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Mochi at Yuen Hop (Oakland Chinatown)

The black sesame ones are labeled in Chinese as "tong yuen" which suggests putting them in soup, but they are probably my favorite between them and the peanut version and already good eaten as is.

They should not be refrigerated and have to be consumed within 48 hours.

The peanut version is labeled as lor mai chee 糯米滋 and is a very classic old school glutinous rice based Cantonese based dessert, arguably with Hakka Cantonese origins. The texture is quite excellent, and somewhat reminds me of the kind I had at a vendor that sold these exclusively at Tai O fishing village in Lantau Island (western tip) Hong Kong

http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr...

though this place does it even smoother and silkier, with a texture on par with Benkyodo Co SF.

This type of eat falls under the category called "cha gwor" 茶果, which are snacks meant to be paired with Chinese tea, but typically 茶果 are steamed (pre-steamed sometimes served room temperature) and a lot chewier.

Nov 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Any recommendations on restaurants serving chicken livers?

Went to SPQR within the last two months and they did have chicken liver, paired with this sweet fig jam like paste with crostini. Quite good.

My favorite was the version at Serpentine during dinner, executed extremely well, I would go back just for that.

Then there's Ippuku in Berkeley, who can do them grilled over charcoal medium rare upon request (if you can tolerate the redness) but very juicy and nicely done.

Nov 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Hong Kong: Tasting menus: Nur vs Vasco?

Has anyone been to both Nur and Vasco recently and can comment on which one would be a better experience? Nur seems to offer a prix fixe (2 price) option for the last week of December with some Christmas themes. Vasco is willing to offer the full tasting menu during lunch upon request.

Trying to decide between the two given the short amount of time this visit to HK, then it is a matter of chance/availability afterwards. Thanks in advance!

Nov 20, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Crystal Jade, Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.

If you go on crystaljade.com there are various types of CJ restaurants. SF got the one labeled Jiang Nan which is under specialty (not "fine dining"), and the ones in HK are all called CJ LM (la mian) XLB 翡翠拉麵小籠包 and there are a few CJ Kitchen locations (not many).

Whoever did the investing probably figured, go bigger or go home. Exactly how the investors probably approached M.Y. China in terms of location and prices. It would have been nicer to get a more downscale and accessible CJLMXLB. Though can't complain, bringing us just a notch closer to Michelin Cantonese in HK, but not quite there since it is a mish mash of styles (Singaporean Chinese, Cantonese, some regional Chinese).

Nov 19, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Chinese pork innard/organ soup in LA?

What you linked looks very similar to the pickled mustard greens pork stomach peppercorn soup 胡椒豬肚湯 or 鹹酸菜胡椒豬肚湯 (鹹酸菜 = salty sour preserved/pickled vegetable) very common and classic in Chiu Chow Teochew restaurants in Hong Kong. The Teochew/Chiu Chow influence is also quite deep rooted in Singapore and Thai Chinese, so not surprised to see this variant.

Mixed pork organs/innards would be 豬雜, so maybe what you need to request (off menu) would be

鹹酸菜胡椒豬雜湯

if going to a Cantonese restaurant, assuming they have fresh innards, or at the very least, good pork stomach, or if the restaurant also serves 及第粥 (pork kidney, intestines, and liver congee).

Nov 19, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area
1

Where to buy good quality kani miso in Osaka or Kyoto?

Thank you so much la2tokyo, I am traveling with friends who went last year to Aritsugu, who need to go back this time to get more knives and gear, so that is perfect! Thanks for the heads up on the price, not unreasonable given the craftsmanship. Guess the rest is just figuring out how to carefully transport/conceal and bring the katsuo blocks (from other vendors within the market) back to California.

Nov 13, 2014
K K in Japan

Where to buy good quality kani miso in Osaka or Kyoto?

Thanks! I totally forgot about depachikas.

Nov 13, 2014
K K in Japan

Any recommended sake (and other alcohol) breweries in Kansai (Keihanshin area?)

Fantastic, thanks so much!!!

