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Sichuan Chili chowdown report, San Jose

Belated thanks to Melanie for organizing this delicious chowdown! I loved the light, fresh preparations and the diversity of flavors among the chili sauces. Each was very different from the other. Vegetables were very fresh and cooked perfectly.

My favorites:
Chengdu dumplings with special sauce
Pickled pepper fish
Rattan pepper with lamb stew
Dan Dan Noodles

Chowdown at Jai Yun [San Francisco, Chinatown]

Thanks, Jefferson, for posting the photos and getting the discussion started. To pile on the wonderful reviews, I have to say this was the best Shanghai meal I've had in the U.S.

To echo Heidipie: "every piece is cut to the exact right shape and size and cooked the exact right way with the best flavor." Chef Nei Chia Ji had wonderful knife skills - each ingredient was cut to a size that enabled you to taste the flavor of each ingredient completely, while also holding true to the subtle spicing that characterizes Shanghai preparations. No need to compose bites or take care splitting portions, each diner received the perfect mix in every bite.

My personal standout favorites, where I went back for seconds...
#4 Cucumber salad, beautiful, crisp, perfectly seasoned
#6 Gong Cai - snappy, crisp texture, great flavor
#12 Mustard Greens with tofu
#13 Soft tofu with thousand year-old egg
#14 Abalone with egg whites - thinly sliced, delicate
#15 wheat gluten with vegetables - terrific sauce!
#17 crispy fried mushrooms
#19 Deep fried taro ball and spare ribs - these taro balls crunched, then melted in the mouth. After tasting one, I was hoping to have a second, but they were GONE. I could eat a small bowl of these for dessert, and I'm not a big taro fan.
#20 Loofah squash with dried shrimp - great texture and sauce
#28 Crispy fried eggplant - this was superb. Tip: if provided, eat this FIRST while it's hot. Some crispness was lost as the dish cooled.

If you love Shanghai food, and are in for the experience of textures and flavors combined with an expert hand even if you don't know exactly what you are eating, make a reservation for a splendid meal at Jai Yun. You'll be glad you did.

La Folie, Revisited [San Francisco]

We hadn't been to La Folie in years and decided to return to celebrate my husband's birthday. We had previously tried the Chef's tasting menu, which was delicious. It was also so generously portioned, I left feeling over-full. On our return visit, we decided to order courses.

First was a poached octopus and uni. It was clean, beautifully presented, and so delicious we ate it in slow motion, composing each perfect bite. This was the only course we doubled up on because neither of us wanted to share.

Next up for me were the sautéed Burgundy Snails in Pernod lemon butter with parsley with bone marrow gratin, served in the bone. After taking the first bite, my husband reports I put my fork down and had a (When Harry Met) "Sally" moment. Other diners turned to look at me smiling. We had a wonderful meal, and this was THE best bite.

Hubby ordered the warm pigs feet, sweetbread and lobster terrine. Also great.

We decided to skip the fish course since we already enjoyed the octopus starter.

I had the seared Liberty Farm duck breast “Coq au Vin” with rhubarb marmalade, crispy confit gateau and duck liver mousse paired with a lovely Bordeaux.

He had the Emigh Farm Lamb Rack, pommes boulangére, lamb pancetta and sweetbreads, (vibrantly) green garlic puree, and Meyer lemon jam, paired with a Burgundy.

Both expertly prepared and beautifully plated with vibrant, clean sauces.

We brought a bottle of dessert wine, which we paired with a cheese course and then the warm Edam cheese soufflé with Fromage Blanc sorbet, crispy bacon and white sesame tuile. This was light and savory, and the sorbet wasn't overly sweet.

If you are looking for a delicious meal with expertly paired wine, an elegant yet chill atmosphere, with beautiful plating and expert service, it's definitely worth a visit. Don't forget to order the snails.

Has anyone tried Diner Japonica 593 Woodside Rd., Redwood City

Diner Japonica took over the former El Hueco spot.
I haven't seen a menu posted anywhere. Has anyone been?

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

My dining companion and I were anticipating our meal at Old Port. We ordered the Ipswich clam appetizer, a Maine Roll and a steamed lobster.

The whole-belly fried clams, usually delicious, were greasy, under-fried and limp. Minutes ticked by. When our entrees finally arrived, we noticed my lobster was dark dark red, almost black. Not a good sign. After 3 attempts to crack the claw (note: I work out and am pretty strong), I handed the claw across the table and asked for an assist. After two tries, my companion was able to crack it. The meat was waaaayyyy overcooked. Dry, almost powdery. Some of the pieces in his roll were overcooked as well.

