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Restaurants with great local cheese plates near Stowe/Waterbury??

I have a little over two days to get a crash course in Vermont cheese - stopped by the Cabot Annex in Waterbury and picked up Cremont from Vermont Butter and Cheese, La Petite Tomme from Lazy Lady, and Moses Sleeper plus Bayley Hazen from Jasper Hill. Am reading up on more cheeses and realizing there's so much more I want to try I should try to find restaurants with deep cheese selections.

So far, I've found Hen of the Wood in Waterbury. Anyplace else?

Oct 20, 2014
daveena in Northern New England

Impressing out-of-towners in the East Bay

Pizzaiolo,Camino,Hopscotch, Champa Garden, Taqueria Sinaloa

Ark Chinese Restaurant in Alameda

That braised egg tofu is fantastic. I just had it for the first time recently. Ge da soup was as good as I remembered, as was the zha jiang mian and spicy beef noodle soup. Every time I go I wonder why I don't go more often.

Dragon Gate - New Taiwanese Food Venue in Oakland

I had a really enjoyable meal here a few weeks ago - I'm pretty nominally Taiwanese and never thought I had particular cravings for Taiwanese food, but Dragon Gate satisfied cravings I didn't know I had. In particular, I keep thinking about the braised cubes of daikon in the beef noodle soup, (meltingly tender and saturated with spicy broth), and the dried radish pancake (a light, fluffy omelet studded with bits of pickled radish.)

We also really enjoyed the Taiwanese grilled sausages and oyster pancake (one of the better versions I've had, with crisped edges, fat fresh oysters, and a not too sweet, not too gloppy, slightly tomatoey-vinegary sauce). The three cup chicken flavor was great but our chicken pieces were very bony. Skewers were fine - we had chicken heart, gizzard, intestine, beef cheek and okra with bacon - I don't think I'd get them again.

Service was very brisk - next time I think we'll ask to have the dishes paced out a little more, since we got everything almost at once.

Musing in Fremont

Haven't been to all the good beer places in the Bay Area yet, can't say for sure :)

I just really appreciate how unpretentious the staff and patrons are at The Bistro. It's so far from anywhere most people would want to be that you get a no-bro, low-hipster quotient that can be very pleasant. I think I posted a few years back on my inaugural Pliny the Younger experience (my first time going to The Bistro) and just really loved that most of the patrons there were there to hear their friends during open mike night. No crazy lines or waits.

Musing in Fremont

Killer write up, thank you!

Chaat Bhavan is where we go when husband's craving chaat and I want a dinner thali. I've always found it satisfying but not stellar, will head back in with your recs next time.

I haven't had a dosa in the Bay Area that bests Saravana Bhavan's, would love to hear if you've found a good one.

For your beer needs - there may be something closer to Fremont, but if you haven't found one yet, The Bistro in Hayward is the most unpretentious, least douchebaggy good beer place I've been to in the Bay Area. Hayward also has an excellent, small wine shop called Doc's.

Favorite Ice Cream 2014

I think I've burned out on fancy artisanal ice creams. All I ever want these days is a hot fudge sundae from Tucker's (Alameda) with macapuno and toasted almond ice creams.

Fresh lo mein noodles in Oakland/Berkeley - where to buy?

Yuen Hop in Oakland Chinatown has an overwhelming selection of fresh noodles - more egg, less egg, no egg, various thicknessess - it makes it hard to remember which ones I love when I try to recreate dishes that worked, but I'm guessing if you go for one of the skinny "less egg" noodles would work.

Seattle/Gig Harbor Trip Report - July 2014

Had a brief trip for a wedding in Gig Harbor and added on a few days to see friends in Seattle - I didn't get much of a chance to research beforehand, but luckily the Seattle board had some great, active visitor threads going (hi greyelf!).

For a visitor from the Bay Area, I think it's worth it to seek out berries, rabbit, and morels, all of which are more plentiful, cheaper, and better in Washington. Breads, pastries and cheeses were great too, and fun to compare with hometown favorites.

