Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jamms Restaurant (Las Vegas) 2

It's been a couple of years since I last had breakfast at the local Las Vegas eatery, the award-winning Jamms Restaurant on the west side of town (on Rainbow, just north of Charleston Avenue).

This go-around, I ordered their Jamms Signature Omelet; it's basically a steak omelet (sliced steak with onions, mushroom and cheese topped with homemade béarnaise sauce).

Cut Open to Show the Inside
My counter waitress, Shirley, asked if I wanted their "bread in a cup" butter or raisin bread, but I always order that, so this time I had an English muffin instead. They make theirs crispy crunchy.

The steak in the omelet was a bit overlooked and occasionally crispy, and it wasn't evenly distributed in the folded eggs. But the mushrooms, cheesy onions and sauce more than made up for it. Wow, that was good.

So was the coffee. They serve freshly-ground Illy coffee. Bold and deeply flavorful, just the way I like it.

What a satisfying "Welcome back, Craig" breakfast. Plus when I paid my bill, they gave me a stick of gum – cinnamon, or Juicy Fruit – to freshen my mouth.

So why does it take so long to repeat a favorite restaurant? In a visit of say, five days, I have about nine meals (five breakfasts and four dinners). I like to try new places I've never ate at before, and I like to eat at some favorites. I try to eat at five or six new restaurants, which means my old favorites have to be put in a waiting cue – too many restaurants, not enough days.

Jamms Restaurant: 1029 S. Rainbow Blvd. Phone (702) 877-0749.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Asahi Grill Keeaumoku (Honolulu)

The first thing you need to know about Asahi Grill Keeaumoku is that, despite its name, you have to enter not from Keeaumoku Street, but from Rycroft Street. The second thing is that it’ll look like a hole in the wall at the back of a parking lot.

I’d eaten at their Ward Street location many moons ago, and was kind of impressed – nice, airy dining room, with a classy menu and entrée presentation. I’ve heard comments that the portions were small, but that the food itself was tasty.

This newer location is more local in flavor. They have daily specials that include Sweet and Sour Spareribs, Shoyu Chicken, Tofu/Mushroom Stir Fry, and Pork and Chicken Adobo. And that’s just on weekends. On weekdays, they have add Pig Feet Soup, Braised Short Ribs with Spanish Sauce, Mochiko Chicken, Pork Guisantes, Roast Turkey, Chicken Papaya Soup, Corn Chowder, Chili Frank, and Mushroom Chicken.

I got excited when I saw that Beef Tongue was one of their Friday specials and was already making plans to order take out on Friday. But alas, although it’s on the menu dated July 2014, the waitress told me they’d stopped making it about a month ago.

I ordered the Braised Short Ribs with Spanish Sauce. They gave me a choice of tossed salad or macaroni salad. Personally, I think the short ribs would be a better experience with macaroni salad (the mayonnaise, y’know), so that’s what I ordered.

Service was quick, and the food came out pretty fast as well, no more than seven minutes tops. The short ribs were delicious, and the Spanish sauce was perfect with the extra carrots, green peppers, onions and bay leaves flavoring it.

I was surprised that they also had a breakfast menu: Eggs and meats, chops, fish, hotcakes, sweet bread French toast, plus sandwiches and bentos. Plus, lots of local favorites served all day.

Will I go back? Maybe. The food is pretty good. But they lost out on a sure thing when they took beef tongue off the menu. Now I have to think about whether or not I’ll go back.

Asahi Grill Keeaumoku: 815 Keeaumoku St. (enter from Rycroft Street). Phone (808) 744-9067.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Halekulani Hotel Banquet (Honolulu)

Several weeks ago, the wife and I had a chance to experience a catered sit-down wedding reception banquet at the Halekulani Hotel; it’s been a while since we’ve had that enjoyment.

The service was impeccable, the ambiance classy and distinctly Hawaii without being gaudy and over-the-top. I don’t care much for Hawaiian music, but the band the wedding hosts hired was pretty outstanding.

Normally, such wedding receptions present a buffet for the guests’ meal. This time, however, we were served at our tables, except that the dessert station was open outside the banquet room for those who wished to indulge (like me).

