Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Phở Saigon Pasteur (Fremont)

The wife and my grandson and his parents had lunch on a busy Saturday at Phở Saigon Pasteur Vietnamese Noodle Shop. Great name, huh? It's a small place, with seating for a maximum of 44 diners at a time.

I've come to enjoy phở (pronounced "pha," according to my bilingual daughter-in-law), the Vietnam equivalent of the Japanese ramen, and the Chinese saimin. Except phở soup has linguine-shaped rice noodles instead of wheat.

I had a big bowl of Phở Beef & Well-Done Brisket Noodle Soup (Phở Tài Chin) and a delicious, cold glass of creamy orange Thai Iced Tea (Trà Thái).

The phở broth was so darned comforting, heating up my innards as it flowed its way down my gullet to my tummy. It sent me into a dreamy relaxed state, where ambient sound diminished and the world became copacetic. Plus, they gave us fresh Asian basil, crunchy raw bean sprouts, and sliced jalapeño peppers that can add spicy heat to the soup.

I would have ordered a more substantial meal involving more items in my phở, but the wife had made herself and me breakfast a couple of hours earlier, bless her heart, and we weren't that hungry.

Pho Saigon Pasteur Vietnamese Noodle Shop: 43460 Grimmer Blvd. Phone: (510) 249-9902.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mandalay (Honolulu)

Mandalay is a Shanghai/Hong Kong-style Chinese dim sum restaurant located at the site of the old Yong Sing Chinese Restaurant, across from entrance to the Bishop Square parking structure, where you can park free (validated) after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

I hadn’t been there in years, but had occasion to on Mother's Day, when we partook of its special dinner buffet. We got there for our 5:30 p.m. reservation and wow, was it a madhouse. It was crowded and noisy, and we had to battle the buffet line to get to our table.

There was ample offering in the buffet, including (taking a deep breath) roasted pig, snow crab legs, Peking duck with bun, prime rib and shrimp cocktail, Chinese chicken salad, potato salad, beef egg-drop soup, beef broccoli, taro cake, sweet-sour spare ribs, deep-fried salt and pepper shrimp, sesame green beans, chow fun, chow mein, shoyu eggplant, fried rice, almond float, haupia, custard pastry, jin doi sesame balls, and a bunch of other entrees and desserts that I can't remember.

The food was okay, nothing special popped out at me, but then, buffet entrees are usually like that – kind of overcooked and short on seasoning. Still, it was a nice dinner. Service was fast and efficient.

Here’s what I had to eat that evening:\

I’d go back, but not on a special occasion buffet night. I’d like to try their dim sum next time.

Mandalay: 1055 Alakea St. Phone: (808) 525-8585.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mexico Restaurant (Honolulu) 2

On the way to a late coffee shop breakfast one day, we passed by the Mexico Restaurant and on the spur of the moment, decided we wouldn’t mind having lunch instead of breakfast, and that Mexican food sounded good.

It was then that I had a thought – I could combine Mexican food and breakfast by having huevos rancheros. The last time we were there, I’d seen it on the menu but was in the mood for fajitas, so I passed it up.

Not this time. I asked our waitress, Leilani (only in Hawaii can you have a young woman with a Hawaiian name take your order in a Mexican restaurant), for her opinion, and she was very effusive in recommending the dish.

The wife wanted something a little less fiery, so she had the fish tacos. They looked so beautiful on the plate that I asked her for a bite. That creamy avocado guacamole just soothed the inside of my mouth, with just a little bit of heat. Veddy good tacos!

She thought so too, but could only eat one. So she brought the other home, and my brother-in-law just inhaled it, devouring it in a second.

But I digress … my Huevos Rancheros was everything I expected it to be. You couldn’t see the eggs for all the cheese that covered them, but that’s not a bad thing. When I poked through the cheese layer, the egg yolk came oozing forth like a golden volcano releasing its goodness into the world.

I though their refried beans needed a little zing, so I spooned on some hot sauce that came with the taco-chip appetizer that Leilani brought us. Oh yeah, that did it. The pico di gallo mixed nicely with the cheesy huevos and the Spanish rice. In all, it was a very satisfying and top-of-head warming meal.

Now I’ve got the urge to go Mexican again.

Mexico Restaurant: 1247 N. School St. (808) 845-9059.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tender Steak & Seafood (Las Vegas)

At least once in every vacation trip I take, I have an expensive dinner at a fine-dining restaurant. Since I was staying at the Luxor Hotel and Casino at the far south end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Tender has that dark wood decor so prevalent in fine-dining establishments. That's the first indication that dinner is going to be pretty good. The next is when they ask you to remove your hat ... or as the case may be in my case, my Aria Elvis baseball cap.

Which ... is kind of silly, because they sure didn't turn away diners wearing a tee shirt and shorts. Maybe it's just a custom from the days of derbies and fedoras.

My server team of Ron and Duane were attentive to my needs. By the way, Ron kind of resembles Alex Rodriguez ("A Rod") of the New York Yankees. No big deal, just an observation.

They started with a basket of bread and some herb-flavored olive oil. The bread – sourdough, feta, and multigrain – was cold. I wish they had warmed then up. It chipped down the elegance factor a bit, and dulled the individual flavor of the slices.

Not quite in the mood for a steak, I compromised by having a Australian Kobe Wagyu Beef Carpaccio Salad (pepper charred bottom sirloin flap, wild arugula, roasted tomatoes, aggiano cheese, umami sauce, with alder-smoked sea salt and olive oil). Actually the Italian version of beef sashimi, the raw beef was tasty and light, a great starter.

