Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sushi Yat (Fremont)

I wanted to try Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Fremont, but it's a good thing I checked Yelp.

They've closed. So, I did a Google search and found Sushi Yat, which had a number of good customer reviews.

Sushi Yat appears to be rather an old soul, a well-worn small restaurant hidden in a shopping area.

It's dark inside, with aging trappings, and doesn't feel very welcoming ... until you get used to the place.

Their menus are all busted up, wrinkled, dog-eared, and look like they've been used thrice too often. The take-out menu was clean, however. According to the waitress, they do good call-in business.

Upon being situated in our booth, the first thing I noticed was that the table was sticky. Clean, but sticky. You expect sticky tables at pancake houses, and barbecue joints, but not in a Japanese restaurant. Come to think of it, so was the lacquered bento box that my meal was served in.

The wife was in a noodle soup mood because it was a bit windy and chilly outside.

So she ordered Nabe Udon, which is brewed with a variety of vegetables, shrimp tempura and an egg in broth with fat udon noodles. Her verdict, not intense enough, it needs more flavor.

I had a lunch bento. They offer two items for $7.99, three for $9.99, and four for $11.99. You choose from a list of 24 items that ranges from chicken teriyaki to tuna sashimi, … tonkatsu to fried oyster … croquette to vegetable sushi roll … California roll to seafood katsura, and quite a few other choices.

They also offer 16 lunch specials. It's quite an extensive selection list, and I haven't even mentioned the variety of sushi rolls, or their dinner menu yet.

For my lunch bento, I had fried oysters, tuna sashimi, chicken teriyaki, and tempura (prawn, potato, eggplant, carrot and zucchini). A fresh green salad, a bowl of miso soup, and a bowl of rice accompanied, along with some chili vinegar dip and the usual tempura dip.

The principal items were good, except that the chicken teriyaki sauce was a bit bland. The miso soup was also thin, apparently they were a little stingy on the miso. The rice was a little dry and hard.

All in all, it was okay. I got to try a new place, but probably won't go back. There are, I'm sure many better Japanese restaurants in the area. 

Sushi Yat: 3353 Walnut Ave. Phone (510) 793-8780.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Washing Pots and Pans

Wash your hands and have a seat. We will be back on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (Las Vegas)

The last time I stayed at the Red Rock Resort in the northwest area of Las Vegas, better known as Summerlin, where Del Webb has begun his residential kingdom of a housing development, I ran out of time before I could try Cabo Mexican Restaurant.

When I was researching dining establishments online before I left for Las Vegas this time, I saw a notification that the Cabo had closed, replaced by Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, which has 16 locations in California, one in Arizona, and two in Nevada, both in the Las Vegas area.

My first night at Red Rock, I gave the place a try. I had a nice chat with the young lady in the front, and learned the restaurant had indeed opened soon after I stayed there, about six months ago.

I was given a table in what she laughingly called the "garden area" because of the fake trees sprouting up all over the place.

The neat thing about the garden area is that's where their smoker is situated. I got to watch the smoker guy pull out quite a few racks of baby back pork ribs. So guess what I ordered. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Now, about Lucille's food. It's sweet. That's the way I would describe Lucille's – sweet. Everything I ordered was sweet, and not in a bad way, but the best possible way. My waiter, Justin, brought me a small basket of biscuits with a small pot of apple butter – not the kind that that's like apple sauce, but sweet butter with sweet minced apple in it.

I ordered a Lucille's peach sidewalk lemonade, which was served with ice in a large mason jar. Like I said, it was sweet, but tart at the same time, and got even more refreshing as the ice melted. I'm a fan of almost any peachy drink. Peach tea is a favorite, but I have never had peach lemonade before. It goes on my list of faves now.

I tend to over-order at barbecue places, and this time was no exception. I'd already decided to skip the chicken (they're usually too dry for my taste) and ordered their BBQ Two-Meat Combo – choice of tri-tip, half chicken, baby back ribs, St Louis ribs, beef ribs, spicy hot link, pulled pork, rib tips, or beef brisket.

After watching the smoker guy pull the baby backs out of the smoker, it was no contest. I chose baby backs and beef brisket. The plate came with a little pot of sweet barbecue sauce to douse the already sweetened pork ribs and beef brisket. My sides choices were shoestring fries and creamy cole slaw. Yeah, I know, boring. But I'm sometimes a creature of habit.

Oh, by the way, let me tell you, the peach lemonade that I diluted with some of my iced water from a second mason jar really hit the spot between gnawings. I couldn't finish, leaving a couple of ribs, and half the brisket and everything else behind.

