Archive for May, 2011

Mario Comes to Town – Chef’s Wok 半島海鮮酒家(阿拉米達)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

After enjoying a couple of weeks in Saskatchewan and Toronto, Mario finally came to the Bay area last week. Considering that he would be staying with friends in Antioch which is way north of San Francisco, we arranged a dinner with him at Chef’s Wok 半島海鮮酒家 in Alameda which is pretty much the central point of where everybody lives. Originally, we considered some place in Oakland but that city is too dangerous at night (and day) these days.

To our delight, Mario came to dinner with Shambhu (also a Xaverian from Hong Kong), Francis (another SFXer who lives in Concord) and his friend Clem whom we met last year. Donald immediately recognized Shambhu who was also in F.3B with him about half a century ago. Francis Wong was boasting how half a dozen of his good friends repeated F.3 together. Mario told us that he broke the school record by repeating F.3 twice – you would usually be expelled if you didn’t pass the second time but he was allowed to repeat again because of his “connection”. Ben’s wife, Cecilia, was amazed to see these guys cheerfully reminiscing about repeating school and being beaten (literally) by teachers. I guess time can heal anything. On hindsight, being able to learn the same lessons for another year didn’t seem to hurt anybody. Many repeaters I knew in those years went on to have very successful careers as doctor, architect, lawyer, engineer, actor, singer, professional footballer, entrepreneur, professor, and the dean of a major U.S. university.

Words would not fill our stomachs, so we ordered some food to go with the two bottles of wine that Ben and Cecilia had brought. The $288 “Family Banquet” seemed to be good. On top of that we added a Roast Duck ($16.95) to wet our appetite. With old friends around, everything tasted good. The food looked good too. At the end of dinner, Mario cheated by giving the waitress his credit card without our knowing. Had we known that he was going to treat, we would have ordered something more expensive. Thank you Mario.

With names such as Mario da Silva, Shamhbu Das, Francis Xavier and Clem Esmail, guess what language we used to communicate? English? No. Portuguese? No. We were all talking in fluent Cantonese.  I am sure these guys know more Cantonese swear words than 99% of Hong Kong population today. Of course they didn’t use any of those words in the presence of a lady. What a great gathering!

Chef’s Wok 半島海鮮酒家
1821 Webster Street, Alameda, CA 94501
Tel: +1-510-337-9388

China Bee 中華路(聖馬刁)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

After a round of golf at Poplar Creek Golf Course near the airport, Francis, Raymond, Wallace and I headed over to San Mateo for dinner. It was cold and windy at the golf course, so we were looking for something warm. Our destination was Yakitori KOKKO; unfortunately it was full with a waiting time of at least an hour. We ended up in China Bee Restaurant 中華路 near the San Mateo train station where there were plenty of parking spaces on a Sunday.

This place was spacious and clean. Service was friendly and food was decent at reasonable price. Not a bad place for a quick casual meal.

China Bee Restaurant 中華路
31 South B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
Tel: +1-650-348-1889

Pedro’s Restaurant & Cantina in Santa Clara

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I have had lunch at Pedro’s Restaurant & Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Santa Clara, twice recently. It is a popular restaurant in Silicon Valley but finding a table there at lunch time is not a problem at all. This area is in deep recession which is evidenced by all the vacant buildings nearby.

The servers were very friendly and efficient; they got me chips and salsa when I took the time to go through the menu before my friend’s arrival. The chips were crispy and the salsa appetizing.

Rice in the Enchilada dish was softer and smaller than Chinese style rice. The sauce was good but the chicken inside was a little dry and tough.

On my second visit, I ordered Mahi-Mahi which was recommended by the waiter. It was delicious. My only complaint was the small portion.

Pedro’s is a comfortable and relaxing place to meet friends. I am not in the position to comment on authenticity of food there as I seldom have Mexican food.