I flagged down the host, and she swapped out my lobster for a plate some of roll meat. It was slightly better, though some pieces were soggy and icy, others overcooked.

As we were leaving, we noticed the absence of a line out the door.
Our dinner was $70 (the only drink was a diet Coke). At these prices, I expect the lobster to be perfectly cooked. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively).

We've had similar experiences two out of our last three visits. After years of visiting OPLS, this former-Bostonite won't be returning anytime soon.

Sichuan Chowdown at Mandarin Gourmet Palo Alto

Excuse the belated post here. We're going back for seconds tonight.

My favorites were:
Cold Shredded Bean curd with Sesame Oil
not super-spicy, but good flavor

Hot & Spicy Beef Combination aka "Husband & Wife"

Szechuan Tofu aka "Mapo Tofu" (ordered extra spicy) - with beef rather than pork

Spicy Chicken Wings in Chongqing Style - ordered extra spicy, they were very flavorful and much more meaty than Fey.

Pickled Mustard with Fish Fillet

OK dishes:
Pickled Chili with Baby Cuttlefish - liked this, but wished cuttlefish cooked just seconds less - they were a bit too firm
Stir Fried Hot Cabbage - echo on the request for more char on this

Szechuan Dan-Dan Noodle: Too starchy and didn't like the thickness of the sauce

Chowdown report: Shao Mountain in Fremont

I gained a new appreciation for Hunan food -- delicious!
Great to see hounds old and new, and meet Melanie's mom.

My favorites were:
Thousand-year eggs with chili - this had some kind of jelly and was dramatically different than I've seen before.

Western Hunan smoked pork

Lotus root chili with chili in wooden tub

Braised pork with wild bamboo shoot

Fish filet with dual flavor ("Christmas" style)
I was partial to the green, but as others stated, enjoyed the contrast of flavors.

I didn't care for the blueberry yam dessert, though it was pretty to look at.

What was labeled stinky soup under desserts was actually a slightly sweet, slightly rice wine flavored soup with tart goji berri's and tapioca pearls. It was an interesting flavor sensation, and I'm glad I tried it. Warning: it was served in a bowl that served 10-12, so be sure you have a crowd if you order this.

We'll be back! Thanks hounds!

Question from San Francisco 'hound

Thanks, foodlovergeneral. Raza was awesome!

I highly recommend going on a Wednesday evening, when you have the chef's attention virtually to yourself. The flavor profiles and key ingredients were Peruvian, the preparations French.

That evening, we started with black bean soup with queso fresco
followed by yellow quinoa with pickled vegetables, butternut squash puree and sweet bay shrimp
followed by Magret duck with lime, honey and coriander and mini lime meringues that melted on the tongue, delivering a drop of lime zestiness (so good, I asked for a few to take home)
followed by veal cheek with cauliflower mousseline and portabello powder
for dessert, the chef created a molecular gastronomy work of art on the table photographed).

Unique and highly recommended!
We'll definitely return.

Chowdown at El Hueco Peruvian Restaurant in Redwood City

We returned again this evening, and tasted two new items.
The first was "chicharron de pollo" - a wonderfully moist fried chicken, with a zesty dipping sauce that had a touch of star anise and cinnamon. The other was a "California cerviche" - mixed seafood with some avocado, mango, ginger and mint. Refreshing and delicious. Our third dish was "Aji de Gallina," which we've enjoyed before, and enjoyed again. The combination of crunchy, citrus-y and creamy dishes was a good one.

I'm so glad to have this place down the street.
Here's a link to their website:


El Hueco
593 Woodside Rd, Redwood City, CA 94061

Dinner in Carmel Area - One Night Only - La Bicyclette? Luca? Passionfish? Something else?

It's my birthday weekend, and I'm looking for some advice. My husband and I are chowhounds, so we'd like to avoid the touristy poser places. The restaurant doesn't have to be upscale -- for us, reliably excellent food trumps "atmosphere."

We live near SF, so we have pretty high standards for Italian and "Californian" food. We are staying in downtown Carmel, so walking distance is would be great, but we're willing to drive a few miles for a memorable meal.

