Restaurant Review: Joe’s Pho, San Leandro

This is not as much a restaurant review, as an overall praise of Joe’s Pho, a year-old restaurant located near Bayfair mall. I had never even heard of it until my friend Parker suggested we go there for dinner, as our old friend Eddie was back in town. I’m not a huge fan of pho (or soup in general), so I was reluctant at first – but Parker mentioned it had other food.

God, I’m glad we went. Joe’s Pho not only has an extensive menu, but the food we tried was delicious. Alas, I didn’t want to inconvenience everyone by asking specifically about their dishes – but everyone agreed they liked the food, including my vegetarian and vegan friends (there are plenty of choices for vegans).

Personally, I ordered the basil popcorn chicken appetizer ($9), and was very happy with how tender and flavorful it was. I’ll definitely order it again in my next visit. I also had the grilled beef banh mi ($6.50), a Vietnamese sandwich, and loved the marinated beef. The proportion of beef to veggies was also quite good, and I liked that the bread was a soft bun.

The place itself is large and informal. They have long tables, so it’s perfect for groups. Service was friendly and attentive.

I can’t wait to go there again with my family, at which point I’ll take pictures and write a better review.

Joe’s Pho
15070 Hesperian Boulevard
San Leandro, CA
(510) 363-9691
https://joespho.com/
M-Su 10 AM – 10 PM


Restaurant Review: Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles Has What It Takes

The Ethiopian Feast

Los Angeles has several Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants. Unfortunately, they are all on the same street, South Fairfax Avenue near downtown. That means that if you live in the San Fernando Valley, as does my family, you have to trek all the way to Los Angeles if you want to have some of this delicious and very unique food.

So that’s exactly what we did last month when I went to visit my family down south. My sister read of bunch of reviews and decided on Little Ethiopia (also the name of the neighborhood) – all in all, it was a good choice.

We were a large group, as quite a few of my family members went, including two babies. Fortunately, the restaurant was rather empty. We made a lot of noise! The staff was extremely accommodating and friendly. It’s definitely as family friendly a restaurant as you are likely to get.

The menu is pretty typical for an Ethiopan restaurant. We shared both the meat and the lentil sambusas as an appetizer ($8 for 3) and they were very tasty – though a bit too spicy for some of us (to be expected, this is Ethiopian food, after all). The 2-year old in our party really liked them, spice and all.

As an entree, I shared the $40 Ethiopian feast (pictured above) with my husband and daughter. It was probably not enough food for 3, but my daughter is a light eater and there was more food at the table. It comes with doro wat, alicha wat and tibs. They were all very tasty.

My vegan daughter shared the vegetarian combo ($15), which is vegan, and thought it was pretty good. She particularly liked the kik alicha (a split pea stew) and also ordered it as a side ($6).

Meanwhile, the spaghetti with tomato sauce ($11) satisfied the picky older child in our party, it was a large portion with plenty of leftovers.

While the restaurant is comfortable and very affordable, it’s probably not the most elegant restaurant on the street. If you’re in a date, one of the other ones may be better. But if you’re after good Ethiopian food in a familiar atmosphere, this will do it.

Little Ethiopia
1048 South Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
(323)-930-2808
http://www.littleethiopiarestaurants.com/
T-Th, 11 AM – 9 PM
F- Su, 11 AM – 10 PM


Costco Has the Worst Burger EVER

My husband went to Costco the other day and I asked him to get me a BBQ brisket sandwich for lunch. Unfortunately, our local Costco in San Leandro (at least) no longer carries them. Instead, they have added a burger to their menu and my husband figured he’d get me that instead. Bad, bad move.

He said he had an inkling that the burger wouldn’t be good when he saw the patties coming out of the steamer. And he was right. This has to be the worst burger I have ever eaten, bar none. And I’ve eaten many bad burgers in my time.

The meat (and I’m assuming it’s meat) was so incredibly dry, that I have to believe it’s mostly filling. It also tasted just like the burgers they used to serve in middle school when I was a kid – not a good memory. Except these were drier.

The patties are enormous, which in this case it’s just not a good thing. It only means you have more unappetizing food to get through.

I didn’t want to waste food, so I ate through almost half of it until I decided that I just couldn’t do this to myself. The dog ate the rest. She, at least, did not complain.

But you are warned: stay away from these burgers.


You get what you pay for: Beef Tenderloin at Grocery Outlet

I wasn’t planning to buy beef tenderloin when I went to Grocery Outlet last week – but I saw it in the front case for just $6 a pound, and it seemed too much of a bargain to pass up. Really, I should have known better. As we say in Spanish, lo barato sale caro or what’s cheap, costs you more.

It’s grilling season for us (in other words, I’m happy to throw something on the grill this summer, but I’ve no desire to otherwise cook), so I coated the tenderloin with a herb mixture and then grilled it. I will admit that I overcooked it – it was much thinner in parts than your regular tenderloin – but that wasn’t really the problem. The quality of the beef was.

