Archive for August, 2009

Sharing Sausages in Prague

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Food usually tastes much better when you share with friends.  We were sharing an order of sausages at a cafe in the Old-Town Square.

Enjoy!

Dining on board the Amalyra

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Amalyra RestaurantAmalyra Roasted PorkWe had cruised on three different “big ships” in recent years and this was the first time I took a river cruise on board a smaller vessel.  The experience was totally different.  On the Amalyra operated by AMA Waterways, there were only 120 guests, so the chef could pay attention to the need of each passenger.  For example, when some of us wanted to have rice at dinner, he promptly bought some rice at the next stop and started to serve it every day. While he had to take care of the taste of Americans and Australians on board, he tried to prepare some local dishes of the country we visited.

Same as on the big ships, one would never be hungry on this cruise ship. Breakfast iss usually served for two hours in the morning with pastries served before and after that in the lounge. There is a fancy coffee machine in the lounge that allows you to prepare the coffee to your liking around the clock. The maître d’ is also responsible for frying eggs and omelets and is very good at doing so.

Lunches were served on days we stayed on board.  At around 4:00pm, coffee and cakes were served in the lounge with Gabor the pianist providing some background music.  At this time we usually drank champagne instead of coffee.  We had about 20 people in the group and the travel agent had given each room a bottle of champagne. Amalyra ChampagneEach day at this time, we would take one or two bottles to the lounge so that we didn’t have to pay for beer or soda.  The problem was that most of the people in our group did not drink. Vincent and I ended up finishing the bottle or bottles before dinner.  It was not unusually for Vincent to be half drunk by the time we went down to the restaurant for dinner. Then we drank more at dinner because wine was served at dinner without extra charge.

All dishes at dinner were exquisitely prepared for the taste buds of Americans and Australians and not nearly as salty as what we had in Budapest.  Ingredients were cooked just right.  I was surprised that even roasted turkey breast and chicken drumsticks were moist and tender. If you were still hungry after finishing the main dish, there was no need to ask for a second because the maître d’ would come around with a tray of food and asked whether you wanted more.

I would go for another river cruise just for the food and champagne.

Cheers.

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Wurstküche – Germany’s Oldest Sausage Kitchen

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

20090829 Wurstküche AThe ship arrived Regensburg – a city of 150,000 in south-east Bavaria – after lunch and we took a one-and-half-hour guided walking tour around town.  After seeing more squares, alleys and towers than we could remember, I sat down at this oldest sausage kitchen in Germany with Francis, Amy and Alan.

There was a pretty long line waiting to purchase the sausages, so we asked the waiter whether we could order after sitting down.  Lucky we asked.  Had we waited in line to get our sausages first, he would not allow us to sit down at the table where he was expecting to earn a tip.  We ordered beer and two orders of 6 sausages.  These grilled sausages were the best I ever had.  They were crispy on the outside and tender inside.  The taste was perfect too.  There was a basket of bread on each table so we took a few rolls to go with the sausages.

20090829 Wurstküche BWhen we asked for the bill, the waiter demonstrated to us how it was done a hundred years ago.  He first wrote down the price of beer and sausages on his note pad.  He then asked how many rolls we had and put that down too.  That was the easy part.  It was agonizing to witness how he struggled to add all the numbers long-hand – yes, the way we used to do it in 1st grade.

This is a place nobody should miss when visiting Regensburg.

This video should give you a better look at these sausages

Mouth-Watering Sushi 香取鮨(東京特派員十朱惠子)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

[This is the first contribution of our Tokyo correspondent, Ms. Keiko Toake, who can write in Chinese and speaks perfect Mandarin.]

昨天,朋友幫我提早慶祝生日,帶我到一家壽司老店,香取,去享受了一頓大餐。這家壽司店很老舊,裝潢的也不講究,但是他選的魚來自日本各地,我很佩服他能找到這些材料。因為通常壽司店沒有辦法找的這麼多水準齊全的魚,一般來說有的好吃,有的沒什麼,但是這家每樣都好吃,尤其是蒸鮑魚及馬糞海膽,吃得教我覺得活到現在,住在東京很值得。

他們的煮蛤蜊,新子也是很棒。新子是種很特殊的小魚,我查不出英文叫什麼,也不知道它中文名。照片裏可以看到,單單一個壽司,上面就鋪了4片新子魚。我聽說還有鋪8片的。它先用醋腌了之后,再拿來捏壽司,在這之前,還得把這些小魚一條一條的處理,得花多少功夫,可想而知,一頓吃下來,一百美金是當然跑不掉的。

請在照片上享用吧!

