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Favorite Movies About Food?

Jon Favreau has a new movie coming out called "The Chef." Looks interesting, he plays a chef who quits to open a food truck, sounds inspired by the Kogi truck to me.

Suggestions for a couple birthday dinners... [San Francisco]

I think Aziza from your list will fit your bill. I had the tasting menu and I remember that the portion size coupled with the number of courses were just about right.

Some other options I would add include:

Sons & Daughters: Solid tasting menu and I remember feeling full (although on pricey end)
Quince: Fancy celebration place. They have the option of tasting menus or ala carte.
Central Kitchen: Good portion size, not super big, but also not tiny.

Sydney for 2 days and 2 nights

Never been a fan because Thai in the States have too much sauce in the cooking. But you're right, maybe more authentic Thai wouldn't be as saucy. I regret not going in Sydney since they have a whole "Thai Town."

Sydney for 2 days and 2 nights

The Great Barrier Reef sounds fun, I'm disappointed I couldn't get out to that direction during this trip. Sorry, I didn't try any Thai places because I'm not generally a fan of Thai food.

Sydney for 2 days and 2 nights

I just came back from a trip to Australia, including 6 days in Sydney. (I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area).

One of my favorite meals was the degustation menu at Six Penny. The food was creative and beautifully plated, and the vibe was very casual and low-key. Granted, I went for lunch so maybe that's why it was low-key. But the general vibe of the place is friendly with great service and the chefs from the kitchen bring out all the courses. Servers basically help you with the wine and other stuff. It's in an off-the-beaten track neighborhood (Stanmore) and I think they did that on purpose because they rarely have walk-ins and do all their tables through reservations and people coming specifically to eat there.

I didn't try as much Cantonese food in Sydney because I wanted to try more the other types of Asian food I typically wouldn't get back in the States, so things like Malaysian, Taiwanese and Sichuan. I had a nice Sichuan lunch at a place called Shengcheng Hot Pot King in the Haymarket district, and a casual but good lunch at a Malaysian place called Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam (in a business center a block from the Queen Victoria Building).

My observation about Asian food in Australia is that the Australians can be very trendy and a place might look cool and popular, but you can't tell if the meals are really authentic.

Are you going to other places than Cairns in Australia? 2 days sound like a short trip for such a long plane ride. ;-)

April 2014 Melbourne Trip Recap

Recently came back from a 2.5 week trip to Australia, and this is a recap of my Melbourne leg of my trip, which was the last leg. (I've already posted my eating adventures in Sydney and Perth in separate posts.) I actually didn't eat much in Melbourne and did more snacking here and there, and there were a couple of places I just wandered into that didn't rise to the level of mentioning. Here's my recap:

LOVED
** Cumulus Inc. and Cumulus Up. Probably no surprise here, I loved this place for the food, open kitchen view of the crew, and general hip casual vibe. I ate at both places and didn't have a problem getting a single seat at the bar. Went to Cumulus Up after arriving late to Melbourne on a Friday night and dropped in around 10 p.m. Really loved the signature duck waffle and foie gras, and also had the lamb riblets, octopus flatbread and kingfish crudo. Went to downstairs Cumulus Inc. on my last day for lunch, again sitting at the bar (which is larger downstairs) when I got there at noon. Probably ordered too much but loved the house-cured pastrami and tuna tartare with smashed peas. I think their only downside is desserts seem to lack the creativity or the expert execution. Otherwise, this was my favorite dining spot.

GOOD
** Colourful Yunnan -- Low-key spot across from University of Melbourne (680 Swanston) is a bit of a ways to go if you're a tourist but worth making the trip if you really want to try authentic Yunnan cuisine. When I went for dinner, it was totally packed and had people waiting, and everyone dining were either Chinese or a white person who came with a Chinese speaker because everyone spoke Mandarin at the restaurant (although most could speak English if needed). Had the Cross Bridge Rice Noodles and they were nicely done, with a clean clear broth and tasty accompaniments. Only thing is sometimes the kitchen really fires up the food so smoke gets into the dining area like at Korean BBQ joints.
** The Commoner -- British style restaurant in Fitzroy area around corner from Brunswick Street. Very comfy decor with really interesting plating. Had one of the most beautiful beet salad in my life, just from the plating. The taste, though, was good but sometimes lacked a punch in flavor, more sublime I would say. Probably because they make all their ingredients, include the cow curds in the beet salad. Bit on the pricey side but really different.

