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Dumpling Express - Berkeley

Looks interesting. 2328 Bowditch @ Durant in Berkeley. Still in brown papered windows mode.

Mar 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

SF Dish of the Month (April 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Chinese boiled dumplings (Jiaozi) - they are available in restaurants as well as several specialty shops devoted to/named after these regional snacks (Tian Jin Dumplings, Dumpling King, Dumpling Express, etc.). Not about dim sum in general or XLB, Momo, Gyoza (plenty of talk on those topics already) the simple meat/veg filled boiled dumpling deserves a thread of it's own.

Mar 27, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle - San Pablo

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle in San Pablo, an offshoot of the diminutive Ran Kanom shop in the Pacific East Mall in Richmond, is now open, serving a nice selecton of noodle dishes (soups,stir fries, etc.), salads and snacks. The duck noodle soup I had was really good. A few pieces of bone-in braised duck, a small tangle of egg noodles, scallions and some star anise infused broth made for a rich, oily (hey, it's duck!) soup that was filling and affordable ($8.25...almost everything on the menu is $8.25).
Unlike the mall location there is plenty of seating in addition to a retail store selling take out items and Thai snacks. Friendly staff and parking out front. Open 7 days a week.

Ran Kanom Thai Noodle
2300 El Prortal Dr.
San Pablo CA 94806

Mar 09, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Organic Thai grocery/takeout at El Cerrito Ranch 99 Center [Richmond]

Ran Kanom Thai noodle is open. Plenty of tables plus a shop area for Thai snacks and take out food. The duck noodles were tasty. The green mango salad too. The previous days specials are on sale for $5/pint by the front door. Could be a good solution for quick dinner at home, there.

Mar 08, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Artis Coffee on Fourth. I have mixed feelings. [Berkeley]

I have not had their coffee in a cup but for me this place is all about coffee beans roasted to order right in front of you.
Choose your level of roasted-ness and the type of bean. They roast each batch in custom machinesthat look like big hot air popcorn poppers. The beans are so fresh they tell you to wait a day after roasting before grinding and brewing. Something about off gassing. The end result is some very fine coffee.

Mar 05, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Recs for grabbing a quick bite in/around the Dogpatch? [San Francisco]

If you like The New Spot, you will also like Triple Voodoo as I hear they are getting their food from New Spot around the corner.

Feb 21, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Pastel de Frango - Brazilian House & Restaurant Goiano [Richmond]

This small Brazilian restaurant in Richmond is mostly a buffet, but they also sell some really tasty pastries in several styles/shapes/flavors. The ones I tried had chicken and beef fillings with delicate, eggy, pastry wrappers. They are perfect snacks for in-the-car dining. The buffet looked good too, with several colorful salads in addition to more meaty looking fare which I look forward to next time I am in the neighborhood.

Feb 12, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Recs for grabbing a quick bite in/around the Dogpatch? [San Francisco]

The New Spot is now open for dinner again with slightly remodeled interior and a few menu items not available at lunch. Mexican and Salvadorean specials on the white board are always fabulous.

Feb 09, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

White-Anchovies-Boquerones-Vinegar-Packed Locally?

Matiz are some of the better boquerones out there. Dinon is a repackager of bulk (lower quality) products.
Aside from a few high end restaurants you will probably not find domestically produced boquerones in the USA. In Spain they have factories full of ladies in hair nets and lab coats busily filleting tiny fish by hand and packing them in cans/jars topped off with olive oil (always buy the ones in olive oil). Boquerones are laborious to make, thus the expense. Try it some time at home to see why they are so pricy.

Feb 05, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Solo Dining in Chinese Restaurants

I eat alone in Chinatown semi-regularly when circumstances permit. I go during the day and have a soup or a noodle dish. These are often discounted during lunch and are a good indication of the relative quality level of the restaurant (rice plates on the other hand are not. I find they are often less interesting than the rest of the menu). Be prepared to share a table, usually the big round one, with other solo diners, often in complete silence.
If the lunch is good and the rest of the menu looks interesting, I will return for dinner.
This strategy worked well last week at the new House of Xian dumplings on Kearny. Lunch (dumplings and noodles in broth) was a tasty bargain. I'm looking forward to returning for dinner.

Feb 01, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland - Tian Jin Dumplings

The dish previously in the Tianjin Dumplings menu written in english as Pan Fried Pancake Fruit (Jianbing Guozi) has been 're-branded' as Savory Tianjin Crepe. It is still a uniquely tasty, hefty, meatless street snack for a great price ($3.95).

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Zarzuela or Lolinda (or other) for great Argentinian steaks and authentic tapas? [San Francisco]

Lolinda, no question.Gorgeous spot, full bar, great food. Bife de chorizo (steak) for them, Pulpo (octopus) for you.

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

40-year port?

On the other hand, 20 year (VOS) and 30 year (VORS) Sherries are at least as old as their designation with portions of much older wines in the mix. Perhaps that would be a better choice to taste the full effect of numerous decades of age on a fortified wine.

