Saturday, July 31, 2010

Belly Good

Arya Global Cuisine
19930 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95015
(408) 996-9606

Reviewed Friday, July 30, 2010

Some people avoid places like Arya, which serve up two distinct cuisines--in this case, Persian and Italian. It would seem that, if a place had good food, it would not have to have an expansive menu that covers two continents.

Belly Dancer and the hummus match.

Yes, you can get koobideh or farfalle here; and crème brûlée or faluda (mmmmmmm) --or all, which we did. Here in the Bay Area, ethnic mixes like this do not seem that strange.

A salad of mint, basil, watercress, tarragon, radishes with feta and walnuts.

Well, the food at Arya is decent, but nothing to write home about.

But it's the atmosphere that pleased the group last night. Ravenna, S-Rock, Soon-to-be Mr. S-Rock, and the Nomadic Post-Doc (NPD, for future reference) were present. A jazz trio, featuring a lovely female vocalist serenaded us with standards ("The Way You Look Tonight," "The Summerwind," "How High the Moon,"). And then at 9PM, the belly dancer emerged shaking her booty 'round the dining room.

Borani Badeamjoon (eggplant) far better looking in person than in this photo.

The restaurant is not opulent or preening with charm; and the service was just okay, but the staff, singer and dancer were friendly and approachable, and trying to please. They did not act like they would rather be working in the city at a posher venue, even though I am sure that any of them would. Instead, they are in Cupertino. As were we.

Arya is not a small restaurant, but the layout is such that I felt like I could see all the tables from where I was sitting. There was at least one family there, whose little girl in a ruffled dress, about five years old, twirled around on the dance floor for a good five minutes, lost in the music.

Crème brûlée

Ravenna, wine-nerd snob connoisseur that she is, graced the table with two wines to represent the geographic themes of the restaurant: Shiraz, and some violet colored Italian wine that is a mix of three grape varieties. I can't recall the name but the bottle itself weighed about five pounds.


Ratings (Scale: A-F)
Food: B
Service: B

Atmosphere: B

Bathrooms: C (not dirty, but untidy, needs work)
Parking: A

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Location: Giants' Stadium, San Francisco
Weather: Clear blue skies, low 60s, slightly breezy
Vibe: Mellow, friendly, multi-ethnic. Jeans. Jackets, hats. Smiles.

Hot chocolate costs $5.50 and the beer (says Ravenna) is watered down. But the people are black, brown, yellow, white and red, including the dudes selling churros and cotton candy, and the vibe is inclusive. As cozy as you can get with strangers who are sober.

Women are not trying to out-fashion each other here and men aren't acting like they're competing for Testosterone King.

We grumbled a bit of the snail's pace of baseball compared to soccer. Also, the players hardly seemed to move at all except to amble on and off the field between innings. And there were too many f---ing advertisements that one is subject to, even when watching the game at the ball park!

But in fact, I sat there with a grin on my face most of the evening, and got up on my feet and cheered like an arden Giants fan. Five runs had scored before the end of the fifth. Not bad. The Giants were leading 3-2 when we left.

Driving home there was a beautiful amber moon as round as a dinner plate sitting on the horizon. The sky was all Giants colors: orangey moon, black sky.

There you have it: a summer night at the ballpark in San Francisco. I have to do this, once every few years, at least.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New York Dreaming

Stone Park Cafe

Okay, so here it is: bicoastal episode in all its glory.

Just yesterday I was feeling giddy about living in California (7/25 post), and today I am wishing I lived 5,000 miles away, in the Meatpacking District...or Park Slope.

I am going to NYC in a couple weeks to get my fix.

V, a girlfriend from high school and culinary-school trained foodie, is arranging a little dinner reunion for my visit. She has emailed me the names of four restaurants in Brooklyn that she recommends.

Charno4 - her favorite; "super, super yummy with GREAT cocktails"
Stone Park Cafe - her favorite in Park Slope
Moim - a Korean restaurant where "you don't smell like food" upon leaving
Toby's - "great pizza and great atmosphere"

In checking out the first two, depression sank in. I was already feeling homesick (for New York, that is) just thinking about the post-travel gloom which will start to settle in on my last day in the city...or sooner...

That's right. The trip hasn't even happened yet.

