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Great spicy noodles without soup

Just ate these for lunch and they were great. While soft, the noodles still had some spring to them. After I asked if the dish had good ma la the waitress said she'd order it extra hot for me. It was spicy, but just at a comfortable level. There was a lot of sauce, so pretty close to something like a stew rather than soup. The duck had bones in which I don't usually mind, but since it was a saucy noodle dish it was messy and near impossible to get a bite of meat with any of the other components (mushrooms and baby bamboo).

Great spicy noodles without soup

I wanted to love this dish. It was just kind of clumsy. Soft noodles with globs of the sauce, the spice not well incorporated, egg over cooked... Their descriptions of spice level scared me into ordering level 3, but clearly as a lover of spicy food I should have ordered at least 4. It was so heavy I felt bad most of the afternoon too.

Good Parmesan cheese in N Cal stores?

It was missing for a trip or two, but I bought it Sunday at the Concord Costco.

Check Please: Cosecha (Oakland); Bull Valley Roadhouse (Port Costa); Michael Warring (Vallejo) aired 4/16/15

I had dinner at BVR on 4/17 for the first time. Service was excellent; friendly and knowledgable. We really enjoyed the drinks off the pre-prohibition era cocktail list (8). They take a LONG time to carefully make their drinks. A friend joked that we should order a second round when they dropped the first and he was correct. Wine list is super compact. We brought a bottle and were not charged a corkage. The neat pours (2) off their aptly named "Booze" list were embarrassingly small. Our party of four shared:

Oven roasted bone marrow, steamed mussels, grilled caeser, walnut and strawberry salad, fried chicken, and the pork chop.

Everything was good, nothing was remarkable. I'd eat any item again, but I'd not travel out of my way (to Port Costa!) for them.

As a destination dinner I'm not sure it quite makes the cut, but as a weekend road trip/adventure for lunch or brunch I'd bet it does. For what it's worth, it was busy for the duration of our relaxed meal. I believe we were out the door for ~$360 with tax and tip.

PLEEEEZ HELP ME!! Dining on VDay?? I know, I know... [San Francisco]

Veal Sweetbreads

I've had good sweetbreads at Chevalier in Lafayette. The place is old school French and very overpriced IMHO.

Molcajete like in the Yucatan

These folks profess it to be their specialty in Concord. I have yet to try the Molcajete, but have had a great breakfast at the place. If you plan on going note the odd hours since it's in an odd office park like location.

NOLA Po 'Boy and Gumbo Kitchen [Concord]

As I threatened above, I went back and had the catfish po'boy again. It was delicious once again. I noted the option to make it combo for $5 more, which included a beer and a choice of side... a good deal! Had some Cajun fries which could have been a bit crisper, but the seasoning was great.

Having seen the fried chicken last time we knew we had to get it. The four piece serving came with two huge wings, two breasts, and choice of two sides. The chicken was juicy, crispy, well seasoned and spicy. Some of the best I've had. For side we had the cheese grits which were a miss for me. The only cheese I could detect was some pre-shredded bagged stuff sprinkled on top. The green beans were either canned or decimated by cooking. Despite that turn off, again the seasoning was on point.

The tab hit $50 again (with leftovers to take home) and they now take credit cards.

visiting Sacramento from SF

This will probably get shutdown because this thread belongs on the CA board, but I'll try to sneak in a shout out to the outstanding folks at Mulvaney's and Waterboy. Both are in midtown, reasonably accessible from the freeways and open until 2:30. A more casual all-day place is One Speed.

All of the above have strong ties to the growers in the area.

Sep 19, 2014
SLRossi in California

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

Tried out Assembly this weekend for dinner. The place has the very trendy décor of hard surfaces everywhere, which makes the place pretty loud. It was possible to have a conversation, but I bet when there are larger parties, etc. it must be a challenge.

The service was competent, if slightly unprofessional for the price point (server didn't know wine list, busser took dirty dishes from one table to another, they reuse utensils for courses, etc.).

