Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Market Broiler (Fremont)

A California chain specializing in seafood, Market Broiler has five restaurants in the Southern California area – Riverside, Huntington Beach, Orange, Ontario and Simi Valley – and one in the east Bay Area near San Francisco.

That would be in Fremont, located in the huge Pacific Commons shopping area.
Our experience started out with about a half-hour wait, because we placed our names on the waiting list at about 6:30 on a Saturday night. The place was bustling with people. When we finally were seated, Megan, our waitress, got us started with the preliminaries – beverages, appetizers and entrée orders.
She was our temporary waiter; Fernando came back from break in time to bring us our hot sourdough bread. The little bread loaf was nice and crusty on the outside, and pillowy soft on the inside. It disappeared in a trice and he brought us a second.
Since I hadn't had fresh oysters for a long time, I ordered four oysters on the half shell.
That night, they were serving New Jersey Blue Point oysters, accompanied by little cups of cocktail and mignonette sauces.
Francisco provided no tiny fork or spoon to aid in the ladling of sauces onto the shucked oysters. I had to (1) use a dining fork, and (2) pour the mignonette sauce onto the oysters directly out of the plastic cup.
I don't know why, but when we go to a restaurant and order, if there's an entrée that they've run out of and they come back to tell us, it's me that has to look at the menu again and reorder.
I had wanted to try their Asian-Inspired Chilean Seabass. It's tagged as a new menu item, served on sushi rice, with sautéed garlic spinach, a soy-ginger reduction and ginger-infused oil. Sounds good, huh? I was out of luck. They ran out.
So instead, I had Snapper Veracruz and Shrimp. It's a Southwest-seasoned, mesquite-broiled snapper fillet with sautéed scampi-styled shrimp, tomatoes, olives and garlic. It was served over rice pilaf with a side of mixed veggies (carrots, broccoli, zucchini and onions). And a vanda orchid.
The snapper was fine, although a little light on the seasoning. I had to grind a little table salt over it. The shrimp was a bit tastier, but overdone. Otherwise, the meal was just okay. Maybe I was still disappointed at not being able to have my first choice of entrée.
For dessert, they had a new item, an apple streusel ala mode. I almost ordered it so I could post a picture of it on my 5 Best Desserts blog, but I'd be stretching it to qualify it as an apple pie. So I ordered a crème brûlée instead, another one of my five best and favorite desserts.
They call it their White Chocolate Crème Brûlée – rich vanilla bean custard infused with white chocolate, covered with a caramelized sugar topping, and garnished with strawberry halves and whipped cream. It was very good; I ate a third of it, the wife ate the rest.
Little problems, little problems. But in the end, the meal was okay.
Market Broiler: 43406 Christy St. (510) 791-8675.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Azteca Mexican Restaurant (Honolulu)

Located at the east end (Kahala Mall side) on Waialae Avenue in the Kaimuki area of Honolulu, Azteca Mexican Restaurant is one very popular place.

I finally was able to sneak away by myself for lunch one day and try their food (been meaning to do that for a long time, and only recently got the chance).

The place is small, only about a dozen tables and 40 seats. I got there early for lunch, around 11 a.m., so I was able to get a roomy table before the place filled up. And fill up it did, with a lot of customers going straight to the cashier station and ordering take-out. Must have been area workers or residents.

The décor is pure Mexican, with pictures and paintings on a garish yellow wall in front of me, and even more on the wall behind me. Plus, there’s mariachi music playing, transporting the diner to Mexico. Everybody speaks Spanish there, even some of the customers.

Before you can even peruse the menu, the kind man drops off a basket of tortilla chips and a bowl of salsa to whet your appetite.

The salsa is a bit on the spicy side and will warm you up, bringing your blood heat level up to the point where you can handle any kind of dish they put in front of you. Nice heat, I had to take off my baseball cap.

I ordered the crab enchilada, the small version. Along with the Spanish rice and refried beans that were the perfect vehicle for my left-over hot salsa, the enchilada was floating in a pool of rich creamy sauce filled with minced crab meat. Very subtle flavors and heck, I’m salivating just writing about it. I’d contemplating ordering the large plate with two enchiladas, but wisely decided not to.

After all, it was lunch and I didn’t want to stuff myself. Good decision, I was full afterwards anyway. But not too full for dessert. The waiter suggested a flan, but I needed something to cool off my mouth, so I ordered a lychee sorbet (he smiled knowingly).

There’s a large parking lot behind the restaurant, but it’s usually fairly full. I was lucky, there were a few empty spaces. Like in my head. I almost walked out without my baseball cap.

Azteca Mexican Restaurant: 3617 Waialae Ave. (808) 735-2492.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Prolific Oven (Fremont)

The wife and I drove to the Pacific Commons commercial area in Fremont to have breakfast before motoring north for a couple of overnight ears in Sonoma County, but were disappointed when our restaurant of choice, Applebee's, was closed and wouldn't open for another 45 minutes.

