Alice Patis's Profile

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Trader Joe's Yay/Nay Thread - December 2013 [old]

My hubby is a huge fan on the Boatswain Chocolate Stout. He's a fan of stouts and this is one his most favorite stouts.

Dec 10, 2013
Alice Patis in Chains

Lynda Sandwiches/Blue Sky Corner, Vietnam Town San Jose

I just wanted to add the picture of the Banana Ice cream, on the right. I don't know what the little sacs on the left are, unless that's a different kind of Banana ice cream?

May 31, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Lynda Sandwiches/Blue Sky Corner, Vietnam Town San Jose

There's a new banh mi in town, in the new development called Vietnam Town between Walmart and Grand Century Mall. After I yelped it I learned it may be owned by a famous Vietnamese pop singer, or just named after her but with a different spelling, I don't really know. It also seems to be combined with another business called Blue Sky Corner. So it sells banh mi plus che/milk tea/other sweet drinks.

Inside it's very spiffy/modern/hip/chill/bumpin/whatever the kids are saying to mean cool these days.

I'd already eaten lunch, so I got just one banh mi, the #7 (grilled pork with lemongrass). I gave my order in Vietnamese but the counter girl asked for confirmation in English (almost like she didn't understand Vietnamese). I was about to ask for my usual requests (take out some of the insides, add pate, extra cilantro) when I decided against that and see what the default was like.

Good thing I didn't ask for the insides to be taken out, because it's a pretty anemic baguette as it is. It's the long & skinny kind, rather than the fat roll, but even skinnier than Lee's. The baguette was warmed so it had a slight crispness to it combined with soft-chewy. This is the kind that if you don't eat right away, will taste just plain soft.

There's not much filling, but there's not much bread either so it all balances out (but then it seems pricey for my $3.85). The grilled pork is not really grilled or even broiled, more like sauteed or baked, but it's lean (a plus for some, a turn off for me). The lemongrass adds a nice flavor depth but since it's the machine-chopped kind (comes frozen in a tub), you're picking lemongrass out of your teeth for hours later. The veggies are VERY fresh here. They are chintzy with the pickles & cilantro, but the most generous I've seen for cucumber, which are English and de-seeded! The "beurre" or spread was neither heavy or skimpy, and I couldn't tell if it had maggi/soy sauce/fish sauce.

Ok so it's a very dumbed down but very fresh, healthy banh mi in a very nice space. I wouldn't come back, except that after I ate, I noticed the display of Kem Chuoi (Banana ice cream), which is something I've heard about and was very tempted to buy because it's supposedly made of coconut milk (not cow's milk), but the counter girl had disappeared and I was late getting back to work. Guess I'll have to come back another time. Now I'm going to have dreams of Kem Chuoi.

May 31, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Pho 90 Degree in San Jose [Smoked Veal Pho, Kobe-style Beef, Nem Nuong]

Edited to apologize for not rotating the photos before uploading them, and to add the link to Chow.com's recipe for Vietnamese Yogurt:
http://www.chow.com/recipes/13984-vie...

My mom always made yogurt with regular cow's milk, so I've never had yogurt made with condensed milk. Now that I'm lactose intolerant I'm not really up for trying it.

May 31, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Pho 90 Degree in San Jose [Smoked Veal Pho, Kobe-style Beef, Nem Nuong]

After my lunch at GCM today, I went to Vietnam Town to case the new joints including Pho 90. I took pictures of the menu to post here, but of course you've beaten me to it, plus you have a full report of the pho AND the Kobe beef.

So I'll post the rest of the menu, including the page of pho choices. It's funny how they include a diagram of the cow, but it won't help you understand what the hell is Beef stripe (hint: it's a misspelling; just drop the s).

I see you can get tai dap (softened rare steak) here. The word dap is like to beat or hit, i.e. pounded beef, and it's the method I first saw at Pho Hanoi but recently noticed being copied elsewhere. I like this since flank can be tough unless it's still rare, and at places that use eye of round it's dry & tough even when rare.

