Showing posts with label northern california. Show all posts
Showing posts with label northern california. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Handmade Pastas and Charcuterie at Desco (Oakland, CA)

Desco is a gorgeous new restaurant in Oakland from Donato Scotti who owns Donato Enoteco in Redwood City, serving house made charcuterie and pastas.

Desco's bright and spacious dining room

I had dinner there with a couple of vegetarian friends, but I indulged in plenty of meat on my own. I started with a platter of three house-made charcuterie that seemed to be much more reasonable than the ones I find in LA. The Piatto della casa (smoked duck, lamb prosciutto, rabbit terrine ) is only $10
It's quite the charcuterie plate for $10! The lamb prosciutto was aged for 3 months and the rabbit terrine was drizzled with extra vecchio (extra old) balsamico.

There's a small list of classic cocktails ($10 each), but they're made well and included drinks like Pegu Club. The Old Fashioned was quite nice and they have a good selection of gin and whisky.

The thing you must get here is the handmade Casonsei ($12). Casonsei is a type of filled pasta from Bergamo in Lombardi region, where the chef is from. It is filled with pork and amaretto cookie crumbs, then topped with brown butter and guanciale. 
I absolutely loved it. The pasta had very nice thickness and texture. The pork inside is very tender, perfect with the crispy guanciale. This pasta was so delicious, I couldn't stop eating despite having another entree coming ..

Thursday, January 6, 2011

San Francisco Bay Area

Bar Tartine
Bissap Baobab (Mission)
Blue Bottle Cafe
Butler and the Chef Bistro (SOMA)
The Chairman (food truck)
Coi (North Beach) **
Craftsman and Wolves (Mission)
Four Barrel Coffee
Masa's Restaurant (Nob Hill) *
Patisserie Philippe (SOMA)
Pizzeria Delfina (Mission)
Ritual Coffee (Mission)
San Tung (Inner Sunset)
Slanted Door
Verbena (Russian Hill)

Chez Panisse Cafe


Napa Valley:
Ad Hoc (Yountville, CA)
The French Laundry (Yountville) ***

South Bay (San Mateo/San Jose):
Falafel Drive-In (San Jose)
Wakuriya (San Mateo)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brunch at Chez Panisse Cafe

Last year a trip to the Bay Area ended up being one of the best food weekends ever. As soon as I land we caravaned to Berkeley, kicking off the weekend with some Alice Waters brunch at Chez Panisse Cafe.

Located on the second floor of the building, the Chez Panisse Cafe was packed to the gills during this Saturday brunch.

Just looking at the menu will give you an idea of the style of food here. The ingredients high quality and enticing, the preparations relatively simple but bound to be excellent.

One friend ordered the Bob's cardoon and anchovy toast with grilled radicchio and parmesan ($9)
I tried a bite and it was quite good, a nice combination of flavors, though it was too weird for my friend. Though what's visible is mostly the cardoon, the anchovy flavor was quite strong.

Enticed by the word 'truffle' on the menu, I decided to go really simple with Scrambled eggs with black truffle, grilled garlic toast, and chervil salad.
Softly scrambled eggs, strong truffle aroma. As a truffle lover, no complaint.

But then I got cephalopod envy.
Monterey Bay squid roasted in the wood oven with frisee, artichokes, turnips, and romesco sauce ($19)
I loved the texture of the tender roasted squid along with this drier version of romesco sauce. Both worked very well with the frisee.

Grilled Wolfe Ranch quail with winter squash puree, broccoli, and black olives.
Another great dish. The butterflied quail was very moist and tender and you can tell the quality of ingredients used here at Chez Panisse with the broccoli and squash. Growing up I came to dislike the dried up store bought broccoli. None of that here, naturally, as expected of Alice Waters.

On the whole, the desserts were very good but rather expensive.
Meyer lemon cream puffs with caramel sauce and pistachio brittle ($9.50)
Good cream puffs, but better and bigger can be bought for over $3 apiece.

