Sherman's Food Adventures: September 2014

Pizzeria Delfina

There I was, across the street from Pizzeria Delfina, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Choobee and company.  Minutes passed, then it became an hour, no sight of anyone.  Alas, the visit never happened, only to get a text that we would no longer dining at Pizzeria Delfina and we'd be eating elsewhere.  That was 2010 and I remember it vividly.  This time around, I had Viv with me and Saltzer was a willing participant.  In fact, we would be the ones arriving late (curse Bay Area traffic!).

Before the pizzas hit the table, we sampled on the Fresh Mozzarella with a drizzle of EVOO and served with crostinis and arugula salad.  They didn't get their shipment of burrata, so this was the alternative.  As much as I love the creaminess of burrata, the firm bounce of the mozzarella accented by the aromatic EVOO was simple enjoyment.  Next, we had the Saffron Arancini which were fried up super crispy with the creamy-cheesiness of a still firm risotto inside.  Although a touch salty, the ample saffron satisfied many of our senses.

Saltzer insisted on the Roasted Fennel with lemon oil and bottarga and it was a good choice as there was a pleasing char which resulted in great visuals and smokiness.  This, in turn activated the flavors which were supplemented by well-seasoned arugula.  The hint of lemon added acidity while the ample bottarga provided a purposeful saltiness.  Meatman, as his name suggests, didn't really care for the fennel or greens for all that mattered.  Hence, he ensured the Neapolitan Meatballs in Sugo were added to our lineup.  These large, nicely-roasted beef, veal and pork meatballs were moist and well-seasoned.  There was a meatiness to them.  As for the tomato sauce, it was mildly tart with quite a bit of salt from the guanciale.

We ended up sharing 3 pizzas (that we didn't finish, surprisingly!). Starting with the standard, we had the Margherita which featured a crispy crust with more leoparding on the bottom than the edges.  The center was soft, but not overly so.  Again, the tomato sauce was mild with only a slight tanginess.  I wished there was more basil as it didn't really come through.  The Salsiccia (with homemade fennel sausage, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella) was predictably more wet with all the extra toppings.  Hence, the center didn't hold up and the toppings slid off.  Despite this, we thought the pizza was the best tasting due to the ample meat and peppers.  There was this sweet and tangy fennel flavor that was quite impactful.

Lastly, we had the Smoked Ricotta with pancetta, arugula, black pepper and mozzarella.  With less wet ingredients, the crust held up better.  The creamy ricotta was a nice balance to the salty pancetta while the both the arugula and black pepper added 2 layers of pepperiness.  As mentioned, we didn't finish all of our food as we probably ordered too much (in addition to the "enough" portion sizes).  We enjoyed the food at Delfina and it was nice to finally get a chance to try it.  We particularly liked how they were accommodating with our party by rearranging the tables a few times.

The Good:
- Good Neapolitan pizza
- We got great service

The Bad:
- Not the most spacious of seating arrangements 
- A bit pricey, but we thought it was fair

Pizzeria Delfina on Urbanspoon

Sno-Crave Teahouse

How hard is it to find late night desserts in the Bay Area?  Well apparently it was not as easy it is appeared when we were driving from place-to-place in search of sit down sweets.  In fact, one of the top-rated places according to Yelp! was more of a grocery store than anything else.  With 2 complaining kiddies in tow, it was probably a good idea to find a place with a table.  Hence, we drove all-the-way back to Fremont (where we were staying) and settled on Snowflake Teahouse or was it Sno-Crave?  Kinda confusing...

Since my daughter is a Macaron aficionado (at 6 years old...), we got a few.  At first glance, they looked remarkably legit despite my obvious trepidation.  Texturally, they, were crispy on the outside and a dense chewy on the inside.  I found the meringue to be too sweet while the filling compounded the problem.  This was especially true with the strawberry as it was like pure jam.  For our Dark Chocolate Shaved Ice, it reminded me of watered-down frozen chocolate milk.  Now that was not necessarily a jab.  Rather, it was actually quite smooth and almost creamy for an ice.  It was not overly sweet.  It tasted a bit like a weak Fudgsicle.

