Tag Archives: Eddie

A Foodie in Oakland: Jo’s Modern Thai

It turns out you can make Thai food even better.

Let’s be honest, Thai food is absolutely delicious. Mind blowing yummy. With its expert combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavorings, and a complete mastering of umami, Thai cuisine ranks among the best in the world. Take your average strip mall Thai joint in Los Angeles and compare it to a three star Michelin star restaurant, and on flavors alone, the Thai joint might very well win. Indeed, one of the most amazing things about Thai food, is how consistently good it is (at least in California). Sure, you can find some duds once in a while, but those seem to be the exception.

So, I was very curious to find out how the very well reviewed and quite expensive Jo’s Modern Thai could elevate Thai food even further. Was it possible to “modernize it,” whatever that meant, in a way that it would improve it rather than just bastardize it? Was there anything new to be done to dishes that achieved perfection after hundreds of years of evolution? It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. Thai cuisine can be modernized and elevated, and Jo’s Modern Thai is at the forefront of this movement.

I went to Modern Thai with a group of girlfriends for a busy and loud (middle aged) girls’ night out. Thus I didn’t take any photos of the food, nor do I have detailed recollections of every dish – beyond saying that my mind was blown. I will, of course, return to Modern Thai again for a more careful review. But meanwhile, here is what I recall us having.

Coconut Cakes ($22 for 4). These come with “Tom Kha scallops and shrimp ceviche, trout roe, makrut, bird’s eye chili, cilantro.” I’m not a huge fan of seafood, and I do hate shrimp, but I loved these. The combination of flavors was really on point, with the cakes adding very nice hints of coconuts.

Crying Tiger ($17 for 4). These consisted of small slices of grilled short ribs, served on top of sticky rice in some sort of leaf and topped with “tomato jaew sauce, pomegranate, shiso, herbs.” They were quite spicy, thus the name, but also absolutely delicious. A great combination of flavors.

Green Papaya Salad ($16) . I don’t personally remember this salad. We ordered two, and I remember people particularly raving over one of them – but I’m not sure if it was this one or the other one, and I’m not sure what the other one was.

Lobster Pad Thai ($32) I’m not a fan of lobster – though those who were, loved it here -, but I absolutely loved the pad thai itself. You can also order it plain.

Drunken Noodle ($26) I was blown away by the smokiness of these noodles – not just the BBQ brisket. They were absolutely delicious.

Massaman Curry ($25) This is a vegetarian dish, and it was actually quite good. It was, however, spicy.

Pork Belly Curry ($27) & Beef Cheek Green Curry ($33) I can’t remember either of these, though I do know I enjoyed them. They were both medium spicy, but I didn’t have an issue with them.

Pork Laab Burger ($17) I remember this being tastier than I expected, but I only had a bite.

We might have had other food, and I know this is very unhelpful – I really should have written this review right away, but I do know that all in all I was blown away by all the food. There was nothing that I didn’t really like. That is, until it come to dessert.

Pretty much everyone at the table ordered the salted Thai tea panna cotta ($14) and only one person sort of liked it. The dessert wasn’t sweet at all, and it had an off putting taste. It’s dessert, I guess, for people who hate dessert. I had reluctantly ordered the mango sticky rice ($14) and fared much, much, much better. They basically took what is a common Thai dessert, concentrated the flavors, and served it in a small glass. The sticky rice pudding was topped by both mango sorbet and chopped mango, with coconut cream sauce and pandan rice krispies for texture. Absolutely delicious and worth the hefty price.

Pretty much everyone got cocktails and everyone raved about them. I didn’t taste any, so I can’t comment on them.

Service was impecable, very friendly, attentive, informative.

All in all, it was an amazing girl’s night out with incredible food, and I look forward to returning – and writing a more detailed review.

Jo's Modern Thai
3725 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA
(510) 479-3167
Tuesday - Thursday:5:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday:5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Sunday:5:00 pm - 9:30 pm


Dining in Texas: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Great fried chicken in fun surroundings

We had two goals for our trip to Dallas: seeing the eclipse and visiting with our old friends Eddie and Arthur. They had selfishly moved back to Texas when our kids were little. I’m still really sad, and we miss them terribly.