Favorite dishes/foodstuffs are marked with asterisks (*)

Gig Harbor - since we were here for a wedding, our priority was convenience, not chowhounding, but we still did pretty well.
Susanne's bakery - *marionberry pie was excellent. Juicy flavorful berries, not too sweet, good buttery crust
Anthony's - I actually didn't realize this was a chain until I saw one at the airport. Best dishes were clam chowder, cedar planked Copper River salmon, and berry desserts. Best strategy was to choose the simplest sounding dishes, anything that seemed too ambitious fell flat (tuna tartare with avocado had weirdly sweet/sesame dressing, etc, one of the fish dishes had an odd berry compote that marred the otherwise well-cooked fish)
Devoted Kiss Cafe - serviceable for a high-calorie brunch the day of the wedding.
Gig harbor farmer's market - more crafty stuff than produce, but we did enjoy the Townsend Creamery stand and bought a small round of *Seastack (excellent, earthy, kind of melty kind of chalky veg ash coated cow cheese).

Seattle -
Local 360 - on my last trip to Seattle 2+ years ago, Local 360 was our runaway favorite. I went back for brunch - unfortunately, the chicken fried steak was tougher and thicker than I'd remembered, and I didn't love the vinegary gravy (my notes from last visit described it as more mushroomy). Biscuit was excellent. Cheesy grits were very good, and rabbit pot pie, while tasty, bordered on chowder in texture, with a lot of gravy and tiny bits of rabbit. Service was friendly and efficient (Yelp reviews seem to suggest the contrary).

*Stoneburner* - asterisking the whole damn thing. I loved this place. I wouldn't have known about it except for a few wildly positive one-liners on Chowhound - I'm really surprised it doesn't show up on more Best Of lists (I'd also glanced through a few other sites, including Eater 38). There's a (recently closed) restaurant in SF called Incanto that I loved - the chef described the cuisine as Italian, if California were a province of Italy, and I thought Stoneburner had the kind of food you'd see if Washington were a province of Italy.
* Black bucatini- garlic, bottarga, chili - I was crazy for this dish. Great texture, nice heat, great flavor.
* Ricotta cavatelli, chanterelle, parsley and fennel top pesto. Again, perfect pasta texture, great flavor
* Pizza with fonduta, potato, morels - ultra thin crisp crust, not usually my preferred type (I like a bit of flexibility and chew), but for this pizza - paper thin slices of potato, a generous scattering of morels, and melted cheese poured tabletop - it was perfect. Morels are crazy expensive in the Bay Area, and it blew my mind that you would find them at a mid-range restaurant.
Grilled turnips, fava bean and cilantro pasata, charred leek vinaigrette
Roast cauliflower, pistachio, calabrian chili oil, golden raisin agrodolce - both veg dishes were well executed and complemented our carby selections well
Honey semifreddo - refreshingly light, topped with shards of burnt sugar "honeycomb"

With tax and tip, it was $34 pp. To be fair, we weren't drinking much, but it was still an unbelievable deal.

Bakery Nouveau
*Cherry galette - one of the best tarts I've ever had. Perfect juicy glazed cherries, great crust.
Double baked chocolate and almond croissants - giant craggy burnished croissants filled with marzipan and/or chocolate, similar in style to Tartine's in SF, which I enjoy
Kringle - I brought a selection of pastries to a friend who's ethnically Danish, and she loved the kringle in particular

Dahlia Bakery
*Coconut Cream Pie bites - these were great. I don't even particularly care for coconut cream pie. Again, fantastic flaky pastry - I don't think I had a single bad crust the whole time I was here.
Strawberry eclair - Dahlia's goodies tend to run towards homey American with a streak of hippie - the presence of a vegan carrot almond oat cake would usually send me screaming the other way - but the eclair looked so good I had to try it. I was very impressed with the light, tender choux pastry.
Donuts fried to order - these little beignets were good (and came with little cups of vanilla cream and excellent cherry preserves) but I think dessert beignets have been so trendy in the Bay Area for the past few years I probably would not have ordered these if I had known they were beignets.

