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Ace Wasabi Restored to Excellence!

Thank you Ken Lowe! Thank you Akiyo! Thank you Marisa! Thank you to all the Chefs! Thank you to all the Bus Boys and Dish Washers!

I’m here today to tell you my faith has been restored. I can honestly say without any reservation that Ace is back on top of it’s game. And yes, I do believe we here at IrascibleChef had something to do with it…

Of course Ken Lowe’s response to his loyal customers comments ultimately deservedly gets the credit and thanks! The last time I was back, a short while ago, I proclaimed that Ace was back, but this past visit pushes it over the top!

The latest addition to Ace’s dining room—Akiyo our lovely host and manager visibly present and actively participating in our fantabulous dining experience.

We did have to wait to be seated (but it was welcomed.) Great, there’s a favorite place around the corner to get a drink. We were back within the time limit, but we did have an additional 35 minute wait. No big deal—Asahi and Saki does the soul good.

When we were seated we followed the hostess to the back area and this nicely dressed woman apologized for our wait. (I thought that was interesting—very interesting!) I asked the hostess if that was a manager (A visible floor manager was something I highly recommended and had previously been painfully absent. http://www.irasciblechef.com/acewasabiredux/) I was delighted to hear that it was in fact a manager. (I was asked if I would like to speak with her. I said no, knowing I would before the end of the evening.

)

We had many of the past favorites including the Albacore Tataki (which is still the best ANYWHERE,) Tuna and Salmon Tartare Old Style on deep fried Shinto leaves (not on the menu any more—just ask for it Old Style. This time the ingredient I don’t care for was isolated—dill and I think a little lemon that starts to chemically cook the tartare.)

On the rolls side of things we had the Kamikaze—spicy tuna & asparagus wrapped w/ albacore tuna topped w/ ponzu & scallions, which is always a treat, Spider Could be claimed to be the best Spider roll any where, and the newest addition to the USUAL the Ozzy—oh my, it’s soooo goood! The Ozzy is crab draped on top spicy tuna, topped with sliced fresh Jalapenos that give the flavor without too much heat—simply scrumptious!

On the Nigiri side of things—Salmon sushi is my favorite and always a must order—it was fresh and delicious and Hamachi Toro, which I’ve been getting into lately, was as my brother said, “that was the best bite!”

—All was washed down with Asahi and Saki as if there were any doubts…

We were served quickly with a smile by a helpful, knowledgeable server Marisa who did graciously join us for sip of Saki.

As we were leaving I stopped to thank Akiyo, whom didn’t have business cards yet, gave me some chopsticks with her name and my favorite restaurant in SF it’s restoration to excellence. Ken Lowe—great decision, great hire! Thank you!

For the complete review and commentary visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/ace-wasa...

Mar 31, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Dio Deka Birthday Slamma Jamma!

That's great to know! Thanks!

Feb 23, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Dio Deka Birthday Slamma Jamma!

Our waiter, Conan, was right on target all night long. His food and wine recommendations were spot on! He was knowledgeable about the menu items and wine selections, he was friendly with good welcomed conversation. When he was at our table he was like another one of our dinner guests. He knew when to be there when not to be nosing in.

Our custom menu, built for two, went something like this:

O R E K T I K A

Dolmathakia ... Metaxa-braised beef short ribs and creamy rice, wrapped in grape leaves and finished with a truffle scented wild mushroom citrus foam. (I think it's time to let the foam go--why this became a big hit in the culinary world is beyond me...)
I do love grape leaves and these were spectacular!
Octapodi Scharas ... Mesquite grilled Greek octopus, warm citrus olive oil, oregano and micro-green.
Tender like filet Mignon--A treat beyond belief!

Trilogia... Crispy Monterey bay calamari, clam-oregano fritters and fried organic asparagus.

Wonderful combination's of seafood and vegetables!

S O U P E S K E S A L A T E S

Ntomatosoupa ... Fire-roasted tomato and country bread soup, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil.

Pantzaria Salata ... Chilled slow roasted beet salad, candied walnuts, goat cheese, citrus-olive oil and chive vinaigrette.

W I N E
Nemea, Agiorgitiko, Gaia Estate, 'Gaia Estate', Peloponnesus, Greece, 2005

(We had the label... the very nice waiter mounted it on restaurant stationary... it's a long story--we lost it!)

K I R I A P I A T A

Paithakia ... Mesquite-grilled, premium rib-cut, grass-fed
lamb chops, with traditional seasonings lemon-oregano crusted potatoes and spinach

tender, cooked to perfection, and delicious!

E P I D O R P I O
Greek desserts are typically enjoyed alongside a cold glass of water and a strong coffee.