Our first night together, Eddie and Arthur took us to one of their favorite restaurants: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. Babe’s is a small chain of ten restaurants all in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area; we went to the Burleson location. They are beautifully decorated with cottage-style houses and chickens everywhere. I can imagine this would be a favorite family restaurant – little girls, in particular, are likely to swoon over the decorations.


Babe’s menu is limied to fried chicken, fried chicken tenders, chicken fried steak and hickory smoked chicken (all $19), fried catfish ($20) and a vegetable plate ($11). Even in Texas they figured families often have a vegetarian they need to bring along to dinner. All meals come with sides which are served family style: house salad, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits and cream gravy.

Texas may not be the South per se, but coming from Louisiana I was still thinking in those terms, so I was excited to get some southern fried chicken. I’m not sure that it would differ from any other fried chicken – it seems like all our fried chicken chains originate in the South anyway, and it’s not like I make it myself (though I did try my hand at Delaware fried chicken some time back). Still, like most others at the table, I ordered the fried chicken and it was very good. The chicken was very moist, the breading was super crisp and the pieces were a nice size. The only minus is that you can only order a mixed portion or drumsticks, not just dark meat. It wasn’t a big deal, however. Alas, I didn’t try any of the other entrees. I know that Eddie got fried catfish and Arthur got the smoked chicken; they must be good given they keep ordering them when they visit.

There was so much chicken to be eaten, that we really didn’t try all the sides. The exception was the buttermilk biscuits which were excellent. They bring both honey and sorghum syrup to the table, and they were both good – the latter has a rich flavor, similar to molasses. I learned here – from Eddie – that in the south you biscuits in half and butter the whole half.

We also liked the mashed potatoes, and someone was fond of the salad as it didn’t last long, but we didn’t try the other sides.

Service was great, the waiters were very accommodating and efficient. They did not rush us out even when we stayed well over closing time. Alas, Babe’s is one of those places that likes to humiliate waiters by making them perform – apparently they force them to perform the hokey pokey for waiters. Patrons love it but waiters hate it (I asked).

Of course, the company was even better than the food but I was very happy to try this place. And boy, do we miss Eddie and Arthur.

Babe's Chicken Dinner House
120 South Main St
Burleson, TX
(817) 447-3400
M-F: 11 AM - 2 PM & 5 PM - 9 PM
Sa & Su: 11 AM - 9 PM

Trabocco is the perfect place for a girl’s night out

Review of the Alameda restaurant

Last night, my friends Eddie and Aamani took me out to Trabocco to celebrate my fifty-something birthday. I had gone a couple of times before but not since the pandemic, and it was a great experience. The food was good, the service was exceptional, the atmosphere convivial and the overall experience felt as COVID-safe as any dining experience can be. In all, it was the perfect place for a girls night out.

Trabocco is the creation of Italian chef Giuseppe Naccarelli and it offers a menu of pretty traditional Italian (as opposed to Italian-American) dishes, with several salad, pizza and pasta choices in addition to a few main dishes. There is a strong emphasis on the quality of the ingredients and the flavors – at least the ones I experienced – seemed very authentic.

The restaurant has a large dining room with an open kitchen and convivial bar. It offers the casual Even before the pandemic it offered outdoor sitting but it has now expanded it to a larger area with a canvass roof but semi-open sides. Our table was next to one of these sides, and there was a nice, if slight, breeze (which also meant it got a bit chilly, so I was happy I’d brought a cardigan). Perfect for pandemic dining.

One of the thing that makes Trabocco a good place for a girls night out is its selection of cocktails – mostly traditional American ones with a small twist. I had the kaffir lime cosmopolitan (which just substituted kaffir lime juice for regular lime juice, a great idea), and it was quite good. Eddie had the Milano Mule and found it delicious. Aamani was driving so she skipped cocktails.