In Melrose Market:
Sitka and Spruce - I was only able to get here for lunch, and had a fairly simple dish of potato, morels and egg. It was good, but there were definitely dishes on the dinner menu that looked a lot more interesting to me.

Rain Shadow Meats
* rabbit and pork belly terrine - loved this

The Calf & Kid - I tried a number of local cheeses and loved the raw goat *Wonderland. Also enjoyed Willapa Hills Big Boy Blue, Iris Red (raw sheep), and Boont Corners Reserve (a California goat and sheep), but it was the Mountain Lodge Farm's Wonderland that stood out. I had to choose between the Macrina baguette sold at Calf and Kid, and the Columbus Bakery one sold at Sitka and Spruce, and went with the Macrina because the Columbus was too big for three of us to share. The Macrina loaf was a slightly sour, rustic type that I favor, and rounded out the little picnic I'd collected at Melrose Market.

Ny'ers 1st time itinerary. Feedback welcomed

Best dosa I've ever had were in NYC. There's a stretch of Lexington in the high 20's (Curry Hill) that's all kosher vegetarian Indian restaurants, mostly South Indian. Koreatown is a strip of W 32nd street. In general I prefer my Bay Area Korean, but I lived in Santa Clara and Oakland, not SF. Still, haven't found a sul long tong better than Gam Mee Oak's.

Robert Sietsema was my Jonathan Gold, and his Cheap Eats book was my bible when I lived in NYC. Chowhound also started there, so I'm very surprised these places don't show up in discussions more often. It may be that they've been there for so long that they've fallen off the radar.

Nontypical wedding food

We had Korean fried chicken and kimbap from Koreana Plaza, plus tacos from Taqueria Sinaloa (they have a fleet of trucks) for our cocktail hour. We actually had a full buffet (Rockridge Market Caterers) afterwards but you could add a few more items (banh cuon, cha gio - Tay Ho is very good, and caters), maybe a roast pig from Gum Kuo, and have a really great, Oakland-y reception.

Small, soft chocolates?

She can even have their caramels - those thin chocolate shells give way to just a little bit of pressure and are filled with nearly liquid caramel. No teeth required.

Nam Kao @ Castro Valley Bowl

Last night's bowling outing with my husband's family reminded me of this old thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/397029

Castro Valley Bowl's snack bar has the usual hot dog/fries/wings menu you'd expect, but it also has nam kao, chicken and beef larb, and angel wings.

We tried a couple of dishes - a better than average pad thai, a good fried rice, angel wings were a little underseasoned to my taste but I have to admire them for even offering them.

The nam kao was quite good - the strips of pork skin with thicker and coarser than most, so the flavor and texture were a little more prominent than in more refined versions. The ratio of crispy to non- was a little low - I think they're taking fried rice and frying it in a thin layer, rather than frying balls of rice, but it tasted good. Cilantro and mint on the herb plate, romaine to wrap, which actually worked in the context of bowling - it was less messy to scoop rice into romaine than it would have been to wrap with a softer lettuce.

It's not the best in its class for nam kao, but it has to be best in its class for bowling alley food. They apparently do a good business in takeout as well.

Chowdown at Padi in San Leandro

I was familiar with a number of the dishes, having gone through a period of ordering takeout from Padi almost weekly, so I focused on ones I hadn't had before.

Bubur Ayam Jakarta - it looked more broth-y than jook when it came out, but the jook part was buried underneath a mound of sliced Chinese donut and shrimp chips. The rice was maybe a bit more glutinous than Chinese jook - anyway, it stayed mounded in a small pool of very good chicken broth, while still being creamy, without any individual remaining granules.

Laksa Melayu - like ...tm..., I found it a little lacking in pungency for my taste, but it was pleasant.

