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Beijing Duck House (Cupertino)

This was a wonderful meal. We pre-ordered 2 ducks and they couldn't have been more different. The first one was a pale yellow color and was a bit dry but the second had a beautiful dark, lacquered sheen, great separation of skin and meat and perfect texture. Best I've ever had in California.
The Beijing Pancake was incredible. Great charred wok flavor and deeply satisfying. The jelly pork was helped texturally by some crunchy nuts and the duck flippers had a powerful mustard kick.
Another highlight was the fried chopped-up duck carcass pieces spiked with salt and pepper. After all the creamy richness of the duck the intense salty flavor of the fried bones really popped. Charlie wisely observed it was almost like a palate-cleanser. It was awesome and sent the meal over the top.
Great team effort in organizing the meal and a fun evening.

Chowdown Report: Little Shanghai in San Mateo

Disappointing meal. This place was in the regular rotation when we lived in Redwood City but we haven't been back for 2-3 years. Sadly, the food quality has declined. The food was either sticky sweet or bland. The preparations lacked care and finesse and came across as hurried and were, by and large, forgettable.
For me, the few highlights were the radish pancakes; best I've had anywhere but if radishes are the star of a 13-item meal something is amiss. The pig ears were great, too. Perfect texture and a complex anise-y flavor. But that was it. Nothing else is even worthy of mention.
Despite the boring, uninteresting food, it's always fun dining with the hounds. Thanks to hyperbowler for organizing and Vincent for the wine.

Sichuan Chili chowdown report, San Jose

I enjoyed this Sichaun meal. Like Michael, I enjoyed the rattan pepper lamb stew most. The lamb broth was clean and flavorful and the rattan peppers gave it a nice jolt. I would have preferred lamb chunks over thinly sliced pieces but it didn't take away from the dish. Clearly, their pickled peppers would be the star coupled with any protein. Our version, with fish, had sour, bitter, and spicy notes and was sensational. I can see pairing these peppers with just about any protein or by themselves with rice. I also loved the dumplings with their corn and pork fillings. The Chinese sausage had very good flavor only I wish it was cut into thicker slices to show off it's texture a bit more.

Overall, the chef seems to emphasize restraint but still delivers bright, clean flavors. It's a family operation and our server, the chef-owner's wife, took very good care of us.

Thanks to Melanie for organizing and to my fellow hounds for a fun night.

Chowdown at Jai Yun [San Francisco, Chinatown]

A truly inspired, wonderful meal, probably the best Chinese meal I've had in the US. No kidding.
The abalone with egg whites were a perfect textural marriage. The abalone was sliced razor thin but still, somehow, had a slightly chewy (in a good way) mouth-feel. Brilliant.
The wheat gluten was succulent and a flavor explosion. Best version of this I've ever had.
Crispy fried mushrooms - OMG! Earthy, crunchy, with sweet and spicy notes. These were candy, pure and simple.
Taro Balls and Spare Ribs - another home-run. The taro balls melted in your mouth and the pork ribs, beautifully tender, complimented and elevated the texture. Maybe the best dish of the afternoon or me.
The Chinese celery and with brown tofu highlighted the chef's incredible knife skills. Uniformity with pristine, clean flavors. Just beautiful.
The Braised Pork Knuckle also may have the best I've ever had. The meat was perfect and the sauce was glistening. Yum.
The Crispy Fried Eggplant got oohs and aahs from everyone. Eaten while still piping hot, the eggplant was almost a liquid. Sublime. Never had anything like this anywhere.
The only misses for me were a slightly overcooked crispy fish and an over-fried version of crispy beef.
A remarkable, memorable meal. Thank you hyperbowler for organizing, Melanie for the terrific wines, and the rest of my fellow hounds for a wonderful afternoon.

La Folie, Revisited [San Francisco]

My lamb was paired with a Rhone :-)

La Folie, Revisited [San Francisco]

I need to echo the praise from DeeGlaze. Just a wonderful meal. Passot's style continues to evolve and he's in a great place right now using modern techniques to accent classic combinations. Great service with a friendly, unobtrusive vibe, perfect leisurely pacing, and sublime food added up to a wonderful evening.

