Friday, September 28, 2007

Review: Cafe Yulong

We had walked by this place many times while eating elsewhere in Downtown Mountain View. The one thing that drew us to this place was the huge banner advertising that it won Best New Restaurant for 2007 per Wave Magazine. That's pretty prestigious considering there were other restaurants that had just opened up this year too.
I'm not even gonna go into the decor or service with this place because it's the same as what you get at the other Chinese restaurants nearby. If you don't know, it's basically bare minimum service and bland decor. Nothing really special.

The waiter sat us by the window which was pretty cool. We got some "kimchee", tea and water to start.

I kinda wanted some noodles, but Justyn didn't want to share that with me so I ordered off of their lunch menu. Twice braised pork sounds perfect! Justyn ordered their crispy fried chili fish (I don't remember the exact name). Here it is...

Justyn's main gripe was that they didn't serve it family style like the other places we had been to. I didn't find that as annoying as my pork. I mean the name of the dish was Twiced Cooked Pork. It was rock hard and hard to chew. If you twice cook something, I expect it to be tender. Stir frying the pork, battering and deep frying it was a bad idea. Justyn's fish was a little better although there was nothing memorable about it. I felt like the dishes were tailored to suit the tastebuds of non-Chinese people or something which is unfortunate. I think I'll stick with Fu Lam Mum or Chef Liu.

Cravings for Bun Bo Hue Adventures+ Review: Gunther's German Restaurant

I had a massive craving for Bun Bo Hue thanks to Oishii Eats & Wandering Chopsticks so on Tuesday night, I told Justyn that I wanted to go to Bun Bo Hue An Nam (recommended by Wandering Chopsticks). He actually said "OK"! The one time he tried this dish, was at Pho Vy, which wasn't very good so I think he might've blacklisted it. I had warned him that the drive there would not be a pleasant one based on my past experience. From my house, Mapquest tells you to make a left on Senter Ave. and turn right on Story Rd. Well, the unfortunate thing is that Senter Ave. is extremely ghetto and both the road and traffic are crap. Even worse, you have to drive all the way down it to get to Story Rd. Half way down Senter Ave., Justyn says "Wow, you weren't kidding about this being an unpleasant drive."

Finally we made the right turn down Story Rd. and into the parking lot where Bun Bo Hue An Nam is. Guess what? They're CLOSED on Tuesdays!! All that driving for nothing. Next door was Pho Ga An Nam so I suggested we go there. We sat down and waited. And waited. We knew what we both wanted but nobody came to take our order. Even after I made eye contact with the waitress letting her know we were ready. Justyn was hungry and a bit cranky from the drive, so he decided that we should leave and go somewhere else for dinner.

We drove around some more and ended up in Willow Glen. I really wanted to go to Tomato Thyme, but he said that we'd be going there later in the week with a friend. Then a light bulb went off. He suggested we go to Gunther's German Restaurant. Sure, I'm down with German food. The last time I had this type of cuisine was back in high school with my Deutsch class. I loved Deutsch eats the first time I had it so why not?

We pulled into a tiny parking lot where Gunther's was located and parked. The restaurant looked dineresque which put me off a bit. (I don't really like diner food) We went inside and found a bunch of premade food staying barely warm in metal containers. Much like what you would find at a Chinese takeout place. OK so far, not so good.

I ordered the BBQ lambshank with side salad and mashed potatoes. Justyn ordered the stuffed cabbage with the same sides as me. The meal also came with a drink and bread.

They ended up having to microwave our plates, but at this point I didn't really care. I was hungry dammit! Here are the zapped dishes.

I found the salad to be drowned in ranch dressing and a couple lettuce leaves rotting which was pretty gross, but the lamb shank was good albeit the sauce was a little too sweet. Justyn's stuffed cabbage was well, stuffed cabbage with meat. The sauce again, was a little too strong but it kinda complimented the bland mashed potatoes even though it came with its own gravy.

This place was alright at best. I was disappointed that they didn't have that sour potato salad like I had in San Francisco. If you want rich food, this is the place to come. Just don't order the salad!

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Dad's Birthday Dinner

It was such a busy weekend and after setting up everything for Justyn's party and hanging out with everyone, I was pretty pooped late Saturday night. I retired early and went to bed aka passed out. I can't sleep as much as I used to, so I woke up at around 8am Sunday morning. I played a little bit of GTA III when Justyn and Donoho went out for breakfast.

At around 11am, Justyn and I got ready to head over to my parents house to have dinner. I thought my mom was going to make paella so I thought proscuitto wrapped asparagus would go good with it. When we got into Castro Valley, we stopped at Safeway to get groceries first.