Laslty, we had the Strawberry crepe which was filled with Nutella and strawberry ice cream topped with sweetened fresh strawberries.  Naturally, this was a pretty sweet creation.  The strawberries were fresh and ripe while the crepe was thin and chewy.  As much as the individual ingredients were good, everything added up just became overly sugary.  In the end, Snowflake did the job in terms of offering up late night dessert.  Nothing amazing, but serviceable nonetheless...  

The Good:
- Okay pricing
- Okay portion size
- Open late

The Bad:
- Everything was a bit too sweet and lacking finesse

Sno-Crave Teahouse on Urbanspoon

Park Chow

Originally, my plan for the day was to grab some lunch at Park Chow since it was relatively close to our day-long visit to the California Academy of Sciences.  However, Viv thought it would be too long of a walk over which meant we were stuck eating at the on-premises cafeteria.  It wasn't bad though, but I normally can't stand default restaurants.  So when we finally ended the day (at closing...  the humanity!), we did finally visit Park Chow for dinner.

Viv and I decided to get some greens in our pathetic travel diet in the Cobb Salad.  Yup, we got our greens alright, mixed in with crispy bacon, blue cheese and chicken (my kinda salad...).  This was more substantial than it appeared since there was a bevy of lean white meat (albeit quite dry and chewy).  There was ample dressing and crumbled blue cheese for flavor.  For her main, Viv had the Fusilli of Chicken & Sausage with mushrooms, tomato & cream.  She decided on the medium portion and it seemed to be enough.  With al dente spirals of pasta, the texture was on point.  Flavor-wise, it was mild with a bit of fennel and tang.

For myself, I had the Steak Frites which looked somewhat small, especially crammed onto a tiny plate.  For aesthetics, they could've piled on more fries underneath the steak.  The fries themselves were thin and very crispy.  As for the steak, it was more-or-less medium rare.  However, it wasn't tender per se, but not overly tough as well.  My son ended up with the Organic Egg, Ham, Tomato & Gruyere Sandwich. Since his eating habits are unpredictable, we got the rosemary mayo on the side.  Although the sandwich didn't look like much, it was relatively substantial with a bevy of "corned beef"-textured ham and gruyere on crunchy toast.

My daughter had the kid's Cheese Pizza and it was more or less a standard version.  The crust was light and slightly chewy where it could've benefited from more charring and overall color.  With that being said, the tomato sauce was mild and the cheese was plentiful. After we were done, we agreed that the the meal was average at best.  Nothing particularly wrong with the food, but for the price, we expected a bit more.  Turns out that we didn't miss much at lunch then.

The Good:
- Kid-friendly
- Excellent service
- Comfortable casual atmosphere

The Bad:
- Average eats
- Kinda pricey

Park Chow on Urbanspoon


Academy of Sciences Cafe

One of my pet peeves is when I'm stuck in a situation where I have to eat with no choice of restaurant.  Much like an electoral vote in North Korea, I had only one place to choose from - the Academy of Sciences Cafe.  I pleaded with Viv to go outside in search of better eats to no avail.  Somehow she has this thing about paying for something and wanting to squeeze every little thing out of it.  Oh yeah, that was the 16-hour day at Disneyworld last year...  Curses!  Hence, I reluctantly lined up in the madhouse of hungry people.

Surprisingly, there was a diverse selection of food including Chinese steamed buns and a chicken Pho.  They ran out of buns and I wasn't all that excited about paying $14.00 for a bowl of pho.  So I ended up getting the boring Cheeseburger. I was really surprised with my Cheeseburger as it featured a thick, freshly-made patty.  It was not overcooked being moist and meaty. My daughter had the the Fish n' Chips which were far too wet and soggy despite the freshness of the fish.  In fact, the flakiness and moist texture was completely ruined by the greasy limp batter.  The fries were crispy and light though.  I thought their take on tartar sauce (with mustard seeds, dill and onion) was a nice departure from the regular.  It did need more acidity though. 