The photos for Char No.4 show a gorgeous wood-paneled restaurant bathing in warm lighting the color of Johnny Walker Red. Pics of Stone Park Cafe' reveal a cozy brick interior with hardwood floors... I could smell the hot cider and cinnamon from the computer screen. No fair no fair no fair.

I couldn't take it anymore.

Ok. Let me rant some more:

California doesn't have cute little restaurants like Stone Park Cafe with real brick interiors and hardwood floors. Plain and simple. California architecture is plain UGLY and charmless compared to the average building on the Northeast. You have to be a fricking muti-millionaire to have a pad with creaky flooring and nooks and crannies etched in the wall. Usually, if you find a place like that, it is so dilapidated that you have to throw in a few hundred-thousand dollars more to get it to livable condition.

In Manhattan or other parts of the city, I could have a place with hardwood floors that has wedding cake detailing around the thresholds for the same money that would get me a modern (read: charmless) looking apartment here.

I am not being fair. I haven't looked. I know that San Francisco and even Palo Alto have gorgeous places...but well, I am biased, okay?


I had a similar nagging ache two years ago after visiting NYC; I experience it every blue moon. My condition gets worse during Thanksgiving, Christmas, the beginning of baseball season (I used to be a huge Yankees' fan), and Fashion Week.

My favorite places in the world are too far apart from each other. Booooo. Hisssss.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Looking for an Ostrich Egg?

Here, have a protein pill....the size of a coconut.

Perhaps you are preparing egg drop soup today? Or perhaps flan, which would require eight large eggs or just one ostrich egg?

They can be found lurking ominously behind the watermelons in aisle one! And look, Mom--they're local!

Mix and match, buy as few or as many as you need!

The posse was hanging out in Whole Foods, Cupertino. It is the kind of thing nerdy, single female hoodlums do in Silicon Valley, at least on this Monday evening. We had just been to a class called "Eating without Cooking," which for me was too complicated since I don't like chopping or rinsing either.

Prior to that, we chowed at Café Gratitude, home of pie slices at $8 a slice.

Salad that accompanies the "I am Cheerful" veggie burger, ordered jeeringly (cum private wink to the girl ganstas) by R-Dawg.

"I am Whole" bowl. Only S-Rock can order a menu item like "I am Thriving," with a genuine smile. No, that is not snake skin but sea kelp.

Eggs and more eggs. Three single women, on the prowl...coincidence?

Afterwards, S-Rock strutted over to the produce section in search of bok-choy when she spotted loose eggs in the corner of the produce section. I happened to be snooping for bargain blueberries close by.

"Eggs?" I exclaimed. What were eggs doing over there? I wondered. Nah, those are onions and bulbs of garlic, S-Rock, honey.

We got closer.

Yes, they are eggs. Woah!! That thing is huge!

That thing is moving!

Okay, well not quite, but it looked like a webbed foot was going to explode through the shell at any moment. Suddenly we were in an X-Files episode, set in a quiet, upper-middle class Silicon Valley suburb.

Good thing Ravenna was off in hinterland, in the company of corn chips and pretzels. That chick would have Passed. Out.

Mo' Mocha

The Egoless Boss took me to Coupa for breakfast and we both ordered the Spicy Maya Mocha. She ordinarily reserves her enthusiasm for things she is certain about (eg hard, quantitative data and chocolate truffles), but raves about this drink. Had to try it.

Well, the mocha was surreal. I think it even trumps Spicy Maya hot chocolate, an idea that would have seemed inconceivable just two days ago when I bolted out the door to get my can of $18.50 Spicy Maya chocolate mix.

The mocha gives your throat a hit of tingle at the end, just like the hot chocolate does, but it has added complexity to it, which I would call caramel. WOAH.

Oh man...

To be enjoyed alternately sipping and sighing, with a serene smile on your lips.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fruit Explosion

I love this time of year because of the weather and the fruit, for which California is a well-known mecca.

Blueberries are still in season, but ending soon. They are losing flavor (tasting watery) but inexpensive right now.

My favorite variety of plums, Burgundy. Hopefully a bit sweeter this week. I covered them last week too; they were a bit tart.

Cherry tomatoes that look like jewels.

Cherry tomatoes from the landlord's garden. I just love taking pictures of cherry tomatoes.