(壽司店資料 – http://navitokyo.com/03-3643-5022/)

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Dinner by the Danube

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Instead of asking Concierge for recommendation, we decided to walk around to find some place outdoor.  There are a few restaurants by the river and we sat down at the one that’s most crowded, hoping that most customers know what they are doing.  However, in tourist area the busiest restaurant may simply be the one that is well located.

Luckily, the food quality was not bad.  My stuffed cabbage is a little bit sour but that may be what Hungarians prefer.

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Fatâl Restaurant

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

20090823 Fatal ASince we arrived Budapest yesterday, Yany has been mumbling that we should try the Fatâl Restaurant that is highly recommended by his tour book.  We have no reason not to try it today even though the Concierge warned us that service might not be the best there. He’s right. The only waiter in the restaurant who first tried to put us – 13 people – at a long and narrow table in the dark corner only let us sit at three tables in the more open area after we were walking out.  We were sharing the salad and a few main dishes and he looked disgusted when we asked for plates for us to hold the food.  After a while we learned to let him do things at his own pace and not to ask for more than one thing at a time.

The food was pretty food though.  The chicken was edible and the leg of pork was indeed crispy.

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Hungry in Hungary?

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Arrived in Budapest and checked in the Kempinski at 3pm. Walked around the surrounding tourist area for awhile and went back to the hotel to wait for the rest of group from Paris. This hotel has free high-speed internet so I will not miss Match of the day (BTW Manchester United slaughtered Wigan 5-0 and Owen scored his first goal at MU.)

This is the first night here and everybody are tired, so we opted for some place close by for dinner.  The Concierge recommended the Nosztalgia – a small restaurant in an old building  just a block away.  For some reasons, the Quartet there kept playing some familiar but gloomy music.

My goulash soup tasted very good, a little bit salty but went well with bread.  Service was kind of slow; I wonder whether that’s just the pace in Eastern Europe.  People from Hong Kong and Macau will take a few days to adjust to this more leisurely lifestyle.

The home-made potato chips that came with my roast boar dish were among the best I ever had – crispy and fresh.  The salad was great too.  I am sure the  “wild boar” was not just wild but had to run for its life all day.  It had lean and strong muscles that really challenged the sharpness of the knife.  Hope we have better luck tomorrow.

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Shanghai Family Restaurant 上海喬家柵(山景城)

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

20090820 Shanghai Family Restaurant AUPDATE

Shanghai Family Restaurant has moved to Cupertino and changed the name to Shanghai Restaurant.

Today we took the boys to have their favorite pot stickers before their new school term begins next week.  Shanghai Family Restaurant (上海喬家柵) is a small restaurant (about 50 seats) in a strip mall at the corner of Rengstorff Ave. and Central Expressway in Mountain View (108 N. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, Tel: 650-967-7334).  We seldom go their for dinner but find it to be a good place for  dim sum at lunch time.

The owner recognized our two boys and started to write down the order for Pot Stickers (鍋貼) even before we sat down.  The Pot Stickers here are the best.  The skin is crispy and the meat is juicy and delicious.  Patrick and Christopher usually collect the sauce in the pot stickers to a spoon and dip Steamed Roll (銀絲卷) and Pancake with Green Onion (蔥油餅) in it later.  The Steamed Roll is very soft inside but you have to eat it before it cools down and hardens.  The Pancake with Green Onion is a little too tough today but Patrick still ate half of the pie – after first finishing his 8 pot stickers.

The Noodle in Chicken Soup (嫩雞煨麵) tastes good but the chicken is overcooked.  The Shanghai Stir Fried Rice Cake Slices (上海炒年糕) also tastes good – crunchy but not tough.

All in all, this is a good lunch for less than $50.