Blood orange sherbet with kumquat confit and langues de chat ($8.25)
This was actually our favorite of the desserts. An amazing sherbet with strong blood orange flavor, but over $8 for 3 scoops still seems very steep.

Pink Lady apple and quince tart with creme fraiche ($9.75)
This small and thin tart was possibly the most expensive tart I've paid for ... again, good, but not sure it was worth it.

Overall we were very happy with Chez Panisse Cafe, especially with all the savory dishes - all of which used amazing products and were excellently prepared. Given another chance to visit Berkeley, I would probably end up here or at the restaurant again, though next time I'll skip dessert and go around the corner to Gregoire's for dessert instead.

Chez Panisse Cafe
1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-5525
Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wakuriya, San Mateo: An Exquisite Kaiseki Journey

The word kaiseki derives from "stone in the bosom" that refers to ancient Zen monks' practice of tucking hot stones inside their kimono sash to ward off hunger pangs. Today, it has become an elaborate art form of multi-course culinary ritual that is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition, in particular Kyoto.

California being California, it isn't much of a surprise that a remarkable example of kaiseki is found in an unassuming shop in a shopping plaza in San Mateo.

Labeled only as "Japanese Kitchen" and sits right under a chiropractor's office, Wakuriya's warm and unobtrusive interior is a pleasant surprise as you enter.

Wakuriya is run by a Japanese couple with the husband running the kitchen and the wife running the floor.

Both of them started their careers in Kyoto. Chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki grew up in a sushi-ya in Wakayama and then became a chef in a long-standing Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, Kitcho. His wife Mayumi, not surprisingly, similarly started her career at Kitcho. In 2008, the couple opened up Wakuriya and began serving kaiseki with a contemporary touch.

With a glass of chilled sake to refresh us from our travels, I sat in anticipation.
Remember that kaiseki is a ritual, and thus there is an order to everything, even if we are doing this Cali-style: casually.

Sakizuke (starter): nama-tako (octopus) and tomato salad with umi-budo (green caviar) and bainiku.
A nice and light starter of fresh and chewy octopus to whet our appetites. The wakame/seaweed added not only a Japanese touch but also a nice flavor and texture combination.

Zensai (appetizers): Ichijiku (fig) tempura, unagi and avocado roll with kinshi (egg) sheet, Tasmanian trout, and nasu (eggplant) in umami dashi.
The zensai is representative of the rest of the meal with something fried, something broiled, dashi broth, etc. The use of seasonal, non-traditional ingredients is exemplified in the fig tempura in this dish.

On mono (hot dish): medai no yuba-mushi. Steamed butter fish coated in soft tofu skin.
The moistness and delicateness of the butter fish is accentuated by the tofu skin.

Tsukuri (sashimi).
The quality of the fish is on par with what you would expect at a highly regarded sushi restaurant.

Age mono (deep fried dish): deep fried scallop, corn, and tofu cake, with vegetable tempura.
It was impressive how they managed to get such light and crispy tempura coating that's so thin at the same time. All the more impressive that it managed to hold the soft scallop and tofu cake together.

Hashiyasume: suika (watermelon) gelee with kuro-goma (black sesame)
A perfect palate cleanser, lightly sweet and refreshing, yet does not shock you with the temperature change the way granita might.

Yaki mono (broiled dish): Maple Leaf Farms duck with negimiso-yaki.
Tender and perfectly broiled duck slices with very well balanced flavors, neither over seasoned or over sauced.

Gohan mono (rice dish): A choice between gyu-don and yakidai ume-shiso chazuke. I chose the chazuke: Grilled tai snapper with pickled plum and shiso basil over rice in dashi broth.
My companions were surprised I opted for the "fish" dish instead of the other meat option for the rice course, but I had to insist on having chazuke when I have the opportunity. This chazuke does not at all disappoint and perhaps was my most memorable dish that night. Their dashi broth was very satisfying and made a great end to the meal. I'm sure I'd be craving this when it gets cold out.