Also from the landlord's garden. In New Jersey, where I grew up, the strawberry season was a mere three weeks or so. But strawberries in California are in season through the summer. :D I need to remind myself of this wonderful thing when I wish I still lived back on the East Coast (*shout out to Manhattan*), which happens often enough to constitute chronic bicoastal disorder.


1140 Main St
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-5656

Reviewed 2/22/2010

A Frank Bruni fan, I was excited to try this restaurant, which is on his short list. This is gourmet vegetarian like I've never experienced...and it makes Californian cuisine look vogue, and me feel smug for living here. It's ultra haute cuisine.

We had...

  • A marinated beet salad:

  • A curry soup, which was the most beautiful soup I have ever seen. It was poured in front of us in all of its multi-hued green glory. Gorgeous...and tasty!
And the rest I lifted from their website, which is not updated as of this writing:

david little's 'corolla' potatoes roasted in HAY and wild SAGE *
'lady' APPLE, sauerkraut, wild CRESS, horseradish fondue

miso "bagna cauda", meyer LEMON, pine nut, vella jack

corn grits

chickpea clusters in napa smith ale batter (v) winter HERBS and romesco

marcona almonds (v) LAVENDER sugar, sea salt


They were all excellent and distinct from each other.

Something was a bit off about our main server, otherwise I'd give Ubuntu five stars. When I inquired about the cauliflower clay pot dish, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry it's not on the menu any more!" and then bolted. She was otherwise good and efficient, however, and was one of a well-coordinated team that served us.

Beware: the portions are tiny. It reminded me of how ginormous servings are in the Japan, Ubuntu's portions would seem normal. I feel like the four of us moderately big eaters would have had to order everything on the lunch menu (not counting desserts) to feel the way we usually do after going to a restaurant, which is bloated and Blimpie-like.

But a) that's not healthy, and b) what you're paying for at Ubuntu--like at a high end Japanese place--is presentation, artistry and delectable, nuanced flavor. The kind that makes your mouth exclaim: wow! who's the genius behind this? what's that flavor? what's that spice?

The interior is simple, clean and classy with high ceilings.

Ahhh. Oooooooooohhhhhmmmmm.

My Office Drugs

This is the best hot chocolate mix I have ever had.

Unfortnately, it does not taste nearly as good when I use it to prepare it as does Coupa Café...I suppose it would help if I had a steamer.

Nonetheless, I'd be damned if there was anything better than Spicy Maya. I refer to it as my work drugs (not because I snort the contents), but because I bolt out of my office to get a steamed cup of this concoction at least three times a week from Coupa . After many months of this addiction, I have succumbed to getting myself a supply of the powder so I can get my fix on the weekends.

If anyone has a better tasting product for hot chocolate, that person shall be rewarded. I used to swear by Dagoba Authentic, but now I can't go back!

I discovered this blissful potion after my dear colleague and friend Danica, also a chocoholic, ordered the less spicy version, Abuela. I tried it, loved it, and eventually tried Spicy Maya, which I have been addicted to ever since. One sip and it's like the Calgon commercial. All cares melt away.

Hunks of chocolate amidst the fine powder!

Spicy Maya hot choc is semi-sweet, with a light spicy kick at the end that makes the back of your throat tingle. I used to think hot chocolate flavored with cayenne and chili spice was plain weird (ditto for bacon flavored chocolate), but given my penchant for anything chocolate, I had to try it. So I tried to make it on several occasions at home. But the stuff was too strong, and it tasted like pennies. But Chuoa is NOT like that! It is complex and layered without any metallic aftertaste.

The product is from Chuao Chocolatier, and is Venezuelan by way of Southern California.

The cocoa powder is avail online at $15 for a 12-ounce container. Also on sale at Coupa, where I got it for $18.50. It is not inexpensive. But think: You get what you pay for.


Sardine Salad Niçoise

1638 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Neighborhood: Japantown
(415) 440-4959

Reviewed 11/18/2010

Winner: Most Intelligent Bathroom in San Francisco

Since I tend to eat at holes-in-the-wall, I don't know what the WCs at most higher-end places are like. But Bushi-Tei's WC has both brains and beauty, and wins in my book in SF. Some people may be freaked out, however, by the Japanese technology. (No, I did not opt for the butt-wash.)

But you're not reading this to use the bathroom there...onto the other stuff. This is a LUNCH review. (Eew! Food and bathroom in the same breath!)


