Sunday, April 6, 2008

Three Meals!

On Friday we went to Bui Contemporary Vietnamese Restaurant in Berkeley. We saw it before and decided to try it. We ordered the fried calamari with alioli sauce for appetizer. It was good. It had a light panko crust and the calamari itself was cooked so perfectly. It was soft; not chewy. So the meal started out alright. Then our entrees came. Hubby ordered a hotpot of Chilean Sea Bass in carmelized sauce. It was so overly sweet. There were no other ingredients in there. No onions or anything. Just a few chunks of fish. And I ordered roasted eggplant with minced chicken sauce. Yup, it sounds like that dish I made, right? Yeah, I decided to order it to compare. It had the basil in it for color and taste. It was pretty tasty. On the salty side. And the eggplant had a nice roasted flavor but there was only one small eggplant in there. The portion was ridiculous. The rice we got was $1.50 a bowl, and the bowl was so tiny. It was a little bigger than a teacup. Maybe I exaggerate, but there was definitely not enough to eat with that flavorful entree I got. The total bill came out close to $60. It was so not worth it there.

So when we decided to eat out on Saturday, we made sure to pick a cheap but yummy place to make up for Friday's dinner. Hubby looked at the 2007 Bargain Bite that the SF Chronicle puts out every year and found a Chinese place in Oakland Chinatown called Shan Dong. It was a grungy place with red Chinese lanterns. What was a little shock for me was that we were greeted by a smile and taken to our table. And what I noticed was that the language I heard spoken there be the guests was mainly English. There a lot of young cool people like us of different backgrounds eating there. So, immediately I felt comfortable there. We ordered the 5 dishes for $31.50. There are about 35 dishes you can choose from. The one thing I was disappointed with that deal was that there were no noodle dishes there. We read that they make the noodles themselves. The photos below are what we ordered. Everything was really good. The deal even came with a bowl of soup. It was hot and sour soup, not just a cabbage soup, but a real soup! We decided that since all the dishes were so yummy, we'll come back to order their noodle dishes next time. This place will definitely be one of regular places to eat. We loved the fact that this meal lasted us for two more meals. We had the leftovers for lunch and dinner. So for $31.50 plus tax and tip, we got three good meals from it. We tipped a little more because they actually poured tea for us when they came to our table. Oh! And this place actually takes cards and delivers for free to our area! This place made up for Bui and then some.

Salt and Pepper Pork Chop
Dry Braised Green Beans
Shan Dong Chicken
Fish Fillet with Cream Corn
Broccoli with Beef

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring Break Cooking

So, I didn't do everything I wanted to during my break. I did do most of the laundry, tidied the office, and did the cooking. So here's what I ended up making: Grilled Salted Salmon Collar. My mom's recipe for kama on the grill.
Sunomono from Let's Cook Japanese Food! I added the wakame. I love the color of the cucumbers. They're so vibrantly green! They're the Japanese cucumbers I found at the Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley.
Pork Tonkatsu and Tokyo Negi Katsu on Skewers from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking. Having them on skewers is for presentation only. The negi smelled so good when it was frying, and it tasted just as good.
The ingredients for my mom's potato salad. I used those colorful potatoes from the Farmers' Market. Recognize the color of the cucumbers? Those are the Japanese cucumbers again. I'm so pleased with myself that I finally used cucumbers before they went bad.
Mom's Japanese-Style Potato Salad.
Japanese-Style Squid Salad from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking. This dish was awful! The dressing was so salty! Even as I was making it, I thought, "Man. It's going to be really salty... Well, let's see..." The squid was good, but the dressing... Oh man. We ate the squid with the red butter lettuce we got from the Farmers' Market. We ate that with Nasu no Soboro Ankake (Eggplant with Gingery Chicken Sauce) from Let's Cook Japanese Food! This was an ugly dish but the flavor was good. It's a ground chicken sauce that goes on top of the eggplant. It's ugly because there's no other color to the chicken. It's just brown ground chicken. The next time I make this, I'm going to add green onion or Thai basil and water chestnut for texture. The flavor is light. I think I'll make a batch of this and freeze it in portions to have for my bentos for work.
The ingredients for Toriniku no Misoyaki (Chicken Grilled with Miso Glaze) from Let's Cook Japanese Food!
Toriniku no Misoyaki. Oops. Got a little burnt.
Cute little balls of chicken ready to be cooked for...
Toriniku Dango no Amasu An (Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Vinegar Glaze) from Let's Cook Japanese Food! This came out so good! I'll make this again. This recipe can be used to make tsukune. The ground chicken put on a stick and grilled like the izakaya places.


