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Chowdown Report: Lunch at Nido in Oakland

To the right of Melanie's post, I see that one of Chow's most popular posts is one called "No I Don't Want to Split 4 Deviled Eggs 6 Ways: Why Sharing Sucks."

Clearly, the author wasn't at our Chowdown, which was a master class in how to cut a taco into three portions. Organized, efficient, and hungry, we ordered a balanced collection of eight dishes.

My horchata was light and refreshing. Sometimes you get slightly heavy horchatas and even some grittiness; this was a much lighter style all around.

Ceviche was good. A bit sweet and I wondered if they had something tomato paste-based included in it.

Gazpacho was cubes of fruit, mostly apple and stone fruit from what I remember. I wish they'd just call it a fruit salad with some cotija and chile, but it was actually quite good.

Tacos de barbacoa de res tasted a bit like an overdone braise to me. Underseasoned and stringy, which was disappointing given this was the dish I suggested we order.

Tacos de puerco adobado were good, with one of the more intensely fruity salsas I've had in a while. And the tortillas for both tacos were thick enough to enjoy biting into.

Quesadillas coloraditas de vegetales a la parrilla was a highlihgt. By the time I got around to eating it, the shell had cooled and gotten dry, but I appreciated the balance between cheese and vegetables. The accompanying tomato salsa had just enough zip.

Ollita de pobre con muslito de pollo asado was great. The chicken was well seasoned had the density of well marinated meat. For someone who wants meat, beans, and rice, it's a straightforward and well executed preparation.

Tostadas were my favorite, and I'm glad Felice made sure we ordered them. Buttery avocado, rich black beans, crunchy masa disk, meaty chicken, it was exactly as it should be.

Flan with strawberries was great. I was fascinated by how dense it was, and I liked that the stewed strawberries were just sour enough to balance the creaminess of the flan.

Nido would be a great addition to any neighborhood. A significant step up in quality over the everyday taqueria, and I was blown away by some of the prices. I could see a local office worker getting take out lunch three times a week here.

Special thanks to Melanie Wong for organizing the Chowdown and felice for ordering and bringing us such delicious mochi. And thanks to everyone for the company. As good as the food is, the conversation is always better.

Tonkotsu Ramen at Fujiyoshi Ramen [San Francisco]

Delicious tonkotsu ramen at Fujiyoshi Ramen, a restaurant that opened a few months ago in Tendernob.

Rather than the opaque soup that I expected, Fujiyoshi's is much lighter. It had a lovely sweetness that I appreciate in good tonkotsu soups with none of the bitter aftertaste or gumminess you can find from overboiled stocks.

A word of warming, there was a clear layer of oil on the top of the soup. I've heard it explained before that this helps seal in the heat of the stock, but I can understand someone objecting to it.

My MSG spider sense was tingling, so I'm curious to hear from people who are more sensitive if they have a reaction. I'm terrible at picking it out so I'd love to find out if it's added or not.

I asked for the thin noodles, as is standard in ramen from Kyushu, and while I asked for them hard (so that they can soften in the hot soup), they came rather soft. They weren't so soft as to ruin the experience, and I ate them so quickly that it hardly mattered.

As for the egg, the whites were nicely set while the yolk was runnier than I'm accustomed to. The pork would be meager even by Tokyo standards. The bamboo shoots were nicely sweet as well, and they had incorporated quite a few white sesame seeds in the soup.

Was it perfect? No. And if you're looking for a gut bomb, you will be sorely disappointed.

But it reminded me of the ramen joints where I used to order a bowl before my last train home, and I have a feeling it'll do wonders for hangovers.

As a bonus, their curry was great as well, though again much milder than the norm. After a bite of the gluey, roux-smacked S&B/House brand stuff (which I hold dear in my heart), this would seem like very light indeed. It arrived slightly more tepid than desired, but I managed to finish it all anyway.

I'll be back to try the kotteri (richer and more intense) version another day.