Potato & leek soup - creamy, subtle and smooth: B

Potato Leek Soup

Sardine Niçoise salad - OMG FRESH sardines. Delicious. What would make it even better: touch less salt, and more interesting bread. B+

ABC sandwich: my darling, fussy companion--my mother--gave it a B+.

Service: Charming, attentive and efficient. Tall Euro dude who looks like he's from a 60s-band is mellow and sweet. He and the Japanese dude--the owner/manager?--made a great pair. The latter explained all the plates knowledgeably and with care.

We didn't have wine, but I would expect we could have gotten some good stuff there. One of the parties there had an assortment of bottles on the table along with a dump bucket.

Ambiance: Small, intimate, understated but swanky. Not too many parties there at around 1pm on a weekday, which was wonderful for us because it was quiet and we didn't have to fight for attention from the servers.

Relaxing piano jazz sounded like it could be playing live downstairs.

There was a small off-putting stain on the otherwise pristine table cloth. It was only dime-sized and looked like soy sauce or coffee that didn't wash out...but I noticed as soon as we sat down.

I could imagine the balcony being a cozy/hip place to share dinner with a date.

Date or no date, I look forward to coming back and trying fusion.


150 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 329-9644

Updated Review 1/30/2010
First review, on 7/29/2009, follows.

Wow. What a difference service (or in this, case lack of service) makes.

Tonight I had the same dish as last, but our server was different, and acted a bit like she was too good for us.

The rice I ordered didn't come so I flagged her to tell her.

Moments later, I am still nibbling on my food dying for some rice. Everyone else has started eating and I am trying to look like I am eating so they don't feel uncomfortable.

Unbeknownst to me, the rice has arrived, but went to the wrong person, who has started working on it, thinking it was his.

(Since I had just met this person, it was awkward to ask: "Hey, is that mine by chance?" especially since he was farthest away from me.)

I flag the server again. She says the rice came, but was brought to the aformentioned party. She offers no apologies. Also doesn't acknowledge that 1/4 of it has been consumed.

Good service would have taken notice, replaced it right away, and apologized.

Having had a big, late lunch, I only ate about 1/4 of my meal AT MOST. It was good but I just wasn't hungry. So I had just a bite of my paneer cake and a few spoonfuls of my lentils and roasted eggplant. I only had a taste of my raita.

And yet, when I came home I discovered that most of my food hadn't been transferred to my to-go containers. ╩I had a lot more left over than what was in those boxes! I was counting on a whole other meal with my leftovers, especially having spent $30.

Too bad. My first visit here was very good, but this past visit leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

First Review - 7/27/2009

Non-Indian Indian food fanatic here!

Don't go if you want traditional Indian eats or atmosphere. As the restaurant proclaims, it's "modern." "Bold." It is not in the same sub-genre as Amber or Hyderabad, or Darbar.

Case in point: there is steak and pork on the menu....dishes flavored with cream cheese...rosemary naan! (Chuckle)

But if you're in the mood for chic and experimental with Indian/Pakistani flair, then this is a fun place to check out.

Saag- silky smooth and light

Raita - same. It almost had a chiffon like quality to it. And it was delightfully mild, but effective in clearing out spicy flavors between dishes.

Eggplant crush (love the name)- Oooh, yum. This savory treat was ever so slightly sweet. Delicious with naan. Possibly my favorite, but hard to say since the competition was tough.

Black beans - Also delicious with naan or rice!! Mild-flavored.

Dumplings - I think they were good. Ordered by my discriminating dinner companion who knows I don't eat pork. But they were nice looking dumplings. And they vanished quite quickly.

The vegetarian plate, which I got, was generous for one person. I think that even if I were quite hungry, I would have had difficulty finishing that. I am a smallish woman, but still. I can put it down.

The paneer cake was the centerpiece of the dish but was just A-OK. I was less crazy about the tomato-onion sauce it was served with. But I have enough leftover to have another Junnoon appetizer tomorrow!

Next time I would like to try the Delhi chicken. (Slobber, slobber, slobber just thinking about it. It was a real toss-up for me: veggie plate or the chicken.)

We went at around 8PM on a Monday. There were Indian people there (good sign) and others too. We were seated at a table that seemed comically long at first. It reminded us of a medieval table and we thought we'd need loudspeakers to hear each other. But it was quiet enough, and private enough that it wasn't necessary. In the end, we realized it was necessary to have a long enough table for all our plates!

