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Oakland Restaurant Week Jan 23-29, 2011

Had a good dinner at Hibicus last night. The $30 4-course dinner consisted of a chicories salad, wild nettle fritters, a choice of fried chicken or oxtails for entree and bread pudding with rum tasting for dessert. I felt this was one of the best deals of the Oakland Restaurant week. I'd like to praise them for offering dishes from their regular menu instead of some random ones to go with the price. As for the food, the salad and fritters were tasting size portions but sufficient enough to show off what the kitchen can do. The fritters had split pea and wild nettle inside and were nicely fried. The oxtails was just okay, the sauce was a little sweet for me but I am not usually an oxtail fan. The fried chicken had perfect crunchy skin and the breast had an injection of herbs which made it extra tasty, I liked this fried chicken much more than the one at Pican. The bread pudding was one of the best I've had, not overly sweet, the texture was light with hint of vanilla that went along well with the rum. The food was good, the service was friendly, we will go back.

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Pican Restaurant
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

Oakland Restaurant Week Jan 23-29, 2011

Had dinner at Pican last night. The $40 menu consisted of a choice of beet salad or crawfish and sausage gumbo, smoked chicken thighs and beignet with bourbon. I chose the prix fixe menu while Hubby had the Berkshire pork chop. They ran out of smoked chicken and substituted it with fried chicken, but not without protest. Once we got the food, it was not bad. The gumbo was richly flavored, despite having only bits of sausages. I like that they didn't use okra or file but maybe it's not the gumbo for everyone. The fried chicken was perfectly fried and flavorful. Hubby's pork chop was a thick chop cooked slightly pink in the middle. We also ordered their award winning smoked brisket braised collards that was delicious and had very nice texture. Dessert was two pieces of beignet with two shots of bourbon. The beignet was light and fluffy and Hubby said one of the bourbon was quite good. None of the dishes were on the regular menu but judging from the price of the other entrees, it would be around the same price if they were ordered off the regular menu. The bourbon is the little extra but if you don't care for bourbon, it's probably not worth going for restaurant week.

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Pican Restaurant
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

Sad about east bay chocolate

Yes I parked in front yesterday, the store is emptied and all the signs are gone. I used to love their stuff back in the days when the chef was rolling out truffles all day long in the little storefront on Columbus. With the opening of the Montclair branch, quality suffers tremendously. I think the main reason is that they refrigerate the truffles at the Montclair location. I questioned the chef once about it and he said it didn't affect quality. Oh well it does for me. I hope now that they are back to the original setup, they can do better quality control and I can enjoy their truffles once again.

Fleming's Chicago-Style Deli, Vacaville

This place is no longer in business. We drove up today and found the space emptied. The sign outside said Chicago Style Deli and no mention of Flemings though.

Lunch at Jai Yun

I should have elaborated more on the food. Of the 5 appetizers, the vegetarian goose was the best, delicate and flavorful. The other 4 marinated vegetables were simple and all tasted about the same. The hot dishes were better, we liked the leek with bacon and the kaofu. The clear noodle in the leek with bacon dish was a great addition, it absorbed all the essence of the leek and bacon. The kaofu had good texture and was not overly sweet but I think this is one dish that the knife work was a disadvantage. The sharp cut edge added an odd touch, it would have been better torn. We didn’t care for the abalone and egg white, the abalone was mushy.

I still like the concept, but the dishes are not extraordinary that you can't get somewhere else. It's homey food of good execution. Also maybe two person is just not optimal, you don't get the variety of cooking, for instance I would have liked a braised/stewed dish or something spicy. We also didn’t get any bread that I've seen in other reports.

I do agree you can't go in treating it as a regular restaurant, it's more like dim sum but you don't get to pick from the cart. I think the price is okay for the variety, particularly if you compare it to dim sum. My friend's complaint is that the ingredients are very ordinary and the portion is small so the price/quality seems low.

As for other Shanghai restaurants, I like Shanghai in Oakland Chinatown. Shanghai Gourmet in Walnut Creek and Lily's House in Lafayette were good but I haven't been for a while.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79427718...

Lunch at Jai Yun

My friend and I went to Jai Yun for lunch last week. She is of Shanghai descent from Hong Kong and I am originally from Hong Kong but have been living here for over twenty years and we have very different takes on the meal. We had the $18 prix fixe lunch consisting of 5 cold appetizers and 5 hot dishes. The appetizers were: marinated cucumber, lotus root, cabbage, some kind of greens and the vegetarian goose (tofu skins). The hot dishes were: stir fried bacon with leek, conch with egg white, stir fried eggplant, stir fried shrimps and stir fried tofu (kofu???).

My friend thinks it is not worth $18 for the quality and quantity of food. I appreciate the variety and am glad that I tried it but I am not tempted to try their dinner anymore ($55 and up). I think they should be commended for packaging but I also don't think the value is there. I woiuld likely take my mother there for lunch because we would not be able to order the number of dishes for the same amount of money in a regular restaurant but then in a regular restaurant, we would have leftover for dinner for the same amount of money.