Fujiyoshi Ramen
639 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94109

Sichuan Chowdown @ China VIllage (Albany)

Great food and great company at Sichuan Gourmet. Thanks to those who organized, with special shout outs for hyperbowler for squeezing me in and Melanie Wong for bringing some delicious wine.

I was excited to try this, given how little I’ve eaten Sichuanese cuisine. I finished Fuschia Dunlop’s memoirs Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper only the day beforehand, and I had spent hundreds of pages hungering for Sichuanese food. China Village certainly didn’t disappoint.

Because I wasn’t intimately familiar with the flavor profile of Sichuan peppercorns, I bought some the day before and tried them a couple of times to get familiar with it. Ms. Dunlop suggests that newbies chew it for only 2 to 3 seconds before spitting it out to become familiar with the flavor and numbing sensation. Despite having little experience beforehand, I found that tasting it before my visit to China Village allowed to pick up on it in the dishes we tasted and see how its flavors added to the overall dish. I suggest trying it for anyone new to Sichuanese food.

(Stealing Melanie's format!)

Cold dishes
2. 蒜泥黄瓜 Cucumber with Spicy Garlic Sauce – liked this. the sauce reminded me of a salty Chinese miso.

5. 五香腐竹 Five Spice Rolled Bean Curd Sheets – I realized that I have some preconceived notions about the ideal way to enjoy bean curd sheets. In Japan, preparations of bean curd skin (called yuba over there) tend to be more delicate. It tasted a bit salty to me, and I wasn't able to pick up on all the subtleties.

9. 四川口水鸡 Mouth-Watering Spicy Organic Chicken (Bone-In) – I liked this, though the sauce reminded me of a jarred version I bought at Ranch 99 when I was living in LA. I first tried it at 101 Noodle Express and I used to put it on everything. I'd have to buy it again to pick up on the differences between that and what is surely a house made version at CV.

10. 蒜泥白肉 Sliced Bacon-Cut Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce – Tasty. Had me craving a bowl of rice!

14. 棒棒鸡 Szechuan Boneless Chicken with Julienned Onion (bang bang chicken aka ban ban ji) – This was fine, though the chicken was rather dry.

17. 五香猪耳 Thinly Sliced Five Spice Pig Ear (only at larger table) – One of our more subtly flavored dishes. I have to admit that I'm only starting to appreciate dishes such as these which appear to be designed to showcase texture more than flavor (something that Ms. Dunlop talks about in her book as being a common occurrence in Chinese cookery).

70. 风味排骨 Country-Style Spicy Pork Spareribs – I liked this quite a bit. Loved the crispy/chewy texture, which I believe Melanie suggested might have come from rice flour being dusted on it before it was fried. Very intensely flavored and a bit salty.

88. 川西泼辣鱼片 West-Style 1000 Chili Pepper Fish Fillet in Chicken Broth – Another favorite of mine. Heavy on pepper but not overwhelming, the fish remained delicate.

135. 川味轩烤羊肉 China Village Specialty Lamb seasoned with Cumin – I'm still a neophyte when it comes to cumin lamb. Reading Melanie's description, I can understand what others might not have liked about it. There was no sear and the pieces were quite thin, so that the pieces were all well done. Having had few experiences with other cumin lamb dishes, I loved it and especially appreciated how well it paired with the Joseph Swan Zinfandel.

142. 水煮牛肉 Szechuan-Style Spicy Boiled Beef (water boiled beef) – another new dish for me and again one I loved. The beef was quite tender, and I was surprised by how approachable the dish was. I've read about “water boiled” dishes in the past and how spicy they tend to be. This was spicy, but certainly not overwhelmingly so.

180. 干扁苦瓜 Dry-Cooked Bitter Melon (only at larger table) – I appreciated having vegetable dishes, and I ate quite a bit of this. The bitter melon was probably the least bitter of any I've tasted (though still really bitter). I ate a lot of it, hoping it would balance out the copious amounts of fatty meat and other less healthy food I was eating.

