What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

Our foodie instincts take over when we're out and about.

Los Angeles: Animal Restaurant

Animal Restaurant @ North Fairfax Ave.

5.27

Animal is a highly rated small plates restaurant for meat lovers.

Animal - Hamachi Tostada

Animal – Hamachi Tostada

Our first course of the night was the hamachi fish, served raw with a fish sauce vingerette, peanuts and herbs tossed with crispy fried shallots and shredded napa cabbage. Light and refreshingly tasty, we both craved for more yellowtail.

Animal - Melted Petit Basque

Animal – Melted Petit Basque

Petit basquet is a hard pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese, originating from the Pyrenees Mountains that forms the border between France and Spain. The cheese is smooth and velvety in texture yet creamy, nutty and mild. Chorizo and toasted bread accompanied the melted petit basquet cheese. I enjoyed it very much.

Animal - Poutine

Animal – Poutine

The first thing off the menu I really wanted was the poutine. Crispy French fries, juicy oxtail meat and gravy with cubes of white cheddar cheese…..it was a piece of foodie heaven in my mouth. So far, the best poutine I’ve had the pleasure of eating. My mouth waters now as I write this entry. Did I mention the plate was HUGE? I had to polish off the remaining oxtail and fries.

Animal - Foie Gras Biscuit

Animal – Foie Gras Biscuit

Luckily, my trip to LA to see Charmin Bear T occurred before they banned the use of foie gras in Cali kitchens. Smooth in texture, the foie bras was delicious. The maple sausage was sweet and savory. The biscuit was soft and fluffy. The gravy helped bind the dish together wonderfully.

Animal - Flat Iron

Animal – Flat Iron

I think by the time we got the last dish, we were stuffed. The flat iron steak covered with a truffle parmesan fondue sat on top of artichoke hash. When we cut into the meat, there was no hassle! The steak was tender and literally melted in our mouths.

Everything about this restaurant was amazing. Great service, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended since the venue itself is on the small size. Only 45 seats. Charmin Bear T and I dressed up to eat here. Although it’s not required, it can help to elevate the feel for this trendy place.

– Charmin Bear J

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Napa: La Toque

La Toque @ 1314 McKinstry Street

A couple days after Morimoto, I ventured back to downtown Napa to one-michelin star La Toque. When I first stepped in, I was pretty overwhelmed by the beauty of the restaurant. I was quickly greeted and seated. My waiter was a nice old man who saw that I was eating alone and kept me company whenever he had a free moment. :)

Chef Ken Frank has a set menu that you can choose 3 or 4 savory dishes of (no including dessert). I decided to go with the 3 dish option since I’m a tiny little girl. The amuse-bouche of the night was a ratatouille, which was good but lacking some pizzazz.

La Toque - Amuse Bouche

La Toque – Amuse Bouche

Next I had the Japanese hamachi appetizer. I love sashimi, so I thought this was a good choice. Although the fish and asian pear combo was quite refreshing on the palette, I found that it lacked creativity. Also, there were rice crackers in this dish. If you’ve read my recent posts, you’ll know that I hate rice crackers in my food. ::angry fist::

La Toque - Japanese Hamachi, Avocado & Asian Pear

La Toque – Japanese Hamachi, Avocado & Asian Pear

For my second savory dish, I selected the white asparagus fettuccine with lobster and black truffle sauce. How can I deny myself of an item that has truffle in it? This dish was a bit more inspiring. Instead of using your regular pasta fettuccine, the ribbons you see below are made of white asparagus. It actually was a close enough carb substitute for me, yet it is definitely more healthy. The lobster meat was also cooked perfectly, not one bit rubbery. This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

La Toque - White Asparagus Fettucine with Lobster and Fresh Black Truffle Sauce

La Toque – White Asparagus Fettuccine with Lobster and Fresh Black Truffle Sauce

For my final savory dish, I decided to be more daring. This isn’t monkey brains or bear claw, but I’ve never had antelope before so I decided to try it. I tend to like gamey meat, so I thought, why not. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be craving antelope meat. It really isn’t different enough for me to go out and seek it. The dish also had bone marrow, which was also my first time eating it. The fresh bone marrow basically tasted like fat to me. Not sure if I understand the craze. The endive was grilled to perfection, I ate every last bite. The potatoes anna were also quite interesting, as I’ve never had potatoes prepared this way. It’s basically diced layered potato (it’s to the left of the meat) cooked in butter. It was quite delicious. As you can tell, I enjoyed the secondary cast more so than the main lead for this dish.

La Toque - Broken Arrow Ranch Nilgai Antelope

La Toque – Broken Arrow Ranch Nilgai Antelope

Lastly, I got to pick a dessert. With my limited knowledge of french desserts, I went with something that sounded like it could be a molten chocolate cake. Instead, the concorde turned out to be this heavy mousse cake that I could barely put a dent in. I’m not a huge chocolate fan so I couldn’t really enjoy this. However, I thought the wafers on the side were super delicious. It was too sweet though, made my teeth hurt a bit.

La Toque - Concorde de Chocolate

La Toque – Concorde de Chocolate

I thought the restaurant was okay. I’m not a huge fan. None of the dishes really struck my fancy. Perhaps, I didn’t order the right things. But from what I can see, that one star was probably award for slightly above average food in terms of quality and impeccable service.

