Wednesday, April 30, 2008

One of the very few all you can eat Korean BBQ places I know in the Bay Area. I have been to Palace BBQ Buffet a long time ago for dinner and took some friends there before too. This time we decided to go for lunch because of the dramatic price difference from dinner. Of course that means not as many choices and lower quality meat. One main meat you miss out if you go for lunch would be the high-end Kal-bi, but you do get the regular kind for lunch.The place was very clean and well ventilated. We were there really early so I got to take a lot of nice pictures, although I bet people who were there thought I was weird. If you go there for lunch or dinner, be sure to go early because they become packed rather quickly. Their lunch price was $12.99, which is a drastic difference from their dinner price.This place has changed from the last time I came, which was a while ago. There were no lettuce, bean paste, garlic, jalapeño for you to grab so Ms. Lin inquired about them. It turned out that you have to purchase those, luckily it was only a dollar extra each person. I am not sure if you had to pay extra for the condiments or just for the lettuce. If it was only for the lettuce then I am extremely upset because I blame Ms. Lin for wanting it to wrap the meats. More money for items that are NOT vegetables would be much more acceptable in my mind. Can you tell I am "allergic" to all forms of vegetables? O=9There was a decent amount of meat to choose from. At first we grabbed a bit of everything from the hot bar and the raw bar. The egg rolls were not too bad, they reminded me of Vietnamese egg rolls but not nearly as tasty. They had cold noodle, which was decent but nothing special. Also I think we didn't have much stomach room to finish off the cold noodle after all the meat consumption. The JapChae was decent, although it said "vegetarian" when I saw minced beef in it. I am a meat eater so I don't mind, but I think they should correctly label it so that a confusion can be avoided. Then again, if you are at a Korean BBQ you BETTER be eating meat! =POf the meats, I think I still like unflavored meat on the grill and flavor it myself to my own liking. They didn't have that many unflavored meats, except the pork belly. I was not a huge fan of their Bulgogi. The flavors just a little off for me, I don't know if it's because I am used to the taste of Korean food from the OC and LA. It's kind of odd that it was a big enough difference for me to not like it that much. The meat at Brothers in SF doesn't taste any different in flavor than what you get in SoCal. As you can see, I did not like their Bulgogi. The Kal-bi was fine and I actually enjoyed the Spicy Pork.After the first plate of meat that I grabbed, I immediately avoided the Bulgogi and concentrated on the Kal-bi and Pork Belly. The service was decent and I liked that they actually came to change the grill once during the meal. A lot of places get lazy or refuse to change the grills often when it's lunch time.All in all this place was decent. It makes me really miss the yummy Korean BBQs down in SoCal! There's usually more options down there and for a better price. Don't get me wrong, I am still grateful that we can get all you can eat in the Bay Area. Ms. Lin has been wanting Korean food but I have been refusing to go back to Brothers because I'd rather get more bang for the buck. Like I have said before, there are a few things that I am willing to sacrifice quality for quantity because the difference is usually never that great. It's funny how people can change, because not too long before I used to always go to Brothers when I am in the Bay Area. (I have pics from last time that I promise to post later on.) Now you have to drag me kicking and screaming to go back. Well maybe not that dramatic, but it won't be easy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This past Sunday was hot hot. Summer is starting now and boy was it the wrong time. I guess since we are located in SF and expected the day to be reasonably cool. I was wearing long sleeves and thick pants, needless to say I was burning up. We volunteered at the EHC LifeBuilders Charity Event, River of Chocolate, down in Santa Clara. It was held at the Santa Clara University and the flowers were all in bloom that leads you to feel as if you were strolling down the Elysian Fields. We arrived a little bit before our time slot, so we rushed through the chocolate festival.Luckily I signed up for a later time than Ms. Lin so I browsed around longer and brought chocolates to Ms. Lin. Everyone there was super friendly and there were tons of chocolate and wines for sampling. Unfortunately it was fairly warm outside and the strong sun beating down did not do the chocolates any favor. A lot of them were deformed, melted, or melting. More reason to just grab them and down the hatch they go. O=P There were very few salty treats, but along the way we found a station that was serving Roast Pig but with a kick. It was the last snack Ms. Lin grabbed before heading back to the volunteer area. Salty food was needed to balance all the sweetness.Whilst Ms. Lin was away I discovered a delectable treat, of course I brought her some and chocolate covered strawberries I made. At first the name was somewhat confusing because it is after all a chocolate festival. The pastry chefs had a special drink made, Hot Truffled White Chocolate. At first I thought about black or white truffles but I had to take a step back rethink the title since chocolate truffles were everywhere. It was a superb hot white chocolate infused with black truffle flavor. All I can say is BRAVO! Top notch and unique! I think when I get home I am going to make some Angelina's hot chocolate I brought back from Paris and infuse it with the black truffles that Burumun gave me! YUM YUM! And before anyone leaves a comment, I am not inviting anyone over to share! O=p Tee hee!We have so much chocolate now. I brought back a nice one for Burumun and Tofu, if I don't eat it first. O=) The event was a lot of fun and I helped the Live Auction. There was this one guy that cracked me up. He kept bidding and bidding, his wife had to block his arms from raising his number. The first thing he bid on was the flowers delivered every month and the auctioneer goated him into bidding. At first he stopped because it was already over $600 and he was in the middle of trying to get more wine. The auctioneer stopped and said that he will wait until he fills his glass, the more the better. It didn't seem like he was going to bid, but at the last minute he threw his hand up and said "F@*k it!" Lets just say he won the bid and not the last of the day. If you could only see his wife's expression every time he bid after that! It's all good because it was for a good cause. You have to respect the organization and people who help adolescents who are lost & in need of help. A great day was had by all and the generosity people showed was tremendous. It was a great success!