189. 蒜炒大豆苗 Roasted Garlic Pea Shoots – Appreciated the vegetables here as well.

191. 呛包心菜 Spicy Charred Stir-Fried Cabbage – Liked this, though I wasn't wowed. Just tasted like sautéed and seasoned cabbage.

192. 四川炒土豆丝 Spicy Shoestring Potatoes Sautéed Country-Style – Appreciated all the flavors that come from just the wok seasoning. Some pretty amazing depth and savoriness came solely from that. while I can appreciate the skill it takes to achieve exactly that texture, I couldn't help but imagine myself making that same dish for an old French instructor of mine and him spitting it out and scolding me for leaving it raw. Funny how the ideal dish can vary so much from one food culture to another.

56. 芝麻大饼 Sesame Flat Bread – Quite dense. Though it sopped up the sauce well!

71. 东坡烧鸭 Dong Bo Braised Duck – fun for me to try, given how much I had read about Su Dongpo in not only Ms. Dunlop's book but also recently in the book The Last Chinese Chef. What was even more enjoyable was eating it and realizing I had had the pork version many times without realizing it was named after the famed poet. The braising could have left it a tad more tender, but it was still quite good.

185. 麻婆豆腐 Hot Bean Curd (Ma Po Tofu) special ordered with beef – Surprised by how different it was from the Japanese version (mabo doufu) I had grown up eating. You certainly get some of the floral notes from the the Sichuan peppercorn, and the beef was quite a surprise given that I had always had it with pork, though it was explained to me that the original version was made with beef. Good and again had me craving white rice.

87. 海鲜干炒马面Village Special Seafood with Pork Low Mein * - I liked the noodles quite a bit. Could have had another small bowl of this if I hadn’t been so full.

153-a. 麻辣豆腐鱼片 Tender Fish Fillet with Tofu * (only at larger table) – Easily my favorite dish of the night, and I am so appreciative that my table mates let me take the remainder home at the end of the night. Ludicrously fragrant with Sichuan peppercorn and devilishly spicy, this demanded my attention. It was so savory and intense, with textures alternating between the silky tofu and meaty fish (which appeared to have been briefly batter fried before being combined with the sauce). I kept coming back to this, over and over again. And afterwards, I realized I was experiencing a rush of endorphins much like a runner’s high. But instead of my mouth being on fire, as it often is when I eat other spicy foods, my lips were slightly tingly. I could see how special the Sichuan peppercorn was and understand why a foreigner like Ms. Dunlop would dedicate herself to such a uniquely delicious cuisine.

Eating at the Bar: Cyrus in Healdsburg

I only went once to the bar once, but I remember enjoying it as kind of a manageable Cyrus experience. I just have to say, I am amused to no end that you were served oknomiyaki. Was there anything on top of it beside the tamarind glaze? Was there sliced cabbage inside? And if so, how fine was it?

Looking for Foodie Wisdom ! - Tokyo 19 Dec - 2 Jan

Ah, sorry to hear that. Thanks for the link, though!

Jun 29, 2012
LikeFrogButOOOH in Japan

Authentic bánh mì in Tokyo

Total coincidence, I happened to stop by the Takadanobaba Banh Mi shop this last week because I work close by. They're definitely closed Monday, as that was when I first visited. I got the Vietnamese ham and pate sandwich. 500 yen and it came on a light, crunchy roll. Pickled veg was heavy on the daikon, light on carrot, a little wetter than I'm used to. And I could have used a little more cilantro. But boy, did that sandwich hit the spot. Warm, juicy, meaty, and crunchy, taking a bite of it was the first time in months that I experienced that mouth-full-of-meat-and-bread satisfaction that comes with a properly stuffed sandwich. I'll definitely be coming by again.

Jun 29, 2012
LikeFrogButOOOH in Japan

Looking for Foodie Wisdom ! - Tokyo 19 Dec - 2 Jan

Hi Silverjay,

This post was written a long time ago, but I'm curious if you've written about this local dumpy hole in the wall before. I'd love to get the name so I could hunker over my meat like a dinosaur.