– Charmin Bear T

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Napa: Morimoto Napa

Morimoto Napa @ 610 Main Street

I had an assignment in Napa for about 7 weeks, so you’ll be seeing a lot of Napa restaurants in upcoming posts. Apparently, Iron Chef Morimoto has a restaurant in Napa. As it is culinary mecca, I guess I’m not too surprised. I am a big Iron Chef fan, so I thought I’d pay the restaurant a visit.

I came at 8pm on a Wednesday night and had made a reservation via opentable under J’s account. It may sound unnecessary but better safe than sorry. When I got there the waitress failed to greet me. Instead she was busy flirting with some obviously intoxicated guys. I waited patiently for about 10 minutes when a waitress finally greeted me and noted that I was in the system. She kindly walked me to the dining area and told me I could sit anywhere I want. I chose to sit in front of the sushi bar. I didn’t want to take up an entire table when I am dining alone afterall. I sat again for another 20 minutes before my waiter actually came out to see if I needed anything. By then, I was ready to order.

I started off with Morimoto’s famous toro tartare. As you can see by the picture below, his presentation is not your typical tartare that comes in a round cylinder. Instead it’s plastered on a wooden frame. The tartare is presented alone and is not masked by any other ingredients. He also provides soy sauce as well as 6 different supplementary condiments: 4 sauces (nori paste, wasabi, sour cream and avocado), and 2 toppings (finely chopped scallion, and rice crackers). It kind of looks like a canvas and paint, doesn’t it? My favorite was definitely the nori paste.

Morimoto Napa - Toro Tartare

Morimoto Napa – Toro Tartare

I went on to get the washugyu beef carpaccio. The presentation wasn’t nearly as awe inspiring as the toro tartare, but it was clean and pretty nonetheless. The beef was tender and melted in my mouth. It was slightly seared and was soaked in yuzu, garlic and ginger. I also enjoyed this a lot.

Morimoto Napa - Washugyu Beef Carpaccio

Morimoto Napa – Washugyu Beef Carpaccio

Lastly, I told the waiter I was feeling like fish that night. He recommended the crispy whole fish. I know it says “whole fish,” but for some reason I failed to make the connection. I felt a little weirded out about eating something still with its face intact. Nonetheless, I found this dish’s presentation impeccable. It looks like a painting of a fish swimming in water (dirty water albeit). The preparation also must’ve taken considerable technique as the layer of crispiness was very thin, but the meat of the fish inside was still perfectly cooked and not one bit overdone.

Morimoto Napa - Crispy Whole Fish

Morimoto Napa – Crispy Whole Fish

After stuffing my face, I went home to bed. I found it to be a very satisfying meal. A couple days later, however, J forwarded me an email from opentable that requested I confirmed whether or not I was a no-show at Morimoto. I was in disbelief. That hostess did not check me in even after the waitress told her to. She was too busy daydreaming about that other customer still, I suppose. I normally don’t write so much on service of a restaurant since food always mattered more to me and I’m a pretty laid back person. I just found it so surprising that a Japanese chef owns the restaurant, yet the service was so mediocre. While they weren’t straight up rude (except for the hostess’ blatant disregard for me), I felt that the waiter was not one bit attentive and I sensed a pretentious atmosphere in the air. At first I was wondering why Morimoto’s Napa restaurant did not even warrant one michelin star, but after dining there I understood why. Their service is seriously lacking and I found the restaurant tried too hard to be trendy rather than welcoming. Food was good though. I still admire the chef’s conviction towards presentation and really making food an art. Will I come back? I’m not too sure :|

– Charmin Bear T

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Napa: Redd

Redd @ 6480 Washington Street

Continuing on my exploration of Napa, I tried out Redd, a one michelin star restaurant. It was a cute, trendy restaurant with ample outside seating. I elected to sit outdoors because the boyfriend had brought up the dogs.

 

We started off with an appetizer to share, the yellow fin tuna and hamachi tartare. While ingredients were grade A, I thought this dish was lacking creativity. Avocado, tuna, and yellow tail, where have I eaten that before? Oh right, everywhere else. Oh rice crackers are Asian too, lets throw them in there also for crunch. While having a variety of textures may be nice in some dishes, it did not work here for me. At all.

Redd - Yellow Fin Tuna & Hamachi Tartare

Redd – Yellow Fin Tuna & Hamachi Tartare

For my main entree, I selected the Duck Confit. You would think the duck would be super juicy and flavorful considering the process of preparing duck confit in the first place. But alas, my duck was dry and pretty bland. The foie gras meatballs had flavor, but its foie gras afterall.

Redd - Crisp Duck Confit

Redd – Crisp Duck Confit

The boyfriend ordered the pulled pork sandwich. Another failure. The onion rings were good.

Redd - Short Rib Sandwich

Redd – Short Rib Sandwich

For dessert, I ordered the lava cake. Honestly, I don’t remember what the actual name is but it had chocolate ganache in it. Again, it was kind of disappointing. I wish the cake was about 10 degrees hotter.