Sayur Nangka - I've had other curries from Padi, but not the jackfruit - while the sauce is the same (and it's very good), we all marveled at the texture and form of the jackfruit, which was remarkably similar to artichoke heart.

black rice with coconut cream - this was a gift from the chef, and it was delicious - the rice was creamy but still retained some bite.

Brief notes on the remaining dishes:
Pempek palembang - this comes with a bit of thick wheat noodle, chopped cucumber, and a soy based sauce on the side. I would enjoy this dish on its own as a meal in itself, but it's not ideal for sharing.

Tumis Buncis - everyone loved the tempeh - I think the only time I've ever enjoyed tempeh is in Indonesian food. It was nutty and flavorful, and the beans were good as well.

Ayam Penyet - I love the sambal here - actually, they have three different house made sambals that they use for different dishes. When you order takeout, they pack a little container of it, and I love using the leftovers with scrambled eggs, rice, etc.

My one regret is that I didn't think to order Ayam Kalasan ahead of time - it is very labor intensive and involves frying chicken, then marinating it in coconut milk, then frying it before serving, so they need 1 or 2 days advance notice. I haven't had it here, and have been wanting to try it.

Thanks again to Melanie for organizing!

Best pizza in the East Bay

Personal faves:

Emilia's for hybrid New York/Neopolitan
Pizzaiolo/Boot&Shoe for Californian

I also really enjoy East End, A16, and Nizza la Bella. We've been looking for a place that will replicate the style prevalent in southern France (thick layer of 4 cheeses, often gruyere/mozzerella/roquefort/parm, with sauce) and haven't quite found it, although Nizza la Bella came closest after we asked them to add some blue and sauce to their Bianca con Formaggio i Funghi (ricotta, mozz, gruyere, parm). East End was less accommodating - their Mousetrap (fontina, mozz, provolone, blue) hit the flavor pretty closely, but they weren't willing to double the amount, per my husband's request.

I had Slicer for the first time this week and thought they got the NYC street slice flavor down, but the crust was super tough. One of our friends who'd had it before thought it was anomalous batch.

88 Sports Bar and Korean Grill (Alameda)

This bar used to be Scobies - they apparently had some Korean menu items on the menu for years, after the current owners bought it, but they expanded the menu and renamed the bar back in October.

The menu is pretty wide ranging, with lots of sojubang standards (dukbokki, fried chicken, samgyeopsal), a lot of different soups, soondubu jigae, plus the usual "non-specialized" Korean restaurant standards (bulgogi, bibimbap, etc).

Since it's a bar, sojubang seemed the way to go, so we ordered their house spicy chicken wings and a mixed dukbokki. Chicken wings were good, with a thin, spicy soy glaze. They also have a more classic Korean version with a gochujang glaze we haven't tried yet. I really liked the mixed dukbokki (rice cakes, eggs, fish cake, dumplings, sweet potato noodles) - it had a thinner, less sweet, less pasty sauce than the version at Da Sung Sa. Dukbokki texture was perfectly tender and chewy, and I strongly preferred the slippery clear sweet potato noodles to the ramen noodles at Da Sung Sa. I don't love a thick coat of gochujang on everything, so this version was more to my taste. I will say, though, that the 88 Sports Bar version is a few dollars more and has a lot less "stuff" (dumplings, etc) than Da Sung Sa.

Minimal panchan, and it was just ok, but I don't expect panchan at a sojubang anyway.

The Yelp reviews aren't very good (a fair number of them give poor ratings because of cost, which is more expensive than Oakland Korean restaurants, or because of failure to honor Restaurant.com and other coupons), but it looks like everyone who's had the dukbokki thought it was good.

I plan to sample off some other parts of the menu next time, but I can't imagine they can execute every item on the menu well - I can't think of another Korean restaurant with as broad of a menu, and they do some "Western" stuff as well.

Souk Savanh Restaurant, lao and thai cuisine [Oakland]

Had takeout from them this week and was impressed. Mok pa was great, very light texture, flavor dominated by dill (I think other places go heavier on lemongrass/kefir lime)

Good nam kao, although the only herb included was mint.