Some places I've seen mentioned are:
La Bicyclette
Passionfish (Pacific Grove)

I have been to the Flying Fish a number of times and have had consistently great food there, but it would be good to try somewhere different.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Aug 29, 2009
DeeGlaze in California

Donato Enoteca, Redwood City

Tonight, my husband Marc and I dined at Executive Chef Donato Scotti's new place at 1041 Middlefield Rd. in Redwood City. The restaurant opens to the public on Monday, June 22nd. Appetizer, pasta, main and dessert (enough food for 2 hungry people) ran about $50 without wine. Service was friendly and consistent.

There is an open kitchen, and the atmosphere strikes a good balance between "night out" and elegant farmhouse, with paper-topped tablecloths and exposed beams.

We were greeted with some sliced ciabatta and a flavorful dip.

To start, we tried the bruschetta di cinghiale, which featured hand-pulled, braised wild boar, onion, and a bite of Chianti vinegar over thin, toasted ciabatta slices. The meat definitely took center stage, and it was flavorful and abundant.

After some deliberation, we chose a second course of ravioli di fave, This was probably our favorite of the night - light, green-tasting and flavorful. The ravioli was filled with a mixture of fava beans and ricotta, topped with fresh fava beans and peeled cherry tomatoes, and topped with some arugala pesto which was also drizzled on the frisse that accompanied the dish.

For a main, we shared the branzino ai ferri, which has been a favorite of ours at La Strada in Palo Alto. The Seabass was served whole and grilled perfectly, accompanied by aromatic grilled fennel and slightly charred (in a good way) tomatoes.

We ordered two contorni with the fish - broccoli rabe, which was tossed in a sauce flavored with anchovies and Pecorino cheese. I was lucky to grab a bite of this because before Marc completely devoured it. The second was bianchi di spagna - white beans with guanciale and rosemary. This was good, though I would have liked them finished in the pizza oven with a bit more guanciale.

For dessert, we had a shortcake with grilled peaches and basil cream, drizzled with balsamic vinegar to counter-balance the sweetness. The shortcake was crunchy and a nice contrast to the smooth basil cream.

Since we were sitting overlooking the kitchen, we noticed a couple of dishes we'd like to try next time -- the carciofi fritti (lightly fried baby artichokes) and costoletta alla Milanese (veal chop) looked wonderful.

The Oaxacan Kitchen-Palo Alto

Hi Melanie,

I'm glad to read you went -- I have tried their food at the farmer's market and remember liking their negro tamale. I walked by the restaurant today (too early for lunch), and hope to try it for dinner sometime this week.

Low-Key, Great Food for Party (20-30 people)?

Just realized I can't edit a post any more. I meant to say <$30 per entree. With wine, etc. I'm figuring $75-100 per person.

Jul 27, 2008
DeeGlaze in Manhattan

Low-Key, Great Food for Party (20-30 people)?

I'm seeking a place with a warm, comfortable neighborhood atmosphere to hold a birthday party for my father's 70th this December. It would be great if there was a private room or some sort of space where we won't be mixed in with too many other tables and can hear each other talk.

We don't want to book anywhere too expensive, but the food *has* to be simple, flavorful and good. Family-style Italian or a steakhouse are my first thoughts -- though I'm open to others. Ideas in the $30ish per person price range greatly appreciated.


Jul 27, 2008
DeeGlaze in Manhattan

Chowdown Report: Little Sichuan

I'd like to chime in here on some of the dishes we tasted.

Our banquet dinner included 6 cold plates. The spicy jellyfish was cut into thin strips that were coated in the sauce. Definitely a winner. I also enjoyed the Young Bamboo with Sweet Red Peppers and the spicy cold noodles as a counterpoint to some of the other, spicy dishes on the table.

The Salty Pickle Fish Soup was light and clean tasting, with chucks of fish so light we originally thought they were dumplings.

I also enjoyed the Dong Po Pork -- a couple of us spooned some of the "soup" into bowls to slurp it up. Nice and vinegary. The Whole Fish in Spicy Bean Curd Sauce was light and tasty, though not remarkable. Some liked this more than others.

Xin Jiang Stir-Fried Roasted Lamb with Cumin Powder was the table favorite -- this was an addition to the regular banquet menu for 6 and I'm so glad we tried it. The lamb was thinly sliced and highly flavored without the gritty taste that sometimes comes with cumin dishes. It was bursting with strong, cumin, garlic and chili flavors. If you order one thing, order this.

A second thanks to Melanie for organizing..

Gambardella's, Trattoria Buon Gusto or Palermo?