Jun 23, 2012
LikeFrogButOOOH in Japan

Chef's tasting menu at Mr. Pollo [SF]

Fantastic meal organized by Melanie. Thanks for setting it up and bringing those delicious wines. As Ruth's write-up covers most everything, I'll only add a few comments.

The amuse-bouch surprised me, as the kiwi was pretty harmonious with the corn dough. It wasn't too sweet, and the kiwi brought some nice acidity.

We found out that they filled the arepa with Monterey Jack because importing cheese would be far too expensive. It certainly melted nicely; I thought it even had some ricotta-esque notes that I found pleasant. The cheese wasn't sharp and the sugar was kept to a minimum, so I found the sugar to be a great addition. Crisp edges, moist corn interior, and melted cheese. Can't go wrong with that.

The chachapa was probably my least favorite, though it was my two friends' favorite course. I thought it was the least nuanced, melted jack inside crispy yellow corn, but it was pleasant enough.

The empanada, which the chef might have called something else that I don't remember, was probably my favorite course of the night. A pretty hard crust, probably the result of having created the empanadas a while in advance, but I liked biting through it to get to the tender potato-chicken filling. Some of the others thought it was a little salty, but I liked seeing those salt crystals on the outside. Combined with the almost Chinese-tasting aji, you got all kinds of tastes and sensations.

The lamb and goat was a satisfying plate of soul food. I didn't exactly understand what was in the sauce, which he seemed to imply included some sort of lamb element, but it really tied together the lamb with the rice. Did he say there was achiote in the rice as well? The doneness of the goat was pretty variable from plate to plate. Mine was pretty gray, but Melanie's plate next to mine was a little bloody. I'm guessing he didn't rest it very long. Despite that, it was incredibly tender, well-seasoned, and not too gamey at all. It was definitely a great bite or two of goat. I was gnawing on the bone afterwards trying to get it all. When my friend accidentally spilled his dish on himself, the chef made him a new plate of food without problem.

The chef was a really nice guy, the food was soul-satisfying, and the company was as fun as ever. Tonight was a great night at Mr. Pollo.

Mr. Pollo
2823 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Chowdown Report: Mateo Granados at the Healdsburg Farmers Market

The bruschetta and hash were reminders that sometimes, all you need to do with delicious produce is to put it on a plate. When I saw the carrots, pomegranate seeds, broccoli and greens piled onto an already stratospheric goat hash, I had doubts. It looked like too much on top of too much.

But as I dug through layer after layer, I was struck by the brightness and vibrancy that tied it all together. It spoke to the freshness that surrounded us at the farmer's market and was a testament to Mateo's sourcing. What was on the plate was what was at the market, and it was delicious.

Between the two, I might prefer the bruschetta because of the variety in chicken gizzards. The livers brought funky depth, and the hearts brought crunch. But then again, the unending variety of flavors in the hash- sauces, vegetable garnishes, goat, potatoes- kept it always exciting. I'd gladly order both again.

Talking with Mateo afterward, he told us he had put his green habanero sauce in some miso soup the other day and found that it was delicious. That's the Granados spirit. He takes that same playfulness, puts it on a plate, and serves it on a crisp Saturday morning. Like Melanie said, he didn’t seem sure about coming to Santa Rosa. I sure hope he does.

Chef Al Rosas - Organic Chef - Content Thief

I saw that he is currently featured on, so I wrote them an e-mail informing them of his behavior and asking that they help boycott him. An unethical business that belittles its victims is one I will not be supporting!

Top 10 Tastes - 2008

I always look forward to this thread! I was out of the Bay Area for over half the year so I don't have quite as many meals to look back on, but there were plenty of memorable ones.

These are the top 10 that come to mind right now:

Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot dish at Ubuntu- I swear to god, that vadouvan spice mix is a revelation. I've been meaning to make one for myself and steal this recipe for dinner parties because it's so decadent and so delicious. The plating is also beautiful.