Of all the choices, my son went back to the well with the Mac n' Cheese featuring Tilamook cheddar.  It was actually decent with a cheesy creaminess.  For once, a version that didn't taste generic.  For Viv she decided on a plain ol' Turkey BLT and a side of Corn Chowder.  Well, the sammie was pretty simple, but well-executed with crispy bacon and fresh produce.  I liked the pillowy soft bread as well. The corn chowder was not creamy enough being mainly reliant on a roux.  It was sweet with the crunch of the corn.  So there you have it, an exciting post about cafeteria food at a tourist attraction.  But honestly, I gotta admit that it wasn't half bad.  No wonder it was so busy...

The Good:
- Convenient, so you don't have to leave the attraction
- Lots of variety
- Food is decent

The Bad:
- Expect a premium to be paid though
- What's with the different lineups?

Academy of Sciences Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mayflower Seafood Restaurant

As if dining at Mayflower for Dim Sum wasn't enough for one day, we returned for dinner only a mere 5 hours later.  I think my uncle likes the place...  it's just a hunch...  I guess we should've just pitched a tent outside so we didn't have to leave.  Um...  No, not really, it was too hot anyways.  The real reason behind returning was that it would be central to all of the people making it out for dinner.  I guess my family does love me as they all showed up!  Maybe a trip to Bay Area every 1.8 years isn't enough!

Anyways, we ended up with an interesting array of dishes beginning with the Appetizer Platter consisting of mini-octopus, BBQ pork, jellyfish and sliced beef shank.  The octopus was sweet with a light snap while the jellyfish was overly sweet, yet exhibited a nice crunch.  Also sweet, the BBQ pork was lean and tender.  As for the beef shank, it was soft with a herbal liquorice taste (probably from the star anise and five spice).  Served in a whole wintermelon, the Wintermelon Soup consisted of crab, BBQ duck, shiitake, Virginia ham and gai lan stalks.  The broth was sweet with an Earthy shiitake essence.  The star of the show was the large whole leg pieces of fluffy crab.

Moving on, we had the Stir-Fried Snap Peas with clams and scallops.  As evidenced by the glossy sheen, this was a bit greasy albeit the beneficiary of a scorching wok toss.  Although the clams were sweet and tender with a slight chew, the scallops were completely overdone.  The sweetness of the crunchy snap peas was balanced off by the spicy and savory black bean sauce.  Up next was an interesting dish being the Wasabi Beef with silken tofu.  I gotta admit this was a weird concoction where the hit of wasabi was definitely discernible.  Although the beef was tender, the wasabi and the red onion didn't do it for me.

Trying to fulfill the main meat groups, we continued on with the Crispy Chicken with fried garlic.  With a rich golden hue, the skin was nicely rendered and crispy.  The fried garlic was aromatic while not bitter.  However, all these positives were outweighed by the completely dry, overcooked meat (including the dark meat).  Next, we had the Steamed Whole Fish, which could've been perch.  I say this because no one told me what it was!  Anyways, it was steamed just right being flaky and buttery soft.  There was just enough ginger and onion for the aroma without overwhelming the fish.

I've had salted egg yolk crusted crab before where I was only mildly impressed.  But the Golden Lobster coated with the aforementioned salted egg yolk was executed nicely.  There was just enough that we knew it was there without overwhelming the sweet lobster meat (which was a little overdone though).  Best of all, the fried pumpkin underneath was coated with the same egg yolk and it was addictively good.  Finally with a veggie dish, we had the Gai Lan with bean curd sheets and wolfberries.  The gai lan was vibrantly green and crunchy which was a nice contrast to the soft and chewy bean curd sheets.  Despite the abundance of liquid on the plate, there was sufficient seasoning.

We ended off the meal with Fried Rice with dried scallops, gai lan stalks and egg whites before moving onto dessert. I found the rice to be a bit too moist where it didn't have that trademark nuttiness.  Furthermore, it needed more oil and seasoning as it was pretty bland.  For our first round of desserts, we were presented with the Sweet Red Bean Soup, Cookies and Steamed Tapioca Red Bean Cakes.  Since I deteste red bean soup, I didn't have any, but I did try the other 2 and I liked the red bean cakes as they were soft and only semi-sweet.  I didn't like the cookies though as they were crumbly and dry.  Lastly, we had the Baked Tapioca Pudding Dessert filled with sweet lotus paste.  This was pretty average as it wasn't served all-that-hot temperature-wise.  It was on the sweeter side where it wasn't moist enough.  As you can probably guess, the food was okay with only a few highlights.  Nothing to write home about, but did the job more-or-less.