We have friends visiting from out of town next Friday. Normally we would cook, but they arrive on a Friday and we won't have time. In lieu of having dinner at home, we are seeking a warm, friendly, homey environment with great food that isn't too expensive. One friend is a vegetarian.

I have been to all 3 of these places in years past.
Buon Gusto has always been a good neighborhood spot -- I heard that they may be closing -- is this true?

All things equal, where should we go?

Cortez disappointment (long)

I'm sorry to read you did not have a good experience. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary at Cortez about a month ago and had a wonderful dinner there.

Siam Garden in Menlo Park?

I used to enjoy meals here back in 1995-6, and for some reason, haven't been since then. I walked by the restaurant yesterday, and am wondering how the food is these days.

Need suggestion for social event for 15-20 people in Palo Alto/Mtn.Vw. - good food/private rm.

As a postscript, we wound up having an enjoyable event at Shiok!, 1137 Chestnut Street. It turned out to be a perfect setting -- family style food was a great natural icebreaker, particularly with dishes inviting commentary like the ostrich.

Food was enjoyable, low-key and served promptly by an attentive waiter. Some dishes were better than others -- many of the appetizers - 5 spice roll, roti prate with curry dipping sauce, sambal string beans, crispy tofu were universally enjoyed by the group. Some of the specialty dishes were similar in presentation and flavor. I am partial to the Char Kway Teow - flat rice and yellow noodles mixed with Chinese sausage, eggs, beansprouts and chives in a sweet black sauce. Kokkien Mee, with vermicelli, prawns, calamari, chives, beansprouts and eggs stirfriend in a prawn-based sauce was also tasty.

We had a large number of appetizers and ~9 entrees, and I was shocked to find the bill was under $300, including wine. It was a casual, reasonably-priced, tasty meal for the not-for-profit group I was hosting.

Need suggestion for social event for 15-20 people in Palo Alto/Mtn.Vw. - good food/private rm.

I am organizing a dinner event for 15-20 people in the Palo Alto/Mountain View vicinity. We have some vegetarians and need room to have clusters of tables versus one long one.
We also need room to mix and mingle before dinner.

I'm looking for a place with great, flavorful, interesting, crowd-pleasing food, relaxed ambiance, and a total bill of no more than $40 per person including drinks.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Has anyone tried Salsa - California Ave. Palo Alto

Salsa is a new restaurant opened by the owners of my take-out standby, Mediterranean Wraps.

Has anyone tried it?

Malaysian-Singaporean-Indonesian Restaurant List

I recently visited Mango Bay for lunch. The restaurant itself was decorated nicely - good for a business meeting, which is how I ended up there.

I tried the Nasi Lemak, which was served in a deconstructed way, with fresh, flavorful ingredients. My dining companion ordered the Curry Laksa, which smelled wonderful. I talked him into letting me try some, and found the broth well-seasoned -- spicy without overpowering the seafood, though there was a fair amount of oil on top. It seemed most of the people seated around me had ordered soups of one kind or another. All in all, not bad, but not very authentic either.

It's great to see a compiled list of places (thanks RWCFoodie) -- I look forward to reading posts form the community and finding a standout place for this cuisine.

Chowing Down at Hong Kong Saigon Seafood Harbor in Sunnyvale

I haven't had to a chance to partake in a Chowdown in quite some time, and this one was a treat. Thanks again to Peter and Melanie for organizing this Peninsula event. Thanks also to Ahclem for the mouth-watering photos that helped me to put a name to what I remembered.

I enjoyed the opportunity to try HKSSH's version of some old favorites, and trying new dishes I might not have ordered on my own. Aside from getting together with a group of people who share a passion for food, the fun of going with a larger group is tasting small bites of everything, then having seconds of your favorites. I couldn't believe it when I looked over and saw Melanie's long list of the items we tasted.

I particularly enjoyed the seasoning of the Teochew fun gor, the crispness of the roast duck, the wonderful sauce surrounding the Ong choi with fu yee and chilis (Ruth's scissors were especially valuable for serving this one), the perfectly seasoned salt and pepper squid (it must have been a huge one -- there were some really hearty pieces). The blend of flavors and textures of the Braised frog, eggplant and pate de foie gras claypot was interesting and rich, and the Water chestnut gelee was a nice suprise (my first time trying this as well). The BBQ pork buns were seasoned well though a little lighter on the filling than I am used to.

The mango pudding looked like an interesting preparation, though we were too full to try it when it passed by.

Great chowdown!