The meal started with slices of rustic bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was impressed the waiter asked whether we wanted the vinegar added to the olive oil and then offered pepper on top. A small detail, but made the experience nicer.

We then shared a plate of burrata con prosciutto, which came with some sort of microgreen. It had three big slices of prosciutto, which made it perfect for three to share (though I wonder if they’d given us four smaller slices if we were four) and a large round of very fresh tasting but surprisingly firm burrata. It came with breadsticks but the burrata was actually solid enough that you could pick it up with a fork. I enjoyed it very much, in particularly mixed with the microgreen in question. The prosciutto was delicious.

For my main dish, I had the ravioli con coda , “house-made pasta stuffed with braised oxtail, au jus, pecorino pepato”. The plate was satisfying and tasted utterly authentic. It tasted exactly as I’d expect it to, which was a bit disappointing – as I’m always searching for new flavors – but on the other hand very comforting. I’d order it again when in need of a hug in a plate.

Eddie had the grilled salmon (which, along with a Mediterranean bass and some other fish were the catch of the day), which came with sautéed spinach and arugula salad. She thought the salmon was perfectly cooked and the sides were delicious. Aamani had the risotto, but unfortunately I don’t recall what she thought of it.

For dessert, I opted for the zabaglione with berries. It was, once again, exactly as advertised – a competent zabaglione with fresh berries mixed in. Eddie was disappointed that her affogato had very little ice cream, but she enjoyed the flavor nonetheless. Aamani liked her panna cotta.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the service. Our waiter, who grew up in Italy and had a wonderful Italian accent, was friendly, helpful and efficient. He and other waiters wore well-fitted stylish masks, which as a COVID-phobe I appreciated for their health as much as mine. My dessert was served in a plate with “Happy Birthday” written on it and a candle. The chef and the waiter joined my friends in signing me Happy Birthday, which was nicer and less embarrassing than I had feared when I saw them doing the same to another birthday girl in a nearby table. To top it off, they didn’t charge us for my desert because it was my birthday!

We stayed in the restaurant late, until there were very few guests left, and they didn’t rush us out at all.

In all, it couldn’t have been a nicer birthday dinner.

Trabocco 
2213 South Shore Center 
Alameda, California 
510-521-1152
Su, T-Th 11:30am – 8:30pm, F-Sa 11:30am – 9:30pm



San Leandro Bites: Joe’s Pho

I’m leaving the review below in place for memory’s sake – but Joe’s Pho is in my BOYCOTT list. The owners abuse and mistreat workers. Please read about it.

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

Acqua e Farina – Restaurant Review – Hayward

I walked past Acqua e Farina several times, on my way to and from my favorite tea house, The Golden Tea Garden,  before I noticed its existence.  From the outside, the restaurant looked simple and inviting, like an old world, hole-in-the-wall sort of place.   I put it on the back of my mind as a place to try some day, and from there I retrieved it last April, when I was looking for a place to celebrate my anniversary, with both my husband and children.  We had a great experience then, which I repeated last night with a group of friends.

As we discovered once we actually went into Acqua e Farina, this little restaurant occupies the space which was once the home of Rue de Main.  The dining room is a little strange, with several smallish eating areas.  The largest one is decorated with wall paintings of  Italian village storefronts, so you can easily pretend that you are eating al fresco in a piazza.  It’s quite nice.

The menu is filled with classic Italian and Italian-American dishes.  The pasta ones are nicely priced in the low-to-mid teens with meat and fish dishes in the high teens.  A porterhouse steak tops the price list at $30.

We started by sharing the prosciutto ($8) and the polenta ($7).  The prosciutto, which came wrapping thick slices of melon, was good, though this is not a favorite dish of mine.  The polenta, however, was outstanding.  The baked slices are served with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce that is just out of this world.  I’d had it in my previous visit, and it was just as good this time.  Don’t miss it.

