None of the secondi struck our fancy, but we did order a substantial number of dishes. So substantial that instead of ordering by the names, I curled my index finger and thumb into a square bracket and pointed on the menu “we’ll take these four and these four, and the potato, and the asparagus please.” That was 10 out of 25 “dishes” on the menu, if olives and salads could count as dishes at all. Three years ago, I had a bite of pork belly sandwich from Corso. I remember nothing of it, except that it was memorably good. I vowed to come back, but my cravings are always either rice noodle or pancakes (although every time I get pancakes, their texture is gravely disappointing), so for these three years, the vow stayed as a vow and didn’t happen. I kept hearing from multiple sources near and far about how good Corso was, though, so my confidence for this Italian restaurant increased. When I picked Corso for dinner last Friday, I didn’t expect the restaurant to wow us, but I felt confident that the meal would be […]

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Cafe Rouge – two different ways to think about a bad experience


A few years ago, things were rough at school and I was a bittermelon*. I got upset easily, turned people away from me, was critical of everything and mostly found faults in mankind. Long story short, I became a misanthrope and immersed myself in two things: anime and foreign language. Ironically, the former taught me to think more positively, and the latter brought me new friends. Then I realized that when I suppress my negative thoughts, eventually they dissipate on their own and I would feel so much better without bothering anyone with my complaints. In America, we are encouraged to express our negative feelings. People like to see and hear about problems (that’s why the daily news are mostly bad news and the reality shows are full of anger). Some people say that it’s good to let it out. That’s true, but it’s only temporary. Complaining is like eating chips, it’s impossible to stop**. Anger multiplies when it’s let loose. The more cynical I feel about a situation, the more depressing scenarios I envision, and it only goes downhill from there. These days I try to appreciate everything more, and when some incident doesn’t seem […]

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Back from the dead

So Flavor Boulevard went out of existence for about 10 days. It just disappeared. First of all (it wasn’t my fault but I will apologize because that’s how my culture works), my apologies to anyone who tried to visit Flavor Boulevard (and thank you for checking back to read this now 🙂 ). Secondly, I’ll explain. Thirdly, I’ll complain. And finally (I haven’t decided between devil Mai and angelic Mai yet, so maybe there’s no “finally”), I’ll make a voodoo doll of whoever caused this to happen. My site got DDoS. That sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It happened like that too. One beautiful night after work I decided to update my blog, and dah dee dee dee dah I typed in the url and “Oops Google could not find”. This had happened from time to time and usually it came back on within the hour, so I waited a bit… nothing changed… I started to worry… I emailed Web Hosting Pad (WHP) who was my webhost at the time and they said, in so many words about violation of terms and whatnot, that my account has been suspended. That […]

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The highs and lows of Plum

There seems to be a new trend in the East Bay restaurant business: it has to be hidden and/or without a sign. First it was embarrassing walking up and down the street to find Commis, and now the same thing happens with Plum. Is this some kind of scavenger hunt joke? Plum‘s menu is short and sweet like its name. However, the same thing can’t be said about the majority of its dishes, which either tip a bit over to the salty side (pate ciccioli and bacon) or stay way back in plaindom (crispy pig ears and trout). There are bright notes, too. The turnip soup with yuzu kosho, pear and cilantro is a light, heart-warming start. The short ribs with peanuts and sweet potato has a deep Asian flavor. The caramelized brioche with coffee ice cream makes a comforting finish. Ironically, the yummy dishes didn’t have good pictures. But here’s a small album to get a taste of Plum.

Maria’s in Santa Fe

A Facebook ad reminded me of this place. Words of mouth from the previous conference attendants say it’s *the* place to go to in Santa Fe if you like “real” margaritas. It’s also the place where I first learned that tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which is *not* a cactus, and that there’s a spirit called mezcal, which is not as popular as tequila but seems to taste better. When you sit next to someone you just met for the first time but feel like having a meaningful conversation, food and drink makes an educational topic. Because Little Mom would be scolding me as soon as she reads this (for good reasons), I should tell her now to rest assured that the highest quantity of alcohol I’ve ever had and will ever have is in her red wine pineapple dessert. Although I don’t drink, I do feel like I should know something about the alcohols, just the way I did my high school research projects on psilocybin mushrooms and corundum. Information is fun. And so was the trio that played music for us at Maria’s that night. […]

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I had high expectation for Commis

