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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Japanese Deep-Fried Skewers at Sushi Yoshi

Kushi-age, Japanese deep-fried skewers, are a favorite in Japan, but at many places in the Bay Area they tend to come out excessively heavy, with oil soaking through the crust in an unappetizing way. Enter Sushi Yoshi. It’s surprising that deep-fried items at a sushi restaurant would be so good, marvels yamada3, but these have the perfect combination of crunch, body, and light crispiness in the breading. The juices from each bite of chicken blend beautifully with the faint sweetness of the oil. Have a Kirin Ichiban to go with them–these kushi-age are the bar food of the gods.

Ebi-furai (deep-fried jumbo shrimp) are also incredible–“better than many ebi-furai in my hometown of Nagoya, which is famous for ebi-furai,” says yamada3.


Sushi Yoshi [East Bay]
39261 Cedar Blvd., Newark
510-797-3835
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Kushi-age

Southern Spice Bistro (Andhra Style)

The Andhran dishes at Southern Spice Bistro shine with a fiery heat and brightness, says Melanie Wong. Complimentary rasam is refreshingly zippy and packed with flavor, but still light, an excellent palate cleanser for the meal to come. For appetizers, cut mirchi pakora–battered, deep-fried whole yellow wax peppers ($4.95)–are tasty, with the full medium hotness of the chili peppers coming through. Special biryanis, served on weekends, are a good bet. In chicken dum biryani ($9.95), beautiful, loosely packed long grains of fragrant basmati, stained yellow with aromatic spices, surround succulent pieces of chicken. It comes with a cooling raita and a mirchi salan full of deadly hot whole green chilis.

Andhra-style food is known throughout India for being spicy, and this place does not disappoint. It’s not one-note heat, though–the spicing is fascinatingly complex, suitable for spice-loving hounds who aren’t into just sitting around licking a habanero.


Southern Spice Bistro [Peninsula]
2700 West El Camino Real, Mountain View
650-948-0123
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Southern Spice Bistro, Mountain View

Alluring Lemon Rice at Jackson Heights’ Maharaja

Maharaja in Jackson Heights, celebrated for chaat and sweets, also lays out some fine hot vegetarian dishes, including first-rate palak paneer (Indian cheese with spinach). But E Eto is seduced by its lemon rice–something of a cross between biryani and a Persian polo rice dish, deeply aromatic yet not overpowered by spice. “I’ve never seen that before on another menu,” he adds, “and it seemed interesting. Was it ever.”

Another worthwhile bite: special naan with dried cherries. “An interesting surprise for your palate,” E Eto promises.


Maharaja Sweets and Snacks [Jackson Heights]
73-10 37th Ave., between 73rd and 74th Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens
718-505-2680
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Maharaja Sweets and Snacks, Jackson Heights

Miss Mamie’s Revisited: an Uptown Soul Survivor

After years of unpredictable meals at Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, Ora grudgingly gave the joint another shot–and was blown away. Smothered chicken, deeply flavorful down to the bone, was the star of an overflowing platter of freshly prepared, piping-hot soul food. Also delicious: cabbage and macaroni and cheese. “Perhaps they have a new chef? Maybe it was an ‘on’ night?” Ora speculates. “All I know is that I will be back.” emu02, fresh from two successful visits in recent months, recommends ribs, shrimp, just about all the sides, and banana pudding for dessert.

Sister restaurant Miss Maude’s has also been up and down, but a recent order of first-rate greens and mac and cheese suggests it’s once again up, says Uptownflavor.


Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too [Morningside Heights]
366 W. 110th St., between Columbus and Manhattan Aves., Manhattan
212-865-6744
Locater

Miss Maude’s Spoonbread [Harlem]
547 Malcolm X Blvd. (Lenox Ave.), near 138th St., Manhattan
212-690-3100
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Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too—110th St. off Columbus Ave

Stellar Pork Hash at Brooklyn’s Pies-N-Thighs

They sling killer hash at Williamsburg’s Pies-N-Thighs. Tender, juicy pulled pork is griddled with onions and potatoes, topped with two eggs over easy, and finished off with a dollop of salsa. Best hash ever, declares chompchomp. Look for it on the weekend brunch menu alongside first-rate doughnuts, catfish and grits, and biscuits with sausage gravy.


Pies-N-Thighs [Williamsburg]
351 Kent Ave., entrance on S. 5th St., Brooklyn
347-282-6005
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Union Picnic or Pies ‘N Thighs?

