Tag Archives: San Leandro

San Leandro Eats: Nation’s Giant Hamburgers

One of the best fast foods burgers out there

The other night I had a craving for a burger, which had me thinking: where can I get the best burger in San Leandro? We are not a city known for burgers. There are lots and lots of places to have burgers here, to be clear, but none that are particularly noteworthy. Still, I haven’t visited many of those places for years and I thought trying the different burgers available in San Leandro might be a fun project for the upcoming year (or two). I had planned to start with Rocky’s Charcoal Grill – a place beloved by many in San Leandro. I have not liked their burgers in the past, but it’s been fourteen years since my last visit, so they may have changed. My old review is definitely ready for an update. Alas, Rocky’s wasn’t open (it was a Sunday) and Nation’s is very close by, so Mike went there instead.

I like Nation’s burgers. As far as fast food burgers go, they have always been my “default” for over three decades – though they now share this “honor” with Habit Burger. At 1/3 lbs, the burgers are fairly large, they ooze with American cheese and they are very generous with veggies and toppings – though I always get mine with just tomatoes, while Mike prefers his with lettuce and onions. The burgers are smothered in mayo, probably enough to cause a heart attack to someone with cardiac issues. For this reason, I feel that they mostly taste of mayo and American cheese, though enough to not really be able to forgo it. But I like them. If I had to grade them – and I do, because this is a project about finding the best burger, I’d give them 8/10 as far as “fast food burgers” go, and a 5/10 as far as all burgers go. Indeed, I will make Nation’s my standard for an average burger, and grade others accordingly.

In addition to burgers, Nation is known for its pies. These are of a similar quality to their burgers: enjoyable. On this occasion we got the blueberry pie which was on season, and we liked it.

Nation also has breakfast items, which also are totally fine as far as a fast food place goes.



San Leandro Eats: Shef

The best ready-to-heat meal service I’ve found so far.

If you are on Facebook, chances are that you’ve seen ads for Shef*. It’s a ready-to-heat meal delivery system, where the catch that the meals are individually made by home cooks in their own homes, rather than in large, industrial facilities. That can have both pros and cons, but it’s quickly become my favorite of the ready-to-heat meal services. While we’ve had a couple of duds, overall the meals we’ve gotten have been far superior to ready meals from supermarkets (including places like Costco and Trader Joe’s) and they’re even better that the meals I’ve gotten from Cook Unity. They’re also the same price or cheaper, and have turned me into an instant Shef fan.

Shef works similarly than other meal kit services, though it has a much clunkier website. In order to use it, you need to enter your zip code and then create an account. You will choose your delivery date and how many meals you want to get, as well as how many servings each meal should be. You will then get a list of chefs – including a small photo, first name and surname initial – and a list of the dishes they offer. You then select which dishes you want to get. You are then prompted for side dishes and finally for your credit card information. You will get e-mails and texts the day your order will be delivered mentioning the time period (something like 3 hours) where the meals will arrive. So far, all of mine have arrived within the promised time.

Shefs are local to you, and what they offer will thus depend on where you live. I’ll be reviewing the dishes served by my local shefs, but obviously they will be different for you if you don’t live in San Leandro or nearby. Shef has made a particular effort to recruit immigrant cooks – and originally, immigrant women cooks, thus the name -, and they have been particularly successful with Indian and other Asian cooks. If you love Indian and/or Asian cuisine, Shef is definitely the service for you. If you don’t, this is your opportunity to learn to love it. There are a few other cuisines represented, though not many (so far, at least).

One of the things I love about Shef is that the food is delivered in reusable cold bags with frozen water bottles instead of freezer packs. As far as I can tell, the bottles are sealed so you can drink them. But it also means no waste. Dishes do come in plastic containers (the same type used for take out food), though one of my shefs uses compostable containers (but plastic lids). Of all the services I’ve used, I’d say this is the greenest one.

The HUGE disadvantage of Shef, is just how clunky their website is, and how difficult to use. As I mentioned, you have to sign up to even be able to see the menu. Once you choose a plan, there is no way to change it. You basically have to cancel it, and then re-subscribe. This is true even if one week you want to order side dishes, and the next week you don’t. If you order then once, you are stuck ordering them again unless you cancel and resubscribe.

There is also no way to review individual dishes – you are prompted to review your whole order, and then the scores apply to each dish in that order! That makes absolute no sense – just don’t rely on the scores as they mean nothing.

I haven’t had to contact customer service yet, but I’ve read it’s pretty clunky as well. I will report more when I try it.

Fortunately, subscribing and unsubscribing is easy – as long as no coupon is involved. I couldn’t do it my first time because apparently the coupon they were advertising on Facebook had maxed out. The prices are reasonable enough – lower than take out for a similar amount of food – that I don’t mind paying full price.

