Friday, December 27, 2019

Ostra--San Antonio, TX

We went to Ostra for Christmas dinner. There, we enjoyed prawns, short ribs and crab tamales. The dish as shown was $40. Perhaps almost as important as the food itself was the festive River Walk environment. I strongly recommend being seated outside, as that's a big reason to eat at Ostra.

You'll need valet parking at the Mokara hotel, but your validation lasts until midnight.




Sunday, December 15, 2019

Mr. Kano Peruvian Restaurant--Santa Clara, CA

My wife and I came here for exotic seafood Friday night and weren't disappointed. I got the Pescado a lo Macho, a seafood mix in a creamy sauce. This included mussels, shrimp, squid and a fish fillet at the bottom of the pile. White rice came on the side.

My wife got the Arroz con Mariscoz, a paella dish which I liked even more than mine because of the soft, fluffy flavorful rice.

The dishes were respectively $18 and $19--a good value.

Pescadero a lo Macho


Arroz con Mariscoz

Menus below:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Brown Chicken Brown Cow--Campbell, CA

he Honolulu Zinger at BCBC has the perfect mix of hot, sweet and savory and highly recommend this decadent burger. Though it comes with brie and bacon, the jalapeno and pineapple jelly is the main event. Because it was so juicy, I needed a knife and fork to eat this.

If you like things that go cluck, my boy had a chicken club sandwich, which he enjoyed. More importantly to me, it filled him up--not easy to do for a fifteen-year-old!

The Honolulu Zinger: Jalapeno and pineapple jam tops this sandwich. The white stuff is brie.

The chicken club sandwich at Brown Chicken Brown Cow


Menu below:








Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cucina Venti--Mountain View, CA

This is another one of many Bay Area restaurants that's popular, but I don't get why it's popular. Yes, the service was good and Cucina Venti, if you don't mind a louder environment, is a pleasant place to eat. But, I knew we were in trouble when a guy came up to our table with two different types of bottled water and asked, "Which would you like?" I don't like restaurants that make you feel bad for wanting tap water.


Across two paella dishes and a penne francesca we received overdone chicken and shrimp. We found the calamari acceptable but unremarkable. Overall, we had a right to expect more at about $25 per entree. I'll give Cucina Venti this, though: The paella came fresh out of the oven--everything was piping hot including the pan.

Menu below:


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Delta SkyClub in Seattle, WA

I've been to the Delta SkyClub in Seattle twice and enjoyed it both times. With floor-to-ceiling windows the lounge is bright. The second floor, virtually empty when I visited, offered ample privacy. My family really liked the food selection, too, which included Ivar's clam chowder--a local favorite (at least among tourists).



Friday, November 15, 2019

Mile High Ice Cream Pie--Champps in Minnetonka, MN

My son and I nearly finished this masterpiece of a dessert last weekend. It exceeded our expectations in every way, including its sheer size. Remember the top and bottom are made of giant cookies and are not to be missed (as you'll likely have to leave something behind). But, everything here--the cream frosting, the ice cream, the flavors--is flat out awesome. For us, it was a bargain at $12.



Friday, November 1, 2019

Everest--Mountain View, CA

This restaurant has had the same name and location for years, but it's vastly improved over what the previous management offered. You can come in at 1:30 or even 2:00 and the buffet offerings are still hot, fresh and plentiful. I particularly enjoyed the tandoori chicken, chicken biryani and, for dessert, gulab jamun. A great kicker is the milk tea, free to all customers.

This lunch buffet is $12, which is a steal. You get 5% off if you sign up with Fivestar at the register.



Thursday, October 24, 2019

Annachikadai--Mountain View, CA

I had the non-vegetarian Thali at Annachikadai for lunch today. In theory, the food is "unlimited" and the presentation appetizing. The dishes below, from upper left clockwise, is fish, mutton, chicken biryani and a vegetable soup. In practice, however, the food's lukewarm. More food is brought to your table, but only when the servers come by. If you want a true all-you-can-eat, go to a buffet. For that,  I recommend Mantra India down the street.



Monday, October 14, 2019

Wok in the Park--St. Louis Park, MN

The menu at Wok in the Park has a definite Asian twist to it. But, understand it's Americanized. What mystifies is the amount of business they get, even on weeknights. Expect a 35-40 minute wait for your takeout order at dinnertime, even on a random Tuesday.