Here, you can even get the chef's favorite tai dap chay (softened then stir fried beef). The word chay with that accent translates literally to burnt, so maybe the stir frying gives it some charring or wok hay. I'll have to order this next time.

They also have lots of various che (sweet drinks), and Vietnamese yogurt drinks which I think is made with sweetened condensed milk.

May 31, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Community Survey: Bánh Khọt, Vietnamese Mini Rice Pancake/Cupcake

I had Vung Tau #1's banh khot last Feb. with some relatives who were visiting. They live in the DC area and never saw or tried banh khot until that day, despite the many vietnamese restaurants and gatherings they've eaten at. They were so floored, I ordered a second order, which were also gobbled up before any of us remembered to take a picture. But I remember they are the near-spherical kind like Vung Tau III's BK pictured. They were hands down the best banh khot I've ever had, and I think I remember the greens/herbs & dipping sauce were good too. But now I really gotta try Lau Hai San's BK.

May 30, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Community Survey: Bánh Khọt, Vietnamese Mini Rice Pancake/Cupcake

While it'd be really fun to reactivate the South Bay Viet Lunch Group, I don't have much time or energy to do it. Carb Lover is probably even busier than me.

But someone can feel free to form a new South Bay Viet Lunch Group (using MeetUp, Evite, or Chowhound, or just collecting emails).

And anyone can organize a Chowdown and invite everyone on these boards. I might organize a Chowdown to Lau Hai San but I don't know if I can commit to that idea.

May 30, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Lau Hai San-- South San Jose

I can't believe I go to Thanh Huong almost every month, and I never noticed Lau Hai San opening - guess I should just give up my Chowhound badge now.

Given the name, I'm tempted to try one of the hot pots (lau) with seafood (hai san). But after Melanie's pictures & post of their banh khot it's a no brainer to order that. Guess I'll have to get enough people together and get both...

May 30, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Banh Xeo - SF Dish of the Month May 2013

LOL, Melanie beat me to a report of Banh Xeo Tao Ngo. I went here last week but misplaced my notes until today. I’ll chime in to agree mostly with Melanie, but mine was crispy on the bottom and until the end. Mine looks just like Melanie’s, folded 1/4th of the way. In my last picture I redistributed the filling and refolded it halfway. I usually prefer the thick & golden brown kind since they are usually fully crispy to the point of being crunchy, but I liked this one. Not greasy and a nice fragrance of coconut milk.

Based on past experience here, you can specify which 3 proteins you want for $8.49, and add a 4th or 5th for $1.25 each. They all include mung bean and sprouts unless you request them omitted. I like that the mung bean is ground or soft enough it integrates with the crepe, as Melanie noticed. My sprouts were a bit softened from leftover heat like hers and like Melanie I don’t usually order banh xeo because the sprouts are never steamed enough for me. I also don’t like fish herb, dripping wet greens or the weak nuoc cham. But this place makes a decent banh xeo.

But still, since tomorrow is the last day of May, I might revisit the grandmama of all BX places, the stall at Grand Century Mall, to see if it's still up to par.

May 30, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Banh Xeo - SF Dish of the Month May 2013

I went to 2 places in San Jose to compare & contrast their banh xeo. This report is for Thien Long at 3005 Silver Creek Road, the site of a Chowdown some years past. Normally if I’m with others we’ll order their famous Cha Ca (Hanoi style grilled fish) or if I’m solo I’ll get chicken pho, pho ap chao (like chowfun but with noodle “bricks”) or bun rieu oc (snail & crab noodle soup). But since it’s May I got the banh xeo, which is $7.50 for a decently big one.

Their banh xeo is of the “thick & golden brown” camp rather than the thin & crispy camp. While it looks pretty and was mostly crispy, it was very greasy on the bottom half, while slightly underdone on the inside. It’s served folded 1/4th of the way so you can see the filling, but that annoys me and when I tried to fold it in half the soft inside combined with the crunchy outside caused it to break :(.

