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Columbus trip report

Wow - I was quite impressed with the food scene in Columbus. It is definitely not the Ohio from 25 years back!

By coincidence, I ended up going to 3 of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants...

Ocean Club - got a great bottle of Chautenau de Pape where wines are 50% of under $100 (?). The food was good - nothing outstanding but passable. Blackened fish - quite good though a bit on the sweet side and the steak was cooked perfect medium-rare. Oysters - yummy

Martini - only found out same owner. The fresh mozarella appetizer is a must! This is the 2nd time I've had the fresh mozarella made on premise and it is a treat! Steak again was cooked perfect medium rare.

Marcella - probably my least favorite place. Had the gluten free pizza - pesto good - but pizza also isn't my favorite.

The Pearl - Quite the fusion type of restaurant - oyster bar but with a menu that was a mix of everything - in particular a lot of eggs appear in the dishes. Had the short ribs which was quite good - but my colleague had flank steak with kimchee fried rice. Being a Korean - the kimchee fried rice is comfort food. It was so good that I went back on my last night to have this dish. Quite surprised to find the dish - will definitely make it at home!

Deep Wood - this was the gem in town that topped everything. Can definitely hold its own among the best in the Bay area - without the Bay area prices! Since it was happy hour, all the wines were sold at retail -- what a steal! Everything was executed quite well. Potato soup - vichyoisse - was the best dish. Light yet creamy - both my colleague and I were fighting over it! The accompanying salad wasn't that impressive. Sardine dish with eggplant and lentils and roasted tomatoes - was ok nothing too memorable. Scallops in a choux pastry - scallops were done quite nicely - my colleague's favorite dish. Then a trio of beef: steak tartare - one of the best that I've had, beef marrow - rich and satisfying, and oxtail ravioli in an onion soup which had a slight tartness - very interesting flavors that worked well. And if you're into whiskeys - a very wide array of selections as well as some pretty good wines. In fact, a lot of the restaurants had great wine lists.

May 01, 2013
jkfoodie in Great Lakes

Straits Cafe in Palo Alto has changed to Indo Restaurant and Lounge on sign

Had dinner last night. A group of people who worked with Cafe Straits is in the process of creating a new restaurant. It seems like the menu is similar to Cafe Straits although one of the managers told us that they're going to transition to items that are more Indonesian since the chef is Indonesian. We tried all but one of the items on their Happy Hour menu (everything $5) - the satay sauce was quite good - it's more spicy than traditional peanut sauces. I didn't care for the tuna tartare but my colleagues liked it. We also ordered Basil Spicy Chicken curry which was quite good. I think if they can work out the kinks and have a more focused menu, has promise. Prices are reasonable for Palo Alto though the range is quite large - entrees from $11 to $32. Will try the Indonesian entrees when I go there next.

Trip report - 2 nights

After searching through the boards, I had dinner at Sage and Le Cirque. Thanks to everyone for awesome recommendations - paid some bucks but really worth it. And both restaurants were great for dining solo. Sage was a lot more laid back - I also dined at the bar while Le Cirque was about the experience (I dined in the dining room).

Sage - had the chef's tasting menu - I think Sage is a bit more innovative then Le Cirque
- Martini with Nicolet gin - First time I had this gin - very floral with a hint of basil - YUM
- Wagyu Beef Tartare - One of the best beef tartare that I've had. The fried dark chocolate chips and it seemed like a slight cooked egg yolk provided a great complement to the beef.
- Scallops with Oxtail - Worked quite well - the scallops were seared with the braised oxtail sauce so the dish worked quite well.
- Beef Belly - Wow! Never had anything quite like it! The cut of beef is quite marbled so it just melts in your mouth!
- Gianduja Pave - I'm really not a dessert person but olive oil ice cream with basil made a very nice combination

Le Cirque - quite a unique dining experience
- Octopus Salad - The octopus was so tender - didn't have any of the chewiness of a typical octopus. Also, rather than the whole baby octopus it's slices of octopus meat. The curry added a very nice touch to the sauce.
- Lamb - Cooked to perfection! The sauce wasn't unique - it's a simple dish that was cooked perfectly. With this dish, I had the perfect wine pairing (Chateau Rouget Pomerol 2005).
- For a decadent dessert, had a glass of Henessey Paradse
- For women, they give a red box of 2 chocolate truffles - nice touch!

I have found a new reason to go to Vegas - awesome dining!

