Archive for February, 2010

Bringing Thailand to Redwood City – Bangkok Bay Thai Cuisine

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Feeling like eating out again at noon, we tried another Thai restaurant in the neighborhood. Bangkok Bay Thai Cuisine is only 15 minutes away at the corner of El Camino Real and Broadway in Redwood City.

According to the restaurant’s official website, it is owned and operated by four sisters from Thailand to serve authentic Thai cuisine since 1993. In 1998, the Crown Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn of Thailand hosted a dinner there for the Stanford faculty and staff during her visit; everybody was happy. I guess if this place is good enough for Her Royal Highness, it should be good enough for me.

We got there at 1pm which was near the end of lunch hour and the place was still half full. After taking a quick look at the lunch menu, we decided to order the reasonably priced set lunches. I had a beer and the Combo Lunch consisting of Goong Kra Bok and Chicken Satay with Brown Rice; Mrs. Foodlover had Thai Tango Mango Chicken.

Before serving main dishes, the waitress brought each of us a bowl of Chicken Lemon Soup. The slightly sour and rich coconut taste really prepared our appetite for this meal. This Thai beer was a little too watery for my taste; you will like it if you like light beer. The chicken satay was not bad but nothing special. What I liked was the Goong Kra Bok which was a deep fried prawn in wonton skin; the wonton skin was crispy and the prawn tasty and tender. I did not taste the Tango Mango Chicken but Mrs. seemed to like it so much that she cleaned the dish.

We were pretty much full but still wanted to try their dessert which looked appetizing on the menu. We ordered Triple delight (Roti, Fried Banana, Sweet Sticky Rice and Mango) to share. I was surprised that we had to wait at least 10 minutes for the dessert to come; everything arrived quickly before that. We knew why it took so long when the Triple Delight arrived. Instead of placing the food orderly on the plate, the chef actually took the time to arrange the different ingredients in the shape of a doll. The waitress probably saw me taking pictures and asked the kitchen to do something special.

I was so glad we had this dessert. The fried banana was so crispy and fresh and the sticky rice tasty. My favorite was the Roti (Thai Pancake) which was slightly burnt yet soft inside. Instead of just tasting a little bit of everything as planned, we finished everything.

This is a restaurant that we will come back again, maybe for dinner next time.

After we got home, we still liked the taste of dessert so much the Mrs. went out to buy a Mango Mousse as afternoon snap for the family after the boys came home from school. That was very good too.

When a Tiger is Really a Dragon – Crouching Tiger 臥龍街

Friday, February 19th, 2010

The kids were having dinner with friends today. Instead of cooking, we went out to have a quick meal before they came home. We happened to have a 10% discount coupon for this Sichuan restaurant in Redwood City and decided to give it a try.

When we arrived Crouching Tiger, we were surprised to see the Chinese name being 臥龍街 (Crouching Dragon Street). If the owner of this place could not tell the difference between a tiger and a dragon, I worried that the chef might have problem distinguishing a chicken from a fish. That inconsistency obviously did not bother the Michelin representative who listed this restaurant as one of the Bay Area Affordable Gourmet Restaurants. By the way, 臥龍 in Sichuan was the home of 諸葛亮 some 1,800 years ago and is now a National Natural Reserve where pandas are raised and preserved.

Since I cannot tolerate food that’s too spicy, we ordered a couple of non-spicy dishes: Stir Fried Shredded Potato (清炒土豆絲) and Tea Smoked Duck (樟茶鴨). For the two spicy selections: Spicy Soy Bean Fish (豆瓣魚) and Szechwan Hot and Spicy Dan-Dan Noodle (川味擔擔麵), we only ordered mild flavor.

My Dan-Dan Noodle was the first to come. I have been to Chengdu 成都 in Sichuan many times and will not forget the delicious Dan-Dan Noodle I had in Jinjiang Hotel 錦江飯店 there. It was a small bowl of fine noodle 幼麵 with minced meat 肉碎 and this “Numbing Spiciness” 麻辣 that is unique for Sichuan food. That “numbing” sensation was what I liked the most. The Dan-Dan Noodle here was entirely different. The bowl was big – about 8 inches in diameter. The noodle was thick – more like Shanghai thick noodle 上海粗麵. Instead of minced meat, the chef decided to put in strips of meat. Most disappointing, the “numbing” flavor was not there, just “heat” spiciness. According to the waitress, they used to have real “numbing” spiciness 麻辣 flavor before but the customers did not like that. This might be a big bowl of decent spicy noodle, but definitely not Dan-Dan Noodle. If you must call it Dan-Dan Noodle, it is Dan-Dan Noodle without Soul!