Filling here were 3 plump whole peeled deveined shrimps, thin sliced lean pork, a scattering of boiled mung beans and a bucket full of sprouts (I kid you not). While the shrimp & pork were sautéed to perfect doneness, the sprouts here are not cooked, so with only the leftover heat these were almost raw. With such a high sprouts to banh xeo ratio I was left with about half the sprouts when I was done eating (and most of the mung beans, which spilled out no matter how good I am with chopsticks).

Veggie platter was appropriately mounded high, but there were really only 2 big pieces of lettuce. The herbs included were tiet to (purple perilla), mint, and what some are calling green perilla but is really kinh gio (Vietnamese balm) which has a lemony taste and is less bitter than shiso and which I really like with banh xeo. Cukes were not too thick and not bitter. Lettuces were dripping wet and I used 5 napkins to dry them. I think they do this on purpose so you know they wash their greens.

The nuoc cham was weak (as are all places nowadays) and had pickled carrot & green papaya (but I thought they used to give you more than a couple of measly slices).

All in all it was yummy but greasy, I just nitpick because it could’ve been better. Next report is coming.

Oops, I made a mistake while uploading photos and the very last photo below is a banh xeo from a different place. I guess you can think of it as a preview of my next report.

May 29, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area
2

Anybody Try Chef's Inspiration in Milpitas Square?

I was in the area so came here for lunch. I was intrigued by the various La Mian and asked my server (in English) if it was hand-pulled, because on the menu it's translated as Rice Noodle. She said yes and I asked again and pantomimed with my hands doing the stretching/pulling noodles motion. By then another male server walked by and also said yes. I asked if they pull the noodles here and they said no, they ordered them.

I thought that meant they order hand pulled noodles from a source that makes them for restaurants, so I asked them for the chinese name of #17 in the Lunch Specials section (La Mian noodle with sliced beef in spicy soup). When they said what sounded like "Niu Riu La Mian", I was excited and that's what I ordered.

What a mistake! Or a big let down. These were NOT handpulled, handmade, or even fresh noodles. As you can see in the picture, the noodles are straight and loose, like the dried sticks sold in straight, uniform lengths in a package. I called a server over and said these were not hand pulled. They said no, not hand pulled, we order the noodles. wtf?? I asked why they first said it was hand pulled and she just kind of shrugged. With a language barrier, I didn't know how to ask to return the noodles and order something else without them thinking I wanted something in addition to the noodles. So I stuck with these.

The broth was bland except for the numbingly high level of heat from chopped whole chiles and dried chile flakes (the kind that get caught in your throat). No beef stew flavor in the broth. The beef was in thick slices that seemed tenderized but at the same time really tough. Like in bad beef & broccoli. No bok choy or greens, just shredded scallion. I ate most of the beef, a few of the noodles, and left most of it uneaten when I gave up & went to pay. At least it was fairly cheap ($5.95).

May 21, 2013
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Banh Mi Thit Nuong at Thanh Huong Sandwich (Senter Road, San Jose)

Hey cool! Thanh Huong is my favorite in the area and I go pretty often since it's near my work. The grilled pork is my standby order, but sometimes I'm in the mood for siu mai and they make a very moist, flavorful version. I too usually pull out the big onion slices, but I always add-on pate.

Ironically, I like the grilled pork at Huong Lan better, since it has lemongrass and peanuts, but I like the bread at Thanh Huong better, as well as Thanh Huong's "butter" spread, and ratio of fixins to bread.

I also like some of the dishes I've gotten from Thanh Huong's steam table, since it's pretty close to home cooking and I get to have some of my childhood favorites that you don't usually find at takeout places (or even at restaurants).

Nov 17, 2011
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Grocery Outlet April 2010

GO newbie here. I went to the SJ Monterey Hwy store. It's been recently remodeled and the parking lot seems spiffed up too.