I got the Slayer Stir Fry with pork, which was overdone. The Hot and Spicy Seafood (pictured) came with a small bit of fish, four medium-sized shrimp, two medium scallops and seven rings of squid. I mention this because the dish is $22.

The staff at Wok in the Park is cheerful to be sure. But, otherwise, I don't understand the fuss. Timeliness, quality and value are all missing.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Sea bass from Kona at Ridgedale Minnetonka, MN




I got the sea bass to go today at Kona. Yes, it's a little odd that it's served with shrimp fried rice. However, the fish holds its own against Redstone next door. It's flakey, juicy and flavorful. The big difference is Redstone charges literally twice as much: $38 vs. $19. The sweetness of Redstone's glaze on their sea bass (which I had yesterday) makes their fish the winner. But, not by $19.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Heineken 0.0

When I went to a Giants game recently, a Heineken representative gave me a sample of their non-alcoholic beer, 0.0. I'm far from being an authority on beer, but this tasted pretty good! It wasn't quite as bitter as other beers, but yes, I'd get it again and would even be willing to pay for it next time.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Jade Restaurant--Richmond, BC

A local told me that Jade Restaurant likes to put its own spin on Chinese food. That's so true and they do it well. Whether it's a creation such as breen beans and dried shrimp (as in the photo) or fried rice made with wild rice, their food is often off the beaten path but they prepare it well. Dinner won't come cheap, especially for Richmond. The good stuff starts at about 25 Canadian dollars. We came in on a weeknight but still both the restaurant and its parking lot filled to capacity.



Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tasty Pizza--Cupertino, CA


If you want to get full with delicious food on the cheap (who doesn't), I highly recommend Tasty Pizza in Cupertino. You can get a signature pizza (10 inches) or they can customize one for you for $9.40 before tax and tip. You can even get a pie with everything on it. The twist here is they have pizzas with Indian flare, like one with butter chicken. The toppings are great, but what really wows is the crust. They tell me they make everything onsite. 

Even on a Friday night at 6:00 pm there was almost no line and plenty of seating. Menu below.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Club Lounge at Sheraton Grand--Seattle, WA

On the 32nd floor of the Sheraton Grand in Seattle is the Club Lounge. Accessible to qualifying guests (Bonvoy Platinum, Titanium, Ambassador, etc.), the food is constantly refreshed and suited to the time of day. In the morning, for example, they served sausages and eggs in addition to the fruit shown here. The staff is cheerful, given how chaotic the lounge can be.

I'm not complaining, but the lounge is crowded during breakfast and dinner hours. That said, the lounge is quite large and would comfortably accommodate, say, forty gests. Later at night, it's often empty and peaceful.




Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Beyond Meat burger at A&W of Lodi, CA

I'll say first of all, I love this A&W location, as it has memorabilia from the restaurant chain's rich 100-year history. Mugs, menus, toys, you name it. In addition to the old stuff, though, they also brought in some of the new, like their Beyond Meat option. For $2 extra, you can "Go Beyond" with any burger. So, in the photo below, a $4.49 mushroom burger became a $6.49 mushroom Beyond burger made with pea protein. It looks like a meat burger, but it doesn't exactly scream "Beef!" once it's in your mouth. The onions, mushrooms and seasoning hide the flavor, so all you really get from the patty is the texture, which I couldn't tell from that of beef. Whether or not you "Go Beyond" is a personal choice, of course, but for me moving forward, I'll almost certainly keep my two bucks.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Cheesecake Factory--Minnetonka, MN

Having easily finished entrees at several Cheesecake Factory locations in California, I was surprised to be humbled at their Ridgedale location in Minnetonka, MN. I got the meatloaf, which came with three huge slabs of tasty ground beef. It proved too much for me and probably would have challenged two of me. Just look at the pork belly sliders here and tell me this restaurant isn't about abundance. This is just a single order of an appetizer! Of course, when it came time for dessert (namely, chocolate cheesecake), it was like I was able to find a second stomach for it. Funny how that works.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Naomi Sushi--Menlo Park

Despite its name, the differentiator at this restaurant isn't the sushi, but the great food that comes from the grill. They nailed the miso-glazed black cod (shown), which possessed a slightly crisp exterior and fall-apart flakiness. It was of the right sweetness, too. And, the grilled calamari? The delicious smoke flavor lived with me for days and it was delightfully tender without even a hint of the rubbery texture plaguing fried squid at sports bars everywhere.