Another disadvantage of Shef is that because the dishes are cooked in a home kitchen and cooled in a home refrigerator, they really need to be seen as leftovers – so you should eat them within a couple of days of getting them. I have frozen two so far, and will report on how this goes after I defrost them and eat them.

So far, I’ve gotten the following dishes. The checkmarks are to remind me which to order again (blue ones to get for Mike)

AMERICAN

Shef Stacy L.’s Crispy Southern Fried Chicken

Shef screwed up for me this week and sent me two dishes I didn’t order instead of two I did. One of these was what I presume is Shef Stacy L.’s Crispy Southern Fried Chicken. It came with mashed potatoes and corn.

The dish didn’t work for me. I found the chicken was nice and crispy but the piece of chicken I ate had a disconcerting sour taste. I’m not sure if it’d gone bad (I didn’t have intestinal problems later, so I’m going to guess it didn’t), or if it’s something in the ingredients. In any case, I wouldn’t want to eat it again. My husband had the other piece and didn’t find it sour.

I was hoping that the mashed potatoes would be the saving grace, but they were impossibly salty. My husband agreed. The corn was just corn. I would definitely not order this again, as you can get better fried chicken at the supermarket for less.

Shef Stacy L.’s Fried Bbq Chicken Plate

This dish I actually ordered. I was intrigued by the idea of both frying and bbq’ing chicken. As it turned out, the extra step of frying was unnecessary. The chicken was moist, so there is that, and it had a nice flavor – but nothing to write home about. It was just a little bit spicy. It came with overly salted mash potatoes and corn. I don’t think we’d order it again.


BURMESE

Shef Thazin H.’s Burmese Style Lamb Curry With Potatoes

This was a fairly generic meat and potatoes stew. I wouldn’t call it a “curry” per se, in the sense of the spices and flavor profile that the word “curry” usually alludes to. However, according to my notes from when I cooked this dish myself years ago, this is precisely what it’s supposed to taste like: homey. As someone who likes meat and potato stews, I was pretty happy with it. The portion was generous.

Shef Theint E. Basil’s Lemongrass Chicken

This dish was OK. I enjoyed eating it, though I don’t see myself craving it. I think it might be better at a different time of year when basil is brighter/fresher – as it had a slightly bitter taste. It could have used a tad more sweetness, but the spiciness level was good, medium-mild, I’d say. It was an adequate portion. I might order this again.

CHINESE

Shef Mak M.’s Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice Bowl


This was really a very simple dish, just ground (or maybe chopped) pork on a bed of white rice, but boy, was it delicious. The pork had been braised in a delicious sauce (though none of it was in the dish), and it had a very intense, well balanced flavor. I couldn’t really distinguish any of the flavors (soy? five spice?), but it was just good. The flavor was intense enough that it married very well with the plain rice. I’d order this again.

ETHIOPIAN/ERITREAN

Shef Frehiwot K.’s Meat Combo ✔✔

This plate of food was absolutely delicious. It didn’t taste that much like the Ethiopian food I’ve had at restaurants or cooked myself, perhaps because I asked for “mild” (and yes, everything was mild) – but it was very, very good and addictive. So much so that I had it again the next week.

Shef Frehiwot K.’s Beef Stew (kay Sega Wot) ✔✔

After getting the combo twice, I decided to go for the kay sega wot by itself. It was delicious, but spicier than the meat combo. I actually think I prefer it mixed in with the chicken. This one did remind me far more to the Ethiopian food you get at restaurants. Still, it was sooo good.


EUROPEAN

Shef Izabela P.’s Beef Stew (Polish Goulash)

This beef stew tasted exactly what you expect beef stew to taste. It was meaty and rich and very homey. The meat was a little chalky, but I have the same results when I make stew, so I’m not going to blame the cook for this. The portion was fine, though it could have used a couple more pieces of meat. There was a lot of sauce, so get some rice to soak it up. I’d order this again.

Shef D C.’s Pollo Al Ajillo – Spanish Garlic Chicken ✔✔

This was a delicious, homey dish. It consisted of three drumsticks, deliciously garlicy, in what I think was a sauce that was thickened with flour, giving it a smooth texture. Not that there is much of a sauce, but whatever remains from it. I ordered it again and enjoyed it just as much.

Shef D C.’s Irish Guinness Beef Stew

This was a good, basic beef stew. Not as good as a tomato based stew, but that’s not the chef’s fault. The meat was tender but a little chalky (typical for beef stews). I’d order it again.

Shef D C.’s Beef Osso Buco

Another winner from Shef D C. The osso buco meat was extremely tender and the dish was very flavorful. It was, perhaps, too intense, but I had frozen it previously and was heating it up from a semi-frozen stage and overheated it a bit. The sauce really needs a starch to absorb it, so plan on eating this with something.

