Tag Archives: restaurant

Tapsilog Express in San Leandro offers tasty, quick Filipino silogs

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

I’m a big fan of Filipino food, a very successful fusion of Asian and Spanish/Latin American cuisine, but we seldom get it because Filipino restaurants don’t really cater to vegetarians or vegans, and one of my daughters is one. So when we were kidless a few nights ago, it was a great opportunity to try one of the local Filipino restaurants. It was a wonderful night, so we figured we’d get take out and eat it in the patio, and Tapsilog Express seemed best suited for an easy take out experience. It was.

Tapsilog Express has some indoor seating, in a pleasant though not particularly alluring room, but it’s mostly a take out place. They have a simplified menu of meat mains served with rice and a fried egg, as well as some appetizers, drinks and a couple of desserts. We got two orders of lumpia, the tosilog and the chorizosilog . I also got the pineapple cooler and flan for dessert. The food came out very quickly, about 10 minutes after ordering.

The lumpia ($7.50 per order) were small, 1 1/2″ pieces, but there was a good amount of them per order (the picture shows two). They were tasty by themselves, which is a good thing as the sweet and sour sauce they came with was overwhelmingly sour and not very tasty. I’d only get these again if I had sauce at home.

Tosilog ($11) is described as Filipino bacon, but it’s more like pork strips marinated in a sweet sauce. It lacks the crispiness of bacon. It was pretty good, though I felt it lacked “umph”. Still, I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed mixing the egg yolk with the rice.

My husband similarly enjoyed his chorizo ($11). It was slightly sweet and very tasty. He’d get it again.

The flan itself was pretty standard, but the caramel sauce was tastier than usual – probably because it was cooked to perfection. I’m a big flan fan and I’d have it again.
I seldom get juices/fountain drinks at restaurants (other than soda), but their pineapple cooler ($3) had good reviews so I decided to give it a try. It was actually very good, a great proportion of pineapple juice to water, so that it had a nice pineapple taste but it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet or heavy. I’d have it again.
Tapsilog Express
14843 Washington Ave.
San Leandro, California
(510) 878-1232
M-Su 11:30 am – 07:30 pm

Buon Appetito in Hayward is a solid choice for Italian

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

After spending most of the summer with non-COVID related health problems, I’ve been suffering from cabin fever, so I decided that we should treat ourselves to a dinner out. I was hankering for Italian, and Buon Appetito showed up as having outdoor dining. Coincidentally, as my daughter reminded us, this was the last restaurant where we ate indoors, before the pandemic. She remembered my telling her that it would probably be out last visit to a restaurant for a while. I was right.

Since then, Buon Appetito has built a small deck on their parking lot. It’s a pretty simple affair, and it could be much enhanced with some plants, particular if positioned to block the view and noises from the adjacent street. But it was pleasant enough for a casual dinner.

Buon Appetito serves classic-modern Italian-American cuisine, by which I mean the sort of dishes you expect to find at Italian restaurants in America in the 21st century. Nothing too exotic, nothing too authentic, nothing too marvelous but stuff that is competently cooked and generally satisfies. It’s the sort of restaurant you expect to find in middle class suburbs.

We started by splitting an appetizer of Mozzarella alla Caprese ($10), which was underwhelming. This was a thick slice of tomato topped with a thick slice of fresh mozarella and large basil leaves – so traditional caprese. It was fine, but I prefer it with slightly riper tomatoes and soft mozarella balls.

As my main dish, I had the gnocchi which was on special that night, which came with a rich, creamy tomato (and I think sausage) sauce. The gnocchi had the right consistency and the dish tasted exactly like I expected it to taste. It was very good without being extraordinary. I enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

My husband had the Costolette di Maiale all’ Arancia ($21), a grilled pork chop in an orange/marsala sauce, which came with mashed potatoes and veggies. He was quite happy with it.

My daughter had the Ravioli con Pomodoro e Limonee ($18). the large ravioli are filled with “spinach, swiss chard, pine nuts & ricotta cheese” and you get your choice of a tomato and artichoke or a lemon cream sauce. She went for the lemon cream, and while both the ravioli and the sauce were very good, the combination of the two really didn’t work. Next time, she’ll try the tomato sauce.

Service was competent, and in all we had a very pleasant dinner.