DON'T BOTHER
** HuTong Dumpling Bar -- I was really looking forward to this place in Chinatown area because I love dumplings. And while they were good, they weren't amazing. The xiao lung bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) had a nice thin skin but the filling had maybe too much pork. Tried the duck dumplings and they were good but maybe needed a dipping sauce of hoisin or plum sauce. Mapo tofu I ordered for dinner was fresh but maybe a tad too much cornstarch. It was a busy place, and had nice decor, but did feel like it attracted a more non-Asian clientele.

You can see photos on my food blog. If you're reading this in the future, you can always click on the "travel" label to see all my reports from Australia.

http://focussnapeat.com

March 2014 Sydney Trip Recap

Yes, I saw that about David Chang and Golden Century. And I learned about Golden Century from that "Where Do Chefs Eat" book. I wonder if chefs going there get "special treatment" where they get a lot of off-menu items, so makes it seem more worthwhile to them? On another note, I wish I had more pipis while I was in Australia! :(

April 2014 Perth Trip Recap

Went to Australia end of March and early April, and this is just a recap of the different legs of my trip and the food I tried. Hopefully this might help others planning trips there.

I did one already for my Sydney days, and the second part of my trip was in Western Australia in Perth. I actually stayed in Scarborough at the beach, and there were very little good eating options to talk about. But these are my good and/or noteworthy experiences.

Wild Fig Cafe -- I think this is the only good eating option right at the heart of Scarborough Beach. It's a cute corner cafe with some really nice food and friendly service. I ate there for breakfast and had a nice Spanish-style green scrambled eggs (pesto sauce made it green) with figs of course.

Print Hall -- In Perth, this is one of the biggest dining establishment with a large bar that's pretty popular with the after-work crowd, and an upstair terrace. The dining room only offers the option of a four-course dinner or tasting menu. I went the four-course route where you choose from the menu in the four sections (starter, first, second, and dessert) and I enjoyed all my dishes. The chef also gives some nice in-between palate cleansers or amuse. I had a really nice kingfish crudo with tomatillo and pastrami with pickled onions. All the plates were creative and beautifully plated, and the service was great.

Stables Bar -- This was also very happening for the after-work crowd who comes for drinks. Place is tucked in the alley in the CBD near the theater. Great service, very friendly, and interesting small plates. The quality of the food might sometimes seem overdone, but they were fresh and made to be shared. Lots of interesting stuff, but really it's the festive vibe and friendly service that's a draw. Also, prices are pretty decent after eating at other places where it really seemed Perth was an expensive spot.

Bread in Common -- This large cafe is in the quaint town of Fremantle south of Perth, and it really has an innovative menu, very Mediterranean style. They're known for the bread, which you pay by the slice. It seemed like a really pricey place, but the ingredients all seem fresh and the service is great. I got a Cos salad with coppa and peaches and it was a large bowl, but also cost nearly AUS$25.

You can see some of the photos on my blog. If you're reading this in the future, you can click on the "travel" label to see all my Australia posts.

http://focussnapeat.com

March 2014 Sydney Trip Recap

Just returned from 2.5 weeks in Australia, visiting Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Since I get a lot of ideas on where to eat from these boards, I thought I'd provide feedback on what I ate for others who might be planning a trip.

Here's my report on Sydney. Keep in mind that my plans were hampered a bit by nearly daily rain during my six days there. :( My recaps will include so known places and a few Asian places.

LOVED
** Six Penny -- This restaurant in Stanmore neighborhood is pretty hard to find, and I think they planned it that way because everyone dining there came specifically to eat there, no walk-ins. I went for a Saturday lunch, and the service is top-notch, like any Michelin-starred restaurant, and the tasting menu (or degustation, which seems to be the preferred term in Australia) was delightful and filling. I thought all the dishes were creative and beautifully plated, and each one is brought to the table by the kitchen crew, including once from the main chef, which I thought was a nice touch. I think my favorite was a pork cheeks pastrami and a kingfish crudo.
** Shancheng Hotpot King -- A friend took me to get Sichuan food in this place in Chinatown/Haymarket. While most people do the hot pot, we just ordered a few dishes. Do not get the pig's ears because right now they don't seem to be doing it well, but everything else was great, from the fu chi fei pian (beef and tripe) to the pickled cucumbers. We had soup noodles as well that was a big bowl and well done.
** Black Star Pastry -- Definitely go for the strawberry-watermelon cake (so beautiful and so tasty) but their meat pies are also really good, nice flakey shell and delicious filling. Not much seating so you end up sitting on crate boxes outside, but still worth it.
** 10 William St. -- While I really thought the food was nicely done, this is a very pricey spot. You end up paying a lot for the portion sizes, which seems to lean on the small side because this really is considered a wine bar, where you just have a drink and a few small bites and then go somewhere else for dinner. Still, very nice pasta dishes and crudos like the interesting scallop and mangosteen I ordered.