Fortunately, the Dan-Dan Noodle was the lowest point of this dinner. The Spicy Soy Bean Fish tasted fresh even knowing that it was frozen. For this dish, one can order fish fillet ($10.50) or a whole fish ($11.50). The Stir Fried Shredded Potato was the best I had ever had. It’s smooth and crispy 爽夾脆. Tea Smoked Duck was tender with very pleasant smoke flavor. It would be better had they used a fatter duck.

There were many unoccupied tables when we arrived at 6:00pm but the place was full with customers waiting at the door when we left at 7:15pm.

I am glad we tried this restaurant. Knowing that even the non-spicy dishes are good and price is reasonable, we will make this one of our regulars. Just stay away from the “Dan-Dan Noodle”.

Lotus Thai Bistro in Palo Alto

Monday, February 15th, 2010

After a Chinese New Year party the night before, the Food Lover got up a little bit late on Presidents Day and immediately got a call from Wallace saying that his family was visiting the nearby Stanford University. We agreed to meet at Jin Sho in mid-town Palo Alto for a Japanese lunch.

The doors at Jin Sho was locked; they decided to open on Valentine’s Day which fell on Sunday and closed on Monday instead. We walked up and down California Avenue and finally ended up in Lotus Thai Bistro which looked like a decent homely place to eat. It was 1pm and there was plenty of space for us.

Before even looking at the menu, Wallace ordered Young Coconuts (椰青) for the young ladies who could use a nice cold drink after walking around town under the sun. Instead of ordering from the lunch menu which had mostly set lunches, we selected entrés from the dinner menu so we could share and taste various dishes. While we were still going through the menu, the waiter brought each of us a bowl of complimentary soup – that’s good service!

Som Tum was a salad with papaya, green bean, carrot, tomato, peanut, garlic, chili with Thai dressing. The fresh taste of vegetable and sweet and sour sauce was appetizing. The Shrimp Curry was mild (we ordered it that way) and blended in well with pineapple and bell pepper.

The Salmon Tamarind and Pumpkin Curry were both recommended by the waiter and were very good. We cleaned up all the dishes in no time. By the way, in case you decide to try this restaurant, don’t worry about the cost of rice for soaking up the last drop of curry. They charge rice by number of people. Don’t expect to have a beer with the food, they only serve non-alcoholic drinks there.

This is a good restaurant for an informal lunch. We will definitely come back again when we feel like eating Thai.

Very Ordinary Japanese Lunch – Kanpai Sushi 乾杯

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Happy New Year! 虎年順利! 虎虎生威! 虎猛龍精! 虎口虎面!

Having not eaten out for a couple of weeks, we decided to try another Japanese restaurant for lunch today. Why Japanese again? For a certain dedicated rice eater, the only choices are Chinese and Japanese and there aren’t any decent Chinese restaurant within 10 miles.

Kanpai Sushi 乾杯 in Palo Alto is only 10 minutes away and there is plenty of space in the parking lot half a block away when we got there at noon. The restaurant is nice and neat but there were only about ten customers at that time – it would be about 60% full later.

I ordered a beer and Omakase (Chef’s Special course Lunch, $35) while my wife picked the Grilled Salmon and California Roll Combination Lunch.

The servers were very friendly but a little bit unorganized. Even after we ordered, two different waitresses asked whether we wanted the menu. That did not bother me though.

The Grilled Salmon looked very ordinary and the rice in the California rolls was a little hard. The chef there must be very fond of cucumber or just got a large shipment of it. There was cucumber in almost everything: the combination lucnh, the seafood roll, and the Hirame and Shrimp dish. Cucumber marinated in sweet and sour sauce was actually not too bad but in every dish!

The Omakase consisted of miso soup, two appetizers from the bar, a hot dish from the kitchen, sushi combination, and dessert. The Tuna with Basil was not bad; the basil added just enough tingle in the tuna which was otherwise pretty tasteless. The taste of whatever in the seafood rolls was overshadowed by the sweet and sour sauce of the cucumber. The hirame and shrimp were slightly overcooked and a little tough. The sushi were acceptable but I can get better ones at Higuma in Redwood City at similar price. The soy sauce in this place was extremely thick and much more salty them that in most sushi places. They probably went out of soy sauce and borrowed a bottle from the nearby Chinese restaurant. The ice cream wafer dessert that you could buy at any Asian supermarket was not bad.

We most likely would not come back to this place again. Not that it is bad; we just have better choices around.