Nov 12, 2014
K K in Japan

Where to buy good quality kani miso in Osaka or Kyoto?

Last year while vacationing in Hong Kong I picked up a can of kani miso imported from Hokkaido, think it was Jason's or whatever was the large supermarket by Times Square basement (before you hit the MTR). It had the consistency of a very runny liquid paste, different than the buttery spread consistency I've had before at some places, but it was great with other applications/dishes.

Anyone know if kani miso can be purchased from Nishiki market in Kyoto, or Kuromon market in Osaka. And if not, where is a place where I could get it easily, and has a shelf life longer than say 6 months to a year?

On a separate note, I've seen pictures of whole dried katsuo (for katsuobushi shaving) at Nishiki market. I assume I can also buy a kezuri/shaver and box as well over there?

Nov 12, 2014
K K in Japan

Any recommended sake (and other alcohol) breweries in Kansai (Keihanshin area?)

Not sure how I missed those threads. Thanks wekabeka and Pata_Negra!

I'm familiar with Tamanohikari, had some recently at a local sushi/tapas restaurant and it was quite good.

Nov 12, 2014
K K in Japan

Any recommended sake (and other alcohol) breweries in Kansai (Keihanshin area?)

Will be staying in Osaka area (exact location unknown at this time) and hitting up Kyoto, maybe Kobe if there is time, in early January for a few days.

Are there are good sake breweries in the area, open to the public, have a gift shop, and are visitor friendly/fairly easy to get to from train station (if non English speaking that is still ok)?

We may do Suntory Hakushu Distillery (Osaka) if there's nothing else interesting. Not sure yet about that Kobe sake museum.

Thanks!

Nov 12, 2014
K K in Japan

Noriega Street, SF - Recent Observations

I love Thai Nghiep Ky. My go-to bowl there is #13, which is the TNK noodle, but the best way to go is ask for broth on the side, wide egg noodles. The pork kidney is consistently great on the execution (freshness is key, and not overcooked). Throw in the pickled jalapeno, chili sauce, hoisin if you will, toss it up and it's very good. That wide egg noodle surpasses many Cantonese noodle shops and tastes as close to what a good eggy egg noodle (wide) should taste like in Hong Kong (odd to find that at a Vietnamese Chinese noodle shop). I prefer this bowl over the dried orange peel marinated duck leg and pork won tons (which are good but not their best). Their fish balls are rather disappointing, tastes more like supermarket refrigerated deli section stuff you can buy.

Cafe Bakery and Restaurant has been there for quite a long time (as well as the adjoining bakery next door). They serve what is basically "soy sauce fusion" or Hong Kong style western that is comfort food for Hong Kong and Southern Chinese expats who grew up eating this style of food. Not glamorous by any means, and if you compare to Hong Kong, the execution is actually average to below average. What the locals in the area like about this place are childhood memories, value (the portions are not bad), and eclectic enough with a flavor that appeals to them. The sweet "dinner" roll one gets with the house soup (red or white, either HK style Borscht which is not bad but not robust enough for me, or cream of corn/chicken/mushroom type of soup) is very tasty. It's different than a HK cafe elsewhere, because they focus on HK style western. Despite the rather sweet ketchup based sauce, the ketchup/tomato sauce baked ox tongue spaghetti was not bad.
They add quite a lot of liquid sugar into the iced milk teas, probably better to request less sugar, or just go for a hot one and sweeten it yourself.

Not too hard to figure out the locals sometimes....lines/wait form as a result of 1) loyalty and familiarity 2) curiosity (if it is a brand new establishment) 3) they offer some sort of value and 4) it tastes good enough to them that they like it.

Nov 12, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Osaka Binbiya びんびや - need some help with menu translation :-)

Fugu karaage?! Zugoi! We are soooo going there!

Had some head/cheek fugu karaage (farmed I think) at the defunct Hikari in Hong Kong (kappo ryori place) and it was so damn good. I think there are some fugu teishoku restaurants in Kyoto/Osaka as well.