Jan 29, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Chengdu (Szechuan restaurant) near UC Berkeley

I used to enjoy Le Petit Cheval for inexpensive Vietnamese food (steam table and a la carte options) and a bit of Cal campus vibe. Sad to see them go. Happily the new Chengdu Style looks to be a good replacement. I stopped in on Monday but due to the MLK day holiday the steam table was not happening. Pork and peppers rice plate was my alternate option among several lunch plates in addition to the rest of the menu. No soup with take out but the slivered pork and jalapeños in sauce with steamed rice ($7.95) was fresh, tasty and medium spicy. I am looking forward to returning for the 3 item for $7.95 steam table option.

Jan 22, 2014
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

best place to find linguica or spanish-style chorizo in SF?

If the Chorizo de Bilbao you saw was in a green can, that could be a great and long sought after option. I'd love to find some.

Nov 27, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Claypot - Berkeley

Grilled meat on a stick (choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp) plus combo fried rice plus Trumer on tap makes for a tasty, filling meal. Watch the game on the tv too. Low key local fun.

Oct 12, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Seeking produce a la Berkeley Bowl, but in SF?

If you are thinking about Nordic House, they are in Berkeley now, on San Pablo Avenue, the old highway 123. I mention this because all the places you like to visit are reached via San Pablo Avenue. Yes you can get to these places on the freeway but San Pablo has all kinds of little markets (some with produce) to make the cross-bridge trip worth the effort.
Nordic House (Norway/Scandinavia)
Mi Tierra (Mexican/Latin American)
Bayside Market (Mexican/Latin American)
Middle East Market (Afghan/Middle Eastern)
Halal Meat Market (middle eastern)
Indus (Pakistani/middle eastern)
The Spanish Table (Spain/Portugal)
Tokyo Fish (Japan)
There's more, plus the bridge toll is still 4 bucks mid day during the week.

Oct 08, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Guilin Rice noodle

Mid-afternoon, Classic Guilin Rice Noodles had only a few diners, friendly staff and quick service. My choice ($6.5) from a dozen or so combinations of different meats was brisket and crispy pork . A scattering of each topped the bowlful of spaghetti-shaped rice noodles, along with some skin on fried peanuts, a spoonful of green vegetables (green beans?) that had a fermented beer-like flavor, half a hard boiled egg and a bit of dark sauce under the noodles. A separate bowl of cloudy, unsalted (beef?) broth was served alongside. A shaker bottle marked "sauce, only for guilin rice noodles" was on the table along with two types of chili paste. I mixed broth with noodles, and added a few shakes of special sauce and a spoonful of chili.
The bits of beef were soft, braised brisket. The crispy pork was fried whole pork belly, sliced thin for a crispy coating and soft interior. The noodles were well cooked and soft. The broth was subtle, but felt very nourishing.
The flavors were unusual compared to most of what I have had in the neighborhood, This soup left me feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Sep 18, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Excellent pastrami at Cafe Rouge Meat Market [Berkeley]

The meat market at Cafe Rouge is making some really good Pastrami. It was super smoky and dense, with a layer of fat in between dark red meat. Steamed up briefly on the stove top at home made the house smell like an old school deli. On some rye bread with mustard it was moist, meaty and fabulous. Not sure it is always available. I think it is a weekly thing. I was there on Wednesday.

Sep 14, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Bi-Rite Market new Divisadero location, SF - any reports?

I was really happy with my first visit to the new Bi Rite.
I was down on Divisadero (my old neighborhood back when they called this the Western Addition..."Do City. It's the sauce!") and stopped in to check out the new location. The high end groceries and specialty foods from 18th street are all here too. Meat/cheese/deli are much expanded. The Ice cream department is in the front window. I found the layout of the store easy to navigate, but it was not too crowded when I went. The young (do they only hire under 30s?) energetic staff was all smiles and helpful interaction. I picked up some prepared white beans from the deli, some corn tortillas and a vacuum sealed bag of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a Bi Rite-made chile/lime/cilantro marinade. The prices were not too bad, especially for the marinated chicken thighs which were $6/lb.
Took everything home, cooked the chicken in the oven over some potatoes for 45 minutes, warmed up the beans and softened a few tortillas on the stove flame. The result was an almost no work meal at home that fed two with leftovers. The marinated chicken was excellent, well made and (for me) a bit unusual. I look forward to trying more of their ready-to-cook dishes and prepared foods.

Mar 21, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdsburg

A few weeks ago I stopped in at Bravas for a quick snack while driving through Healsburg and enjoyed the experience. The Tortilla Espanola was well made in the classic Spanish style (eggs, potatoes, onions and nothing else...no peppers, no meat, no cheese...that is a frittata IMO). The salt cod fritters were also traditional (hot, puffy, fried balls of potato and fish) though they do not call them 'croquetas' in deference to the chicken croquetas which I did not try (yet!).
The wine list seems to be a work in progress with some real Spanish gems assorted amongst the less interesting mass market brands. Spritzy Spanish 'needle wine' (Vino de Aguja) was refreshing, and perfectly matched to the tapas menu. I'm looking forward to returning to sample the full menu when time is not so tight.