Good thing too, because my entrée, Cold Water Rock Lobster Tail, was disappointing – a bit overdone and dry. This can happen when they put the lobster tail under a broiler and leave it there too long. The lobster at Tender Steak & Seafood was nowhere close to some of the best lobsters I've had in Las Vegas,

Thank goodness for melted drawn butter ... and my side order of delicious creamed spinach. Using the butter in the usual dipping manner, and the creamed spinach like gravy made the lobster taste a whole lot better and with a richer mouth feel.

For dessert, I had their Banana Foster's Bread Pudding. Honestly, that's the way it was spelled on the dessert menu – "Foster's" instead of "Foster." The pudding as sweet, the banana slices were sweet, the rum sauce was sweet, and the scoop of vanilla ice cream was cool ... and sweet. The serving was gigantic, and I could only manage to eat half.

Tender Steak & Seafood: In The Luxor Hotel & Casino, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd., South. Phone: (702) 262-4778.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Claim Jumper (Fremont) 3

We had another chance to go to Claim Jumper for lunch, so off we went.

The wife went for soup and appetizer this time, ordering Lobster and Shrimp Cakes, and a bowl of New England Clam Chowder. I sampled her cakes; they were a bit mushy, like wet bread. Not too great – she agreed.

She also didn't care for the spicy mayo dressing, said it was too spicy for her. I thought it was pretty good myself.

Being in a beefy mood, I ordered a Widow Maker Burger. It's a biggie ... well more accurately, a "tall-ie."

It's mostly veggies and add-ons, including some crispy smoked bacon, hand-battered onion rings (what, did they punch it?), tomato, lettuce, avocado, double-thick Cheddar, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and red relish. A tasty burger that hit the spot, it's also very messy and big. I couldn't finish it and had to leave about a quarter of the sandwich behind.

The food at Claim Jumper is generally very good, but eventually, as with most other frequently frequented restaurants, it's going to become kind of ordinary. But not yet.

Claim Jumper: 43330 Pacific Commons Blvd. Phone (510) 445-1823.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

IHOP Maryland Parkway (Las Vegas)

I've actually eaten here before, and wrote about it in October 2010, when I had their Steak Omelet. And I hadn't been to an IHOP since.

We received an IHOP gift card several years ago, and since there isn't one close by and handy, the card sat in my wallet for a long time.

So when I found myself with several hours on my hands before my flight back home from Las Vegas, my tummy rumbling with morning hunger, and the gift card burning a hole in my wallet, I decided to have breakfast (or lunch) at the IHOP near the Stratosphere Hotel on the Strip.

Well, the parking lot was full, but I lucked out when someone left. However, it was packed inside, with upwards of 25-30 people sitting/standing and waiting, so I left, hungrier than ever.

Next, I tried the Peppermill at mid-Strip. It's been there a long time; we ate there maybe 30-40 years ago. Couldn't even find parking, it was so crowded. Now I was REALLY starving.

Last gasp: Driving down Maryland Parkway, I saw the familiar IHOP. It was pretty much filled to capacity, but there was ample parking. At last! Food!

This time, I ordered their Tuscan Scramble (roasted red peppers, Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes, fresh spinach, topped with sweet basil), with additional avocado, and pancakes. The scramble was perfect. The spinach was cooked just short of wilting, and the chopped tomatoes were just barely warmed through and not the least bit gooshy. All it needed was a little sprinkle of seasoning and a few drops of hot Tabasco sauce because, well, just because I like hot sauce.

And, I've never had bad pancakes at IHOP. After all, aren't they the International House of Pancakes? Even when I drenched them with blueberry syrup.

My waiter Carlos saw me photographing my food and asked if I worked for IHOP. I guess he thought he was being checked up on. I assured him I was just a blogger; he was very attentive to my needs after that.

All in all, it was a satisfying end to a frustrating hunt for food.

IHOP Maryland Parkway: 3780 S. Maryland Parkway. Phone: (702) 737-0375.

Monday, June 1, 2015

BK's Bistro (Fremont) 2

The last time we ate at BK's Bistro was for dinner a year ago. This time, seven of us (including one kid) stopped by for a dim sum lunch, just barely beating the lunch crowd.

My son's bilingual in-laws, who were visiting from Canada but who are originally from Hong Kong, did all the ordering, along with my daughter-in-law.

The first thing to arrive was a plate of crunchy, crispy flour roll-ups:

They were followed by three bowls of porridge, aka Congee:

Preserved Egg and Pork Porridge

Cilantro Fish Filet Porridge

Pork Liver Porridge
Then, the rest of the dim sum arrived in no particular order, in a seemingly never-ending stream of plates and bamboo baskets:

Steamed Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Chives and Shrimp Dumplings

Rice Noodle Rolls with Assorted Vegetables

Deep Fried Sesame Balls (Jin Doi)

Steamed Egg Custard Buns

Crispy Fried Chicken Wings with Garlic

Fried Minced Tofu (Pei Pa)

Special Pan-Fried Noodle Chow Mein

Tomato Beef with Rice

Soy Sauce Rice Noodle

Steamed Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf

The servings are small, as is typical of dim sum, allowing a taste of everything the first go-around, before those at the table start zeroing in on their favorites for second helpings. Somehow, it all works out.

As expected, there were leftovers to be taken home for a snack, or a meal the next day. No complaints, the food at BK's is good.

BK's Bistro: 3113 Stevenson Blvd. Phone (510) 770-8818.