For my main dish, I had the gnocchi della casa ($14), which came with a creamy tomato sauce.  The gnocchi just melted in my mouth, and the sauce was quite pleasant.  Like most of the entrees at Acqua e Farina, this wouldn’t win any culinary awards, but it was solid.  My previous visit I’d had the spinach ravioli in meat sauce ($14), and I had enjoyed them, but not as much as the gnocchi.  This time, my friend Katrina had the ravioli but in a pesto sauce, which she enjoyed very much.  At a previous visit, one of my daughters had the lasagne di carne ($14.5), which she also liked.  Again, no culinary awards, but good, simple Italian food.

Acqua e Farina may do even better with its non-pasta dishes.  Eddie found her salmone alla griglia, salmon grilled and served with a garlic, basil and fresh tomato white wine sauce ($19.5) to be the best salmon she’d had in a while. Parker, meanwhile, was very pleased with her melanzane del giorno ($12.5), eggplant in a tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella.  She found it a big heavy on the cheese for her taste, but thought it was very good.

The desserts may be Acqua e Farina’s weak point.  My ricotta cheesecake ($6) was light but unexciting, and while I didn’t try Eddie’s lemon sorbet ($4), I did notice she only ate half of her dish.  I can’t remember what I thought of the tartufo di cioccolato ($5.5), chocolate ice cream with hazelnuts, which I had in my first visit, which means it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Service was outstanding both times. The waiters were attentive and friendly, though this time they failed a bit in the replenishing drinks part.  The meal after tax and tip came to about $133.

In all, Acqua e Farina is a solid restaurant for when you want a nice night out at a moderate price.

Acqua e Farina
22622 Main Street
Hayward, CA
510.888.1568
http://acqua-e-farina.com/
Lunch: M-Sa 11 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Su-Th 4-9 PM, F-Sa 4-10 PM

Hayward Restaurant Reviews

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

A Muah to Mua (Restaurant Review, Oakland, California)

It’s been a couple of years since our friend Eddie moved away from our dear San Leandro in search of hotter pastures. And in the meantime our monthly mom’s night out dinners sort of stopped – mostly because of logistics. But Eddie was in town for a visit, so we /had to/ get together for another special dinner. This time Natasha had the great idea of going to Mua, a newish, trendy restaurant in downtown Oakland (now called “uptown”). Natasha had been there three times, and couldn’t stop saying good things about the place. No wonder. In terms of food alone, this is probably the best restaurant I ever visited in the Bay Area. All the dishes we had ranged from very good to spectacular – and the majority fell in the latter category. All I can say is “Wow”.

Mua occupies an industrial-style space, with eclectic decorations which range from the cozy (an out of place cupboard) to the post-modern (pseudo graffiti decorated panels). I’m not very good at describing, so you might as well take a look at the picture at the bottom of this review (which I reproduce from their website). The results are quite interesting and surprisingly inviting – though clearly the place is geared towards an audience younger and hipper than 40+ year-old moms. The only real issue for us was that this is a very noisy place, in particular because of the loud music piped into the dining room. The noise made it impossible for the six of us to converse when seated at a regular 6-person table, but they kindly moved us to a smaller table that allowed us to talk to each other without too much trouble.

Service, as you can surmise, was quite efficient and good. Our waitress forgot one of our dishes, but given how much we ordered that did not prove to be a problem. Water was refilled, dishes brought and removed at appropriate times (basically, our 13 dishes were brought in two stages, which worked very well).
Mua doesn’t only serve great food (which I’ll describe below), but it’s well known for its cocktails (all $9). It has quite a variety of unusual mixes, and we found all of them delicious. Aamani had the Pepper Basil Caipirinha (leblon cachaça, black peppercorns, basil and lime), and she was very pleased. It had a small kick but it wasn’t very spicy. Natasha and Eddie both ordered the Min Mojito (oronoco rum, mint, lime, ginger puree and ginger beer), and even though Eddie ordered it with little ginger, she found it too gingery for her taste. Both Natasha and I thought it was perfectly blended, but tastes differ. Parker’s Cucumber Crush (leblon cachaça, cucumber, elderflower liqueur and lime) was incredibly refreshing, definitely a summer drink. It was very popular at our table. My Strawberry Ginger Lemonade (stoli citrus vodka, strawberry, ginger puree and lemon) might have needed just a tad more sugar and didn’t really have much of a ginger flavor, but still was very yummy – quite reminiscent of a strawberry daiquiri. The real winner of the evening, however, was Dolores’ Chamomile Whiskey Sour (chamomile whiskey, lemon, lime and egg white). I, personally, hate whiskey – it’s too strong for me – but this drink was so well balanced, with just the right amount of sweetness and a caramelish creaminess, that I loved it. So did everyone else. I’d definitely recommend you try it (or really, anything else in their cocktail menu).