Yiaourti ... Greek yogurt with rare wild thyme-scented Greek honey and honeycomb, toasted Macadamia nuts, seasonal fresh fruits

Milopita ... Warm honey crisp apple tart tatin, vanilla bean gelato and sauce caramel

D E S S E R T W I N E (complements of our waiter)
Kourtaki, Samos, Muscat

Funny, I observed our waiter at times, when he was at other tables and I almost felt like he was cheating on us--giving equally good service, information and conversation to all his diners... I thought we were his favorites--NICELY DONE!)

We said we wanted to take our time and take our time we did... We were not rushed or neglected or anything other than treated like guests of rich family or friends! (RICH: in spirit, in hospitality, and in understanding the point...)

Conan brought us two beautiful and delicious desserts one with Happy birthday written in very good quality chocolate on the rim of the plate--Conan also brought us two complimentary glasses of Muscat! Very nice! Everything was fan-dabey-dosey-tastic--Very delicious!

A very perfect birthday! Thank you Honey!

--IrascibleChef

To read the entire review with pictures, including our stay at the Hotel Los Gatos, please visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/birthday...

Feb 22, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Yabbies Vs Roy's a Smackdown!

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times…

It was some night, a dining experience that won’t soon be forgotten. Family was in town from NY and we were staying in one of my favorite places in the country—San Francisco! I will try to stick to the subject—Food, wine, hospitality!

There are many tours one could take to experience a cities, sites, smells, and tastes. One tour that has never failed to please has been affectionately dubbed the Phil Tour after your humble narrator…

Even people who have been on the tour before, people who try to find fault have been unsuccessful. But these times, they are CHANGIN’!

The Phil Tour might need a face lift, after all, some of the places on the list have been perfect for over 14 years—This is just impossible to keep up! So like the Dow Jones Industrial average updates and upgrades from time to time, the Phil Tour needs a little remodel…

Who should stay and who should go now? (Which reminds me it’s been a while since I’ve practiced Rockband)

Yabbies Coastal Kitchen, a stalwart legend for neighborhood seafood fantastic and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine chain in every city will get a little looksie…

My first experience at Roy’s was about 15 years ago at The Inn at Spanish Bay on Pebble Beach overlooking the ocean—beautiful! It was amazing, it hadn’t been franchised all over the place yet and was too far away to revisit. Since, I’ve been to the one in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Palm Desert—all fantastic!
Roy's on Urbanspoon

And Yabbies, I fell in love with when it first opened 14 years ago and quickly became a regular. I did some advertising work for them in the early days and had an opening of one of my photography shows at the grand opening of their wine store located next door. I became close friends with the owners and staff and was eating or drinking there at least 4 nights a week. The food was always outstanding, regardless of how often they turned over chefs and they did quite a bit! The food and extensive wine list was always reasonable and I would go out with the friendly knowledgeable staff and owners after they closed for the night. Yabbies has always been on the recommend list—always!
Yabbies Coastal Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tale One—the first stop!
I will now try to recreate the dining experience from start to finish:

Half full restaurant, (see my optimistic view point?) pretty much looks the same as usual, except for the lack of customers on a Friday night. No sign of a Manager, hostess, or bartender. There are business cards at the door for another restaurant EOS, that is located off Cole and Haight. Several waiters milling around, rawbar chef standing at attention, busboy, and kitchen chefs visible. The waiter who seats us is also the waiter for our table. We get menus to start.

Waiter: Just to let you know there aren’t any specials tonight because the chef has decided that there are so many great entrees on the menu, specials aren’t necessary.

*3 nervous diners wondering to themselves what the real reason is for not having specials*

iChef (Me): *business must be horrendous not to have specials. And for the waiter to draw attention to it by trying not to draw attention to it is a bad sign.* (Do my friends no longer own Yabbies?) What do we want to drink? Wine? Beer? The wine and dinner menu looks like there are fewer choices than I remembered. Let’s ask about beer.
What kind of beer do you have?

Waiter: Well, let’s see, we have some Heineken, a few Anchor Steam, and…

iChef (Me):You have a few, what does that mean?

Waiter: Well, there are some left over from last night, we only buy a few beers at a time based on the amount of reservations.

iChef (Me): Hmm, well can you check how many of each beer you have before we order?

Waiter: I’ll be right back.

Waiter leaves, busboy drops warm homemade herb bread and olive oil.

iChef (Me): Cousin: Cousin’s husband: What does that mean? Only have a few beers based on reservations. Are you telling us you only have two reservations. That’s not a good sign and sounds ridiculous! The bread is good, we need more. Do we know what we want to eat? Forget the specials—good sign!

Waiter: We have 3 Heineken left, 7 Anchor Steam, and 3…

iChef (Me): I’ll have a Heineken. (before they run out!)
Cousin: I’ll have a glass of Pinot Noir.

Cousin’s husband: I’ll have a Anchor Steam.