Sorry Tofu, not a good review for this place but I promise there will be some good ones coming up. I am not feeling too peachy, but I wanted to do 2 posts so I had to choose a short one and one that I want to showcase! On Sunday we were down in South Bay and I ate dinner by myself in Cupertino Square. I should have went with something safe, but I wanted to be daring. Ms. Lin recommended HC Dumpling, but with a caution. She only thought it was decent but people rave about it. I don't know what all these people are thinking. The whole time I was eating, I was trying not to vomit. The interior was like any Chinese restaurant and the service was not bad. They were already starting to get super busy by 6:30PM.I ordered the Hu-Chiang Juicy Pork Dumplings, also known as Xiao Long Bao. The meat was gratey and gross. It tastes like the foamy meat gunk that builds up when you eat shabu or hot pot. That's how bad it was! I was about to cry the entire time and I was praying very hard that the rest of my order would be better. Darn my bad nature of ordering too much!! BLECH! When you have something bad first and lower your expectations, the next dish should taste better in comparison. The Pot Stickers with Shrimp & Pork came out and it looked more promising. The skin was tasty and done well, but... the filling was bad as well! I feel like crying when I think back on it. The filling was dry and it just didn't work. It was only slightly better than the XLB mostly due to the skin for the pot sticker.For the main entree I asked the server what she recommended. I guess in retrospect that's a very risky thing to do... She recommended the Wu Xi Pai Gu and I thought that it sounded good because I love spare ribs. Apparently I don't love spare ribs with anything. This wasn't that bad, it just didn't suit my taste. It came out bright red so I thought that it would be like BBQ ribs so that's okay. Sadly it was a bitter Star Anise flavor that just didn't work for me. I know I might sound harsh about the other dishes, but I am just honestly relaying my experience and I can be fair. That's why I am not saying that the spare ribs were bad, but it just wasn't for me.Looking back on the whole thing, I wish I could be mean and send everything back after one taste. All I did was meekly eat the food and hold back the tears, trying to push through as much as I could. If you can't tell already, I am not coming back! I don't even like Ding Tai Feng, but after this place I think it's 10,000X's better! Even the sketchy places in Monterey Park are better and more flavorful than this place here. My advice for those of you out there would be to be strong and send it back. The Asian within me couldn't let the food go to waste so I just worked through it. I have to work on this determination to minimize my suffering.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I have been thinking about the chicken wings from Little Star Pizza. The more I thought about the place, the more I thought that it wasn't that bad... maybe it's worth the price... maybe... Friday night we decided to grab something quick and fast back to the apt to eat. I looked up reviews on Tommaso's and debated between trying something new or giving Little Star Pizza another go. Sadly, I made the mistake to give it another try. It's only because I really wanted the chicken wings and the yummy blue cheese dressing. They were very busy even late at night, we called in the order for take out. I think last time we arrived just as it came out and it was piping hot, this time it was already cold. Even though they stored the items to preserve the heat, but it failed to work. I think because we ordered the thin crust, it lacked the density to retain the heat.We didn't eat the Spicy Chicken Wings until we got home and it wasn't nearly as tasty as the first time I had it. The portions seemed smaller and overdone. It was a great disappointment! =*( I was really looking forward to it. We debated about the age-old argument that things never taste as good as the first time you have it. I think that was partly true but they missed the mark in how it should be prepared. As for the pizza we got the Pesto Chicken Thin Crust Specialty Pizza. It's pesto, roasted chicken, mushrooms, and onions atop a thin crust. This was such a let down! We were both sooooo DISAPPOINTED. The crust was not anything special or tasty. They were lacking any flavor, I couldn't really taste the Pesto at all. I really regret not going with their deep dish, which actually packs a wallop. We still have the pizza sitting in the fridge... boooo! I actually really like thin crust too, but this place just didn't measure up. If you go, I would recommend you to stick with the deep dish and the chicken wings would be your luck.

