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Oakland/Berkeley restaurant recommendations for my 28th birthday dinner with my mom?

Which is why I described it as casual. At the same time, it is calmer and more orderly looking (more "matchy matchy") than Pizzaiolo. I also don't think it loses on formality to the refectory style of Camino (not to mention Camino's excellent cocktails served in ultra informal juice glasses). Additionally, though it has diner style accents, it's not a diner. There's no chrome beyond that on the bar stools and chair frames. The walls are white with dark brown wainscoting. The tables are wood. They have cloth napkins and proper glassware. The bar stools and chairs (and perhaps the checkerboard floor tiles) are the sum total of Hopscotch's diner-ness.

I suggested Hopscotch because, though its Asian accent distinguishes it, its food seems to hit the same target as Rivoli -- comfort food prepared to a high standard at a reasonable price point. Nothing challenging, just very yummy. The excerpts from their current menus below illustrate the similarities.

Rivoli Menu:
bellwether farm ricotta and butternut squash ravioli, brown butter, fried sage, pecorino $18
grilled scallops, potato and artichoke gratin, broccoli di ciccio with pine nuts and currants, tarragon butter, aleppo chile $27

Hopscotch Menu:
Ricotta Gnocchi, peashoots, toasted almonds, lemon creme fraiche $18
Grilled Scallops, mountain yam brandade croquette, mizuna salad, yuzu gremolata $23

I suppose that Hopscotch's (delicious) fried chicken and burger may highlight its casualness, but no more so than does Pizzaiolo's pizza, Box & Bells' burger, Plum's congee, or the Chez Panisse Cafe's much loved fried chicken or rabbit.

I agree that Hopscotch is more casual than the upstairs at Chez Panisse or Rivoli, but I just don't find it substantially more casual than many of the suggested restaurants. Additionally, I think someone who enjoys the food at Rivoli would find much to like at Hopscotch.

May 11, 2014
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland/Berkeley restaurant recommendations for my 28th birthday dinner with my mom?

I'm a bit late to reply, so your date may have passed, but I think Hopscotch would be another good option. Possibly a bit on the casual side, but no more so than most of the other options you are considering.

May 11, 2014
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

East Bay source for dried mushrooms in quantity?

Preferably porcini.

Not wholesale quantity, but the 8oz. - 1lb. I need when cooking for 70 people. Trying to avoid purchasing dozens of overpriced half ounce bags.

Feb 27, 2014
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Shrimp and Grits - SF Dish of the Month January 2014

It's been a while, but the Aunt Mary's version is among the richest I have had and has a lot of Tabasco in the sauce. Not a Worcestershire heavy version at all.

Feb 02, 2014
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland Restaurant Week January 17-26, 2014

Nido is, for me, the clear winner for Oakland Restaurant Week. The menu is $20 per person for a drink (beer, wine, or agua fresca), appetizer, and main course. At that price I assumed it was a lunch offer, but called to check and was told it is dinner.

Here is the menu:
http://www.nidooakland.com/#!rw2014/c736

Tonight when we went there was an additional main course chicken option. We had the pozole and al pastor. The food and service were both excellent.

Choice and real discount to encourage folks to try someplace new, just what I always thought Restaurant Week was supposed to be about.

Jan 21, 2014
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Great China (Berkeley) still great

I don't know how I missed them, as many times as I ate there. Probably just too fixated on the Double Skin.

Dec 18, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Great China (Berkeley) still great

The Peking Duck is good, but it's not my favorite thing at Great China. Other standouts include the Double Skin (amazing combination of hot and cold, crunchy, chewy, and slippery ingredients topped with a spicy mustard sauce), the Crab Buns, the Tan Soo Yook (Korean Chinese sweet & sour beef), the embarrassingly tasty Walnut Prawns, and the Shredded Pork w/ Dried Tofu. Of course I was limited to veg and seafood for this outing, but I plan to do a better job next time.

There are several new additions to the menu that I am excited to try as well. I don't remember seeing Cumin Lamb or Cumin Beef in the past. Same goes for Wok Braised Beef Shank, Five Spice Braised Lamb Shank, Shredded Pork & Lions Head, and one of my all time faves, Mei Cai Ko Ro (braised pork belly with fermented greens). There are also a few attractive new desserts, but they are a low priority for me.

Dec 18, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Great China (Berkeley) still great

Late lunch today, just a couple of hours after its 11:55am opening. Could not order some favorites (like Double Skin) due to non meat eating dining companion, but everything we had was as good or better than the pre fire renditions. Walnut Prawns were great, as were the Oyster Mushrooms with Golden Chives and the Guo Ta Tofu. Best development was, however, the Fish and Vegetable Dumplings, which were much improved. Noodle wrappers were more tender, lacking the gumminess that could be an issue at times in the past. Welcome back to an old friend!

Dec 16, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Saturday brunch near used record shop(s)?

Tasty N Alder looks...tasty. How bad are the waits for brunch on Saturday? Is there a time (early, say at 9:00 or late, say at 1:00) when wait times are better?

Aug 15, 2013
lexdevil in Metro Portland

Saturday brunch near used record shop(s)?