GOOD
** Sonoma Bakery Cafe in Bondi -- It rained at the beach, but the bright spot was when I went to this casual cafe and ordered an salmon crostini that was this huge plate of food on toasted bread (they're known for their fresh bread). The ingredients were bright and of highest quality.
** Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam -- Inside the Regent Place business tower in CBD (near Cross City Tunnel), this Malaysian fast-casual spot was a nice lunch spot. I enjoyed trying my first sedap and curry chicken, and fell in love with my order of frothy tarick tea.
** Ester-- In the up-and-coming Chippendale area, this place was really happening with a lot of regulars and friendly bar staff. The food is very close to the local, sustainable preparations done here in the San Francisco Bay Area, so felt very comfortable eating here. Heavy on vegetables, so good if you're not a meat eater. Loved the pickled mussels and whole cauliflower, and even the honey duck had amazing skin.

DON'T BOTHER
** Golden Century Seafood -- In a panic while strolling Chinatown I came here for dinner based on recommendations I read in a chef's travel food book. The food is definitely fresh here but extremely extremely expensive. They do a lot of non-Asian clientele and many of the dishes are banquet size, so wasn't great for me as a solo diner. I had read about a specialty of green-lip abalone steamboat with noodles but couldn't find it on the menu, and anyway it probably would have been outrageously pricey as all the fresh seafood seem to be. Still, I had a decent seafood tofu casserole with fresh gailan for dinner.

You can see a few of my photos and in-depth reports on some of these places on my blog. If you're reading this in the future, just click on the "travel" label to get all my travel reports from Australia.

http://focussnapeat.com

Penrose, Oakland: Food & Drink Report

Loved reading this post John! I tried to get in around 6 p.m. Saturday and was quote an hour wait. So left because I had to go to a concert. Must try again another time, after the hoopla has settled a bit.

Oakland restaurants

I wonder if a lot of the cheap Asian restaurants in the Oakland area would actually offer gift certificates?

If you're looking for Asian restaurants, I think the more modern ones would be more likely to have gift certificates, but then they might be pricey. That said, I would recommend:

1) Burma Superstar (location in both Oakland and Alameda), they could get a nice dinner for $50 and spend extra for drinks

2) East Ocean Seafood in Alameda, they could use the gift certificate for dim sum?

3) Hawker Fare in Oakland isn't super Asian but is Asian slant. While it does a busy lunch service, it is open for dinner.

Again, I don't know for sure these restaurants have gift certificates, but I would say they're more likely than other more mom-and-pop shops.

A16 Rockridge [Oakland]

I went last week Thursday night for dinner with a friend and enjoyed the experience. The decor is a nice improvement, although I didn't care for the artwork that ran across the dining room. As for the food, we had crudo of anchovies that we loved, the cavatelli with geoduck sugo that was great, and a special rabbit crespelle (crepe) that was very tasty.

The contorno, or side dishes, weren't as good in their supporting roles. A roasted fennel was nice, but the escarole hearts wasn't anything fancy.

Also, they created their own version of the A16 budino from the Marina, which I love. But in the Rockridge location, it's more a chocolate cake with rum sauce and a budino center. Don't feel this really showcases the budino as much as the Marina version.

Overall, I'm happy to see this spot in my neighborhood. Great place to sit and get a pizza or some starters and cocktails at the bar. But I feel so far the menu, which creative, doesn't seem to match the balance I found at the San Francisco location with Chef Christopher Thompson. But I'm willing to give it a few more tries for the convenience (it's hard for me to get out to the Marina).

http://focussnapeat.com

I need a fun first date restaurant (Union Square area [think broadly]) [San Francisco]

I've eaten at Belden Taverna a few years back and it was decent. Good size dishes that's not necessarily inventive but also not awful. I guess you could say they're like classic California Italian fare. Seems neutral enough for a first date if you're sitting outside enjoying the weather and company.

Red Medicine or Son of a Gun?

Thanks for the clarification. OK, so I was not a fan of the cauliflower panna cotta.