Banana Cream Pie at Tartine Bakery- Best dessert I can think of in the North Bay. It's creamy and banana-y. The crust is impeccable, and the chocolate is dark and intense. I couldn't stop talking about this for two days afterwards. Their pain au chocolat, by the way, is very, very French and very, very good.

Tuna head and root vegetable dish at Manresa- This is the only dish I vividly remember liking from the meal besides the Monkey Bread dessert. They might have used vadouvan as well for this because I remember tasting it and not knowing what the hell was in it. Whatever it was, the tuna head was rich and fishy in all the right ways, and the root vegetables stood up to it valiantly. I'd never had tuna head before as well, so Kinch earns a star in my book.

Thai Marinated Lobster with Avocado and Hearts of Palm at Cyrus- I think I ordered it years ago when it first opened, but I couldn't remember it so I ordered it again this last weekend with a few drinks. Clean flavors, well-seasoned, and nicely presented. This wasn't a dish I moaned over for an hour, but it was a really tasty plate of food I was sad to have finished and glad to have ordered. I couldn't shake the feeling that the service was a little smarmy, though. Our server years ago was one of the best of my life and the few people we interacted with at the bar were friendly enough, but it seemed like they were doing me a favor by interacting with me. Maybe a little smug. Who knows! I still enjoyed it, and I'd go back.

Cabeza Taco at Delicias Elenitas Taco Truck in Santa Rosa- It was my first time ordering cabeza, and maybe that was why, but holy cow, this was good. Crispy, rich, fatty, and meaty. For purely self-indulgent pleasure, this might trump all others on the list. I went back to that taco truck maybe 4 times in the next couple of weeks, continually ordering the cabeza and the lengua. It's also open extremely late, so I can get my fix any time.

Rice cakes with pork and ji cai at Shanghai Restaurant- Another first for me. XLB didn't wow me, but these rice cakes had me coming back for one bite after another. I keep seeing the word "toothsome" being used to describe it, and I think that's perfect. Such a satisfying feeling, it feels like my teeth are buzzing just thinking about it.

Balsamic Vinegar from Stonehouse Olive Oil in the Ferry Building- This wasn't my first time using, or even buying, it, but this was the year I truly fell in love with it. I absolutely love it and I stock up on it the way Y2Ker's were buying bottled water.

Halu Ramen at Ramen Halu- After a very late night, the rich soup was like ambrosia. This tends to happen with a really great bowl of ramen, but it's like time doesn't exit between before I'm eating and after I'm finished. I suddenly lift my head up, everything but half the soup is gone, and I'm in some sodium and meat-induced coma that has me babbling like an idiot. Ramen Halu is the real deal.

Coconut Tart at Golden Gate Bakery- I was a Golden Gate Bakery virgin who had just finished giving my friend a tour of Chinatown, essentially an abbreviated, plagiarized version of the one that followed our Chowdown last year, and that coconut tart far exceeded any of my expectations. They had run out of their egg tarts for the next hour, but I had heard the quality had gone down after the owner's death, so I just ordered the coconut. Pastry was flaky, the coconut still warm, and if I had been any less full and the line had been any less crazy, I would have gone back in a heartbeat.

Chicken Mole Tamale from Primavera- I don't remember ever enjoying a tamale from primavera as much as that it. A huge mass of meat and sauce and big, bold flavors, I feel like a better man for have eaten it.

That's my top 10! Looking forward to going to all of your choices and trying them out for myself!

favorite spots in Chinatown for a tourist who is not afraid of authentic food?

About a year ago, Melanie pointed out Dol Ho on a walking tour of Chinatown. Since then, I try and make it there when I'm in the area. I went there about a week and a half ago. Their pork short ribs over rice is still fantastic! Shrimp and chive dumpling was great as well.

Chowing with the Hounds Picnic, 2008 Report.