But as good as the drinks were, it was the food that shined here. If you go, try to do so with a large group so that you can taste more dishes. And really, skip the main entrees, I’m sure they are very good (we only tried the burgers) but you’ll want to have the room for the small dishes.

The first dish I tasted were the Shiitake Mushrooms ($9). The perfectly sauteed mushrooms came on a crostini topped by bright green (I assumed herbed) goat cheese. The combination of the refreshing cheese and the savory mushrooms worked surprisingly well and I was lucky enough to manage to eat a whole slice (I think the dish came with three). The “mac & cheese” ($7) is made with butternut squash pasta and a light cream sauce (I presume) that has no cheese. I was surprised at just how delicious this dish was – if I could find the recipe I could say goodbye to Kraft forever. I hope they publish a cookbook very, very soon.

I didn’t taste the crispy tofu ($7) – it never made it to my side of the table, indeed I’d say that Natasha pretty much monopolized it 🙂 – but I hear it was also a star. Less interesting was the beet salad ($8). It was very nice, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t have the superlative flavors that other dishes showed. It was just a very good salad.
The dish that really won me over to vegetables (in case you are new to my reviews, I’m a complete meaterian, I won’t touch veggies with a 6-foot-pole) was the collard greens. They don’t appear on their menu online, so I don’t know what they were made with, but the sauce they came with was pretty thin and must have had something like bacon. It was very savory and perfectly balanced, and the dish itself was my favorite. I could eat that forever. I’m really going to write and beg them to publish a cookbook.

I’m not fond of carpaccio ($8) so I wasn’t overly impressed with this dish, though Parker, who had ordered it, was quite happy. I did like the arugula salad that came with it.

I’m also not a fan of slimy food, so I didn’t try the mussels ($13). The roasted tomato broth that accompanied, however, was also out of this world – nicely acidic and with only a subtle seafood flavor. Everyone was enchanted. I never saw the string beans ($8) which Aamani ordered, though I’m sure they made it to the table, but I don’t recall anyone commenting on them (then again, there was so much food that I may have missed some specific dish discussions).

Eddie ordered the lamb cheeks ($10), which I never would have ordered myself, but given how good everything else was, I had to try them – and I was very happy I did. The lamb was very tender and perfectly cooked, and the wine sauce very tasty. I can’t help but think that it needed just a tad of more seasoning, however. Perhaps the wine should have been reduced more. In any case, I liked it.

I didn’t taste the asparagus, in the “Warm Asparagus-Marble Potato” dish, but did have several of the potatoes. They come with bacon and a mustard sauce and were also amazing.

The vegetarian Burger ($11) that Aamani ordered is made from chickpeas, bulgur, quinoa and walnut and comes with an aioli sauce. The burger was very nice but the sauce really transported it into the “delicious” level. Yum, yum, yum.

Along with the beet salad, the dish that least impressed me was the regular hamburger which I ordered with cheddar, bacon and avocado ($15). Don’t get me wrong, it was very good – but ultimately just a burger and I’ve had others just as good, it not better, elsewhere. I found it just a little dry and just a little salty. At 1/2 lb it was also very big. This is probably the dish I’d skip next time.

The fries which came with the burgers and the mussels also failed to impress. They were thin, unevenly salted and just OK.