Another perk about Junnoon: our waiter was a doll. I didn't get his name, but he was blond (hey this is a fusion kind of place!) and self-effacing and sweet. In addition to the eggplant, black beans, raita, and saag I plan to order next time, I hope we can get him again too.


600 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600

Reviewed 8/30/09

I feel a little silly getting all giddy about Tartine after one croissant.


- I did want to write about the experience of coming to this famed bakery and offer some pointers for newbies.

- My pain au chocolat (croissant) was out of this world. (More on that later).

- NYT's Mark Bittman calls Tartine his favorite SF bakery. As if I needed to say more.

Next time I will:

- Come equipped with one friend but not more than that. (The place is tiny.) He/she ought to be dispatched to flag down a table as soon as one becomes available (or order for me while I do it). A two-person table became available just as I was leaving today, but I did not want to sit there since I was alone and it would have made me feel as though I was hogging two seats.

- Try the hot chocolate. I wanted to do that today--I had come expressly to try a pastry and enjoy a big bowl of hot chocolate but where the hell was I going to do that? There was simply no room. And I wasn't going to stand on the street corner and do it though that was certainly an option as are many things in my beloved San Francisco.

- Try the muesli. A dairy-queen's dream! Imagine muesli and toasted nuts and dried fruit in a soup of whole milk Strauss yogurt. HEAVEN. Not so good for the arteries but to enjoy Tartine requires you to abandon that mindset!

If I didn't care if my running suffered I would try the pancake-sized chocolate chip cookie, the lemon meringue cake (the delightful tufts of meringue on that cake remind me of a man's haircut) and bread pudding. OMG. These are just a fraction of the beautiful pieces of edible art on display as you wait in line. I don't know if it would be possible to stop at one bite of those things. Oh, and I would have a sandwich too.

I asked the guy who rang me up when Tartine is less mobbed. "It's always mobbed," he said.

Well, at least I'm coming equipped with more knowledge and a friend next time.

About my pain au chocolat--the best I've ever had. Crusty on the outside, silky soft and micro-layered on the inside, it's filled with bits of luxuriously smooth DARK chocolate. It's Valrhona, I think. The stuff is bittersweet as is meant to be. Enjoying this adult treat made me feel Anyway, it's da bomb. I'm sure Tartine's other offerings are too.

Venus Restaurant

2327 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 540-5950

Reviewed 12/30/2009

I love the planets in Berkeley: Jupiter for its live music and pizza, and Venus for its breakfast.

Venus is the place to go for eggs.

Mine were beautifully poached (I ordered Venus Benedict) and my friend's were over-easy. Top ratings from the two of us.

My hollandaise sauce was luscious but light.

The coffee was forgettable, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I'll forgive them that.

Service was efficient and friendly.

Apparently others agree that this place is good--it was hopping at 10AM on a weekday between Christmas and New Year's.

Good thing Venus is not too far away.


236 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 833-3151

Reviewed 12/5/2009

This place would get a better review were it not for the compulsive service.

They were refilling water when our glasses were still 2/3 full and asking us repeatedly (at least four times) if they could clear off our plates when we were still working on them. This resulted in many interruptions of engaging conversation!

We also wondered if we were being pushed we chose another place for dessert.

These were all probably well-intended gestures, but not the signs of sophisticated service.

I ordered tacos de la calle, which was tasty. And I shared guacamole with my friend. The chips were crispy and light, but the guacamole seemed to me overloaded with salt. We left most of it. My friend ordered sopitas. The presentation was nice but I was too preoccupied in conversation (and perhaps shooing away servers) to ask how the food was.

Mike's Pastry

300 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 742-3050

Reviewed 9/25/2009

This place is pure sin.

While you're eating you feel soooo good and soooo bad at the same time.

Meanwhile, you've managed to inhale an entire cannoli, even though you were already stuffed from lobster dinner and a muffin you decided to stuff yourself with because you didn't want it to go stale. Despite your guilt, you manage to tear into the cream puff you also bought at Mike's.

Yummy dinner from Yankee Lobster (I mean, Yankee Lobstah)

You imagine your body looking like a cream puff the next day.

