Archive for July, 2009

Small Whitefishes in Helsinki

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

After visiting a fortress and an old submarine, we had a chance to sit down at the market square in Helsinki before going to see the Rock Church.  Looking at the menu with pictures, I was immediately attracted by the fried small fishes.  My instinct was right; this was one of the best food I ever had.  Crispy skin combined with fresh and tender meat inside, what I needed was a beer that wasn’t available.

20090728 Fish

Crepes

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

When we go to pancake houses, I always order crepes.  That’s why I was so excited to see this crepe stand in the middle of Copenhagen.  After shooting the crepe preparation process, I was ready to buy it for myself only to see that Gloria who had all the Euros was already half a mile away.  I later got my crepe at another shop but would be wondering for the rest of the life how good this one would have been.

Breakfast in the Street of Copenhagen

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

20090725 Croissant AWe had to board the cruise ship before 5pm and only had half a day to tour the city of Copenhagen on foot.  Got up early, checked out of the hotel and started walking around this capital of Danmark.  Our first stop was some place for breakfast.  We walked by a few bakeries and found this one on a side street that looked good.  The freshly baked croissants were crispy and coffee was decent.  When I travel, I always have problem keeping track of exchange rates and have absolutely no idea whether the food was expensive or cheap.  The only thing I can remember is the taste of the croissants.  It was so good I got a second one.  By the way, one would think that the logical pastry in Danmark had to be Danish, right?  We were disappointed not to see any attractive-looking Danish during our half day around town.

20090725 Croissant B20090725 Croissant C

The First Danish Dinner – Grøften at Tivoli

Friday, July 24th, 2009

20090724 Groften AAfter a 15-hour trip, we arrived Copenhagen at around 2:30pm.  Picked up the baggage, took the train and arrived the Imperial Hotel at 4pm.  Phyllis was already waiting for us at the lobby; she had arrived Copenhagen a few hours earlier and taken a brief walking tour around town.  Phyllis, Gloria and her sister went out to explore the city while I stayed in the hotel with the two boys to rest and unpack.  They returned after a couple of hours and we were ready for our first Danish dinner ever.

Gloria had done her research and booked a table at the Grøften restaurant at Tivoli which is an amusement park with 43 restaurants inside.  When we had dinner with Albert and Jenny Leung a few weeks ago, they also recommended the Grøften as an eatery to visit.  We sat down at a table in the glass-top area that gave us the felling of sitting in a garden.  This must be a very popular place as it filled up quickly after our arrival.

Food and service were very good in general and atmosphere was relaxing.  It did not have a thick menu but you should have no problem finding something you like on the two pages.  By the way, I always believe that quality of food in a restaurant is inversely proportional to thickness of its menu.  I did not taste every dish on the table but the scampi I had was very fresh and delicious.  The herring appetizer that Phyllis ordered was also very good.

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For those who visit Copenhagen the first time, you should consider buying a CPHCard at the airport if your hotel is near a train station.  It gives you 24-hours of free train/bus rides and free admission to many tourist attractions including the Tivoli.

打完波,食乜嘢 – 香滿樓海鮮酒家 Hong Kong Flower Lounge (Millbrae)

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Played a round of golf at Poplar Creek Golf Course in San Mateo with Francis, Simon and Raymond. This is the first time I’ve seen Simon walking all 18 holes instead of riding the cart. Keep it up, Simon!

Simon had to report for duty at home, so the three of us stopped by the bar for a drink before heading to dinner. For some reason, most of the diners at the golf club restaurant were elderly women with only a few old men. Maybe women do live longer than men or older men are too poor to eat out these days.

We sat down at the Hong Kong Flower Lounge Restaurant at around 6pm. It’s Sunday evening and business seemed to be pretty good there. We ordered soup of the day (例湯), Steamed Egg with Clams (大蜆蒸水蛋), Sauteed Frog with Leeks (韭菜花炒田雞), Steamed Country Chicken (貴妃籠崗雞), and a Steam Rod Cod (清蒸麻斑仔).

20090719 HK Flower Lounge A Clam Egg 20090719 HK Flower Lounge B Frog

The Steamed Egg was perfect: very smooth (滑) with a taste of clam. One can easily finish a bowl of rice with that alone. The leeks were very fresh and just cooked enough to preserve the freshness. The frog was tender but a little bit bland; it seemed that the seasoning was not given a chance to seep into the meat. Net, net, it’s not a bad dish.