As waiter is leaving, could we get more bread—yes! Brings drinks, takes order doesn’t bring bread. We ask the busboy who happily gets more bread and olive oil.
The hot appetizer, tiny crab cake comes out before the four oysters and favorite Yabbies specialty Tuna Poke which come about 8 minutes later… Drinks are finished before appetizers are finished and our waiter is refusing to make eye contact with us because he knows we will want something he is ill prepared to get us. The empty dishes are sitting there making us feel like we are in a sink. The empty drink glasses are reminding us we are thirsty and there are only so many beers we could have any way. Tuna Poke was good, oysters okay, and crab cake small and insignificant.

iChef (Me): Cousin: Cousin’s husband: He’s refusing to make eye contact. If I were a waiter I would bring my own beer in so that I had something to offer the guests. It’s just poor waitering that he would tell us that they only buy as much beer as they have guests. I think they’re about to go out of business. We asked the busboy to remove the plates and for more bread. Here he comes catch his eye! No he’s walking by, my cousin puts her arm out to block his passage! Can we get another round here?

Waiter: Well, I have other customers over there that need something.

We have watched him help table after table, resist making eye contact with us over and over again. It’s apparent that he’s overwhelmed being the bartender, hostess, waiter for too many tables, making excuses for not having specials of a supply of beer—but every single bit of that is not our problem!

iChef (Me): Okay, I’m going to make a suggestion. I say we cut our losses right here and now, pay for what we ate and drank, and leave. Why are we putting ourselves through this?

Cousin: I agree
Cousin’s husband: yes, lets do it.

iChef (Me): We’ll go to Roy’s

Cousin: Okay
Cousin’s husband: Okay

iChef (Me): (I get up and go over to the waiter.) We need to stop our order, we need the check, we have to leave.

Waiter: Is something wrong?

iChef (Me): Yes, we have to leave, we need the check.

Waiter: Is there something I can do?

iChef (Me): Yes, give us the check. (It made no sense to me to try to explain or let him try to explain his way out of this—free dinner couldn’t even help compensate or end the pain and disappointment!)

My Cousin who has much larger balls than me left a big zero for a tip, but left a note with the reason… We did personally give the busboy a tip—he was the only one working.

There will be no more chances—it’s over Johnny, it’s over! Yabbies is off, as in awful, the Phil Tour…

Second Tale—same city!

We got in a cab and sped off to Roy’s on Mission. We had to wait, but were sat before we even finished our cocktails at the bar. (a wait—good sign!) It was Friday and I had a Mai Tai, a Roy’s Famous Mai Tai—bringing Mai Tai Fridays back! Roy’s is charming and elegant, but warm and friendly. They drank beer, and Roy’s had as much as we could drink or order.
Our waiter was nice, well groomed, and knowledgeable.
We ate:

* Tempura Ahi Roll: Panko & Furikake Crisped Spicy Tuna, Avocado & Cucumber $11. This was so super delicious we had ordered another one at the end of our meal!
* Roy’s Canoe Appetizer for Two: Szechuan Baby Back Ribs, Ahi Tuna Poke, Lobster Potstickers, Shrimp Sticks, Kalua Pork Lumpia $28 Super-genius and each item was more delicious than the previous, but my personal favorite was the baby back ribs.
* Roy’s Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi Lobster Butter Essence.
* Roy’s Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé: Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Molten Hot Center served à la Mode. This alone was to die for!

Roy’s has conquered the test of time and palate challenge, reigns supreme, and has pushed Yabbies into the sea. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine is now along side the gods on the Phil Tour!

Roy’s was truly the best of times!

San Francisco
(415) 777-0277
575 Mission Street
For the complete review and commentary visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/two-tale...

Jan 28, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Panda Garden, "Mommy can we get the human beef?"

Panda Garden

45 Padanaram Rd
Danbury, CT 06811
(203) 798-1989

We changed our usual Chinese restaurant this year because the word on the street was that the sanitation in our favorite place had left something to be desired. The health department is constantly being called on by service companies who do work in their kitchen. I personally didn't see dirt, or roaches, or rats, so I will be keeping their name out of this—however, I do believe the people who did say it to be so—we all have to roll the dice...

We went to Panda Garden.

We didn't have the lazy susan, a crowd pleaser with my family. They did however have the crowd favorite Scorpion bowls for two—FLAMING with 3 foot straws! I shared the marvelous cocktail—however, there was a question whether the flaming liquid perched a float our cozy cocktail, was in fact, gasoline! Whether it was or wasn't, wasn't an issue cause it was GOOD! We liked it!
We had scallion pancakes, cold sesame noodles, fried won-tons, and won-ton soup to start.
followed by chicken lo mien, "Human beef," (Hunan Beef) on a stick as my young nephew called it, Mu shu pork, honey prawn, shrimp chow fun with black bean sauce—not on the menu, but requested for.

