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great mole in san francisco?

I've tried a number of idshes at Tu Mero Mole in San Jose. There appears to be a recently-opened second branch in Sunnyvale. They do have Mole Poblano on the menu though I don't recall if I ever tried it specifically. I find their moles have nice depth, balance and complexity. Not as good as the best ones I've had (most memorably at the central mercado on Isla Mujeres of all places) but certainly well above the bar.

ZONGZI aka CHINESE TAMALES SFBA Dish of the Month May 2014

The clearest difference is that northern zongzi are not tasty, while southern ones are delicious! :)

According to my Taiwanese relatives, the main difference is in the texture of the rice. The former has more individual grains, while the latter is a more glutinous texture. From the photo, it looks more northern with the grains breaking off in individual grains, which is less likely in southern ones.

My cousin surmised that zongzi is one of those foods where your mother's version is really the one you like the best. So I'm not actually kidding that I will only eat southern ones, but I assume there are others who are equally adamant about their side of the fence.

ZONGZI aka CHINESE TAMALES SFBA Dish of the Month May 2014

Nice find! Do you know if it's southern or northern Taiwanese style?

Non fried/battered calamari dishes in Monterey or Santa Cruz

Soif sometimes has a great squid salad dish. It seems like it's blanched quickly before being chilled. I've always enjoyed that dish immensely.

With Chef Santos (former Soif chef) having recently moved to Discretion Brewery, there's a squid dish on their menu as well, but I didn't try it. Not sure if it's fried or not, though my guess is not.

Real trick would be to find someplace that serves a really good calamar a la plancha.

Aug 07, 2014
bouncepass in California

Visiting for a week from L.A.

Thanks for the heads up on these new places. Both will be on the list for my next visit for sure!

Visiting for a week from L.A.

Agreed. I meant to say that more generally for pizza, not necessarily Neapolitan, I like PD and Tony's. Edited to fix the poor writing.

Visiting for a week from L.A.

I visit LA at least once a year after having lived there for some time (though that was more than a decade ago now). Here are places that I don't believe have good LA area analogs: Wakuriya (Japanese kaiseki); Bar Tartine; Sawa Sushi (some people love it, others less so); La Ciccia (Sardinian); Mission Bowling; Kin Khao (Thai); Garaje (over the top Mexican-inspired calorie bombs... in a good way).

I really enjoy Nopa. The menu doesn't necessarily look all that different from any number of other spots, but I think their execution is impeccable. I'd say it's worth going.

For an Italian date place, I'd vote for La Ciccia or Cotogna.

Two patisseries in SF that are worth going out of your way for: Knead and B Patisserie. The kouign amann at the latter is crazy good.

+1 on Blue Line Pizza. There are branches in Mountain View and Burlingame which should be relatively convenient for you.

+1 on Burmese. I like Burmese Kitchen a bit better than Burma Superstar but I'm not an expert by any means.

I personally wouldn't trek to Oakland for Pizzaiolo. It's good, but I prefer their pastas and other dishes. Una Pizza Napoletana is the gold standard for Neapolitan pizza IMO. Other pizza places (not necessarily Neapolitan) that I also really like are Pizzeria Delfina and Tony's Pizza. PD has a relatively new branch in Palo Alto. Tony's has at least a half-dozen ovens at different temps for various pizza styles.

I really like Da Sichuan but I don't think it's necessarily worth taking up a slot assuming you're in reasonable striking distance of the San Gabriel Valley.

I prefer LA's dim sum scene over the Bay Area by a reasonable margin so I wouldn't waste my time. I've been to King Hua, Lunasia, Sea Harbour and Elite in the past couple of years and I prefer each to Koi Palace. But others disagree.

Boston/Cambridge Trip report

They had Lunch IPA briefly (tapped at lunch time, gone before closing), after which Mo was on tap for the next couple of days at least.

Boston/Cambridge Trip report

Boston Trip Report (Food and Beer)

For reference, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Part one: Food

Outstanding:

Oleana: One prominent person in the know said that Chef Sortun has an amazing hand with spices, and that was abundantly obvious at this meal. Almost none of the dishes was quite as expected (in a good way), and the creativity and execution was both top notch and yielded as many “wows” as any meal as I've had in a long time. This at a price point of $60 pp makes it an amazing value.

