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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Black Bear Diner (Fremont)

Chalk up another Black Bear Diner for me, my sixth so far (Fremont, Sonoma and Milpitas, CA; Bullhead City, AZ; St. George, UT; and Las Vegas, NV). 

And, as usual, it was an enjoyable dining adventure in the whimsically decorated theme restaurant. I mean, like bears all over the place. This one pretty much sneaks up on you, so as you drive along Mowry Avenue, south of Fremont Hub shopping area. 

Keep your eyes peeled ahead to the right for Mowry Landing Shopping Center, a small strip mall just past Blacow Road. Be prepared to turn right as soon as you cross Blacow. 

I would have taken a picture of the wife's meal, but she had a boring ol' soup and sandwich lunch – beef/vegetable soup and a tuna sandwich. For her, that hit the spot. For me, that would NOT have hit the spot. 

The last time I had Black Bear's Chicken-Fried Steak and Eggs was a few years ago in Bullhead City. The last time I EVER had chicken-fried steak was at Mil's Diner in Milpitas in April. So, I definitely was in the mood for it. 

The steak was crunchy-coated and tender, smothered by a most delicious country gravy. My two over-easy eggs were perfectly cooked to order, just oozing yolk all over the plate. And those country potatoes were just the way you'd want them to be – crispy on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, dancing on the plate with red and green sweet pepper and onion bits. 

Their orange juice is sweet and freshly squeezed on site, by the way. Plus, I've never had a bad cup of coffee there, and this time ended up drinking at least three full mugs worth ... thrice my usual breakfast intake. But who's counting, anyway? 

I was thinking I'd have one of their apple cobblers for dessert, but there was no room left in my ample belly, so I passed this time.
Maybe next time?
Black Bear Diner: 5035 Mowry Ave. Phone (510) 796-8000.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Yuki Japanese Restaurant (Fremont) 2

I was in the mood for some sushi – no special okazu, no special side dishes – during our last trip to California, so I suggested we re-visit Yuki Japanese Restaurant.

While the other members of the family indulged in whatever they were hungry for, I munched on a wide variety of sushi off my Chef’s Combo platter.

I’m not so sure of all of the fish on the platter, but I do know I got some calamari, maguro tuna, shrimp, chiso-leaf wrapped cuttlefish, salmon, spicy tuna and ginger roll … and a couple of other freshly sliced fish on rice. All with the gari ginger and wasabi horseradish.

Major oishii-desu!

Yuki Japanese Restaurant, 1932 Driscoll Road. Phone (510)656-5021.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cafe Siena (Las Vegas)

I wasn't able to get convenient parking at Kona Grill in Boca Park, located in the Summerville area of Las Vegas, so I drove over to the nearby Suncoast Hotel and Casino to give their coffee shop – Cafe Siena – a try.

All I can say is, I should have gotten some fast food instead. The food at a Cafe Siena was pretty bad, not even average.

I ordered their Fish and Chips, which came with a pretty ordinary iceberg lettuce salad with over-toasted croutons and thousand island dressing.

Nestled amongst the chopped lettuce were two sour cherry tomatoes, a few thin gratings of carrots, and one slice of cucumber.

The fish wasn't tasty at all. Oh, it had a taste, but the taste was old. Also, the fish batter was very dark (not golden) brown. The chips (fries) were terrible. The cole slaw was okay, as was the tartar sauce.

I ate one fish stick out of three, about a half-dozen fries, and a few bites of the cole slaw, then called it a night.

I'm not going to eat there again, if I can help it.

Cafe Siena; Suncoast Hotel and Casino, 9090 Alta Dr. Phone (702) 636-7111.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dungeness Bay Seafood House (Seattle)

With a five-hour layover in Seattle, on my way home to Hawaii from Las Vegas (don't ask), I needed to get something to eat, having had nothing to eat since getting up at 6:45 to catch my first flight.

I'd checked the Sea-Tac website before leaving home, and made a note to eat at Anthony's Restaurant or Ivar's at the airport. That didn't work out, but I chanced upon the Dungeness Bay Seafood House near the S gates where I was scheduled to board my plane.

