Carb Lover's Profile

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Santa Cruz for a romantic getaway - any worthy destination restaurants?

I was there w/ Alice and her husband and agree completely with her assessment of Aquarius (nice photos, Alice!). I had the fish and chips with housemade potato chips. The mahi mahi was fresh and not overcooked. The batter was a little heavier than I prefer, but it was nicely seasoned and greaseless. The menu touts that they use beer from local Seabright Brewery for their batter. The lemon dill aioli was overwhelmed by dill (and I like dill), so next time I would see if they have a plain aioli or something along the lines of tartar sauce. Our waitress was accommodating and eager to please. I liked Alice's chowder but agree that it was a little too salty.

The prices are pretty reasonable as you can see on their menu:
http://www.aquariussantacruz.com/menu...

As a local, I look forward to returning for happy hour from 3-6 and sitting in their bar/lounge area. It's also nice to have a solid place to take family or friends who are visiting that's close to the Boardwalk and wharf.

Here's a dinner report from MSK:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641144

Aug 31, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Downtown Santa Cruz dinner updates?

Thanks for your report on Gabriella, Michael. I haven't eaten there under the current chef's reign. The food does sound good.

They just received a very favorable review in this week's metro:
http://www.metrosantacruz.com/metro-s...

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Soif Wine Bar & Retail
105 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Gabriella Cafe
910 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Aug 23, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Aquarius at Santa Cruz's Dream Inn

Thanks for what I think is the first CH report on Aquarius! Glad to hear that the kitchen is executing well even though it's pretty new and that they have some seasonal influences on the menu. I'll probably test it out w/ a drink and some apps once tourist season dies down. Was it crowded when you went and would you recommend the Dream Inn? Did you try any of their cocktails or anything from the wine list?

I just viewed their website, and the brunch menu looks good. Would like to try their chowder, lobster roll, burger, and general seafood offerings. Will have to not forget about this place since I rarely go down to the wharf as a local.

Aug 14, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Burger Picks for Santa Cruz

I had the burger at Oswald in downtown SC last night and thought it was good but not great. The good: the meat is freshly ground, juicy, and beefy. Cooked to a nice medium-rare. The not great: the roquefort cheese is overpowering and the bun is wimpy and boring. The cheese and sweet caramelized onions made it too rich w/ little textural contrast. Next time, I might ask if they can sub another type of cheese (such as gruyere) and add a nice slice of tomato. Fries were very tasty and addictive. Reasonable price at $11. Bar and lunch menu only.

I have liked the sliders at Red in the past, but it's been a long time since I've been there. I was always impressed that they made their own buns.

While I detest most everything I've tried at Zachary's, the burger w/ bacon and avocado was pretty tasty the time I had a bite of my brother's burger a couple of years ago.

I had a very tasty burger at Kelly's Bakery a couple of years ago, and it looks like they still have it on their sandwich menu. Good bun, creamy garlicky aioli, and crispy fries.

I still need to try that lamb burger at 515...

Aug 14, 2009
Carb Lover in California

San Juan Bautista: Matxain Etxea Basque; Joan and Peter's German; Dona Esther Mexican; upcoming Dia de Los Muertos celebration

Thanks for updating this thread! They have a sister restaurant in Aptos (Santa Cruz area) called Manuel's that is similar to what you describe. Pretty uninspired food but a fun, family-friendly restaurant w/ decent margaritas.

I haven't returned to SJB since my original post, but I want to head back to Matxain Etxea to sample the tortillas and re-experience the food since we visited the Basque region of Spain earlier this year.

Aug 14, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Downtown Santa Cruz dinner updates?

Thanks for your report back! Glad you enjoyed Soif. It's my preferred restaurant in SC given the interesting wine list and small plate options. They cook seafood (squid, scallops, fish) very nicely, and I'm a big fan of their cheese plate. Their desserts tend to be relatively weaker in my experience. I'll have to try that grenache gris/carignan gris blend next time...Their adjoining wine shop is also excellent.

Husband and I ate a light dinner at the bar at Oswald last night. Having eaten there for dinner in the main dining room in March, I much prefer the ambience and experience at the bar. You can order anything from the regular menu as well as from their special bar menu. We shared the burger w/ fries (bar and lunch menu only) and a special appetizer of calamari stuffed w/ risotto w/ some fried tentacles on the side. Each dish was $11.

