Monthly Archives: March 2014

Gum Kuo, Oakland

Gum Kuo
388 9th St Ste 182
Oakland, CA 94607

During a recent business trip to Oakland I was in need for a really quick lunch, but also desired a place that serves casual, Cantonese style comfort food. I was guided toward Gum Kuo, a tiny restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown that serves authentic Cantonese style barbeque. It was exactly what I was looking for, given that Cantonese barbeque rice plates are quick to make (as the roasted meats are already prepared) and quick to eat as well.

I rushed to the restaurant and was seated after about a 5 minute wait. The wait was short given that I told the server in Cantonese that I was totally find sharing a table. Sharing a large table where small parties (typically parties no larger than 3 people) eat during really busy times is fairly common practice. While normally I like my own table, I was in a rush and it’s totally harmless to me sitting next to people I don’t know who are also just eating.

Gum Kuo

I sat down and immediately order my rice plate, which consisted of roast pork and roast duck. After a few minutes, my teapot came out as well as my food. Normally it would come in a plate, but this time it came in a bowl with some lightly cooked romaine lettuce added as well. The roast pork was absolutely delicious. Unlike other places which gives out short, stubby pieces that have a lot of fat and crispy skin, Gum Kuo sliced theirs long and narrow, giving me a lot of pork, fat, ans skin which was delicious. The roast duck was really fatty, which I normally like, but also made it hard to chew and tear off the bone. The sauce was a good accompaniment rich in animal fat. The romaine lettuce, like all vegetables that line similar plates of meat and rice, were more filler and were cooked very bland.

I can’t really say much for service, given that I was quite in a rush. However, they did respond very quickly with my requests for a tea refill and my check, so that was a plus.

Regardless, I left Gum Kuo very satisfied. Next time, however, I’ll get soy sauce chicken and roast pork and see how it compares. I’ll also get some congee and fried crullers as well, as those generally indicate the excellence of the kitchen in my opinion. If this meal was any indication, I’ll likely not be disappointed.

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2000 Vietnam, Albuquerque

2000 Vietnam
601 San Mateo Blvd SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108

As I have mentioned before, Albuquerque is blessed with a vibrant Vietnamese community with fairly great restaurants. Luckily for me, one of these restaurants is about a 1/2 mile away. The restaurant also has the TV turned on to the local NBC affiliate, which means that on my typical lunch hour I can watch Days of Our Lives while eating lunch. It’s a wonderful, symbiotic combination.

2000 Vietnam 1

Last week I had a craving for Com Tam, which is Vietnamese for broken rice (if I am translating the menu correctly). Broken rice are grains of rice broken during the milling process which are either discarded or traditionally used for food of low-income populations in Vietnam. Regardless of its status as an “inferior” rice product, the broken rice is typically cooked deliciously and served with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, and/or a pork meatloaf along side pickled vegetables. It provides a delicious and hearty meal and perfect for lunch when you’ve had little for breakfast.

I went to 2000 Vietnam and immediately ordered their combination Com Tam plate when I sat down. According to the menu, it has shredded pork, pork chop, a meat egg pie, half done egg, and fried tofu. After roughly 10-15 minutes waiting for my dish to cook and watching my soap opera, the dish arrived beautifully as promised. I poured the fish sauce over the dish first (something I learned on a visit to Asian Grill, which I will blog about in the feature) and began to dig in. The pork chop was wonderfully cooked with great slightly peppery seasoning. The shredded pork and pork skins were also good, with the saltiness of the shredded pork skin matching very well with the subtle sweetness of the fish sauce. The fried tofu was done well and had a good crispy texture to balance the rice. The egg was cooked over medium, allowing some of the yolk to ooze out and flavor the rice. There was a bit more rice than I expected, but my appetite meant that I was still able to eat it all. This was probably the best Com Tam dish I have eaten in Albuquerque.

2000 Vietnam 2

While I did not order anything else that day, I should mention a visit to the restaurant a little earlier in the week where I ordered some egg rolls. Those egg rolls came out with one leaf of lettuce and fish sauce for dipping. The egg rolls were fried well done, without being too crispy, and had a great filling of ground pork and carrots. However, as usual I was disappointed in the lack of more lettuce and vegetables to accompany my egg rolls, as I would have in Orange County, Houston, or even Denver.

As for service, it was efficient and polite. While I don’t remember anyone asking me how the food was, the water refills were constant and servers were polite. All in all the food was delicious. While I can’t quite call this the best Vietnamese restaurant in Albuquerque just yet, it is a fierce and consistent competitor.

Sushi King, Albuquerque

Sushi King
118 Central Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

I have driven by Sushi King many, many times on the way to work and back but I never had the chance to go inside. I decided to take the opportunity at lunch today given that I had no food in my fridge. At about 1:30, after having slept in past daylight savings time from an exhaustive, but fun, trip to the Democratic pre-primary convention yesterday, I drove down Central to satisfy my curiosity.

It was surprisingly busy, given the time of day on a Sunday, but there were enough tables empty that my server told me to sit wherever I liked. I sat down and took a look at the sushi menu as well as their regular menu, which were both surprisingly short compared to Asian restaurants in the area who love to inundate you with options. The menu was quite simple and limited to only sushi, noodles, and Japanese curry. Seeing that the type of Japanese noodles I really wanted to taste was not on the menu (ramen), I decided to forsake both the sushi and noodles by ordering Japanese curry with chicken.

Sushi King 1

Now, Chinese and Japanese curry are a little bit different than the curries you would find at an Indian or Thai restaurant. One, Chinese and Japanese curry are less spicy to the point of being what most of us would call mild. Two, Chinese and Japanese curry is fairly simple in that it consistently has three main ingredients aside from the curry: a choice of meat, potato chunks, and cooked medium slices of carrots. Occasionally some places and homes will add onions.

The curry came out in a medium sized bowl with curry that was more like a soup than a thick gravy/paste that I have seen at other Japanese place. Upon tasting the curry, I realized that the problem was the overuse of water, which basically made the dish bland. The chicken, potatoes, and carrots were definitely cooked well, but the curry flavor was not as rich as I was used to. The rice, however, was well cooked and had a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, which I liked.

Sushi King 2

I should mention that I also ordered 2 pieces of inari (the bean curd skin roll), which they did pretty well. It was tightly wrapped with a very good chunk of well packed sushi rice and a piece of dried seaweed rolled around it in the middle. It’s probably the best inari I have had in years, much better than the laziness of some restaurants which just dollop rice in the fold of the bean curd skin, plop it down on a plate, and call it a day.

In terms of service, the server could have done better. The server was very pleasant and efficient, but not as aware and understanding as I would have hoped. While I was waiting for food, I was asked to move to a smaller table because they were notified that a table of 5 was coming in. This is despite the fact that the restaurant wasn’t very full and I was asked to sit wherever I liked in the beginning. Albeit, this incident could be more about recognizing and checking my privilege given that this isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The server could have refilled waters though. I did notice the water glasses of other tables equally parched, yet lacking attention.

All in all, my experience was mediocre, but it seems like I should have headed the restaurant’s advice when the sign explicitly says “sushi and noodles”. Perhaps next time I will have a better experience when I order some nigiri along with a plate of yakisoba or bowl of udon.

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