Comfort food at the Taiwan Restaurant

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Partly because of my busy schedule, partly because of the lack of good Vietnamese food in Berkeley, I haven’t had Vietnamese food for months. I miss it, of course. Luckily, the neighboring cuisines share so much similarities that my “comfort food” category has steadily expanded to enclose most of East Asia. If for some reason America and I don’t get along, I think I can happily merge into Taiwan and Japan (not sure about Korea – their food is too spicy…). So when I crave comfort food, if it’s Sunday or Monday and Musashi is closed, I go down University Avenue to the Taiwan Restaurant. It’s the purple building next to Anh Hong, and it’s another case of generic-names-hence-don’t-go-there type of restaurant. However, two Taiwanese told me that it was “good enough” – the owner of Asha Tea House across the street, and Kristen. As with any Asian eating establishment, you have to know what to get at the Taiwan Restaurant, otherwise you end up with oily overload. I haven’t strayed once out of the usuals. It’s comfort food, there’s no need to change it. In fact, […]

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China Village on Solano

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In summer 2011, I ate at China Village once per a friend’s recommendation and was not super impressed (like I ever). Then it burned down in early 2012 (so did Intermezzo and a few other restaurants on Telegraph which I also visited in summer 2011…) and I hardly missed it. A few days ago, Cheryl and Eric called me up, “We’re going to that restaurant on Solano I told you about, wanna come?” I thought Cheryl told me about some dimsum place in Albany… “Sure!” Turns out it was China Village. (Now I wonder if she ever mentioned a dimsum place at all…) Although China Village does have dimsum, it’s not a place to order dimsum. It is known for Szechuan food – spicy, oily, rich and usually a combination of all three. The menu has a gazillion items, and your experience definitely depends on what you order. Not everything is a wow (as clearly indicated by my first visit, and by names such as “classic sweet and sour pork with pineapple”[*]). Ask the waiter for recommendation. Usually, I ask the waiters just for kicks, because 9 times out of 10 their recommendations turn out disappointing […]

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This little piggy went to Kang Tong Pork

Vietnamese Mom posed a question and I can’t conjure up any adequate answer for her: why does Korean fried chicken only appear in holes in the wall? Not just a simple hole-in-the-wall thing in a busy strip mall, it has to either stand alone in an empty lot or sit at a shady street corner with iron folding doors and a few rowdy-looking guys smoking outside. Granted that those guys look Korean and the signs are in Korean, which confirms the authenticity of the place, and these are Korean drinking establishments after all. But does it have to be so shady? I want to walk down the street and eat fried chicken late at night sometimes… The fried chicken bits with green onions at Kang Tong Degi (강통 돼지, which should be pronounced |Kang Tong Twe Jee|) might be good enough to risk it though. Frankly there’s less chicken on that plate than fried batter and green onion, but since when did fried chicken become so refreshing? A squeeze of lemon makes all the difference. […]

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Revival in Berkeley with fruit jellies

Thank you, Kristen Sun, my dear friend who has shared many great meals with me in Berkeley and definitely many more in the future, for sharing a post here with us today Halfway through our meal, Mai and I turned to each other and we agreed, “I’m not that full yet” and “I can still eat more.” This was after a small plate of charcuterie (which wasn’t that small) and two small plates, which again, were not that small. It solved, however, the main question that had been bugging us since we arrived at the restaurant: which entrees should we get? And if we get more than one entree, could we still do dessert? Turns out indecision works very well at this restaurant; sampling the diverse offerings of the menu is definitely the way to go! Eating with Mai is always a treat – for the mind and for the stomach! Thank you Mai for the great honor of being a guest blogger for Flavor Bouvelard! Simply put, Revival Bar & Kitchen, located right in the middle of Downtown Berkeley, is gorgeous. The tall ceiling, the rustic decor, the feeling of open space, and best of […]

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Sweet El Meson in the Rice Village