Redd - Short Rib Sandwich

Redd – Lava Cake

I definitely think there were dishes that were probably better on their menu. My friend ordered the diver scallops and loved it. I probably just ordered all the wrong things. But at the end of the day, it still sucks I wasted my money here. I personally think that one star was awarded for service, because that I can honestly say was impeccable. But even with that I won’t be returning.

– CB T

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San Francisco: Summer Road Trips

Kappo Nami Nami @ 240 Castro Street

This nice little Japanese restaurant is actually located outside of SF in Mountain View.  It’s a good 45 minute drive, but well worth it.  Some of the best Asian foods are actually outside the city anyway!

Kappo Nami Nami - Sashimi Salad

Kappo Nami Nami - Sashimi Salad

Fish was fresh, vegetables were fresh, sauce was tasty.

Kappo Nami Nami - Agedashi Tofu

Kappo Nami Nami - Agedashi Tofu

Tofu was soft.  I liked the fried skin.  Soup was gooey and flavorful.

Kappo Nami Nami - Eel Omelette

Kappo Nami Nami - Eel Omelette

Eel was good.  I love mushrooms, especially shiitake mushroom because they soak up a lot of juice.  It’s a very simple but difficult dish to make well.

Kappo Nami Nami - Ankimo

Kappo Nami Nami - Ankimo

Ankimo translates to Monk Fish Liver and is considered a Japanese chinmi (delicacy).  Japanese chinmi are not for the faint of heart.  Liver is pretty tamed actually, considering blowfish ovaries is also a delicacy.  I’m not a huge fan, but some people really like it.  I’ll stick to my duck and goose liver.  Thanks!

Kappo Nami Nami - Toro Nigiri

Kappo Nami Nami - Toro Nigiri

This was my first time eating Toro (fatty tuna) sushi, so it’s hard to really judge it due to my inexperience.  It did melt in my mouth, but I always felt like Tuna, as a sushi, has been pretty bland in taste.  I’ve always preferred Salmon or Yellowtail.

Kappo Nami Nami - Gyu Don

Kappo Nami Nami - Gyu Don

This was a pretty decent dish.  The beef was slightly pink and tender.  The rice was very plump and cooked perfectly.  The sauce was also really savory.

My overall impression of Kappo Nami Nami is that it is a good restaurant, but quite pricey.  I liked the food, but nothing that I became addicted to.  It’s nothing too special that I can’t get in LA, so it’s not going to be one of my “must-stop-at” restaurants.

Yakitori Kokko @ 509 2nd Street

This little restaurant in San Mateo (once again outside SF) is very quaint and filled with friendly servers.  They’re best known for yakitori, obviously.  Although tori generally refers to poultry, the term yakitori has come to mean skewered meat food in general, whether it’s meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables.  They’re quite the popular restaurant and are usually packed.  Advance reservation, especially for the weekends is highly recommended.

Kokko - Fried Garlic

Kokko - Fried Garlic

If you like garlic, you should give this a try.  It’s just cloves of garlic coated in a flaky bread crumb like batter.  It’s pretty heavy though, beware.

Kokko - White Tuna Tataki

Kokko - White Tuna Tataki

This was delicious.  It’s slightly seared on the side and drizzled in a ponzu sauce and sesame.

Kokko - Chicken Karaage

Kokko - Chicken Karaage

This was also pretty good.  It’s lightly seasoned and lightly coasted.  Not as heavy as other restaurants.

Kokko - Beef Cheeks

Kokko - Beef Cheeks

Lightly salted tender beef cheek meat… mmmmmm… delicious.

Kokko - Beef Short Ribs

Kokko - Beef Short Ribs

The meat was tender and juicy.  What can I really say about yakitori anyway?

Kokko - Pork Belly

Kokko - Pork Belly

I actually had asked for beef tongue, but got pork belly instead.  No matter, I love pork belly too.  For most of the yakitori items, you get to choose salted or with sauce.  The sauce is a dark miso that actually came off a bit salty for my taste.

Kokko - Beef Cheek & Scallop

Kokko - Beef Cheek & Scallop

 

I didn’t really care for the scallop.  I actually thought it was a bit overcooked.  I also expected more than one and just the white part of the scallop. :T

Kokko - Chicken Thigh

Kokko - Chicken Thigh

The chicken was really tender. very good meat.

There’s really not much to say about yakitori.  It’s very simple food that’s all about the art of grilling.  Most of the time, it’s just salted, so there’s not much to comment on.  Overall Yakitori Kokko grills the meat just enough for it to be thoroughly cook.  I actually like my yakitori to be a bit more burnt because I like the taste.  The quality of the meat is great though.  They also have these other weird dishes.  We tried something called the Takowasa, which is raw squid mixed in a wasabi sauce.  It was kind of gross, in my opinion.  But for those brave souls out there that like squid, you should give it a try.

I did enjoy my food at both places, but nothing really won my heart.  I’m not head over heels about either, but if you’re in the area and craving Japanese food, give these two places a visit!

– CBT

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San Francisco: December 31 – January 5

Pacific Catch @ 2027 Chestnut Street

I went back to SF to visit my boyfriend for New Year’s. Our first stop after I got off the plane was Pacific Catch, one of my favorite haunts in the city now. As usual, I started off with the Sweet Potato Fries, just as delicious as I last remembered. I went on to get a Seared Ahi Wasabi Bowl. The ahi wasn’t great quality, but the combination of everything was tasty. For those that forgot, a wasabi bowl is made up of wakame salad, avocado, daikon sprouts, cucumber, ginger, sesame seeds, shredded nori seaweed and your choice or white or brown riced mixed with soy-wasabi sauce.