Their sushi, however, was ordinary.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

This lovely little mess...


...is the "El Jefe" and is the most expensive sandwich at Armadillo Willy's at $14. Think about that the next time you redeem rewards points for a free sandwich. Really a sampler on bread, it comes with a Texas jalapeƱo cheese sausage, pulled pork, beef brisket (juicy or lean). Get your knife and fork; there's no way you'll get your mouth around this one otherwise.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Birds Eye Garlic Chicken

In my house, we simply call this "The Blue Bag Pasta". Both boys love it. Just pour the frozen contents into a big frying pan, add water and presto! One bag is only $9 at Costco and is enough to feed our family of four.






Saturday, May 25, 2019

Protege--Palo Alto, CA

Let's get to the good stuff first. At Protege, the loin (pictured, lower right) was as tender a cut of lamb as I'd had in memory. The lamb belly was sinfully delicious, though I'll never work off the fat. And, the charred eggplant socca was a work of art. Another triumph was the 9-layer lasagna, made with paper-thin pasta combining to form the tastiest cube of pasta you'll ever have.


But, aside from those two dishes we received nothing all that memorable from the fixed menu. The monkfish was a disappointment, with it inside an overwhelming phyllo wrap. The white asparagus on its own was fine, but it sat on a paste that looked and tasted like it came from a tub of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

The 80s music piped into our room gave the environment a casual feel, which I liked. But, given the hype, the cost ($145 for the items I wrote about here plus a gateau or cheese for dessert) and that this is a restaurant worthy of a Michelin star, my high expectations were barely met. I can't say I was let down, but I didn't come away wowed either.

Expand below for menu:



Sunday, May 19, 2019

Liang's Village--Cupertino, CA



The dry beef noodles dish was terrific, with big chunks of meat. The wide chewy noodles are 50 cents extra, but worth it. But, the real find here--and worth the trip to Liang's on its own--was the pancake wrap with stewed beef. And, for this dish the crisp yet chewy pancake was the star of the show.

Get to Liang's early or late. We got there at 1:40 on a Saturday and still had to wait 15 minutes.



Sunday, May 12, 2019

Creamy strawberry crepes

Today for Mother's Day my 14-year-old made crepes including the one below from scratch using this recipe from allrecipes.com. It took him 40 minutes to prepare, but they turned out well! The cream was made from whipping cream, cream cheese and sugar. The crepes from eggs, butter, milk, water and flour.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Bibigo mini wontons


These are frequently on sale at Costco and, if they are, I grab them every time. They make a great snack or even a quick meal for the kids in a pinch. We've found that frying is the favorite option for preparing these. These come with cilantro, but I don't really notice.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Shawarma Falafel Shaq--Santa Clara, CA


I highly recommend this place. The service is friendly, there's plenty of parking and finding a table is stress-free--at least for now. The best part, though, is their dishes come with truckloads of meat. You'll leave full and won't spend a lot. The chicken shawarma shown here was $11, but I got the Traditional Shawarma wrap for a mere $7.50 and it was more than enough for me.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Fashion Wok--Foster City, CA

One of my favorite comfort foods is the Korean Army at Fashion Wok. This stew, which arrives on a burner, is so simple, yet so tasty. No shrimp to get your hands dirty. No shellfish to fuss with. Only the good fatty stuff can be found here, so sit back and enjoy. With two types of sausage, a cake of instant noodles, spam and a slab of cheese, how can you go wrong? Also available in downtown Sunnyvale.



Sunday, April 7, 2019

Cheztakos--Mountain View, CA

The beef brisket burrito ($9.75 including tax) shown here is as hearty as it looks. One of these will satisfy a lumberjack for an entire day and they don't skimp on the meat. The skin is good and greasy, too. Overall, a little salty, though. Be sure to treat yourself to the most excellent salsa on the table in front of this food truck.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Alotta's--Los Altos, CA

Shown here is the hot pastrami sandwich, with provolone, at Alotta's. What pastrami you get is pretty good, but it's a small sandwich, especially at $10.75 before tax and tip. It didn't fill me up. The reason you'd go to Alotta's is for convenience, not for value or a great experience.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Noodleospophy--San Mateo, CA

As soon as you enter Noodleosophy, you'll see someone making a loud, snappy show out of pulling noodle dough. You'll then order and pay on your own, guided by a monitor above showing the menu. About 10 minutes later, you pick up your order.