Overall I thought the food was pretty good, with a quibble or two. We started with the corn chowder and that was the weakest dish. It wasn't particularly hot when served and it was pretty thin in terms of both the amount of goodies in it and thickness of the liquid. It was just kind of there with a faint smokiness and sweetness.

Our other starter was a fabulous peach, mozzarella, and zucchini salad. Seasonal, simple, well seasoned and on point.

We shared an entrée of halibut with spaetzel, corn, lobster mushrooms, and hazel nuts. The fish was just barely overcooked, making it a touch dry in the thinner parts but largely ok. The mushrooms were treated with a deft hand and were the star of the dish. Overall I thought this was a well conceived dish featuring wonderful seasonal items.

Dessert was an almond cake with peaches and basil ice cream. The cake was the kind of course; rustic cake I love. The combination of the peaches with the basil ice cream stole the show though. Very good.

The wine list is compact and reasonable. Quite a few beer choices.

The place has been open about five months.

Aug 11, 2014
SLRossi in California

Biscuits and Gravy: SFBA Dish of the Month July 2014

A little late, but why not? Tried the Country Special at Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos. This version is a couple of biscuits topped by sausage patties, scrambled eggs (I subbed over easy), and cream gravy. It comes with your choice of hash browns or grits. The biscuits were a little hard to evaluate since they were loaded down by all the good stuff on top, but I can say this was delicious. One of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. The gravy appeared to meatless since it came with the sausage patties. It was well seasoned with salt and pepper. I chose the hash browns which were competent but nothing more.

The place is just off HWY 17 so it's definitely worth the stop if your hungry.

NOLA Po 'Boy and Gumbo Kitchen [Concord]

Finally tried this place last night. The original poster nailed the service feel. We essentially let the waitress pick out what we should eat. She recommended the catfish po'boy and a combo plate of red beans and rice, etouffe, gumbo and jambalaya.

The po'boy was fantastic. The catfish was well fried and the somewhat heavy coating was highly seasoned and a bit spicy. The sandwich had a good amount of the requisite toppings. I'll eat this again!

The combo plate was not as successful. The beans/rice were just meh. The etoufee had good flavor, but was thickened too much and was kind of a gloppy mess. The jambalaya tasted ok, but was really dry. The gumbo was pretty good. I'd skip all the above and focus on the po'boys... or the fried chicken that looked awesome.

No room for dessert!

With two LA beers the tab was $50. Cash only!

Rangoon Super Stars - Berkeley

I've been for lunch a couple of times recently and really enjoyed the garlic pork and chili beef dishes I had. I ordered them both spicy (mild, medium, spicy, or very spicy) and they were quite spicy. I can handle some heat and I would not have wanted the dishes any hotter.

Service is awkward and weird, but I've always had what I needed. I'll note that they do now have a beer and wine liquor license.

Va De Vi Update [Walnut Creek]

Most recent post I could find was from 2011, so here's my update:

Once upon a time Va Da Vi was a go to place for me and clearly one of the best options in the WC/Lafayette area. Based on my visit Wednesday evening it's clear that the food has slipped... far. After some very positive press a number of years ago I remember the staff getting self-important and that's what kept me away for a few years. At least I can say that the hostess and waitress were both friendly and as attentive as possible considering her section was split indoors and out, so at least that was no longer a problem on my visit.

The food was lack luster, with a clear theme of under seasoning. There was not one dish I would order again. We had:

Beet salad - Needed salt and some acid.
Tempura fried stuffed squash blossoms - Filling was good as was the spicy sauce over the top, but the coating was way too thick and not very tempura like and ended up undercooked and chewy.
Ceviche aquachile - Needed salt and had nearly zero heat. Isn't heat requisite in this dish? So bland...
Grilled prawns with bacon grits - Best dish of the evening. Prawns were super simple but cooked correctly and seasoned. Grits were just ok.
Lechon - The pork belly came on too thick/big pieces of relatively chewy/gooey rice cakes. The sauce was like a thick sweet and sour. The dish was kind of a gloppy mess once you started eating it. The pork belly itself was tasty (is it ever not?) when you ditched the rest of the mess.