Thanks to everyone who helped put together the picnic and the beer tasting! I had so much fun putting faces to (screen)names and getting to talk about food with people as passionate about the subject as me. I enjoyed everything I ate. What comes to mind now are the lemon raspberry sorbet, the birria, the pumpkin/raisin dessert, the beautifully plated avocado soup, and the Mexican casserole. And the wines!

I put up some of my favorite pictures from the event. Here’s the link:

dinner report: Sea Thai Bistro, Santa Rosa

Glad to hear you enjoyed it! I went back about a month ago and was surprised to find that quite a few of the menu items were sweeter than I remembered. Considering the price, I wasn't sure if it was worth going back any time soon, but it sounds like I was there on an off night. The portobello tempura, however, was as delicious as always.

What's the deal with chopsticks?

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard or for so long because of a CH post. Maybe it’s because it’s 2:30am here, but there was some definite snorting.

I was studying Sam’s lists because honestly, I have no clue. Today, I ate a delicious bowl of shrimp dumpling soup noodles in Paris at a Chinese restaurant and couldn’t figure out which of the Japanese traditions ingrained in me were acceptable. Am I allowed to slurp? Is it alright that I’m drinking the soup directly from the bowl? One hands or two? What’s right for the Japanese may not be right for the Chinese may not be right for the French. What’s most likely is that I way over thought a delicious meal, but I like to know.

The bottom line is I use chopsticks when they are served to me, and ususually, these are cases when they’re most convenient. With the soup noodles today or the Korean bbq I enjoyed a few days earlier, it’s just plain easier with chop sticks. It’s a funny image I have of myself trying to slurp up noodles or turn over a piece of beef on the grill with a fork.

And thanks for the video, mexivilla. I think I was losing it when they started describing karaoke at the end.

On First Encountering Cyrus Restaurant

Unless they've renovated it, I thought it was gorgeous. When I went, it wasn't the decor or the service where I found any fault. I'm very much looking forward to getting back to Cyrus for some of those mixed drinks these magazines keep raving about.

Ferry Building with the Stepdad - Report Back

That was so much fun to read, Morton! I find myself wanting to paste one of my favorite quotes, but there are too many. And now it looks like I have to try those croissants from Oktoberfest. Oh, what trouble you're getting me in...

Ze Kitchen Gallerie [Paris]

It certainly is interesting how Ze Kitchen polarises, and I'm glad you gave it a shot, even if you didn't end up liking it, just to be fair. It is certainly possible that the experience has a great deal to do with one's food heritage. For one, as I alluded to in my post, the fact that I had been to restaurant after restaurant offering more classic fare, it was much more interesting to eat somewhere where my friends and I weren't automatically critiquing every element. My last meal at La Ferrandaise comes to mind, where we certainly enjoyed ourselves, but every course came with an evaluation of how it was made and how it was good or could have been better. From my experience in Paris, Ze Kitchen seems to fill a fusion void that is somewhat lacking in the city. Outside of the grand restaurants, I find that most restaurants seem to stick to more classic flavor profiles. Definitely could just be what I found. And yes, Ze Kitchen is expensive for what it is- a bistro. Souphie is totally right on both those fronts.

Having said all that, I still (for the record), wholeheartedly recommend Ze Kitchen Galerie.

It's also interesting you mention those chefs from Australia because they do seem to draw from different cultures than Ze Kitchen. If I understand correctly, they come from Japanese (for the two former) and Chinese (for the latter) backgrounds. Ze Kitchen tends to focus much more on Thai/Vietnamese ingredients and certainly has a heavy hand with many of them. I can certainly understand how they could be jarring on the palate. In fact, I'd now be very curious to see what my Japanese mother would think of Ze Kitchen and it's use of ginger and lemongrass.

With your recommendation, I'd be curious to check out Fish. I had heard good things about it, and didn't realize that the cuisine was more along the lines of what I was looking for. When I check it out, I'll report back.

