Belle La Note

Summer has rolled around, and it’s time for the restaurants to get flocked with new college graduates and families. We didn’t make reservation last time we went to La Note, and we thought we would have had to wait for 55 minutes. Luckily somebody cancelled theirs, so we only waited for 10 minutes to be seated at a little table near an old piano and a giant fly, looking out to the beaming afternoon on Shattuck Avenue. I’ve heard many good things about this cozy corner. I’ve walked past what I thought to be its main door countless times, wondering why the sign “Ferme” is always there and if La Note is ever opened. Finally, we’ve gotten behind those doors. We heard the girls giggling and commenting on its “cuteness”. We read the two-paged menu and saw the chalk board of daily specials. It feels bistroesque. Somehow we ended up ordering lasagna at a French restaurant, but it was one of the specials. I’ve had some boring moments with lasagna before, so I didn’t expect much from this Lasagna Bolognese. However, the creamy layers of pasta […]

Continue reading Belle La Note

Steak Search 3 – Prime Spot

Saturday. The usual question comes up: what’s for dinner? It’s been well over three weeks since I last “slashed down a cow” (to quote Makiawa), so I feel just to insist on a chunky slab of red meat. The next question is where. Yelp’s list of steakhouse in Berkeley has six suggestions, but Hana Japan Steakhouse is not really a “steak house” with only two things of beef amidst a ton of chicken and seafood. Kincaid’s? Well, we’ll wait for an occasion to spend $33 on a petit filet mignon, which is already beside the point of tasty and cheap steak (that you can eat without feeling bitter in the mouth). So this week it is Prime Spot, just a few hundred feet north of The Alley. Here’s my two cents guess: their thing is the prime rib, so they name it “Prime Spot”. Or maybe they’re just that confident about their stuff. We’ll see. We ask for one Grand Ave. Cut of Oven Roasted Prime Rib to share, and a side of steamed veggie to lessen the cheapskates’ guilt. […]

Continue reading Steak Search 3 – Prime Spot

Satsuki Bazaar on Channing Way

One blue-sky Sunday in May. A section of Channing Way, between Shattuck and Fulton, was blocked. Two girls draped in summery garments danced to joyous Hawaiian tunes on a sunlit wooden stage, surrounded by a small crowd of both familiar spectators and curious passing pedestrians. The seductive smell of grill beef got caught in the wind here and there. So it was the street front of the 61st annual Satsuki Bazaar and Arts Festival at the Berkeley Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple on Channing Way. Inside the temple, a multitude of items displayed for silent auction held visitors’ footsteps, starting with orchids, matted photos and paintings, gift cards to sushi bars and diving lessons… …to porcelain sets, stuffed toys, a wooden sculpture of Daruma, and Shichi Fukujin in a glass box. Continue reading Satsuki Bazaar on Channing Way

Nicky’s Week: RA Sushi’s fundraiser for St. Jude Children Research Hospital

Tootsy Maki – RA Sushi's signature plate and guests' favorite, with crab mix, shrimp, and cucumber rolled and topped with crunchy tempura bits, and drizzled with sweet eel sauce St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. In the first week of June, from May 30 to June 5, all 25 locations of RA Sushi in Southern California, Arizona, East Texas, Florida, and five other states will host a fundraiser for St. Jude. Diners can choose any item on the Nicky’s Week Special menu, such as Shrimp Nigiri, Chicken Yakitori, the signature plates Tuna Tataki and Tootsy Maki. All sale profits from the Nicky’s Week menu will be donated to St. Jude. Continue reading Nicky’s Week: RA Sushi’s fundraiser for St. Jude Children Research Hospital

New East Lake of Milpitas

I’ll keep it short and sweet: it’s dim sum today. I gave up on microwaving the frozen potstickers that never get cooked in a microwave, and we set out for some steamy bamboo baskets, the real stuff. It was prime lunch time. I was hungry like a grasshopper when we went to New East Lake last weekend, and looking around at the other tables covered with plates didn’t help much. Thank goodness the kitchen didn’t let any cooking smoke escape to the dining area. The wait was of course shorter than it seemed. After I snapped a few pictures around, our first three baskets arrived. Continue reading New East Lake of Milpitas

