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

Perfect Chicken Feet

gordon wing says the best chicken feet in the area are at Joy Luck. They’re just about perfect, fluffy in texture, and all the skin and cartilage come off easily. The seasoning is slightly hot and sublimely savory. They also make the best dry beef chow fun in the neighborhood, adds george. Service is very helpful.

Tai Wu serves similarly wonderful chicken feet, reports Nancy Berry.

Joy Luck Place [Oakland]
327 8th St., Oakland

Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant [Sunset]
(a.k.a Tai Wu)
2578 Noriega St., San Francisco


Board Links: Chicken Feet at Joy Luck/Oakland

Cafe Taiwan

You’ll find lots of unique and lovely little snacks at Cafe Taiwan, many of which are impossible to find elsewhere the Bay Area. And, best of all, they make some magical and rare Hakka specialties.

Ground pork with rice ($3.50) is excellent; a good amount of rice with lots of ground pork, tea egg, and cilantro. Mi tai mu (listed under Hakka Specials, $3) are like Japanese udon noodles, but made with rice flour–and you can really taste the rice. Served with a tea egg, it’s simple goodness.

KK reports on the contents of a Chinese-language blog post on this place, from a Vitomin (Hakkanese-Taiwanese) eater who really digs their Hakka specialties. We learn that the signature dishes are mahn luan ju jiao and mahn luan pig feet. The mahn luan pig feet are marinated for a long time, cooked, cut up, and served with dipping sauce; it is apparently much more delicious than their regular pig feet. So don’t settle for pedestrian pig feet!

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The take-out menu reads “open 7 days,” but they may actually close on Wednesdays, so call first!

Cafe Taiwan [South Bay]
181 W. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas
(in the Save Mart shopping center behind Burger King)

Board Links: Taiwanese Hakkanese food found in Milpitas–Cafe Taiwan
Cafe Taiwan, Milpitas report (w/ pics)

New Beer Store and Tasting Room

City Beer is a newly opened beer store and tasting room unlike any other beer store around. You’ll find a wide variety of specialty beers from around the world, arranged, interestingly, by style rather than by region. Belgian beers, for example, are grouped into singles, dubbels, trippels, and lambics, with American versions of those styles arranged alongside.

They’ve also got a license to serve beer, so they’ll open any bottle and serve it for a corkage fee of $1! Best of all, prices are surprisingly reasonable. Girardin Geuze lambic costs $9, and is served chilled in the proper stemware.

They’ve got four beers on tap, with 6 oz. tasting pours available. Tap selection rotates.

City Beer [SOMA]
1168 Folsom St., btwn. 7th and 8th, San Francisco

Board Links: City Beer–beer store and tasting room in SF

Hawaiian Food Dream Factory

The cook at Aloha Food Factory says he can make anything you want.


Well, if what you want is along the lines of a burrito stuffed with Spam, pineapple and kalua pork, drenched in teriyaki sauce and spiked with wasabi, yes.

OK, it sounds…odd, but ipse dixit insists, “The nice salty, crunchy feel of the slightly charred spam mixed in with the sweet pineapple and pork…all of it blended in nicely with the wasabi. Oh, and of course, the teri sauce just makes sure it all goes down the windpipe with ease. This was so damn good.”

On the more traditional front, spam musubi is good here, with a good proportion of spam and nori compared to the rice, says AquaW. Fried-to-order sesame chicken is pretty awesome too.

Shaved ice hits the spot on a hot day, but isn’t quite like what you’d get in the islands.

Aloha Food Factory [San Gabriel Valley]
2990 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Board Links: I have found my reason for living … ALOHA FOOD FACTORY!

Hawaiian Shave Ice

True Hawaiian shave ice can be tough to find on the mainland. Key ingredients: good ice cream, adzuki (sweet red) beans, house-made syrup (and a variety of choices), and powdery, properly shaved ice.

You’re probably best off going to Teri Hawaii, where syrup flavors include strawberry, lilikoi, and pineapple–and you can get them together. Ice cream and adzuki beans are available, and the result is creamy, fruity, and delectable.

Teri is Hawaii-authentic, if not the same quality as Matsumoto, the famed shave-ice spot on Oahu’s North Shore, says ek. Mike Q, though, hands Teri the advantage for serving the shave ice in a good-size cup, not a paper cone. A serving is about $3.

A couple other recommendations: Maui BBQ, where shave ice is served with ice cream and adzuki, and about eight flavors of syrup. And in Simi Valley, of all places, there’s Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack, where they’ve got all the fixings.

Teriyaki Hawaii [South Bay]
a.k.a. Teri Hawaii
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #34, Gardena

Maui Hawaiian BBQ [North OC]
1323 S. Harbor Blvd., Orangethorpe, Fullerton

Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack [West San Fernando Valley]
4332 Cochran St., Simi Valley


Board Links

Fish Balls Fuzhou Style and Other Chinatown Bites

Wei Choon Wang makes first-rate fish balls in the Fuzhou style, reports Chandavkl. At this 24/7 hole-in-the-wall on Eldridge, $3 buys 10 of them–fat, surprisingly light, and stuffed with minced pork–afloat in a bowl of light broth. Season to taste with sriracha, vinegar, and other condiments on the table.