INDIAN

Shef Wayne F.’s Butter Chicken

This plate came in a 16 oz container, which is the container size you get at most local Indian restaurants when you order take out. The dish, however, contained relatively little chicken – it was mostly sauce. The chicken came in large chunks, but was tender enough that it came apart when cut with the fork. Unfortunately, the chicken itself lacked seasoning.

The sauce was just OK – somewhat better than jarred butter chicken sauce or the ones that come in frozen entrees, but not nearly as good as the best butter chicken sauces from our favorite Indian restaurants. It had some disconcerting bitter notes, that I couldn’t quite place, and it was a bit too acidic. It was only slightly spicy, which was to my taste. I wouldn’t order it again, but I didn’t mind eating it.

While I’d say there is only enough chicken for one meal, there is enough sauce for another half-meal if you eat it with rice or naan bread. For the price, I think I’d order it at a restaurant instead.

Shef Geetwani R.’s Butter Chicken

Our second attempt at butter chicken was more successful than the first. This was a spicy dish, what one would normally call “medium” at a restaurant. Mike ate it and liked it, though he didn’t think it was restaurant quality but he’d have it again.

Shef Sukhdeep K.’s Butter Chicken ✔

Our third Shef butter chicken is, so far, the winner. While the sauce was on the thin side and the dish could have used a little more chicken, it was very tasty – almost restaurant quality. It was mildly spiced. You definitely need rice to eat this with. Most importantly, my daughter liked it and would want it again.

Shef Vanita Yadav M.’s Andhra Chicken Curry (Kodi Kura)

I gave this curry the old college try, but after a few bites, I just had to abandon it. It was way, way too spicy for me. In a restaurant, it would probably be described as somewhere between medium and hot. This is a pity, because the curry was very good. The chicken was so moist and tender that I actually thought it was lamb, and there were lots of it. I tend to prefer sweeter curries, this definitely was not that, but the flavor was complex and developed. It did not taste of curry powder, garam masala or anything of the sort. In all, a very successful dish even if I couldn’t eat it.

Shef Shilpa P.’s Kolhapuri Sukka Chicken

This was a very garam masala forward dish, slightly spicy – in the way garam masala is – but not particularly complex. The chicken was tender but also very bony, so a pain to eat. I’ve made Kolhapuri lamb before, and this dish reminded me of that. Mike liked it, though he wished the chicken was boneless. I’m not huge on garam masala, so I wouldn’t order it again. Mike probably wouldn’t either.

Shef Amit R.’s Pahadi Chicken Curry

This was a nice curry. I tasted like your regular Indian curry – made from spices, not curry powder. It didn’t have any sweet notes, so given a choice, I’d go for a korma or a tikka masala (or a pasanda!). But as far as regular curries goes, this is a good as you can get in a restaurant. It was very mildly spiced.

JAPANESE

Shef Masanori T. Chasyu’s Curry Over Rice – Japanese Braised Pork Belly Curry

This dish consisted of a rice and curry sauce with three short strips of pork belly. The pork belly was tender and tasty, but there was so little of it (the equivalent of 1 1/2 slices of regular bacon) that the dish is really just rice and Japanese curry. The curry tasted like what you get from a Japanese curry cube, which is pretty good but otherwise generic. It did include half a carrot slice and a pepper. I wouldn’t get this again given how little protein it had.

KOREAN

Shef Aejung S.’ Bulgogi Korean Ribeye Beef With Rice

I was very disappointed on this dish. I love bulgogi. I make bulgogi frequently (at least, when I’m cooking). It’s a pain to cut the meat (though you can buy shaved beef, and this is clearly what Shef Aejung has done), but it’s otherwise not too laborious to make. You let it marinade and can pan fry it as you go – or just cook it all at once, and then reheat it. But the secret, the basis of bulgogi is the marinade – and this marinade just wasn’t there. The beef barely had any flavor. It also had barely any veggies – some shredded carrots but maybe a couple of onion strips. Not that more would have improved things, as either the marinade he used was flavorless or, more likely, they were not marinated for very long. The portion had a fair amount of meat and it came with white rice, but without any sauce, there was little point to it. I wouldn’t order it again and neither should you – just your make your own bulgogi.

MEDITERRANEAN / MIDDLE EASTERN

Shef Quynh Sophie E.’s Kafta Potato Stew

This was a very homey dish, just kofta and large chunks of potatoes in a thin tomato based sauce. It was good and very satisfying. Not something you’d have at a restaurant, but that’s the point of Shef – homefood. I’d get it again.


VIETNAMESE

Shef Victoria S.’s Caramelized Spare Ribs

This dish came in several containers, and I didn’t realize that I was supposed to put them together into one until after I had eaten the actual spare ribs and looked at the picture of the dish online. Basically, it comes with a tub of spare ribs, one of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, another with two hard boiled eggs and a final one of rice (white, not seasoned as in the website photo), and you are supposed to put it together into a plate. Together, they form a substantial plate of food – the ribs alone might be too little for a meal, though they are so rich, that I wouldn’t have been able to eat any more of them.