Update on the maple tree. Look! The little shriveled up leaves opened up. It looks so lush now. Here's the little maple tree. It's funny, the leaves at the top of the tree are red, but the leaves closer to the bottom are more green-red. It may be because of how much the leaves are getting the sun on the balcony.

Oh, and here's how the big maple tree of the apartment complex looks now in the springtime.

Fog City Diner

During Spring Break, we went to Fog City Diner in SF for my birthday dinner. We've been there once and I just loved their fried calamari. They're light and crispy and mixed in there are fried onions and jalapeno! Yum!! And it comes with a spicy and garlicky lime dipping sauce. Hubby ordered crabcakes for his appetizer. I didn't care for it. For our entrees we got Red Curry Mussel Stew and Chicken Schnitzel with broccolini and lemon caper sauce. The stew got too sweet as it cooled. And my schnitzel was edible but everything on my plate only tasted of butter. It's as if Paula Deen cooked it for me. So I wouldn't recommend it unless you're a butter lover like her. Oh... But that calamari... It makes me want to get a deep fryer. And I want to make that dipping sauce and put it on everything.

At home, Hubby presented me with a chocolate cupcake from Miette that he had secretly bought when we had gone to the Ferry Building earlier in the evening. It was very moist and perfectly sweet. I tasted the freshness of the vanilla frosting, but I didn't care for it and ended up scraping it off. We ate it with a petite bottle of Prosecco. It was our first time, and we enjoyed it very much.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break Projects

It's Spring Break! I have planned for myself many projects during vacation. I want to paint little cute things on 5" x 7" canvases, cook meals using the grill, apply for teaching jobs, write letters and overdue packages to friends, and tidy up the apartment. I got the canvases on Saturday, and we also went to the Farmers' Market. The market had those plastic Easter eggs scattered about for the egg hunt for the kids. I thought that they were for decoration, but then later realized when a parent was helping her kid "find" the egg that it was the Easter egg hunt that my husband saw advertised. Anyways, we bought short ribs there. I've been wanting to try buying the meat there for a long time. I'm always disappointed by the beef I buy at the supermarket because when I bring them home, I find that there's a funky smelling, brownish-gray discoloring on other side of the meat. Good thing I don't really eat a lot of red meat. When we do, we now get them at the butcher at Whole Foods. We've had better luck with the meat there. I love that I can ask them to show it to me and have them re-cut it to our liking. I've even seen people ask to smell the fish or meat there. I'm too shy to do that. So, going back to the Farmers' Market... We also bought a red butter lettuce for $2. It was so pretty I had to get it. It's good, but it didn't have much of a thickness like the green variety. My parakeets enjoyed it, too. We also got oranges, and a bag of different colored potatoes.

I went grocery shopping today. Want to know what I've planned for this week's dinner menu? Well, today, I made Chicken with Soy and Balsamic Dressing on a bed of sauteed cabbage. It was so good. This recipe from Harumi Kurihara's Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking is definitely a keeper. Her Pari Pari-Style Chicken; not so much. I also plan to make her Japanese-style Squid Salad using the butter lettuce with Amy Kaneko's (of Let's Cook Japanese Food!) Eggplant with Gingery Chicken Sauce. For another night, I plan to make little bite-sized pork tonkatsu and Tokyo negi on skewers using Harumi's idea. I'll serve that with my mom's Japanese-style potato salad using those colorful potatoes. I wonder how it would look with those purple potatoes! And then another night, I'll use the grill to make Kaneko's Chicken Grilled with Miso Glaze and her Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Vinegar Glaze served with corn nibblets. For the chicken meatballs, I haven't decided if I should grill them on skewers and serve the sauce on the side, or to go ahead and pan-cook it with the glaze. It depends on how ambitious I'm feeling. The last dish I have planned is the salmon collar a la Mom. Last time I made this was on the stovetop grill. So I'm looking forward to making it on our little grill. And I'll serve that with sunomono. All Japanese food.

Happy projects for me! I'll keep you updated on what out of these things mentioned I would actually get done. :)

Yay! Grill Time!!

We have all these cookbooks, but I couldn't make half the stuff in them because we didn't have a grill. Well, we have those indoor, stovetop grill, but have learned to hate it. It is hard to clean and grilling just stinks up an apartment for a week! So we finally got the little grill and FINALLY got it set up and working. We were waiting for the warm weather, right, Hubby? Hee hee. The first thing my husband made was steak. He just rubbed the Montreal grill seasoning on it, and then pounded it with his fist. It came out really good.