20090719 HK Flower Lounge C Chicken 20090719 HK Flower Lounge D Fish

The Steamed Country Chicken was neither steamed nor country grown. The meat was so tough it tasted like a frozen chicken that had been used to prepare chicken soup before. The fish was big enough for three people and was steamed just right. It tasted good too. The restaurant gave us three complimentary bowls of Red Bean Sweet Soup (紅豆沙). There were lots of red beans but nothing else, no lotus seeds (蓮子), no lily (百合) and no trace of dried tangerine peel (陳皮). What am I complaining about – it’s free. Actually, Francis got an extra bowl because he knows the manager. By the way, Francis seems to know everybody at all the Chinese restaurants in the Bay area, and Toronto, and Hong Kong, etc.

The dinner cost us $120 including taxes and tips. It’s not bad for the food we ordered and we will probably go back again and again.

Sorry about the blurry pictures. I did not bring my camera and had to make do with the picture-taking function of my mobile phone.

Little Shanghai 上海人家

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Little Shanghai 20090716ASympathetic about our bad luck eating out lately, Jenny, the lovely wife of Albert Leung (梁錫漢), asked us to join them for a dinner at their favorite Shanghainese restaurant yesterday. Little Shanghai is a little restaurant at 17 E. 25th Avenue in San Mateo just one block off El Camino Real (Tel: 650-573-7161). We got there at 7pm and the the place was already fully packed with a few parties waiting at the door. Jenny had called a couple days earlier to make a reservation so we could sit down right away at a table by the window. The benefit of a window-side table was that I could watch those unfortunate souls standing outside while we enjoyed the food.

We ordered two cold dishes, four hot dishes and a pot of rice.  The cold dishes: Marinated Jelly Pork Zhen Jiang Style (水晶餚肉) and Bean Curd with Ma Lan Vegetable (香干馬蘭頭) were not bad but not great either. Both dishes tasted pretty good except that the jelly pork was not as tender as I would like it to be and the Ma Lan vegetable was too tightly packed.- it seemed as if the chef was trying to squeeze as much vegetable as possible onto the dish.

Little Shanghai 20090716B Little Shanghai 20090716C

Then came the Three Delicacies with Braised Pork Tendons (三鮮蹄筋). The three delicacies (shrimps, mushrooms and scallops) blended in perfectly with the pork tendons which were tender without being mushy. This dish is perfect for Cantonese who prefer mildly-flavored cooking that bring out the natural taste of the ingredients.

The Braised Bamboo Shoots (油燜竹筍) was one of the best I’ve ever had. The bamboo shoots were crispy (爽夾脆) and the typical Shanghainese sweet taste made this dish very appetizing. I strongly recommend that you try this dish at least once when you go to Little Shanghai.

Little Shanghai 20090716D Little Shanghai 20090716E

There is one problem with prawns in the U.S. in general – they are all frozen. Even though the chef did a good job in making the prawns as crispy as possible in the Sauteed Prawns Shanghai Style (水晶蝦仁) but frozen prawns are still frozen prawns. If you really like prawns, try JiShi (吉士酒家) in Shanghai. The prawns are so fresh there that they stir-fry them with the tails still attached.

Rice with Vegetable Shanghai Style (上海菜飯) was served in a clay pot. Although the rice was probably cooked in the clay pot only at the last stage to form a thin layer of crust at the bottom, the rice crust did provide a very good homely fragrant of burned rice (飯焦香味). All of us couldn’t resist scraping the rice crust from the bottom. Needless to say, this pot of rice was yummy!

Little Shanghai 20090716F Little Shanghai 20090716G

Thought we already had enough great food, then we were overwhelmed by the Braised Pork with Sticky Rice (農家粽香肉). The piece of pork belly was so beautifully cooked that the fat part didn’t taste oily at all the and the lean part was extremely tender. The flavor of pork completely seep into the sticky rice which gives the texture of rice dumpling (粽子). With some courage, you will order this dish every time. Albert had PCI done a few years ago and still couldn’t resist taking a whole piece – he did carefully remove the skin though.

We did not order any dessert. The total cost including taxes and tips was only $76. What a great deal!

Little Shanghai will definitely be our top choice for Shanghainese food in this area. The dishes there are very traditional Shanghainese, yet they tend to be less oily then what you will find in Shanghai. Guess they have to adjust the cooking a little bit to suit local eating habits which is perfectly fine with me.

I look forward to going back soon with a bigger group so I can try their Smoked Fish (燻魚), Wine Chicken (醉雞), Pig’s Ear (順風耳), Pig’s Stomach Strips (肚絲), Braised Pork Meatballs (獅子頭), Pork Knuckles (圓蹄), Sauteed Eel (鱔糊), Braised fish Tail (紅燒划水), etc. etc.