Pacific Catch - Seared Ahi Wasabi Bowl

Seared Ahi Wasabi Bowl

Brandon ordered the Sticky Ribs Korean Barbecue Bowl, which was okay. The wasabi bowl had more character. The Korean Barbecue Bowl wasn’t anything too special.

Pacific Catch - Sticky Ribs Korean Barbecue Bowl

Sticky Ribs Korean Barbecue Bowl

Ramen Dojo @ 805 South B Street

How come all the great ramen places are outside the city? Okay, fine, cheaper rent. What else!? I guess there are also tons of crazy people like me, who all are willing to travel for a delicious bowl of ramen. When we got here, there was a little wait, but we got our table for two in a reasonable amount of time. The place was relatively small, but had a nice modern decor. Both Brandon and I got the Garlic Pork Broth (mild spicy) and added corn. I thought it was okay. I wasn’t a huge fan of the noodles. I also developed a sensitive palette recently, I thought it was too spicy, even for mild. The roasted pork was okay. Solid ramen, but I still like Santa better.

Ramen Dojo - Garlic Pork Mild Spicy Ramen

Garlic Pork Mild Spicy Ramen

Ramen Dojo - Menu

Menu

Thanh Long @ 4101 Judah Street

Does anyone else think classy Vietnamese restaurant is an oxymoron? Maybe it’s just me. This sounds awful, but I like my Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food in dingy restaurants. It feels more authentic! The nicer places usually focus more on external things like plating and decor, which are important, but then they skimp out on taste and food quality.

We came to Thanh Long to eat some Asian Crabs (Dungeness Crabs prepared Asian style) with Brandon’s roommates. This is my second time eating this, which seems to be quite popular in SF. We got two Roast Crabs, one for each couple. It was tossed in garlic sauce and some kind of secret spices (according to the menu). I think my biggest problem with the idea of Asian crabs is, you cook the entire thing, shell included, how are the sauces/spices suppose to get to the meat? I end up with plain crab meat that I have to dip into the sauce.

Thanh Long - Roast Crab

Roast Crab

Garlic noodles were good, but a bit too oily for me.

Thanh Long - Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles

The Shaken Beef was New York steak cut into small cubes marinated in a very yummy sauce, served with the mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and potatoes. This was my favorite. Why? I didn’t have to cut through cow hide to get to my meat. Plus, I love potatoes!

Thanh Long - Shaken Beef

Shaken Beef

The restaurant was good, but I don’t think I’m going to come again. I’m going to stay away from crabs unless someone takes the meat out for me :)

Brenda’s @ 652 Polk Street

We came to Brenda’s for brunch one day. It’s a small rectangular restaurant with two long rows of tables, one row against each wall. Once you enter, there is a giant chalk board on the right, where you put your name down for the wait list.

We eventually sat down and started ordering a feast. The pancakes came out first. It was okay. I felt it needed a stronger butter taste. It was really bland. I still crave the ones from Eggs N’ Things, which will forever be my standard from now on.

Brenda's - Pancakes

Pancakes

Brandon order Two Eggs Any Way You Like ‘Em, which came with potato hash, cream biscuit, the eggs and sausage (other choices were ham and bacon). Nothing too special.

Brenda's - Two Eggs Any Way You Like 'Em

Two Eggs Any Way You Like 'Em

Here comes the star of our meal: Beignets! For those who don’t know, it’s basically fried dough in a pastry puff form. I got greedy and decided to order the Beignet Flight because I couldn’t choose just one to try. The plate came with one Plain, one Chocolate, one Granny Smith Apple and one Crawfish beignet. It looks all the same on the outside, but you have to cut inside to see the good stuff. My favorite was the Crawfish Beignet, which had chopped crawfish, drenched in a cayenne, scallion and cheddar cheese sauce. Delicious! The Granny Smith Apple one was also good. I was too full to get to the chocolate one, what a waste. It was Ghirardelli’s melted chocolate too! My favorite! I bet it was good though :T

Brenda's - Beignet Flight

Beignet Flight

I’ll return and just order the Beignets :)

Thai Spice @ 1730 Polk Street

For a quick dinner, we decided to get some Thai food at a restaurant nearby with Brandon’s roommates and my sorority Big Sister. We ordered a variety of things and shared. First up is the Fried Tofu & String Bean, which was pretty good. I like that the tofu was crispy and the sauce was yummy. The string beans also had a good crunch to them. I hate it when they’re soggy.

Thai Spice - Tofu & String Bean

Tofu & String Bean

We also ordered Red Curry with Chicken. This was a pretty good dish as well. I wish I had more curry though.

Thai Spice - Red Curry

Red Curry

I ordered the Pad See You with Beef. This was my favorite dish of the night. I really like eating flat rice noodles and the dish had a good flavor. Some places make it too bland. The downside was there wasn’t enough noodles to go around.