The ribs were very tender and tasty, but only slightly sweet and they had a tad too much fish sauce. Each bite is mostly bones or tendons which makes it a bit difficult to eat. But the flavor was there. Mike, in particular, really liked them and would want to order them again.

Shef Phuoc V.’s Garlic Honey Glazed Grilled Chicken And Garlic Rice

This was a pretty basic dish, but very homey and tasty. The flavors were not gourmet, but they were pleasant, and garlic rice is addictive. I’d have it again.

WEST AFRICAN

Shef Sarjo B.’s Peanut Butter Stew (Domoda)

Mike liked it. He thought the sauce was very peanut buttery and the meat was tender and moist. He’d have it again. I just tasted the sauce and I felt the one I’d made was better, this one was missing some umami flavor.

I also got the naan and the chapati side dishes. The naan wasn’t very good – it tasted like not-very-fresh white bread. Frozen naan is preferable. The chapati was fine. Chapati is not my favorite kind of flat bread, but at least this one tasted like what you get from restaurants.

Shef Sarjo B.’s Yassa Bone-in Chicken

This dish was absolutely delicious. Yassa is one of my favorite dishes, and I have made it many, many times since I first started cooking over three decades ago – but this one was far better than any of mine. I don’t know what the secret is, though I did think I distinguished some mustard notes, and when I make it again I’ll see about adding some mustard. In any case, I really enjoyed it. There were a few problems, however.

First, as you can see from the photo, the chicken wasn’t cooked through. While chickens today are safer than in the past, there is always the risk of salmonella, and home cooks, as well as professional ones, should make sure the chicken is fully cooked. Second, the portion only came with one chicken drumstick – that was definitely not enough protein for a meal, even a lunch. The cook should add a second drumstick or a thigh. Third, the dish was too spicy for my taste. At an Indian, Thai or BBQ restaurant, this dish would be characterized as “medium spicy” and it’s just at the edge of what I can stand. To eat the onions – and boy, were the onions delicious – I had to add some rice. So when I order it again (and I will, despite these caveats), I’ll have to make sure I either order a side of rice or that one of the other meals comes with some.

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San Leandro Eats: Mochinuts

Crispy Corndogs and Mochi Donuts, what is not to like?

Mochinut is a newish chain fast food restaurant/bakery that serves just four products: Korean-style corn dogs, mochi doughnuts, canned drinks and soft serve ice cream. Their concept reminds me of Hot Dog on a Stick, a chain of food stands serving corndogs and fried cheese that was very popular at malls in California when I was a teenager. Mochinut already has over two dozen stores in seven states and continues to expand. It opened in San Leandro a few months ago.

I hadn’t been super-impressed the first time I got donuts from them, but decided to give it another try and try their hot dogs as well.

Their hot dogs look similar to corndogs, which is why I’m tempted of calling them that, but they are encased in a batter made from Korean rice flour. This results in an extremely crispy exterior – though it also means the dogs are very high in carbs, about twice as much as what you can expect a regular corndog to have.

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We got both an original hot dog ($5) and a half-and-half ($5.50) one. The latter was half hot dog and half cheese (rather than hot dog surrounded by cheese). The cheese wasn’t very flavorful, but the hot dog itself was tasty. I’d order them again. In addition to these rather plain dogs, they also have some covered with crunch cereal, hot cheetos, takis and even ramen. You can get just a fried mozzarella stick, but they also seem to have a hotdog with cheddar that I might try next time.

Of course, Mochinut is mostly famous for its mochi doughnuts, and my reviews of these are pretty mixed.

I love how elastic the dough is, which gives them a pleasant, light chewiness. But they are overwhelmingly sweet. The churro donut was, perhaps, my favorite simply because it wasn’t as sweet as the others – but I’m not a huge fan of cinnamon and it’s messy to eat. Both the original glaced and the mango one were too sweet for my taste.

That said, I do look forward to trying other flavors, thought for about $10 for a box of three, this is a very occasional treat. They are served beautifully, though.

Mochinut
Pelton Shopping Center
185 Pelton Center Way
San Leandro, CA
(510) 969-7247
M-Su 12-7 PM

San Leandro Eats: A1 Pho

Standard Vietnamese fare close to our house

A1 Pho is the latest iteration of a series of Vietnamese restaurants that have occupied the same space on the corner of East 14th and Estabrook for the last decade and a half. The space, which hosted a video store when we first moved to town, is large, with windows looking onto the sidewalk plus two different parking , and features flat ceilings. The atmosphere never managed to be anything above cafeteria-style dining. The big TVs, often tuned to sport shows, don’t help with the ambiance. Mostly, these restaurants serve as utilitarian stops for hearty, not very expensive meals. The menus doesn’t seem to change as frequently as the ownership and names of the restaurant, and features pho, grilled meats with noodles or rices and Vietnamese shakes.