The difference between a bowl of ramyeon at Gomnaru and a six-course dinner at Commis is the ratio of satisfaction to expectation. This is how I rank my foods, which allows me to enjoy a Cheetos just as much as any prime ribs done well, perhaps even more. There are certain extremes, like the cafeteria at Berkeley and LBL, no matter how low I set my bar, they manage to wow me with their ability to ruin everything, including fried rice. Anyhow, I figured that it’s only respectful to the chefs that I go to a well applauded, top ranking restaurant with high expectation. But for Commis, I think my expectation was a bit too high. The ingredients: fresh, interesting, nothing to complain about. The techniques: nothing I know enough to comment about. The combinations: hmm… An hour after dinner, Rob asked me: “How would you describe your dinner tonight in four sentences?” “Four?” “Three. Ask me again and I’ll say two.” The truth is I would rather sum it up in one: “I don’t remember”. I can remember vividly the banh mi a vendor sold […]

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La Boca – 80 Percent Good

Bob’s and Dang’s comments on my Kiraku post prompted me to wiki “octopus”. In a way, I needed to remind myself that computers are wonderful creatures that don’t always give me incomprehensible error messages. Then I got reminded of my most memorable experience with octopus on a plate. It was in Santa Fe this past summer. When there are good news and bad news, I prefer to hear the bad news first, so that’s how I’ll start describing La Boca. Their octopus was terrible. Octopuses are chewy things, and I have never had any octopus as opposite from chewy as this one. Pulpo, as called on the menu, sliced and dressed in pimenton, olive oil, lemon juice and seasalt, sounds like a wonderful refreshment after touring Santa Fe under the flamboyant sun. Well, if you give this octopus to a green octopus-looking alien who hasn’t the slightest preconception of what octopus tastes like, he would most likely go home defining octopus as beans. Yes, it was dense and grainy like bean. Blame no one but ourselves for ordering raw seafood in the middle of the desert. The rest of the meal, here […]

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Namu and Authenticity

My Lucky Peach finally made it home. It took only one month from the time I placed the order, and just when school started and me getting buried beneath ten miles of homework. But I’ve taken a peek every now and then at its colorful albeit tiny pictures of ramen (this first issue is all about ramen) and gorged in the fourth article while waiting for the bus. This is the bad thing about food magazines (or anything serial and food related, except cookbooks): it’s so easy to read it’s addictive, I can’t even fall asleep reading it, then I get sleep deprived. So I never buy them. But Lucky Peach is different: it’s recommended by a friend, subsequently ordered by two other friends, all of whom have highly experienced and respectable tastes; what I can do? I haven’t finished the entire thing, but the fourth article is a good one. Good enough to console myself for surrendering to peer pressure. In hindsight, it’s one of the highlights of the lunch we shared at Namu. (Not that the magazine is in any way related to Namu, Rob just showed it to us […]

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Red chile at Bumble Bee’s

“When in New Mexico, eat chile,” that’s what I’ve been told before my trip to Santa Fe this week. I’m not particularly crazy about chile, but I’ve also been told by a reliable source that the New Mexican chile is a whole different game from the Texan chile (which the reliable source is not particularly crazy about either), implying that the New Mexican chile is something worth looking for. And so be it: the first time my girl friends and I descended from the St. John’s College cafeteria to downtown Santa Fe, we joined everyone else at the Bumble Bee’s for burritos and tacos. Of course, I got the only thing on the menu that has “chile” in its name: the Red Chile Chicken Burrito ($10.81 with tax). It was huge. It was chubbier than my arm, stuffed with exceedingly tender chicken and smothered in pico de gallo, queso cotija, and red chile. The chicken was no doubt tasty, but the raw onion overpowered everything else in bitterness, which didn’t help the monotonic spicy chile, either. I stopped short after a third of the way. […]

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Feast – It’s probably good for your heart

Three times. Aaron and I drove up and down Westheimer three times to look for this little bitty sign of a black-and-white pig and a one-syllable name: Feast. The restaurant with over 150 glittering reviews on Yelp and several listings of Best New Restaurants appears humbly a residential-looking house, which faces a brick box called the Crabell Building and is a stone’s throw away from Hollywood Food & Cigars if you’re coming from the east. Hollywood Food & Cigars, you say? Well that was part of Varun’s instruction for us, the last two man standing as the GPS is taking over the world. (Or one man and Mai, but that’s not the point). Varun had been here before on one of his food expeditions, and heaven knows why he did not veto my call when I suggested Feast for our rendezvous. I know why I suggested it: it has a daily changing menu that happened to have interesting wild games on the day I looked it up online. The day we came has more of a porky theme, presented in somewhat interesting combinations (click to see Feast Menu on […]

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