My picks or almost-picks:
Manila mangoes, 50c each, med-small, huge bin so you can pick the good ones
Clementine Cuties, 2.99 for 3 lb bag
Soy yogurt: vanilla, strawberry, or strawberry-banana, 50c each
Avocados 50c each, small-medium, some firm and almost brown, some green
Grated cheese: mozz, mild cheddar or Colby, $4.99 for 2 lb bag
Italcheese bocconcini fresh mozzarella balls, 99c for 8 oz. tub
Carriage House frozen breaded chicken breast pieces, $3.99 for 2 lb bag. Baked up decently crisp in 450 oven, slight hint of something weird like dill in the breading

Of the wines, I got 2 to try:
Renwood Zinfandel 2005 Sierra foothills, $2.99 - hubby said good enough, about the same as a $5-6 wine
Twin Fin Cab Sauvignon 2005 California, $1.99 - not yet tasted

I saw the Scharfenberger baking chunks mentioned above. I forget the price but to me didn't seem worth it (compared to my usual, TJs pound plus dark choc).

Apr 08, 2010
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Nha Toi (San Jose) - Vietnamese worth a detour, maybe even a special journey...

I've been a few times in the past year. It's still as strong as it was the first year. The braised mackerel tastes exactly the same, as dreamy as when I first had it. Other dishes I've had before are still good. I actually like the pho which was panned by some yelpers. They use tenderloin cut for the tai beef which makes it very tender (and it's properly rare), and the broth is northern style so it tastes of long simmered beef bones and lighter in spices than southern style. Also the broth is clear, so you can tell they still pay attention to detail.

Their strengths lie in their specials or "dac biet" board, or any of the dishes you don't find elsewhere, or any of the salads (esp. the less common salads). So you have to be somewhat adventurous; and yelpers for the most part aren't adventurous. If you search for past chowdowns here, almost everything we've ordered in the past is still great (use google to search, not the search box on this board).

Also as daveena says, the yelp reviews often slam the service. I usually get recognized so I get decent service but it can be scattered or hardly-there to the first-time goer. Also, it looks like a full-service style restaurant, but just expect pho-house style service and it won't seem that bad.

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Nha Toi Restaurant
460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112

Mar 16, 2010
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

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

Hubby & I and a friend went to Aquarius for lunch today and came away really pleased. It has a modern, slightly upscale vibe, the wall-sized windows bringing in lots of light and allowing a view from every table. The patrons (including us) were mostly casually dressed (it is at the beach after all). The service was nice and not the rushing around we seem to always see Wharf restaurants like they're rushing around but not actually doing much.

On to the food. We went around 2 pm, and they were still serving the brunch menu:
http://www.aquariussantacruz.com/pdf/...

Two of us got the fish and chips, which today was mahi mahi. One of us opted for the house-made potato chips and the other the fries:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

I got the Clam "Chowda" which struck my interest because it's broth based, not cream based, with whole clams, coins of fingerling potatoes and bits of thick-cut bacon. It does have a little cream or half&half, but definitely not the thick creamy stuff you see everywhere else:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

I really enjoyed my chowder (think of it as soup not chowder), but it was a bit too salty (as if the Chef salted it normally without remembering the bacon adds a lot of salt as it cooks). I got to taste some of the fish, chips, and fries and they were expertly fried: crispy-crunchy and not greasy, with the batter the right thickness. I didn't taste the lemon-dill aioli but heard it was heavy-handed on the dill. The menu put emphasis on fresh, local, and seasonal, and with flavor combinations that are unique but still familiar. We were too full for dessert, but the dessert menu has a lot of tempting things, all housemade, that are a little strange but also strangely seem to go together, like the Devil's Food Chocolate Cake, with vahlrona chocolate mousse and pretzel-crusted guinness gelato (!!).

This place is several notches above in food, service and ambiance over the other Wharf restaurants (though technically it's on land, not on the Wharf), and yet the prices are about the same (for breakfast & lunch that is). You even get free valet parking at the hotel's driveway, or free self-parking across the street. And it's nice enough to feel romantic at night. I'm not very familiar with the rest of the restaurant scene in Santa Cruz, but I think you'll enjoy it and you don't have to drive back anywhere after dinner!