You’ll also find this dish down the block at Young City Fish Balls and at many other restaurants in the newer, Fujianese-dominated quarter of Chinatown, east and south of the neighborhood’s historic core.

For a different spin on fish balls, XO Kitchen has nice ones made in house and served in noodle soup, says Chandavkl. Hounds also recommend this Hong Kong-style cafe for its pork chop casserole, jellyfish with preserved egg and ginger, Japanese-style pan-fried dumplings, and teriyaki freshwater eel over rice.

Finally, a fresh Chinese bakery tip from Wilfrid, who’s been munching his way through Sunshine Cafe’s lineup of savory and sweet buns and pastries. Especially recommended: chicken pies, dried pork rolls, and hot dog and scallion buns, average price around 75 cents.

Wei Choon Wang Restaurant [Chinatown]
6 Eldridge St., near Division, Manhattan

Young City Fish Balls [Chinatown]
21A Eldridge St., between Canal and Division, Manhattan

XO Kitchen [Lower East Side]
148 Hester St., between Elizabeth and Bowery, Manhattan

Sunshine Cafe [Lower East Side]
201 Allen St., between Houston and Stanton, Manhattan

Board Links: knock my socks off for under $3
XO Kitchen (Hester) recommendations?

Cobble Hill Dinner Deals at Chestnut and Caffe Carciofo

More good deals in Cobble Hill, where Chestnut lays out a $25 prix fixe three-course dinner on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that “has to be one of the great bargains in Brooklyn,” suggests Steve R.. The entire menu is available (with supplements for some entrees that raise the price to $30). Many restaurants offer comparable midweek specials, Steve adds, “but Chestnut’s food is a steal at this price, where others are merely good bargains. Highly recommended, especially now that they’ve opened the outdoor area in back.”

Standout appetizers include soft shell crab tacos (with tomatillo sauce and crisp fried onions in house-made tortillas) and haystack shrimp (six sweet jumbos, wrapped in shredded potato and served with coriander pesto). Among the entrees, black sea bass, fig-stuffed pork chop (served with polenta), and tender chicken breast (with white asparagus and quinoa salad) are good bets. For dessert, try house-made ice creams or rhubarb brioche with Meyer lemon curd and strawberry sorbet.

A couple blocks away, Caffe Carciofo offers another attractive special–a $19.95 three-course dinner from the full menu, Monday through Thursday. “It’s certainly the best deal I have seen anywhere in the nabe,” says vespa, who recommends broccoli rabe crostini, grilled calamari, and wild mushroom risotto, among other things, from the mostly Tuscan menu. “Two of us had three courses each and a great Shiraz for $70.”

Chestnut [Cobble Hill]
271 Smith St., near Degraw, Brooklyn

Caffe Carciofo [Cobble Hill]
248 Court St., at Kane, Brooklyn

Board Links: Pre fixe at Carciofo

Lunch Special at Primorski

There’s a don’t-miss bargain at Primorski in Brighton Beach, which for 25 years has served up hearty Russian and Georgian chow —plus nightly floor shows and free-flowing vodka. At lunchtime, $5.98 buys an appetizer, a main course, terrific cabbage salad, and coffee or tea. It used to be a dollar cheaper—what wasn’t?—but it’s still a steal.

“This is one of the great meal deals in the city,” notes jen kalb.

Among the appetizers, mrnyc recommends kharcho (lamb and rice soup) or nice peppery Ukrainian-style beef borscht. Among the main courses, meat blintzes (filled with well-spiced, fine-ground meat) and salyanka (lamb stew with tomato and onion) are both filling and fine. For a buck or two more, get a round of fabulous house-made bread.

Primorski Restaurant [Brighton Beach]
282 Brighton Beach Ave. #B, between Brighton 2nd and 3rd Sts
Brooklyn, NY

Board Links: brighton beach: PRIMORSKI lunch special

Fabulous Tofu Dish

“It’s been a long time (probably the early 1980s) since we’ve been able to utter “Golden Dragon” and “good food” in the same sentence…” notes Chandavkl, “But thanks to a recent banquet I’ve discovered the best tofu dish I can recall eating at a Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area.”

Called fried tofu in special sauce (or something), it consists of round, silver-dollar-size slices of deep-fried tofu, tender inside, with mushrooms and vegetables in a savory light sauce with an elusive yet terrific flavor.

Golden Dragon Restaurant [Chinatown]
960 N. Broadway, Los Angeles

Board Links: Fabulous Tofu Dish At Golden Dragon (Chinatown)

Persian in Glendale

Rarely (if ever) mentioned in discussions of Glendale’s stable of Persian and Armenian restaurants is Moon Mart, a small place tucked into a mini-mall. terim swears by the deliciousness of the food—don’t be deterred by people smoking outside. Bring a group in order to try more of the tasty side dishes.

Moon Mart Kabab [East San Fernando Valley]
400 S. Glendale Ave. #A, Glendale

Board Links: persian or armenian glendale