Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tacos El Compa Taqueria in San Jose, California

Carnitas Taco

I was running errands this afternoon when I saw this place, figuring that a single taco was small enough for just a quick taste without ruining dinner (1321 Blossom Hill Road, 408-622-8035). To my disappointment, they didn't have a lot of varieties of meat available (no tripas nor cabeza!). And my carnitas above were a tad *too* crispy, all with the added bonus of a small bone fragment hidden inside. Still, it came out piping hot on a nice corn tortilla with some fresh garnish and salsa, all washed down with a melon agua fresca. I won't go out of my way for it (I'd rather go to Tucanazo down the street if it's open). But I understand that these guys do catering; that might come in handy one day.

Nick the Greek Souvlaki & Gyro House in San Jose

Beef/Lamb Pita

This is a local chain of gyro shops that I've never tried before, so we had their food delivered for lunch today. At first, I was quite impressed, as the tzatziki was loaded with lots of fragrant dill weed. But then I bit into the meat, which was so salty that one couldn't even really taste the meat anymore. Indeed, I almost didn't want to finish it.

Well, hopefully the soup would come save the day. See, I wanted to try their avgolemono soup, which sounded interesting since it was made with lemon and egg. Fortunately, this one wasn't as salty, but it was loaded with a bunch of dry chicken breast meat. Sigh. Well, I suppose that none of this should be any surprise for a fast food place around here. But yeah, I don't think I'll be eating there again.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Taste of Charleys Philly Steaks From Ohio

Philly Cheese Steak

For whatever reason, an outlet of this Philly cheesesteak chain from Ohio (Ohio??) has opened up on the West Coast. They had a small size available, so I figured that I'd give it a try, especially when its signage bragged about being #1 and "the best Philly steaks period."

How gullible I was! My jaw practically dropped when the cashier asked me if I would like lettuce and tomato on my cheesesteak. In retrospect, that was enough of a sign for me to cancel my order right then and there, but somehow I proceeded, refusing each of her offers to add this or that.

And even though I stuck to the minimum, it was still lousy: over-seasoned and dry. Well, maybe I'd like this stuff if I thought of it as a grilled sub from Ohio, and loaded it with the peppers and veggies like she suggested. But a Philly cheesesteak this ain't.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

My First Taste of the Habit Burger Grill

The Original Charburger Combo

I'd heard about this chain from Santa Barbara for a while now (especially after Consumer Reports rated them the best fast food burger in America) but there was never an outlet nearby. Today we passed by one though, and we thus stopped in for a taste. I got the original "charburger," and it was better than I thought it was going to be, with its flame-grilled patty and a borderline excessive (in a good way) amount of mayo slathered on it.

Still, I wasn't a big fan of the cheese. It was rich, but perhaps a bit too much, thus covering up the taste of the burger. And while it was great that they had a "chili bar" were you could grab a bunch of pickled pepperoncini, jalapeno, and yellow Sante Fe Grande peppers, they were all more sour than they were spicy. In that sense, I'd rather go to In-N-Out. It still can't beat Shake Shack either, but at least it's better than Five Guys.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Gobi Mongolian BBQ in Sunnyvale, California

Mongolian BBQ

I had a meeting down in the Valley this afternoon, so I grabbed some lunch here beforehand (1135 Tasman Drive, 408-752-0866). It was your typically grimy Mongolian barbecue place, but the good thing is that it was all-you-can-eat so that you didn't have to stack everything up so high in one shot.

Somehow I just couldn't get my sauces right though, despite going up for three different bowls. At first it wasn't salty nor spicy enough, and when I added more sauces it became too sweet. Most importantly, none of these bowls were as fragrant as they could be, as they didn't have any sesame oil available.

Speaking of fragrance, the ventilation wasn't very good in here and I ended up smelling like grease as I went to my next meeting. So no, this won't be my first choice to come back to, but that's not an issue as there seem to be plenty of other Mongolian barbecue places around here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

CHAYA Brasserie in San Francisco, California

Soy Glazed Monterey Black Cod

Our hosts took us to this Japanese fusion restaurant from Los Angeles (132 The Embarcadero, 777-8688). The cod above was of high quality and went well with that sweet rice underneath. But I didn't care much for the gigantic California rolls. Well, if I come here again it'd probably be for the cocktail bar rather than the food.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aliment on Bush Street in San Francisco

Duck Rillettes

I can't remember how I found this place (786 Bush Street, 829-2737), but it was nearby and a fitting place for a quick bite before a dinner reception tonight. Those duck rillettes above were nicely rich and spiked with "crispy duck bits," while the Brussels sprouts were - to my delight - heavily charred. The kitchen slanted toward the sweet side of things in both of those dishes, but it was fine when washed down with beer and wine. I won't get cravings for this place, but I wouldn't mind coming again.