Row 34: Awesome meal of raw oysters and clams, the smoked fish plate and a lobster roll. All were outstanding. Each person tried one of every raw oyster and clam (a dozen total) and that was a terrific way to go. Impeccably fresh and nearly always perfectly shucked. The smoked fish plate is 21 pp but we shared one portion among three people and that was the perfect amount as a light appetizer. The smoked scallop was the highlight for all of us. The lobster roll was similarly delicious with house made potato chips that were exemplary. The draft beer list is pretty good though it has strong West Coast tendencies which I wasn't as excited about since I live there.

Island Creek: Shellfish tower was delicious, as were the fried oyster sliders and the lobster roe pasta with braised short ribs. Both Row 34 and Island Creek came to around $90 pp including a modest amount of alcohol, and I'd say they are well worth the splurge once in a while.

Very good to good:

Pho Basil (Mass Ave): For the price, really good food. Had one lunch and one dinner. The Vietnamese dishes were executed really well. Pho Diet was above average even by rather lofty San Jose standards. If I worked in the area this would likely be my go-to lunch spot.

Alden and Harlow: two meals, including one of the vaunted burger. The best thing I had was actually the aperatif of the housemade bitters. The burger is deservedly lauded. The roasted beef neck was good but not great. The texture was a bit dry and the accompaniments didn't seem to meld so well. The smoked chocolate bread pudding was intriguing, but as others have noted the salt ice cream is terrific and really makes this dish, but there's not quite enough of it. I'd also prefer if it was served on the side so it didn't turn into a melted puddle within a minute. But the chef has a clear point of view and if I lived there, I'd work my way through the menu.

Myers + Chang: A number of very nice dishes (hakka eggplant in particular, more-or-less “3-cup” style) but the execution and creativity wasn't quite on point overall. It's a fun place with a group and I like how the dishes aren't necessarily the most obvious choices from the various cuisines, but equivalent dishes cooked at a good, traditional Vietnamese/Taiwanese/Thai/whatever restaurant will be better executed at half the price. Coming from the SF Bay Area, I'm not sure I'd go back. If you're coming from someplace with fewer Asian food options, it could definitely be worth a stop.

Salty Pig: A fun neighborhood spot. The charcuterie was good but not great. The pizza looked tasty. They always had one beer from the excellent Maine Beer Co. on draft each time I visited.

Picco: An interesting style of pizza. The crust was a bit more bready than most modern high end pizzas. Cooked nicely and had a nice slight crispiness to it. Some have claimed it's the best pizza in Boston. Maybe it's a personal preference/stylistic issue but I hope for Boston's sake this isn't true. There are easily two dozen better places in the Bay Area, at least to my taste.

Toscanini's: The salted caramel was delicious, but the pistachio tasted mostly of almond (pistachio?) extract which was really disappointing.

Part two: Beer

Revelation of the trip was Maine Beer Company. Mo, Lunch IPA and Another One IPA are all outstanding beers. Peeper was really good while Zoe wasn't quite to my taste but well made. I did see bottles in a number of shops, but some were quite old (4 months) and I doubt they'd be any good. Drunk fresh, however, they're awesome.

Meadhall had the best tap selection. Lots of interesting stuff there. Doesn't hurt that they have around 100 handles.

Lord Hobo was also very good but I was less intrigued by their choices.

Overall, lots of good eats during my trip, in part thanks to the many posts here on CH.

Homemade Frozen Dumpling close to Palo Alto?

A lao wai po (Chinese grandma) makes dumplings that are sold out of a freezer in the back at Southland Flavor Cafe in Cupertino Village. They're very modestly priced, about $15 for 50 pcs of good-sized pork and chive dumplings which are my favorite. They also have pork and napa cabbage, and one other type that escapes me. For a bit more (~$22 for 50?), she also sells XLB that have good filling and medium thick skin.

They're a bit more rustic and homey than, say, Hana or frozen dumplings you can get from Tong Dumpling (also handmade) in the same complex which I prefer for some reason. The skin-to-filling ratio is good for my taste and value is high.

Ask anyone working there about frozen dumplings and they're happy to help you. They used to be cash only but I have a dim memory that they might accept cards now.