So anyway, the food:

First Course
Sake-Cured Ahi Ribbons, Hearts of Palm, Caviar Vinaigrette

Second Course
Seared Scallop, Roasted Cauliflower Mousseline, Panchetta

Third Course
Beef Fillet, Butter-Poached Lobster Tail, Asparagus, Garlic Herb Butter

Poha Berry Chocolate Bread Pudding

Other desserts were offered in their Dessert Buffet: Mini-Fruit Tartlets, Pistachio White Chocolate Roll, Halekulani Coconut Cake, Caramel Custard, Strawberry Cheesecake, Macadamia Nut Cream Pie, and Chocolate Mousse.

I decided not to take a picture of my other desserts because they looked a mess on my dessert plate. Besides, I wanted a solo picture of the bread pudding to use on my “5 Best Desserts” blog.

Halekulani Hotel: 2199 Kalia Road. Phone 923-2311.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sanoya Rahmen (Honolulu) 3

It's been over a year since I last ate at Sanoya Rahmen in McCully, although I've had their take-out a few times since September 2013.

We got there about 10 minutes early for lunch (they open at 11 a.m.) and decided to wait instead of going next door to Zippy's Restaurant.

So while everybody ordered noodles of some kind, I thought I'd have a Pork Katsu Curry – crispy-coated pork cutlets smothered in curry gravy over white rice. They make good gravy there.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake and ordered their Pork Tonkatsu Teishoku (full meal) instead and was a little surprised when my meal arrived. But it was my error, so I just shut up, as the tonkatsu itself has been good when I ordered it before.

The cutlet came with a huge bowl of rice, some very tasty miso soup, some chopped takuan (yellow pickled daikon), macaroni salad, and finely shredded cabbage with a mayonnaise dressing augmented by a slice of fresh lemon ... all simply tasty.

The entree was disappointing; the pork tonkatsu was very lean and very dry. They trimmed it too conscientiously and cooked it too long. It sure could have used the curry gravy.

Oh well, my fault, and I'll never make that mistake again. I should have had some cold noodles instead.

Sanoya Rahmen: 1785 S. King St. Phone (808) 947-6065.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dino’s Family Restaurant (Fremont)

Dino's has been in the same location, on Fremont Boulevard between Alder and Thornton Avenues since 1977. It's a well-worn but clean establishment that's close-quarter with linoleum table tops that are pale and worn in spots.

But the food is quite good. Nothing fancy, the usual sandwiches, burgers, lunch and dinner specials, and of course, a wide variety of breakfast items. Their sign is very visible from Fremont, as you pass Thornton; the parking lot was jammed nearly full the day we turned in (a good sign).

The entrance is a small door that leads to a narrow foyer, that turns right directly to the seating area where you find your own table. It actually seats quite a few, and as busy as it looks, we found an empty booth quite easily.

If you have trouble deciding what to get off their rather extensive menu, look to the blackboard high on the wall. I saw a Joe's Special Omelet of ground beef, onions, mushrooms and spinach. Every place I go, if they have a ground beef omelet, they call it "Joe's Special."

The wife ordered one of her favorites – a club sandwich. They give you a choice: Turkey, ham, or both. And, a choice of French fries, potato salad, tossed salad, macaroni salad, or fruit. As you will see in the picture that follows, she opted for ham, and the fresh fruit bowl. Now, that was a big plate full of food.

If I told you I had a "mess of breakfast," I wouldn't bring talking figuratively, because that's what my plate looked like – a mess. My Joe's omelet wasn't exactly an omelet. It was more like a scramble. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but if they call it an omelet, they should make an omelet, not a scramble.

Having said that, the Joe's Special was pretty good. It got even better when I sprinkled on a little bit of salt. And that's why there's always a shaky shaker on restaurant tables ... to enhance the flavor to one's individual preference. The ground beef was very tasty, and the fresh mushrooms were thickly sliced and sautéed in butter (one can tell by the flavor), I had only a few mushroom slices myself, because the wife swiped most of them from my plate.

The bottle of mildly chili-spicy homemade salsa on the table was a great condiment that sure beat ketchup. And, just what I needed in the morning, their coffee was excellent. I had four "warm ups."

Dino's is on my "Let's go back" list.

Dino's Family Restaurant: 36930 Fremont Blvd. Phone (510) 792-6533.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hong Kong Chef (Fremont)

Hong Kong Chef is located in the Fremont Times Square Shopping Center, in the Warm Spring District of Fremont.

It was a busy place the day we went for lunch. As with most Chinese restaurant establishments I've been to, their menu is extensive, with more than 900 dishes listed in their menu.

They didn't give us an eternity to decide, with the waiter popping right over within a few minutes of our being seated, pad and pen in hand to record our order, all the while recommending that we try the fish.