The burger meat was tasty and exhibited that pleasant crumbliness of freshly ground beef, but I found the roquefort a bit overpowering and the too soft bun wimpy. The twice-fried frites were addictive though. The calamari dish was enjoyable w/ nicely made risotto inside, but the piquant sauce was a bit too vinegary. I had a glass of French touraine (all sauv blanc), and husband got one of their two beers on tap (Stella). All in all, it was a satisfying meal at the bar that only set us back about $40 including tax and tip. And husband left full which doesn't always happen at Soif. :-)

Let us know how you like your meal at Gabriella; it would be nice to get an updated report. I still want to try the Cellar Door Cafe in the Bonny Doon Vineyard tasting room for dinner sometime; they have small plates and a 3-course prix fixe menu for $32.

www.bonnydoonvineyard.com

Aug 14, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Santa Cruz Reportage

Thanks for your report, kare_raisu! Sounds like you spanned the coast. I haven't been to Cafe Brasil in ages, but perhaps I'll go next week when UCSC is on spring break. Verve coffee is very good. I'm glad you appreciated the simplicity of Sushi on the Run. I will have to try the tobiko w/ quail egg sometime. I love the mackerel, and his sushi rice is the best. I will also have to try the chicharrones from Mi Pueblo in Watsonville.

It's reports from visitors like you that remind us locals of the gems that are out there! Thanks again.

Mar 13, 2009
Carb Lover in California

Jan/Feb DESSERT Cookbook of the MONTH Suggestions OR Should We Skip January?

Yeah, I agree about skipping Jan. After being waitlisted for the current book for weeks, I finally got it last week! I'm not sure how much baking I'll do from it in Jan. though since we're going to Spain for 2.5 weeks.

Thanks for taking the lead on all this, oakjoan. Happy New Year to everyone!

Dec 26, 2008
Carb Lover in Home Cooking

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Since the CH photo upload is not working for me, below are linked photos of each dish.

Mussels w/ black bean sauce:
http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

Gai lan w/ preserved pork:
http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

Rice noodles w/ XO sauce:
http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

Dec 24, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Let's try the photos again...

Dec 24, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Another great dinner at Shun Feng after some last-minute shopping downtown. We ordered everything from the white board specials menu. Mussels in black bean sauce; gai lan w/ preserved pork; rice noodles w/ XO sauce.

Black bean sauce was outstanding, a nice balance of pungent flavors w/ a lingering heat. Preserved pork is made in house; the marinade has a great sweet vinegary quality and the texture is compact and pleasantly chewy. Rice noodles were wonderfully blistered and crispy on the outside and custardy soft on the inside. Could have used a touch more sauce, but these dumplings were still delicious. All veggies sliced nicely, fresh, and cooked to perfection.

This is now my favorite, go-to restaurant in SC. No one else is doing this kind of food. $32 before tip. Photos below.

Dec 24, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Santa Cruz - late night fried chicken at 515

Thanks for the report on their late-night fried chicken. I saw it in their ad and wondered what time they offer it. Their sister restaurant, Red, used to have a fried chicken and waffles on their menu that I'd order once in a while, but it hasn't been available lately.

I keep on meaning to take advantage of the AYCE moules frites on Wed. night but have not made it there yet.

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515 Kitchen and Cocktails
santa cruz, CA, santa cruz, CA

Dec 22, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Thanks for your report. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed your meal and there were some tables filled during a Sun. afternoon. That was nice of her to give you the fried sesame balls on the house. I'll have to try those one day...We haven't been in a couple of weeks, and I'm missing it.

Dec 22, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Need help for chowhound food in Santa Cruz, Carmel and Walnut Creek-does it exist?

Wow, you will be all over the state! My favorite tacos in Santa Cruz can be found at La Cabana on the westside on Mission St. I think I've had their snapper taco once, but I actually prefer their other fillings like desebrada (beef), carnitas, chicharonnes.

If you are in downtown SC, then El Palomar taco bar (in the back of the restaurant) makes very decent fish tacos as well. Unfortunately, I can't help w/ your other requests but you can do a search for those areas.

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El Palomar
1344 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Taqueria La Cabana
2332 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Dec 20, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Tôm Hùm Xào Mì Mềm @ Viet Express in San Jose

Thanks for the heads up, Melanie! It must be pretty challenging to find if Alice wasn't able to spot it. Your photo w/ the awning helps to know what to look for. This place sounds definitely worth checking out. Hopefully the cheap paper menus are temporary. It did look strange next to your "fancy" scalloped plate. The lobster looked delicious...

Risotto with Lucques Short Ribs?

What about gnocchi instead of risotto? You can shred up the short rib meat and mix w/ the sauce for a short rib ragu which sounds great to me! Or top the ragu on creamy polenta and sprinkle w/ a little gremolata.

Dec 18, 2008
Carb Lover in Home Cooking

Chowdown Report - Quang Da in San Jose

Thank you both for your investigative work! While I'm still mourning the loss of Quang Da, I'm glad to hear that a Viet place specializing in Hainanese chicken rice will be opening there soon. Please keep us posted...