Jan 25, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Anyone know a great East Bay Burger joint?

Yes, Victoryburger is worth checking out. The space is small and sparse, the staff are young and friendly and the burgers are tasty. My $8 bought a basic 1/3 lb. burger with 3 dot ranch beef grilled (not griddled) to order. Medium rare was the request and medium rare was the result. A good quality bun contained the burger and basic fixings and held up well right to the last bite. They have plenty of add-on options which, as a burger fundamentalist, I did not try. They have a few non-burger options which I have not yet tasted, though the chicken banh mi looks good.

Jan 25, 2013
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Dungeness Crab Prices 2012

Live crab, pulled straight from the dockside holding pens, was $6.50/lb at Leonard's Bait & Tackle in Port Sonoma Marina on Hwy 37. Was fresh, fatty and plump, with very soft shell. Nice owners.

Nov 19, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Spoon Korean [Berkeley]

The Kim Bop at Spoon is quickly becoming my favorite fast food to eat in the car when in a hurry. Rice, fresh vegetables and a choice of meat (or not) all wrapped in seaweeed like a Japanese maki. Sliced into six rounds it makes for a tasty snack on the go. They are on Ashby right near the freeway so could even be a quick pit stop for travelers. They also let your dog sit with you on their cute little tree-lined patio.

Jun 17, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

"Patricia Unterman, Examiner Food Critic, Dismissed"

For those who miss her perspective already (that would be me), she has a great web site with lots of god info and a newsletter: http://untermanonfood.com/

Apr 20, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Carneros Wineries and Restaurant Suggestions?

Had a fun trip up to Sonoma recently that included a stop in Carneros at Robledo Family Winery, owned by Mexican-American grape growers turned winemakers (a Latino Horatio Alger story if ever there was one), followed by lunch and much buying of tortillas at Tortilleria Jalisco in Sonoma. Both places are fun, informal and offer a real taste of Sonoma style. No fancy decor and accouterments, but plenty of local character.

Mar 23, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Brasa - Peruvian chicken (and more) in Berkeley

Made a return visit to try the chicharron sandwich. Somehow I ended up with the chicharon rice bowl (same ingredients, swapping rice for bread), but I was far from Brasa with my to-go order by the time I noticed. This was not chicharron as I am used to, but rather what I would call lomo adobado, sliced pork loin medallions in a red chili rub/marinade. Nothing fried here. It was quite tasty and generously sized, just not what I had expected. Now if Brasa starts doing the chicharrones de pollo that other Peruvian places are doing, I will be quite excited.

Mar 10, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Smoke -- new BBQ (maybe) on San Pablo, Berkeley

Went back again last week. Brisket still moist, smokey and tender. Cornbread got bigger. Now they have new spicy sauce which I recommend. Tina said she is making her own pastrami. Looking forward to trying that.

Smoke Berkeley
2434 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

Feb 27, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Brasa - Peruvian chicken (and more) in Berkeley

Oops, here are the coordinates:
1960 University Ave. Berkeley CA

Feb 27, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area

Brasa - Peruvian chicken (and more) in Berkeley

Brasa, a new Peruvian style rotisserie chicken is open in the space that was eVe. The same couple that ran eVe are still in charge here, but the new restaurant is much more in tune with the neighborhood and the small space than the previous incarnation. Gone are the dark tones and low lighting. Now the space is bright and airy. Order at the front off a menu displayed on a wall mounted flat screen monitor, take a number and find a seat. The food comes out fast. Beyond rotisserie chicken in various sizes (whole chickens, half chickens, quarter chickens, chicken sandwich, chicken rice bowl) they serve some other Peruvian style meats like chicharrones (pork) and lomo saltado (beef), shrimp and also tofu in the same sandwich/rice bowl style. Sides include fries, a few salads and rice which come with the chicken meals.
The chicken rice bowl ($7.50) is pulled roast chicken mixed with a creamy sauce served over lettuce, tomato and rice (essentially the sandwich with rice instead of bread). It was tasty, quite salty and mildly spicy.
Last night we got a whole chicken with rice and salad to go ($19.50). The chicken is more than enough for two hungry eaters. Crisp skin, moist meat and light spice rub make for a mighty tasty bird. A trio of thick, creamy sauces are included in the deal, including a white one that was what came with the rice bowl chicken as well as a green one and a spicy red one. The sauces are well flavored but sort of mayonnaise textured and overpowering if used in too large quantities. The same thick, creamy texture is found in the salad dressing.
The house made alfajores (cookies) look fabulous but will have to wait until next time.
Considering what it would cost (time & money) to make an equivalent meal at home, the value of the whole chicken dinner is really good.
Oh, they also have wine on tap priced by the ounce. One red, one white. Order as much or as little as you want. What a great idea!

Feb 27, 2012
flavorenhancer in San Francisco Bay Area