Balcony Plants

Aren't these Jumpers so pretty?! They're so cute! Last year I tried to grow them from seeds, but I didn't bother this year since I've been so busy. I just went to Home Depot and went plant crazy. I took so long trying to figure out which container had the most variety of colors. The only thing that was growing was my husband's scrawny maple plant from Ikea. Well, actually I thought that it had just died from being overwatered or not watered enough, but lo and behold, it was alive!!! It has started growing its new red leaves. So, anyways, I also bought a pink flower, don't remember the name, and a purple bacopa... I think that's what it's called. They're both in a little hanging basket from Ikea. I also got a Maidenhair Fern to replace my Pachira plant. The Pachira died. It was my fault. I left it out in the balcony when it was way too cold for it. Well, I say it was payback for its lack of financial fortune it was supposed to give me.

Little Sweet Things

Hubby brought home these cute little candies from work. And I just had to go check the store out. The traditional candies are from Fiona's Sweetshoppe in San Francisco. They're imported from the UK and Europe. It was neat because you get to taste them before you buy them. I tried something called a UFO and it was odd. It was shaped like a flying saucer and came in variety of pastel colors. When you put it in your mouth, it felt like a thin, stale wafer that's in a Kit Kat. It collapses as it gets soggy in your mouth and then weird, tart crumbly candy is in the center. Don't care to have it again but would give it someone to watch their expression on their face.

We also went to Schoggi. It's a Swiss chocolate store. It's right next to Beard Papa's and my husband has been waiting for it to check it out. We got two chocolates each. I got a coffee flavored one and a matcha flavored one. Hee hee.
And yesterday, for Easter, we got a little chocolate bunny from good ol' See's to smash and eat. Well, my plan was to get those big chocolate bunny with the blue candy eyes to smash and eat up, but I got cheap and didn't do that. Went for the little bunny. And didn't smash it. We just bit into it. I remember never ever finishing those chocolate bunnies when we were kids. I think my siblings and I would just eat the ears, and end up saving the rest of the fridge. And one day we realize that it's no longer there. Mom probably chucked it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Hubby and I have been wanting to try Zen. A green tea liqueur. We first saw it at BevMo and having been checking to see if they have a small version of it instead to try it. When we go to bars, we've been asking if they have it so that we can try it. But when we met up with a friend when we were in SoCal, she had it for us. It was so funny. So we tried it. We tried it straight. Very sweet and tastes of matcha ice cream. We made the zentini that was on the bottle. It was very strong, as all martinis are. It was still sweet and yummy to drink, but I didn't really taste the tea flavor. I think I'm going to get the matcha powder and rim the glass with it so that it would be extra pretty and accentuate the tea flavor when you drink it. Beautiful green color. :) I think I'll put it in my cocktail recipes book since it was pretty good. Here's my cocktail recipe book. I scrapbooked it. Hee hee. I did this when I was not working. So, I just need to find the time to do it with this recipe.

Yummy Saturday

I made Mochiko Chicken Wings yesterday. I got the recipe from a mochi cookbook from Hawaii. The flavor is so similar to the Sesame Chicken my mom makes. Only, sorry to say, this mochi chicken recipe is better. So here's the blurry photo of it.
Then, during the evening, we went to the city to have dinner at Schnitzelhaus for a friend's 30th birthday dinner. It was such a loud fun place. It was decorated with tons of antlers. I never had German food. I really wanted a sausage but ended up getting a schnitzel instead. Never had a schnitzel so I thought I should try it at an authentic place. It was so good. It was breaded so well. And I loved the lemon sauce it came with. Sounds like other guests who had the schnitzel wished they had gotten one with some kind of sauce. So, I'm glad I did. I was so happy that I had leftovers just so that I can have it home again. And I did. Still good!! Hubby had a pork leg. It was big. He said that he wouldn't get it again. Oh, and the restaurant has super large boot glasses for beer. I think a live human can wear it!