Aug 29, 2009
Alice Patis in California

San Jose and Monterey

Nha Toi is still open and I still go once in a while as a solo diner, but its strengths are the unusual & authentic dishes you don't normally find elsewhere, that are best shared with a group. My favorites are the braised mackerel, raw beef salad, luffa & malabar spinach soup, and anything that comes with the purple fermented shrimp paste dipping sauce. That said, last time I went, their beef pho was a cut above standard: rare beef cut from tenderloin (instead of the usual beef round), fresh wide (soft & slippery) noodles, and a light broth that relies on beef bones over spice (though I detected a bit of msg last time I was there).

Another up & coming Vietnamese place giving Vung Tau a run for its money is Lemon Grass, just outside Grand Century Mall (an all Asian mall). Actually, just wondering around in GCM will be a treat for you.

While in the San Jose area, you might want to experience non-Cantonese Chinese, though these are all in the outskirts of San Jose. My favorites, though I haven't been to some of these in a while, are Chinjin Eastern House for Islamic Chinese, South Legend in Milpitas for Sichuan, Hu Chiang Dumpling House in Cupertino for Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), A&J in Cupertino for Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Lastly, there's ramen (search for Melanie's ramen rankings). My fave (when I'm in the mood for salty comfort) is Ramen Halu.

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South Legend
1720 N Milpitas Blvd, Milpitas, CA 95035

Ramen Halu
375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

Nha Toi Restaurant
460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112

Hu Chiang Dumpling House (moved)
10877 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014

A & J Restaurant
10893 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014

Chinjin Eastern House
1530 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

Lemon Grass (formerly Viet Express)
1143 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

Aug 21, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

manresa iron chef dinner?

If you have an iPod, email me, I can help. Even if you don't, email me anyway for advice off the Board. My email is in my profile.

May 30, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

manresa iron chef dinner?

Hubby & I went last Sunday (24th) for our anniv. We were really impressed similar to previous experiences here and I agree it was more than "just cabbage". I don't have time to do a full review, but would wholeheartedly recommend it. And I recommend watching the episode right b4 the meal so you don't have to worry about paying attention while it's described, you can just absorb the scent & sight of it (and set up your camera shot) before digging in.

Haven't had time to make captions, but my photos are here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/stevenali...

May 29, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Ramen Halu 7th Anniversary -- Lobster Ramen

Thanks for all the detailed reports, I really wished I had the chance to go taste it.

I think the clear "noodles" are cyrstal seaweed, a type of seaweed product I've seen only 1 other time, in the seaweed salad at Viet Express/Lemon Grass in SJ. They have a pleasant crunch but hardly any taste, and only if I eat them alone did I detect a slight briney fragrance/taste.

May 18, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Tai Pan in San Jose - new dim sum bakery

Grand opening yesterday. A co-worker and I went today. Photos of the store and our take out stash here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

This is a tiny place almost adjacent to Lion Market at Capitol Expy & McLaughlin. Open everyday 8 am – 8:30 PM. Two tiny tables next to the door seats 5 total. The store was a little crowded during the lunch hour and can seem chaotic (no system to know who’s next in line

)

Paper menu touts Hong Kong Style Dim Sum. Dim sum pages list 34 varieties, ranging from $1 per dessert item, to $2 for 3 savory items.

Lunch Specials are $5.25, which include 3-4 dim sum and your choice of the Preserved (1000-yr) egg & Pork Porridge, or the Chicken, Wheat & Corn Porridge. Photo of lunch specials board in the link above.

Porridge a la carte is $2 for Small, $3 for Large.
Also listed is fung sing dumpling soup at $5.75/lb. and Shrimp wonton at $5.75/lb.
I think the turnip cake on the menu for $5.75 is a whole foil-tin cake pan (picture in the link above).

Overall, the portions (size of dumplings) are quite large here. Quality ranged from ok to excellent, mostly good.

Shimp cheung fan: Very fresh (a new tray came out right before we ordered), faint pleasant chewiness but mostly soft. Very fat shrimp, 3 or 4 to each roll.