Ambrosia India Bistro Open in Aptos

Link:

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Ambrosia India Bistro
207 Sea Ridge Rd, Aptos, CA

Dec 18, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Ambrosia India Bistro Open in Aptos

Thanks for your update! Glad to hear that Ambrosia has been consistently good. I will definitely have to get out there for the lunch buffet soon...

Dec 18, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Chowdown Report - Quang Da in San Jose

Thought I'd bump up our old report to announce that I saw on jatbar.com that Quang Da is now closed. No other info besides it being closed. Can any hounds confirm the closure or provide any more info?

I have very fond memories of our lunch there and the couple times I went there w/ husband for dinner. I will miss the unique Central Viet cuisine. The place is small and it was never crowded when I was in, but they took pride in their food. I was going to go there a few months ago but got derailed to try Lan's pho across from city hall.

Thanks to Quang Da for expanding my Viet cuisine repertoire. A reminder that one can never take for granted that any business will be around forever especially in this economic climate...Perhaps I'll make banh cuon this weekend to honor them.

WHISKEY CREEK, Mammoth Lakes (review)

Thanks for your report. I thought that the upstairs was technically Mammoth Brewing also owned by the Whiskey Creek group? I actually found it rather confusing since we were looking for Mammoth Brewing and didn't see any clear signage outside of the building to indicate it was the restaurant upstairs. I only realized this after asking some people in the parking lot. Were there pool tables where you ate?

We sat in a high booth along the windowsill upstairs. My MIL had the fish tacos, and we all agreed it was the best dish on the table. My husband got a steak sandwich; the meat was pretty good, but the roll was awful. I got one of their wrap sandwiches (an uncharacteristic order for me) and didn't care for it. My FIL got the fried calamari and I remember it being just ok. My FIL got the beer flight and I remember liking one of the darker beers, but overall I found the beers just ok. My glass of Bonny Doon white was not great, but that's what I get for ordering wine at a brewing co. I'm not compelled to return to the place, but it sounds like seafood is their strong suit.

Dec 18, 2008
Carb Lover in California

NEVADOS, Mammoth Lakes (review)

Thanks for the report. Sorry to hear you got sick in the midst of a nice meal. I considered checking out Nevados while in Mammoth but I wasn't that motivated, plus my in-laws would have balked at the prices.

I don't quite understand why your reservations at Parallax were cancelled, and it's terrible that they didn't even call you. I look forward to hearing about Whiskey Creek. As I said in your Burgers post, we ate upstairs at Mammoth Brewing and found it unremarkable. We considered Whiskey Creek but my in-laws weren't into it so I conceded.

Is it busy in the Village right now? When we went in late summer, things were pretty dead and businesses appeared to be hurting. There were a number of empty storefronts and lots of "for sale" signs in condo windows.

Dec 17, 2008
Carb Lover in California

BURGERS, Mammoth Lakes (review + pics)

Thanks for your report and photo! The chili size looks mighty tasty, especially after frolicking in the snow. We were at Mammoth Lakes during late summer (hiking, fishing, etc) and ate at Burgers the first night in town. It's very casual but has a nice vibe and family atmosphere.

Two of us had the cheeseburger w/ fries and two others shared a slab of pork ribs. The burger was huge, juicy and meaty; it was a very solid and satisfying burger. We took a risk w/ the pork ribs since this is not a bbq joint and it paid off. They weren't the best ribs I've ever had, but they were pretty tasty. Generous portions. Good prices. Good service. What's not to like?

We cooked in our rental and packed picnic lunches most of the time, but we did have dinner one night at Mammoth Brewing. The food was unremarkable. I'm not a beer person, and my husband thought the beer was ok. We did get bread from Schat's Bakery for sandwiches, as well as some morning pastries, and it was good. That was a fun place to look around.

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Mammoth Brewing Company
18 Lake Mary Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Paul Schat's Bakery
3305 Main St, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Dec 17, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Yimster is an old-school chowhound who will drive far for the possibility of a great meal. I agree that he has many better options over the hill, but Shun Feng is an intriguing unknown IMO. The chef-owner does not appear to speak much English at all, so yimster could whip out his Cantonese. I'm sure he also wants an excuse to harass me about an Iron Chef cook-off once again... :-)

I am interested in the pork belly w/ mustard greens too. I'd like to try some of the special items like steamed fish and crispy whole chicken. Perhaps a local chowdown will be in order come the new year!

Dec 13, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Shun Feng...finally, excellent Chinese food in Santa Cruz!