And yet, I ordered dessert. I just had to have a serving of Chris' Famous Bread Pudding, as if I hadn't had enough of sweet, already. Justin brought over a sweet and delicious slice of the bread pudding, a fine mixture of sourdough bread, peaches, pecans and sweet custard, all wading precariously in a warm, swirly puddle of bourbon sauce.

And a little sweet extra on the way out was a Tootsie Roll lollypop – your choice of cherry, orange, grape or chocolate. Make mine chocolate, please.

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que: Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd. Phone (702) 220-RIBS (7427).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mil's Diner (Milpitas)

I love mom-and-pop diners, and found a pretty good one in Milpitas, a small city in the Oakland East Bay Area near Fremont, where we were staying.

It's very easy to find, once you know what you're looking for. It's at the corner of Calaveras and Abbott. Just look for the sign that says, "Restaurant." The sign also says "Mil's Diner," but that's so small you can hardly see it.

The interior is cozy – like any typical diner you've been to. Booths, counter, and a couple of outside tables. You get a hearty welcome, and then have to choose what you want from their loaded menu. They pride themselves on their pancakes and their fluffy omelets.

They serve everything from eggs and meat, griddle items, omelets ... and if you're there for lunch, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and hot entrees. They probably have at least one of your American favorites.

The wife had the Daily Special Omelette (bacon, mushroom and cheese). I had a sample, as usual, and it did taste good.

I hadn't had chicken-fried steak since I had breakfast in Bullhead City, Arizona, when I visited Laughlin, Nevada, a few years ago. So it was about time. That's what I had – Chicken Fried Steak with Three Eggs, another of their Daily Specials.

Wow, it was good. Tender, with rich gravy (and lots of it too), a little container of mildly spicy salsa for the hash browns (who needs ketchup, anyway?), and three perfectly over-medium eggs. I don't usually eat three eggs, but I couldn't help myself this time.

Later, I talked to the coz-owner, Roula, who told me that Mil's opened in 1958, then, she and her husband/cook Louie, took over in 1997. Mil's Diner has won the Best Breakfast in Milpitas 19 years running, as voted upon by patrons.

I'm definitely going back another time.

Mil's Diner: 36 S Abbott Ave. Phone (408) 946-4773.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BLT Steak (Las Vegas)

The last time I stayed at the Paris Las Vegas, I walked through the connecting concourse and had a great dinner at Bally's Steak House. This time, when I stayed at Bally's Las Vegas, I discovered that Bally's Steak House had closed, the space was expanded to 9,300 sq. ft., about double its original size, and BLT Steak had replaced it in mid-May.

This is BLT's first steak restaurant in Las Vegas, having debuted in New York in 2004. Just up the street in the Mirage Hotel and Casino is its sister restaurant, BLT Burger.

The first night I was there, I ate in SEA Thai Restaurant, just opposite BLT. There were three young women at the steak house's check-in area, and as I approached, they all started smiling and inviting me to their restaurant. Nice ladies, but it has decided to eat Thai that night, so I just smiled back.

The next night, I decided to eat steak, so off I went to BLT. The trio recognized me and seemed glad that I'd decided to come back. In fact, they used the phrase, "came back," and chatted me up. One of the young women said she's also from Hawaii (the Salt Lake area of Honolulu).

BLT's interior consists of a circular bar, and two dining rooms. It seems dark, but high on the ceiling, above each table, is a high-intensity light that brightens up the table. I got there early, about 5:45 p.m., a mere 15 minutes after they opened for the evening. So I had a good choice of tables.

My server, Anthony, set me up quickly, his assistant bringing me a chef's amuse bouchée – duck liver mousse (pâté) with crostini. It was okay, I have never acquired a taste for pâté, much less duck liver. The feller at the table next to mine didn't even give it a taste.

One of their signatures is a huge popover flavored with Gruyère cheese. When the brought me a popover with sweet creamery butter, a recipe was also included in the presentation. Nice of them to do that. I didn't care much for it  (too salty), but tore off a hunk anyway to give it a try.

I started my meal with a half-dozen raw oysters – three West coast Kumamotos and three East coast Blue Points. Anthony described the differences between the two.

Basically, the Kumamotos are smaller and feature a deep cup in their shell, with a little less "give" to the bite. They taste a little sweet, as opposed to the Blue Points, which are flatter, larger, and taste more of the sea.

They were delicious, served with a cocktail sauce and a serving of mignonette, which Anthony pronounced "minuet," like the dance. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud.