They did an excellent job with the black bean sauce—those little beans have so much flavor!

The food was fresh, tasty and nicely presented . The food didn't make you feel so full you want to crawl into a cave for the night, you didn't feel like a grease slick and fat bloated either. The day after proved that the quality of ingredients and preparation were all on target and sanitation was adhered too. The kids as well as the grown ups all enjoyed it.

The waitstaff was attentive, friendly, not intrusive. Oh, don't let me forget—accommodating, they made the dish, not on the menu, I asked for by ingredients. Seemed a little further away, but worth it in any case.

IrascibleChef Recommends! Panda Garden

For complete review visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/human-be...

Jan 23, 2009
irascible chef in General Tristate Archive

Aqui Cal-Mex Campbell, Ca

201 E.Campbell Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 374-2784

Aqui Cal Mex in Campbell was something to look forward to because the first time was caught us off guard good! Aqui is a casual, upscale, full service bar, seat yourself, cafeteria tray, pick up your own food when the buzzer starts beeping, but the food quality is really good.

Started off a little rough during ordering because I think they chose to be a little cut-your-nose-off cheap, versus penny-wise that would have made all the difference in the world to me. In fact the more I think about it, it was bullshit!

We ordered two drinks—Margarita on the rocks, and Sangria with NO ICE. Sangria is already chilled why do I need ice? When asked we chose the large 16 oz size. The cashier was new with a manager on his shoulder assisting. The Sangria and Margarita were both in one of those old style juice cooler with a tap on the bar. The manager informed me he would only be pouring the amount of Sangria in the glass that he would if there was ice in it. Umm-kay, if that’s what you think is good business… So he poured it 2 inches from the top. It cost $5.50 for the glass not that cheap considering the cost of the meal itself. If I would have ordered a glass of wine he wouldn’t have put ice in it, or poured less because there was no ice—same thing with soda. Okay, I understand you’re not talking about the same profit point, but… I’m telling you it comes across as CHEAP with a bad after taste. I will order beer in a bottle from now on!

I ordered the same thing as the first time because it was so good—crab cake on a bed of spinach salad and diced mangoes and zesty dressing, sprinkles with crunchy tortilla strips. It’s a very tasty number and for the price of $7.99 I don’t think you can beat it.

My Sous Chef had the Chicken Limon special $8.99 with some noodle cake and string beans. A whole breast of chicken that was tender and lemony, the noodle cake was interesting, but, and the beans needed some seasoning.

The Sangria or the Margarita $5.95 wasn’t as good as I remembered them to be the first time, but I didn’t ask to have the Sangria without the ice the first time and they didn’t tell me they were going to short sheet the bed either—not sure if that played into enjoying it less or not…

We’ll be back—probably.

For Complete review please visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/slumdog-...

Jan 23, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Haiku Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar, Crossriver, NY

Cross River Plaza
Route 35 & 121
Cross River, NY 10518
(914) 763-9120
"Good freakin' food!

When I come to New York, Westchester to be more specific, I don't think about going for sushi. I've been to places in recent history that weren't worth writing or reading about, which equals not worth spending another dime in let alone going back to.

I was looking forward to trying this little number and I've been jonesing for sushi when I come to Westchester for a long time--so seemed perfect.

Well, the ambiance kicked ass and the fact that it did annoyed me because I didn't have my camera. In fact it made me feel like that's why it was so cool...

The waiter seemed to be rushing us when being in a rush was the last thing we were interested in. It was Saturday night, around 8pm, and we were sat right away, with several tables available.

We started with Asahi and hot saki--the way I prefer to start when dining on sushi. One guest started with that AND a fancy umbrella drink with out the umbrella--a White Cosmo: Svedka Raspberry Vodka, Cointreau, White Cranberry Juice & Sour Mix.
Saki hot, beer and Cosmo cold and delicious.

Interesting menu because although it was a Japanese sushi restaurant which also offered Chinese. This is something I noticed in the burbs of NY--Chinese restaurants offering sushi and Japanese places offering Chinese versus stand alone'

We stuck with the Japanese selections and actually ordered additional food a couple of times throughout our night out. One odd thing was that the sushi was priced by each piece versus the standard 2 per. What compounded this oddity is that the same version of the sashimi offerings was priced per 2 pieces. If your concerned about food cost just make the sushi slightly smaller, but really what are we talking about here--the tablespoon of rice can't cost a penny. And it comes off cheap when they don't need too. We ordered Salmon, Yellowtail, Albacore sushi and sashimi and both were lovely, fresh, and excellent quality. We ordered a couple of their special rolls which were interesting and creative, and I would recommend all of them.