Chowdown: All Season Restaurant (SF)

On the whole this was solid if unspectacular dim sum.

The Highs:
Shredded pork puffy rolls - Great combo of crunchy, savory, and slightly sweet. They looked to me like Chinese zeppoles. Never had these before and will look for them now.

Salty egg yolk yams and pumpkin - crunchy, salty, creamy goodness. These rocked and I couldn't stop eating them.

The not-so-good:
Hand-pulled rice noodle rolls. It's hard to get the texture on these right and these did not succeed. They did have some nice char on them but the gummy mouth-feel earned these a skip

Zhongshan dumplings with char siu - plenty of deep savory flavor but lacked balance. Needed some bright acidity. Pass.

Black sesame dessert - Mine was too sweet. I've had much better versions at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae which, sadly, has gone downhill of late.

If I was in the neighborhood I would return but not worth a drive from other parts of SF or the Peninsula. Very nice to see some old and new faces. Thanks for organizing, hyperbowler.

Downtown , new in RWC - uncertain

The owner is John Kim who, as you mention, owns Talk of Broadway, a solid breakfast place and Yokohama, a forgettable Japanese place. Both are right down the block on Broadway, closer to Jefferson. John is a good guy and I also wish him well.

Umami Burger Palo Alto - yuck

Feeling hungry on University Ave. we wandered into Umami Burger hoping for some yummy beefiness. Alas, it was not to be.

Fried pickles to start. Not so good. These work when the crunch is offset by a spicy assertive sweet/sour pickle but these were more like cucumbers that hadn't been pickled long enough.

For burgers we both ordered the Truffle Burger with roasted garlic aioli, "house truffle cheese," and "truffle glaze." The server went to great lengths to explain that the burgers come out one notch less done that how burgers are typically prepared due to the "freshness of the beef" which they grind every hour. So if you want your burger medium, then order it medium well, and so forth. I ordered mine medium well (hoping for medium) and E ordered hers medium rare. Both came out completely overcooked, horribly greasy, and grey inside. No truffle or garlic flavor anywhere, just char on an over-sweet brioche bun. Ick.

The manager noticed our dissatisfaction and offered to bring us new burgers. I switched my order to the Hatch Burger with roasted green chiles, garlic aioli, and "house American cheese." For done-ness, I asked that my burger have some pinkish red inside.

Again, fail. What came out was properly cooked but upon picking up my burger a huge puddle of juice ran onto my plate and completely swamped my bun. Dudes, you gotta rest the meat. I mean, come on. The cheese (whatever it was) was over-melted and runny, and the chiles were diced up like a relish with little flavor at all. The burger was way under-seasoned without a salt shaker in sight. In the end, it was a brown, lumpy, mushy mess with zero flavor. Umami it ain't.

I don't get the hype at all and will not return. Much better burger options abound at Counter, the Creamery, and even Patty Shack in downtown RWC.

Trip Report (Beast, Lincoln, Roe)

Just a quick recap of our recent Portland eating experience on a long-weekend visit in mid-August.

BEAST We enjoyed the communal seating. Always fun to enjoy a great meal with other foodies. Naomi’s food is delicious. First course was a lovely cucumber, grape and yogurt soup spiked with marcona almonds, and arctic char roe. A bit one-note for me at first but when I mixed everything together I got all the complexity and balance. A nice, subtle wake up call for the taste buds.
The charcuterie plate delivered, too. The steak tartare was perfect topped with a golden quail egg and the blood sausage with orange and hazelnut was probably the highlight of the whole evening for me. The rillettes missed for me with its chewy texture. Seemed to need more fat. The famous foie-gras bon-bon was good but the sauternes gelee didn’t provide enough contrast.
The dish of the night was duck breast with squash, eggplant, sweet pepper, and tomato emulsion. Never really thought of duck and a ratatouille profile working well together but this rocked. Big time.
Next was another foie-gras course, this time paired with great peaches, pickled onions and balsamic and a nice sliver of black truffle. Yum.
Dessert was simple and restrained with a buttermilk sorbet rounding out a lemon curd and ginger snap tart.