Thanks for your report back! Intriguing that the XO sauce is seasonal. I was pleasantly surprised w/ the large pea shoots that accompanied the fish balls. I was expecting the more delicate, stringy version but I liked the large ones quite a bit. What other dishes caught your eye for next time?

Dec 11, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Trip Report: Santa Cruz

Thanks for linking that here, susancinsf. I need to get an updated taste on Kelly's. SC Mountain Brewing (in that same complex) also serves a selected menu from Kelly's. They just phone in the order for you and someone delivers it. I love the cooperative spirit! Am hoping to check out Bonny Doon's new tasting room soon.

Dec 10, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Trip Report: Santa Cruz

I haven't tried Sumano's sourdough but I'll take a look at it next time I'm in Shopper's. I used to buy one of their sliced loaves (ciabatta?) for sandwiches and such but haven't bought it in a long, long time. When I'm feeling naughty, I'll splurge on Gayle's cheese rolls at Shopper's. Good for snacking and served alongside a warming bowl of soup.

Dec 10, 2008
Carb Lover in California

Wedding Breakfast at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae

Yeah, we obviously came on an off day for the siu mai and some other dishes. Overall, the food seemed to lack finesse but was killed w/ the sitting around too long issue. The place was fairly full but never felt that bustling, and diners didn't seem to be loading their tables compared to other dim sum houses. I wonder if they excel more at wedding banquets and private parties...Those taro buns were delicious though...

Wedding Breakfast at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae

A couple more photos:

Wedding Breakfast at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae

Husband and I went to Zen Peninsula on Sat. for dim sum around 11:45am. It's kinda sad to not have more people but we were busy w/ random errands and nearby friends weren't available. I was surprised that we were seated immediately given that the wait at Koi Palace or HK Flower Lounge would be longer at this time. We were seated at a two top tucked between the kitchen doors and bar so we figured it was as good a spot as any.

Before I get into the food, let me say that the service here was very efficient and responsive, some of the best service I've had at dim sum. The cart ladies were all smiles and had the patience to try to translate. Requested oolong tea was brought out quickly, and hot water was refilled regularly w/o asking. We ordered 4 items from the checklist, and everything was entered into the POS system and brought out to us at a good pace w/ no errors. I asked one hostess if the Macanese tarts were available and she said that I should just watch for them to come out of the kitchen. When they did, she came over to our table and gave me a heads up. This crew went above and beyond my expectations.

That said, unfortunately the food did not live up to the service for me. We sampled:

sweet taro buns
Macanese egg custard tarts
baked roast pork puffs
shrimp rice crepe
roast pork w/ peanut sauce
chive & shrimp dumpling
foie gras & shark fin siu mai
salt & pepper fried eggplant & tofu

It was quite a bit of food for us, so we took home some baked goods, the fried eggplant/tofu dish, and some roast pork. Total before tip was around $38. My favorite dishes were the baked goods. The taro buns were fluffy and tender, and the creamy taro filling was lightly sweet and velvety smooth. They came perfectly warm from the kitchen. They don't look particularly enticing at first glance, so I'm really glad that they were recommended here. The Macanese tarts weren't as beautifully bronzed on top as Melanie's, but they tasted good. Light and eggy custard filling gave way to buttery layers of puff pastry. Some of the best in their class.

The siu mai were a big disappointment for me as I had high hopes going in. The ingredients just didn't taste fresh and the gritty foie gras had a very strong livery flavor that overpowered the overcooked shrimp and pork. This suffered from texture problems as well as poor execution and ingredient quality IMHO. Husband liked it a little more than I did, but not by much.

The roast pork w/ peanut sauce was dry like it had been sitting under a heat lamp or in a warmer for too long. I thought it was too sweet on its own and the dryness and sweetness were improved w/ a dab of hot mustard.

The chive & shrimp dumplings had nice thin wrappers, but only one dumpling (mine!) had shrimp in it. Husband got stiffed on both of his dumplings. I liked mine pretty well, but I agree w/ others who say that the shrimp is generally overcooked here. The shrimp rice crepe was not bad, but the shrimp were slightly rubbery and stiff.

The fried eggplant and tofu was ok. I liked the crunchy savory bits of seasoning, and the fry job was good and greaseless. I just felt like it was missing an element (a light sauce of some sort?) to bring the dish together. The portion was generous though. The pork puffs were off tasting, and we didn't even finish them.

Overall, we were disappointed w/ the food and wouldn't come back for dim sum especially since we like Koi Palace and HKFL much better. We much preferred the dim sum on our recent visit to HK Saigon Seafood Harbor in Sunnyvale. Driving to get to the 101 we saw The Kitchen which I believe has positive mentions on this board. Perhaps we will try that next time...

Photos of some dishes: