Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Slanted Door, San Francisco

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building No. 3
San Francisco, CA 94111

Twenty years ago, The Slanted Door opened its doors in the Mission to rave reviews. Ever since, it’s been consistently listed as one of the top restaurants in San Francisco. It’s acclaim is so good that when it moved to its massive current space a decade ago, people had to reserve weeks in advance for a seat. While it doesn’t take weeks in advance to reserve a seat now, reservations for an optimal time can still be difficult. A couple weeks before my party planned to eat their, the reservation time choices were less than optimal with either a 5:30PM or 9:30PM seating option (we opted for the 9:30PM).

Despite the sub-optimal reservation time, we were all very excited to eat at the Slanted Door. After all, the Slanted Door has a reputation of serving impeccably cooked Vietnamese food while consistently innovating (it’s current menu is a bit different than its original menu). So after ordering a few cocktails, we dove right in into ordering and eating the following dishes:

Daikon Rice Cakes at the Slanted Door

Daikon Rice Cakes at the Slanted Door

  • Daikon Rice Cakes – These daikon cakes were basically a Vietnamese version of 蘿蔔糕 (fried daikon cakes) served atop a thin layer of soy-based sauce. These were pretty good overall, with a nice crispy exterior and soft, steamed daikon interior.
  • Organic Chicken Claypot – While the chicken was pretty tender and juicy, the dish was one of least successful dishes on the table. The caramel, thai chili, and ginger sauce was a bit watery and a little bland.
Wood Oven Roasted Branzino at the Slanted Door

Wood Oven Roasted Branzino at the Slanted Door

  • Wood Over Roasted Branzino – In contrast to the claypot, this dish was divine. I absolutely loved the tender flakiness of the fish and the crispiness of the skin. The chili sauce on the side was a nice, light way of flavoring the fish.
  • Hodo Soy Beanery Organic Tofu – The chili sauce, mushrooms, and fried pressed tofu matched each other very well in this pretty simple stir fry.
Hodo Soy Beanery Yuba Noodles at the Slanted Door

Hodo Soy Beanery Yuba Noodles at the Slanted Door

  • Hodo Soy Beanery Yuba Noodles – This was a table favorite. For me, I loved how the slight spiciness of the sauce flavored the noodles. It reminded me of my mom’s version of 螞蟻上樹 (sans meat). Albeit, I would say the dish was a little more oily than my usual liking.
  • All Star Farm Rainbow Chard – This was another crowd pleaser. I loved the flavor of the rice wine, shallot, and garlic sauce which the rainbow chard soaked up perfectly.
  • Earnie’s Pride Brussel Sprouts – The brussel sprouts were cooked a little more than my liking. The dish’s flavors were okay and I enjoyed it, but not sure if I’d order it again.
  • Earl Gray Tea Pot De Crème – I’m no expert in European desserts, but this was excellent and I’m not sure if there was even one lick left when we finally departed.
  • Coconut Mousse – I thought this was pretty good, but it unfortunately didn’t compare to the amazing chocolate mousse that the group had a few days earlier in a cooking class.

One thing I would like to add is that their drinks were pretty good too. I’m not normally a cocktail drinker, but the sips I took from my friend’s cocktails were pretty great. Additionally, they also offer Hong Kong Milk Tea. While I was initially skeptical, as most non-Cantonese places in San Francisco seem not to use strong, black tea, the version they had was pretty good. In fact, one of my friends kept draining my cup.

All in all, the food was fantastic and I can see why it still keeps its highly regarded reputation to this day. That said, it’s also a bit pricey. I thought it was worth it overall and I’d definitely go again.

Tasty Noodle House, Irvine

Tasty Noodle House
15333 Culver Dr. Ste 320
Irvine, CA 92604

As I mentioned in a couple of previous posts, Irvine is a bastion of Taiwanese cuisine. Much of this is due to the waves of Taiwanese immigration in the 1980s and 1990s, when a number of families chose to move to the affluent suburb of Irvine as opposed to Monterey Park or Alhambra, bringing on a substantial demand for Taiwanese food.

The plethora of Taiwanese food options was one of my favorite things about attending the UC Irvine. Within a 10 minute drive I could be dining at more than half a dozen restaurants serving delicious bowls of beef noodle soup and scallion pancakes. These cheap, delicious, and filling meals fueled many nights of studying and essay writing.

So when I was back in Irvine again during the holiday break my first instinct was to go straight to a Taiwanese restaurant for lunch. This time, however, I wanted to try Tasty Noodle House because it was one of the few newer Taiwanese/Shanghainese restaurants that had opened after I graduated from college.

My sister and I were immediately seated and we got to ordering from their wide selection. We ordered:

Beef Noodle Soup and Scallion Pancakes at Tasty Noodle House

Beef Noodle Soup and Scallion Pancakes at Tasty Noodle House

  • Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉湯麵) – Their beef noodle soup is pretty good with tender beef brisket, thin wheat noodles that are chewy, and a coup that is spiced with just the right amount. Like most places I wish there was more beef, but that is a tiny quibble.
  • Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅) – I loved these scallion pancakes. They were perfectly pan fried with a few flaky dough layers and just enough scallions. They also weren’t too oily, which was a definite bonus. If I wasn’t full I would have ordered a second round.
  • Shanghai Xiao Long Bao (上海小籠包) – While the skins of these were thin and held their own, unfortunately the buns had very little soup in them. While the flavors overall were alright, the dry filling was very disappointing given the many other places in the area that make better xiao long bao.

All in all, I would definitely return to Tasty Noodle House, even if I wouldn’t order the xiao long bao. The beauty is that with the trend of LA and Orange County chains finally opening locations in San Diego, I can now taste this deliciousness at Tasty Noodle House’s new store in Kearny Mesa. I can’t wait for another taste of good Taiwanese food on my next trip back to SoCal.

Looking Back to 2015, Looking Forward to 2016

A little over a year and a half ago I wrote a post reflecting on my first year of serious blogging and places I looked forward to dining in during the coming year. I didn’t do a similar post earlier this year, but I figured today was the perfect time to do it since a calendar year ended a few days ago.

Upon reflection, 2015 has been a year of “firsts” for me. It was my first time eating Dongbei cuisine from Northeastern China (what some of you may have learned in textbooks as Manchuria). It was my first time blogging about Thai food. Most importantly for me, however, it was my first time traveling to Hong Kong.

It’s undeniable that my trip to Hong Kong left a lasting impression on me; so much so that Hong Kong eateries make up a majority of my 2015 list of most delicious eats. It makes sense given that, in a way, it was my journey home, home to where my parents were born and home to the culture they raised me in. That’s not to diminish the other wonderful non-Hong Kong places I ate at throughout the year. It’s just to remark about on my year-ending list full of “firsts” that my first trip to Hong Kong makes the biggest impression.

So without further ado, here are the most delicious places I ate (and reviewed) for my blog in 2015:

Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

  • Fu Run (Flushing, Queens, NY) – My first foray into Dongbei cuisine was magnificent! My cousins and I loved the grass jelly noodles as well as the amazing and succulent cumin lamb.
  • LKK (North Point, Hong Kong Island, HK) – Technically not a restaurant, but a street stall that sells arguably the best egg waffles (雞蛋仔) in Hong Kong.
Afternoon Tea - a favorite on my mom's side

Afternoon Tea – a favorite on my mom’s side

Dim Sum at Ming Court

Dim Sum at Ming Court

  • Ming Court (Mong Kok, Kowloon, HK) – I’ve eaten at a number of Dim Sum restaurants this year (see Elite, King Hua, Sun Hing, and Dragon Beaux), but this 2 Michelin star restaurant at the Langham Place hotel was the best dim sum I had, hands down. Yes, even better (though certainly not cheaper) than Tim Ho Wan.
  • Pho Ngoon (San Gabriel, CA) – I also had my first taste of northern Vietnamese food in 2015. Let me say that I love northern Vietnamese just as much as southern Vietnamese, especially the Pho Cuon.
  • Yat Lok (Central, Hong Kong Island, HK) – You think roast duck from a Chinese BBQ joint in the US is good? You haven’t had roast goose from Yat Lok that perfectly balances crispy skin with juicy meat.

As you can see, it’s been a fantastic year of food adventures!

2016

This year, I want to continue my pattern of breaking new personal boundaries when it comes to experiencing various Asian cuisines and dishes. Fortunately for me, one of my first trips will be to Macau where I will get the pleasure of tasting Macanese food, which borrows from the cuisines of Guangdong and Portugal.

However, there’s a ton of restaurants I do want to try and blog about in the coming year that include cuisines I’m already familiar with. Given my desire to explore new foods but also refine my palate in cuisines familiar to me, here are 5 restaurants on my list for 2016:

  • Chengdu Taste – Sichuan cuisine is enjoying a renaissance in the US thanks to the large number of Sichuanese people moving to the States. Chengdu Taste is among the very best of these newer Sichuan restaurants and I’m eager to finally have a taste (especially with the convenience of 4 locations now with its rapid expansion).
  • Lung King Heen (龍景軒) – The first Chinese restaurant to receive the highly prized 3 Michelin stars. While it’s definitely pricey, with 2 trips to Hong Kong this coming year I’m sure I’ll be able to save some money to eat here this year.
  • Private Party – The kitschy and potentially problematic Communist theme aside, I’ve never had Beijing style hot pot so it’s definitely high up on my to-try list. It’s especially interesting given that you can grill skewers in the center of your hot pot contraption as well!
  • Thip Khao – Keeping with the theme of “firsts”, the first time I had Lao food was a few weeks ago. During my trip(s) to DC this year I hope to taste more delicious Lao dishes
  • Tita’s Kitchenette – While I have grown up in San Diego and gobbled many plates of Filipino food, astonishingly enough I have never eaten in National City before, one of the centers of Filipino cuisine and shopping in the US. This year I hope to take a bite at one Filipino place my brother and sister in law highly recommend.

Hopefully I’ll be more successful than May 2014-May 2015, where I only ate and blogged about 1 of my wish list restaurants. Only time will tell if I’ll keep this New Year’s Resolution.