Papaya salad was intensely salty/funky/spicy - we definitely missed the rice that we'd ordered but that didn't make it into our takeout bag. There were no visible chilis but it was crazy spicy (I don't know how many chilis we ordered, I think my husband just asked for it hot).

Kow Soy Boran (hofun noodles, homemade soybean paste, ground pork, cilantro, onion, bean sprouts, cabbage, chicken broth) was soothing and satisfying, with a gentle funkiness from the soybean paste.

Sticky Rice Cafe: Laotian, Thai (Oaktown)

We used to go there regularly when it was Black and Silver - for some reason we started going less after it became Souk Savanh. I think we had a good meal there but we really loved the male chef who did all the crazy Raiders murals for Black and Silver, and he had to leave to take over a family business in another state. Then we found Sticky Rice, which is on a marginally less sketchy block - we tend to go for dinner, so we appreciated that there was at least a bar next door and some foot traffic on that block other than sex workers. Although, I'm thinking it may be time to go back to Souk Savanh - thanks for the reminder!

Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont - Fresh Pani Puri

Chat Patta Corner is still going strong. We drive to Fremont to eat there a few times a month, usually to the Ardenwood location so we can sit. My favorite is the tikki chole - we tend to go for dinner, and while I crave the sweet/sour/spicy//yogurty flavor combo, I also want something hot, so a piping hot spiced mashed potato patty topped with spiced chickpeas, topped with sauces and yogurt does the trick. We'll also usually get one or two of the cold chaats (honestly, we have a hard time keeping them straight, so we order semi-randomly and have yet to be disappointed), and either a paratha or one of their simple thalis.

I'm more likely to order pani puri at the Dana Bazaar location - partly because I'm more likely to be looking for a snack than a meal, and partly because the mob of folks waiting for pani puri at Ardenwood can be a little too much when I just want dinner.

Hopscotch (Oakland)

Had a really good meal here the other night.

The starters we had were refined and would not have been out of place at Benu. The Yonsei oysters (with sea urchin, salmon roe, and citrus soy) were a perfect sweet briny bite, and the risotto with asparagus, red wine and quail egg was everything I look for in a risotto (deep umami punch, slightly loose texture, perfect chewiness).

The mains were more rustic but satisfying in their own way. I loved the quail stuffed with rice, a new dish they were testing out that night. The First Base Burger was very good but I found it a little overpowered by the pickled onions. Fried chicken was excellent.

Dessert was donuts with butterscotch custard - the donuts themselves are good but not particularly notable. The custard was great, with a deep burnt caramel flavor. I'd eat a tub of it straight.

With all the other newer, hotter places opening in the last few months, it seems much easier to make same day reservations now. While it's not a cheap meal (we averaged $50 pp with one cocktail each, after tax and tip) it's a really good value.

Sticky Rice Cafe: Laotian, Thai (Oaktown)

Recent disappointing meal. Crispy rice salad not as fresh as before, although still enjoyable, and Kao Poon was bland and sweet. We asked the chef if the recipe had changed and he admitted that a large number of his customers are vegan/vegetarian, so he stopped putting fermented fish sauce/crab paste in the soup base.

It's the most convenient Lao place for us, so we'll probably still go back for Nam Kao and Larb, but I'm a little bummed about the Kao Poon.

Any transplants from LA to SF (or vice versa I suppose) that would enjoy a discussion of food/restaurant theory?

When I think about my meals at AC, I actually don't remember anything about the poem/menu, or the weird technical stuff. I remember the most pristine seafood I've eaten outside of Sushi Yasuda (her menus are heavily sea-based - the only "meat" course was quail, which worked for me).

The dishes that I remember best are a giant, beautiful, barely cooked prawn, and a perfect raw oyster with a bit of citrusy foam.