Nov 08, 2014
K K in Japan

Osaka Binbiya びんびや - need some help with menu translation :-)

Thanks hblnk! Yes this is a Michelin star'd eatery from what I've learned, maybe the most high end "izakaya" around with many fish-based dishes (I personally love sakana and all sorts of seafood). So more izakaya, but perhaps a kappo-ryori kind of decor and service?

Glad that I have some rudiments down...just annoying when I see 4 kinds of karaage but have no clue what they are due to the hiragana, or the two kinds of kama meshi.

If waitress can help read the menu items to me, we are going to be set.

I'll have my friend's local contact make the reservation then once I discuss this with him (amongst other options around Keihanshin, too many). Sounds like 2 to 3 days in advance is sufficient based on one TL reviewer.

Can't wait to taste the winter season delights (especially fish)! If only there were a fast forward button I could press, two more months to go! Big problem will be too many choices not enough time.

Nov 08, 2014
K K in Japan

Osaka Binbiya びんびや - need some help with menu translation :-)

Thanks SJ!

Oh yeah I should read user reviews (via google translate) to figure out what else they have. Hopefully a phone app English to Japanese translator won't come out all whack either on site.

Nov 07, 2014
K K in Japan

Osaka Binbiya びんびや - need some help with menu translation :-)

This is for Osaka びんびや Binbiya, supposedly at this address

大阪府大阪市北区曽根崎新地1-7-26

I can read kanji but hiragana is lost on me. I would probably be able to understand what the specific dish is if I were told of it.

Managed to find a menu pic from 2014 and one from 2012

http://blog-imgs-69.fc2.com/m/a/c/mac...

http://livedoor.blogimg.jp/blackcom/i...

I can kind of make out that the food is categorized by

yakimono, ni-mono, gohan, chinmi (sake/beer eats) and ippin (not sure what that means), something I can't quite make out (tempura?) and agemono, plus a sea bream item in a category I can't quite figure out (what is that sea bream/tai dish by the way?).

Will this place do a chef's tasting set of courses, like an otsumami omakase (and is that common for kappo ryori shops in Osaka and Kyoto)?

Trying to decide if my friends and I should give this place a go.

Thanks so much!

Nov 07, 2014
K K in Japan

Your most delicious and uncanny ways to eat Spam?

Inspired by two cafes in Hong Kong :-)

Fried egg (sunny yolk), pan fried spam, tomato, in a sandwich, using Hong Kong style pineapple bun.

Or replace the tomato with a layer of cooked instant noodles, as al dente as possible.

Could replace pineapple bun with croissant.

Oct 30, 2014
K K in General Topics

Best Fried Rice in SF

No, though there is likely a surcharge for adding salted fish. Some people prefer egg white and dried scallop by without it, but to me adding it elevates the dish by a ton.

Oct 30, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Best Fried Rice in SF

Pre-order it from Yum's Bistro in Fremont. He does a very tasty version of it. Though I prefer his rendition of salted fish, dried scallops, egg white fried rice 鹹魚瑶柱蛋白炒飯. In a pinch, Cooking Papa does this fried rice fairly decently as well if one cannot get to Fremont.

Oct 30, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place... Kusakabe a disappointment...

I actually agree with you on what you said.

I have other opinions, observations, and preferences about Akiko's that I rather not say (some are mine, some are not), but you pretty much nailed their limitations from a high level.

I'm darn sure Mori and Shunji blows away Akiko's if you factor in skill and sensibilities, and want a more authentic experience. I have friends who agree with your assessment and satisfaction with Hide-san for SF. But unfortunately business ownership/direction and chefs clash a lot easier up here, that plus the need for perhaps wider recognition and doing something different/cutting edge at the expense of doing it right and proper in the eyes of some of us diners.

The best way for others to avoid disappointment (for others having expectations or world experience with sushi) is to not think of them in the same league as the LA greats (let alone compare them) or abroad, but instead, as I said above, see them for what they are trying to do. Think of some investors who are serious enough with their hobby but don't have the proper training to replicate the Ginza experience (or anywhere close), so it's high end fish plus modern kitchen techniques. In some ways the late Sebo was like that, they weren't as great as Sushi Zo in 2007, but it was the closest I got then.