We were quite full after that meal, but we still wanted to try the desserts ($7?, I’m not sure). They all seemed quite prosaic – nothing seemed very original or provocative. We decided to split the creme brule and the brownie with caramel ice cream and fudge. They were both good but not great. I liked that the creme brulee was warm and not too sweet – the the brownie went very well with the ice cream, but I found the brownie a bit too dry. This is definitely a place to come for the food, not the desserts.
In all, we had an amazing time, both eating and talking (about our kids, of course) and I will definitely have to come here again (hopefully with another group so we can sample all the dishes we skipped this time). The bill came to $42.50 per person after tax and 18% tip, which was incredibly reasonable given the amount and quality of the food and cocktails.

So take my advise and go to Mua. Make sure to make reservations, however, as the place was full even on a Wednesday night.

Mua
2442a Webster St
Oakland, CA
(510) 238-1100
http://www.muaoakland.com/
Su – Th 4:30 PM – 12 AM
F – Sa 4:30 PM – 2 AM

Marga’s Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

Mua Oakland

Oriental Tea House – San Leandro – Updated Reviews

Update 12/11

As you can see by the updates below, it’s been our custom for many years to go to to the Oriental Tea House for dinner on Christmas day.  This year it was just Mike and I, my sister and the kids having left earlier in the afternoon.  The food was good, as usual; the service just as frantic.  I had the crispy chicken, which I usually like here and it was good.  First they gave me the crispy duck, and as the two look alike I took a couple of bites.  It was so fatty that it was almost inedible.  Fortunately they realized their mistake and brought the chicken.  Mike had the kun pao chicken which he didn’t feel tasted like that, but I thought it was good. We got there around 5:30 PM and we were able to get a table for 2, but I don’t know if there were any larger tables available.  By 6 PM the placed was packed.

One thing to note, the Oriental Tea House’s menu is pretty prosaic, filled with the typical dishes at Chinese-American restaurants. However, on Christmas, at least, the restaurant is packed with Chinese and Chinese Americans. The people managing the restaurant as well as the waitresses are also Chinese (some have a very rudimentary understanding of English). This suggests to me that the OTH may also have one of those Chinese-only “secret” menus that many Chinese restaurants have (the idea is that they include dishes that Americans would not be interested in eating).

Update 12/10

Another year, another Chrismas, another dinner at the Oriental Tea House. This Christmas day we got there around 5 PM, and the place was completely empty. It started filling up around 6 PM, but there were still a couple of large tables empty by the time we left (6:20 PM or so) – so next year we won’t go as early. As we did go when the place was empty, service was more relaxed. The food has increased a bit in price, but it’s still very affordable. We got 6 dishes plus fried wontons for 5 adults and 4 children and we ate everything! I was happy with all the dishes (beef chow mein, Mongolian beef, chicken with two mushrooms, kun pao chicken, sweet & sour pork, veggie platter) my favorite was probably the kun pao chicken, the Mongolian beef was a close second. In all, another good meal.

Update 12/09.

As usual we went to the Oriental Tea House, in San Leandro, for Xmas dinner; this time with my sister Kathy and my brother and his family. Once again, service was hurried – the Oriental Tea House is very popular on Xmas day – but efficient. Food came on time (except for the sweet & sour pork which was delayed) and it was generally good (and cheap). Mike was happy with his beef with snow peas, as was my sister-in-law with her broccoli beef. My brother David ordered the beef curry, not on the menu, and his dish was pretty good, though very mild. I’m not sure if that was because the waitress misunderstood that he wanted his dish spicy (the English language skills of the workforce at Oriental Tea House are very limited), or because they just have a different understanding of spicy than we do. In any case, it was mild.

I ordered the roast duck, having liked the roast chicken in the past, which was a mistake. The duck was nicely cooked and very flavorful – but it had the obligatory thick layer of fat and my chopstick skills are not advanced enough to allow me to get to the meat between the fat and the bone. I had a fork, but without a knife it was an impossible endeavor. Next time I’ll stick with the less fatty chicken, which is also very good.

Finally, Kathy had the sweet & sour pork, which she liked but Mike and I thought was quite unappetizing – with fat pieces of pork and a slimy sauce. To each its own.

In all, it was a good meal and we’ll definitely be going there again next Xmas.