I ordered two sides. The first was a dish of honeyed Brussels sprouts that arrived wading in butter, bacon and shallots. They were so sweet.

The second was a potato gratin. That was actually Anthony's suggestion as a dinner starch. The potatoes were perfectly cooked, moist and tender, and just peeking out from its blanket of cheese. It was good, but much too much. In fact, even the Brussels sprouts were too much. I only ate half of the sides.

My entrée was out of this world – a bone-in rib-eye steak, cooked to just the right internal temperature (medium-rare). I actually contemplating a Wagyu bone-in rib-eye, but the difference between a Wagyu and a prime ordinary steak isn't that much. Although, the price sure is ... It's at least double the price.

In the steak pan was a marrow bone (now, how decadent is that?), and a small bulb of oven-roasted garlic, so I could merge the marrow and garlic and add it to the side order of Béarnaise. And sitting on top of the steak was a slab of herbed butter.

That steak was so very juicy and tender ... and buttery. I love it when I'm served a good steak.

I had no room for dessert, but I needn't have worried. Anthony brought out two mini dark-chocolate brownies, which I washed down with San Pellegrino Italian sparkling water.

I made sure to take Alka-Seltzer before I went to sleep.

BLT Steak: Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, 3645 South Las Vegas Blvd. Phone (702) 739-4111.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Applebee's Pacific Commons (Fremont)

I've been to a number of Applebee's(es) across the country. (Say, how do you pluralize a word that ends in "'s" anyway?) One thing I can say about them is they're consistently not bad ... kind of like a friendly neighborhood coffee shop.

We'd tried eating at the Pacific Commons area restaurant before, but if you remember, it was at the start of a morning jaunt to Sonoma in wine country last year and they weren't open yet when we got there. For reference's sake, write this down: They open at 11 a.m.

This time, we met an old friend there for lunch. Please note that when I say "old," in no way am I referring to age, but in length of time. There's a very good reason why I've survived this long in my world of women friendships.

Not surprisingly, the wife was slightly overwhelmed by the menu choices. She wanted something simple, so she had her usual fish and chips. I, on the other hand, wavered between their Three-Cheese Pasta and their Cowboy Burger. The waitress (dang it, I forgot to catch her name) solved that dilemma for me – that particular pasta dish was a limited offering, and the limit had run out.

Ergo, that's why this humongous piled-high hamburger sandwich appeared in front of me, stuffed with a thick patty dripping barbecue sauce, crispy bacon, melted white cheddar cheese, crunchy onion rings, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, and pickles, accompanied by way too many French fries.

That was a big one, and a very messy burger to eat. Very delicious too, after I sprinkled on a little table salt.

This is one restaurant chain that's always done good by me. 

Applebee's: 43349 Boscell Rd. Phone  (510) 226-0202.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mon Ami Gabi (Las Vegas)

Mon Ami Gabi is located in the Paris Hotel and Casino, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The entrance is from inside the casino, so if you're passing by on the sidewalk and feel like eating there after checking out their menu, just remember to go inside, using the door to the right of the al fresco seating.

I went in fully intending to have either a hash and eggs breakfast, or a quiche (because, after all, Mon Ami Gabi is a French bistro).

But when my waiter Petr announced the daily specials, I changed my mind and ordered their Benedict du Jour.

First, however, I had a glass of apple juice and a fruit salad that came with some crème fraiche and brown sugar. It was a simple salad, with bananas, grapes, honeydew melon and cantaloupe. Nothing special, but it hit the spot. Of course, it was enough for two people when eaten as an appetizer, which it was that morning.

The Benedict du Jour was sooo good. Instead of Canadian bacon, it was prepared with fresh mushrooms, arugula and melted Brie cheese. I didn't miss the meat in the least.

They toast their English muffins on a griddle, so it was crispy crunchy the way I like it. The poached eggs were yoke-runny the way I like it, and the hollandaise was perfect. The Benedicts were accompanied by hash browns that were crispy the way I always (albeit not always successfully) try to make it at home.

Petr brought me some ketchup, but the potatoes were so good that I hardly dipped into the ketchup bowl.

The only thing is that by the time I got to the second Benedict, it was cold. No fault of theirs, it was a bit chilly outside. According to my phone thermometer, it was 65° and breezy. But I did want an outside seat, so I guess I have to accept the cool weather at 9 a.m. in Las Vegas.

Excellent coffee, by the way. Sorry, I forgot to ask what kind they serve.

Mon Ami Gabi: Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd., South. Phone (702) 944-4224.