Dessert: homemade mugi-cha kudzu yose (barley tea flavored mochi) with green tea ice cream, homemade shiratama (mochi balls) with Okinawa kuromitsu (black sugar sauce)
Despite how simple the dessert initially looked to us - ice cream - we were happily surprised and impressed with all the little things we found such as the wonderfully chewy texture of the mochi and the distinctive flavor the kuromitsu added.

This was possibly my favorite meal in the San Francisco Bay area in the past few months. Oftentimes during a tasting menu you'd feel that individual dishes do not go together that well, or that at the end of the meal you've had an unbalanced meal. Not so at Wakuriya. Each dish was well prepared and the entirety of the meal was harmoniously tied together. Wakuriya changes their menu monthly so I will definitely be looking forward to checking back in with them sooner rather than later.

Full course meal - $85
Six course meal - $70

115 De Anza Blvd
San Mateo, CA 94402
(650) 286-0410
Wakuriya on Urbanspoon
Wakuriya in San Francisco

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ad Hoc: Thomas Keller's Comfort Food

My trip up to the Northern Cal so I can have my first meal at The French Laundry turned out to be the best food weekend ever (so far). The night before, we tried out Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller's 'comfort food' restaurant (most well known for their fried chicken!).

Ad Hoc was originally meant to be a temporary restaurant, to be opened while they're designing a different restaurant to be opened in that space (hence the name, and the motto "for temporary relief from hunger").
5 nights our of the week, Ad Hoc offers a different 4-course menu for $49, served family style and meant to be shared.

I was putting this post off in the hope that I one day will find the menu that I seem to have misplaced somewhere. But not long after I posted the review (a few hours only), a Chowhounder immediately noticed that I was there on 1/31 and posted the menu! The awesomeness of the internet.

Our meal started off with the TFL Garden Broccoli Salad, white cauliflower, toasted almonds, sweet vidalia onions, cara cara oranges, shaved brioche croutons.
There aren't mere broccoli (blogger is telling me that 'broccolis' isn't grammatically correct), people, these babies came straight from The French Laundry garden down the street. And my god, these are the best broccoli ever. It's very juicy, moist, and sweet, unlike other broccoli I've ever had which are typically boring and bland.
At Ad Hoc you can always ask for seconds, but my friends told me not to get seconds yet, since we have a lot more coming ...

Our main course was Roasted Beef Skirt Steak, braised hearts of romaine, tomato-pepper soffritto
Now, the thing I love about this particular cut is how flavorful it is. On the other hand, it tends to be tougher than most cuts which is why some people don't like them. But not these babies. Somehow they've managed to turn these skirt steaks into some amazingly tender pieces of meat, yet still retain the flavorfulness that is skirt steak. Amazing!

The main entree came with a side dish of spiced sweet carrots and shiitake mushrooms.
The carrots were again tender and sweet. Delicious. I justified myself getting seconds of this because it's healthy and carrots are good for my strained eyes :P

Next dish is the cheese course, Silver Mountain Clothbound Cheddar.
It was firm and smooth with a subtle taste and aroma. I enjoyed it with the slice of apple (one per person) but the red cabbage didn't do it for me.

For the grand finale, a gargantuan Baked Alaska! A dome of vanilla ice cream on top of sponge cake, baked in meringue.
I'm not sure this photo does it justice. This thing was HUGE. It was about half a basketball, with meringue on top! There were five of us - who all eat a lot- and we barely managed to finish half.

An extremely enjoyable and memorable meal. That oh-so-tender-and-flavorful skirt steak and those broccolis ... man! The casual atmosphere was perfect for catching up with friends and stuffing ourselves to death. Can't wait to return to Ad Hoc.

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2487

Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon
ad hoc in San Francisco

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