Archive for October, 2009

Miss Hong Kong, Where Are You?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

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Heard that the ABC restaurant group opened a new Hong Kong style café in San Mateo recently.  Even though a couple of my friends who tried it had already warned that the place was chaotic and food not good, I decided to try ABC Bakery & Café today at lunch because they also said that they were served by a former Miss Hong Kong who happens to be the owner’s daughter. One person even went as far as saying that Miss Hong Kong’s sisters and mother are also very good looking.

There were three or four parties waiting in line when we got there at around 12:45pm and we were seated in a few minutes. The decor of this place was pretty good by café standard; simple and spacious. Contrary to what my friends experienced, service was not bad; polite and timely.  They must have spent the last few weeks getting the system up to speed. I ordered Baked Pork Chop over Spaghetti (焗豬扒意粉) and Hong Kong Style Milk Tea & Coffee (港式鴛鴦), my wife and her sister ordered Curry Beef over Rice (咖哩牛肉飯) and Stir Fried Shrimp & Scrambled Eggs over Rice (滑蛋蝦仁飯).

Service was really fast.  My spaghetti dish came within three minutes after placing the order. I immediately told my wife that that was a bad sign; one could not prepare “baked pork chop” in a few minutes if done properly. Well, the pork chop was baked alright – probably yesterday – and was definitely not “baked” with the spaghetti because the center of the spaghetti was slight cold and hard.  Sauce on top was not even hot.  The slice of tomato started to fall apart when I picked it up with a fork. I don’t need to say more about this dish and you can imagine how it tasted.

The shrimp was crispy but tasteless.  The scrambled egg had only egg-white. I understand that some people do not like egg yolks for health reason but they should at least call the dish “Scrambled Egg-White” (蛋白蝦仁飯) so that we know it’s not the real thing before ordering.

The curry beef was soft which was good for older folks who had lost some teeth but as tasteless as the other two dishes. The Yuan Yang (鴛鴦), a mixture of milk tea and coffee was very bland.  I couldn’t smell coffee nor tea. The food there just did not look appetising at all (see pictures).

Disappointed with the food, I looked around for Miss Hong Kong. No luck on that either. By any stretch of imagination, I could not see anybody there who could have been or would be a beauty queen. I understand that ABC has two restaurants and three cafes in the Bay area and she cannot be at all places all the time.

Pro: Nice decoration; comfortable atmosphere; decent service; reasonable price; possibility to be served by a Miss Hong Kong.

Con: Terrible food.

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ABC Bakery & Café
210 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401
Tel: (650)685-8881

East Coast Pizzas on the West Coast

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

20091015 Amici's AThis week the boys have afternoons off and I decided to take them out to lunch today instead of “cooking” macaroni for them. Those hardworking teachers in Hong Kong must be envious of teachers in the U.S.  Each school term, the teachers meet with parents to talk about how the children are doing.  Rather than staying late to do that, they allow students to go home at noon for one week and do the teacher/parent conferencing in the afternoon.   That’s from Monday to Thursday.  On the Friday, the students have the whole day off so that teachers can sit down to discuss how to improve their teaching.  No over-time.

20091015 Amici's BThey love pizza and the restaurant of choice today is Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Menlo Park. Its two founders, one from Boston and the other from New York, opened their first restaurant in the late 1980s to bring east coast pizzas here.  Now they have 12 restaurants in the Bay Area and their biggest customer of the Mountain View shop is Google. If you work for Google or have been invited by someone who works at Google, you must appreciate the tasty food served at their free dining room.  Now you know where the pizzas come from.

I ordered a glass of Samuel Adams for myself and a large New York Pizza to share. The older boy (大B) ordered a cup of Minestrone soup and the younger one (細B) ordered garlic bread. They also ordered sodas with unlimited refills. I did not taste the soup; 大B liked it. The garlic bread was great.  I didn’t care too much for garlic but the texture of the bread was perfect.  Very crispy and a little bit crunchy.  I could have eaten more than one stick if I didn’t have to leave room for the pizza.

The pizza was simply outstanding. Without too many ingredients on top, we could fully enjoy the thin crispy and slightly chewy crust. I ate three of eight slices of this 15″ pie. You can see in the picture that the crust was slightly burnt and that’s the best part of the pizza. All pizzas here are baked in brick ovens. If you like Clay-Pot Rice (煲仔飯), you will love this.

The downside is that a meal here will cost you more than Pizza Hut.  Well, there’s no free lunch.

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Tofu or Sushi?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

20091007 Tofu House AYesterday we had to go to Los Altos in the afternoon and decided to have lunch in Palo Alto on the way. Arrived Tofu House at 4127 El Camino Real at 11:25am – 5 minutes too early – and found several cars at the parking lot waiting for its door to open. That’s a good sign. This would also be my first time tasting Korean food other than Ginseng Chicken, Rice in Stone Pot and Korean BBQ.

The place was clean and neat with mostly square tables for two or four.  When I ordered Seafood Soft Tofu (海鮮豆腐套餐 $9.24), the waitress asked how spicy I liked it to be.  My response was “extremely mild”.  I have this habit of sweating heavily when eating spicy food.  My wife ordered SoGoGi DolSot BiBimBob (牛肉石鍋拌飯 $12.48) because I have been telling her how much I love BiBimBob.  I was going to have a beer but they don’t sell alcoholic beverages.

The appetizers (“Banchan”) arrived in a couple of minutes. They looked really appetizing and tasted great, especially the bean sprout and glass noodle dishes.  The cucumber and potato dishes were not bad either.  I don’t care too much for Kimchi though.  Later we found that the waitress would refill these Banchan dishes as soon as we nearly finished them.

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The tofu was bubbling and the BiBimBob steaming when they arrived.  I promptly cracked the egg and mixed it with other ingredients in the stone pot.  There were several shrimps, one oyster and a lot of clams.  I first ate the shrimps and oyster and tasted the tofu with the spoon.  There were at least one or two clams in each spoonful of tofu. Very delicious (鮮) and perfect with the bowl of  purple rice. Instructed my wife to mix all the ingredients with the rice in the stone pot and let the heat of the pot to burn the rice slightly. The best part of this dish is the crust.  The only problem was that she only likes soft rice and found the rice too hard for her teeth.  The flavor of beef was not what she liked either. She should have ordered the tofu and I ordered the BiBimBob!  Maybe next time. Net, net, I found this tofu restaurant to be very good and would come back again.

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And that was yesterday.  While I liked the tofu place very much, the boss did not think that was good enough to celebrate our 32nd anniversary. To make sure there is no hard feeling for the year to come, I took her to the well proven sushi place today.  One benefit of this economic downturn is that you don’t have to call on the day before to make a reservation at Kaygetsu (桂月). As usual, we sat down at the sushi bar. My wife ordered her usual Mini Kaiseki lunch which was very delicately prepared.  I didn’t taste it but she seemed to enjoy it very much.

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I started with my favorite sake, the Masumi “Nanago” (真澄七号), a Junmai Daiginjo (純米大吟釀) which has smooth and clear flavors. The sushi was as good as ever.  In a sense, this is similar to McDonald’s in that you know what you are going to get when you walk in the door. This time we sat on the side of the sushi bar where we  had an unobstructed view of Toshi in action. I noticed that every he picked up a piece of fish, he carved out and threw away at least one-third, if not half,  of it.  He only serves the best part to customers. To have good sushi, you need a chef who is “decisive” (夠狠)!

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