We have visited these restaurants from time to time, but as it’s never the sort of food I crave nor is the place nice enough for a dinner out, we frequent them less often than you would imagine, given the location so close to my house. After getting takeout from A1 Pho, I don’t think this will change much. The food was good but not particularly compelling.

Mike ordered the Bánh Mì Bò Kho (beef stew with bread – $16). It came with a small loaf of French bread, similar to the one in the bánh mì sandwich below. He enjoyed the stew very much. He thought the broth was rich and tasty. The beef was tender and fatty, though you expect that from stew meat. The portion was very generous and he was quite happy with the dish.

I had the Bánh Mì Bò (beef sandwich, $9). The flavor of the beef was good, though it was a little overwhelmed by the vegetables. However, as is the problem with most bánh mì sandwiches, the real problem is the bread to filling ratio: there was just too much bread. The bread itself, while very light, felt dry and wasn’t particularly tasty. I’m not sure I’d order this again.

We also shared an order of Chả Giò (fried egg rolls, $9). These were OK, pretty average and unremarkable.

I had a Sinh Tố Dâu & Xoài (strawberry and mango shake, $7). This was also tasty, but not compelling and I wouldn’t rush to order it again. It seemed a bit overpriced – but then again, everything is nowadays.

A1 Pho
2089 E 14th St #A
San Leandro, CA
510-357-6888
M-Su 10 AM - 8 PM

San Leandro Eats: Chicago Pizza

There is something comforting about a solidly average American-style pizza

First, let’s get this straight: Chicago Pizza in San Leandro does not serve Chicago-style pizza. Not even close. What they do serve is very typical, American-style pizza. Their “deep dish” pizza, which is available only in a 14″ size, what I prefer, is only slightly thick. But the dough is pretty spongy and flavorful, and while it won’t win any contests, it won’t be at the bottom either.


This time I got a mushroom and Italian sausage deep dish pizza ($24). It was pretty good. The sauce was there, but did not overwhelm the other flavors. It had plenty of cheese and a good amount of mushrooms and sausages. The pizza, dough, as I mentioned, is not particularly thick, however. I enjoyed it for what it is, your typical American pizza.

Chicago’s deep dish pizza used to be thicker, this one seems more like their “hand tossed pizza” of yesteryear. But the store was sold several years ago, the menu changed (some Indian toppings have been added) and their plethora of coupons and deals went away.

Chicago Pizza is a take-out/delivery joint, I don’t think they have seating though there might be a couple of odd tables around. They have been around since I first came to San Leandro, 24 years ago, and I used to order frequently back in the aughts when my husband still liked pizza. I do appreciate that Chicago pizza continues to have its own delivery ($3), so that you don’t have to order through one of the apps.

Chicago Pizza
14278 E 14th St Ste D
San Leandro, CA
510-357-2415
Su-Th 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM
F-Sa 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM

San Leandro Eats: Indian Grill

Our closest Indian restaurant is usually a good bet.

For many years, really the first decade and a half of our life here, San Leandro was an Indian food desert. We had the best Indian grocery store ever – Santos Spice Market -, and yet somehow we didn’t have even a single Indian restaurant. That started changing when Bella Italia (now closed) started serving Indian food, in addition to Italian fare, but their heart really wasn’t in it and it wasn’t that great. Fortunately, in the last decade several actual Indian restaurants have opened both in San Leandro and nearby localities, and most of them have been quite good.

I’m really surprised I haven’t reviewed Indian Grill before, as we’ve been satisfied costumers ever since it opened at the old Ploughman’s space back in 2019. The food, if at the time slightly more expensive than its competitors, was consistently among the best Indian-American food I’ve experienced. We visited the restaurant itself a couple of times before the pandemic, and I’ve been there a couple times since – it’s done a good job of looking classy in a coffeeshop space -, but mostly we get take out from there.

Last week, it was just Mike and I so we only got a couple of dishes, and the results were unfortunately mixed.


I had the Lamb Korma ($19), and it was as delicious as ever. Their korma is not particularly sweet or nutty, but it has a fairly deep, complex flavor – albeit milder than the tikka masala sauce -, that I enjoy. The lamb was tender and not particularly fatty. I enjoyed it very much.

Mike, meanwhile, ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala in butter chicken sauce ($17) and this was a dud.