Sometimes things just refuse to go the way you plan. I’ve been looking forward to the fried chicken at this place called Number 1 Chicken Rice & Seafood for half a year. It’s in Houston, so I have two time windows each year, each a couple of weeks long, to plan my voyage. Last winter we hit the place less than an hour after they closed (which was like 8 pm, I think), this June we were even more determined. According to Aaron’s sources, they open on Sunday between 6 and 7 pm. Strange, but okay. We camped out at the museum for over an hour because the museum is relatively near Number 1 Chicken, and we didn’t want to take any chances. At 6 we drove into its parking lot. The OPEN sign wasn’t lit up. Aaron checked the schedule posted on the door: they’re closed on Sunday. Fine. I’m not meant to eat Number 1 Chicken’s fried chicken. Surely there must be other fried chickens somewhere along Alameda. Following Varun’s advanced GPS system that didn’t allow us to type in anything unless the car is stopped (for safety reason, even though the one who […]

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In the Eye of Tea

After a 5-course afternoon tea, the three of us felt our stomachs’ calling. The wind blew chilly moisture from the sea. A hearty dinner of noodle in hot broth would hit the spot, one that was saturated with oolong. Quite appropriately, we walked into O Chamé, meaning “eye of tea”(*) literally and “playful little one” colloquially. It’s Mother’s Day, no reservation, we couldn’t be any luckier that the guy found us three seats at the end of the bar. Of course, who would skip the appetizers. And of course, we couldn’t decide on just one appetizer, so we ordered three. The potato and snow crab croquette ($8.50), buttery but mild, tastes ten times better after a dip in the plumier-than-usual-and-not-too-sour tonkatsu sauce. Usually I don’t dip my stuff, but the sauce is a must here. The grilled, caramelized eel ($10.50), Kristen’s choice, is great. Little Mom loves eel, and she would love this. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! A bite into the crisp endive releases a burst of sharp, almost minty air to balance the eel’s fatty sweetness. […]

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Year in, year out, savoring the savoriest of pork

If you had to choose, what is the most Vietnamese dish? If you are a Vietnamese expat, what would make your mouth water the most just thinking about? What is the food, the smell, the taste that when you see or hear some stranger is savoring, you’d immediately think, “hey, he must be my fellow countryman”? One of my friends lives in Freiburg, Germany. There is one Vietnamese restaurant 1 km away from the University, der Reis-Garten, and it is the only Vietnamese restaurant in a 40-km radius (the next one is across the border: Le Bol d’Or in Wintzenheim, France). For over 6 years living away from home, he survived on pasta and tomato sauce, students don’t have time. One day, external circumstances have finally driven him to decide that he no longer needs to suppress his cravings out of consideration towards his Germanic housemates. He bought a bottle of fish sauce. The next day he made thịt kho. That makes it official: he’s Vietnamese, and he hasn’t forgotten it. “Success?” “Did you add coconut juice?” “Do you have eggs in the pot?” “Do you have chả lụa […]

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Mom’s cooking #3 – Stuffed tofu in tomato sauce

Vietnamese – Guest post by Mom, translated by me — Tofu is a familiar face in the Asian kitchens, especially the Far East ones: Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean. In Korean dramas, the Koreans have tofu for every meal and some would give a block of white dobu to people who just get out of detention, perhaps to wish them a good, new start without impurities and no returning to jail? A cute, meaningful tradition I think. Up north Vietnam, đậu phụ used to be the main source of protein, despite having “phụ” (secondary) in its name. After all, the old Mr. Lê in Nhất Linh‘s New Bridge Ville dreamed of only a tofu wedge dipped in shrimp paste to satiate a drink at dinner time. Is it white tofu or golden fried tofu, and is it good eaten like that, I wonder? Down South, soft tofu is marvelously used to make warm tofu pudding in syrup (tàu hủ nước đường), an addictive dessert that I haven’t seen in the States, and unfortunately, was slowly fading away from even the Saigon food scene as it’s harder to make than it […]

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