Geisha roll: Inside- Shrimp Tempura & Avocado / Outside- Spicy Tuna & Tempura Crunch
Dinosaur Roll: Inside-Shrimp Tempura,Spicy Tuna & Avocado/Outside-Topped With Soft Shell Crab,Caviar & Eel Sauce
Yellowtail and Jalapeno roll

The food, drinks, and decor were fantastic!

--IrascibleChef
For complete review visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/haiku-as...

Jan 23, 2009
irascible chef in New York State (exc. NYC)

Looking for a San Francisco local crab lunch...

I totally agree that's SWAN's is the place to go! The line is long depending on the time and totally worth the wait.

It's crowded, cramped, and quaint—you will love it! Another place I make sure I take my family and friends when they are visiting SF! Even if I'm telling my father I might be passing through SF, he asks if I stopped at Swan's for lunch... Best NE Clam Chowder in the city!

Jan 19, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Ace Wasabi Redux

Ace Wasabi Reux

--iChef Returns to Ace...

As a follow up to my Ace Wasabi: How Important is the Waiter post I needed to check up on an old San Francisco treat--Ace Wasabi Rock and Roll Sushi.

This needed to be a secret--like I was anyone off the street a regular customer (like I have been since 1994.) After all, I recommend this restaurant to my friends and family, I have a reputation!

So How did Ace Wasabi Rock and Roll Sushi do on Thursday 1/8/09?

Let me set the table if you will...

We were sat right away way in the back.

I asked the hostess in this coy, but obvious manner, "We won't get lost back here, will we?"

"Oh, no," she said, matter-of-factly.

And then we proceeded to be left alone. Not in a good way. Alone, to the point of craning neck signaling--something is a miss here, need some help please. I finally asked a busboy but that didn't appear to help. No drinks, no nibbles, no food being prepared, blah blah, blah.

Oh, no Ken Lowe, please say it aint so!

I was catching up with a past colleague and friend, so that part was good, but I brought that part with me to the restaurant with my shoes for example. I wasn't expecting the restaurant to provide that part, versus the food, drinks, and helpful and friendly service smile--I did expect that.

Let's just say that when our waiter did report for duty,

Micheal B (as it said on the bottom of the check) was FANTASTIC! Helpful, friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable, attentive--what I expect!

The food that night, which has never been an issue, was as it always is--Fan-*Bleepin*-da-be-dosey--Tastic!

* Hot sake was hot--the right kind of hot, not the hot that shreds my rooftop or scorches my palette.
* Albacore Tataki--still the best I've ever had anywhere!
* Individual orders of sushi--salmon my favorite--couldn't be fresher or more delicious!
* Salmon Tartar--Old School-style (and you have t ask for that because it's not on the menu)
* Spider Roll--oh the spider roll... Mmm mm good!
* The Ozzy Roll--tuna and Jalapenos never tasted do good!
* The Steiner Roll--shrimp tempura, eel, and cukes--unbeatable combination!

My guest and I left very satisfied!

Recommendation to the diner: Get yourself to Ace Wasabi Rock and Roll Sushi!

Recommendation to management of Ace: I still say there needs to be a strong visible management presence that can see problems (act versus react) as they are happening so you can minimize the issue for the people paying the bills--let's face it this is the restaurant business there are going to be problems--the nature of the beast!

--it's how how big you let those fires get and how you put those fires out--that will keep the people coming back!

--I'll be back!

I might even introduce myself the next time... We'll see!
For the complete review and commentary visit http://www.irasciblechef.com

--iChef

Jan 18, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Pizza

Prior to coming back to NY I asked my young nephew over the phone what we would be doing while I was visiting and he said, "well, I know that we will be eating a lot of pizza, because you love the pizza from this country." Now, this is funny because he's only 8 and even if it was a mix up of words, he's right--eating pizza in NY is like eating something from a different country or planet for that matter. I've eaten pizza from all over the place, even in Italy, and I think American Pizza, NY pizza, kicks more ass than there is ass. NY pizza is the best, I don't care what anyone says on this subject--not the deep dish of Chicago, which is really good, but it's still not NY pizza... it's like it should be called something else because it is great in it's own right--people from Chi-town would not disagree except to say that their's is the best and NY should call their pizza something else...

So, as luck would happen, my brother lives close to possibly the best pizzeria in NY. (Which begs the question why only one visit...) Portofino's happens to be close to the Blazer! (see my Blazer review post Hole in the Wall Alert! ) Unfortunately, we didn't visit while I was back :(

First, they make a slice that's as big a small child and when in a whole pie it measures at least a yard from end to end. (probably an exaggeration, but close!)

Second, the sauce is perfectly seasoned with the right amount of cheese per any size bite.

Thirdly, we can talk about toppings, but I'm going to talk about one topping--broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic and olive oil. I'm still not ready to talk about how unbelievable this combination is--O M G! No, I'm just not ready yet...