Taking our son to college next week. In order to distract my husband from his empty nest pangs, we'll be hitting up Portland's used record shops on the Saturday (retail therapy is not only for women!). Would love to have a good casual brunch or lunch without going too far out of our way. Any suggestions?

Aug 15, 2013
lexdevil in Metro Portland

great pad thai in Berkeley-Oakland area?

I just skip it in favor of the Chan Pad Poo at Chai Thai. Though it's really just a Pad Thai variant w/ crab, it is much better. I can't understand why their Chan Pad Poo is so much better than their Pad Thai, unless they have simply grown accustomed to dumbing down the Pad Thai because it is such a favorite of the flavor averse.

Jul 07, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Comal - Berkeley

Agree about the great service. We did table 30 (set menu for parties of 8-10) for my father's 76th birthday. The food ranged from good to excellent, but it was the service that really stood out. The few special arrangements we had made (simplified dishes for the under 10s, an extra dish and a chair with a back for my father) were all handled flawlessly. Our server was outstanding. The meal was well paced, dishes were cleared (and packed to take home) as needed, drink orders/reorders were prompt...

Additionally, the sound system is all it is cracked up to be. My father has a hard time in loud venues. Comal manages to sound buzzy and alive, while allowing diners to converse without raising their voices. I hope that this tech spreads to other restauarants; it makes for a very pleasant experience.

Jul 04, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Breakfast Sandwich - SF Dish of the Month June 2013

I guess I'm cheating, because it was last month, but my son really enjoyed the Bacon, Avocado, and poached egg sandwich at Hopscotch. It is served with lettuce, tomato, and pickled shallots on a soft hamburger roll. Worth a visit.

Jun 06, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Eater SF lists OAK eating choices (Oakland Airport)

They fail to mention the most reliable item at OAK, which is the Pancetta, Brie, and Fig sandwich at Vino Volo. Better than not half bad.

Jan 06, 2013
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Anywhere decent to eat in Brentwood (Contra Costa cty)?

It's been a couple of years, but the Nam Kao Tod at Lone Tree Thai was pretty good when I had it. The bulk of the menu looks pretty standard, but Nam Kao Tod is unusual enough that its presence may point to a better than the usual suburban Thai restaurant. http://www.lonetreethai.com/

Sep 10, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

A Week in SF: Save our marriage!

My guess is that Zuni may be on his list because he's heard about the burger. If so, he needs to be okay with a $15 burger, not including fries. Add cheese, grilled onions, and a side of fries and you're looking at a $25 burger lunch for one, before tax and tip.

If the plan is to go for dinner, the burger is not an option. Most entrees will be in the $25-30 range. Certainly fair for San Francisco, but possibly not what your husband thinks of as cheap.

Aug 05, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

A Week in SF: Save our marriage!

Most (or at least many) CHers will happily eat at Great Eastern and Z & Y in Chinatown. In fact, I'd call them both very good choices to meet the OP's needs. Location is convenient to Union Square.

Aug 05, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Hodo Soy Beanery - tofu sold in Bulk at a few Costco: Mtn View, Richmond

Richmond has Spicy Yuba Strips, Five Spice Tofu Nuggets, and blocks of Firm Tofu. Bought some recently. I think that the plain tofu was $5.25 or so for 2.25 lbs., and the flavored stuff was around $6ish for 1 lb.

Jun 04, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Middle School Graduation dinner ideas

Location? Date? Any dietary restrictions or preferences?

Jun 03, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Mandarin Garden in Berkeley

Mandarin Meatballs: Woo hoo! They're still really tasty. Next time I'll ask to pay extra to have them served with a green veg (an option back in the day). The bed of bean spouts didn't do much for them, but the meatballs are so yummy that I couldn't care less.

Double Skin: Very nice. Main difference from the Great China rendition is that Wing added the mustard and sauce to the dish separately, rather than mixing them together first. Ultimate result was nearly identical.

Honey Walnut Prawns: Despite the Great China chef, this dish is a pretty typical version with a thick, rich, mayo dense sauce. The Great China version was very unusual, with a thinner sauce that was orange scented.

Jun 01, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Mandarin Garden in Berkeley

Happy to report that the stuffed eggplant is still very tasty. The string beans w/ a bit of shredded pork were solid. The filling on the pot stickers had good flavor and texture (I don't like it too homogeneous). The salt and pepper calamari was less successful. Not enough salt or pepper, and served with a dark sweet/vinegar based sauce on the side for dipping. Will return soon for further exploration.

May 29, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Help with meals in Chelsea and around St Paul's or other tourist areas [London]

I don't recall any alcohol. This is, basically, a take-away place. As casual as it gets, but very tasty. There is an Oddbins wine shop just down the street and a couple of convenience stores right by the Tube station if you want to try the DIY approach. Consider it an urban picnic.

May 26, 2012
lexdevil in U.K./Ireland

Help with meals in Chelsea and around St Paul's or other tourist areas [London]

Spicy, but not deadly. Get at least a bit of it because the flavor is so good. The bread and veggies will help cool you down.