Here's what we had for lunch. The first three dishes are the fish special. It's one fresh rock cod, with the bones flavoring the soup and then served alongside with vegetables, and the fillets presented with more vegetables:
Rock Cod Soup
Rock Cod Bones
Rock Cod Fillets
The soup was good; I added in the meaty fish bones, which were cooked further with greens.

Deep-Fried Salt and Pepper Tofu Cubes
This has been praised in a few Yelp reviews that I read subsequent to eating at Hong Kong Chef. I do like it – crunchy and salty on the outside, creamy and smooth on the inside. Way to make a healthy food taste decadent!

Minced Pork and Preserved Egg Porridge ("Jook")
I didn't know we were having preserved egg until I saw the server's menu they taped to the side of the table. I thought the dark things were fungus. But they were preserved eggs, which were just fine.

Trepang (Sea Cucumber) with Pea Sprouts
I've had sea cucumber before, many years ago, marinated raw in a sweet, vinegary sauce (Hawaiian style). It was tough until chewed on for a bit, then it just softened dramatically in the mouth. This was nothing like that; it was cut into strips and cooked in a gravy with the vegetable. It had a somewhat neutral flavor that tantalized rather than offended the taste buds.

Sweet-Sour Pork with Pineapple Cubes
Except for the delicious sweet-sour pork that we ordered, all of the flavors were subtle and not overpowering. The sweet-sour sauce was a bit more concentrated and deeper, just as one would expect from such a dish. It's because of the pineapple cubes, I bet.

The Fremont Tines Square Shopping Center is pretty close and accessible to where we were staying. Plus there's a grocery market called "Marina" across the parking lot from Hong Kong Restaurant. I predict we'll be going there the next time we're in that part of town.

Hong Kong Chef: 46326 Warm Springs Blvd., Suite 848. Phone (510) 573-4066.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

De Afghanan Kabob House (Fremont)

I've never had Afghan food before, so it was quite a treat to be taken to De Afghanan for my first taste of the Middle Eastern cuisine. It gave me a chance to try some very different food. 

While everybody else ordered water or iced tea, I got adventurous and ordered Doogh, a salted yogurt drink with tiny diced cucumbers floating on top. Reading up on it later, I learned that it's a favorite Middle Eastern beverage made with yogurt, water and salt. Sometimes, the diced cucumber is added to provide some texture. That's how mine came, also sprinkled with dried mint. 

It was okay. It had an odd salty taste, not at all what I expected. Not real good, but strangely satisfying. Not sweet like American yogurt, but a bit on the sour side, like the real thing. The wife hated it. I won't order it again, but you know how it is, I had to try. 

On the other hand, I thought it went well with the Butternut Squash and Leek Bolanis that we ordered for appetizers.

The bolanis are like Indian nann flatbread stuffed with the veggies and seasoned with cilantro sauce. They're very flavorful, but spicy, which surprised the wife. I thought they gave quite a nice chili burn that lasted for a while. 

The wife ordered a Combination Chicken and Beef Kabob; I had their Lamb Kabob. Both entrees came with cilantro-flavored diced squash and tomatoes, alongside which they propped a healthy chunk of jalapeño pepper, and basmati rice. They also provided a basket of Afghan bread. 

Some of my lamb was lean and on the dry side, the rest was nice and juicy. The wife's beef was delicious; the chicken was too dry for me. I don't like cilantro, but went for the whole experience and ate all of my vegetables like my mother taught me. I did like the perfectly cooked basmati rice – sweet, tender and moist without being mushy. 

After my intensely flavored entrée, I needed something sweet. So for dessert, I ordered Baklava, you know, that sweet pastry filled with nuts and dripping with honey? Yep, I was in the mood. 

Unfortunately, they were out. Damn! So I ordered something different – Firmi, a mildly sweet milk pudding sprinkled with finely chopped pistachio nuts. It reminded me somewhat of the Hawaiian dessert, coconut haupia pudding. I liked it, as a little dessert sweetness is always refreshing and cooling after a heavily meat-oriented meal. 

(Sorry for the picture. I forgot to take the photo before digging into the dessert. Despite its looks, it come to the table perfectly round.) 

Well ... It turns out that Afghan food is tasty in its own way, but definitely not one of my favorite cuisines.
De Afghanan Kabob House: 37405 Fremont Blvd. Phone (510) 745-9599.