I can’t quite pinpoint what the problem was, maybe because it was a combination. The herb coating was great, but the rest of the beef lacked any beef flavor, if anything it had the offputting flavor of cheap meat (duh!). The texture was off as well, and it was just not enjoyable to eat.

My tenderloin was about 2 1/2 pounds so we ate maybe a third of it, and kept the rest as leftovers. It’s been several days, and none of us have reached out to eat the remaining. I may slice some and add it to nachos today, but the rest will go to the dog.

Lesson learned: don’t buy cheap beef.

Note: I don’t recall what brand it was, but it’s one often carried by Grocery Outlet – I’ll make a note of it next time I go.


Restaurant Review: Kabob Express – San Leandro

Kabob Express is, apparently, a food stand at Bayfair Mall in San Leandro. I say apparently because I’ve never actually been – I’ve just ordered take out a couple times. The most recent one was a couple of nights ago, and I was very satisfied with my order.

My order this time was just for my vegan daughter and I. She got a felafel wrap ($11.50), which comes with hummus, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, grilled onions and tahini sauce. You can specify for it to be vegan and it comes with a side of vegan tahini sauce. My daughter was very pleased with this wrap, and particularly liked the tahini. She’d order it again.

Mantu – Afghani dumplings with beef sauce

I had the mantu ($8), an Afghani dish of dumplings with a meat sauce. While this is listed as an appetizer, the dish is large and heavy enough that it can qualify as an entree. It is also absolutely delicious. The steamed pasta is very soft and has a consistency that I just loved, and the beef is intensely spiced. My only complaint is that it didn’t have enough yogurt sauce to balance the richness of the beef. I made up for it by adding some sour cream.

I also ordered a lamb gyro wrap ($12), which I ended up eating the next day. Once again, I was very happy with it. It had thick lamb cubes, tender and perfectly seasoned (in the past, it was a bit too salty). It was a little bit on the small side, however, and given the price I’d been happier if it came with a side.

I also ordered a mint lassi, but got a mango lassi instead. It was good, thick and very sweet. The mint lassi I’ve had in the past was a bit thin, but also tasty.

In the past, I’ve also ordered the samosas, which were very crisp and had a slightly spicy potato filling.  They were very small, maybe half the size of a regular one.  They didn’t taste like regular Indian samosas but were good.

I’ve also had the lentil soup, which was chunky and tasty. It did seem to contain meat, but it’s now listed as vegetarian, so they may have changed the recipe.

I didn’t order the hummus this time (which, beware, comes without pita bread, you must order that separately) because last time around it had a very mild flavor, more tahini than chickpeas. Beware that as with the other items, they might have changed how they make it.

Finally, I was disappointed to not find the bolani in the menu any more. This is an Afghani flatbread stuffed with potatoes, onions and herbs. I really liked it when they had it.

Prices at Kabob Express have gone up pretty radically since last year. The mantu, which was just $6 a year ago, is now $8 while the lamb gyro has gone up a full $4.50, from $7 to $11.50. Still, their prices seem in line with other local restaurants.

You can order Kabob Express through Grubhub ($5 delivery fee) or Doordash (free deliver if over $35, but a $4-5 fee). Doordash prices are slightly higher on some items. Delivery took a little over an hour, apparently because my order wasn’t ready in time (or so said the driver).


Review: Gobble’s Pan-Roasted Chicken with Polenta Cakes & Roasted Broccoli

Rating 8/10

I was not excited when I chose this meal – pan fried chicken? -, but I couldn’t find a third meal that appealed more to my taste. Boy, was I surprised when this ended up being delicious!

The meal included 2 chicken breasts, mushrooms, grape tomatoes and broccoli crows, as well as prepared shallot confit, wine sauce, herbed butter and two premade polenta cakes. Preparation consisted of cutting the veggies, sauteing the chicken, adding the veggies and the confit and then putting all of that in the oven. Meanwhile, I heated the polenta cakes on a pan. After the chicken and veggies were done, I was supposed to transfer them to a plate, and then make a sauce on the pan with the wine sauce, some water and the herbed butter.

While none of this was complicated, it took me 30 minutes from beginning to end, not the promised 15. I am a slow cook, however.

The chicken did not actually cook through in the given time, but the vegetables were ready, so I finished cooking it on the pan I used for the polenta.

The results were pretty delicious. I loved the polenta cakes and the wine sauce, as well as the mushrooms and tomatoes together (I hate broccoli, so I left all of that for my daughter and took her mushrooms, as she doesn’t like them). The chicken was the worse part – as usual for chicken breasts, it was dry. I so prefer chicken thighs!