LINCOLN Started with buttermilk-battered onion rings. Decadent and deeply satisfying. My starter of heirloom tomatoes with tonnato sauce was absolutely on point. Fresh, crisp, and just enough saltiness to set off the veggies. Our second starter was a trip to Japan with uni surrounded by cucumber, peach, and mint. Again, very clean, bright and delicious. For mains, the roasted chicken with mizuna and shoe-string fries was perfectly executed comfort food. The chicken was crispy and juicy and the mizuna leaves added a great, heady vegetable note. Loved it. Our rabbit with chanterelles, white beans and olives also sang. The rabbit was spot-on and the mushrooms lent plenty of earthy richness. Again, a big thumbs-up.
Dessert was a big pile of Chester blackberries accompanied by a shot of cream and a chocolate cookie. These were the best blackberries I’ve had anywhere and the chef had the good sense to let them speak for themselves. A tiny splash of cream was all it needed. The cookie was delicious but not at all necessary.

ROE This meal was an experience. What Trent and Patrick accomplish in their tiny space without any fire is miraculous. Probably my best meal of the year. We snagged a seat at the counter and watched these two guys almost wordlessly create some truly inspired dishes. To start was a beautiful kampachi sashimi with foie-gras “snow,” wasabi tobiko and white soy ponzu. Next was a spot prawn in a watermelon gazpacho with smoked char roe, uni, and tiny slivers of finger limes. Had to put my fork down in amazement on this one. Perfect combination of brininess, smoke, umami, sweet, and acid. Hands down the best bites I’ve had in a long while. Wanted to get up and applaud. It was that good.
Surf and turf featuring poached lobster and sweetbreads with a huckleberry gastrique was next. This was the only dish of the night that didn’t do it for me. The cut job on the lobster was odd, the sweetbreads were slightly overcooked and the gastrique didn’t really bring it together. Maybe I was still distracted by the previous course.
The we went to Greece with octopus with marinated tomatoes, orange and eggplant puree. Perfect texture on the octopus and that eggplant puree was sinfully creamy.
The king salmon preparation that followed was incredible. It literally melted in my mouth. Paired with charred pardon peppers, mascarpone, and bottarga this was another mind-blowing combination.
The last savory course was poached tombo with a diver scallop, a Basque piperade, brought together in a great squid-ink sauce. I’m still thinking about that sweet scallop.
A micro-waved “30 second” brown butter cake with peaches, blackberries, and pecans was a nice transition to sweet and a dehydrated chocolate mousse with a dense coffee ganache rounded things out.
The wine-pairings are also worth a mention. The sommelier is wonderfully geeky about wine – as we are – and his attention to detail shows. We loved his pairings and were happy we left ourselves in his able hands.

PINE STATE BISCUIT Couldn’t leave Portland without indulging in a buttermilk biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, and sausage gravy at the farmers market. Well worth the 20 minute wait.
Thank you Portland for a great foodie weekend. We’ll be back.

Aug 25, 2013
ChewChew in Metro Portland

Old Port Lobster Shack - Downhill alert or just wildly inconsistent? [Redwood City]

We plan to do that. We met Russell when he opened the RWC location and he struck us as someone who wants to get the details right.

Old Port Lobster Shack - Downhill alert or just wildly inconsistent? [Redwood City]

This was the Redwood City location. It has gone downhill considerably. Clearly the guys in the back have not been taught how to properly cook a lobster. Not even close. We had been occasional visitors since it opened and it could be hit or miss but now it's a consistent miss.

Sichuan Chowdown at Mandarin Gourmet Palo Alto

This meal exceeded my rather low expectations. The Chonqing style wings were the best I've had in a while, perfectly crispy with good heat and numbing. The kidneys had terrific texture and their depth balanced out the heat. The Ma Po tofu was terrific with beef. The eggplant was interesting in that took on an almost crunchy texture and had a bright orange color. Unexpected but enjoyable. The final dish, the fish filet buried in chilis, was intense. The longer it sat the hotter it got. The waiter warned us not to take too much broth but that just encouraged me further.
The cumin lamb missed for me. Not enough heat or cumin kick. The dan dan noodles suffered from a gummy texture.