Jul 13, 2012
jkfoodie in Las Vegas

Gems of the Bay area

On a recent visit to the Bay area, my friend and I spent a Saturday exploring some of the great things that the area has to offer. Here are highlights of our discoveries...

- Arctic nectarines from any of the numerous farmers markets in the area -- like candy!

- Almond coconut chocolate tile with grey sea salt from Poco Dolce - first time I tried the chocolate with salt concept - works quite well

- We discovered the chocolate in a store in Noe Valley called Chocolate Covered where you can find an overwhelming selection of exotic, gourmet chocolates from the Bay area to all over the world

- Oysters on the half-shell at The Marshall Store (wanted to go to Hog Island Oysters but they were closing - at 5pm on a Saturday!)

- Awesome bread at the Wild Flour Bread Bakery in Freestone - it was past 6pm and they were already closed but I had discovered them several years ago when I was staying in Bodega Bay

- Ended the day with drinks at Cavallo Point in Sausalito while viewing the tip of the Golden Gate bridge

Relevant links:

Pictures of the trip are also on my friend's blog:

Store-bought kimchi

Actually kimchi chigae is a way to deal with kimchi that has gotten overly ripe but you just don't want to throw it away. Therefore, rather than using good kimchi, the oldest and stinkiest kimchi would probably be the best for the stew. In desperate times, I've even used the kimchi that is sold in Safeway and other local grocery stores which worked decently.

I use sesame seed oil and sugar (sparingly though) to counterbalance the "ripeness" of the kimchi. Another critical part of the stew IMHO is fatty pork -- bacon, pork loin -- and even Spam work quite well. Good luck!

Trip report - Better Half, Downtown San Diego

The total bill came to about $200. This included a 1/2 bottle of the Vouvray which we had for the first 2 courses and corkage fees for the red wine and port that we brought with us. So the chef's menu without wine was probably about $70-80 per person -- very reasonable price.

Mar 20, 2008
jkfoodie in California

Trip report - Better Half, Downtown San Diego

I visited San Diego last weekend, staying at the Omni in downtown, right by Petco Park. Based on the board's suggestion, my partner and I went to Cafe Chloe (awesome cheese plate and mussels), Cheese Shop (one of the best corned beef hash I've had), Pokez (good carne asada burrito - not the best but satisfied my cravings for a Californian burrito and I did enjoy the ambiance), Taka (treat to have such fresh hamachi and ama ebi and melt in your mouth toro) but the piece de resistance was the Better Half.

When my partner was making reservations for my birthday dinner at the Better Half, he found out that we could do a 5-course chef's menu. He told the restaurant that he was bringing a full-bodied 2004 Hermitage. We were quite impressed with the selection of wines -- I never knew so many wineries had half bottles available. For the first course, we were served pate drizzled with drops of pesto. We then had a soup that was an amazing blend of flavors and texture. A soup bowl with jasmine rice, raisins, toasted almond, cilantro and chili oil was placed on the table. From a small tea pot, a creamy pumpkin soup (with coconut milk I think) was poured over the dry mixture. I've never had anything quite like it. For the first courses, we had a half bottle of Champalou Vouvray 2004 which paired quite nicely with the pate and soup.

Then, we opened the Hermitage which was quite the treat (Chapoutier Monier de La Sizeranne 2004). The main entrees seemed to have been created specifically for the wine. We had braised sweetbread served on top of mashed cauliflower, surrounded by a very rich Madeira reduction sauce with capers. This was the first time both of us had sweetbreads (in fact we weren't sure exactly what they were until we looked it up in Wikipedia). The dish and the wine were a perfect match. We then had a 2nd entree which were veal cheeks served with French lentils with a similar Madeira sauce as the sweetbreads along with Hawaiian rock salt. Frankly, I couldn't really tell what the Hawaiian rock salt tasted like but it sounds interesting. The veal cheek went quite nicely with the wine but the sweetbread clearly stole the show in that the dish seemed to have been created specifically for the wine.

Unfortunately, as with all good things, the end came with bread pudding that had an obligatory candle (fortunately, I was spared the birthday singing that you hear in some restaurants). I'm not really a dessert person and I was quite satiated by the time dessert was served, nonetheless I enjoyed every bite that I could squeeze into my stomach.

This birthday dinner was one of those memories that you tuck away to come back to and savor over the years. Wishing you good eats and wonderful memories!