This place reminds me of bakeries of my East Coast past in all their delightfully fat-saturated, simple tasting, technicolor glory except that I don't remember bakeries having such vast offerings. But then, it's been a while.

This place doesn't just have one but at least three varieties of cannoli (yellow cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate chip)--I am probably forgetting some--and an ASSORTMENT of cream puffs (regular, ganache coated, strawberry) AND profiteroles. OMG. They also feature what seems like dozens of cookies and marzipan treats.

The devil in me was overwhelmed with glee.

Fantasia Coffee & Tea - Santana Row

378 Santana Row
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 260-1668

Reviewed 8/25/09

I was in Santa Clara for a meeting and ended up at Fantasia at some point. Possibly one of the very few reasons to be caught dead at Santana Row.

I ordered the taro milk tea sans ice.

The flavor was good, but more creamy than taro-y. The pearls though, were definitely on the squishy side. I didn't mind so much but was surprised that a Santana Row establishment, where peacocks preen their feathers and Lamborghinis share lanes with Bentleys, could get away with serving pearls like that.

Well, maybe I just answered my question. Go to a glitzless mall, and you get high quality pearls, worth every chew.

Westend Bistro

Actually called "Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert" but oh please...
1190 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 974-4900
Reviewed 11/9/2009

I fell IN LOVE with chicken this weekend.

Talk about love at first bite... Eric Ripert, I love your grilled chicken leg!

Oh it was succulent. I have never cut through chicken so easily. It was perfectly done.

This baby was served on a bed of couscous mixed with a confetti of veggies and bits of feta. Mmmmmmmmm.

I wanted to go again but it was closed on Sunday. :-(

Given what I know of Eric Ripert, it makes sense that I was gaga for this chicken. However, having read the mediocre Yelp reviews, I did not expect to like it as much as I did. In fact, I pounced on a bar seat shortly after noon on a Friday so I could grab a quick and convenient (but decent) lunch. A few minutes later I was like, "Wooooow...this is GOOOOOOD!"
The service was professional, and reasonably prompt, but not particularly friendly.

But back to Chef Ripert: I would consider myself blessed if I can dine at Le Bernadin. I can imagine what that place is like. :-)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunflower Caffé

421 1st St W
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 996-6645

Reviewed 10/11/2009

Indeed the outdoor patio on a sunny day makes you happy just to be alive.

But then the food arrives.

Mine was disappointingly bland. It did not match the atmosphere.

I had the turkey omelet which was dry, and the accompanying potatoes had no flavor. The wheat toast was, again, just plain. The Trader Joe's bread I have at home is better. I'd expect far better bread in Sonoma!

That said, I am actually willing to try it again based on the reviews I've read on Yelp. But I'll go first to the many other places on my list.

The Natural Café

698 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 546-9200

Reviewed 11/19/2009

I love stopping by SLO en route to LA. What a delightful respite from the LONG drive. The thermostat is permanently set to the mid-70s, it seems, no matter what time of year I go.

But I have yet to find a good restaurant there.

I feel I'm offending the co-eds who work and eat there with this rating, but it reflects the feedback I'd give to my friends. As a student I think I might enjoy this place, but now that my tastes are... uh...more thanks.

What we had:

Zen Burger--just okay.

Yogi Special--cubes of hard tofu that looked thrown into a pan and sauteed in oil and soy sauce. It was served unappetizingly next to a bed of brown rice. A yogi did not make that, nor should it be given to a yogi.

Steamed veggies- looked and tasted like they'd been microwaved in a wet bag.

I'm too old for this place.


1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 834-0344

Reviewed 9/9/2009

Short for delicatessen. God that took me so long to figure out. For me, an East Coaster, the diminutive is categorically "deli."

Anyway, Delica is a place for those who:

1) want to know what types of food a Japanese mother puts on the table
2) wonder what else Japanese people eat besides sushi and tempura
3) want a little (or big) taste of the exquisitely beautiful and godly food that is sold Japanese department stores

Additional reasons to check it out:

4) excellent deli food
5) it is possible to eat healthy there (they don't serve brown rice though)
6) it's spanking clean and the food is a visual delight
7) the multicultural service is friendly
8) it's located in the Foodie Heaven that is the Ferry Building.

Delica is a real Japanese eatery that is a little different from most of the Japanese eateries in the US.

There. That's at least eight delicious reasons to try Delica.


