Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ayemi Poke & Deli in Suisun City

Great Poke Bowl place in downtown Suisun. They also have some Burmese cuisine, sushi rolls, and a smattering of other offerings like Chicken Teriyaki. We just had the Poke, and it was absolutely fresh and very cheap, probably because of the combination of much cheaper commercial property and it looks like the owner does everything. We'll return soon and I'll update later.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Salad Bar at Good Earth Natural Foods in Mill Valley

Salad Bar at Good Earth Natural Foods in Mill Valley. Absolutely the best salad bar I've ever been to.

Looks more or less like any salad bar anywhere. But look closer.

Sprouted beans, roasted garlic included? That alone would be enough for me.

Today I tried the Vegan Caesar dressing, which sounds like a contradiction in terms, like a "Vegan Croissant." However, it was delicious on its own terms.

Above: Robin's salad from Good Earth. Here's the real difference. Everything at this salad bar is so fresh and at peak ripeness. Most of the produce has that sweet just-picked flavor that people who have grown their own produce, and eaten it fresh, know about. We always feel so relaxed and fulfilled after having one of these salads, and if you arrive there hungry at all, I recommend one of these salads (or numerous other great deli options) before doing your regular shopping.

Vientian Cafe in Oakland

Pla Muk Ka Pow: Calamari with Sweet Basil at Vientian Cafe in Oakland.

We'd been to Vientian once before for dinner, and it was superb, and since today's errands took us to it's neighborhood off High Street & 580 in Oakland, we thought it was a perfect time to revisit this little restaurant specializing in Lao, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

Above and below: Nam Kao, or Rice Salad with fermented pork. You use big lettuce leaves like tortillas to fill up with the rice salad (below), adding lime, cilantro, chile and mint to taste. 

Above: Lao sausage bursting with ginger and lemongrass.

Another shot of the Pla Muk Ka Pow, Calamari and Vegetables sauteed with Sweet Basil. Perfectly cooked calamari.

To the Calamari, I added a little bit of this to its juices, Jeo Pa Dak, a seriously funky fish sauce made of chiles, tamarind, anchovy, and other ingredients. Way too intense to eat alone for my palette, but I found that mixing some of this with the calamari juices really added a lot of complexity to that dish. I only ate a little bit of this today, the rest is in a container in the fridge. I'm planning to add a bit of it to my beef and bean stew I'm taking for lunch tomorrow.

Oor Larm, or Lao Style Beef Stew. Never had something quite like this before. Very tender beef mixed with Eggplant and Wood Ear Mushrooms. Notice in the finished bowl below there were also what looked like chiles, and dill (maybe the French influence?).

Vientian Cafe 
3801 Allendale Ave, Oakland, CA 94619

Friday, May 11, 2018

Saffron Grill & Market: Persian Cuisine in Novato, CA

Mirza Ghazemi, or charbroiled eggplant. Intense smoky flavor. Superb.

Above: Zereshk chicken next to the saffron rice that comes with the Gheymeh beef.

Zereshk polo ba morgh: saffron basmati rice with barberries, and the chicken below.

Lamb shank above, and the dill rice with fava beans below.

Above & below: Beef Gheymeh, beef stew with split garbanzos, and sour lime. Study in contrasts like all these dishes, savory against the sour, in others, sweet fruits against umami.

Lamb shank with rice.

There's not very much Persian cuisine north of San Jose, and we are lucky to have such a good restaurant and grocery in our area.

Saffron Grill & Market
469 Entrada
Novato, CA

Monday, May 7, 2018

Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco

Six different varieties (2 each) of raw oysters at Swan Oyster Depot.

2:35pm. Here I am, having just arrived at the back of the line waiting to get into Swan Oyster Depot for the first time. 

It only took about 30 minutes to get close to the front, but that's because it's at 3 on a Monday.

I already knew this was going to be really good, but sensory confirmation is another sort of knowledge.

The two in the middle are from Ireland, two at the top are from British Columbia, clockwise two pairs from the Bay Area (including Tomales Bay), and the others from around Seattle including Miyagi, if memory serves. So great.

That's my Combination Seafood Cocktail right before I knocked it over like a dunce, because I was already intoxicated from eating super fresh seafood. They cleared it away and made me a new one.

I thought this was gonna be just kinda good, but no. This was knock you out incredible. Crab, shrimp, clams.

The only sashimi I've ever had this good was at Uchi in Austin, which flies their sashimi in from Tokyo. Each layer, starting in the front: Scallop, Tuna, Salmon, Halibut and Hamachi (or Yellow Tail). That is, by quite some distance, the best Hamachi I've ever had. 

Kapok Seafood Restaurant in Alameda

Sizzling oyster with ginger and scallion at Kapok.

We were in Alameda last night, and I wanted seafood, so we tried a Chinese restaurant we hadn't experienced yet, right down the street from East Ocean. First up, Sauteed Scallops, which didn't look like the picture in the menu because these were Bay Scallops, not Sea Scallops. Also, it was served with Zucchini instead of Snow Peas, but that was alright as Zukes are in season now, & these were perfectly ripe.

Above and below: clams in Szechuan sauce. A tad small, but very tasty. Took the remaining delicious sauce home and put tofu in it.

Above & below: Sizzling oyster with ginger and scallion. Notice how huge these oysters are. Hands down the best dish we had last night (5/6/18). We've had great versions at other Chinese restaurants, but this has to be the best one yet. 

Kapok Seafood Restaurant
1511 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

Saturday, May 5, 2018

So: Asian Fusion in San Francisco

Garlic Spinach at SO.

I've been hearing the praises of Asian Fusion restaurant SO for quite a while, and apparently it is regarded as a "sister restaurant" of the fabulous San Tung (on Irving in SF's Inner Sunset). SO is located near one of the entrances to I-80's approach to the Bay Bridge, so I imagine many people look that way and think how much they'd rather be noshing on what is basically a solid Chinese restaurant, with a few slight variations on traditional regional cuisine. The spinach, pictured above, steamed with garlic (and probably cooked with chicken stock, it sure tasted like a homemade version to us), is one of the versions we've had in the greatest Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.

Above and below: Wings. Very close in most respects to the famous, well-loved version at San Tung that people line up for. The main difference I could discern was these had a light sprinkling of White Pepper. Superb. Crispy glaze, with quite a bit of chile kick.

Above and below: Wok Seared Pot Stickers, obviously made in-house, stuffed with pork and napa cabbage, spiced with ginger and garlic. I've never had pot stickers like this before, thicker skin but great texture--a bit pillowey but not too much. Filling absolutely fresh and zingy.

1010 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94103