Thai Spice - Pad See You

Pad See You

The Spicy Basil Fried Rice was an average dish that was forgettable. It was good, but I don’t really like fried rice because there’s usually a lot of oil involved.

Thai Spice - Spicy Basil Fried Rice

Spicy Basil Fried Rice

Brandon decided to be all fancy and order something not on the menu, he got the Rad Na with Beef. It was mediocre. I remember the gravy not being flavorful enough for me.

Thai Spice - Rad Na

Rad Na

The portions here were pretty small, the only exception being the Rad Na. I probably won’t ask to come back, but wouldn’t mind returning at the request of others.

Orenchi’s Ramen @ 3540 Homestead Road

This restaurant was located all the way in Santa Clara, an hour drive from the city. My boyfriend drove me all the way down here just so I can eat some awesome ramen. I love this place. $9 and it basically comes with every topping I want already: soft boiled egg and pork. My only gripe would be where’s the corn!? The broth was full of flavor and the noodles were standard.

Orenchi's - Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

I wish I could come every weekend but it’s a lot to ask since it’s so far from the city :( BOOOO!

That basically wraps it up for my SF trip. It was a nice vacation for my tummy. My last stop was Ghirardelli’s for my sundae, but I already wrote a review on that. Here’s a picture of my sundae for you dessert lovers :)

Ghirardelli - Banana Sundae

Banana Sundae

I’ll be back very soon SF!

– Charmin Bear T

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San Francisco: July 3 – 7

I’m back in San Francisco! It was my boyfriend’s birthday that weekend so I had to make an appearance. The wonderful guy knows I love food so he took me to eat eat eat! According to him every time he sees me he gets a little fatter and there’s a direct correlation between me and his weight *rolls eyes*

Nopalito @ 306 Broderick Street

Our first stop was a restaurant called Nopalito that was recommended by his physical therapist. It’s a cute little restaurant that serves organic Mexican food. Every time I hear the word organic though, it kind of sends chills down my spine. Not because I think it tastes bad, but there’s usually a premium in the price tag and I can never tell a difference in organic vs non-organic foods.

For drinks, I ordered a Horchata. Note to self: You do not like Horchatas. It was a weird sweet almond taste that was not well received by my palette. It’s definitely a personal thing.

Nopalito - Organic Almond Horchata

Organic Almond Horchata

We started off with an Empinada appetizer, which turned out to be a really bad idea because it was huge. I was almost full before I even got to my main entree. I also had something different in mind. I expected a small filled triangle like the ones I had in DC.

Nopalito - Empanada de Picadillo

Empanada de Picadillo

For the main entree the boyfriend got the Carnitas and I got the Enchilada. I had expected the chicken to already be inside the tortilla, but it wasn’t. I’ve also come to realize I don’t like mulato. The chicken was a little dry, but it was white meat afterall. The potatoes on the side were yummy though.

Nopalito - Enchilada Placeras

Enchilada Placeras

The Carnitas was definitely a much better entree. The meat was 10x softer and juicier than my chicken.

Nopalito - Carnitas

Carnitas

Polkers Gourmet Burgers @ 2226 Polker Street

The next day we met up with some friends for brunch at a nearby restaurant. We originally wanted to eat at Pesce but had to settle for Polkers since Pesce was closed over the holiday weekend. It was a crowded cute restaurant with various interesting paintings on the wall. I ordered a chicken sandwich with curly fries. The fries were really good, the boyfriend kept stealing from me. The chicken sandwich was pretty simple: fried crispy chicken with cheese and fresh avocado. Not bad, but I needed to dose it in ketchup to add more flavor.

Polkers Gourmet Burger - Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Sandwich

India Garden @ 1261 Folsom Street

For his birthday, my boyfriend picked this delicious Indian restaurant. It’s a nice restaurant with an area that somewhat resembles a green house so you can sit and enjoy the beautiful sky outside when you’re eating. It was pretty much empty when we got there, which is usually a warning sign. Fortunately the food turned out delicious.

We started off with some Samosas. I have no gripes about this one. I love potatoes and peas, so thumbs up from me!

India Garden - Samosa

Vegetable Samosa

We ordered a variety of dishes since there were over 10 people at dinner. One of my favorites was the Chicken Tandoori. It came out sizzling hot, you can sort of still see the smoke in the picture. Despite the fact that it was white meat, the chicken was far from dry.

India Garden - Chicken Tandoori

Chicken Tandoori

The most memorable was the Chicken Tikka Masala. It was so flavorful and yummy. Tikka Masala is one of the reasons why I love Indian food. I wish I could’ve had the pot to myself.

India Garden - Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We also ordered a Lamb Curry. Honestly, all I can remember is it tasting wonderful :) The spices definitely mask the normal gamy flavor of lamb.

India Garden - Lamb Curry

Lamb Curry

I really like India Garden. It might be a little expensive. Our Tikka Masala was $13 for a tiny bowl, but it’s well worth it. All the food was good. My only complaint is that, I normally LOVE Nan bread, but the specialty Nan they offered was a little dry and stale for my taste. I like it soft and chewy :T

Turtle Tower @ 631 Larkin Street

Let me start of by saying I’ve grown up eating Southern Vietnamese food. I’ve never had the Northern versions before in my life. This was definitely an eye opening experience. To compare the two, I ordered a basic Pho Tai, just the rare beef soup noodle and that was already distinctly different. The beef was cut thicker and more chopped up than its Southern counterpart. The noodles were thicker and wider. The broth was lighter and only contained green onions. It certainly tasted more healthy.