"Crab Back" at Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco

Crab back

Man, I haven't been here in years! I wasn't planning on coming here today either, but after that last meal, I was still hungry. A quick check on Google Maps said that it was only a 15-minute walk away, and I could make it there just before the opening hour. There was a line when I got there, but fortunately it was only because they hadn't opened yet, and it was short enough that I could be seated immediately once the clock struck 10:30.

There was a sign on the wall indicating that "crab back" was available. Yep, they meant tomalley, and for the bargain price of only $6, making it much cheaper than the crab meat itself. I dipped some of that sourdough bread into it; it was brinier than I thought it would be (in both a good and bad way), but I still found an occasional glob of richness in it to keep it fun. Now, is their smoked salmon as good as they claim it to be?

farm:table in San Francisco, California

Savory Broccoli Bacon Fennel Tart

I came here (754 Post Street, 415-300-5652) as a result of a Google Maps search, a decent Zagat rating, and - I'll confess - the name. I was a bit disappointed then to find that it was just a tiny little coffee counter with barely any seating and a very limited menu too. Having said that, it was a pretty good tart above, coming out piping hot and fortunately using quality ingredients like the name of the shop suggests. But had I known it was going to be such a limited menu, I probably wouldn't have come down. And I don't think I'll be coming again unless it just happens along the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Birds of a Feather on Amoy Street in Singapore

Roasted Chicken & Avocado Salad with Szechuan Pepper

You wouldn't be able to tell by the name nor decor, but this place is from the owners of a coffee chain in Chengdu (115 Amoy Street, 6221-7449). As they put it, they serve "contemporary Western cuisine with a pronounced Sichuan influence," as seen in a mapo tofu burger, as well the fittingly-named "Find the Chicken in the Chillies," otherwise known as laziji.

The chicken and avocado salad above was laced with a bit of Sichuan peppercorn...barely. And that's in a good way, as it didn't overpower it nor steer the dish in a different direction. It just brightened it up a little. I liked it, but that S$18 (US$12.60) salad above barely dented my stomach. I'll come back here again if someone else pays, especially since they had an encouraging-looking cocktail bar too.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

China's Lafu Huoguo (Spicy House) at Riverside Point, Singapore

Hot Pot

This hotpot chain from China has opened up on the former grounds of Wine Garage (30 Merchant Road #01-07, 6493-7213). I can only assume that they picked this location in part to compete with Hai Di Lao on the other side of the river. And based upon initial appearances at least, it seemed like it might stand a chance with its fancy dragon head pots, sinister looking broths, and even wider array of sauces at one's disposal.

That was, until I tasted it. That plate of lamb above wasn't very tender, the special plate of fish that we got wasn't very fresh, and the separate fish inside the pot was too flaky. The mala broth was fine but the pickled veggie broth was more sour than it was savory. And I just couldn't get my dipping sauce right either. The service was fine, but at these kinds of prices, I'd rather go to Hai Di Lao instead.

A Taste of Portico at the National Gallery Singapore

Angel Hair Pasta

When Portico first opened a couple of years ago, I heard mixed reviews, which is probably why I never made any effort to go there. Indeed, I pretty much completely forgot about them until this morning, when they had a little stall set up at the National Gallery Singapore's First Anniversary Light To Night Festival. Naturally, it was a limited menu serving only things that they could keep cold, so that meant that angel hair pasta above as well as some cuts of smoked salmon on a salad.

And while the latter wasn't anything to go nuts over, the former was tasty enough to wolf down in seconds. Granted, it wasn't hard to go wrong when laced with caviar and truffle oil, but still, the noodles weren't overcooked, and the dried shrimp gave it both flavor and texture. In that sense, it was a bit of a localized version of Gunther's noodles (in a good way). I'm not sure how the rest of their food tastes, but I'd eat those noodles again.