Seafood sui mai: I think we were tempted by the really fat size of these, but the taste was just ok. Was a bit dry from sitting in the case. Pleasantly non-smelly (I sometimes find sui mai to have a unfresh smell/taste).

Hom sui gok or fried footballs. I’m a mochi-fan so I always like these even if they’re not done well. Soaking in oil and not crispy enough. Mochi still nicely chewy. Filling a bit sparse (but it always is wherever you go).

Fried shrimp balls. Very good, shatteringly crispy while the ground shrimp filling was plump & fresh. Only a bit oily.

Egg Custard Tarts, $1 each. Excellent. Very flaky slightly still buttery crust, smooth creamy eggy custard, not overly sweet. I can still taste these in my mouth mmmm. Dunno how well they keep, we ate ours about 30 minutes after purchase.

Our total for us 2 to split was a whopping $11 and enough to fill me up completely, but I think I had room for another egg tart. Or 5. Oink :O)

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Tai Pan Dim Sum Bakery
1031 E Capitol Expy, San Jose, CA 95121

May 14, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Any good food near Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz?

links below

recent posts on Oswald's:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588292

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

Oswald Restaurants
603 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

May 13, 2009
Alice Patis in California

Any good food near Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz?

I'm not really up on downtown Santa Cruz restaurants, but no one's replied yet so I thought I'd throw out a couple suggestions.

About 6 blocks north is the new iteration of Oswald's. I've never been but the old Oswald's got lots of good reviews and the new one seems to get decently good reviews. Cuisine is cal-med with slightly upscale vibe.

Soif is also about 6 blocks north. A wine bar + full service restaurant. Again never been, keep hearing good things about it.

What kind of food, price range etc are you looking for? I hope someone else has more or better suggestions for you.

May 13, 2009
Alice Patis in California

Lemon Grass in San Jose (formerly Viet Express)

The nicer version of Viet Express, with the large seating area and bar, has changed its name to Lemon Grass (but still same owners & menu). The counter-service side is still seemingly closed. I thought I’d start a new thread rather than adding to my previous post of Viet Express, which can be found here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5809...

I tried only 2 dishes – really gotta get a group together so I can make better leeway through the long list of specials that sound so tempting and aren’t commonly found elsewhere.

First off, the service is still somewhat abysmal – more like a pho-house than a sit-down restaurant. And not that great at suggesting unique or specialty of the house dishes (the best you can suggest is shaking beef, spring rolls, tempura fried shrimp? okayyy guess I’m on my own). My server did suggest the crystal seaweed salad, a very good salad, but I got that last time. Also they still completely disappear except to bring you food (a-ha! This time I knew to ask for a takeout box as he was setting down my 2nd dish).

The same badly photocopied, plain paper menu is still in use (just more crinkled than before):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

Specials board outside seems to be a subset of the Specials page of the menu.
Outside board: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...
Specials page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

House tea ($1 for 1-2 people, $2 for more than 2) is the same pretty glass pot with green tea, chrysanthemum flowers, jujube & wolf berries. Fragrant and smooth (good luck getting a hot water refill).
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

My first dish was the snow fungus salad, #16 in the regular menu:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

I really like the salads here. They pre-dress certain parts (the thin tender pork loin and the white fungus), keep other parts undressed (the paper-thin shaved celery, cuke & carrot, and the shrimp), and together it’s a light tasting but flavorful variety of tastes and textures. Just ignore the pool of dressing underneath the large leaf lettuce. This salad has finely chopped peanuts where the crystal seaweed salad had sesame seeds, and I liked this better. I also like the texture of snow fungus better than the seaweed as it’s a childhood favorite. Again, the fried shallots seem crunchier than store-bought but not house-fried. Maybe there’s a brand of store-bought shallots I haven’t had before. Again, I wished it had more herbs (it had only mint, and not that much of it).