We went to Vegas this week. We took the Zagat guide for Vegas my hubby got from work. It was so wrong in recommendations. So our first day of eating sucked. We went to Cravings for buffet food. I was so disappointed that almost all the cakes were sugarless. Sugarless cake?! Fortunately, I found a chocolate mousse cake that was so yummy. We went to Isla Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar and had a really good meal on the second day. We were served with chips and salsa. Ohhh!!! It came with salsa fresca, chipotle salsa, and tomatillo salsa. Yum!! We ordered Mexican Cucumber cocktails. It was strong but had the sweet, refreshing taste of cucumber. It was garnished with a dried chili pepper. So the last sip of the drink was spicy. We had a steak pyramid and a BBQed shortrib. The steak was good but just needed some salt. The shortrib was a bit too sweet for my taste. We ended the meal with flan. The most perfect flan ever!!

On our last day in Vegas, we went to Carnegie Deli. Hubby had the humongo pastrami and I had the chicken noodle soup and the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever. It was crispy on the outside and oozed with gooey, salty American cheese.

Leno and Izakaya

Oooh! I've tried several new places this month. We had Japanese food again with our friends in SF. This time, we had izakaya food. Oh, but on our way to meet up with our friends, we came across a crowd at Union Square. When we looked into the crowd, I saw a large chin and white hair. Yup. Jay Leno. There was a film camera and a mic involved. Maybe Jaywalking?? Anyways... The izakaya is called Sozai and it's run by a husband and wife team. The wife is Japanese and is the chef. The husband is the head waiter who helps pick out the sake to go with the dishes. All the sake are from True Sake in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. So, I guess he's the sake sommelier. The food was really good. They had a maguro tartar for only $3!! And they have edamame hummus that's so yummy. The "Sake Sommelier" said that one of the Whole Foods is carrying it now. At the end, we made sure to get the four desserts sampler. It came with lychee ice cream with matcha sauce, green tea tiramisu, green tea panna cotta, and a ginger chocolate cake. Mari, the chef, wasn't happy with the tiramisu, so she gave us full portions of everything else. I would probably go back there again. It was weird though because no one was there in the restaurant. But once we got seated several more guests trickled in. Must be a late night place.

Another Japanese place we checked out is a sushi place my sister found in Monterey Park on Garvey. It's called Sorafune. Another hubby and wife team. This time the wife is the waitress and the hubby is the chef. The place isn't even an year old but getting business. Very fresh there, and the wife is quite proud that the green tea is from Japan.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Missing Mom's Grilled Fish

To make up for the yucky food we had last weekend, we decided and hoped to have better luck this weekend. I have been craving for grilled salted fish like my mom makes, so last night we went to Norikonoko in Berkeley again. We went there last year but haven't gone since. It's a Japanese place that serves homestyle cooking. So it serves robata style food, oden, and noodle soup dishes. No sushi chef there. It's pricey but really good. When you get there, you have to open a sliding door. Cool, huh? And when you go in, it's a little place and you feel like you walked into a Japanese family's home. It's cluttered with knickknacks all over the place. And the kitchen is not in the back somewhere, it's right there. You can even sit at the bar facing the kitchen. So, it's like a sushi bar, but without the sushi. It's a Japanese husband and wife team that does everything. When we got in, one of first thing I hear in Japanese from the husband chef is, "Have them sit there, that couple is about to leave," to the server. Right away, I remember that the husband is very tough on his servers. He is one of those strict Japanese guys. He's like Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen. He's always yelling at them. I had forgotten that about him, and the warm cozy feeling of eating food that my mom makes was then met with a feeling of awkwardness. Just hearing him constantly chiding the young servers made me feel bad for them. I felt like being there put them in that bad situation. But I was still excited to eat. My husband ordered the the maguro yamakake for appetizer and miso ramen with char-siu pork. The maguro was so good. The maguro was good - dark red color, firm, and fresh. I got the grilled salted sanma (pike fish) with daikon oroshi. I don't like daikon oroshi, but decided not to say anything about it when I ordered it. I was scared of the chef yelling at me for not eating his daikon or something. So for $15, the fish came with a bowl of rice, pickled veggies, miso soup, salad, orange slice, and two sidedishes. They were boiled spinach with ponzu sauce and nikujaga. I liked everything, but the nikujaga. I never liked nikujaga. Don't like it that it's sweet. The fish was so yummy. It was lightly salted and thankfully, it came with the daikon oroshi on the side. And a wedge of lemon! That's how I grew up eating it - with some lemon juice. It was very yummy until I noticed that they don't clean out the fish. So all fish meat that touched the innard part tasted bitter. I wasn't happy about that. My husband got a mini BBQ to use on our balcony, so I hope I can make this on my own when he has it all set up.Maguro Yamakake
Miso Ramen with Char-siu Pork