Turtle Tower - Pho Tai

Pho Tai

We also ordered a side of Imperial Rolls aka Egg Rolls. I didn’t notice it at the time, but these babies were $2.15 EACH. Everything else on the menu is priced reasonably, but why are these egg rolls so steep? I thought $1.50 each was expensive in Boston. It was good, but not worth what they charge.

Turtle Tower - Imperial Rolls

Imperial Rolls

Turtle Tower was definitely an interesting experience. I liked the restaurant, but I prefer the more powerful taste and flavors in Southern Vietnamese cuisine. I wouldn’t mind going again though.

Golden Gate Bakery @ 1029 Grant Avenue

My boyfriend raved about the egg tarts from this bakery when I first met him. I was always skeptical, but after trying one, I have to agree. Golden Gate Bakery always has a long line outside. Some people wait for over an hour only to find out there’s no more. Unfortunately, once they run out, you’re out of luck. It’s probably because some people order dozens upon dozens once they get in. I was lucky enough to wait less than an hour and managed to purchase six to share. These egg tarts are a little over $1.00 each but they are a decent size and extremely yummy. A lot of places skimp out on the custard and give you a lot of crust, but the ratio here is pretty close to perfection. The crust is made up of delicately layered flakes. The custard is light, not too sweet or yolky. When I got it, it was fresh out of the oven. YUM! I hope to take Charmin Bear J here one day!

Golden Gate Bakery - Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts

Golden Gate Bakery - Lines

The Line That Curves

Golden Gate Bakery - Store Front

Golden Gate Bakery Store Front

Eliza’s @ 2877 California Street

After Vietnamese food and some egg tarts for a snack, my boyfriend, his roommates and I made our way to Eliza’s, a nice Chinese American restaurant for dinner.

To start out the night, we ordered some Pork Mu Shu, which was yummy. The waiter put the filling into the wrap before I could take a picture of it. It’s basically a mixture of pork, wood ear and other assorted vegetables tossed in some sort of light oil or sauce.

Eliza's - Mu Shu

Pork Mu Shu

Next up was the Honey Walnut Prawns. Delicious. It was sweet, lightly covered in mayo and shell free. I don’t usually eat the nuts in the dish, but the walnuts were really crunchy and addictive.

Eliza's - Walnut Shrimp

Honey Walnut Prawns

The Kung Pao Chicken didn’t really make an impression on me. The chicken was cut into small bite-size chunks, coated in flour, deep fried to get a crispy crunch and then covered in a spicy Orange Chicken-like sauce.

Eliza's - Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

The Mongolian Beef, a common staple of Chinese American restaurants, also impressed. The beef was tender. The sweet spicy brown sauce made the dish extra savory.

Eliza's - Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef

I always thought that Chinese American cuisine is pricey for the portions they give you, but I do enjoy eating it every now and then.

Osakaya Restaurant @  1737 Post Street

We were roaming aimlessly around Japantown for awhile looking for a lunch spot. There are way too many options to choose from. Osakaya eventually drew us to go in by means of their abundant window displays. The boyfriend ordered Pork Katsu Curry and I got a Spider Maki (for him) and a Special Maki.

The Pork Katsu Curry was okay. I thought the curry was a little bland and not thick enough for my liking. I don’t like boiled eggs either. I think I might have been spoiled rotten by Cafe Mami in Boston.

Osakaya - Pork Katsu Curry

Pork Katsu Curry

I’m not a huge fan of Spider Maki, but it was pretty good. I prefer the special maki I ordered. It had a Tuna, Eel and Avocado center topped with Ikura. Fish was fresh, which is probably the most important thing about sushi.

Osakaya - Spider Maki

Spider Maki

Osakaya - Special Maki

Tuna, Eel & Avocado Maki

Although the food was pretty decent, I probably wouldn’t come back just because there’s such a huge selection of restaurants to choose from. I saw another place that offered Kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi too. I would want to try every restaurant there before I go back to anywhere twice :)

Nick’s Crispy Taco @ 1500 Broadway

For my last meal, we made our way to Nick’s Crispy Tacos, a favorite of the locals. It’s a casual Mexican joint that looks pretty dingy. More likely than not, you  will have to fight for a table especially on Taco Tuesdays.

We started off with the Nachos. The thick crispy greasy nacho chips with the guac and salsa was so addictive. I couldn’t stop eating them!

Nick's Crispy Tacos - Nachos

Nachos

When my Carne Asada came, I was happy to dig in. I’m not skilled in the art of eating taco (I’m more of a burrito girl) and accidentally dropped food here and there. My boyfriend helped me order it “Nick’s Way,” which is $1.00 extra but you get the works (guacamole, salsa fresca) on top of your meat. It’s definitely worth the $1.00

Nick's Crispy Tacos - Carne Asada

Carne Asada (Nick's Way)

I liked it here and have been meaning to try their tacos. I can now check Nick’s off my list! I thought it was fairly priced, but some people complain that it gets a bit expensive. I got full off one taco since the stuff inside is pretty heavy. Others might need up to 4 tacos, which means they could spend up to $20 on a meal here. Yikes! It was a nice way to end my trip.