My 2nd dish was a server recommendation after I kept pressing for something special, the grilled beef & shrimp rolls with banh hoi (thin rice noodle “patties”), #6 in the specials menu:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

The beef rolls were tender, the shrimp cooked just right but with tails (and tails that weren’t crispy enough to eat). Not a fan of green bells I removed these from my rolls. The dressing is sweetish (not surprised) and the beef rolls needed it as they were a bit bland on their own (none of the lemongrass I was hoping for, given their name). The banh hoi are not greasy here, but are lukewarm – I’m guessing nuked. Oh, I confirmed that the banh cuon (rice noodle sheets) that I got last time are not house-made, they’re bought pre-made and nuked upon order – which explains the slip-shod high density of the sheets.

Overall, I was very pleased with the salad and thought the beef dish was just ok. Maybe I should’ve gone with my temptation to get some snails, instead of relying on the server’s recommendation. There’s always the next time!

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Lemon Grass (formerly Viet Express
)1143 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

May 12, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Best West/South Bay Bun Bo Hue?

Normally, I'd echo the rec for BBH An Nam on Story Road (I haven't been to the other locations), but my visit about a month ago was pretty disappointing. The beef (both the muscle & the connective tissue) was tough, ie not cooked long enough, the broth almost devoid of heat, and the noodles too soft. Also the side of julienned veggies was almost all cabbage, not much banana flower. So different from my past visits. I was hearing/reading downhill reports since they opened the 2nd location, but I didn't expect it to be such a steep downhill.

My photo below. Note lack of red oil droplets. Maybe I should've asked for extra-spicy but normally you don't have to say anything and you'd get a nice spice level. Oops, photo didn't get attached. Go to this link for photo:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

May 12, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Man v Food - San Jose

Iguana's is a favorite for a co-worker so we've gone there a few times after a meeting nearby. The orange sauce is better than La Victoria's "famous" orange sauce: creamier, spicier. But the food is americanized - not necessarily a bad thing, just not a typical taqueria. Less choice of meats, the tacos have lettuce & cheese as the default. But it's tasty enough (well anything would be, with that orange sauce). It's hugely popular with college kids (duh, given the location).

Often there's a huge line but it moves along (except when they decided to fill a call-in order for 20something burritos and everyone in the store who had ordered & paid & were kept waiting). I don't remember ever seeing the burritozilla on the menu or even as part of the restaurant's name, I wonder if that's a new gimmick.

Mar 05, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Prime Ribeye Steaks at Costco $8.99/lb

Maybe someone should ask a Chow Editor to change the subject line to Costco Prime Ribeye $7.99/lb, because that's still the current price. Snapped a few photos at the San Jose (Almaden) location.

1st photo shows Prime Ribeye on the left in blue trays and Choice on the right.
2nd photo is a composite showing two photos of two trays of Ribeye.
3rd Photo is a composite showing two NY Steaks: Prime NY (Left) is currently $8.99/lb, Choice NY (Right) is $6.89/lb
Sorry there's some glare on the plastic wrap.

Feb 23, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Santa Cruz to Monterey.... what's not to miss?

Forgot to add Places link:

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Sandabs
11 Camp Evers Ln, Scotts Valley, CA 95066

Feb 18, 2009
Alice Patis in California

Santa Cruz to Monterey.... what's not to miss?

If you're coming from SF, on your way to Santa Cruz, you might consider lunch at Sandabs in Scotts Valley (10 minutes inland from Santa Cruz). You asked where to find sand dabs on the SFBay Board but I didn't reply there since Scotts Valley is in the CA Board.

Anyway, the restaurant Sandabs serves sand dabs as a regular entree on their dinner menu, but not as an entree in the lunch menu, so if you're set on dabs at lunch you should call ahead to ask if they're available. Having said that, I haven't had the dabs here (the chance to eat MSC-certified chiliean sea bass has been too good to pass up), but I've heard they are very good, and their seafood is consistently ultra-fresh. My husband & I, and those we've brought here, have had mixed experiences in the taste department - either out of this world-excellent, or just ok. So it's a gamble. It's the kind of place for decently priced, very fresh seafood, prepared simply but skillfully. And if you use the restaurant.com certificate, it can be $30 for 2 people.