Buon Appetito
917 A Street
HAYWARD, CA 
510-247-0120
M-Su 11:30am - 9:00pm

Malabar Restaurant Review – Santa Cruz

My first visit to a Sri Lankan restaurant.

We were in Santa Cruz visiting our college-student, and I decided to check out Malabar for the simple reason that I couldn’t ever recall having had Sri Lankan food. That turned out to not be true, I did cook Ceylonese food a couple of decades ago as part of my international food project, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to an actual Sri Lankan restaurant.

Malabar’s menu is pretty short – though that may be as a result of the COVID pandemic and the current labor shortage (they’re hiring, btw) -, and features a few dishes from India and Malaysia/Singapore, in addition to Sri Lankan ones. Mains tend to average about $20. The restaurant seems to have a nice, if generic, dining room but also has a couple of tables on the sidewalk, and that’s where we ate.

We started by sharing an appetizer of vegetable roti ($9.50). This was similar to a stuffed dosa, with a filling made from leeks, potatoes and cabbage. It was pretty tasty, even if the curry sauce it came with was not as delicious as the yellow curries you often get with rotis at Thai restaurants. It also came with a spicy tomato sauce that carried a lot of heat.

For our mains, my daughter had the mixed vegetable curry (“Mixed vegetables in a Sri Lankan style coconut curry”, $17.50) and I had the Sri Lankan Yellow Curry ($19.50). Both dishes turned out to be the same yellow curry. While my daughter’s was served with large pieces of broccoli, carrots, peppers, cabbage and kale, mine had a snapper filet as the base (you can substitute for chicken or salmon at an extra cost). Unlike other curries I’ve had in the US, the filet was served whole, rather than in chunks. The curry itself was very thin (a feature it shared with the Ceylonese curry I made myself), with a pretty mild flavor. It was tasty but it lacked both the consistency and layers of flavor you get in a Thai curry, for example. Perhaps it’s best to see it as a curry soup. I’m not 100% sure that it worked that well with the snapper, but it was a pleasant enough dish to eat, even if not one I’d rush to order again. My daughter felt pretty much the same. Both dishes were served with rice, which seemed like a medium grain type, a little on the sticky side. I don’t know that I loved it.

My husband ordered the Devil Lanka with snapper ($21.50), a dish consisting of fish cooked with “cardamom, cinnamon, clove, Anaheim papers, cucumber, pineapple, curry leaves, carrots, tomato, red onion” and “served in a sweet sour and spicy tomato sauce”. He was quite happy with his dish. It wasn’t like anything he’d had before, and he liked the flavors.

Service was very good, our servers were very attentive and friendly. They do ask you to use your phone to scan a QR code to look at the menu (which is also posted outside), but when I mentioned that I didn’t have a smart phone, they brought us a paper menu. My daughter who did have a smart phone with her felt looking at the menu on the small phone screen was very difficult, so she used the paper one instead.

In all we had a very nice time, the street wasn’t very busy (though there was a fair amount of people coming in and out of the restaurant, it’s obviously popular for take out) and we felt safe eating there.

I didn't take any pictures, however (that lack of smart phone and all).

Malabar Restaurant
514 Front St
Santa Cruz, CA
(831) 201 4438
T-Th 5pm - 9:00 pm, F 5pm - 9:30 pm, Sa-Su 12 pm - 2:30 pm and  5pm - 9:30 pm



Taco Bell Review

Yes, Taco Bell

Kauai enjoying the Baja Blast straw.

I started my Birthday Weekend Extravaganza (TM) last Thursday by getting Taco Bell for dinner. Yes, Taco Bell. No, I’m not kidding and yes, I think it’s worth blogging about it. Defensive much? (I ask myself, of course).

Despite living in California for over 40 years now, I don’t think I’ve had Taco Bell before. It’s not like I’m against fast food, I’ve tried all the burger chains (or almost), but Taco Bell just never appealed to me. I’m not a fan of crunch, and their crunchy tacos always seemed unwieldy. Plus, really, their meat looked nasty (and then there was the whole scandal about whether it was even meat) and their tacos seemed to be mostly lettuce anyway. So I’ve never been tempted to try them.

Until Thursday night. My daughter was home from college, none of us could figure out what we wanted for dinner, and then she suddenly mentioned she wanted to try Taco Bell’s Black Bean Crunchwrap. I had no idea of what that was, but ordering Taco Bell solved the problem of what to get for dinner, so I jumped at the idea – much to my husband’s surprise (“Taco Bell? Really?”).