Spicy (it's actually pretty mild) Cumin Lamb with Biang Biang Noodles

In other words, there's almost no human interaction. But then, you forget about all that as soon as you try your first bite of Biang Biang Noodles. Damn if those aren't the best noodles in the Bay Area.

Simple yet spot on, what hits most is the chewiness--just the right elasticity--of those wide ribbons. The flavor was fine. In terms of how sheer quantity, the value isn't bad, either. I got full on $13 before tax and tip. But, what will pull me back is the texture of those noodles. That alone was worth the half hour drive and struggle for parking in downtown San Mateo. Be aware there isn't much table space, especially if your party has four or more.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Chocolate croissants by Trader Joe's

What impresses me most about the chocolate croissants from TJ's is their transformation from slender little bars (with a cross-section with the same size and shape of a fig newton) to these big fluffy pastries. Let them rise overnight at room temperature, then pop 'em into the oven. We enjoyed the croissants--and they definitely have ample chocolate--but compared to croissants fresh from the bakery they deflate and flatten out a bit too readily.




Monday, February 4, 2019

Teriyaki Stir-Fry Udon by Pulmuone



This item is becoming a Costco mainstay. You'll get much better results taking the time to stir-fry the contents rather than using the microwave, which will result in hard, dry noodles. Having tried both methods, the peas always came out gummy for us. Although I'd get this again, my wife and kid wouldn't because of the texture of the toppings.


Image result for pulmuone teriyaki stir-fry udon

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Stevens Creek vs Great America: A tale of two IHOPs

This morning Dylan and I took advantage of the all-you-can-eat promotion at International House of Pancakes. In January we went twice to the one on Stevens Creek (on the Santa Clara-Cupertino border); today we went to the one on Great America (in Santa Clara). With the exception of one serving today (which was room temperature), both IHOPs serve delicious buttermilk pancakes. The similarities end there.

Round 1 of the all-you-can-eat pancakes at IHOP  on Stevens Creek (Santa Clara)

At the Great America IHOP today, each round of pancakes (the first round is a stack of five, each subsequent is a round of two) took between 15 and 20 minutes from request, which is inexcusable. So, for us it took nearly an hour and a half to eat breakfast. We never got our glasses of water refilled.

At Stevens Creek, we had an excellent experience both times. There was a bug in one of our glasses, but we didn't complain because the staff was so damn nice--Dylan I ended up sharing a glass. During the last visit, the manager even went from table to table to ask how we were doing. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes for any round--each of was a sure-fire hot, fresh, fluffy stack. Bravo!


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Achilles in Santa Clara, CA

Achilles in Santa Clara features Mediterranean food, but in some respects I found the actual food they served to be incidental. For a crowded restaurant where you pick up your food at the register, the employees are remarkably conscientious about the customer experience. All the employees smile there. The cashier threw on some extra meat before we carried away our trays. And, when I left, the same cashier thanked me by name, even though it was the first time we'd met.



Then there's the value. For less than $50 after tax but before tip, we received four meals heaping with meat and four heart-shaped falafel pieces that was the best I'd ever had (so crisp, yet fluffy and hot on the inside!).

Is there an Achilles' heel? If anything could have been improved, the Achilles chicken (pictured) was slightly overdone. That's it.

We went in on a Saturday night at about 5:30. There are far more customers than seats at that time. Your odds of finding a table are better at 5:00 or 6:30.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Blue Angel Cafe--South Lake Tahoe

We went to Blue Angel Cafe for dinner last weekend. Though we showed up at about 6 pm there was no line, which we were grateful for. Also, the staff there was friendly. However, for what we got, our meal was expensive at $77.50 before tax and tip. We needed to eat more when we got back to our hotel. Shown here are the Piri Piri Ribs. The sauce hits you with a sharp acidic taste, but the meat falls off the bone. For $22 you got veggies, mashed potatoes and five ribs.