Overall, this was probably the best Sichuan meal I've had on the Peninsula in a while. Will likely enter the rotation.

Thank you Dr. Wang for organizing.

Any reports on Del Campo?

Hello all: My wife and I (chowhounds from San Francisco) will be visiting DC in June and are curious about Del Campo. The website and style reminds us quite a bit of some wonderful experiences in Patagonia. But DC is such a food-rich town that we don't want to waste our time if it's not up to snuff. Anyone try it yet?

Chowdown at Fey Restaurant [Menlo Park]

I want to like Fey. I really want to like Fey. It's close to home and so convenient but the food just manages to miss. Not terrible by any means but toned down enough to make it, in general, muted, bland and somewhat boring.

There were some good dishes. The croaker was nice and hot with an interesting texture on the fish. The twice cooked tofu was indeed yummy. The tofu was crisped up perfectly. The spicy boiled fish almost reached spiciness but the sauce had depth and body.

Other offerings disappointed. The powdery spareribs were a miss for me. They had an unpleasant gummy texture that got worse as the dish sat. No textural contrast with the squash, either. I've had this much better elsewhere. The ribs with long beans were basically deep fried ribs set atop a bed of diced up beans. The beans didn't have enough oomph to counter the rich meat and the dish didn't come together.

As mentioned above, the service was very slow and we all pounced on the first dish that came out -- cold noodles with minced pork -- even though it was a boring, uninspired version.

I think Fey will hang in there for a while given the lack of other options close by. But if you're in the mood for flavorful Sicuan cuisine be prepared to beg your server to make it hot and it may require multiple visits to let them know you're serious.

Thanks to hyperbowler for organizing and my table-mates for a fun evening.

Report: Incanto Chowdown, Whole Pig Dinner, April 14th [San Francisco]

This was a fun experience and well worth doing. The salumi plate was a nice way to start though it was hard to stop picking at all of the offerings even knowing what was coming. The salads were fine, nothing particularly memorable. I absolutely loved the turnip dish. They had a great crunch and slight bitterness set off by chili. Ate lots of this and didn't want to stop.

But it's all about the pig and it was a success. It was a 40 lb, four-week old specimen and seemed to have a smile on its snout when it was wheeled in. The skin has that killer crunch and the meat was incredibly tender. The pork jus was intense, more like a demi-glace, and moistened and deepened the meat. It also lifted the stuffing. A platter was passed that included the tongue, ears, brains, cheek, snout and other tasty morsels. The brains were creamy and yummy and would have been perfect spread on a baguette slice with sea salt.
Each of us received a 'piggy bag' to go that contained easily over a pound of meat which I gnawed on for days at home.
The only downside was the space. We were tightly packed around a conference-style table in a relatively small room. Though the conversation was great at my end of the table it would have been even more fun to sit at a circular table and able to see everyone. Think dim-sum table.

Many thanks to Ashwin for stepping up and organizing.

Review: Russian Family Restaurant in Redwood City

Checked out Russian Family Restaurant in downtown Redwood City with Dee Glaze and a friend last night and enjoyed the food. It really is a family restaurant. The husband runs the front of the house and his wife is in the back cooking. The place was about half-full at 7:00p on a Thursday evening .
We loved the Ukrainian borscht (Borshch Ukrainskiy). It was nicely balanced with plenty of beet and beef-stock flavors with lots of veggies, too. A big dollop of sour cream brought it all together. DeeGlaze started with the Salad “Vinegret,” or beet salad which was bright diced-up beets and kidney beans with a light vinegar dressing.
For main courses we tried the mushroom dumplings (Pelmeny s Gribami) as well as Siberian-style beef dumplings (Pelmeny Myasom). These were doughy and densely packed with deep, rich flavors, as you’d expect accompanied by a sour cream dipping sauce. Some caramelized onions helped the mushroom dumplings. The most successful dish was Grandma’s Patties (Babushkiny Zrazy). These are mashed potato packets stuffed with finely ground beef topped with a creamy mushroom sauce. Very comforting and delicious. Some sour pickles and raw scallions on the side helped cut the starch and beefiness.
The tab for three appetizers, three main courses and soft drinks came to $85 before tip. We were happy with our selections and all agreed that we would return. Everything seemed fresh and well-prepared. The husband/owner is a character and as the night progressed was putting away vodka after vodka with some of his cronies at an adjacent table. The vibes are friendly and the food is comforting. Give it a shot.