For my first incursion into Taco Bell cuisine, I ordered a Steak White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito with extra guacamole ($4.4) and a Steak Quesadilla also with extra guacamole ($6.2). Neither were as bad as I feared. For one, by ordering “steak” items, I was able to avoid the dreaded “seasoned beef”, and while the steak was just low quality meat, it wasn’t actually offensive. Indeed, the steak quesadilla tasted like something I would make at home (which, btw, is why I don’t make quesadillas at home, and instead get them from Taquería Los Pericos). It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it just was. But it wasn’t was a particular great value. At that price, I might as well get one from Los Pericos. The burrito was pretty similar except that it had french fries inside. I had french fries in souvlaky pitas in Greece in the past, so I was intrigued by the idea of french fries in a burrito. Alas, I’d forgotten that I no longer like french fries and I didn’t like them inside a burrito either. Still, it was perfectly acceptable. Both items were too much for a single meal – I didn’t have a good sense of how big they would be -, one will be enough next time.

I also ordered the cinnabon delights (12 for $5), which are cinnamon roll balls filled with glaze cream. They are deadly. Super, super sweet and I’m surprised I didn’t die of a diabetic coma. But they were very tasty and one goes a long away.

My daughter tried the black bean crunchwrap supreme ($4.4). This is supposed to be a crunchy tostada wrapped in a flour tortilla but it lacked the promised crunch. Instead it was soggy and yet it tasted dry and would have benefitted from a sauce. She wouldn’t order it again. She also didn’t like the spicy potato soft taco. This was just potato, cheese and lettuce in a tortilla, with no sauce or anything to bring it together. IT’s just $1, but not worth the calories. Fortunately, she did like her veggie White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito ($3.3), so at least she didn’t go hungry. The Cinnabon twists ($1) were also good, but not as good as the delights.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that Taco Bell didn’t suck, which is good to know for road trips and if I’m ever hungry and with nothing to eat at 2 AM – which has yet to happen.

Update: my daughter wanted to stop at Taco Bell for a breakfast burrito today so I had her get me a chicken quesadilla ($5.4). As we were in the drive through I didn’t customize it, but I was actually quite satisfied with the results. It had plenty of gooey cheese and it was slightly spicy. It wasn’t particularly big but works for a snack. My daughter got the Sausage Hash Brown Toasted Breakfast Burrito ($2.6) and she was quite happy with it. She’s liked other breakfast burritos before but this one became an instant favorite.

Taco Bell
At 797 Marina Blvd
San Leandro, CA
Dine In M-Su 7 AM - 10 PM
Drive Through Su-Th 7 AM - 3 AM, F-Sa 7 AM - 4 AM


Restaurant Review: Awazi Kitchen – Oakland

Gored Gored

My daughter was home for the weekend from college and she wanted Ethiopian for dinner. I decided to give Awazi Kitchen a try because it was rather new and got great reviews on Yelp. It was fine, though not special enough to make me eager to come back.

The restaurant is located in downtown Oakland, next to what used to be Le Cheval. It has a large square room, with socially distanced tables. It was completely empty at 5 PM on a Saturday. This would be a good place to go with a crowd, as it has the space and at least at that time, you wouldn’t have to worry about sharing air with customers outside your group (I’m writing this review during the pandemic).

Their menu is pretty straightforward and serves the usual Ethiopian dishes you can get at most Ethiopian restaurants. You can order online and you can specify how you want your dishes made – I asked for two to be made mild and they complied.

Kik Alicha

We ordered the Kik Alicha (yellow split peas in a mild sauce, $13.3), the Gored Gored (beef cubes in sauce – $16.6) and the Meat Combo ($18), which included Doro Wot, Yebeg Alicha & Beef Wot. All the meals came with cooked vegetable sides and plenty of injera. I’d bought another portion of injera just in case, but it was completely unnecessary.

Both my husband and daughter were happy enough with their dishes – which tasted pretty much like you would expect. The wots were far less spicy than at other Ethiopian restaurants, however. The portions were generous and they both had leftovers.