Hopscotch (Oakland)

I thought the food was interesting although menu limited. I especially remember liking the crunchy salad. But I felt the service was a bit standoffish when I went, so I've never really made an effort to go back.

I need a fun first date restaurant (Union Square area [think broadly]) [San Francisco]

Here are some suggestions:

1) Canteen has a nice casual vibe in the decor, even though it serves a prix fixe menu. The only thing to consider is I feel it's often quiet dining here, so that means you'll really be forced to entertain and chat your date or else it may create a "boring" feel.

2) Tropisueno in the Yerba Bueno alley is a more lively spot if you like Mexican. This definitely would be a more fun vibe.

3) Cupola, it might seem weird to have a date at the mall, but this restaurant at the top of the Westfield is pretty good, with quality pizzas. I feel pizza is always a nice casual, non-threatening date meal.

Too bad a lot of restaurants in Mint Plaza closed up because there were a few "romantic" type places. I think 54 Mint, the Italian spot, is still open but it's been awhile since I've been. From what I remember, it had a casual, family decor that might be nice for a date. The downstair dining area is darker and would be more "romantic."

Sons & Daughters would be too fancy, although I love the food, because they only do tasting menus. But I feel they're solid cooking in Union Square area.

Red Medicine or Son of a Gun?

I had sorta the same experience as you as an out-of-town diner trying RM based on recommendations on this board. I thought the service was good and the plates were beautifully presented, but the flavors were too much on one side. You might have experienced a lot of sweetness, but I got a lot of saltiness from the overuse of fish sauce. The brussel sprouts were to sticky from the sauce, and an uni dish had a big layer of what seemed like aioli or mayonnaise on the bottom. Just too much! Not enough balance in the dishes.

I do agree, though, that the coconut bavarois is a great dessert. I did enjoy that.

san mateo ramen on a weeknight

I feel Ramen Parlor doesn't seem to be as crowded as Dojo or Santa. So it might be a safer bet of the three, plus I feel Parlor offers a lot more non-ramen dishes if you're feeling like some other things to go with ramen.

Ramen Shop? (Rockridge, Oakland)

Went last night and this time didn't bother ordering ramen. I just made a dinner of the wok-smoked cod with asparagus and the cha shu donburi.

The smoked cod dish was nice, especially the perfectly cooked asparagus. They were so thick, but they shaved the skin and looked like they blanched it, so it was served cold. But it was cooked and crispy, really refreshing with the cara cara orange segments.

The donburi is unusual, and kind of reminds me of their fried rice dish. But it comes looking almost like bibimpap with the various elements in sections that you mix altogether. There's the cubed cha shu that's been pan-fried, then some pickled ginger, pickled radish, radish shavings, fresh peas, and what seemed like either konbu or kiraage mushrooms. In the center was a raw yolk (just the yolk). I liked the mixure of all the flavors and tastes, but I wished the cha shu wasn't pan-fried. I think I would have enjoyed it more as cha shu slices like how it's on the ramen. Still, it was a filling dinner for when you don't feel like ramen. Oh, I got there at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday and it wasn't crowded yet. Got a seat at the counter no problem.

Is Bazaar Still Worth a Visit?

Thought I'd give an update on my weekend in LA and what I ended up doing.

So for Saturday dinner, we ended up giong to Gjelina in Venice. We got there at 6 p.m. and waited an hour, which was fine because luckily the nearby stores stayed open until 7 p.m. I really enjoyed our meal there. The food reminds me a lot of what I get up here in the Bay Area (seasonal, local ingredients). I especially like the pate, which I'm normally not a pate person, but it really tasted good with great texture.

We went to ink. on Easter dinner and it was a nice dinner. The menu is really interesting and presentation is different and creative. Overall I liked most of what we ate, but there were a few dishes where the menu description seemed complicated but it didn't totally deliver on every flavor mentioned. I really liked the hamachi with asparagus fried in squid ink batter.

Had reservations for Red Medicine on Monday night and it's a cool space and friendly service, but I was a bit disappointed by the food. It was creative and interesting in presentation, but most times it was too much of everything. LIke too much fish sauce in the Brussels sprouts, or too much sauce in the young turnips, or too much aioli or some kind of cream in the base of the charred uni in fish bowl. Maybe it was an off night given the comments on this board, but I felt all the dishes would have benefited with some restraint or balance of flavors. The only real dish I liked was the coconut dessert, which reminded me of haupia in Hawaii, which I like.