Lastly, and I saved it for last because it is in fact the foundation--literally. The crust is thin, not paper, not notebook, but I'm going to call it the Goldilocks Crust--just right! But it's not just right it's just perfect!

Obviously size does matter and their perfect pizza crust is thin yet supportive, 1/8 inch of crispy, crunchy, able-to-support-the-sauce-and-cheese (and broccoli rabe in my case) perfect!

These pizzamakers are the real deal from the old country ginzo's and I mean that with total respect and admiration. This is also a full blown restaurant with unbelievably delicious entrees. Little expensive if you think in terms of a pizza joint, but it's not and it's worth every penny!

*clicking my heels together* There's no place like home. There's no place like home...

To read my entire review visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/portofin...

--iChef

-----
Portofino Pizzeria
138 Goldens Route, Bridge, NY

Jan 14, 2009
irascible chef in General Tristate Archive

Santana Row, Village Bistro at bat:

"The drink / wine menus were pricey--looks like they're trying to offset the relatively reasonable food prices with the higher drink prices. Some restaurants are so clever or should I say, think we're all so stupid! There's a recession going on you know!

The waitress even told us how lucky we were to be able to get a great deal on a half bottle of wine, it was ONLY $24 dollars! And there are 2 glasses worth of wine in a half bottle! $12 per glass--Yay! (I almost forgot about the financial disaster that is currently consuming the rest of the world! $24 dollars for 2 glasses of wine is a bargain!)

We, of course ordered a whole bottle of some french Chenin Blanc, poured into warm wine glasses, and told by the waitress that the wine didn't need a cooler because it was cold.

Signals: Red--Stop, Green--Go, Smile--Happy, Frown--Sad. You get the idea...
Feeling the glass, picking the glass up and feeling it--should signal to the waitress that something is troubling the diner. Especially when my guest noticed my signal of touching and looking at the glass and asked if we should get a wine cooler, to which the waitress told us the wine was cold enough. But not if it's being poured into warm wine glasses. Maybe I'm too picky, but when a bottle of wine costs $42 I expect the glasses to be the proper temperature! Hell, I expect that at any place that serves wine at any price!

Did I mention that the table was not sitting on the floor properly--one leg shorter than the rest--needed a wedge or something. I can't stand putting my arm on the table and shifting weight and the whole table rocks back and forth. Also, I couldn't put my feet straight down on the floor because the legs of the table limited where I could put my feet and move my chair. Bad place for a table.
We ordered:
Small plates
* Heirloom Beets on a bed of arugula with shaved Ricotta Salata cheese on the menu. Very nicely dressed, fresh and tasty. $10
* Confit of Duck leg with pear chutney, visually not what I was expecting, but creatively presented in a ring mold on dressed frissee and served with toast points--very delicious! The duck was moist and crispy and flavorful. The chutney was nicely laced with ginger and not overpowering. Assemble it all on a toast point--a winner! $10
* Braised Duck Strozzupretti: below... $16

Yes, I would say we eat on the slower side. You know take a bite, talk a little, drink some wine, talk a little, take a bite, talk a little, drink some more wine... You get the idea--the idea of the whole dining out experience thing!

The waitress did ask, from time to time, how everything was. In the middle of appetizers she did fly by, observed, and then told us that our entree would be there shortly. I thought that odd at the time because I would say that we were only through a third of our delicious appetizers. Signals! Remember to watch for the SIGNALS, still eating appetizers--DON'T BRING OUT THE ENTREE! Did I mention we asked for the apps to come out first then the entree?
So, after two more bites a different waiter shows up, looking to put down the entree that we were to share AFTER we had the appetizers. My guest did ask me if she could combine the two appetizers to make room, while the waiter stood there with our food. I said "NO," hoping he would get my SIGNAL and take the food back until we were ready for it. I got his signal that he wasn't going anywhere and my guests signal that I should be more reasonable--and I accepted her signal. After all...

Now, we pushed the delicious apps aside and started on the entree. Listed on the menu as Braised Duck Strozzupretti, a main dish of duck, told by the waitress it's actually pasta tubes with duck, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, pearl onions, and a brandy cream sauce. Sounded delicious, although, I still believe, not as advertised on the menu. Still sounded good. Small portion though, long pasta size made it hard to put it in your mouth gracefully, stingy on the amount of duck, and could have used a bit more flavor. The dish was pretty as a picture though. I did have to ask for cheese... The warm bread, for the table that I always enjoy, was perfect for dunking. Which I enjoyed more than taking forkfuls.

The waitress asked if we wanted dessert, but looking to drop the bill--was in hand motioning the drop. We asked to see the dessert menu, which the waitress brought us and at the same time dropped the bill! SIGNAL to us from the waitress--get the hell out!