When I got to my parents house, I found out that my mom was instead making a huge seafood feast complete with lobster, crawfish, clams, prawns and crab!

As she was still cooking, Justyn and I went to the backyard to find the old wooden deck completely gone, and a new concrete and brick foundation instead. It looked really good with my mom's new patio set. Isn't the view pretty too?

We set up to eat outside overlooking the amazing view, but there were a lot of hornets buzzing around the seafood, so we had to relocate inside. We ate so much great seafood and savory sticky rice that I almost went into a food coma. We also had some great white wine and champagne to compliment the meal.

Here are before and after shots.

After dinner, we talked about life and stuff and then my sister made some fried milk. There was a little too much nutmeg in it, but it was still very good.

Too much food and too much sipping made me extremely tired. We ended up leaving my parents house around 9pm. When we got home, we tried watching the new Family Guy episode, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

What a weekend!

Justyn's Birthday Party

Saturday we had some people over to celebrate Justyn's birthday. It was a really great time getting to see some friends that I haven't hung out with in a while. Angel brought over her Wii so we played some bowling and then moved onto other video games. I cooked some ham fried rice with a little grated ginger in it which makes a huge difference in flavor. I'm going to use ginger in my recipe from now on. Justyn and I marinated some chicken drumsticks and salmon from the recipe I made for the Asian Glazed Salmon. Those turned out really well and everything got devoured pretty quickly. Angel also brought over some homemade beef tamales which were spectacular. I need to get the recipe from her. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take pictures of all the food. So instead, you guys can see pics of the party.

Review: Hunan Chili

At first glance, doesn't the name look like "Human Chili"? That's what I kept thinking whenever we drove by Castro Street to try out other restaurants in Downtown Mountain View. On Friday, we couldn't figure out what to eat for lunch, and since we had always talked about trying Hunan Chili, that's exactly what we did.

We ordered off of their lunch menu which comes with hot & sour soup and eggrolls.

The soup wasn't as good as Fu Lam Mum's, but we still enjoyed it. The eggrolls were also pretty good.

For our lunch entrees we had ma po tofu and garlic chili lamb. I wasn't really happy with the ma po tofu only because it didn't have any minced pork. Every recipe that I've seen has pork in it. The flavor was good though. Both dishes packed some heat which was nice.

We had also ordered some XLBs but these were a disappointment. First of all, they came out after we were almost done with lunch rather than before. Flavor was good, but they were bone dry. I want a ton of soup to spew out like they're supposed to. Oh well...

Overall, a pretty good place for a quick spicy lunch.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cooking: Asian Glazed Salmon

I finally got a small break from all the workshops and meetings at work so since I haven't cooked in a bit, I started looking at recipes. Actually, what prompted tonight's dinner was a picture on ( I loved the presentation style with the Sriracha dots around the salmon but I didn't feel like a dijon based glaze. So I searched for glazed salmon and found this recipe: It seemed simple and I knew I could quickly get dinner on the table.

I started out making the rice first.

Then I prepped all the ingrediants for the marinade. Soy sauce, grated ginger, chopped scallion, honey and soy sauce all went into a ziplock bag. I placed the salmon and swished it around to get the fish coated with all that yummy stuff. I also chopped up some extra scallion and lime wedges for garnish.

For a little green, I decided to go with bagged salad and the infamous Angelo Pietro dressing.

The salmon took 5 minutes to broil and came out beautifully cooked. I did my garnishes and copied Chef John's Sriracha dots.

I was really happy with the flavors. Justyn devoured dinner in the same amount of time it took the salmon to cook hehe... The best thing about this recipe was that it was very fast and easy to make. It's a great weekday go to recipe!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Review: Green's (Vegetarian Restaurant)

Yesterday Juniper had its first P2P worldwide offsite meeting in San Francisco. For a good half of the day we broke off into groups scrambling around trying to find items for a scavenger hunt. A couple noteworthy events was walking up a bunch of stairs to Coit tower. As we walked down the hill back to Washington Park, we saw a guy walking up carrying a bouquet of flowers and a card. One of the items we had to find was "love", so we took a picture of him. It was the cutest thing.

After the scavenger hunt we went to a vegetarian restaurant called Green's. I groaned at the though of eating vegetarian food only because I was raised to have meat with all of my meals. Oh well, I'd give it a shot.

We had all the wine, champagne and beers we could drink. Oh yeah, so far so good.

Here's a shot of the menu. We had passed hors d'oeuvres and then sit down for salad and main course.

The interior of the restaurant was pretty with a beautiful view of the ocean.

The first passed appetizer were spring rolls with hoisin sauce and topped with a peanut. The rice paper was a little on the dry side, but flavor wise it was excellent.