December 2008

We celebrate Christmas Eve rather than Christmas itself, so in the past we’ve found ourselves at a loss as to what to do for dinner on the 25th. After a huge Xmas Eve dinner, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, the least I want to do is cook again. So some years ago we started a tradition of going out to the Oriental Tea House, in San Leandro, for Xmas dinner. The Oriental Tea House has pretty good American-style Chinese food (though given the large number of Chinese that eat there, I suspect they may have a second menu as well), it’s cheap (most dishes are around $7), and most importantly, it’s actually open on Xmas.

This year was no exception. We probably got there around 6 PM or so – I recommend you go early as the place gets packed by 7 (on Xmas, at least). Service was rushed but attentive, and the food was up to standard.

I liked the roasted chicken quite a bit. The skin was impossibly crispy, and the meat was nice and moist. It’s rather bland by itself, but add some of the accompanying seasoned salt, and it’s delicious. The beef with oyster sauce was pretty good as well – nothing extraordinary but competently executed. I liked the thick-noodle chicken chow mein, it was flavorful and devoid of too many bean sprouts (I’m not a fan). I wasn’t thrilled about the doughy sweet & sour pork, however, but then again, I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet. I thought the pieces of pork were too chewy and the sauce too sweet.


In all, it was a good Xmas Eve experience, and I look forward to going there again for our next Xmas dinner.

March 2007

Last night we went to the Oriental Tea House with a bunch of our friends (for memory’s sake, they were Donovan & Parker with Luther and baby Will, Regina and Boris, and Eddie and Arthur with Laurel, Bailey and Dee). We ordered a bunch of dishes: fried calamari, friend wontons, chicken chow mein, vegetable chow mein, lemon chicken, kun pao chicken, half a roasted chicken, beef with some sort of green beans and a couple of shrimp dishes. I was amazed at how good everything was. It was great to be able to savor so much variety – and to be with so many friends – but the actual food was all very good. And the bill was terribly cheap at $86 – which fed an army of 8 adults and 6 children.

We were all able to fit at one, very crowded, table – larger parties or those with more adults, would have to split in two.

We are now planning on getting together for dim sum some Sunday morning. If any of my friends are reading this, and want to come along, just e-mail me.

March 2005

Today we made it to the Oriental Tea House for dim sum. We liked it much better than East Village, though we didn’t get to taste the baked pork buns as they were out of it by the time we got there around 1 PM. The steamed pork buns were excellent, however, the bread was moist, the pork succulent and not too sweet. I got an additional order to go. The fried chicken was also very good, crispy and moist and wonderfully spiced. We also found a winner in the paper wrapped chicken – moist and delicious – and on the shrimp dumplings. We were less fond of the sesame balls and the deep fried meat balls, I’d never had those before and the thick pastry wrapping had a strange consistency that I did’t find appealing. Egg custards were OK, but not sweet enough for my taste. Lunch, including 3 canned sodas, came to $24 before tip. It’s pretty crowded on Sundays, but I’m sure we’ll be going again.

Oriental Tea House
604 MacArthur Blvd.
San Leandro
510.562.2828

Original Review

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Tequila Grill Redux Redux

Last week our friends Arthur and Eddie suggested that we go out to dinner at Tequila Grill before the kids headed to a show at the library. I’m always in the mood for not cooking (well, that’s not really true, but I thought it sounded cute), so I thought it was a splendid idea. Well, perhaps not splendid as I haven’t been impressed with Tequila Grill in the past, but it’s nice to get out. And alas, it’s good I have that attitude because Tequila Grill failed to impress me yet again.

I had the milanesa sandwich, and the milanesa was nice and tender but not very flavorful. There was also too little meat to bread ratio. The fries it came with were perfectly fine.

I also ordered some guacamole and I did like it a lot, it was fresh and well balanced. Alas – there were no chips to eat it with (I did ask for them, they just never came). I found out that french fries with guacamole sort of work.

Mike had the flautas and he thought they were just OK.