Any DAT (Dine About Town) Reports?

We had the DAT dinner there last week and also had a very disappointing experience. We were intrigued with their regular and set menu but figured we would try DAT first and go back if it's any good. Unfortunately we won't be back to try the squid ink carbonara. First we had to ask for the DAT menu after we sat down and there was a bit of attitude handling us the menu. There were two choices for appetizer and main course. I had the green salad served on a longish slate tiles like plate, interesting looking but very ordinarily tasting. My husband had the white asparagus veloute, it could have been campbell mushroom soup with a few pieces of white asparagus on top and it would have tasted better. For main course, I had the pan seared halibut with spring greens, the halibut was a bit overcooked but had a nice crust, it wasn't particularly fresh either. The weird part was the small lonely octopus on the plate, perhaps to give an exotic nature to the dish but it was rather odd looking. The worse though was the texture, felt as if I was eating tofu, it was freaky. My husband had some kind of beef stew, tender and rich but nothing special. Dessert was some very forgettable chocolate mousse. They gave us couple chocolate truffles with our coffee, but at the next table they brought out a cigarette box filled with different chocolates for them to pick their own. I guess budget diners like us don't know how to pick our own chocolate.

Vancouver report - Nov 08

Agree with the pork cheeks. We also like the beef tongue, it comes raw with a hot stone and you grill it yourself. Their fried chicken is pretty good too. Their tako wasabi is not as good as Guu though.

Dec 17, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Vancouver report - Nov 08

Here are some of the favorites we always go back to:

Guu, Kingyo: Izakaya yeah! We always go to Guu on Robson, the wait is long unfortunately. We tried the one in gastown once and didn't like it. We also tried Hapa across the street but it's too hip for us. However after this trip we felt we are too old for Guu, Kingyo has now become our default Izakaya spot. Kingyo is a little more upscale than Guu but not as pretentious as Hapa.

Ajisai: small sushi bar in Kerrisdale. You must like raw fish to eat here, I don't think they have much in term of cooked food. The fish is always fresh and they always have specials from Japan. We always go because it's in the neighborhood but I don't think it's worth going across town for.

Red Star Seafood Restaurant: We go to the one on Granville and 65th. They serve dim sum lunch. Their roast suckling pig and roast duck are the best, they are made in house and sell out early. And they don't let you order those two items for takeout as I found out ... but then that's how I came to discover SW restaurant, so not all is lost.

Wang's beef noodle: authentic Taiwanese beef noodle house next to Red Star. The first time I went with friends from Taiwan, they said it was better than the most famous noodle house in Taiwan, they ended up eating here 3 times in 5 days. The place has its ups and downs, it was just okay last year but it seems to be back to its old glory these days. I always order the spicy beef noodle soup with thick noodle (you get a choice of thick or thin noodle, I think the thick noodle stands up better in the broth). I also like their fried tofu, crispy outside yet very creamy inside. I was told the most authentic is the garlic dipping sauce, you must like garlic and must not be in close proximity of any living being after eating it. Even my dog ran away from me, I kid you not. The weird thing is you can't have just a touch, you have to douse the entire tofu with the sauce to get the full effect.

Phnom Penh: The famous Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. I always order the fried chicken wings and the dry noodle. Sometimes they have this stir fry lotus? spear that is great but it is seasonal. I always want to try other things on the menu but never get around to it.

Dec 16, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Vancouver report - Nov 08

Sorry I was wrong, it is the same chain. Here is the link to their page http://www.ccue.com/vancouver/restaur... (bad site, change the size of your browser window, click at your own risk

)

It listed three locations: Burnaby, Richmond and 2044 West 41st Avenue.

Dec 16, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Vancouver report - Nov 08

I don't think it's the "S&W Pepper Restaurant", google resulted in location in Burnaby and Richmond but this one is in Kerrisdale. It is on the ground floor of a two story building on the south side of 41st ave between Boulevard and Maple. The upstairs housed the "Golden Ocean Seafood Restaurant" which is also quite good for this part of town. The restaurant is only opened for few months.

Dec 15, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Vancouver report - Nov 08

I had the wrong one, mine was light in color like a normal croissant. I just asked for the almond croissant and they didn't tell me there are more than one kind. Yes it most definitely warrants another trip up north, perhaps I can wake up Russ and start driving. A good almond croissant is so hard to find ...

Dec 15, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Vancouver report - Nov 08

Russ and I spent two weeks in your beautiful city in November. We have been doing this for the last few years, so the food scene is not totally new to us. We were sadden by the closing of Aurora Cafe as it was one of our favorites and were planning to go back. Here are some of new restaurants we tried on this trip:

Pied-a-Terre: Nice french bistro, I was disappointed with the foie gras parfait as it was on the 100 things to eat before you die. I think it's a bit plain on flavor and light in texture, perhaps a sprinkle of sea salt could help. The entrees were better, Russ had the rib eye steak with Roquefort and mustard sauce, the meat and sauce were both great. I had the red snapper that was fresh and cooked perfectly with crispy skin on the outside and tender and moist inside. We will go back next year.