Downtown Riverside Restaurant Recs

Not much info on Riverside on this board. During my short visit, I heard positive things about Mario's and the relatively new ProAbition. I went to the Salted Pig twice in two nights, a gastropub that has a pretty great beer list and some tasty food. They had Pliny the Elder on tap the first night I was there, and also the even-harder-to-find Kern River Just Outstanding IPA in bottles on my second visit.

Dishes I tried:

Brussels sprouts: good. Were less charred than I would have liked. The sauce was supposedly kimchi but seemed more sweet and spicy.

Burger and fries: fries were awesome. McDonald's in cross-section but crispy, hot and delicious. They're house-cut and what I wish In-n-Out's fries would be like. Burger patty was excellent. Ordered medium rare it came just on the medium side of that, but reputable. The grind on the beef was a bit coarse which I found really pleasing, and the flavor of the meat was excellent. Would definitely get again.

Pork rinds: Pretty good. Some pieces were underdone (i.e. chewy rather than crispy) and the seeasoning seemed a bit one-dimensional. Needed something to spruce it up.

Brisket sandwich: OK. Brisket was chopped which isn't really my thing, and the sauce with the meat was a bit sweet.

Street tacos: pork belly, salsa, kumquats, arugula and a few other ingredients. Excellent.

All in all, great beer and while the food has a few misses, I wouldn't hesitate to go back for the burger or to try their many other attractive menu items. The oak-fired wood oven subtly perfumes the whole place, and that is just about my favorite smell in the world. It would be great to try some of their wood-oven grilled meat plates, but I'd probably do that with a dining partner or three.

Simply Simon is a bakery/cafe that has a very decent croissant.

May 24, 2014
bouncepass in Los Angeles Area

Regional Chinese roundup 1.0 (early 2014)

One of the servers confirmed that nothing changed besides the name. My taste buds second that. Still delicious as always.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

I'd describe the jerky that I've sampled in-store as medium wet. Not dry, but not super-moist either. It's pretty close to how my (Taiwanese) family makes it, but that's probably not much help to you!

Regional Chinese roundup 1.0 (early 2014)

Thanks for the update, Melanie. The menu they've posted online looks identical to the old one. I wonder what has changed beyond the name. I'll try to inquire next time I'm there.

Chronicle Top 100 2014

I'm most surprised by Wakuriya. I haven't been, but have heard rave reviews by everyone (trustworthy) who has, and reservations disappear for any given day in seemingly minutes.

Regional Chinese roundup 1.0 (early 2014)

Great list. A couple of others that I like that are so far missing:

Mama Chen's Kitchen (Cupertino): Taiwanese

Michelle's Pancake House (Cupertino): northern Chinese. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829455

A&J (Cupertino): northern Chinese. Yelp claims it's closed, but I thought it was open the last time I went by there maybe a month ago. Can anyone confirm or deny?

Beijing Duck House (Cupertino)

Thanks for the report. That sounds awesome. Got to check this out soon!

Menlo Park

Da Sichuan is 10 mins away from Fey in PA and, to my taste, a hundred times better. Doesn't lack for punch, but still maintains balance.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

I like Vua Kho Bo, which contrary to the name seems more Taiwanese than Vietnamese (based on the Mandarin spoken by the people in the Cupertino store at least). I really like their dried fruit (they have a special dried mango that I really enjoy), and they have a large selection of meat and seafood jerky, snacks (I like the black sesame "candy") and tea. Locally it loooks like the only two branches are in Milpitas and in Cupertino Village (a couple of stores down from Joy Luck Palace).

The people are always super-helpful and happy to provide samples of pretty much everything you want, so you can try before you buy. Stuff isn't super-cheap but I think the quality justifies the cost.

http://www.vuakhobo.us/

Santa Cruz Recs

http://www.santacruzfarmersmarket.org/

Not listed on here is the Saturday Aptos market, which is run by a different organization:

http://montereybayfarmers.org/

Apr 08, 2014
bouncepass in California

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

That's a pretty nasty blanket statement unless you've really tried a representative cross-section of places in town.

There are few places that I'd make a special trip for if I was living in Bay Area proper, but that doesn't mean the whole town deserves to be put-down. To me, Santa Cruz certainly lacks diversity of good restaurants. For example, there are few Asian restaurants that I'd go to bat for in the area.

But Soif is a world-class wine bar with excellent food. La Posta is not Cotogna, but I enjoy it more than Incanto, and as much as Barbacco. Bantam makes pizza that would proudly serve most SF neighborhoods. There are plenty of other good-to-very-good places within their genre, at least in my opinion.