I remember that you hated WD-50. I did too. But AC's philosophy and approach are completely different. The main ingredients are usually very simply and classically cooked and allowed to shine. Accompaniments may be foams or gels or powders, and the whimsical presentation may be too twee for many, but I think it is completely inaccurate to say that her dishes are "probably as far toward the other end of the ingredient vs. technique spectrum as you'll find locally." If you actually look at those pictures you're referencing (I just did a random Google Image search, to make sure my meals there were representative), the core of almost every dish is a simple, minimally cooked piece of seafood, or some beautifully cooked vegetables.

Quality cheese (for wine pairing) between Mountain View to San Mateo?

Melanie, any hints on how to tell if a Red Hawk is properly ripe before you buy it? I started getting a lot of young, almost chalky Red Hawk after it won some prestigious prize a few years ago. I assumed they were selling them earlier to keep up with demand. I guess you could try poking it to see if there's any give. It's still ok when underripe though.

I've at least learned to not buy Epoisses that's visibly saggy in the middle. I made that mistake the first time I bought it and assumed the ammonia bite was supposed to be there. A perfectly ripe (or even underripe) Epoisses is great with pinot, but one step in the wrong direction and I think it would kill the wine.

My washed rind of choice right now is Langres. I haven't lived in the South Bay for years, but my bet on the two places most likely to carry it would be Milk Pail and Los Altos Whole Foods.

KK, since you're specifically pairing for pinot, I would probably avoid anything too sharp or tangy and focus on funky, mellow, mushroomy cheeses. Along with the washed rinds above, I'd think about brescianella, and I'd look at some creamy mixed-milk cheeses (La Tur, which can sometimes be found at Costco, Robiola due Latte). I think Brebirousse, a brie-style sheep, would be great too.

Since the knowledge of the person manning the cheese counter can vary, my strategy would be the following:
1) Zero in on creamy cheeses with rinds, and cheeses in round boxes
2) In a store where they don't cut the cheese to order, look at the date the cheese was packaged and only select ones that were cut within a day or so. For cheeses in boxes, do not purchase if the middle is sagging (overripe and ammonia-y)
3) Choose a mix of different milks, whether separate or blended, and a mix of washed rind and non-washed rind

I think this would get you a mix of cheeses that would pair well pinot, even if you didn't recognize the cheeses themselves.

How is SF's 38 Essential List (Eater SF)?

For me, everything was very salty and fatty - it was all pleasurable at the first bite, but the taste became monotonous very quickly. I actually can't remember anything I ate there, except the burrata (which was good, but not any better than anyone else's burrata). I was annoyed by the long-winded explanations of what everything was, and annoyed by seeing the same items come around over and over. I just can't imagine that a dish that's circulated around the room a few times is as good as one that was ordered and fired on the spot (when I go to dimsum I prefer to order off menus too). It seemed extremely inefficient and gimmicky.

But, like I said, every food writer on the planet loves this place, and if it's number one on your list, you should go. Just go early so you don't have to wait on line too long, I'd hate to send somewhere there for a 2 hour wait.

I think the quail was ok... I'd take a Cambodian style stuffed quail over it any day though.

I find both Bar Tartine and Rich Table creative but unpretentious, and deeply satisfying.

I've loved every incarnation of Bar Tartine, and I'm sure a large part of it is that the bread is still my favorite bread on the planet. I tend to make the bread the center of my meal, and make sure to order something soupy, or saucy, to complement it.

Rich Table's chefs trained and met at a NYC restaurant I loved years ago (Bouley), and have also spent time at SF restaurants that I enjoy (Coi and Quince). The classical French technique + great pasta + a bit of molecular gastro + casual atmosphere and reasonable pricing combo works for me.

I actually haven't been to Flour + Water - I'd like to at some point, but I'm not willing to wait hours for a table, and I can't make it there at opening time. I have heard great things about the pasta tasting menu.

Ultimately, though, I think you should listen to your gut (sorry) re: the menus that really appeal to you. It is hard to calibrate your tastes to those of the posters on a board that's not your own. Taste is subjective, and there are lots of posters on this board that I respect but don't necessarily agree with. If it helps at all, though, LA poster Porthos may as well be my twin.