The next appetizer was a corn and cheese empanada. These were great! Warm and fresh from the oven and cheesy corny goodness.

The last appetizer we had were small squares of pizza which were amazing. I even tried not to like it, but couldn't.

Eventually we all sat down at our tables and chowed down on an heirloom tomato salad. Heirloom tomatoes were a first for me, and I loved them. They have so much more of a deeper flavor than regular tomatoes. The parmesan matched perfectly and gave the salad a nice tang.

We were interrupted by the scavenger hunt organizers so they could announce who won. Our team ended up getting 3rd place and the prize was a flashlight. Pretty nifty compared to the other prizes. 1st place got a bottle of wine.

Main courses started arriving soon after. It was a Thai curry with carrots, cauliflower and potatoes. Here's where things went downhill. I'm fully aware how hard it is to cook for 40 people all at once, but there's no reason why the main courses came out cold when their appetizers were freshly cooked. I wouldn't even care if they microwaved the plates to keep them hot as they came out of the kitchen. So anyway, a lot of plates were sent back and came back cold again! Third time was a charm though. I guess they finally used that microwave. Flavor wise, it was pretty good, but by the time the dish came out, I wasn't very hungry anymore.
This picture was hilarious. I think my boss is at the front tipped over from being too tipsy hehe. It was a good night and I had a lot of fun with some coworkers that I've never met before.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monterey Weekend

We're back home from Monterey!

We started off Saturday afternoon with brunch at a place called The Crepe Place. On Friday, Justyn had asked me to print out directions and a map to the restaurant. His exact words were "While you're hard at work... can you print out directions to the crepe place?" This was while I was killing some time playing a game called Tontie ( Anyway, how am I supposed to find a crepe place in Santa Cruz? I don't know the area and I don't know the name of the restaurant. Well, I soon found out that it was called The Crepe Place. Ohhhh..

Since this was my first time at the restaurant, I was a little apprehensive when I found the inside of the place empty. I soon realized that they had a cute little outdoor patio where everyone was seated.

I started out my meal with a cocktail called Purple Iris which consisted of champagne and ollalieberry wine. I don't even know what an Ollalieberry is but I suspect it's a close cousin to the blackberry. It was OK. I thought it could've been a little sweeter. Justyn ordered their Mediterranean crepe that had olives, spinach and feta cheese while I had the salmon crepe. It came with a nice cool dill sauce which matched perfectly with the smoke salmon. The portion sizes were perfect too. I hate breakfast/brunch places that give you too much food. It's just me though, I'm normally not a breakfast person.

After lunch we walked around the Harley Davidson/Buell dealership next door. Justyn sat on some bikes and then we were on our way to Jabberwock Bed & Breakfast in Monterey. It was a nice drive up with perfect weather all the way there. We arrived a little earlier than expected, but the host let us check in anyway. He gave us a quick tour of the quaint but large house and showed us to our room. I had been wanting to stay at this place since there was a jacuzzi in the room. See?

We put our luggage in the room and went for a walk down to Cannery Row to shop and do some wine tasting. The local wines we had were disgusting. Out of 6 wines, we only slightly enjoyed one of them.

When we got back, a bottle of champagne was waiting for us. I had asked the host to set that up since we were celebrating Justyn's birthday early.

After some champagne and resting, we surfed the internet for a while before dinner. As we walked back down to Cannery Row, we noticed a bank called Rabobank. Would you bank here? Haha... I didn't think so.

Earlier we had looked up reviews for nearby restaurants and found one called The Sea Harvest which is one block outside of Cannery Row. I didn't want to eat at Bubba Dumps or any major chain/tourist trap restaurants so this was perfect. We ordered a bowl of clam chowder. You really can't go to Monterey without eating at least a bowl of that right? Since my tastebuds have been on a spicy kick, we added a bunch of hot sauce to it.

I also ordered their BBQ oyster appetizer that was loaded with butter and garlicky goodness. Mmmm, the oyster was cooked just to heat it up and open the shell so it was still slurpy.

Justyn ordered the seafood combo which had fried shrimp, fish, calamari and scallops that came with a cool coleslaw salad. I didn't feel like anything on the menu, but I knew I wanted crab so I ordered a whole steamed crab. Justyn told the waiter to get me the smallest one they had which disappointed me when it arrived because this thing was tiny. It wasn't even enough meat to make a sammich with. He felt bad, but I wasn't that hungry anyway. I was content with the clam chowder and oyster appetizer.

The aftermath... I pried as much meat as I could out of the crab as you can see here.