Copa?: Hong Kong style cafe on Cambie and King Edward, I was told it's run by the people who used to run Cafe Gloucester which we liked, so we decided to give it a try. What a mistake, my portugese chicken rice (my standard for HK style cafe) was tasteless, Russ had some steak and lobster special that was barely edible. The place was packed on Friday night.

49 Parallel Cafe: I had the legendary almond croissant, which I made an effort to wake up early for. The first time we went in the afternoon they were sold out. I liked the flaky texture but the flavor was a bit plain, I prefer my almond croissant with almond filling. The coffee was good though. BTW the almond croissant at Sweet Obsession was not good, it had an unpleasant liquor taste that was almost bitter, and it had no almond paste either.

Motomachi Shokudo: I had the bamboo charcoal ramen, I didn't like the burnt taste but I was glad I tried it. Russ had the house ramen that was better and the gyoza was good too.

La Bucca: This restaurant is walking distance from our house and I never realized it's there. Reservation is a must, we tried to go twice in the first week but couldn't get a table before 9pm. We finally made our reservation couple days ahead and went on monday night. The place was hopping, we left at 8:30pm and there were couple parties waiting. We had the scallop carpaccio appetizer that was served with bacon, radish and some kind of citrus. It was wonderful, both in terms of flavor and texture. The scallop was sweet, the bacon was tasty, the radish gave the little crunch to contrast the scallop and the citrus added just enough acidity to bring every bite together, overall a perfect combination. It was our favorite dish on this trip. For entrees, Russ had the osso buco with saffron risotto, the meat needed a little more cooking and a bit more salt, but the risotto was prefect. I had the special tagliatelle with pine mushroom, the tagliatelle was good, especially with the bone mallow from Russ' osso buco, but the pine mushroom didn't have as much flavor as I expected. We shared the tiramisu for dessert that was very good, not overly sweet and with nice texture.

SW restaurant: Not sure if it is the correct name, it's on 41st and Boulevard, right below Golden Ocean restaurant. This is the most surprising find on this trip, we ordered take out from them three times. It's a chinese restaurant serving Schezwan and Shanghai food. I liked the Dan Dan noodle the most, the noodle was a bit doughy but the sauce had the perfect tingly numbness with just a little bit of ground pork, and it did not have peanut paste which I dislike. We also had the Xiao Long Bao that was very juicy, the wrapper was a tad thick and chewy but overall very flavorful. They were running a special of $2.99 for 6, it's a great deal. The salt and pepper pork was very good as well. I hope to go back next year to try some of the special order dishes like eight treasure chicken. Please go and keep this place in business, this location had quite a few ownership changes as I recall and they weren't very busy the time we dined in.

Japadog: I love this hot dog stand, wish we had something like it in the bay area, maybe I will open one :) We had the Oroshi and Okonomi. We preferred the Oroshi with the daikon radish and scallions, the slight spiciness of the daikon worked really well with the mild flavor bratwurst. Russ didn't like the Okonomi, he thought the bonito flakes was too fishy, I was okay with the bonito but the berkshire pork wasn't very special and a bit too salty.

Moderne Burger: Meat was tasty but it should be for $10 burger. Will go back when I subject Russ to too much ethnic food and he needs his burger fix. The chocolate milkshake was very good though, I may go back just for the milkshake.

Social Le Magasin: Had the weekend brunch on Sun, Russ had a good egg benedict with bacon, the bacon was tasty and not overly salty. My lamb burger was just okay. We would not be driving all the way downtown for this but if we are in the area, we may stop to pickup some bacon from the butcher shop. They were advertising $11.99 prime rib dinner on Sunday.

Gastropod: I saved this last not because it's the best, rather I would like to forget. It was the most disappointing meal on this trip. We both had the 7 course tasting menu and Russ had the wine pairing. We asked if they could serve us different dishes for each course, they were very gracious to agree. Maybe that was the mistake we made but I didn't think so. I think they have problem sourcing their ingredients, especially the meat. At $80 per person, I would expect better quality meat but all the meat dishes (beef carpaccio, beef tenderloin, venison) were lack of flavor. Also I think the kitchen is too heavy handed with salt, and I am not one who is afraid of salt. Even the fish course was so salty that I could barely taste the fish. The only positive seemed to be with the vegetables, I had some very tasty baby cabbage. Maybe they had an off night, or maybe they were too busy entertaining the critic. There was a gentleman in the room dining alone armed with note pad and camera, he was taking pictures and making copious notes of each course, and he was giving a kitchen tour, I hope he had a better meal than us. We will not be going back.

A couple miscellaneous notes:
- Fuel is no longer serving fried chicken on Friday. They stopped in Sept, didn't ask if they would start again.
- Japadog will close for the entire month of January

Of course we had the usual favorites, Guu, Kingyo, Ajisai, Red Star, Wang's beef noodle, Phnom Penh ... and they were all as good as before.

Dec 15, 2008
shu0912 in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)