How is SF's 38 Essential List (Eater SF)?

The SF list is pretty good overall. There's a big chunk that seems to be perennially on the list (in comparison, NYC's list has an enormous turnover rate. NYC also includes all boroughs plus Jersey City, so the pool they're drawing on is absolutely enormous).

The only obvious miss for me is Greens. Maybe at this point it would be unfair of me to judge it on 2 meals I had over 5 years ago, but they were so disappointing I haven't been willing to give it another chance.

The biggest omission for me is Atelier Crenn. It is by far my favorite high-end restaurant in the Bay Area (I prefer it to the French Laundry, Manresa, Coi and Benu, have not been to Saison).

Among my favorites:
Lers Ros Thai
Bar Tartine
Rich Table
La Ciccia

Worth going to:
Foreign Cinema
Humphrey Slocombe

OK but overrated:
Bar Agricole (great cocktails, ok food, worst cheese plate I've ever been served)
Mission Chinese Food (individual dishes are enjoyable but unbalanced menu makes it hard to create a meal that's not all super salty/blasted with Szechuan peppercorns.)
State Bird Provisions - high end stoner food, and a worker's comp fiasco waiting to happen. Apparently I disagree with every food writer on the planet about this one.
Yank Sing - expensive, great vegetarian dumplings, but in general I'd rather drive to Daly City to eat at Koi Palace, where they're always rotating in new and interesting items.

patisseries in Bay Area (SF and East Bay) that sell caneles

I had the opposite experience! I think the BL one I had was undercooked, almost gummy, while Fournée's was super caramelized and crunchy on the outside.

patisseries in Bay Area (SF and East Bay) that sell caneles

Second Fournée. They have the best ones I've tasted, better than Boulette's Larder and La Boulange,

Oakland Chinatown--best of, by restaurant

Sounds like it's time for me to go back to Shanghai restaurant again. I had a bad run of visits a few years ago but everything you described sounds great.

Casa Jimenez (former El Taco Zamorano Taqueria) - - my beloved carnitas are back in Oakland!!

This is our current go-to when we're craving a plato of whatever. Nothing new or life-changing here, just really good execution of standards (enchiladas, tacos, chile relleno, various stewed meats, fried whole red snapper). Good corn tortillas, good rice, good beans, good salsa.

They now routinely have some 8 or so beers on tap. I've been enjoying Goose Island's Matilda on my last few visits.

Neighborhood isn't great, but they usually staff two armed guards during the evening, if that makes a difference to anyone.

Desco - Regional Italian in Old Oakland

I like this place a lot - I was a fan of La Strada when I lived in the South Bay, and was really happy to see Donato Scotti and his casonsei replace Borga Italia, which I'd had high hopes for but which had such terrible service that I walked out without ever being able to order dinner.

So far, I've enjoyed every pasta I've had there, although I'd have to say - I think the casonsei were better at La Strada. Or maybe my tastes have changed. I don't think I'm crazy, though to say that I'm pretty sure the shape was different - a sort of 4-point (maybe 3-point) package where the edges all pointed up, so that the bottom was flat and got super browned in butter - it's more of a half-moon ravioli type shape now, which doesn't allow for as much browning. The pappardalle with lamb cheek sugo and the chitarrine with clams, olives, calamari, mussels, chili and bottarga are both great, and while the spaghetti carbonara isn't the best of it's class, it is still very satisfying. Portions are not enormous, but managed to be filling.

The one miss so far has been the Piatto Della Casa, a platter of smoked duck, rabbit terrine, and roasted porchetta - the one I tried was underseasoned, and the terrine was dry somehow.

Service is fast and professional, which makes Desco a reasonable lunchtime option. You can be seated, order a plate of pasta, pay, and be out in 30-40 minutes, without actually feeling rushed. $9-13 for pasta may be more than I'd normally pay for lunch, but honestly, it costs about as much and is way more restful than getting lunch from a food truck. They've also added less expensive sandwich items ($7-10) that I haven't tried yet.