The Good:
- Okay service, better than Dim Sum
- Good portion size
- "Okay" eats

The Bad:
- Some execution issues

Mayflower Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum @ Mayflower Seafood Restaurant

After our initial late night run to In-N-Out Burger the day before (it is a tradition we do that once we land in any location with an In-N-Out), our lunch destination went back to the well once more.  Actually, every time I visit San Francisco (which has been 6 times in the last 10 years), my uncle takes me to Mayflower Restaurant.  I suppose he likes the place?  So we headed for Dim Sum at the Union City location because the one at Milpitas has gone downhill according to him. 

The first cart to visit our table was the one with the rice noodle rolls.  We got one each of the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll and Salty Donut Rice Noodle Roll.  The first thing we noticed was the large whole shrimp hidden within the sheets of rice noodle.  They were more firm-meaty than crunchy, but were good nonetheless.  The rice noodle itself was relatively soft with a slight chew.  As for the salty donut rice noodle roll, the noodle was consistent being the same texture.  Although quite greasy, the salty donut retained its crunch while being not overly dense.

Appearing plump and in a rich shade of brownish red, the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) were on point.  Despite some skin breakage, the texture of the cartilage and fat was soft yet not melting. There was a slight rebound texture while the skin itself was moist.  Flavor-wise, it was not longing for seasoning as it was garlicky, sweet and savory.  Onto the Steamed Pork Spareribs, they were meaty with very few cartilage and fatty pieces.  Texturally, the ribs were chewy with only a slight bounciness.  Seasoning was balanced with the saltiness from the black beans and a touch of spice from the peppers.  I would've liked to see more garlic though.

Arriving in a stark shade of off-white, the Sui Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumpling) didn't look that promising.  However, the reason for this was due to the shrimp on top.  Once again, the shrimp was more meaty rather than crunchy.  As for the pork, it was moist and meaty as well with only a slight rebound texture.  The dumpling did taste good though with a nice balance of flavours.  Of course we had to get the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumpling) too since going to Dim Sum without eating it is like visiting a In-N-Out and not eating a burger.  These featured a thin dumpling wrapper that was only a bit chewy.  The shrimp filling was moist and meaty with very little snap texture.  I wasn't a fan of the bamboo shoots due to its strong flavour.  There was plenty of sesame oil though.

For the kiddies, we ordered the Baked BBQ Pork Buns which featured a sweet sticky glaze on top (more sticky than usual).  The bun itself was soft and airy while the BBQ pork filling was meaty with very little fat.  Flavor-wise, it was not overly sweet, where it had a nice balance with enough saltiness.  We also got the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) presented in 2 small parcels wrapped with lotus leaves.  Inside, the rice was glutinous and a bit wet.  The pork filling was plentiful, yet a bit bland.  The extra layer of wrap helped keep it all together while locking in the moisture and flavor.

To ensure maximum fullness, we got 2 filler dishes including the Fried Noodles with fish.  Crispy on the edges while completely sauced in the middle, the noodles were pretty firm.  There was possibly a bit too much sauce though as everything became goopy.  It was pretty mild as with the flaky slices of fish and crunchy yau choy.  The fish bones were used for the Congee that was thick and sweet tasting. Yet, with each spoonful, it started to get watery. Futhermore, we needed to be careful as fish bones and in an all-white concoction can be a bit tricky to eat.

As if we didn't need any more carbs, we also got the Stir Fried Silver Needle Noodles. These had a nice rebound texture to them and were fried up with enough seasoning and ingredients. Yet, it seemed to lack wok heat which meant a lack of caramelization. On the other hand, the kids like the dish. However, they didn't like the Egg Tarts because the shell was over-baked.  It was too firm and no longer flaky.  Furthermore, the custard was not silky as a result.  It was overly sweet too. Despite the fact Dim Sum is somewhat of a comfort food for us, we felt the food at Mayflower was pretty average at best.  Also, there never seemed to be anyone around to refill our tea and water.

The Good:
- Not much other Dim Sum around in the area
- Decent selection

The Bad:
- Food is average
- Service is non-existant

Mayflower Restaurant on Urbanspoon