It was still too early to turn in, so we walked around Cannery Row for a good part of the night and also hung out at a bar where we ran into a fellow BARFer. Neither of us knew that this weekend was AMA Superbike racing at Laguna Seca so to our delight, a bunch of motorcycles were also down there hanging out.

When we got back to the Jabberwock Inn, there were cookies and milk out for our consumption. I felt like kicking Justyn's ass at chess but the direct opposite of that happened. I got my ass handed to me. Ah well, there's always time to practice and get good!

Sunday morning arrived and Justyn woke up with a major case of sleepy head, so I went downstairs to get him some coffee.

For breakfast, the host made something called Jabberwock Juice which tastes just like Orange Julius. It had orange and pineapple juice with a splash of coconut milk blended with ice. It was a nice refreshing pick me up. For breakfast, we had a huge apple croissant for the first course. Second course consisted of eggs and corn fried rice.

During the afternoon, we walked to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since we had a 2-day pass from the bed & breakfast. I was a little disappointed because we walked through everything so quickly but seeing a couple sunfish, tuna & sharks made up for that. The sunfish and tuna were HUGE! The sunfish looked like something from another planet with their big humanlike eyes and flatness.

All the walking around worked up our appetites and we settled on Willy's which, unfortunately is like a chain restaurant. I had no expectations walking into that place and of course, the food was mediocre at best. We had a coupon for free calamari or broccoli fritters and upon the waiter's description of the fritters, we opted for the calamari. Suprisingly, the squid was extremely tender and flavorful, but Tomato Thyme has better.

I ordered the pan seared sandab sammich with fries and Justyn got the shrimp with corn grits and fried green beans with a spicy smokey sauce. Myeh, this food wasn't even noteworthy. It was just mass produced grossness.

After lunch I took a nap back at the bed & breakfast while Justyn surfed the internet. When I woke up, it was time to head over to Carmel by the Sea to have dinner at Casanova. We were early, so we did some window shopping. Most of the shops were closed so all we could do was walk around and look at the displays of art, expensive clothing and restaurants. Carmel by the Sea is like the Beverly Hills of Northern California and this place almost has a formula to the area. Art gallery, women's clothing, restaurant and real estate offices over and over again.

At around 6:15pm, we got bored and decided to go to Cassanova early. The hostess was accomodating and seated us early. Bread and tapenade arrived along with the first course. The first course were some pickled cucumbers, beet salad with chives and saffron pasta. I wasn't thrilled with the first course as everything tasted a little bland to me. If I had to pick, I would say that the beet salad had the most potential.

Second course was included with the main dish so I ordered the mushrooms which were soaked in olive oil, garlic and parsley. This dish failed to impress as well. I had to add salt to it. Justyn's second course was tomato soup with orzo. The waiter brought out the soup in a small pot and bowl with a cheese crouton and ladeled the soup into the bowl. Alright, I'll give them presentation for that.

For our main courses, I had their pan seared (yes again with the pan seared dishes) veal with chorizo risotto. Justyn ordered pot au feu which is basically a French short rib stew. I was going to order that, but thought it was too easy of a dish to prepare. I wanted something challenging. And a challenge it was. I couldn't even finish my dish. I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed I was with this place. Granted, I didn't order their "signature" dishes but everything just pissed me off. Their only saving graces were presentation (with the tomato soup) and the half bottle of wine. The wine was excellent. It was a half bottle of a 2002 Georis Estate Merlot. If they had this at our tasting at Cannery Row, I would've purchased a couple bottles of this one.

But back to the restaurant sucking. I normally trust and agree with the reviews on yelp, but I'm sorry. The restaurant had an air of prententiousness that I couldn't agree with. The waiter was distant and unwelcoming. The food wasn't worth the bill I paid ($132 total). If you're going to charge that much for simple food, make it taste incredible. Alright, now I'm ranting so I'll stop.

After dinner we were supposed to go back to Cannery Row to walk around, but I was tired from all the walking we did so I went to bed. The next morning, I woke up and took a quick shower before breakfast. Again we had a croissant for breakfast and instead of eggs and rice, we had some ricotta cheese filled crepe which I wasn't happy with. I ate a couple bites and excused myself from the table. I thought I was going to be sick (as in throw up).

Justyn and I packed up our things after breakfast and drove down Cannery Row to do a couple wine tastings except nothing was open. Oh well...

We drove to Old Fisherman's Wharf to have lunch, but again, nothing was open and neither of us were hungry so we went home.

It was a relaxing weekend and I'm glad we still have today to hang out at home and chill out before going back to work tomorrow. This is the last time I can take time off work before the big France trip in December! Let's hope I can keep it together until then!
Bee - I hope you had a good time! Early Happy Birthday to you!