Jun 15, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France

Ze Kitchen Gallerie [Paris]

I think you and I have had contrasting opinions on this restaurant a few times in the past, and I just feel like I need to voice my support for it again.

I didn't have either of the two dishes you mentioned; the one absolute miss dish I had was a meyer lemon monkfish dish that was beyond bitter and without any hint of the (what would have been) delectable monkfish.

I had so many other hits, however, that it was incredibly easy to forget it. White chocolate and wasabi dessert, beet gaspacho with mango puree and shredded crab, duck ravioli, calamari and soft shell crab tempura, pigeon and foie gras, and an incredibly simple passion fruit and coconut milk "cappucino" were so good, that I have to recommend it.

Granted, having just spent the year studying at a French culinary school, more classic restaurants tend to interest me less; more modern restaurants like Ze Kitchen just naturally pique my interest. That's not to say I haven't had some absolutely fantastic classic meals here. However, what I found at Ze Kitchen was incredibly well executed. I don't know what to attribute it to, as you seem incredibly knowledgeable (different night? different dish?), but I didn't find any of the underseasoned/overseasoned problems I tend to find most anywhere else.

Even comparing it to the restaurant next door, Les Bouquinistes, which is in the same price range, I would say Ze Kitchen trumps it handily. I also don’t agree with Michelin oftentimes, but compared with the other starred restaurants I’ve tried in Paris, I have to agree that Ze Kitchen Galerie easily deserves its one star.

Jun 13, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France

Japanese in Santa Rosa

I think the restaurant you're referring to is Senju. My parents have been a few times and said they liked it. I want to clear this up because it is a completely seperate restaurant from Ume, where I've been with my dad and did not enjoy at all. For Santa Rosa standards, I found the decor rather stylish and modern, but I was very disappointed in the food. I especially remember ordering ankimo (which I love as well, choconinja) and receiving something fishy and strangely dull to my palate. I remember reading the PD's Biteclub article about the sushi round up, and Heather Irwin chose Ume as her favorite of the bunch. Maybe I went on an off night (Jeff Cox's very favorable review is framed beside the register), but I have no desire to return to Ume.

I still haven't been to Cafe Japan, so I'd like to go. The only issue there is the staggering costs. I have no problem paying that for the occasional splurge meal at a fantastic restaurant, but to go there for the first time and pay that is something for me to think twice about.

I think Hana is a pretty safe bet and probably the best of the restaurants I've tried in Sonoma County.

'Foreign' food that's better in the US

It's funny you mention French desserts in Tokyo, cimui, because after my first visit to France, I repeatedly told people that I found Japanese desserts to be superior to those in France. Having spent more time here (and having had the Ispahan (seriously, go eat it as soon as possible)), I think they are both excellent. In Japan, I think I find that most pastries are of a very, very high quality, but there are fewer chef-driven establishments with unique offerings. I haven't done a CH worthy tour but I grew up there and have been back a few times. I will say that between a pastry bought at a Japanese train station or a French one, I will pick a Japanese one every time.

Trip Report

Thanks for providing such a great trip report! I'm glad you enjoyed Ze Kitchen and appreciated Fontaine de Mars for what it is. I've been meaning to head over to Le Comptoir and Fables, so thanks for the heads up. Also, concerning Laserre, I found the same thing with the pigeon. For something so famous, I think I expected a lot more than just pigeon and foie gras (though it was certainly very tasty). Instead, it was a humble royale with fava beans and asparagus served as an amuse that blew me away. Glad you enjoyed your trip, hoiya!

May 19, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France


I've only been to Ze Kitchen for dinner, but the 3 course menu was not served. It's possible they offer it at lunch. They do, however, offer a 76 (75?) euro tasting that had about 7 dishes when I tried it.

May 18, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France

Tokyo and Kyoto Restaurant REVIEWS Summary: My Spring Japan Trip

Thanks for all the reviews, ExileKiss! I don't even know when I'll be heading to Japan, but it was great fun to read through them and to experice such delight with you. I'm now looking forward to experiencing these restaurants for myself as soon as possible.