May 26, 2012
lexdevil in U.K./Ireland

Mandarin Garden in Berkeley

We have not been to Mandarin Garden in several years, but it used to be a family favorite. The owners were (and I assume are) brothers (Wing and Bob, if I recall). For a short moment, they re-named the restaurant after their mother (Yu Ying Garden, I seem to recall), but soon reverted to the Mandarin Garden name. Food was especially good when Bob cooked, but could be variable (though always well above the norm).

The menu looks much the same (not including Great China additions like Double Skin), and I do not remember kimchi in the past. The menu linked above is, I believe, pretty old. A newer online menu exists here: http://www.allmenus.com/ca/berkeley/5... This new menu includes Double Skin, so I assume it is quite recent.

Favorites for us back in the day included:

Mandarin Meatballs w/ Vegetable - small and loosely packed, served in a strongly star anise scented sauce, really lovely when served with spinach.

Crispy Whole Chicken - served in a thin soy based sauce with green onion.

Lemon Chicken - I kid you not. I HATE lemon chicken, but this was different. Ten to twenty years ago the sauce at Mandarin Garden was not a bilious yellow and not overly viscous. It had actual pieces of lemon in it. And it was a bit tart.

Stuffed Eggplant - I've never had it like this anywhere else. Eggplant slices stuffed with pork and shrimp, battered and deep fried, served in a thin soy based sauce with ginger and garlic.

Losses from the past:

Shredded Pork with Bean Paste - we really liked this dish, which does not appear on the current online menu.

Stewed Cabbage or Chinese Greens w/ Chicken Oil

The "Saute" section of the menu, which never made any sense. It was a disjointed collection of dishes, some of which have made their way to other areas of the menu. For example, Shredded Pork w/ Dried Bean Curd is now in the Pork section, where it probably should always have been. Braised Sea Cucumber has properly migrated to the Seafood section, as has Stewed Sea Cucumber with Shrimp Egg. The great Stuffed Eggplant now hangs out in the Pork section.

The organ meat dishes have, however, disappeared entirely. Farewell to:

Pork Tripe & Chicken Gizzard with Ginger Garlic
Pork Kidney & Chicken Gizzard with Chinese Parsley
Braised Pork Kidney
Sauteed Shrimps & Pork Kidney

Though not offal, Egg White Blended with Chicken & Fresh Seafood also appears to be a thing of the past.

All of this leaves me both nostalgic and hopeful. We'll give Mandarin Garden a try tonight, and see how its current incarnation stacks up to our memories.

May 26, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Help with meals in Chelsea and around St Paul's or other tourist areas [London]

Yes! I was ruined for kebabs because Bosphorus was the first place I had them, back when I was a college student visiting London on an extremely limited budget. South Kensington is usually quite out of the way for us when we're staying in London these days, but we make the trek because I have not found any place else that can touch Bosphorus.

May 26, 2012
lexdevil in U.K./Ireland

Help with meals in Chelsea and around St Paul's or other tourist areas [London]

Just over a block from the South Kensington station is Bosphorus Kebabs, my favorite kebab shop in London. It is not really a sit down restaurant, but it has a few cramped tables inside, and two tables outside. We've been eating there for nearly thirty years, and I am always disappointed any time we go to London and do not get there. The food is excellent and very cheap. Last summer, our family of three ate a filling lunch at Bosphorus for under 20 GBP.

Unlike the stereotype, this food is very fresh and there is no mystery meat involved. The hot sauce is especially tasty, so do not skip it. Kebabs are nearly as central to the British take-away experience as fish and chips, so don't miss this. There is a good chance it will be your favorite meal of your visit.

http://www.bosphoruskebabs.co.uk/

May 26, 2012
lexdevil in U.K./Ireland

Advice for Marble Arch area? [London]

The Olympics has managed to throw off our usual summer London plans, so we're staying at a hotel in an area we've never really frequented (the Marriott Park Lane, which I feel very lucky to have booked on points). We're certain to return to some of our favorites and standbys from past visits, but could use advice on the area in the vicinity of our hotel. I'd appreciate tips on the following:

1)Places for an excellent, memorable, special dinner out. Caveats: no jacket required, comfortable with an 18-year-old who enjoys good food, but has an aversion for the precious. Pollen Street Social was a highlight for us last August.

2)Places for reliable, high quality, low stress dinners and lunches at fair prices. Asian suggestions especially welcome.

3)Places to grab a quick bite to go that are more interesting than Pret.

4)Specialties of the neighborhood. Are there any bakeries or other food focused shops in the area that it would be criminal for us to miss?

May 25, 2012
lexdevil in U.K./Ireland

Seeking Eggplant Sandwich in East Bay

Bongo Burger. Three locations near Cal in Berkeley. Northside, Southside, and Downtown.

May 02, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Nam Kao Tod in Bay Area?

Champa Garden

Chai Thai

Vientian Cafe

All in Oakland. None are quite as crispy as the version at Lotus. I like them all.

Apr 22, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area

Citron and glacee cherries

Bingo! Thank you.

Apr 04, 2012
lexdevil in San Francisco Bay Area