All I could think of was how I was going to have to delay our drive as we hunted out another restaurant to patronize.
The wife to the rescue! She noticed a little place called The Prolific Oven. I figured what the heck, breakfast pastries and breads won't be all that bad.

Amazingly, the shop offered breakfast until 10:30 a.m., stuff like eggs and breakfast meats, scrambles, omelets, griddle French toast, waffles, granola, and Benedicts. The best thing? They bring your food to your table on real plates after you order it at the counter.
Their coffee – Costa Rican – was strong and good.

The wife ordered their vegetable scramble – scrambled eggs with fresh spinach, olives, artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. I tried it out about midway through our meal when we did our usual trade-off. It was pretty tasty.

I decided on a Lox Benedict. You know, toasted split English muffin with smoked salmon and poached eggs, topped with hollandaise sauce. A good Benedict has three great elements. The Prolific Oven passed on three – the yolks were hot yet still runny, and the hollandaise was very good, not too sour.
Where they fell down was with their English muffin. It wasn't toasted enough. No crunch, no crispy tips. Just a soft muffin that appeared to be only heated and not toasted.
But I tell you, no problem. They were a savior.
The Prolific Oven: 43337 Boscell Road. (510) 252-1098.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hash House a Go Go Plaza (Las Vegas)

I finally got a chance to eat in my third Hash House a Go Go location. I've eaten at their original restaurant near the Sahara and Reno intersections, and their restaurant in The Quad on the Las Vegas Strip. Their newest (about two years old) is inside the Plaza Hotel and Casino, near the entrance.

Because the National Finals Rodeo was in town when I was there, the restaurant offered a number of Rodeo Special steak breakfasts. I was wavering between the Steak Scramble and the Steak Hash, so I asked my waiter what he thought. He mused for a moment then said they've sold more of the hash than the scramble.
That didn't really make up my mind for me at all, but I acted as if it did, closed my menu with a nod, and ordered the hash. I figure if you eat at a place with "hash" in its name, you should test them out and get a hash dish. Rounded out my breakfast/early lunch with orange juice and coffee.

The hash came with two eggs, a huge biscuit, and a small slice each of watermelon and orange.
It was very good. The cheese and chopped tomatoes added much to the flavor of the crispy potatoes and the steak chunks. However, I needed to sprinkle just a little bit of salt on it. No ketchup this time, no hot sauce either. I wanted to taste the true, natural flavors on my plate. Besides, the chopped tomatoes were rather like a ketchup, right? So, just a little salt to enhance the taste. That's all I added.
Too many potatoes though. Don't get me wrong, the spuds were very good; there was just too much potato. And to me, the added haricot vert seemed a little out of place. Maybe they should have chopped them up instead of adding them whole.
This is the best Hash House a Go Go meal I've had so far ... Wait, the meatloaf hash was pretty good. I have to think on this a little more.
(I almost made a huge financial boo boo. Instead of a twenty, I put a c-note in the bill folder. Good thing I caught the mistake before the waiter came back. I mean, the food and service were good, but not THAT good.)
Hash House a Go Go Plaza: Plaza Hotel and Casino, 1 Main St. Phone (702) 386-2594.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

BK’s Bistro (Fremont)

One thing about Chinese food – you're going to have quite a bit leftover to take home afterwards. We ordered the Peking Duck Set at BK's Bistro one night and definitely had our fill. They brought out an entire Peking duck, complete with head, bill and feet, and proceeded to finish prepping it off to the side as we watched. When they were done, the waitress had performed her magic and began bringing out the Peking duck dishes:

The first to appear at the table was a plate of crispy Peking duck skin and buns, with hoisin sauce, green onion slivers and plum sauce to flavor the little "sandwiches." This is always a great start. The skin is oily and crispy, the buns are sweet, the green onions add a bite, and the two sauces, either separately or together, enhance the flavor of the duck.

Next, the waitress brought out a plate of the Peking duck meat, so we could continue to consume the tasty fowl on its own. The duck was tender and moist, and definitely oily (but in a good way).

The bonier parts of the Peking duck (e.g., neck, back, ribs) were used, along with tomato and tofu, to flavor a nourishing soup broth, then were served on their own separately.

Next came a large plate of Beef with Oyster Sauce, with lots of snap peas, carrots, mushrooms and fried tofu.

We also had Spicy Fried Fish dribbled over with chopped peanuts and little bits of red chilies. The fish was wonderful on its own, but absolutely out of this world with the plum sauce meant for the Peking duck.

Their Sweet and Sour Chicken was prepared very crispy, and the crunchy chicken was combined with pineapple chunks, green bell peppers and onions. Sweet and sour indeed!

You just have to have noodles of some kind with a Chinese meal. We had Soy Sauce Chow Fun (with beef and bean sprouts), one of my grandson's favorites.