Little Star Pizza
400 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 551-7827
Little Star Pizza on Urbanspoon

While I waited for Ms. Lin to finish her appointment, I strolled over to Coffee Bean in Union Square. There were tons of people waiting to get a caffeine pick me up. I debated between getting the Ice Blended Vanilla or the Ice Blended Caramel. My favorite is the vanilla, but I decided to get something new and ordered the 24oz of Ice Blended Caramel. For some odd reason they didn't ask if I wanted whipped cream and gave it to me flat. I should have went back and asked for some whipped cream because it adds so much flavor & texture to the drink. They didn't do a great job on the drink, I have had better. You would think that a chain would be more consistent, but it really depends on who makes the drink. I just grabbed my drink and sat outside in the sun people watching, as if I was in Paris. Sigh! I miss Paris! To pass the time away, I called people up to chat on the phone as I waited. If you are ever in Union Square in SF and have a hankering for Coffee Bean, maybe you should walk further down to pick up a better one from another store.Coffee Bean
773 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 896-5029
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Good thing we arrived early for dinner at Manora's Thai in SF, because it started to get really busy after 7PM. There were rave reviews on the internet for this place so we decided to step out and give this place a try. I believe I have been to this neighborhood on my last trip and tried this really bad restaurant that I still have yet to blog about. From the outside you can't really tell that the interior of this restaurant would be nice. They have this neon sign outside that looked kind of broken down, but once you step inside you would see the nice furnishing. I really liked the wood furnishings and gold finish. The fresh flowers really add a nice exotic touch.
To start off the night we both ordered Thai Iced Tea. I couldn't resist a nice refreshing glass that night. Their drink was good, but nothing special. We had to try the highly recommended appetizer, Pirate Treasure. It's a combination of shrimp, chicken, and bean thread sheet marinated in Thai herbs with a touch of lemon spicy sauce. This was definitely a different item from what I have seen at other Thai restaurants. It was very flavorful, tangy, sweet & sour with a touch of spice. I really liked the bean threads. Ms. Lin loved the sauce and kept it around so that she could mix it with the rest of the dishes. The presentation was on point and the taste was great even with the raw cabbage provided. I think this was the best dish of the night.

All the appetizers looked good and we debated for a long time before deciding on what to order. As a compromise, I got to choose the second appetizer and Ms. Lin will get to order a dish she really liked at her favorite Thai restaurant in Boston. As I have said before, I love anything fried. O=P We got the Katong Ton that was crispy batter cups filled with garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetable mixed with curry served with chili garlic sauce. The presentation was very nice and cute. As for taste, it was good but nothing special. I think it's more about show than taste, but I did like the batter cups.
The Pad Thai here were suppose to be really good and highly recommended. It's pan-fried rice noodles with shrimp, tofu, egg, and bean sprouts. I thought it was only decent, I have definitely had better. It was a little bland for my taste and I didn't like the squishy texture of the tofu. Most of the Pad Thais I've had in the past were firmer tofu that packed more flavor. I don't think I would get this again or recommend it, try more appetizers instead! ^_-
One of my favorite Thai dishes is the Gang-Gari-Gai, Yellow Curry Chicken. Ms. Lin suggested that we get duck instead of chicken, so we ordered the Gang-Ped-Ped-Yang. It's roast duck cooked in curry with coconut milk & red chili sauce with pineapple and spinach. I thought it was yellow curry because I don't like red curry. The duck was good but I didn't like this dish because the pineapple taste was weird in my opinion. At first I though they were potatoes. Guess I didn't read the description before ordering. Ms. Lin ordered the Hoi-Tod because it's one of her favorite dishes. It's Thai style pan-fried mussels that's fried in crispy batter with spicy Thai herbs mixed with egg and bean sprout served with chili garlic sauce. The areas that were crispy tasted good only with the sauce. Overall it was quite disappointing and it wasn't what Ms. Lin imagined it to be. I definitely wouldn't get this dish again. It reminded me of the Chinese oyster omelette, Owah Jien. Trust me, skip this dish if you ever go there.To end the meal we ordered the dessert of the day, which was Fresh Mango with Sticky Rice. The presentation was nice, but the mango wasn't too ripe. It wasn't what I'd thought it to be, I like it when there's some custard on top of the sticky rice. The sticky rice with coconut milk was good, but nothing different from what you can get at other Thai restaurants. All in all this place was good, better than normal Thai restaurants but nothing spectacular. Overall the service and ambiance was nice. There's a lot of nice choices that differ from what you normally see in other Thai restaurants, but I think what stood out the most was the appetizers. If I lived up in SF, I would come back and try their other dish and appetizers.Manora's Thai
1600 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 861-6224
Manora's Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 25, 2008