Russian Family Restaurant
2086 Broadway Redwood City

Chowdown report: Shao Mountain in Fremont

Terrific meal at Shao Mountain. My favorites were the crispy intestines which had a perfect textural combination of crunch and chewiness. These went quick. The fish in red and green chile sauce was sublime. The diced-up peppers spiked with vinegar just popped. Could have eaten this by spoonful.
The smoked meat preparations were very strong, each with different spicing. And that dessert soup was category-defying and wonderful.
This meal makes me want to further explore Hunan cuisine. Though it's clearly related to Sichuan it offers a wider variety of textures and flavors and though the heat is present in most of the preparations it never overpowers. A very deft hand in the kitchen today to pull it off right. I would certainly return if I was in the area.
Thanks to everyone for coming out for a fun, delicious meal.

Question from San Francisco 'hound

Yes, that's always been our strategy in France; start in French and shift to English, and we've experienced the type of 'discrimination' you describe in Paris. It happens only rarely but, as you say, it can ruin your evening. I speak enough broken French to get by.

We will try Hungroise for sure. Raza looks very interesting, too. We only have three nights so narrowing will be tough.

Thanks again for all of your recs.

Question from San Francisco 'hound

Thanks for these terrific replies. I will be sure to post reviews when we return home.
Our fav places these days for fine-dining in San Francisco are Saison and Atelier Crenn. Mission Chinese Food blows me away every time I go, though the chef just decamped to Manhattan to open a similar place there. Pity, that. We also love La Ciccia for Sardinian food. Manresa is also a favorite in Los Gatos.
We're confirmed at APDC and we're leaning toward La Porte and perhaps Comptoir Charcuterie et Vin or 3 Petit Bouchons

Question from San Francisco 'hound

Hello hounds: My wife and I will be visiting Montreal next month. The food choices are many and our nights are few so we'd like some advice. We plan on trying Au Pied de Cochon. It's stuff we cannot get in CA and we've heard raves. Is the hype justified?

We'd like a different kind of experience on another night. Grain de Sel looks interesting -- their menu looks innovative. We got a rec for L'Express which looks more classic. Any opinions to offer on these two? Or any additional recs for Quebec-style, local-driven choices where we won't find too many tourists?

Looking forward to your suggestions.


"Dittmer's has reopened! [Los Altos]

Went in there at about noon today and there were 40 people ahead of me in the queue. Yes, that's right, I pulled #20 and they were up to #80. The vibes were great, big smiles all around, patrons sharing stories about how they grew up with Dittmer's sausages, etc. It felt like a revival meeting. It's a much roomier location with huge display cases. Don't know if I've ever seen more meat in one place. The sandwich counter won't open until September 1st. We snagged some merguez and some smoked pork chops and chicken legs. Yum!

Little Haiti

I'm a San Francisco 'hound coming to the Miami area for a family visit in a few weeks. I've never explored Little Haiti and I'm wondering if there are any great, down-home, locals only restaurants in the area for lunch. All recs welcome.



Woodchuck BBQ, New in Redwood City

I hear ya Sushi Monster but for $14 you're getting a very meaty rib that will leave you happily full. it's not inexpensive but I feel like we got fair value in return. I'm guessing that you probably get a10 or so ounces of meat or perhaps more. Not a Louisville Slugger but it's pretty hefty and hangs off the plate when it comes out.

Woodchuck BBQ, New in Redwood City

The hot one. But that's usually my bias. The sweet was just too sweet for me.