Gotta Go to Go’s

To get to the sushi bar at Go’s Mart, you have to push your way through a bunch of shelves holding Japanese videos, refrigerated cases of sake, beer, and soda, and possibly other customers trying to make their way out. It’s worth it for a truly great unsung sushi joint, says kevin.

The bar itself seats only about eight, plus there are a couple of two-tops and one four-top.

Ankimo sashimi arrives beautifully sliced and cold, living up to its reputation as the foie gras of the sea. It’s sauced with sweet miso that complements it wonderfully.

Buri, a type of wild Japanese yellowtail, is a thing of beauty. Kawagishi toro is like toro tartare, no sinews or fibers–just beautiful bliss, melting in your mouth like pure butter.

But sushi isn’t the only pleasure at Go. There’s Kobe beef, straight from Japan. Thinly sliced and seared with a blowtorch, it’s delicious, with a beefy savor that kicks in later and lingers.

Grilled toro steak is pretty great too–and covered with gold leaf and a light ponzu–but doesn’t reach the heights of the regular or kawagishi toro.

Go’s Mart [West San Fernando Valley]
22330 Sherman Way # C12, at Shoup, Canoga Park
818-704-1459
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Go’s Mart Sushi, Canoga Park–a little long

Oreo and Cream Cheese “Truffles”

These easy-to-make treats, made simply of ground-up Oreos and cream cheese dipped in chocolate may be low-brow as confections go, but they’re universally popular. Lissar experimented with peanut butter sandwich cookies and a combo of cream cheese and peanut butter, and they came out beautifully. momjamin varies the dipping chocolates and drizzles to make a variety of looks.

Here’s the recipe:

1 pound Oreos
8 oz. cream cheese
1 pound milk or dark chocolate
1/2 pound white chocolate

Grind Oreos to find powder in food processor. With a mixer, blend cookie powder and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed (there should be no white traces of cream cheese). Roll into small balls and place on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill 45 minutes. Line two cookie sheets with wax paper. In double-boiler, melt milk or dark chocolate. Dip balls and coat thoroughly. With slotted spoon or fork, lift balls out of chocolate and let excess chocolate drip off. Place on wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. In separate double boiler, melt white chocolate. Using a fork, drizzle white chocolate over balls. Allow chocolate to set up at cool room temperature or in refrigerator. Store in airtight container, refrigerated.

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Oreo ‘truffles’

Blackberry-Sage Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies

These cookies stand out on a dessert plate: there’s the sage-in-a-dessert aspect, they’re not real sweet, and they have a slightly savory texture due to the cornmeal, says Funwithfood–yet they were voted best in show at a cookie exchange by a bunch of traditional, Family Circle types.

Blackberry-Sage Cornmeal Thumbprints

2 cups flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
5 tsp. fresh sage, minced

3/4 cup blackberry preserves, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until combined. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon peel, vanilla, and sage until combined. Add the flour in 3 increments, beating until all is incorporated. Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in the center of each ball of dough. Drop about 1/4 teaspoon of blackberry preserves into each indentation. Place prepared cookies into freezer for 15 minutes prior to baking for best results. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

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For Katie Nell & Snackish…Blackberry-Sage Cornmeal Thumbprints Recipe

The Useful Meat Thermometer

If you grew up testing food for doneness by touch, a meat thermometer may seem superfluous. But many good, largely intuitive cooks swear by their meat thermometers. They really eliminate the guesswork.

A probe thermometer can be inserted, set for the temperature you want, and the alarm will go off when the meat reaches that temperature, with no poking or pressing the meat by you. You can do other things around the house, with no worries.

Das Ubergeek likes the probe for pound cake, which can take anywhere from 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the weather.

Poultry is tricky to get just right. Karl S. places the thermometer on the inside of the thigh near the breast meat.

An instant read thermometer is great for a quick test of temperature. With the probe type thermometer, on the other hand, you insert the probe in the meat or poultry at the beginning and you never have to open the oven until your food is perfectly done. The temperature display remains outside the oven. Here’s an example

SanseiDesigns says to be sure to calibrate a new thermometer so the temperature is true. This website offers more info, and at the bottom (in the sidebar) are instructions on calibrating, if it’s necessary.

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The use of a meat thermometer?

This Coffee is for the Birds

Shade-grown coffee is grown under the canopy of trees in Latin America, providing an environment that is friendly to bird life. “Bird Friendly”-labeled coffee is always shade grown and guaranteed organic. The beans are said to ripen more slowly out of the sun, resulting in a rich flavor.

Locate a place to buy here

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Coffee for a good cause.