It's like saying Mission Chinese Food sucks (or PF Changs or Panda Express) because they are not authentic/traditional. They are not even trying to set out to replicate that. "Sushi" is not even in the restaurant name for Akiko's (and last I went, they had no signage to deter tourists haha).

For me I had three excellent experiences at Akiko's with former chef Ricky, but he left. I'm not aching to return at this time though, but will recommend others to try it so they have another perspective, and at least be able to (if they want to pay) high end fish unavailable elsewhere.

And if that doesn't float one's boat, there is always the infamous Sawa in Sunnyvale, huge chunks of butsugiri high end sashimi smothered with Cali/French style sauces across 24 courses! Of course I'd rather go to UraSAWA.

Oct 29, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place... Kusakabe a disappointment...

Akiko's is owned and managed by Ray Lee (friends say he is Chinese, not Korean). Former chef Ricky has a Chinese last name and the current head chef is now Geoffrey Lee (was told he worked at Sushi Ran before). They have some assistant chefs but none of them are Japanese. (Kusakabe's sous chef Ken is also Chinese from Hong Kong, worked with Nori-san for quite some time back at Sushi Ran and even interned with Atelier Crenn).

But I will say this, Akiko's is able to source fish many others are unable to, including Hokkaido Keiji salmon (1 in 10,000 catches), Russian uni, and some really really really exotic Japanese fish. They use fancy kitchen technology and apply it to fish preparation as well as condiments, so the approach is not Edo-style, but more so Edo inspired with modern techniques (a lot of it stemmed from Mitsunori Kusakabe no doubt). If you love abalone, and get a chance to try their kelp marinated kuro-awabi from Japan and sous vide, do it.

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place... Kusakabe a disappointment...

シマアジ【縞鰺】shima-aji - striped jack (white trevally), sometimes known as jack mackeral (white trevally is the most accurate name). Very confusing since it is many times not considered "hikarimono" even though the exterior skin is silver, but it is generally categorized under "shiromi"/white fleshed fish from many sushi books (English and Japanese), and sushi chefs will put it on the high end of the spectrum of the trio hamachi, kanpachi, shima aji.

I too looked at my photo and copy of the Pabu omakase menu and they did put shima aji under the "dari course" of the silvery skinned fish (saba, kohada, sanma). Doesn't help they are confusing the diner that way.

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place... Kusakabe a disappointment...

Some random comments

Kusakabe has been opened for 5 months tops, and suddenly one Michelin star. Granted Sushi Ran has had its share of awards over the years, but this seems to cheapen the criteria of which stars are awarded. A lot of other people feel similarly (especially the food eaters community in Hong Kong at the awarding of stars).

Dined at Kusakabe on Tuesday, and first time back in June(?) and both experiences were different, yet similar. Loved the first visit, but couldn't help but notice things about the 2nd visit that could have been better.

Pre-saucing nigiri...well that seems to be the latest trend these days even at high end sushi in Hong Kong. Longtime residents of SF Bay Area are too used to undressed nigiri (e.g. Ino), and then when Sushi Sam's started doing it maybe 6 years ago people went nuts (but his is the extreme) and Kusakabe tries to achieve a balance, but yet there were times when I felt the seasonings could have been minimized a bit more. At least they are not drizzling truffle oil on nigiri, I hate that.

The pacing of the meal I agree could be better, but it is weird to have a few pieces of nigiri, then some cooked dishes, then nigiri, a soup, another dish, then ending with some nigiri. Two visits and the sashimi course was very lackluster. Shaved iced is a nice presentation but I'm not crazy about small ice crystals clinging onto the bluefin and scallop. Also for such a nice place, the quality of the sashimi course could be way better. But Nori-san is not the one plating them.

If they could do a strict nigiri omakase dinner, I would totally go for it.