I also took a point off because this dish required both the stove and the oven. I really don’t see why it couldn’t be cooked stovetop and save the gas and time required to pre-heat the oven, as well as avoiding the heat in the summer month.

I got this kit for free due to credits and a welcome back promo code. Use this referral link to get a free kit for 2 with your first box.


Note: if you use my referral link I *may* get some credits in return, if I happen to be subscribed to the meal kit service at the exact moment you use the code – which is unlikely.



Review: Gobble’s Blackened Top Sirlon Steaks with Mashed Potatoes & Baby Carrots

Rating 7/10

This was a perfectly acceptable, but unexciting dish. Of course, I should know better than order any kit featuring top sirloin, a cut that is neither tender nor tasty. The blackening spice helped, but still, I wasn’t thrilled. A NY strip, tri-tip or ranch steak seasoned with just salt is better.

This kit, as too many of Gobble’s, required that you start cooking the steak and carrots on the stove and then transfer them to the oven. This, to me, is an unnecessary step and a waste of gas. So after slicing the carrots and seasoning the beef, I cooked both on my iron skillet on the stove. Once the beef was done, I removed it and added a couple of tablespoons of water to the carrots, covered it and cooked for a few more minutes, until the carrots were softish.

The mashed potatoes only required mixing with a pre-mix of poblano peppers & corn and then warming up. As my daughter doesn’t like poblano peppers and I don’t like corns and the two were mixed together, I just skipped that. I did add the cheddar cheese afterwards. I found the cheesy potatoes pretty tasty, but my daughter didn’t like them.

All in all, I wouldn’t order this kit again.

I got this kit for free due to credits and a welcome back promo code. Use this referral link to get a free kit for 2 with your first box.


Note: if you use my referral link I *may* get some credits in return, if I happen to be subscribed to the meal kit service at the exact moment you use the code – which is unlikely.




Review: Gobble’s Greek Pita Wrap with Grilled Vegetables & Hummus

Rating 8/10

Processed with RNI Films

This kit came with already made hummus, tzatziki, olive tapenade and za’atar spice, as well as a zucchini, a yellow squash, 2 roma tomatoes, a slice of red onion, a small bag of arugula, pita bread and pita chips. Preparation consisted of slicing the squashes, quartering the tomato, sauteing them for about 8 minutes and then assembling the pitas. You then serve it with a side of pita chips and hummus. So a super quick meal to put together.

I didn’t use the tzatziki or tapenade, omitted the onion and substituted the arugula for some spring mix I had to accommodate my daughters’ preferences. I also added some cubed tofu to add protein to the dish.

In all, she was very happy with the results. She found it a very tasty meal. She particularly loved the pita bread. The problem is that the kit came with only two pita breads – so one per person. That was not enough for the amount of filling there was.

This is also a pretty simple meal to put together on your own, though I wouldn’t know where to buy the spongy pita bread they sent.

I got this kit for free due to credits and a welcome back promo code. Use this referral link to get a free kit for 2 with your first box.


Note: if you use my referral link I *may* get some credits in return, if I happen to be subscribed to the meal kit service at the exact moment you use the code – which is unlikely.


Review’s Thistle’s Korean Style Veggie & Rice Noodles and Togarashi Tofu

Rating 6/10

This was the dinner offering for Wednesday, this week, but my daughter was out that night so she took it to school this for lunch today. It looked like a salad to her, so she thought it was a lunch. That meant, she ate it cold.

She thought it was fine, but she did not like one of the herbs – probably the cilantro. It reminded her of a deconstructed spring roll (her words). She said she’d eat it again, but wasn’t enthusiastic about her.

Because she took it to school without my knowing it, I wasn’t able to photograph it.


My chicken has a blue spot

Yesterday I cut up some chicken and marinated it full fat yogurt and homemade tandoori massala. Today, when I went to cook it, I discovered that several pieces had bright aqua spots on them. Spots that I know for sure weren’t there when I cut the chicken up and put it to marinade.

What are they? One theory is that the garlic powder in the massala may have reacted with the yogurt to change colors. Garlic has been known to do that. Another, is that it’s “oxidation” or mold.

I’m posting this here in case it happens to someone else and they go around searching for answers in the internet. I may not have them, but at least they’ll know they are not alone.

BTW, I decided to cook the chicken and eat it. It’s been a few hours and so far, I haven’t dropped dead. I’ll update if I feel like I wish I was dead tonight or tomorrow.

Update: It’s now the next morning and I’ve felt no ill effects from making the chicken.

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about a week old, but still under the expiration date – it didn’t smell at all), a homemade tandoori masala made from ground coriander, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, cloves, mace, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg, and Mountain High original plain yogurt (which contains
Cultured Pasteurized Milk – cultured with
S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, B. bifidus, and L. casei -, Fruit Pectin, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3) . The leftover yogurt shows no discoloration.

Foster Farms says they’ve never seen anything like this.