Before we could even open the menu the waitress was back to ask us if we decided to get out or order dessert, actually she did this twice, just like she did for the original order. We said, "no," on the third ask and put the credit card on the bill. Which, ironically I might add, she was then in no rush to pick up and take our money!
My complete review at: http://www.irasciblechef.com/santana-row-village-bistro-at-bat/

--IrascibleChef

378 Santana Row
Suite 1035
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 248-9091
http://www.thevillagebistro.net/

Jan 03, 2009
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Fuki Sushi

Not bad, not bad at all. Not spectacular either. Decent is what it was and I would go back.

I should preface by saying, I love sushi and all the accoutrement’s and ceremony that revolve around the dining experience. That being said, this dinner was a dining out of hunger and need—not for pure enjoyment. What do I mean? I mean we had a time limit and NO hot sake nor beer… So sad.

The restaurant itself was very charming and decorated very nicely with Japanese touches. Clean, comfortable, and cozy!

We did have a very nice and accommodating waitress. I did have to do the double take when I heard her speak to us. A blond haired, blue eyed, white skinned girl sounding like authentic Japanese girl, speaking second-language-English—I had to check what my ears and eyes were separately telling my brain.”Veg-ah-tobbles,” made me look.

Wasn’t happy with the look of the albacore (gray in color) or salmon (small in size) sushi, but they both tasted fine. Fine. I also had a spicy shrimp tempura roll that had more tiny golden roe on it than I’ve ever seen as a garnish (not my favorite—garnish or not) but was almost easily brushed aside. Very tasty And all washed down with hot green tea—which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Leaving the restaurant was the most difficult part, as getting the check, checking the check—thankfully, needing the check to be corrected ($20 dollars of refilled cokes had to be removed—honest mistake), and finally paying the bill at the register took longer than reasonably necessary. See even explaining took a long time…

I would definitely try Fuki Sushi again, if I’m in the right place and the right time—there are so many places to go! Next time I will include the hot sake and beer! (definitely check for the soda refills—if anyone’s ordering them!)

—iChef
For full review please visit http://irasciblechef.com

sidenote: when apologizing for the bill our authentic Japanese sounding waitress sounded more like a German accented, second-language-English speaking girl.

www.fukisushi.com

4119 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 494-9383

Oct 06, 2008
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Outback Tonight! Outback San Jose

We did the old-barnstorming-pop-in before the movie, Eagle Eye, trick. Told the waiter that we were in a rush. He handled it like a champ! We split: a No Rules Burger—medium, with everything except tomato and onion with the blue cheese dressing on the side, fries and a 22 oz Sam Adams October fest. Man O’ Man do they make a tasty burger at Outback! Menu and descriptions.

And I would dare say it was picture perfect! Fluffy bun, plump juicy burger, and fresh nicely done toppings! The perfect amount of food for two. Not too full, just right!

Of course we still got the buttered popcorn, sour something candy, and a large diet to wash it all down with.

Advice: Stick with the burgers, fries, and beer and you won’t be disappointed! Every once in a while (get a little excited drooling at the pictures on the menu) we stray from the proven recipe of perfection and we are muy disappointed—you will see the pretty pictures and get sucked in—don’t, just take our advice! Or don’t, you’re a big-boy (or big-girl, but you have to be careful with that one!) you have free will, live and learn!!! For full review please visit http://irasciblechef.com

—iChef

Oct 06, 2008
irascible chef in Chains

How Important is the Waiter: Ace Wasabi's Rock N Roll Sushi

I need to preface this review by saying that Ace Wasabi is one of my favorite restaurants. This review is about my last experience this past weekend. And I won't be holding this last visit against them because I've been there a million times and this one horrible visit shouldn't ruin it. However I will be watching very closely until I can remove this past experience from my mind.

The failure on this night rests squarely on the waiter, however a manager should have picked up on it if they were present! For full commentary please visit:
http://www.irasciblechef.com/ace-wasabi-how-important-is-the-waiter/trackback/

How important is the waiter to your dining experience?
Some have been outstanding, some just good, but only one waiter disaster (but nothing that Ace Wasabi's fabulous food couldn't make me forget)--I care not to recall that evening here--know he paid dearly for his gross incompetence.

But this past Friday we had a new experience--UGLY! Ugly that couldn't be covered up by the fantastic food, beer, and hot sake. This is because the hot sake was so hot it scorched my tongue and I couldn't really taste much after that.

We didn't have to wait to be seated at 7:45PM which seemed odd, but a good thing at the time. But we were seated all-the-way-all-the-way in the back where it was hot and steamy--the window that we opened let smokers smoke sit at the table with us, which we agreed was better than the heat and humidity we were experiencing.

We did wait for at least 15 minutes before anyone came by to ask if we wanted dinner. Our humble waiter smelled like smoke and looked a little disheveled, like he just rolled out of bed or something else. We wanted drinks! *We were still in the benefit-of-the-doubt zone* We ordered drinks and Tuna Tataki-- Ace has the best Tuna Tataki (recipe) I've had anywhere!