941 Cole St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 564-5332

Reviewed 8/30/2009

Cute little neighborhood restaurant with Édith Piaf crooning in the background. It sports a bit of a worn look.

I went on a bright and gorgeous weekday morning when simple pleasures in the city were abundant.

The food was tasty in an uncomplicated way. I had the poached egg with smoked salmon, capers and home fries. Mmm Hollandaise sauce! Mmmm home fries! There were roasted WHOLE garlic cloves mixed in with the potatoes. I was eating them like candy.

Imagine how I smelled later. Hmmmmm...

But I have had better cappuccino.

Nonetheless my server was a sweetheart and I was quite taken by how Zazie complements the residential neighborhood. Score!

Flax Art & Design

Art Supplies
1699 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 552-2355

Reviewed 8/30/2009

Kid in a candy store---that is me at Flax.

I usually don't get anything here but just look and fantasize and bubble with admiration at their beautiful supplies. As such, I can't comment on whether their pricing is competitive although it sounds to me like it's a bit on the expensive side...

On a typical visit, I will look at the gorgeous paper wall-hangings from the Philippines and imagine how they will look in my apartment, or admire the Italian stationary and think about who I'd write to on it... wonder who might best enjoy that black and white photo card of the Dalai Lama.

My favorite activities are to browse their HUGE paper collection for Japanese designs, and check out their notebooks and journals...

I wish I'd gone here rather than University Art for that collage I made a few months ago! I am sure their collection of paints and crayons is amazing.

The store gets my creative juices flowing. And the service is friendly without being annoying. Keep it up Flax! Your buyers have terrific taste!

Ike's Place

Sandwiches- take out
3506 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 553-6888

Reviewed 8/2/2009

An East-Coast native, I had pretty much given up on sandwiches out here.

For ten years.

And then I discovered Ike's. :-)

And the service---you'd never get that kind of sweet service back where I come from! You kiddin' me?

Sprinkles Cupcakes

393 Stanford Shopping Center
Palo Alto, CA 94304
(650) 323-9300

Reviewed 7/9/2009

Hey, if I'm going to consume 1,500 calories in a couple of bites, I want to maximize my pleasure.

But Sprinkles is no longer doing that for me.

I'd give it three stars out of five because it's chic, service is friendly, and it has played a role in the cupcake proliferation around here but: there are way more satisfying ways to inhale that many calories and fat.

I was an enthusiast when it first opened, waiting in 40-minute lines with the Desperate Housewives crowd (OMG how desperate I was) but now that I have become fussy about my cupcakes, I find Sprinkles to be overly sweet and relatively flavorless.

Craving cupcakes, I tried Strawberry and Red Velvet the other day.

If I closed my eyes and tried these two, I would NOT have guessed what flavors they were. In fact, the cake of the Strawberry tasted more like banana to me, and the frosting was just densely whipped confectioner's sugar...and the Red Velvet frosting--not nearly cream cheesy enough for me.

Granted, I am picky because I am spoiled by the options out here. But relative to those, Sprinkles takes the cake! Next time I'm craving something sweet, and I'm close to the Stanford mall, I'll go to La Baguette or See's or even Nordie's cafe for a brownie. I think I'd be more satisfied.

Or, I'd head on over about a mile north to Kara's Cupcakes--still my favorite.


2100 Ward Street
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 549-3486

Reviewed 7/19/2009

Man, this is going to be painful.

I have loved Kirala.

But when we went last time, it was all blunders. The friendly-but-goofy waiter got two out of four orders wrong. I had ordered curry soba. But he brought out udon. My friend ordered the OTHER lunch special.

By the time my order came--which seemed to have taken ages--everyone else had finished. So they were all watching me eat. And I was trying my hardest to slurp down boiling hot soup as soon as I could without burning my mouth and resembling a slobbering animal. I was sweating, requiring me to peel myself off the seat later when we finally left.

Indeed quite a bit of time transpired between when I finished my soup, and the time we actually left. We were waiting and waiting and waiting for the check to come. We could see the seasons changing out the window.

Since we had the table waaay in the back of the restaurant which benefits from privacy, it was hard to flag down our waiter. When he finally arrived, he set down two bowls of ice cream instead of the check. They were his apology for being scattered.

It may have been the only occasion in my life when I was actually disappointed to see ice cream. We were stuffed and we needed to get going.

Of course we weren't going to leave ice cream there. So we stabbed it with our spoons and it was delicious.

Still the check was remarkably late, and the ice cream didn't cure all.

Besides what I've already written, there was a rude woman server (helping the main server) who came by and practically dumped our dishes on our table. I might expect such "service" at another type of restaurant. But It was appalling to be treated this way at a Japanese joint.

THAT SAID: the food was great. That was no surprise. My soup was intensely flavorful though I think that udon noodles go better with it.

AND: the hostess at the front was darling. It was clear she has a stake in customers' dining experiences. She made our way to the table once, but unfortunately not a second time when I would have had much to share (because I care!).

I will go back to Kirala because I have had better experiences there, and I have faith in them. Plus, I really want to give this Berkeley institution a better review.


3450 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 246-0011

Reviewed 7/19/2010

Chic and modern. And authentically Japanese. But, if you have a Japanese mother, you'll find the food is just so-so. Here's the family review:

Salmon sashimi - Sliced too thick (said my father)
You can get it cut like that at Costco (said my mother)

Sanma -It's okay. But it's nothing special (said my father)
Eggplant: Good (said my mother)

Mackerel: good, but nothing special (me)

Green tea noodles: Good on a hot day. Simple though. I bet I could make it, and my mom could make the broth just as good.

We got other bites there which are now lost on me. But I do remember that they weren't at all bad. Just not anything special. Ditto for the service.


8686 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 815-1723

Reviewed 7/1/2009

The forest of tea tins

A sip of milk tea with a shot of espresso and BANG! I was in heaven.

But the pearls were not quite right. Slimey on the outside and firm on the inside. And my friend could taste some powder when she chewed on some of hers.

But when you're sitting there, sipping that milk tea in that room filled with aromatic teas and in that incredible food paradise that surrounds you in Culver City...well, you feel like one of the cool people. At least I do in memory, which is probably distorted but:

One thing is sure: that milk tea was AWESOME.

Friday, July 16, 2010

M Café de Chaya

9343 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 838-4300

Reviewed 6/27/2009
To be able to go out and eat so pleasurably, without guilt...that's M cafe for me.

I love Japanese food, AND I love organic, healthy edibles, and this place combines both. I am willing to pay for the combination, even if it's more than I would pay elsewhere that wasn't healthy or Japanese.

We ordered:
-Black cod
-Blueberry pancakes- bursting with blueberries
-Cranberry walnut french toast
-Kale salad - who knew kale was so frickin' tasty?!

The place is open and airy and communal with French accents.

Note to Culver City Residents:

I am SO jealous of where you live. Having easy access to San Francisco and Berkeley, I thought I had it all. (Well, with the exception of NY and Tokyo, I thought I was reasonably close.)

I am not so sure anymore!

I dunno. Maybe it's because I'm in vacation mode. But man, I was thinking about how spoiled you are with Father's Office, Ford's Filling Station, Tokyo 7-7, AND all kinds of other eats ALL WITHIN BLOCKS OF EACH OTHER that will just make me green with envy to list.

I know I will be thinking about you when I return home.

With searing envy--


502 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 917-6671

Reviewed 6/27/2009

Uh...wasn't quite the ambiance I expected from the photos I've seen. I was thinking more Frenchy with hardwood floors and paneling based on reviews I read. Weird. Instead it's lined with inexpensive red carpet (at least the upstairs is), and has unremarkable chandeliers; definitely not five-star deco...and it's American.

But if you can get past the chintzy deco (well, actually it's not so bad), you're in for good Californian fare.

The BEET SALAD appetizer was a showstopper.

It looks like a dessert---imagine a dense, chunky cranberry colored gelatin with a layer of cream cheese topping. But it's actually minced beets with dried cherries topped with a layer of goat cheese. Try it as a spread on the fresh sliced bread. It is amazing.

A woman stranger, being escorted to her table, demanded to know what it was and announced "We're getting that!"

Also ordered:
Ravioli with rock shrimp special
Tomato tart
Ahi tuna appetizer - the onions were too salty, but easily removed

Everyone's taste buds were happy.

The place is also a hop/skip/jump from the Third Street Promenade making it a nice escape from the crowds.

Too bad we were too full to try the desserts. I am sure we were missing out!