Kusakabe's set dinner is more like a tasting menu, "omakase" is losing its meaning there. With the 2nd visit they've added a wine and sake sommelier (two people), guess they have to with the star now.

Koo I went to late last year/very early this year and was very disappointed (it was a Wednesday night). Kiyoshi-san was not there that night and the chef who served me is a friend I knew from somewhere else, very talented guy but the quality was really off for the price (for the same price I could have gone to Maruya). But I will say Koo's cooked dishes are still great (e.g. smoked ankimo with beets, or a grilled fish collar, or if Kiyoshi-san hooks you up with a daikon-ni in very good dashi)

I have not been to Yume in Alameda but a few friends swear by it.
Some like Ichi (chef owner's mentor is Kiyoshi-san)

I would still give Maruya a try with the new chef, as saddened as I am with the departure of Hide and Masa.

Oct 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Favorite sushi in SF right now?

Hope you sat in front of Chef Yoji. I had the exact same meal you did Saturday night.

The nigiri pieces were on the small side, consistent with what I was told about Hana.

The rice is very good, the problem is that the temperature was inconsistent throughout the meal, not sure if it was because a different batch was used after the first set. I prefer Kusakabe's rice by far.

Oct 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

My sake was $16 to $18 but they have cheaper options. I mentioned the total (minus tip) above that includes sake (and sales tax).

They do not have your sponge cake tamagoyaki here. Theirs is the textbook common version. Mine was cold on two visits but still nice to have to close and signal the end of omakase. (Yes I was visiting the OC last week).

Oct 15, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

Think it was a tad below that with the Urakasumi included in the final tab.

I actually asked for 2 pieces of marinated bluefin (only one is pictured).

Oct 14, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area
1

Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

Definitely excellent for the area!

Oct 14, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

Dropped by Kasen 5 days ago and got seated in front of the chef. Gladly answered questions about fish (though he never introduced any of the fish as he put down the nigiri, but I was able to figure out most of them), though was very brief with his answers. Looks like a typical shokunin type, but doesn't give you that gruff cold feeling like Keizo/Sushi Zo back in the day.

The sake and beer list is on one small placard, and for a place frequented mostly by local Japanese expats, the selection is small indeed. Settled on a 180 mL Urakasumi sake to kick off the meal, and then just asked for omakase in Japanese.

Tai no konbu jime (kelp marinated sea bream). Old school prep with skin on. Very nice specimen. Very enjoyable sushi rice recipe (clearly not aka shari/red vinegar marinated) that is far better than most places in SF Bay Area. Ended up getting another piece after the tamagoyaki course

Shima aji - a very interesting almost triangular like cut that had a nice light crunch factor. Not a typical curvature nigiri mold (made to look like a fan), but the bite was awesome (the right thickness)

Unmarinated bluefin (akami) - firm meaty specimen. I actually asked him if it was Spanish bluefin and he replied "soh" in Japanese (assuming that is a resounding yes).

Albacore - Normally not a fan of this since it is filler material (and granted I am not a regular here), but I have to say the chef's knifework enhanced the texture of the chew. And for albacore sushi this is one of the best preps I've had in a while.

Santa Barbara abalone - I can tell Kasen (and the chef) takes pride in their shellfish, despite a smaller selection this visit. Fantastic looking specimens that I would probably say surpassed Monterey abalone that I had at Akaoni in Carmel.

Uni - the chef molds it as nigiri without the use of nori, as some schools of thought believe that nori interferes with the flavor of really good uni. I want to say he didn't use a shiso leaf to prevent squishing (during the molding) but I can't remember. Good man.

Sumi ika with shiso - very nice, especially the cross cuts he made on top. It was not as good as the piece I had at Wako in San Francisco recently.

Chef then put down a piece that looked like kohada, but it seemed a tad smaller. So I asked him if it was kohada or shinko, which he paused for less than 2 seconds before confirming with me that it was shinko. Quite the surprise! Ended up doubling down on this one, with the 2nd piece nearing the end where he folded/molded 3 pieces together. Great marination on this specimen.