Mar 11, 2014
bouncepass in California

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

To my taste, Bantam has the best pizza in the Santa Cruz area. The style is modern Cal-Napolitano and leans chewy and slightly crispy. Slightly wet center. Good char, and nice balance of flavors. No reservations but the wait is generally at most 20-30 mins even on the busiest nights.

Other good pizza in town now:

Pizzeria Avanti - in the old Ristorante Avanti location. More of a NY style pizza. A nice contrast to Bantam.

La Posta - I generally get pasta when I'm here since it's the best in town, but their pizza is also very good.

Mar 10, 2014
bouncepass in California

West End Tap [Santa Cruz] [Split from burger.aptos thread]

Had a good dinner there recently. A large portion of roasted brussel sprouts was a good deal at $5. I might have preferred it cooked just a touch longer, but the glaze was not over-sweet or overdone as seems to be one popular style these days. Also had a deftly cooked pan-fried white fish (can't rember what kind now) served with some nice braised kale and heirloom beans.

Seems the kitchen is evolving nicely and the community is responding accordingly. A popular place for both happy hour and dinner from what I can see. Glad to see it doing healthy business.

Mar 10, 2014
bouncepass in California

Need best of, in or near Aptos.

Ethiopian, Sichuan and Vietnamese are easy: there is none (unless you consider San Jose "near Aptos").

I think best Indian in (and near) Aptos is Ambrosia. IMO it's pretty decent and easily the best in Santa Cruz County.

Consensus Thai is between Sawasdee and Star of Siam, both in Soquel and just a few blocks apart. They're better than average Americanized Thai (like 99.9% of Thai in this country... don't expect Jitlada or Lers Ros).

Mar 04, 2014
bouncepass in California

Ruth's annual birthday dinner dilemma -- 2014 edition

Stella Nonna?

Beaver Creek Smokehouse (Martinez)

Based on the above recommendation, also tried the $21 combo. Same five meats, coleslaw and beans.

Overall, I thought most things were quite good, say, mostly singles and a couple of doubles, but no home runs. I'd return if others wanted to, but I'll prioritize trying Smokehouse 10 first before returning here. Wouldn't make a special trip from, say, Berkeley.

One criticism of all the meats is that the smoke flavor was dialed way down compared to my preference. I'd say it was quite subtle at best. I found this a bit odd as the smoke ring was very pronounced on the brisket and ribs (easiest place to see it), and the whole place does smell mildly of wood smoke (in a good way) and there's a large pile of wood stacked in the back.

Brisket (requested fatty) was decent albeit on the dry side.

Ribs were good. Nicely cooked (some tug to get clean off the bone) and moist, but I found the dry rub a bit lacking. Probably the best of the meats.

Pulled pork: also a good version. Came sauced which makes it a bit hard to evaluate the meat itself.

Chicken thigh: definitely dry in spots. They ran out right after our order so maybe this was the previous days' reheated?

Sausage: Seemed like a pork-dominated sausage whereas I'm more accustomed to a beef-dominated version (best I've had is Luling City Market). Grind was also very fine, which isn't necessarily my cup of tea either. Probably a mismatch between my biases and theirs.

Coleslaw was very lightly dressed with vinegar. Throwing on some of the Carolina bbq sauce made it quite tasty.

Beans were nicely cooked (creamy but still intact).

Thinking about it a bit more, perhaps their meats are coming out fairly close to how they want them, but their style and mine just aren't well-matched. Despite this, on execution alone it's better than 95% of Bay Area BBQ places that I've tried so maybe worth a shot.

Tonight, Valentines day (worst night on earth!) near the Ritz. Dinner for 1![San Francisco]

Maybe the sushi bar at Akiko's? Very respectable omakase.

New Alexander's patisserie venture, downtown Mountain View

Very informative, even if it's semi-speculative. Thanks!

New Alexander's patisserie venture, downtown Mountain View

Do you really mean that Tartine Bakery is considering and/or planning an expansion to Mountain View? I don't think there's a single SF business that could expand to the Peninsula that would have me more excited!

Oh Please, Pretty Please, Din Tai Fung—PLEASE Come to SF!

The first two are in Arcadia, not Alhambra. They're also adjacent to each other!