Chicken tikka masala, at least in local restaurants, refers to usually boneless chicken, cut in large bite-size pieces, that is seasoned with tikka spices and grilled or cooked in a tandoori oven. It’s then immersed in a curry/masala sauce, invented in England, that is reminiscent of the curry from butter chicken. The chicken in butter chicken, on the other hand, is usually shredded or cut into small pieces and is cooked in the sauce. This is meant to be a combination of both dishes: grilled chicken tikka served in a butter chicken sauce.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. I don’t know if the sauce was off that day, or the recipe doesn’t quite work, but the sauce had an off flavor, while lacking depth. The rich tongue feel was there, but not the flavor. We both agreed we didn’t like it. Indian Grill has one of the best tikka masala sauces out there – with a very intense, bright flavor – so we’ll continue ordering that in the future.

Rice is not included in the meals, and it’s an extra $5, which seems excessive. Still, when eaten with rice, there is enough food on each other fort two meals. I usually prefer to eat it with naan ($3 each), which are good, but not remarkable.

Food is usually ready on time and is still hot by the time it arrives – and my husband usually walks to get it.

Indian Grill
1600 Washington Ave
San Leandro, CA
(510)-878-2704

W 10:00 am - 9:30 pm

Th-Tu 10:00 am - 3:00 pm, 4:30 pm - 9:30 pm



 85°C Bakery Cafe Sells my Favorite Pastries

Review of the San Leandro location

Since 85°C Bakery Cafe opened in San Leandro Plaza, I’ve been a devotee. This Taiwanese bakery chain has over a thousand locations worldwide, with 75 of them in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Texas. I’m sure they’ll continue expanding. They offer Chinese inspired pastries with global flavors. The pastries tend to be light and airy with cream fillings, and they usually range from good to delicious. This will be an ongoing review, where I add new pastries as I try them, for my own future reference of what I liked a lot and what I liked less. As we shouldn’t be eating too many carbs, we only get pastries from 85°C Bakery for special occasions – but that makes it even more important that we choose the right ones.

85°C also serves drinks, from flavored coffee and tea drinks to smoothies, slushies and boba (if you always wanted to try a boba latter, this is the place to have one), but I have yet to have one there. Next time. They do have tables to eat inside (but no outdoor sitting), but due to the pandemic we’re avoiding all indoor dining.

Our last visit to 85°C Bakery was on the fourth day of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM). I had told my daughter how I preferred the pastries from 85°C Bakery to those we’d had the day from As Kneaded Bakery, and she wanted to try them. I sent Mike to get them – but I had mistakenly texted the list of what we wanted to a friend – so Mike got to chose what he brought home.

85°C Bakery has a huge variety of pastries, cakes and other desserts. Many are serve yourself, but more delicate ones – or ones needing refrigeration – are behind the counter. Pastries are individually wrapped, which is not environmentally friendly but it’s safer from a food handling perspective. While they concentrate on sweet pastries, they also offer some savory ones.

Aussie Meat Pie (vegetarian)

This is a light bun with impossible ground “beef” sautéed with peppers.

Ham & Cheese

This is a light bun filled with ham and American cheese. It’s quite tasty, and I liked it as much as the ham & cheese croissants I get at Main Street Bagel.

White Chocolate Strawberry

This bun is filled with a very light white chocolate and strawberry custard. It’s a tad too sweet for my taste, and maybe not one of my favorites, but it’s quite good.

NOT PICTURED

Mango Custard Bun

This bun is filled with a creamy mango custard. It’s quite tasty and light.

85°C Bakery Cafe
San Leandro Plaza
1299 Washington Ave. C-1
San Leandro, California
510-483-8585
M-Th 7 AM - 7 PM, F-Sa 7 AM - 7:30 PM, Su 8 AM - 7 PM 

As Kneaded Bakery: I don’t know what all the fuss is about

Review of the San Leandro Bakery

I had long heard great things about the As Kneaded Bakery in San Leandro. Located on Victoria Court, in a space where many restaurants tried their luck unsuccessfully, it has gotten a buzz both on the press and on social media. I had long wanted to try it and my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM) seemed like a perfect time to do so. So I sent Mike one Saturday morning to get some stuff so we could see what all the fuzz was about. And boy did he do it! He brought a wide variety of the noshes they had available so we got a good idea of what As Kneaded can do.

It is very clear that As Kneaded puts a lot of effort and high quality ingredients on their pastries, which they call “noshes”. Most are very substantial (and yet we managed to eat them all over a couple of days) and well made. However, all in all, we weren’t a huge fan of them and I wouldn’t go back to As Kneaded for pastries. I did like the loaf of bread we got, and I’m curious about trying others – so I probably will in the future.

The first pastry we tried was the large round thing. It’s not listed on their website right now, but based on what is listed, it seems to be some sort of danish. It had a custardy filling and slices of some red fruit (I couldn’t tell what) and we all really enjoyed it, it wasn’t too heavy and we love the filling. Unfortunately, it went down hell from there.