Little red riding seeds

It has the texture of corn germs (the flat yellow seed inside each corn kernel). With the tiny mahogany peel cracked open just a little, each quinoa seed spills out its soft white flesh, the combination gets amusing. It’s like broken rice but more vigorous and inhomogeneous, or sesame but more fleshy. It goes well with walnuts either mixed in at the beginning or added at the end. If you think hard about it, it even tastes like clariid catfish eggs. Several ideas spring up: quinoa chè? quinoa xôi (sticky rice with quinoa or quinoa with mung bean)? quinoa bread, quinoa pie? Have you cooked with quinoa before? What is your experience with it? Continue reading Little red riding seeds

At the Mountain Top (Sahn Maru)

Nothing beats mom’s cooking. Things may come close, or they may be enchantingly as good as mom’s cooking albeit in some different way, but nothing can top a familiar taste that you grew up with, when you’re fed with love. Remember how Ego dropped his pen and dived into Remy’s ratatouille dish upon recalling the aromatic smell of his mother’s boiling pot? In episode 5 of Gourmet, tears of joy wet the eyes of a renowned food critic as he savored a bowl of boodae jjigae (부대 찌개), the kind his mother used to make for all poor children in the village and the taste he has longed for in several decades. The concept is universal: mom’s cooking is the best. Lately I’ve been steering away from Vietnamese restaurants, not because they aren’t good, but because my mom makes better. So I seek out to the food my mom has never made, yet a part in me still wants a sense of home. And what’s more home-like than the thin, ruffled floral cotton cushion pads loosely tied to some wooden chairs? Korean food always […]

Continue reading At the Mountain Top (Sahn Maru)

Steak Search 2 – Buckhorn Grill

Not too long ago I came upon Monica Eng’s essay Morality Bites, and I vowed to cut down on meat. Well, I’ve been keeping my words, just not all of them: I cut meat. And eat it too. Two weeks ago I entrusted myself on an alphabetical quest for the best steak within ten miles of Berkeley, starting with The Alley. This week, Buckhorn is up to the chopping board. Okay. So it is a chain. A meat-up version of Burger King. Bigger plates, bigger menu, bigger service (they offer catering), big customers. As of today, Buckhorn Grill has opened only seven locations in the Bay Area, so I think we can excuse myself for bucking off my no-chain rule to blog about them. Of course it’s not really that qualified to be in the steakhouse category, there ain’t no sirloin, T-bone, or filet mignon. All it has is tri-tip, or triangular steak, a boneless cut from the bottom sirloin, with charcoaled rim and lotsa salt. Mudpie opted for the regular 6-oz platter at $12.95, while I headed down the 10-oz Dad’s Cut […]

Continue reading Steak Search 2 – Buckhorn Grill

The Korean Secret Garden in Santa Clara – Bi Won Restaurant

It’s late April and the wind still blows cold. The tiny coffee plant I got last winter is still grudgingly hiding in my room for warmth, while I desperately crave a big hot soup with kimchi. Since coffee leaves wouldn’t make either great broth or pickle, we set out to Sunnyvale. But driving in Sunnyvale on an empty stomach is no fun. The signs and loops are out to get you, and your tummy makes you rush running around. It was supposed to take less than thirty minutes, yet we’ve been driving for over an hour. After lots of wrong turns and backtracking eastward and westward, we thought we wouldn’t make it before closing time. Then as Hope faints, we see it. Secret Garden timidly stands at the end of a strip mall’s parking lot. The restaurant may not have a snazzy outlook, but its spacious interior is quite nice. I’m a fan of booth seating and its privacy, but it’s a luxury in Berkeley. Here, the mahogany tables and thick cushion benches fit snuggly in enclosing of wooden planks, so that conversations can be spilled out somewhat comfortably […]

Continue reading The Korean Secret Garden in Santa Clara – Bi Won Restaurant

Kim’s Sandwiches

In one bite you taste a garden. Minty fresh coriander, crunchy pickled carrots, a load of soft white pickled onion, but most special of all is the aromatic burnt lemongrass. It makes the charcoaled pork here extra flavorful just as crushed peanuts make Huong Lan’s texturally delish. Microwaved, the pickled sweet onion and meat grease make the bread somewhat like a slice of steamed baguette dressed with chives and lard (bánh mì hấp mỡ hành). Thumbs up. Kim’s Sandwiches (in the Lion Supermarket area) 1816 Tully Rd 182, San Jose, CA 95111 (408) 270-8903 The owner is supernice. More from this store later.