Osho Japanese Cuisine 王將日本料理

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

It’s 100°F outside today and we were looking for something light for lunch. We decided to drive half an hour to Osho Japanese Cuisine in Millbrae to give it a try.

Osho AOsho B

The place is large by Japanese standard and pretty clean with pleasant simple decoration. We were surprised when the waitress greeted us in Mandarin before sitting us down at the sushi bar – we later discovered that the two Japanese-looking sushi chefs actually spoke Mandarin to the servers even though they spoke English to us. That was not a good sign!

Osho COsho D

Gloria ordered the Kaiseki Lunch and was immediately disappointed when it was served. A Kaiseki meal should be a piece of art that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food. You can see in the picture that the Osho version of Kaiseki is nothing more than a bento. Food quality was no better than that at Gombei at half the price. Gloria does not eat raw fish and gave me all her sashimi. The salmon and yellow tail were OK but the Maguro was not even fresh – half of it was turning black, YUCK!

Osho EOsho F

Waiting for my sushi, I tried a piece of ginger and found it to be on the chewy side (it’s not supposed to be like that). The Hamachi was not bad but the rice in the sushi was a total disaster. The rice was cold and hard inside, that’s a sign that it had been around for a while. As a result of badly prepared rice, the fish could not stick to it and picking up the whole piece of sushi became a challenge. The ama-ebi was pretty good if you could ignore the disintegrating rice. The Otoro looked good but I couldn’t get this melt-in-the-mouth feeling. The Mirugai was too crunchy but tasted OK. The Uni was the worst. Just look at the picture and you can tell that it’s not fresh. I assure you no honorable Japanese chef would serve this to his customers.

Osho GOsho H

In the process of searching for good food, one needs an iron stomach to withstand the bad!

New Shanghainese Restaurant in Fremont 上海夜明珠

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Gloria saw an advertisement of the opening of a new Shanghainese restaurant in Fremont and we went out to try it today with Albert & Laurita Mak and Albert Leung. Jenny Leung was supposed to join us too but unfortunately, or fortunate for her, she had to stay home to rest due to a cold. The only thing I can say about this restaurant is that it is not too expensive – $60 (including taxes and tips) for 5 people. It is the perfect place to eat in case you are starving and your car breaks down in front of it.

Do spend a few minutes to review this video before rushing out to try it.

Cheers.

Nice Little Japanese Restaurant in Redwood City – Higuma

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

20090708 Higuma A20090708 Higuma B

While Kaygetsu is always my top choice for sushi in this area, I cannot afford to go there too often. Today, we went to my second choice for sushi, Higuma, a little Japanese restaurant in nearby Redwood City. As Gloria ordered her Chicken Teriyaki & Grilled Salmon Bento, I asked for a Yebisu beer – a premium all malt beer that tastes stronger than other Japanese beer – and picked the sushi on a list.

The sushi are pretty good in general except the O-Toro which is not nearly as “fat” as that at Kaygetsu. I do like the way they fried the heads of the sweet shrimps and served them on a separate plate. The fried shrimp heads are crispy and taste good – perfect to go with the beer. If I give Kaygetsu a 9.5 out of 10 (nothing is perfect), Higuma deserves at least 7 to 7.5. That’s not bad when you take into account its cost which is less than half of that at Kaygetsu.

Enjoy!

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Higuma Japanese Restaurant
540 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA 94063
Tel: +1-650-369-3240
http://higuma1.web.fc2.com/

The Japanese is Here 㗎仔嚟喇! – 香滿樓海鮮酒家

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Yesterday we were so happy to have dinner with three old SFX schoolmates visiting the Bay area; Francis Chu (朱錦沛 or 㗎仔) from Tennessee, Ernie So (蘇澤超) from Los Angeles, and Audie Mak (麥耀祺) from Phoenix. My SFX friends probably can recognize some of the old faces. For those who have not heard of SFX (St. Francis Xavier’s College), it’s a high school in Hong Kong specialized in training entertainers. Unfortunately, most of us failed to make it in the highly competitive entertainment world and have to make a living doing something else. The very few who could do what they were trained for include Bruce Lee (李小龍), Samuel Hui (許冠傑), Eric Tsang (曾志偉) and Dicky Chang (張衛健). One of our teachers could not tolerate the students and turned into an actor in X-rated movies; he’s Michael Hui (許冠文).

We picked the Hong Kong Flower Lounge because its food quality is supposed to have greatly improved since the takeover by the Mayflower group. It’s also close to a couple of our visitors. You can get a sense of the dining experience there by comments of this group of picky eaters.

Enjoy!