Mirugai - Haven't had good geoduck in a long time, and even high end Japanese sushi restaurants in SF Bay Area get inconsistent quality specimens. Can always rely on Kasen to give a nice piece with ample bite and texture.

Toro - chef apologized for not having chu-toro. I wouldn't say the toro was earth shattering, but it was pretty good and maybe even better if marinated. But I will admit that it looked very beautiful, like fatty marbled well distributed Japanese beef (falling frost/shimofuri distribution).

ikura - shio/salted version and clumpy. I was rather disappointed that he would serve this. Sushi Koto's shoyu ikura is far superior and is a delight to have in their kaisendon. The downer of the evening

Santa Barbara ama ebi - chef makes these delicate slits on top and removes the tail, as if he were serving shiro ebi. I love Santa Barbara fresh spot prawn. It's got that awesome crunch factor. I cringe when I end up having ama ebi at restaurants that are mushy from being pre-frozen.

Anago - very tasty, meaty yet tender. The way the piece wraps around the shari is rather unusual. I would have to agree though, once you have Japanese anago at a Ginza-esque sushi restaurant, you will never be the same again.

Tamagoyaki - sadly not the chef's forte and not my favorite

Scallop - from Hokkaido of course, but much tastier and meatier than what I've had before. The best one for me is Akiko's (prior to a recent re-org) in SF where they flew in Hokkaido scallops from Japan without going through flash/deep freeze (or so they said).

I was asked if I wanted the ama ebi head fried, grilled, or in miso soup, of which I opted for the soup. "Antennae" clipped, but that roe in the head was awesome. Also, traditional shop here uses aka miso/aka dashi, with a slight smokey and very mildly sour presence.

Asked the chef then to make a piece of blue fin akami marinated in soy sauce (shoyu zuke) which he was also doing for 3 Japanese customers to my right. He probably marinated the slices for about 5 minutes, and it was definitely far better than the unmarinated version. Definitely the way to go if you get bluefin (dorsal) and perhaps if he has chu-toro.

Saba - Kasen's other claim to fame in the JP community is their saba (or anago) battera, especially if you get it to go they put them in these neat boxes. So saba nigiri is a less calorific way to go. Chef always nails the marination of the mackeral down. Granted it is likely not Japanese saba (looks more like Norwegian, and I've had goma saba and masaba before), but it is so tasty compared to most places in SF Bay Area (even better than Ino). Can you imagine how ridiculous this would be if they used goma saba or masaba for this?

Crab - not sure why I got this, but it was good and filled my fix. Now if only he had kani-miso...

Not on the menu but spotted in the fish counter, ika geso (squid legs). No seasoning at all, but very tasty.

Ankimo - not the greatest, but not bad.

At this rate I was getting pretty full so decided on a hosomaki. Wasn't sure if they had takuan, so ended up getting the cheaper veggie option, kanpyo maki and it was very satisfying.

If I lived closer I would definitely return to try more seasonal items and their osechi...

Oct 14, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area
1

Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

Is that pen shell/tairagai in photo #7? So hard to get find that in NorCal sushi shops! Last year's visit...the mirugai was ridiculous, as was the chef's knifework and detail...and the way he preps/cuts abalone. If only I could visit when they have a full lineup of shellfish...

Oct 06, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

The Great Wonton soup quest (trying to find east coast style wonton soup in SF)

Actually, Mark you did not order wrong.

When this restaurant first opened they did try to focus entirely on Cantonese noodles and food around it.

But as time went by, whoever is in charge decided to spice things up with variety to also do various stir fry, and introduce other elements of regional and southern Chinese. After having noodles at traditional Cantonese noodle shops in Hong Kong (that specialize in this stuff) in last two years to understand it better, then coming back sometime last year to try one noodle dish, I can honestly say King of Won Ton are not really putting the effort into their namesake, and it sounds like the regional Chinese and Southern Chinese/non Hong Kong Cantonese side of the menu isn't any better either.