My dear San Francisco! You’ve been good to my tummy. Stay well and keep making your delicious food. Until we meet again :)

– Charmin Bear T

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San Francisco: April 22-26

I promised Charmin Bear J that I would start updating again since I’m a few months behind, so here I am!

I went on a short weekend trip to San Francisco for a friend’s birthday. I got to revisit some restaurants as well as try a few new places.

Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe @ 160 Jefferson Street

While waiting for our ride to Napa Valley, we got a bit hungry so we got a snack at Boudin. They’re famous for the sourdough bread, which you can find in all sizes and animal shapes. We ordered half a sandwich and the clam chowder in a bread bowl. Whoever said that only the east coast has great clam chowder lied. This was pretty awesome!

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

Rutherford Grill @ 1180 Rutherford Road

One of our friends who frequents Napa recommended we try Rutherford. One of the great things about this restaurant was that they allow you to bring your own wine. I guess that makes sense since they are located in Napa Valley. A friend and I decided to share two entrees. We ordered the Enchilada Platter and the Tuna Sashimi Salad. The Enchilada Platter was actually really flavorful and savory.  I didn’t really like the escabeche salad on the left since I’m not a huge fan of tangy/acidic sauces. The Tuna Sashimi Salad was amazing! They used a light sweet ginger vinaigrette sauce, didn’t feel heavy at all like the creamier sauces. The mango and avocado made it even more refreshing to eat.

Enchilada Platter

Tuna Sashimi Salad

Tuna Sashimi Salad

I don’t have refined tastes, so I don’t have an affinity for wine, but I did think Napa Valley was really fun. It’s a beautiful place and everyone is so nice! We had tastings at places like V. Sattui,  Folie a Deux and Hope & Grace. V Sattui had a little small market that sold cheeses, various dipping sauces, sausages, fudge and more. My favorite place, however, was Hope & Grace because there was this cute dog called Romeo that was such a gentle giant. I couldn’t take my paws off him. His owner couldn’t have given him a more fitting name!

PPQ Dungeness Island @ 2332 Clement Street

After Napa, we went straight to eat Asian crab and garlic noodles. I did my research and heard that PPQ is one of the best places to get it. For crabs, we got the peppercorn crab and drunken crab. Honestly, I’m not very good at eating crabs or lobsters. I don’t know the best method to get the maximum meat out of the shell. I got pretty fed up with working so hard to get my food :( It was such a tease! From what I did get, the peppercorn was definitely more flavorful, but the drunken crab had a softer and juicier meat. The garlic noodles was so simple but so good. I wonder why Boston doesn’t have any places with their own version. The crab meat fried rice was a little bland and I couldn’t really taste any crab in it. I was hoping I could avoid the work and get my meat-filling from the fried rice :T The beef and string beans were pretty tasty too. Apologies for the blurry pictures. I forgot my camera, had to settle for the crappy 2.0 camera on my phone and my unsteady hands.

Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles

Crab Meat Fried Rice

Crab Meat Fried Rice

Drunken Crab

Drunken Crab

Peppercorn Crab

Peppercorn Crab

Tanpopo @ 1740 Buchanan Street

I’m not a fan. I really wanted to go to Santa Ramen, but I had no way of getting there. The service was okay. I asked them if they had tonkotsu soup. The waitress told me no, but their kyuushuu ramen is actually the tonkotsu. I think I’ve been really spoiled by Ippudo in NY and Santa, where the soup makes it seem like it’s a Japanese party in your mouth :T. The gyoza we ordered was drenched in oil. The spicy miso ramen was pretty bland. I had to pour some of my soup into Becca’s bowl to give it flavor. The kyuushuu ramen I ordered wasn’t bad but it was really hard to eat since I could taste the oil in every spoon :(

Gyoza

Gyoza

Spicy Miso Ramen

Spicy Miso Ramen

KyuuShuu Ramen

Kyuu Shuu Ramen

Sophie’s Crepes @ 1581 Webster Street

After lunch we went to explore Japantown. My friend went a little snack-happy and bought a bunch of things at one of the candy shops. We eventually found our way to Sophie’s Crepes. Another friend of mine was raving about how yummy their home-made whip cream was so I had to try it. I love eating dessert crepes so they basically could do no wrong. The whip cream definitely tasted fresh and not from a can. Nom nom nom nom nom.

Strawberry Banana Crepe

Strawberry Banana Crepe

Harris’ Restaurant @ 2100 Van Ness Avenue

The first time I tried Harris’ I thought it was the best steak I’ve ever had. This time, I came out quite disappointed. I still did really like the bread chips they give you to snack on and the crunchy fresh Caesar Salad. We also tried the special Sword Fish Salad, which was okay. The arugula and balsamic vinaigrette was really bitter and left an after taste in my mouth. The fish itself was really sweet and delicious though. I ordered the Filet Mignon Rossini again and was so sad that my steak came out over cooked. On top of that the escargot tasted strange to me, not sure what it was. I don’t think I’m going to risk paying $60+ again on something so inconsistent.