The glass wine list is still long with interesting choices from around the globe. The wine was the best part of the meal by far.

It will take some very positive press for me to bother returning in the future. I'm so sad to see one of my old favorites fall so far.

Afternoon drive from San Francisco to Reno

Blue Frog & Grog Grill no longer exists, it has been converted to a Fuddruckers.

Sfogliatelle/Focaccia at 54 Mint Il Forno, Walnut Creek

It is the 54 Mint folks who also opened a 54 Mint in Concord a couple of years ago.!concord/c1qss

1686 Locust st. - Walnut Creek
tel. 925-476-5844

Revel Kitchen and Bar [Danville]

I didn't see a post on this newish place from the Esin folks, so I thought I'd post about a rather pleasant meal I had there early Saturday evening. The space that was The Crown (English pub) has been converted to a sleek, modern and comfortable space. It was not too crowded when we were there so the noise level was fine, but we walked by it at around 9:00 and the place was packed and I bet noisy.

We had several cocktails that were all well prepared. They have a few wines on tap that are offered by the carafe, had a good Qupe Grenache. We ate:

Deviled eggs
Kale salad
Grilled baby octopus - my least favorite. A little too chewy and not much flavor without the dipping sauce.
Lobster sliders - served on split brioche (?) so very lobster roll like.
Lamb slider - Very good, but the meat was spicy and the menu did not mention that... my five year old was surprised!
Spinach tagliatelle with braised rabbit - excellent
Cassoulet - not very seasonal, but a tasty not traditional version

I'll definitely return when looking for a meal in the area.

Are there any restaurants in the Bay Area with kid play areas?

Skipolini's in Walnut Creek and Clayton have large play areas.

Birthday dinner in East Bay ... something that is not Chez Panisse or Commis

I had my birthday dinner there last week and was pretty underwhelmed with the food. Really liked the wine by the glass list and service though.

PoppaCakes – Custom built ice cream sandwiches in Rohnert Park

Sorry to say it, but I do believe this place is now closed. I've been meaning to post that I stopped by on Friday 6/28 at 3:00 and found a dark store with a three day pay rent or quit notice on the door. Too bad, I really wanted an ice cream sandwich!

Where to buy veal shanks in the East Bay?

Lunardi's in WC or Ver Brugge in Rockridge.

Rare Hamburgers in Oakland/Alameda?

Never had a rare burger come out of Barney's kitchen despite ordering it that way. The only true rare burgers I've had in the East Bay the last few years were at Cafe Rouge and Wood Tavern.

Any great liver and onions in the East Bay?


Plaj - Scandinavian in Hayes Valley [SF]

I had dinner here on Saturday night. I was really looking forward to the meal based on a variety of things I've read, but left overall unimpressed and not likely to return. While perhaps a nitpik, we were really put off when we were sat against a wall that had a variety of food and beverage stains on it. I expect more than that at this price point.

We started off with the White asparagus, trumpet mushrooms, fennel confit, egg 65°C, hollandaise sauce, soft rye croutons. I was most excited about the fennel confit, but I believe it was pickled and the flavor completely dominated the dish, drowning out what probably was a lovely richness between the egg and white asparagus. The dish lacked salt as well.

Next was the Coriander crusted tuna, licorice ponzu, parsnip chips, ginger jam, horseradish and Krondill poached lobster Skagen, white fish caviar, horseradish, avocado, chili. The tuna was properly seared and tasty, but was nothing special. The ponzu sauce on the plate dominated the dish. The lobster was the best dish of the evening. It was balanced, rich, and we simply just wanted more. My only gripe is that the foam took over the plate on arrival and we had to hunt for the other components a bit. At $21 for an appetizer a few more bites would have been appreciated.