Our second try was the cardamom twist (“a brioche twist containing a cardamom poppy filling and topped with sugar pearls”). This was light enough and I appreciated the poppy seed/cardamon filling, but those are flavors that I like. They are less popular in my household so I’m the one who finished this one of.

The chocolate chip brioche (top left) competed with the banana tahini muffin (top right) for the biggest waste of calories and carbs. They were both dry and had very little flavor. The latter is vegan, but that really is no excuse. The former is directed to toddlers, so perhaps the point is not trying to please adult palates. In either case, we would not bother eating these again.

Finally, the chocolate croissant (top middle) was unremarkable. The chocolate was good quality, but the croissant itself lacked the flakiness and buttery taste of the best exponents. I fell in love with chocolate croissants during college, where I’d treat myself with one from Le Petit Boulangerie, a now defunct bakery chain, and this one was inferior to those.

The saving grace for both the blueberry maple walnut bostock and the raspberry bostock were the crumble topping. These were both thick pieces of challah , one topped with sugar, apricot jam, walnuts, butter, blueberries and maple syrup and the other dipped in simple syrup and then topped with raspberry jam, almond cream and sliced almonds. They were both very heavy (literally) and dense, a little bit dry but otherwise quite tasty. But neither were worth what are likely to be an astronomical number of calories and carbs. They tasted far healthier than the ingredient list suggested they are. Again, I wouldn’t turn my nose away from them, but I wouldn’t seek them out.

Finally, the ham & cheese danish was also a disappointment. It was tasty enough, don’t get me wrong, and the ham and gruyere were obviously good quality – but the flavor was diluted by a completely unnecessary bechamel sauce. In all, this pastry did not compare favorably to the ham & cheese croissants I get at Main Street Bagels, which no one would accuse of being high brow

I didn’t actually take a photo of the bread but found one of it in the background of another picture I took that day.

In addition to the pastries, Mike brought home a loaf of sesa miche, a whole wheat rye sourdough bread baked with sesame seeds. This was a very dense, heavy bread but it was also quite tasty. I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but I liked it and I’d have it again if I was a big bread eater. As it is, none of us are, and the loaf went hard in a couple of days (my fault, as I didn’t refrigerate it or tried to preserve it.

Now, I don’t really want to throw shade on As Kneaded Bakery. Lots of people love it and more power to them. At this point, I’m writing my food blog more to remind myself of what I thought of a place in case I’m thinking of going back than for anyone else. What As Kneaded offers is basically rustic breads and pastries, and I have to admit that we are just not big fond of this style of baked goods. But you might be. So give it a try.

As Kneaded Bakery
585 Victoria Court
San Leandro, CA
(650) 503-9285
W-Su 10 AM - 3 PM

Flavor of India – San Lorenzo – Restaurant Review

Delicious!

I have been getting delivery and take out from Flavor of India in San Lorenzo for quite a few years. I discovered them in GrubHub, and it was a the time one of the closest Indian restaurants that delivered in my area. It wasn’t the best restaurant, but it was good enough.

Since then a couple of Indian restaurants opened in San Leandro and we’ve switched to getting take out rather than delivery, so it’d been a couple of years since we last had their food. A couple of nights ago we decided to try it again and I’m so glad we did. The food was absolutely delicious. Apparently, they are under new ownership and the new chef really knows how to cater to American tastes.

Fish pakora with sauces

We started with fish pakora ($7). The portion was a good size as a shared appetizer, the fish was flaky and had a very flavorful coating and the accompanying cilantro and sweet/sour sauces were particularly tasty and not too pungent. I enjoyed it very much.

Lamb Korma

I had my usual lamb korma ($14) and this time the sauce had a much more intense, bright flavor than I remember it having. It was the best korma I’ve had for years. The lamb itself was very tender.

We also ordered butter chicken($13) and chicken tikka masala ($14). I didn’t taste the chicken in the former, but the sauces are very similar if not identical. The chicken in the tikka masala was in large cubes and was surprisingly moist – I tend to prefer butter chicken because chicken tikka is often dry. The sauces were, once again, out of this world delicious.

Naan bread ($2) was standard as was the rice. The curries come with rice, so you don’t need to order separately.

It was easy to order on their website (currently through the lokobee app), and the food was ready quickly and hassle free. The prices are lower than at other local Indian restaurants and the portions seem to be about the same size.

Flavor of India now offers outdoor dining in a patio. I haven’t seen it, but it looks very nice in pictures, though set in a parking lot. Still, this seems like a good option for eating out, and I might try it.