Meat Display

Meat Display

Bread Chips

Bread Chips

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Swordfish Salad

Swordfish Salad

Filet Mignon Rossini

Filet Mignon Rossini

Pacific Catch @ 2027 Chestnut Street

Ah! What a nice way to end my trip! This was by far my favorite  restaurant this time around. We ordered a basket of sweet potato fries that I still crave today. It was crispy, salted, thin-cut but I could still taste the potato inside. We also ordered the Ahi Poke Wasabi Bowl and the BBQ Eel Wasabi Bowl. I’ve never had a wasabi bowl before and it was so good! It sort of reminded me of bibimbap in the sense that it’s a mixture of a ton of things: wakame salad, avocado, nori, daikon sprouts, sesame, ginger and cucumber in a soy-wasabi sauce. Ahi Poke is cubed raw tuna prepared in a spicy sesame soy sauce. It was different and definitely yummy.  My friend ordered the BBQ Eel, which was also really savory but the meat was a little tough to eat. I really liked both though! For dessert we ordered a mochi (vanilla and coffee flavor) fondue. It was simple, but really good. We also had a really cute gay waiter that I absolutely adore. :)

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Ahi Poke Wasabi Bowl

Ahi Poke Wasabi Bowl

BBQ Eel Wasabi Bowl

BBQ Eel Wasabi Bowl

Mochi Fondue

Mochi Fondue

– Charmin Bear T

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San Francisco: November 26-30

Santa Ramen: 1944 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA

This is one of the best ramen I’ve ever had in my entire life, which explains the long line even before the restaurant opens on a weekday. The tonkotsu soup was flavorful and the ramen was a thick curly kind that I like. You also have the option of adding other items to your ramen for a small price. The braised beef and corn are must haves. The bill was also quite reasonable. My bowl of ramen and the two additions cost approximately $15. You should either go early or late to avoid the line.

Tonkatsu Ramen

Ghirardelli @ Ghirardelli Square

This ice cream shop is amazing! I don’t normally like chocolate or ice cream for that matter, but the melted chocolate in the sundae is pure decadence. The classic sundae, warm brownie sundae and the gold rush are all items on the menu you must try. Anything with melted Ghirardelli chocolate is guaranteed to satisfy. If there was one in Boston, I’d be fat and happy.

Ghirardelli Shop Front

Chocolate Production Process

Chocolate Production Process

Classic Sundae

Com Tam Dat Thanh:

Com Tam Dat Thanh is known for its broken rice dishes. The portions are large for a reasonable price in the SF area. If you think about it though, it should be less expensive anyway. The cost of buying broken grain is cheaper to begin with. The combo that I got was about $12 and included shrimp cake, shrimp paste on a sugarcane, barbeque chicken, pickled shredded pork & pork skin, and egg & pork cake. My favorite was definitely the shrimp cake though. It’s hard to find a broken rice place in Boston, so overall I appreciated it. My one complaint is that the dish was a bit too salty for me.

Com Dam Dat Thanh

Broken Rice Large Combo

The Stinking Rose @ 325 Columbus Avenue

Do you know what a stinking rose is? It’s garlic! This place is famous for their garlic dishes. My favorite is an appetizer called Bagna Calda, which is just a hot pan of roasted garlic in oil. It sounds plain, but somehow despite the simplicity, this starter is addictive. I can get full just eating it with bread. Beware though, you might be emanating garlic for days from your breath down to your skin. I would avoid anything on the menu that doesn’t have garlic in the description.

Garlic Monster

Bagna Calda

John’s Snack & Deli @ 40 Battery Street

I had a simple kimchi bibimbab burrito for lunch. I never knew the marriage of a Mexican burrito and Korean kimchi could get along so well. It was surprisingly good, perhaps due to the fact that I had low expectations since it sounded just plain weird to me. Inside the burrito was rice, carrots, kimchi, sauteed beef, tomatoes and an egg. The egg was a very nice touch :)

Kimchi Bibimbab Burrito

Belly Good Crepes @ Japantown


I went to Japan Town to try Sophie’s Crepes. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day. I had to settle for Belly Good Crepes. The fruits were relatively fresh,. The whip cream I could taste was definitely from a can. Okay, I lied, I saw them spray it on. One thing that caught my eyes was the crazy cute presentation. Depending on whether you want it rolled up in a cone to go or on a plate for the table, you get a different face!

Strawberry Banana Vanilla Ice Cream Crepe

Strawberry Banana Nutella Crepe

That Takes the Cake @ 2271 Union Street

This place specializes in home-made cupcakes. The price is a little steep – $3 each. There is something special about this little shop though. On Saturday nights, they serve “special” cupcakes. By “special,” I mean it’s a cocktail in a cupcake. I definitely recommend going then. Although, their regular cupcakes are also extremely popular. I dropped by at around 5:00pm  and there were barely any left. I ended up ordering the red velvet, which you can’t go wrong with. It was moist and yummy. The guy who works there is really nice too. He gave me free doggie treats!

That Takes the Cake Shop Front

Red Velvet Cupcake

I have no pictures from here, but A&J makes a to-die-for spicy beef noodle soup. I slurped up the entire bowl even though my throat was sore from being sick. It was painful, but worth it! Their other noodle soups, however, are forgettable.

– Charmin Bear T

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