We moved on to meats as our mains and had the Porter braised ox cheek, roasted beet root, fried onions, horseradish and Saddle of venison, Scandinavian gratin, Juniper berry jus. The cheek meat lacked any of the gelatinous texture and richness that we had expected. Most of the serving tasted like a somewhat dry stew meat. A few bites approached something akin to a short rib, but nothing like a cheek. As I write this I'm wondering if they subbed a short rib. The flavor from the porter sauce was rich and lovely, the beet root puree was forgettable, and the crispy fried onions added a nice contract in texture and had the salt the dish very much needed. The venison arrived nicely pink and just past medium rare. We asked for it to be on the lesser side of the advertised medium rare. It was tasty, but really needed the jus to combat it's lean dryness. The gratin was rich and tasty, but both the gratin and the meat again lacked salt.

Food summary take away from my visit is that out of five savory courses only one did we really like and three of five lacked salt. We did finally ask for salt with our mains because it is not offered on the table.

Service was good through out the meal. Nothing notable in terms of either positives or negatives. The two recommened glasses of wine were delicious and pared well.

For $200 with tip I'm looking for a bit more. Too many options in SF for me to return here.

Brown Sugar Kitchen Review [Oakland]

The secret to their batter is that it is yeast based and richened with butter.

Dinner in Concord

I thought the same, but neither of those are anywhere near quiet.

Sichuan House in Walnut Creek

And it turns out I live within their delivery range... dangerous. As a result I have now tried: Spicy Boiled Fish, Sauteed Pea Sprouts, Tea Smoked Duck and Mongolian Lamb. The boiled fish and pea sprouts were as good as any version I've had at CV or SFH. I've never had Mongolian lamb before so I have nothing to compare it to, but while being tasty I'd probably allocate my calories to something else next time. The tea smoked duck was good, but I don't think it traveled too well. I also thought it was nice that they sent the sichaun pickles and peanuts they serve as a starter in the restaurant.

Sichuan House in Walnut Creek

As a long time China Village enthusiast, supporter of Sichuan Fortune House, and one who lives in this neighborhood I was thrilled to hear about this place opening.

On walking into the quiet dining room early on Saturday night I noticed one of the servers was a familiar face from SFH. The menu is either identical to SFH or so close I could not discern the difference. I asked the familiar server if the food was as authentic as SFH and she said yes and that the SFH chef is now cooking at this new location.

We were brought a complimentary sample of the house made dumplings in chili sauce that were delicious, spicy, and left me confident with the rest of the meal coming. We had General Zhang Fei's Beef. The dish was fresh, well prepared, and spicy even by my standards. Now that I think about it... they omitted the peanuts usually in this dish. They also used the sliced beef instead of the more traditional stewed tendon that I favor. After the fact I inquired and they said it could be had you just need to ask. I would order this again, even if this was not the best rendition I've had.

We then had the Sichuan Country Style Fish Fillet. This was awesome and one of the best versions I've had. It was very spicy and nicely studed with Sichuan Peppercorns. The tofu and fish were both cooked to tender perfection. I could not stop eating the celery and sliced jalapenos. It was a little saucier than other versions I've had and I can imagine the thickened sauce might not be to some peoples' likings, but it clung to the food and really brought deep flavor.

I suppose a good summary could be that we had planned to take home leftovers, but instead sat picking at the dishes until everything other than the many red chilis that came in the dishes were gone. I'm thrilled this is just down the street from my house.

Breads of India- why is this place so empty? [Oakland]

Ajanta for sure if you order the rotating dishes. Every one I've had has been excellent and it's all I order there anymore.

PoppaCakes – Custom built ice cream sandwiches in Rohnert Park

I was in the area Saturday and on a hot afternoon could not resist the call of a custom ice cream sandwich. The place is kind of out of the way and easy to overlook, honestly the kind place/location that I think it will be hard for them to survive.

The two people working were super friendly. They don't bake all the items everyday since each baker had their specialities, or so I was told. My sandwich had their coconut cookies and espresso ice cream. It was one of the best sweet treats I've had in a long time and I ate the whole thing. As Melanie noted the cookies are soft and chewy, perfect for the application. They were really delicious too. My girlfiend has a thing for sweet potato pie and tried one. She said it was really excellent and one of the best she's had. She went back in and purchased a few more to take home. It's worth noting that they seem to not have a lot of product on hand so you might want to call before making a trip if there is something you simply must have. I'll swing by again if I'm in the nighborhood and have room.