Woodchuck BBQ, New in Redwood City

We gave Woodchuck a try tonight. Barely half-full at about 7:00pm. I had the beef rib, basically a 10-inch long rib with a healthy-sized chunk of tender beef barely attached. Cooked nicely to fork-tender but missing some smoke for me. The beans spiked with burnt ends was a nice accompaniment and the slaw provided some much-needed acid to cut through all of the beefy goodness. I finished my portion, barely.
E had the brisket which was well-cooked but dried out on the plate and the baby backs which were, again, tender and falling off the bone but a tad on the dry side. They offer 5 sauces including a too-sweet sugar sauce, a spicy mustard, bourbon sauce, and the bourbon sauce spiked with habaneros and Thai chiles.
Overall this was good barbecue. I've had much better in other parts of the country but to have this available close by is nice. We will likely return.

Cafe Yulong in Mountain View is closing

Bummer. When I lived in Los Altos this place was in my regular rotation. Loved the dumplings and everything was always flavorful and carefully prepared. Nice people, too. We went back last week after easily a three-year hiatus and now I'm really glad we did. So long, Yulong.

Review: State Bird Provisions [San Francisco]

Not really sure this place lived up to some of the hype it’s getting. I found most of the offerings bland, and one-note. Here’s what we had.

Oysters on the halfshell: These were fresh and served at the right temperature but on the small side. Not bad and a nice way to start.

Fluke tartar with quinoa with bonito rosemary: The most successful dish of the night for me. Everything was in balance. Crunchy, flavorful and harmonious.

Potato chips with steelhead caviar: Also yummy.

Avocado, guancale and pomelo: Eh. This was served cold which I suppose makes sense given the avocado but the guancale was sliced paper thin and lost its wonderfully chewy, fatty texture.
And served cold it left an unpleasant fatty sheen on my tongue. I think prosciutto would have worked better here.

Duck neck dumplings in Sauerjus: Just ok. The duck was underseasoned and was almost indistinguishable from the pastry texture-wise. Tasted clumpy and bland. The sauerjus didn’t really wake things up.

Kimchi pork belly with tofu and clams: Again, unsuccessful. The kimchi broth wasn’t spicy enough, the clams seemed thrown on like an afterthought. The tofu was bland and didn’t pick up any of the kimchi sauce. The pork belly was right on but the dish didn’t come together at all.

Sourdough, Sauerkraut, Pecorino and Riccota pancakes: Missed the mark for me. These were silver-dollar size and golden brown but had a weird sour, creamy profile. Needed something to brighten them up.

CA state bird with provisions: Not bad. Fried quail over braised onions with a yuzu-like sauce. My issue was that my piece of quail was sitting right on top of the sauce so the bottom of my quail became mushy. Better to serve this sauce on the side so it doesn’t get the crispy bird soggy. This dish really summed up the experience, a bunch of dishes with promise that just miss.

Beef cheek salad with radishes and bone marrow: Ok. The cheeks were perfectly cooked, the radishes were very fresh but the marrow was served as a sauce with an unappealing milky appearance and thin texture. Didn’t add a thing to the dish.

Desserts were pretty good with a fresh-baked poppyseed profiterole (that really wasn’t a profiterole), more like a light muffin paired with curd and berries and a chocolate sesame crunch with a cocoa and clementine jam.

The atmosphere was not so good. It’s a small space and got extremely loud when full. There were also a pair of toddlers running around which added to the noise. We had high hopes but our experience was no better than average and we will not be in any hurry to return. To us many of the dishes felt like bunch of good ingredients looking for a common theme. The dim-sum concept is cool and we really wanted to like this place but it seemed like the chef was relying on his list of ingredients and the novelty of non-Asian dim sum to drown out what were, for the most part, uninspired combinations.

Wing Wednesday chowdown at Sneaky BBQ / Rebel bar [San Francisco]

The wings were the highlight for me at Sneaky's. They were meaty, crispy, and juicy. None of the sauces did much for me. The bleu cheese was the perfect accompaniment. Order them plain and just dip away. The 'cue was solid but not worth a special trip. I liked the pulled pork; plenty moist and flavorful and the pork belly was as decadent as you might expect. A few bites was plenty. The collards were noteworthy, cooked down to tender but not over-done.
Good people-watching with a typically eclectic SF crowd. Thanks hounds for a fun meal.

Chowdown at El Hueco Peruvian Restaurant in Redwood City

They were de-boned thighs. Very yummy.