The set also included a "clay pot" dish called "Seven Heavenly Ingredients with Tofu" that included fish, shrimp, several different kinds of mushrooms, snap peas and a couple of other ingredients that I can't remember.
Sweet Tapioca and Taro Soup closed off the meal. It's always good to "cool off" the mouth after the strong Chinese flavors, and even though the soup was warm, it accomplished just that.
The perfect end to a great meal. With leftovers to take home and enjoy the next night, to boot.
BK's Bistro: 3113 Stevenson Blvd. (510) 770-8818.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dupar’s Restaurant and Bakery (Las Vegas) 2

I've written about Dupar's, located in the Golden Gate Casino, before, about two years ago. The Golden Gate, of course, is located at the Plaza Hotel & Casino end of The Fremont Experience in downtown Las Vegas.

Just recently (actually in December), I ate there again. Actually, I had plans to have the oxtail soup in the Fremont Hotel & Casino's Paradise Cafe. Unfortunately, the place was closed until Christmas Day and I sure wasn't going to hang around that long.
So, I went out to The Fremont Experience and just started walking toward The Plaza. I had Oscar’s Steakhouse at The Plaza in mind, but my feet automatically veered me left to Dupar's.
The second-to-last time I was there, my brother-in-law had meat loaf and it looked so comforting, so good. So that's what I ordered as soon as I sat at the counter. Um ... I forgot how large the portions were. But, what the heck. The people who were sitting on either side of me were amazed (all they were having was the house special, the $2 shrimp cocktail).
Y'know, the meat loaf was okay. Just okay. There was something not quite on target with the meat loaf. I scraped away the copious puddle of gravy that blanketed the meat and noted that the "crust" of the meat loaf actually was burnt. Eww.
Plus, as I said, there was just too much – too much meat loaf, too much mashed potatoes, too much vegetable (zucchini, carrots, beans, broccoli). I couldn't even eat any of my sweet bun, so I brought it back with me, because how can anybody toss one of Dupar's buns?
Next time, I won't have the meat loaf. I don't recommend it.
Dupar’s Restaurant and Bakery: Golden Gate Casino, 1 Fremont St. (702) 385-1906.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tokoname Sushi Bar & Restaurant (Honolulu)

There’s a new Japanese restaurant at the Manoa Marketplace, about a mile from my house. Okay, okay, it’s not exactly new; it’s been there a couple of years now, where the old Hanaki Restaurant used to be.

I had a hankering for Chinese noodles on Chinese New Year’s Day, so we all packed up in our mini-SUV and headed for Asia Manoa just up the street. Unfortunately, when we got there, they weren’t seating any more customers, and take-out orders were backed up for a couple of hours.

Harrumph. Naw, not harrumph, after all, it WAS Chinese New Year’s Day.

So we headed up to Manoa Marketplace at the wife’s suggestion, and got ourselves a table in Tokoname Sushi Bar & Restaurant. They’ve done a good job with the place … it’s pretty dark in there and looks very classy in the dimmed light. New employees, new furnishings, new décor, and new menu.

Okay, so what did we eat?

Before we could even order, our waiter brought us some boiled edamame (soy beans) sprinkled with salt. Everybody dug into those; nobody complained about the highly visible salt as they usually do, they just munched and munched on the beans.

I ordered an unagi (fresh water eel) sushi roll for the table, which was a nice start. Usually nobody else in the family orders such extra accompaniments and/or appetizers, so I play the naughty over-eater and do the ordering. Nobody complains, they just don’t want to appear gluttonous. By the way, the sushi was delicious.

For my entrée, I had something familiar – Butterfish and Tempura Teishoku (combination).  I wanted to see how theirs stacked up to others I’ve had. It stacked up very nicely. The butterfish had a great flavor, a little intense and concentrated, not on the subtle side for sure. I enjoyed it and ate up every bit, except for some of the vegetable tempura that the wife swiped from my plate. But that’s okay, I ate some of her sashimi.

Of course, I had to order dessert to assuage everybody’s guilty feelings. If I order and “force” them to share mine, they don’t feel guilty at all.

The waiter recommended Tempura Ice Cream (battered and deep-fried) for dessert, but I wanted something a little more. So I ordered their Tempura Bananas, arranged on vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate and haupia (coconut) sauce. Good God, that was delicious. I only got to eat one piece of banana; the others scarfed up the rest real fast.

My brother-in-law got brave and ordered an Azuki Dream – a melon cream soda float with vanilla ice cream, and topped with sweet Japanese azuki (sweet red) beans. It surprised him, and me as well, because it was served in a classy champagne glass.

Now that was a good meal. A bit on the expensive side, but darn-right good.

Tokoname Sushi Bar & Restaurant: Manoa Marketlace, 2756 Woodlawn Dr. Phone (808) 988-8656.