a terrific experience in terms of service, food and ambiance. Service is always with a smile and their food is prepared to perfection--especially the flavoring.

All that said, such happiness doesn't come for free. Jenny's three seafood tacos, while delicious enough, came at a steep $18.75. The presentation was beautiful, though. I had the Seven Seas, a better value. I enjoyed the snapper and the broth was even better than mmm-mmm good! I also appreciated that they jammed that bowl with a lot of seafood (see menu below).

What's a birthday meal without a delicious dessert? Voya came through with the chocolate molten cake with vanilla bean, which, if it wasn't homemade it sure tasted like it!

The Voya Restaurant

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cafe Nur--Los Altos, CA

If you have a family looking for something casual, quick and without big crowd, try Cafe Nur. Their prices are more than fair. Jenny and I each got a gyro salad (above) and we barely finished. The kids each got a gyro plate (below) and their leftovers made a sizable lunch the next day.

Note the only difference between the plate and the salad is the former comes with rice but not as much salad. Yet, the plate is $11.95 and the salad is a mere $8.25. If you're fine with pita bread being your only starch, go for the salad.

Go during a weeknight and you'll practically have the whole restaurant to yourself for dinner. Grab some outside seating near the sidewalk and enjoy the fresh air. When the weather is hot it gets pretty warm deep inside the restaurant.

Cafe Nur

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pannekoeken Huis--Minneapolis, MN

Our visit to Pannekoeken Huis earlier this month was largely a walk down Memory Lane for me. There were a bunch of Pannekoeken locations back when I was growing up more than thirty years ago. Now it appears there's just one.
Strawberry Pannekoeken
The important things haven't changed, though. The pannekoekens are just as fluffy and eggy as ever and, this is important, the server announces (more like sings) the delivery of the pannekoeken when it arrives the table with a enthusiastic "Pannekoeken!" I told our server the pronouncement reminded me of my childhood, she said it was her favorite part of working at Pannekoeken Huis. How can you not love that enthusiasm?
Walleye BLT

Wanting to eat like a local, Jenny got a walleye BLT, which I thought was delicious. While the walleye is the Minnesota state fish and Minnesotans love their walleyes, keep in mind that, by law, commercial walleye fishing is banned in Minnesota. Instead, the commercial walleye stock comes from Canada.
Dutch Dip

Wanting to bring some more protein to the table, we shared a mettwurst, a thick sausage with German origins. I'm not quite sure why it's at a Dutch restaurant. Perhaps it's a Minnesota thing connected with the state's heavily German roots? It doesn't matter: The side dish was delicious and there's no way you'd get this much meat for six bucks here in California.

Pannekoeken Huis

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Brasa Rotisserie--Minneapolis, MN

Gumbo Fried Rice
We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Brasa Rotisserie in Minneapolis about a week ago. The collard greens were as delicious as I'd ever had, cooked in and served with chicken broth. As for the plantains? Think of extracting the flavor of a dozen bananas and condensing it into a bite-sized oval. That's what you'd get at Brasa. By the way, the plantains order pictured here is a "small", which seemed large. As for the kale, on the other hand, we had a medium, which seemed small.

Everyone at the table who tried it really liked the Gumbo Fried Rice and it was delicious! The shrimp was every bit as succulent as the photo (top) shows. It was a little spicy, but not something a ten-year old can't handle. The rotisserie chicken we felt compelled to get because, well, it's Brasa Rotisserie after all. It met all the expectations you'd have of a rotisserie chicken (juicy, tender) but in my mind what set it apart was the the crisp, flavorful skin

I didn't notice until Jenny pointed it out, but we were actually eating in a garage with the doors open. I don't know how they pull this off during the brutal winters, but what a great environment it is during the summer!

The prompt, cheerful service made the experience all the more enjoyable.

Brasa Rotisserie

Thursday, August 13, 2015

BLVD Kitchen and Bar--Minnetonka, MN

Last night Jenny and I celebrated our anniversary on vacation for the fourth consecutive year. And, the dinner was probably the best of the bunch.

Jenny had a salmon salad and especially appreciated the flavorful heirloom tomatoes. Wood fired ovens grilled the salmon. Tyler, already having expensive taste at a mere ten years old, had the lobster mac and cheese. It was loaded, I mean loaded, with lobster. I thought it a little rich for my taste, but Jenny and Tyler agreed that the creaminess was just right.

Jambalaya at BLVD Kitchen and Bar
I've had many jambalayas in my life--including during my first ever date with Jenny, in fact--but I have to say on its own last night's was the best. Loaded with mussels, prawns and shrimp, the dish came with pillowy soft rice. The level of spiciness was perfect--as if the chef knew me personally (he doesn't, of course).

Chicken tenders off the kids' menu at BLVD Kitchen and Bar

The service was impeccable. The staff constantly refreshed plates and silverware and made sure the glasses were topped off. Our server memorized six entrees and two appetizers--no mean feat! He was personable, too.