Mar 18, 2008
jkfoodie in California

Live Octopus, SanNakji

If you're referring to the mini octopus that is served in sushi restaurants -- I've seen them served in LA in Korean sushi restaurants. However, this is considered a delicacy and you have to ask for it and/or be a regular. If there are any Korean-owned sushi restaurants you go to in the Bay area, you should ask the owner (typically the sushi chef) who could give you the scoop. Personally, I could never get myself to try it - especially when my cousins told me that you have to swallow quickly or else the tentacles get stuck to the roof of your mouth. Good luck!

SF Trip Report (Crudo, SPQR, Aziza, Range)

The bar seating at Aziza was actually quite tolerable -- even when we had 3 dishes and 2 serving plates. And it was nice to chat with the bartender who was making a lot of interesting drinks! The bar seating at Bar Crudo was a lot more cramped -- and we sat right by the door. But I'm just thankful we were able to get seating on a walk-in basis during a weekend to enjoy the great food.

Hip place for college-aged daughter

I just posted a report on my visit to SF last weekend. My partner will be back in the City with his college-aged daughter (19 years old) and wanted to take her out to dinner at a cool, hip place -- since she's a design student having a cool decor and architecture would be of interest.

Based on the list and from what I remember, I was thinking about Isa, Zuni, Bistro Aix, Range. I remember that Absinthe used to be a very in place but not sure if that's still the case. Unfortunately it will be this Sunday so will need a place that won't be too difficult to get reservations or walk-in table. Would be interested in getting feedback on these or other places.

SF Trip Report (Crudo, SPQR, Aziza, Range)

I've been a silent champion of this board for a number of years. I've used the board to get recs on the local scene. Now that I've moved out of the Bay area and have come back for a visit, I searched the boards to revisit the awesome food scene in the area. Thanks to everyone, I had a wonderful visit filled with awesome meals!

Note: Of course it would have been nicer to have had tables, but all the meals that I had with my partner were walk-ins and so we ended up eating in the bar area which wasn't too bad.

Dim Sum at South Sea Seafood Village
- The dim sum place I went to when I was living in the Outer Sunset. The place was exactly as I remembered it as well as the food. The abalaone dumplings, pan fried chive dumplings and the Shanghai pork dumplings (can't remember the name of it now) were as awesome as I remembered them. Also ventured to try pig ears which basically seems to be flavored cartilage...

Dinner at Bar Crudo
We had a 20 minute wait to get seated in the bar so my partner and I went to the bar next door. Awesome Caprinhas. The hostess came over to tell us that our table was ready. Even though the bar tables aren't the most comfortable ones, they didn't detract from our enjoyment of very fresh and interesting fusion of flavors and textures that we had from our meal. We ordered:
- Crudo Sampler: the Arctic car and scallops were awesome. The tuna was nothing special and I can't remember the 4th dish but it was also quite good.
- Seafood Platter: they were out of lobster and crab so we had more servings of the other things which I can't complain because they were so fresh and delectable: oysters on the halfshell, mussels and for the first time, I had clams on the half-shell


Brunch at SPQR
Wow what a brunch! Here's what we had:
- Sunchoke salad w/radicchio, almonds, tangerines
- grilled pecorini with mushrooms - interesting concept
- brussel sprouts (caramelized and browned with garlic) - one of the best dishes
- calamari with fried breadcrumbs and onion - you've got to try if you're into calamaris
- polenta pancake with maple syrup - what an interesting combination
- housemade pork sausage - I'm not particular to pork sausage but my partner loved it

Dinner at Aziza -- we first went to Ponzu but was disappointed by the menu so went out to Aziza to see if we could snag a table. We got a seat at the bar and had quite the awesome meal:
- Interesting cocktails: bloody mary with harissa, caprinha with tarragon
- Lentil soup - thick, hearty and oh so filling
- Sardines with lentils and fennel - what a great combo and fresh sardines
- beets with frisee, blood orange and feta
- lamb sausage
- lamb shank - one of the best lamb dishes that I've had
- scallops with creamy lemon rice - made a nice contrast to the lamb shank


Breakfast at Dottie's -- what can I say except that only in SF do you come across a diner that looks like a dive but serves fresh, californian infused breakfast

Lunch - awesome spaghetti and meatballs with a salad of sauteed oyster mushrooms at my chef friend's house

Dinner at the Range - had a good neighborhood feel to the place as well as good, heartly food. In particular the lamb dish was one of the best lamb dishes that both my partner and I have ever had. I also enjoyed the Hawaiian sashimi Ono appetizer and the beet salad. We also ordered a soup but can't remember exactly what it was.

Overall my partner and I had a wonderful time in SF and the great meals provided a special touch to the experience. Thank you all!