I was less happy with my gored gored. Now, this is usually a raw meat dish, but in the menu description at Awazi Kitchen it said you could have it rare or medium-rare. I chose medium-rare but what I got was raw meat. I don’t necessarily have a problem with raw meat, but the beef cubes were too tough and chewy to be able to be eaten raw. If you are going to do a raw dish, you really need to use very tender meat – this wasn’t it. Fortunately, I was able to solve this problem by transferring the meat to a pot, adding some water and simmering it for about 10 minutes. It was pretty good then, but I would not order this dish again at Awazi Kitchen.

Awazi Kitchen
1009 Clay St
Oakland
(510) 817-4155
https://awazi-kitchen.business.site/

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

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).

Restaurant Review: Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao, San Leandro

The other night I decided to take Mike out to dinner. One of our daughters didn’t want to go out and the other one was out, so it seemed like a great opportunity for a date night – and for trying a new restaurant.

After our first choice didn’t work out, we ended up at Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao – which occupies the space that Ming Tasty had for many years. It was an inspired choice, as neither of us had ever had Shanghainese food per se, and we love trying new things.

Given the name of the restaurant, we of course had to try the Xiang Long Bao (also known as XLB) from the Dim Sum menu (which seems to be available at any time). We ordered both the pork ($7) and crab ($8.5) versions. Not having XLBs before, we were unprepared for what we got: a steamed dumpling filled with both meat and broth! To accomplish this, cooks add pork skin to a broth and allows the collagen from the skin to melt into the liquid. The pork skin and veggies are discarded, and the now collagen-rich broth is refrigerated and allowed to solidify. It’s then chopped and added to the dumplings along with the filling. Ingenious and delicious.

I wasn’t sure how to eat the dumplings, so at first I broke them with my chopsticks and just ate each part separately. Later I adopted Mike’s method of just putting the whole thing inside my mouth (make sure they cool down before you do this). They were much better that way, as flavors and textures are allowed to combine in your mouth. Apparently, the proper way to eat them (or at least the way used by the restaurant reviewer at the East Bay Express) is to bite off the top, allow the broth to cool, and then to sip it, before eating the rest of the dumpling. I think I like Mike’s way better, though they are a little bit big (and I have a small mouth).

We also ordered the green onion pancake ($4). This was very oily, and therefore pretty filling. It was a bit bland, but it was great with the broth from the dumplings. I’d order it again, but would want some sort of tasty sauce to go along with it.

Finally, we had the pan friend pork buns ($8). These were unlike any pork buns I’ve had before. Instead of bbq pork, they had the same soupy filling as the dumplings, though with less liquid. Once I abandoned my expectations that they be sweet, I found them very good. They were also easier to eat, and I’d definitely order them again.

The restaurant itself is in a good location in downtown San Leandro, but suffers from a very generic building. Still, it’s nicely decorated with photos of Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century – I was somewhat surprised of how western it looked.

Image result for shanghai 1920s

Service was competent and polite.

All in all, I look forward to returning.

Read the East Bay Express review for more suggestions on dishes to try.

Four Seasons Cafe & Deli – San Leandro – Review

Four Seasons Cafe & Deli is the latest incarnation of the cafe and sandwich bar that was once Mr. Bagel and, before that, Planet Coffee.  The cafe has been remodeled a little bit and the menu has been updated.  The Middle Eastern owners, for example, have replaced the Vietnamese sandwiches with me Middle Eastern equivalents.  You can order chicken, lamb, falafel or hummus plates for $8, lamb or chicken shawarmas, falafel, chicken or turkey wraps and traditional sandwiches for about $6.  Vegetarians will have plenty to chose from, including a Mediterranean veggie sandwich that comes with fresh mozarella, Kalamata olives, spinach, tomatoes, red pepper pesto and balsamic vinaigrette on toasted focaccia.  I haven’t had it, but it sure sounds good 🙂

What I did have was the lamb shawarma.  It was good without being extraordinary.  Pretty much what you would expect a lamb shawarma to be.  The portion was pretty large, in particular considering the $6 price.  I’d have it again.

Four Seasons also offers breakfast bagel and croissant sandwiches, fresh orange and carrot juice and your basic coffeeshop drinks.  I had their coffee once and it was pretty good, but I’m not demanding coffee wise.

The new menu seems to have quite a few fans, in my last visit, the place was busier than it used to be.  The service was good and the cafe still a great place to meet up with friends – as well as have a cheap lunch in San Leandro.

Four Seasons Cafe & Deli
1423 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA
510-667-1004
Free local delivery with $20 order
M-Sa 6 am – 6 pm
Su 7 am – 5 pm

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews