Jun 252013
 

Shortly after I left Berkeley, I saw posts about Asha Tea House popping up on my friends’ Facebook posts. I couldn’t believe that a popular tea shop had opened – right after I had left, and a two-minute walk away from where I had lived. So when I returned to Berkeley for a school thing last weekend, I stopped by for a quick visit.

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I loved the decor of the place, even though it was really, really hipster. Haha.

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They sold lots of different “teaware” – most of which were quite expensive but very elegant. I always wished that I knew more about tea… I had actually visited a tea shop in Shanghai, where I was educated about different types of tea and their origins and characteristics. Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention. Haha.

Their menu features regular tea and special drinks such as fruit tea and milk tea. I went with Hong Kong milk tea, which has a stronger tea flavor than regular milk tea.

Hong Kong Milk Tea ($3.75)

Hong Kong Milk Tea ($3.75)

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Apr 112012
 

I just realized that I had an entire folder of photos from January 2012 that I had forgotten… which means that I will be playing catch-up again, and a flood of posts will hopefully be coming soon!

I’ll start with the Berkeley places, since I’ve been missing Berkeley a lot these days.  There are also food pics from a somewhat random trip to LA.. but you’ll get to read about that later =P

So the first in this catch-up series is about La Note, one of my favorite restaurants.  I cannot believe that I discovered this place less than 2 months before I had to leave Berkeley… alas, I was only able to squeeze in two visits before I left, but both were wonderful experiences.

My first visit here was for weekend brunch with SK.  We figured that with just the two of us, the wait would not be too long – and I was right; we were seated in about 15 minutes.  The restaurant exterior doesn’t look like much, but the inside is adorable: wooden chairs and tables, items written on a chalkboard, flowers on every table… I loved the charm.

I started off with “Le Pagnol”, orange and cranberry juice with Perrier ($2.95) – I don’t normally order beverages at restaurants, but I gave in to the brunch-y atmosphere.  From the food menu, we ordered a couple of things to share:

Omelette Fromage et Jambon ("Emmenthal cheese and ham omelette, served with homefries and choice of toast"), $12.95

This was so. good.  Possibly the best omelette I’ve ever had.  (Okay, maybe my most recent memory of an omelette is from the dining hall in college, so that’s not even a valid comparison.)  The eggs were incredibly fluffy – perhaps a hint of heavy cream or creme fraiche?  The ham and cheese were also spectacular; the Emmenthal was mild, which was perfect for an omelette since anything heavier would have outdone the eggs.  It also went well with the ham – overall, a pretty perfect dish.  It was served with sourdough toast and seasoned homefries, which were flavorful and had a nice, crispy outside.

Creme fraiche pancake, $4.50/single

This pancake basically reaffirmed my love for creme fraiche.  I am normally not a fan of pancakes (waffles are more of my thing), but add some creme fraiche in the batter/ swirled on top?  I’m a fan.  Creme fraiche will be a permanent item in my fridge from now on…

During my second visit, I tried one of their sandwiches, the Croque Madame (ham, cheese, and sunny-side up egg on pan de mie with bechamel, $11.95) – again, it was awesome.  I simply loved their bechamel sauce.  Sadly, I did not get a photo, but trust me, it was delicious.

Writing about La Note makes me want to fly back to Berkeley just to eat there again!  It is definitely on my list of favorite restaurants in Berkeley.  Please go try it if you haven’t yet – and tell me what you ate!

La Note
2377 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA
(510) 843-1535

Hours:
Breakfast & lunch, Mon-Fri  8am-2:3opm
Brunch, Sat-Sun                      8am-3pm
Dinner, Thu-Sun                     6pm-1opm

Oct 252011
 

A friend initially recommended Fat Apple’s to me as a quick breakfast spot, and I finally had a chance to visit last weekend. It is located in a neighborhood area in North Berkeley, so small that I almost missed it. The atmosphere was strange – sort of like diner food in a fine brunch setting. Or vice versa. The overall feel was just a bit confused.

Waffle Special (Part 1/2): waffle with butter & honey syrup ($8.50)

Waffle was crispy, unlike your typical fluffy waffle. The honey syrup was pretty good – a change from the normal maple syrup, although I do still prefer maple.

Waffle Special (Part 2/2): 1 egg (over & well), chicken sausage link, orange slice

Okay, I have had many-a-breakfast/brunch in my life now, and I must say that this place is pretty overpriced. $8.50 for ONE waffle, ONE sausage link, ONE egg? C’mon.

Apple pancake ($7.50)

The apple pancake is oven-baked with ‘seasonal apples’, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with creme fraiche. S. and I didn’t really the fact that the apples were so tart! There was almost no sweetness in the entire pancake – add to that the lemon juice and creme fraiche, and you are left with quite a tart taste in your mouth.

Fruit bowl ($3)

Not much to say about the fruit bowl.. there was quite an assortment: raspberries, blueberries, canteloupe, honeydew, grapes.

Overall, I felt that I paid quite a high price for just an okay breakfast. They also have an attached bakery next door with pastries and some cakes, but nothing there appealed to me either. I don’t think I will come back, but you should let me know if you have had a better experience here.

Fat Apple’s Bakery & Restaurant
1346 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Berkeley, CA
510-526-2260

Hours:
Mon-Sun 7am-9pm

Oct 072011
 

I used to pass by this restaurant every day when I went home from campus. Ever since I moved to a different part of town, I almost never come to Telegraph Ave. to eat anymore. But I recently bought a Groupon for this place, so my stepdad and I came to check it out.

The restaurant had a decent atmosphere, lively enough so that you feel comfortable, but also peaceful enough to enjoy your meal and conversation. The downstairs dining area isn’t big, but there is also seating upstairs. The service was friendly, but not super attentive – it was a little difficult to get their attention sometimes.

Onto the menu: I noticed immediately that they had a section just for ‘Nepali Specials’, in addition to all the other standard sections you see on an Indian menu (Lamb dishes, Chicken dishes, Tandoori, Vegetarian, etc.). My stepdad loves lamb and goat, so when he saw ‘goat curry’ (khasi ko masu) under the “Nepali Specials” section of the menu, his decision was immediately set. I took a little bit longer to decide, but I eventually went with chicken tikka masala. We also ordered a whole wheat roti and garlic naan.

Khasi Ko Masu: goat meat with homestyle curry, $9.99

Chicken tikka masala ($8.99) and garlic naan ($2.25)

Whole wheat roti, $1.75

Out of the two curry dishes, I preferred the goat curry to the chicken tikka masala. I was pleasantly surprised by how tender the goat meat was cooked, and the curry was super flavorful. The chicken tikka masala paled in comparison – the flavor was just lacking, and the chicken was a bit dry on the inside. I have definitely had better chicken tikka masala at other Indian restaurants in Berkeley.

As for the naan, it was decent but not remarkable. They were full-sized naans, though (unlike Naan ‘N’ Curry…). Overall, I thought that the meal was nice – it still does not compare to Flavors of India, my standing favorite Indian restaurant in Berkeley. But, the goat curry here can definitely make me come back!

Mount Everest Restaurant
2598 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley CA 94704
(510) 843-3951

Hours:
Su-Th  11am-10pm
F-Sa     11am-11pm

Sep 262011
 

I had a crazy dim sum craving a while ago, so my stepdad took me to Hong Kong East Ocean (HKEO) in Emeryville for their ‘seaside dim sum’. The restaurant is located right next to the Bay, which means it is a popular choice among Chinese folks for weddings, banquets, and other parties. Also, be prepared for a pretty long wait on a Saturday morning; it took almost 45 minutes before we were seated. I was starving, but thankfully you don’t have to wait long to get your food with dim sum.

Crispy Pork, 脆皮燒肉, my personal fave

Shrimp Rice Rolls (Cheung Fun), 蝦腸粉

Marinated beef and jellyfish, 鹵牛肉+海蜇皮

Daikon cake, 煎蘿蔔糕, my 2nd fave item of the meal; steamed spare ribs, 豉汁排骨

Pork siu mai, 豬肉燒賣; BBQ pork puff pastry, 叉燒酥, my favorite item of the meal

Egg tarts, 蛋撻, my obligatory dessert

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal here. Not only is the atmosphere and service much nicer than most dim sum places, the food was really good. The place is a bit more expensive compared with some of the dim sum in Oakland, but I would say that the food quality is definitely reflected in the price. I will definitely be back when my next dim sum craving hits!

Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (香港東海海鮮酒家)

3199 Powell St, Emeryville, CA
(510) 655-3388

Dim Sum hours:
M-F: 11am-2:30pm
Sa:     10:30am-2:30pm
Su & holidays: 10am-2:30pm

Sep 222011
 

My quest for a delicious burger in Berkeley has continued, and last month my friends C. and A. took me to Barney’s Gourmet Hamburger – the Shattuck location, which is actually quite close to where I live. Given my slightly disappointing experiences at Oscar’s and BurgerMeister in Berkeley, I was really looking forward to giving Barney’s a try. The Yelp reviews are somewhat mixed, but I have learned not to always trust the reviews (and read food blogs instead, of course).

The concept of Barney’s was pretty clear to me: gourmet hamburgers, sustainable ingredients, etc etc. It was overall just really.. hippie? Berkeleyan? (Are those terms interchangeable?) Anyhow, it was a nice place.

View from our table

Although the name of the place advertises its burgers, the menu also includes hot dogs, chicken and turkey sandwiches, and salads…

Menu (highlight on the hot dogs :P)

I ordered a Louisiana Burger, which is supposed to be Cajun-style with “Louisiana Cajun dust”, choice of cheese, and the standard toppings (lettuce, tomato, onions):

Louisiana Burger, $8.75

I was a bit unhappy about the fact that the toppings were served separately because I would rather have the burger arrive assembled, but I suppose that’s a new trend now that I just have to deal with, haha. Also, do you see that tiny container of chipotle sauce for that entire burger? Definitely skimping. But aside from those minor annoyances, the burger itself was actually really nice. The patty was juicy and cooked to medium, my requested temperature.

My two friends ordered hot dogs, and each came with a side. (I also found this extremely odd: since when did hot dogs come with fries, but not burgers?) They ordered curly fries and sweet potato fries, which seemed to be everyone’s favorites.

Chili hot dog, $7.75

Santa Fe hot dog, $7.50

Sweet potato fries

Curly fries

I didn’t try the hot dogs, but the baguettes looked pretty good. Haha. Also, the fries were very flavorful super crispy! (Sorry to the fans of soggy French fries :P ) In the end, though, I don’t think I would ever pay over $7 for a hot dog and fries, no matter how ‘gourmet’ they may be… especially with Top Dog nearby.

So overall, I really enjoyed the food here, but I think it’s bordering “too gourmet” (read: expensive) for me. So far, though, it has been the best burger I’ve had around here. I’m still open to new suggestions from you guys!

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers (multiple locations in the Bay Area)
1600 Shattuck Ave, #112, Berkeley CA
(510) 849-2827

Summer Hours (May-Sep):
M-Th: 11am-10pm
F-Sa:   11am-10:30pm
Sun:    11am-9:30pm

Winter Hours (Oct-Apr):
M-Th: 11am-9:30pm
F-Sa:   11am-10pm
Sun:    11am-9pm

Aug 312011
 

I love Southern comfort food. Biscuits and gravy, sausage and hash browns, shrimp and grits… ahh just thinking about it makes me nostalgic. As you can probably tell from my recent posts, I really miss Southern food. Well, I have been reading about this place called “Jodie’s Restaurant” on Yelp since forever, but I had not had a chance to go because they are only open until 3pm. But when S. came to visit last time, he arrived around lunch time on Friday, so I took him directly here from the airport.

Jodie’s is located off of Solano Ave, on Masonic Ave. I was really surprised when I first saw the place because, well, it is tiny. I wish I had gotten a picture of the place, but basically there were six stools around a counter. You could see the entire kitchen. There is a single restroom in the back. Now I can imagine why it gets so crowded!

There is a printed menu as well as different combos posted on the walls. Ordering was pretty easy, though – Jodie was behind the counter, asking us what we liked and giving us many suggestions. (By the way, this man is awesome. He kept talking to us, asking us about what we liked, giving us suggestions for what we should order, etc. We found out that he is originally from Arkansas.) When he heard that I liked grits, he gave us some samples (grits only available on Fridays & Saturdays!) and it was awesome. So my combo consisted of his spicy grits, a sausage patty, grilled English muffin, and egg over easy (although I had asked for it over and well). S ordered pretty much the same thing, but with hash browns instead of the grits (no photo). I forgot the exact price of the orders, but they were around $10 – pretty reasonable since I was quite full by the end of the meal (and couldn’t even finish the grits).

Jodie's special spicy grits, sausage, grilled English muffin, egg over easy

Everything was amazing. As S. put it – “It’s like Waffle House, but better!” (Yes, we love Waffle House.) The grits were definitely my favorite – smooth, buttery, creamy, made ‘spicy’ by adding house-made chili on top. S.’s hash browns had the nice and crispy outer layer; sausage patty was really well-seasoned; English muffin and eggs were tasty though not as memorable as the rest of the meal.

I loved this place so much that I wish I had time to come back every week. In fact, their famous fried chicken is only available on Saturdays, and I hear that the line can get over an hour long. (With only six seats, that’s actually quite imaginable…) If I had time one weekend, I’d definitely stand out here for their fried chicken. Everyone who wonders what Southern food is like – pay Jodie’s a visit!