Flavor of India
15930 Hesperian Blvd
San Lorenzo, CA
(510) 276-5000


Christmas Eve Dinner 2021: Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen + Luke’s Grill

A wonderful Christmas Eve Dinner with some help from Luke’s Grill

This year, probably for the third time in two decades, I didn’t cook Christmas Eve dinner. I’m going through one of my anti-cooking spells, and the thought of making course after course of food I’d barely have time to eat before getting up to prepare the next one just wasn’t appealing. Plus, after the fiasco that was Thanksgiving Dinner, I wasn’t eager for a repeat. Moreover, with another COVID wave hitting us, we had decided that once again it would only be us having dinner.

So, I decided on take out – but what? This shouldn’t have been that hard a question, but I wanted something “special”. That meant something that we didn’t usually get for take out, something that I wouldn’t be able to make easily, something that could be eaten family style and something that would satisfy all our individual food issues. Deciding on a specific cuisine, much less a restaurant, was hard.

Ultimately, I decided upon Greek because it’s homey, it’s somewhat Christmasy and it can be served family style. We actually have two pretty good Greek restaurants in town, and rather than decide between them, we tried them both.

Items from the Zeus Platter from Luke’s Grill.

We ordered the Zeus Platter ($20) from Luke’s Grill. This appetizer combo came with Greek sausage, meatballs, tiropita, spanakopita, dolmades, tzaziki and abundant pieces of pita. Though it was a bit cold by the time we started eating it, I was quite pleased with both the sausages and the meatballs. The tiropita, phyllo dough cooked with herbed cheese, was also quite delicious, and I enjoyed the pita with the tzaziki. Unfortunately, my vegetarian daughter wasn’t in the mood for dolmades or spanakopita, so those went uneaten.

We got all our mains from Moussaka. I particularly enjoyed the Hunkar Beyendi or Sultan’s Favorite ($28), apparently an Ottoman specialty. The dish consists of a smoked eggplant and mozzarella puree topped with braised lamb and tomato sauce. It’s served with a rice/orzo combination. By the time I transferred it to a serving dish, the whole thing was mixed together but that’s how you are supposed to eat it anyway. It was delicious. I’m not a particular fan of eggplant, but it provided an amazing smokiness to the dish. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the whole dish just came together with homey umami. And it was just perfect for Christmas: it has too many elements for me to easily replicate and it’s too expensive for a regular take out meal, and thus provided the “specialness” I wanted from a Christmas Eve meal.

Manti

I was far more disappointed in the manti ($18), pasta filled with spiced beef and supposedly served with a garlic yogurt sauce, brown butter and fresh mint. The little dumplings were tasty, but they were very lightly sauced, and therefore way too dry to really enjoy. They quickly became monotonous. I wouldn’t order them from here again.

Two portions of the combo kebap (one kofta already eaten)

In order to get a good sampling of their offerings, we ordered the combo kebap ($29), which came with a meat skewer, a chicken skewer, a single kofte, a mixture of beef/lamb gyro meat, rice and a salad. The meat skewer was listed as a lamb skewer, but it was actually beef. It was very tender, very nicely spiced and just delicious – often times kebabs are dry, but this was not the case even when the leftovers were reheated.

The same cannot be said for the chicken kebaps. They were very tasty, but dry. Fortunately, the kofta was delicious.

Beef/lamb gyro meat

I’m totally in love with the beef/lamb gyro meat. I couldn’t tell a difference between each slice of meat, so I’m going to guess it was all lamb, but whatever it was was delicious. Also very tender and not dry, and perfectly seasoned.

Chicken shawarma

A dish of chicken shawarma ($20), also served with rice and salad, was equally delicious. Again, they seasoned it perfectly and managed to not make it dry.

Finally, I ordered a felafel wrap ($13) for my vegetarian daughter, and she was happy enough, though wouldn’t elaborate about it.

In all, it was a great meal and I’d order from here again for a special occasion meal.

Gateau Basque, perspective from above

We had two desserts, though we were too full to eat more than one that night, and then well after the meal. Early in my meal planning, when I still thought I’d actually cook Christmas Eve dinner, I had proposed making Gâteau Basque for dessert. My first trip with Mike after we got married was to Spain, where we spent several days in the Basque country. We had enjoyed an amazing gâteau basque at a restaurant in Aoiz, my great-grandparents’ hometown and the memory has lingered with Mike ever since. However, in the decades since, we’ve been unable to find a cake that matched those memories, either at a restaurant or at home. It’d been many years since our last try, so I was game to do it again.

This time I decided on a well reviewed recipe that I found on the internet. I was quite pleased with the flavor, both of the cake and the pastry filling, but I felt that the dough needed more flour – my daughter preferred the soft texture, however. In all, it was good but not as sublime as our memories of that cake in Aoiz.

I also bought a Tres Leches cake from Safeway, a favorite of all of us. I was lucky to get to eat a slice the next day.

Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen
599 Dutton Ave, San Leandro
‭(510) 850-5020
Closed Mondays

Luke’s Grill
1509 East 14th St, San Leandro
510-614-1010
Closed Sundays