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Shanghai East Restaurant 上海小吃

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

20090813 Shanghai East AHaving rested for a week after returning from the Baltic cruise, we decided to try a Shanghainese restaurant in San Mateo that is supposed to be better than Little Shanghai.  Albert and Laurita Mak joined us for the adventure.  We got to Shanghai East Restaurant (105 W. 25th Ave., San Mateo, Tel: 650-522-9098) at 6:30pm and was surprised to see that only 30% of the tables were occupied.  The Cantonese speaking waiter was enthusiastically recommending more dishes than we could finish.  We did go along with most of his suggestions believing he knows what is good – we can always take home the leftover.

The appetizers were Wine Chicken (醉雞), Five-spice Stewed Duck (醬鴨)and smoked fish (燻魚).  The chicken was pretty tender and tasted good with moderate flavor of wine.  The duck tasted good but was a little bit too tough.  The smoked fish was also pretty good.  I would give these cold dishes a solid B to B+.  What we did not know at that time was that things would go down-hill from there.

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When the waiter recommended Sauteed Prawns (水晶蝦仁), I asked whether the prawns were frozen.  He said yes but they had a special way to treat them to make them taste like fresh ones; I owed it to myself to see how that was done.  The fact was that he either lied or they didn’t know what they were doing.  The prawns were mushy and tasteless.  In order not to repeat myself, please apply the word “tasteless” to every dish here unless indicated otherwise.  The Steamed Dumplings (小籠包) had thick skin and the meat inside had this strange taste (臊味).  The beef (蔥爆牛肉) was so tender that you would not be able to tell that it was meat.  Whatever chemical treatment they applied had destroyed the texture of beef; of course any trace of beef flavor was gone.

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Sauteed Pork Tendons with Sea Cucumber (蹄筋海參) was another dish strongly recommended by the waiter.  Again, the “treatment” these pork tendons received made Albert think that they were “vegetarian pork”, i.e. bean product.  The Sesame Seed Pan Cake (芝麻大餅) was our lifesaver.  It was crispy on the outside and soft inside; Christopher who usually does not like sesame seeds had two pieces due to hunger.  Patrick and Christopher are experts in pot stickers and they both gave the 鍋貼 here thumbs down.  The pork inside was still medium rare; we were all taught that pork has to be well cooked before consumption.

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Then came the Braised Pork Knuckle (紅燒元蹄).  Albert and Laurita had reservation about ordering pork knuckle because of the fat but the waiter insisted that theirs would not be fat at all.  He was right.  After taking off the skin, this pork knuckle was so dry and tough that you would have the sensation of  eating tree bark which of course had a lot of fiber and no fat.  The Chinese Pea Sprout (大豆苗) was so “old” that 草頭 in Shanghai would feel soft by comparison.  You would know what I mean if you had 草頭 before.  The Vegetable Rice with Salted Pork was the worst of all!  For some reason, the rice tasted like it had been in storage for at least 10 years.  Even though all of us were still hungry with all these barely touched dishes on the table, nobody could finish half a bowl of this rice.  One explanation is that the chef must have grown up in China in the 50 and 60s of last century.  In those days, the Chinese leadership were concerned about invasion by the Imperialists and were always prepared for war by storing food to last a long time (深挖洞,廣積糧).  Each year, new rice would be stored in barns and “old” rice taken out for consumption.  Most ordinary citizens in China in those days had little chance to taste fresh rice.  We have to thank the chef for this opportunity to revisit history first hand.

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Needless to say, we did not take home any of the leftover.

I had been eating out most of the time for nearly 20 years and had visited hundreds, if not thousand, restaurants and am confident to say that this one has to be among the three worst ones, if not THE WORST, anywhere.  To those who had good experience at this place before: Beware, they have a new chef!

Herberts in Warnemünde

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

20090802 BeerThe ship arrived this little tourist town in northern part of Germany in early morning.  While most people were rushing to take a three-hour ride to see Berlin, I took a leisure walk around town with another guy who also didn’t want to be pushed around by his wife.  We looked around the shops, took some pictures of the landmarks, sat down for a beer and went back to the ship to have a late lunch.  When I woke up from my afternoon nap, it was time for dinner.

I picked this restaurant by the side of the canal because of its view from the upper level.  The bonus was good decent food and friendly service.

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