The drinks weren't brought out to the table until the Tuna Tataki was brought out--usually the drinks come out first. It wasn't that busy for a Friday night. I have been there on nights where there are wall-to-wall people and never waited for a drink! Packed--you can't even move without your body-rubbing, brushing, and or bumping with hundreds of strangers. (Okay Phobic's, it's a happening place, cool good looking people--not always unwelcome...

)

When the large Asahi beer, hot sake, edamame and Tataki were dropped off at the table the waiter didn't bother to take the rest of our order... (Why would he?) No one checked back to see how we were doing--if they had they would have seen we were out of drinks and food--with no food on the way! I had to ask the Busboy to get our waiter. Patients dwindling!

We ordered more beer and hot sake and a series of rolls and sushi--very excited! Our excitement evaporating after 30 minutes went by--I got up to physically locate our waiter--I found him looking at this fancy new age Jukebox and he was surprised to see me. I asked where our drinks were, "Oh! Coming right up." he said. Have you seen my patients they were here a minute ago--I'm sure!

While in the restroom, he brought beer with some excuse why the sake wasn't also delivered. Still it was a half an hour without a word or even visiting the table. The people I was with asked about our food order and like a deer in the headlights--it appeared that he forgot about our food. GREAT!

The sake arrived just barely warm--I sent it back! I didn't wait almost 45 minutes for hot sake to be just barely warm! Well, the waiter showed me! I shot the boiling sake down and torched my mouth--you've been there, shreds of the roof of your mouth hanging down on your newly singed tongue...

Again no one checked to see how we were doing, I couldn't taste a thing anyway! We needed more drinks, we needed more wasabi, we needed attention! We eventually needed the check and again NO ONE!

—iChef

http://www.irasciblechef.com/ace-wasa...

Sep 24, 2008
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

China Stix in Santa Clara suggestions?

A recommendation from a trusted (foodie) colleague. As we were told from the onset that "it won't look like much on the outside" and it didn't--to complete the visual it didn't look like much on the inside either. But we were there for the Peking Duck! The same duck that seemed to elude us in Beijing--or was it?

We tried in Beijing to communicate, we really did! My goal was to say 2 things--Hello, pronounced, "nee how," and thank you pronounced, "shia shia." I felt stupid, but I did make an effort. Communications in China otherwise was impossible, even simple sign language went no where--painfully slowly!

Well, communicating with our waiter was like trying to communicate with our taxi driver in Beijing. IMPOSSIBLE!

I wanted Tsing Tao, but I tried to get the hot sake on the menu, but as much as I tried I ended up with cold hot sake. My daring Sous Chef tried the plum wine that was so sweet we could have made Shirley temples for all of china!

SWITCH! Tsing Tao, and Chardonnay!

Let's just say we got the Peking Duck for 2, not that it says it's for 2 on the menu, but when asked if it would be enough for 2 we were told, "it is a whole duck! With pancakes."

Okay we came for the duck, why mess it up with any other flavors, or possible disappointments? The duck, and only the duck, it shall be! For 2.

It was presented very nicely with head and beak included--no extra charge!
The skin was crispy, the meat was juicy, the fat was all but nonexistent! The pancakes were individually handmade, the Hoisin sauce was sweet, but not too sweet, and the scallions were uniformly sliced thin and not over powering.

By the way, when we mentioned that we wanted Peking duck 3 ways our waiter asked us as if we were lunatics if we saw that on TV or something--and we must have it because it was on TV! (he also mentioned that we wouldn't like the soup any way--way number 2 of 3, because it looks unappetizing with the duck bones sticking out--annoying American's watching too much TV!)

If you understand that you are there for very good Peking Duck and not so much else--It was that. I enjoyed it very much and will be going back!

My complete review at: http://www.irasciblechef.com/china-stix/

--IrascibleChef

Aug 28, 2008
irascible chef in San Francisco Bay Area

Lee's Sandwiches

... Just back from Beijing where the Hotel Kunlun dining area always smelled like you just walked into a Chinese Restaurant. I was still in the mood for a little more Chinese! As I said I don’t like to be disappointed and if there’s too much salt or my fries aren’t hot enough at McDonald’s I’m going to complain and send them back!

So, I’m going to Give Lee a shot! Yes, they had regular sandwiched as well, but come on—let’s roll the dice from up high!

I had rice paper wrapper spring rolls with shrimp and roasted pork and chicken lo mien. $2.50 each! Delicious! Fantastic! What a find!

Then I tell a couple of people about it and they tell me it’s a chain and they are all over—Double Fantastic! So, good job Lee and please keep up the great work! For the entire article visit: http://www.irasciblechef.com/accident...

—IrascibleChef

Aug 25, 2008
irascible chef in Chains