We debated on going to the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, but we decided that Sunday would be best. After all, it was the last day of the festival and how can you miss the Grand Parade! I put together the best floats and groups from the parade into collages. To start off I wanted to show the big finale! Yes, it was a man in what I'd like to call Japanese diapers being carried off into the sunset by a big group of people cheering. I almost missed this final event until Ms. Lin pointed it out. She must be good at spotting bare bottoms. ^_- I tried finding the correct term to describe this traditional finale. Even though I can't, I hope you enjoy the funny picture! Sorry that I didn't notice it sooner, I could have gotten shots from all sides. As you can see from the picture that there were tons of people at this festival.
There were many stalls set up for shopping, food, and more everywhere. We passed by this special stall that had very unique chimes and decorative items. The cutest thing were the pigs! Especially the flying pigs! If they were a little bit cheaper I would have picked up a bunch for all my piggy friends out there. ^_- I bet Ms. Bumblebee, Burumun, and CMM Lvr would have loved one. They were so adorable, especially since their pigs can fly! ^_- Ms. Lin and I only bought some tiny winged pigs for ourselves.
Throughout the Grand Parade there were a lot of Taiko groups that performed. I love Taiko drumming because it's so powerful and rhythmic. It made me nostalgic to the wonderful Taiko group that I saw at UCLA. The parade consisted of many traditional Japanese culture and demonstrated how the Asian community gives back to the city. Ms. Lin noted that there was one good looking guy on the Asian Fire Fighters float. ^_- For those of you who didn't not attend, you missed out.
They had a special performance from the Kabuki theater troupe in Japan town. It was very lively and interesting to see. I was too far away, but they had Japanese swordsmen there and I am not sure if they did a demonstration on the street. One funny yet interesting thing they showcased in the parade was all the cosplayers marching. It really made me feel like I was at the annual AnimeExpo in OC. There were some really inventive and detailed costumes. I tried to take a picture of the guy in the Totoro costume and the one with the Nekobus on his head. Hopefully you can see the cute costumes! ^_^ I wish I took a picture of this Asian guy who made a poster board that looks like the Brain Age game with the center cut out and his face in it. It was an extremely simple costume, I guess you can call it that, but it really looked like the guy! I pointed this out to Ms. Lin and she agreed. We both had a great laugh. So much to see! I wish you all could have been there to share this wonderful even with us!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I am sorry to say the Takoyakis were not worth the long long long wait. They had the longest line and the most evil people trying to cut in! That's very normal for evil people to try and cheat their way in. After the long wait, this evil old man snuck in but I didn't let him go in front of me. They sold them by the piece for 50 cents each, which was not a bad price for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Since they do take a while to make, I took a bunch of photos to show you the process of making Takoyakis. Hope you like the cool pictures that I made into a collage. =) I was telling Ms. Lin that we should buy a ton of them and sell it to the people at the end of the line for a higher price! ^_~ Got to make a profit too!
The Takoyaki was made with ground beef, green onion, red ginger, flour, eggs, fish stock, and corn starch. Ms. Lin and I both noticed that there were no Tako, octopus, in the ingredients. Boo! That negates the name TAKO-yaki! I still gave them the benefit of the doubt since it's all for fun at the festival. Why not give it a go? I was a little too greedy though. We got 2 dozen of them and they looked really nice, full of possibilities. Sadly, appearances can be deceiving. Since they were so busy, I felt that the Takoyakis were undercooked and quite chewy. They would have been a lot better if they had the chance to firm up. All in all it was a lot of fun, because it reminded me of the first time I had fresh Takoyakis at the festival in Mitsuwa. Even though I didn't have that great of an experience here, I will still continue to buy fresh Takoyaki to relive the great time I had in Mitsuwa! Long live Takoyakis!