Pedro’s Restaurant & Cantina
3935 Freedom Circle, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Tel: +1-408-496-6777

Mom-and-Pop in San Bruno – Russian Family Bistro

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

After a round of golf at the beautiful Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco, Wallace led Kinney and me to San Bruno for a wonderful Russian dinner at Russian Family Bistro. This is a true Mom-and-Pop restaurant. The husband is an American born in Harbin and can speak some Mandarin (普通話); he takes order and serves customers. The wife actually grew up in Georgia (格魯吉亞); she is the chef.

When we got there after 8pm, there was only one occupied table; it was a family of about ten people who were having some kind of celebration. We got the feeling that we were joining their party. The place was not big but neat and cozy. According to Wallace, this place could be full during weekends.

There was an old picture of the owners on the menu (see picture below).

Pop served us bread and salad while we were ordering. Kinney and I wasted no time in eating a couple slices of the homemade bread which was not bad; Wallace told us later that he should have warned us not to waste the precious space in our stomachs. The salad was delicious with vinaigrette; its slightly sour taste was very appetizing.

Wallace had been there a few time, so we left the ordering of food to him. He wanted us to try the soup there and ordered three different soups to share. Sharing soup must be very common there as there is a price specifically for “split” on the menu. It costs $1 to split a bowl of soup which is reasonable; we were given three small clean bowls for that purpose. Mom even changed bowls for us after the first one.

First came the Ukrainian Borsch (羅宋湯 or 俄國菜湯). I’d had many varieties of Borsch before and this had to be one of the best. It came with a few delicious rolls freshly out of the oven. The Fisherman’s Soup was a clear soup with chunks of mixed fish, potato, onion and bay leaf; it was served with rasstegai (open pie with salmon filling). This was a meal by itself. Classic Russian Cabbage Soup was a sour cabbage soup with chunks of beef served with sour cream. These three soups were very different and all very good. I was already almost full at this point.

Russian Classic Bliny was yeast pancakes served with sour cream, green onion, chopped hard boiled eggs, salmon roe and cold smoked salmon. Even with strong flavors of onion and sour cream, I could taste the smoked salmon and salmon roe. Must have this dish the next time.

Shish Kebab (lamb cubes) and Lula Kebab were very tender and worked well with the homemade sauce.

I was totally full at this point but still could not resist to have a few chunks of lamb in the Lamb Stew in the Clay Pot. Even the potato cubes and flat baked bread served with this pot were outstanding.

Homely service, nice environment and delicious food. If you want to enjoy the evening with friends in the San Bruno area, this is the place.

Russian Family Restaurant & Catering
719 Camino Plaza, San Bruno, CA 94066
Tel: +1-650-588-2950

Harding Park Golf Course is one of the better public courses in the United States, that’s why some professional tournaments have been held there. Here is a view of the 18th hole with Wallace demonstrating how to hit a tee shot.

Disappointing Beef Fried Rice – Hong Kong Bistro 香港茶餐廳(山景城)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

After getting their haircut reluctantly, the boys were rewarded with their favorite Beef Fried Rice at the nearby  Hong Kong Bistro 香港茶餐廳. While we were waiting for our table, I noticed that there was a Ba Gua 八卦 at the door restraining all those restaurants across the street. On this Mother’s Day, there was a long line waiting at Fu Lam Mum next door.

Patrick ordered his favorite drink – Ice Ovaltine 凍阿華田 – Clam Chowder and Beef Fried Rice. Christopher wanted a Sprite to go with his fried rice. He also added an order of French Fries. I had Mixed Vegetable Chow Fun and a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea.

The milk tea definitely won in quantity – the cup was big – but it didn’t have much tea aroma. Chow Fun was oily and not too tasty. The two boys had always been able to clean up the dishes of any fried rice; not this time. They both could only finish two-thirds and had to take the rest home. Christopher, the expert in fried rice, said the rice was a little dry and hard to chew. He even had a mouthful that was very salty – a sign that the dish wasn’t stirred thoroughly.

The fried rice here used to be OK. We might probably come back again to see whether this was just an off day.

Hong Kong Bistro 香港茶餐廳
147 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Tel: +1-650-968-8938