May 18, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in Japan

'Foreign' food that's better in the US

I think what you said about the price point is a great point. The fact is, French restaurants in America (naturally) tend to be more formal, with a higher price point. There isn't the sea of cheap brasseries and cafes that offer 13 euro entrecote.

Having said that, I think to say flat out that "French food is better in the US than in France" is pretty dicey. When you look at the top level restaurants in France, they are often fanatical about their ingredients. I can't even remember which product is Label Rouge and which is AOC, but many of these products mean quite a bit to a number of chefs. I say this having tried poulet de bresse and not understanding on that occasion how to justify its cost.

Having not been to Daniel or the French Laundry, it's very possible that these are, in fact, better than any restaurant in France. However, the food I've had at some of the better restaurants in Paris has been absolutely stunning, and I am sure plenty of attention was paid to its execution. I think comparing equal price points (a bistro to a bistro, a grand restaurant to a grand restaurant) would be more fair than comparing the aptly described "$10 brasseries.. looking to feed the LCD" to the normally finer restaurants in America.

As a personal side note, when I came to France years before I had any idea that I would ever live here, I was definitely disappointed with the level of food I found at most restaurants. I remember sitting at Brasserie Bofinger, the oldest brasserie in Paris, thinking, "Is this it?" I think finding out where to go for what has a lot to do with it, especially here in Paris where plenty of mediocre restaurants continue making plenty of money because of the tourist population.

Also, since you bring up cheese, I think you must include France's breads and pastries. I don't think I've tried anything that lives up to an Ispahan cake at Pierre Herme or mini financiers at Eric Kayser.

No need for flaming, sailormouth, but I think France's French food is pretty darn good.

Disturbing example of CH insider-ism and why it might discourage new members

I think you bring up an excellent point, E Eto. I realized that I'm more likely to respond to a "where should I eat..." post than a new report about a restaurant I've never heard of, especially from a member whose posts I've never read, even though they are far more valuable for the community as a whole.

I don't know if anyone's brought it up yet, but I just wanted to bring up something on the other side of this. Though maybe these new posters get less attention from the CH community as a whole, I've found that these celebrity Chowhounds are often the ones who do encourage and respond. In the SF Bay Area, I oftentimes see rworange, Robert Lauriston, or Melanie Wong (among other prolific 'Hounds) responding when no one else does. And when I personally went to a Chowdown with Melanie, I found her incredibly kind and encouraging not only at the event itself but afterwards regarding how and what to post as a report. While these Chowhounds get more responses, I think they also do a lot for the community, so I wanted to chime in with something positive.

Also, while writing this, I realized that the reason I had opened up this thread was because on the list of most recent updates, I had seen JFood had responded to it. Though I've never spoken to him, I've always enjoyed reading what he's had to say, so I wanted to see what this post was about. Instead of clicking straight on through to the areas I either live in, will live in soon, or will visit soon, I saw "JFood" and found something new and interesting.

I agree with many of the points brought up on here and am glad there's a discussion about it. Just thought I'd offer up some positives as well.

May 15, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in Site Talk

Robuchon: L'Atelier or La Table?

I believe it's La Table.

May 12, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France

Incanto and Ame Trip Report

Thanks for the trip report! Incanto and Ame have both been on my list for a while, and I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed them.

Dinner impossible? Appealing to different tastes in Paris...

I completely agree with GoT about Ze Kitchen Galerie. Overuse of ginger and lemongrass aside, I've enjoyed some of the best food of my year in Paris at Ze Kitchen. I highly recommend it.

May 11, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France

Paris - Been to these places recently?

jmk38, now that you spent your weekend in Paris, I'm interested to hear about how your weekend was. I truly enjoyed L'Ami Jean when I went and from another of your posts, it looks like you did as well. Where else did you eat and how did you like them?

Feb 16, 2008
LikeFrogButOOOH in France