Ms. Lin saw a ton of people with Shaved Ice at the Cherry Blossom Festival, so she was on a hunt to find where to get some. While we were waiting in line for the Takoyaki, I went to get the snacks mentioned below and finally rejoined Ms. Lin. After we finished the hot snacks, she went to the KaGaMi Kai booth to get some Shaved Ice with Watermelon and Pineapple. This was her resolution of solving her thirst. Sadly, they made it super sweet. It was not what she expected. They must have really liked her and pumped way too much syrup into her shaved ice. The entire thing was drenched from head to toe, so it was just like drinking syrup. Since I wasn't the one who wanted the shaved ice, she had to finish the whole thing herself. I did help though! Like two bites... O=9

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This will be one of many adventures we had on Sunday at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan Town, SF. I guess you can say that I am a huge fan of Japanese culture, so I dragged Ms. Lin to the festival with me. A few years ago I went to the Pasadena Cherry Blossom Festival and that was a HUGE disappointment. The only thing they had that was a cherry blossom was a puny cherry tree stick. It definitely wasn't worth the hour and a half trip! Luckily this festival was just 10mins away in Japan town and free, so why not! Sounds like a lot of fun. Ms. Lin and I definitely did not enjoy getting up early to go to the festival. Parking was murder too, but that's just a price you must pay. ^_^To start off the festival posts. I am going to talk about the yummy foods we tried. The first thing I got was Imagawa Yaki, like a pancake with sweet red bean filling. Typically I despise anything with beans in it, but I thought that I should be open minded and try some fresh pastries. At first we thought the line we were standing in was the Takoyaki line, but we made a mistake. So I took it as a sign that I should just wait it out and give this a try! The people there were super friendly and funny. I talked to some of the guys and told them that I came from the OC. They joked around that I came especially to see the two guys making the Imagawa Yaki. So they struck a pose! ^_- Of course I had to pay tribute to them on my site!All in all the snacks were hot and fresh. Ms. Lin commented that the dough had a salty tastes. I think that's done on purpose to bring out the sweetness of the red bean paste and to add flavor. They were a nice little snack. I still don't really like red beans but the atmosphere of the fair and the people there just made everything enjoyable!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The title is my warning that I made the pictures look much better than the real thing! Last time I was up in SF Ms. Lin recommended Primo Patio a Caribbean place right next store but I have never taken the effort to try them out. Every day I would say that I'd eat lunch there but my laziness always won out. Finally on the day of the Olympic Torch we went there to grab lunch to go and eat it back in the apt. The outer decor looked simplistic and there were a lot of tacky touches to the decor, which were cute. There's a patio in the back that looked very comfy and inviting. The lady at the front seemed very nice, although she messed up our order a little. I was a little put-off with her attitude after we pointed out that she made a mistake with our order.
Ms. Lin recommended their Grilled Jerk Chicken Sandwich, their signature dish with Jamaican style marinade. It's served on soft French bread with tomato, lettuce, and their signature sauce. All the sandwiches came with Caribbean Red Fries, which were normal fries tossed in Cayenne. The fries were overdone and nothing special, but I did like their signature sauce because it tasted like garlic mayonnaise with some spices. The chicken was good, but a little bland. At least they didn't overcook the chicken, but I couldn't really tell that it was jerk chicken. I spiced it up with their sauce, so that made it better. I guess this sandwich was not bad but nothing special.
The lady recommended their special that day of Jerk Pork Sandwich. She really tried to sell that dish so we decided to give it a try. It's almost exactly like the chicken sandwich except with pork inside. At first I thought it was going to be a pork tenderloin but it turn out to be pulled pork. Ms. Lin really liked the pork because it was very flavorful and spicy. I didn't like it that much because it was full of spice that gave it a bitter taste. We shared both sandwiches but she ended up eating the pork and I finished the chicken. Luckily she liked the pork and I was fine with the chicken or we'd both be miserable.
I was starving that morning so I wanted to get an appetizer, but we decided to get the Grilled Lamb Pita instead. Since I am usually on a big lamb craze, you would think this dish would be great. Sadly, it lacked any flavor at all. The one good thing was that they gave a generous portion of lamb and it wasn't overcooked. Their menu said that the lamb is grilled and served in a pita, boy were they right! That's about it! It's just lamb with no flavor in a pita with a trickle of tomato chunks. I had to drench the pitas with sauce to give it any taste. This was definitely not what we wanted. I wouldn't waste money on this dish if I were you. If you want delicious lamb in a pita, I'd go to Yumma's.
All in all it's not bad, but not great. It's just like what Ms. Lin said, good but nothing special. Next time Ms. Lin is down in the OC I will have to take her to Eva's Caribbean Kitchen! The only thing that I really liked of the place was the sauce only because it tasted strongly of garlic. Other than that, it's only a so-so place. Definitely not a place you need to come up to the city to try. For me, if we were closer to the Ferry building I would rather get the grilled cheese panini! Burumun, you know what I am talking about! ^_-

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