Jodie’s Restaurant
902 Masonic Ave, Albany, CA 94706
(510) 526-1109

Hours:
W-F        8am-3pm
Sa-Sun  8am-4pm

Aug 222011
 

In my post about Looney’s Smokehouse, I mentioned that I had somehow lost my photos of T-Rex BBQ. Well, I guess the electronics fairy somehow restored that folder! Hooray :D

S. and I visited T-Rex BBQ on Memorial Day, so my memory of this place isn’t very fresh. Fortunately, it’s hard for me to forget about food, so I’ll do my best here. Starting with the decor – T-Rex’s storefront and decor are sort of unconventional for a barbecue joint. The interior is very modern and minimalist, with a metal spiral staircase going up to the second floor. The seats were kind of like couches, very cushioned and comfy. It really felt more like an evening lounge rather than a place for smokey, greasy barbecue.

Onto our food…

Half-rack baby back ribs with potato salad and toast, $14

The ribs were a bit disappointing – nothing like the fall-off-the-bones ribs you can find at Phil’s in San Diego. From the sauce, I could not really tell which regional style this was supposed to be… there wasn’t really a distinct flavor of smoke, or sweetness, or vinegar, or tomatoes. Just sort of.. a ‘generic’ barbecue sauce. Kind of disappointing.

And since everyone around us seemed to be ordering the pulled pork, we decided to try it, too:

Pulled pork with potato salad and bread, $12

The pork was actually pretty decent – juicy and tender. Unfortunately, the sauce was once again disappointing. I believe it was supposed to resemble Carolina-style, vinegar-based barbecue sauce, but it really fell short – too much sweet, not enough sour. The potato salad (same on both entrees) was good, but also nothing spectacular.

Overall, I think the atmosphere of T-Rex was really interesting, but the food was a bit lacking. Maybe my barbecue expectations are too high, but this really didn’t do it for me. If you’ve had a different experience here, let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

T-Rex BBQ
1300 10th St
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 527-0099

Hours:
Mon-Thu 11:30 am – 10 pm
Fri 11:30 am – 10:30 pm
Sat 10 am – 10:30 pm
Sun 10 am – 10 pm

Aug 112011
 

 

 

 

My stepfather, who was in the Bay Area for a conference, came to Berkeley to have dinner with me. We were wondering why there were so many people walking towards the CVS Pharmacy (corner of Shattuck & Rose) when we realized that it was the Bay Area food truck gathering, Off the Grid! As we are both food-lovers, we knew that we had to give this a try.

 

There were about 10 trucks or so, and the lines were ridiculously long at most of them. I forgot to take note of all the trucks that were there, but there were a few taco trucks, a sandwich truck or two, a couple of dessert trucks, and some  that I categorize as ‘gourmet food on wheels.’ The lines at most of the trucks were ridiculously long.

 

 

Top: The line for Streatery. Bottom: People sitting in the median/ lawn chairs, enjoying the food.

 

It took us a while to decide what we wanted to try. Finally, we chose Streatery, which served ‘peasant food’, and Liba Fafalel. At Streatery, I was deciding between the pulled pork sandwich or the braised oxtail over grits. My stepdad said, ‘How many times are you going to find a food truck serving oxtail?’ He was right, so oxtail & grits it was. Everyone also seemed to be ordering these root kettle chips, so we also ordered one of those.

Braised oxtail & grits, $9. House-made root kettle chips, $2

The braised oxtail was delicious. As in,  melts-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-tender delicious. Very flavorful without being overwhelming. I also loved the carrots and daikon on the side, cooked just enough to be soft, not mushy. The grits were creamy – a bit too creamy for my liking, actually. All the sauce from the oxtail, combined with the cream and butter made the grits too heavy. I liked the crunchy, thinly cut kettle chips a lot, although to be honest, they weren’t all that special. Perhaps because they didn’t go to well with the oxtail dish?

Moving on to the falafel truck. My stepdad already loves falafel, but his eyes really lit up when we saw the self-serve toppings bar. Roasted eggplant, red cabbage, cucumber salad, pickled onions, feta cheese, tomato ginger chutney, hummus, yogurt raita, rosemary peanuts (a MUST-try).. all house-made, all delicious.

 Regular falafel (in pita bread), $8

Falafels + toppings

We may have overdone it slightly with the toppings. Nonetheless, it was an awesome falafel sandwich. I would line up for this again any day.

Finally, I stopped by Cupkates to get my dessert fix. Unfortunately for you, my dear readers, I gobbled down my delicious S’mores cupcake before I remembered to take a photo :P

Anyway, Off the Grid was a lot of fun. I am really glad that I came across it, and I am even happier to discover that they will be at Berkeley every Wednesday evening! The big food truck gathering (probably three times the size of this) is in Fort Mason on Friday nights – I’d really love to go sometime. (Let me know if you are interested!)

Streatery
Website
Twitter

Liba
Website
Twitter

Cupkates
Website
Twitter