BLVD Kitchen and Bar
Minnetonka, MN

Calamari appetizer at BLVD Kitchen and Bar

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company -- Half Moon Bay, CA

Half Moon Bay Louie with bay shrimp and crab. This full portion went for $10.75

Last weekend we went to Half Moon Bay to meet Jenny's brother and his family. Afterwards, we went to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Though we got there a bit before six, the restaurant was packed and their parking lot full. Be sure to make a reservation, even if on a Sunday night.

One other piece of advice: If you have kids with you, get the fish and chips off the kids' menu. You won't believe the deal: Six dollars buys you the same fish and chips as on the adult's menu which goes for $15.75. The ONLY difference between the two is the kids' dish comes with two pieces of fish while the adult version comes with three. The "fish" in the fish and chips is pollock.

Jenny had the seafood fajitas, which came loaded with shrimp and fish--far more than needed to fill the tortillas.

I had the Dungeness crab roll. There was plenty of delicious crab and the bread super-soft. I'm just not used to paying $22 for a sandwich.

About a month earlier, we ate a delicious brunch at Flavor. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company serves up equally good food and is a little noisier but perhaps a bit more cheerful, too. You won't go wrong with either restaurant.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Turn--Los Altos, CA

A visit from the grandparents permitted Jenny and me to escape to dinner at Turn Monday night. The best came first with the grilled baby lamb chops, ordered as an appetizer. It was rare, but juicy and tender. I was shameless about holding the bone and ripping off every last morsel. Things got disappointing from that point onward, however.

I got the pork belly pizza, partly because I wanted to try for a value play (at $16, it was one of the cheapest items on the menu) and I love eating pork. The problem was, there were at most four or five small strips of pork in the whole pizza. I mean, look at the photo, how much pork do you see? The pizza tasted fine, but it was dominated by the figs (which themselves were on the watery side).

And, the fried chicken Jenny ordered? It was OK, I guess. I just don't understand the $22 price tag. Not at all. I had some of the dark meat and it was tender and juicy, but then a fried drumstick is a slam dunk.

Despite the mediocrity of the entrees--entrees I'll never experience again because I'm not going back--one highlight was our server, Mahran. He tended to practically every need and always wore a bright smile. If you get him tending your table, consider yourself fortunate.

Turn Bar and Grill

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Flavor--Half Moon Bay, CA

My wife, beautiful inside and out, recently surprised me with a trip to Half Moon Bay, where we had brunch at Flavor. Always in the mood for eggs (at any hour!), I didn't make it past the Eggs Benedict on the menu. Mine was with corned beef and I especially liked how Flavor made perfect thick patties out of it.

Jenny chose the Seafood Pot Pie, which was loaded with halibut, clams, shrimp and scallops in a peppery cream sauce. Though the most expensive item on the menu at $24, the delicious filling of this pie plus the spectacle of the giant puff pastry made it worth every penny.

Tyler's a tough critic of everything bacon and his bacon waffle didn't disappoint. Note that not only was there bacon on top, but it was there in the waffle mix itself. Dylan went with a burger with fries, a dish that wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't the standout of any of the other three.

You can see the harbor from Flavor, but don't go there for the view. Yes, the ambiance is fine, but it's the food that carries the day.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lobster Cobb salad at Birk's--Santa Clara, CA

For lunch Friday I enjoyed a lobster Cobb salad at Birk's. I normally think of Birk's as serving good food (their pork chops are a can't-miss), but slightly expensive. Twenty-five dollars is a lot to pay for a salad, but this dish is one of the best values on the menu.

I also had a homemade watermelon and ginger lemonade. It was good, too, but the lobster salad won the day.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jang Su Jang--Santa Clara, CA

Pork belly

Earlier this week I enjoyed Korean barbecue at Jang Su Jang, where we ordered pork belly and prime rib. The Korean barbecue experiences I had previously were all-you-can-eat, grill-it-yourself affairs. Even on the weekends, you could get out of there for less than $30/head.

So, I was a little surprised to see a plate of pork belly for $27 and our prime rib plate was $45. And, there was nothing all-you-can-eat about it. The big difference is the service. You don't have to lift a finger (and I didn't) and the meat goes from the kitchen to the grill to your plate--cooked to perfection (or at least pretty close) and cut.

Pork belly

Remember that because of this level of attention, there's a two-person minimum for barbecue. (One person is fine if two dishes are ordered.) And, the level of attention is highly personal indeed. Throughout the two-hour meal, servers passed by constantly to make sure our needs were tended to.

Prime rib

I wrapped up the dinner with a seafood soon tofu. The "seafood" was clams and shrimp (shell-on) and the tofu was soft, soft, soft--almost impossible to pick up with chopsticks. When you get the soon tofu, make sure you have rice to go along with it. This dish is spicy, about the highest level of spiciness as you'd find in a typical Korean tofu house.

Prime rib on the grill

I had a great time at Jang Su Jang and if invited as a guest I'd love to go again. However, while I appreciate the high level of service at Jang Su Jang, when it comes to Korean barbecue, I'm an all-you-can-eat guy. Also, I don't mind grilling meat on my own. So, coming back on my own, I'm afraid, is unlikely.

Seafood soon tofu
Jang Su Jang