Also, we went to Din Tai Fung for Shanghai soup dumplings for Easter lunch in Arcadia and everything we ordered was done well. I tried the Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong and I felt the soup dumplings at this location was better than what I had in Hong Kong. And the hand-made noodles are always good.

There were a lot more places I wanted to try (A-frame, Son of a Gun) but couldn't convince my sister to always make the long drive since she's over at Marina Del Ray. Hopefully will be back again soon to check them out!

Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

http://focussnapeat.com

Foodie visiting SF April 20th

Also, for brunch Dottie's True Blue Cafe is a classic, but might be a bit farther for you. It's walkable, though, although you'll be walking through some sketchy parts of downtown. Address is 28 6th St., just south of Market. You should probably do a search of the board to get a sense of the menu and timing for waits.

A nice Japanese curry place that's a nice hole in the wall is Kare-Ken at 552 Jones St. This is easy to walk to from your hotel. Very limited menu of Japanese-style curry dish, but the guys who run it are young and very nice. Definitely a no-fuss meal.

Foodie visiting SF April 20th

My go to place in Chinatown (which is downhill eastward from your hotel) is Bund Shanghai, 640 Jackson St. Good for either lunch or dinner. Northern Chinese style cuisine, including Shanghai soup dumplings.

Wonton Noodle Soup - SF Dish of the Month (April 2013)

I did a search two years ago for my favorite bowl (with roasted duck) and my top was King Won Ton (second was Hing Lung on Broadway, so sad it's closed). Anyone know if King Won Ton is still open? I may need to go back for their gigantic won tons.

Nice to see Charles Yu posting here! The best won ton noodle soup is of course in Hong Kong and after eating there, I can't imagine finding one that matches here because there's a distinctive shrimp taste to the broth that doesn't seem to be done in the states.

http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/201...

Is Bazaar Still Worth a Visit?

I have reservations for ink on Easter and Red Medicine the next night (Monday).

But now my sister wants me to make reservations for Saturday, and I was planning to just play it loose instead of making reservations. Of course, at this late date, it's hard to get reservations.

I'm wondering of the following places, which do you guys think we'd have a better chance to walk in for three with not too crazy of a wait?

Gjelina
Tar and Roses
Superba Snack Bar
MB Post

R&G Lounge on the decline? [San Francisco]

My niece were craving some of her favorites growing up, so that's why we ordered those dishes. Otherwise, I would have stuck more with the seafood.

Yes, I like the dry-fried style of Peking spareribs as well. Do you have a rec of a San Francisco restaurant that does it well that way?

R&G Lounge on the decline? [San Francisco]

Klyeoh, R&G's version looked like it had less green, not as much cilantro, and more beef and imitation crab, so didn't look exactly like Charles Yu's photo.

R&G Lounge on the decline? [San Francisco]

My niece was in town and she was craving Chinese food. Whenever I'm in the Union Square area, R&G Lounge is my go-to spot for decent Cantonese food.

But during this last visit, I just felt everything was off. Kitchen seemed heavy-handed with the cornstarch, given the thickness of the sauces.

We ordered some basic non-fussy dishes that were my niece favorites: West Lake beef soup, mapo tofu, green beans and Peking spareribs.

West Lake beef soup should just be ground beef and minced cilantro, but instead it came with very little cilantro and a lot of imitation crab meat along with the beef. The inclusion of the imitation crab meat was what threw me off, even though the taste was fine, it just seemed weird and I don't like the idea of eating imitation crab meat.

The Peking spareribs should be more like a dry rub with light sauce but instead it was almost like sweet-and-sour pork with the bones still in. The sauce was just so typical sweet-sour tangy, and so much of it.

The mapo tofu was ok although my niece wanted more ground pork but I think they just used a few shreds of pork (or maybe it was beef), and the green beans were OK as well but not great.

Like I said, I've been here before in past years with out-of-town guests and they were always fine, but now just seems to be mediocre. Still, the wait on a Saturday was 45 minutes for the two of us around 7 p.m. There were crowds of people still trying to get in, which I don't get because it's so average now.

Dumpling Kitchen [San Francisco]

Mmm, would love to get some good sheng jian bao. I remember the ones I tried had doughy bun texture, probably from the soup soaking into it too long. Hopefully it'll improve if they get more fire power.

Is Bazaar Still Worth a Visit?

Waah, so many good sounding options, my weekend is booked! I'm keeping these notes for a longer stay in LA! Thanks!

Is Bazaar Still Worth a Visit?

Thanks, interesting options.