I didn’t ask Arthur and Eddie what they thought of their dishes, but Cynthia – who’d come with us along with her kids Orestes and Aegea, didn’t seem very impressed with whatever she ordered. Orestes’ actually found his burrito nauseating, though he couldn’t quite figure out why.

The younger kids seemed fine with their quesadillas (I didn’t try them).

So no, I won’t be rushing back to Tequila Grill, though I imagine I’ll end up there again some time.

Tequila Grill
1350 E. 14th St.
San Leandro
(510) 895-5351
(More San Leandro restaurant reviews at http://www.marga.org/food/rest/sl.html

Matterhorn

A few weeks ago I went back to Matterhorn with my friends Eddie, Parker and Katrina. It was our last girls’ night out, as Katrina was moving to Mexico for a stint and Eddie is moving away for good. I can’t tell you how sad I am. But that night was happy, and we had great food and conversation.


We ordered two fondues, a cheese one (the Highlander – with cheddar and gruyere) and a meat one (I think it was the fondue bacchus), and extra sides such as shrimp, sausages and apples. The fondues were great, but I wouldn’t recommend the sausages for the cheese one, their flavor was just too strong. The meats are high quality and come with a wide variety of sauces, I particularly liked a curry flavored one. There was a lot of food, and we ate an incredible amount.


They only have one choice of chocolate fondue for dessert, but it was very good as well, though perhaps a little too runny for my taste. I like the ones I make at home better.


The only sour note of the evening was the service. The waiter/waitress was MIA all evening.
Still, if I was in the mood for fondue, I’d go back.


Original Review

di bartolo

Last night my friends Eddie, Katrina, Parker and I had a well-deserved Mom’s Night Out. We decided to go to Spettro’s for dinner – and a review of that restaurant will follow soon – but we didn’t want to get there too early, lest the place be full of children. If we’re out without our children, we definitely want to avoid other people’s as well.

So we decided to go to a bar instead. Katrina had one in mind, blocks and blocks away from Spettro’s, but right before we got there we went by di bartolo and it seemed like a really nice place to stop. We were concerned that it was too much of a restaurant, but they have a bar area in the back which was just perfect for us. It’s small, dark, and while it was crowded, it was quite comfortable. The front dining room is also small and dark, and I think it could be a pleasant place for a romantic evening.

di bartolo offers ten interesting mix drink concoctions ($10), products of a very creative bartender. Eddie and I went for El Rojo Obispo: Absolut ruby red, patron citronge, fresh mint, pomegrante juice and lime. It was very good, though a little bit too sweet for me – as the ice melted and the drink diluted that was less of a problem. Both Eddie and I would definitely order it again. Katrina had the grand: vanilla vodka, mission fig puree and fresh lemon, served up. It was delicious, it had a warm fussiness to it, and a caramelish taste. I’d definitely order it. The loser of the evening was Parker’s Madagascar sazerac: Maker’s mark, vanilla sugar, thyme sprig, served on the rocks. The problem was that it tasted very alcoholic, if you are the type of person who drinks your alcohol straight you might like it, but if you are a mixed-drinks type of person, you may want to stay away from it. In any case, Parker couldn’t finish it. Finally, Eddie and Parker shared a mojito. I didn’t try it but they both said they liked it.

In the middle of our drinks we figured it’d be good if we had something to eat (though we’d munched on crackers with goat cheese, nicely provided by Eddie, in the car) so we ordered their garlic fries ($5) and their mushroom pizza with caramelized onions and chevre ($14). The fries were good, though not nearly as good as the fries from A Cote, or even our neighborhood’s Joplin’s (though they were definitely more refined, thinner, than the latter). For $5 I would have expected them to be somewhat better. The same thing can be said about the pizza, it was very good with a very thin crust and a good balance of toppings (though the mushrooms were particularly good), but it was definitely too small for the prize – or too pricey for the size and lack of “awe” element. But you know me, I’m pretty jaded by food and it was a good pizza.

In all we very much enjoyed our time at di bartolo and we are planning to go there for dinner at our next mom’s night out.

di bartolo
3306 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA
510-451-0576