I think others on the CA Board are better at suggesting places in Santa Cruz & south to Monterey, but it might help to clarify your question: You need lunch & dinner in Santa Cruz on Saturday, then breakfast in Monterey on Monday? Or you're looking for any suggestions from Santa Cruz to Monterey & in between, for both Saturday & Monday morning?

Feb 18, 2009
Alice Patis in California

Bay Area Banh Mi Google Map

I just remembered I've been to Lan Huong, on a day I had a short lunch break during a Convention. I don't remember much except it was just ok, and that I wished I had gone a block further to Dakao. Their banh beo (steamed rice flour cakes) were a better bet and might be house made.

Feb 04, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area

Tôm Hùm Xào Mì Mềm @ Viet Express in San Jose

I was in this area and had time to stop for lunch today. The original location was closed and will re-open in a few days for takeout and steam table orders. On the opposite side of the same building, the new larger space is open & serving the exact same (photocopied paper) menu, plus beer & wine.

I had a hard time deciding between all the interesting sounding salads, and settled on the crystal seaweed salad (#4). I also wanted something standard to compare to other places, so added the banh cuon ho tay (#5 on Specials back page).

I’ve never had crystal seaweed before. It has a crunchy texture and almost zero taste of the sea, but adds a refreshing and light taste & texture. The seaweed not only topped the salad, but was also mixed in among the rest of the salad: shaved-thin slices of cucumber, carrot, celery, green onion, lean pork loin, long tubular slices of (tender) squid, fried shallots, and sesame seeds (a lot of sesame seeds). A sticky sweet-tart dressing is on the side but the salad is already fully dressed with a fish-sauce based dressing with a slight aftertaste of something I can’t identify. The kitchen has a certain care to the salad prep: the lean pork and squid seemed pre-dressed in order to soak in the dressing’s flavors, but the very thin veggies were still crisp and not dressing-logged. The shallots seemed too crunchy to be house-fried, but tasted house-fried. There was a large pool of dressing under the large leaf lettuce garnish, but the salad didn’t taste overdressed.

Picture of crystal seaweed salad:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

Picture showing individual components better:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

The banh cuon arrived disappointingly only-warm, not steaming hot. But the plate was really satisfying and the banh tom (fried shrimp & sweet potato fritter) was to die for (if you like fried foods), shatteringly crispy-crunchy with a slight carby chew, the huge prawn with real flavor in its head, a meaty body and airy-crispy legs & tail. The dressing was weak, vinegar based and too sweet (but that’s just like everywhere else). I generally prefer cha (pork patty) to gio (beef “bologna”), so I was glad for it here. There were some non-standard toppings – the cha gio spring roll, crispy and non-greasy, with a packed filling of mostly pork which was yummy just by itself, and the nem chua (bright pink thing), which I usually enjoy but seemed out of place this time (especially with its occasional whole peppercorn). The sprouts were appropriately blanched (and trimmed), the lettuce & mint fresh, and the fried shallots plentiful. The banh cuon are the thanh tri type: little bunches of plain sheets, not the rolled kind with meat filling. One nitpick is that after they steamed the banh cuon, they layered a couple sheets at a time then bunched them together, instead of bunching together individual sheets, the result being the little bunches are thicker (more dense) than usual.

Picture of banh cuon:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenal...

Service was attentive except I had a hard time getting anyone’s attention for the check. The male owner/manager was friendly and seemed proud of their menu. He suggested the lobster noodles, banh canh, and the “french” dishes (but I had already ordered). The servers are well-dressed in stiff jackets or shirts, even the cooks are well-dressed. It seems like one of the flashy places opening these days in the toniest neighborhoods of Ho Chi Minh City: a menu more unique than the usual Slanted-Door clones, doing more (or more different) things. But it’s got the prices of a neighborhood hole-in the wall. I’m eager to return, especially if I can get a group together.

Feb 02, 2009
Alice Patis in San Francisco Bay Area