Click on Picture for Larger View
So ... Why not? I wasn't terribly hungry and thought, maybe a bowl of soup, perhaps. They did have Northwest Clam Chowder, along with a plethora of sandwiches and entrees. That's all I needed – so many choices I had a difficult time making up my mind.  Plus, I've read raves about their crab cakes.

The final choice? Dungeness Crab and Bay Shrimp Louis Salad. Lots of frisée greens, pretty yummy seafood, a hard-boiled egg (breakfast!), some matchstick cucumber, rich avocado, and sweet grape tomatoes, all ready to slather with thousand island dressing.

Pretty good. Nothing extra special, but pretty good.

Dungeness Bay Seafood House: Seattle-Tacoma (SEA-TAC) Airport, 17801 International Blvd. Phone (206) 244-2909.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nijo Castle Japanese Restaurant (Newark)

We had a very nice Japanese dinner here on a Sunday evening, a short 15-minute drive from my son's home in Fremont. There were some people sitting in the foyer, waiting for a table, so I was a little worried that they wouldn't have immediate seating for us.

We needn't have worried, those diners were waiting for a teppanyaki (tep-pahn-yah-key) table, and we wanted a table in the dining room. Niño Castle has four dining areas: the teppanyaki grill room, the sushi bar area, a regular bar area, and the main dining room.

Sushi bar

Portion of the main dining room

Teppanyaki room
It's not easy to decide on your selections when they seat you with their menus. There are dozens of sushi items, dozens of appetizers, dozens of entrees, and dozens of everything else. It'll take you a while to make up your mind, that's for sure. What's neat, though, is that they have an on-table push-button system that allows you to buzz your waitress when you're ready to order and/or have service requests.

Hiyayakko tofu

Grilled squid

Ha-te yaki scallops


For the table, my son and his wife ordered a few appetizers: Hiyayakko (hi-yah-yah-koh) chilled tofu topped with bonito, green onion and grated ginger), Hate Yaki (hah-teh-yah-key, grilled scallops on orange slices, topped with special sauce), grilled squid, abayaki (ah-bah-yah-key, seared white tuna) topped with a mustard sauce, a tsukemono (tsu-keh-moh-noh, pickled vegetables) tray, and a complimentary bowl of edamame (eh-dah-mah-meh) soy beans.

The wife ordered one of her usuals: yosenabe (yo-seh-nah-beh, seafood and vegetable soup in broth). They lugged a huge, steaming bowl over and placed it in front of her, jam-packed with crab legs, scallops, shrimp, clam, mussels, mushrooms, fish cake, tofu and vegetables. Needless to say, it was impossible for her to finish.

Or maybe it was because she nibbled on all of the appetizers and stole some of my food.

I ordered a box dinner. They started me off with a garden salad and miso soup. Good dressing ... reminded me of a thousand island vinaigrette.

I then had a choice of from two to four items from a long list. What I did was copy one of the illustrations on the menu and selected teriyaki BBQ beef short ribs (cut thin, Korean style), agedashi (ah-geh-dah-shi) tofu (tofu simmered in a lightly ginger-seasoned sauce, and assorted tempura (shrimp, sweet potato, carrot, mushroom, bean, broccoli).

I didn't swipe a taste of the wife's yosenabe, although she kept trying to foist off some of it to me. I was enjoying my dinner bento box too much for any of those shenanigans. The food was very good, nicely intensely flavored, nothing real subtle, (except for the light sauce in which my agedashi floated).

Nijo Castle's ambiance is very Japanese, except for a curious mix of cultures in the fountain at the entrance – a Japanese bamboo water sluice, ceramic frogs, and a little European cherub boy standing in the pool. But what the heck, the food is good. The place filled up, and by the time we left (on a Sunday evening, at that), the waitresses were in a second-gear hustle trying to keep up.

Nijo Castle Japanese Restaurant: 39888 Balentine Dr. Phone (510) 657-6456.