Sherman's Food Adventures: 2017

Deli Board

After some gluttonous eating over the past few days, especially our visit to the House of Prime Rib, we needed to bring it down a few notches.  We couldn't sustain the overload of calories as well as the dent put into my bank account.  Hence, for a quick lunch, we made the medium-long walk over to Deli Board on Folsom from the Marriott Marquis in Downtown San Francisco.  Now this place is famous for their enormous sammies, which really wasn't dialing it down too much from our previous meals!

Before the sammies, we got a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup served in a plastic take-out container.  I mention this because the soup was freakin' hot and let's just say I do not recommend holding it like I did for the picture!  It was good though being lightly salted and full of natural chicken flavour.  The matzo ball was fluffy and light as well.  We only went with 2 sammies since we weren't very hungry (still digesting all that meat from the night before!).  The first was for the kiddies and it was a custom Turkey and Bacon with greens and board sauce.  I don't know about you, but the amount of tender and moist turkey in this thing was outrageous.  Very filling, but at the same time, great quality and it tasted great with crispy bacon and not overly heavy bread.

For Viv and I, we shared the Boca with a tonne of meats including corned beef, pastrami, brisket, muenster cheese, Board sauce, brown mustard & pickles.  Due to the types of meat, the sandwich ate saltier and more full-bodied.  Naturally, it was also a touch greasier as well.  However, all of this was quite fine by us as the sammie burst with flavor as well as a touch of tang and sharpness.  Yes, half of it was more than enough!  As you can clearly see, the sammies at Deli Board are huuuuge and quite tasty to boot.  Yet another spot I'd do again when in town.

The Good:
- Large and full of meat
- They taste good
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Not really that spacious, better get it to go during peak times
- Might want to go with a paper-based bowl for the soup

House of Prime Rib

Okay, okay, okay...  We all know that House of Prime Rib can be rather touristy since it has been on featured on Food Network.  Yes, I've seen it all before - the roaming carts of whole prime rib and the fact they serve nothing but (except for one fish of the day dish).  The all-inclusive price gets you a  sourdough loaf, salad prepared table side, a slice of prime rib (in large, larger and larger!), a choice of potato, a "vegetable" and Yorkshire pudding.  Despite the "cliched" item on my bucket list, it is somewhere I've wanted to try for awhile (especially since I have relatives in San Francisco and have visited the place at least a dozen of times).  So off we went, including the kiddies, for some serious meat!

To begin, we were served a Salad with iceberg lettuce, watercress, crumbled egg and beats.  It was prepared table side with a zesty Thousand Islands dressing spiked with seasoned salt.  Although it was aggressively dressed by the overly-showy table side delivery, it was still quite good.  I liked the crunch of the lettuce with the texture of the eggs and the watercress.  It was flavorful with a tang and spice.  After we dusted that off, we were introduced to the chef who carved our slices of prime rib.  In the Cart, we found 3 different racks of rib (assuming different doneness), au jus, creamed corn and creamed spinach.  With each slice of the beautiful meat, we could hear birds sing...

For my daughter, she was able to get the Kid's Cut which was still a generous portion.  She chose to have mashed potatoes and creamed spinach as her sides.  For $14.95, it also included a glass of milk and a humongous ice cream dessert.  She wasn't able to finish, but put in a good effort to do so.  Personally, if you have younger kids, don't be afraid to bring them because this was reasonably-priced and portioned.  Viv and my son went for the City Cut that was small in my eyes, but more-than-enough for them.  They both chose creamed corn as their vegetable and it was sweet with appealing pops from the niblets.  It wasn't too creamy, so it was probably the lighter of the 2 choices.  I found the mashed potato to be salty and a bit dense, but the ample jus helped with that.

If there was any doubt, I went for the King Henry VIII cut that was definitely large and included the rib.  I found the medium-rare meat to be buttery soft and tender.  It wasn't over-seasoned which meant I could taste the natural flavors.  I paired it with the creamy horseradish that was provided (along with regular horseradish).  The side of creamed spinach was extremely rich and salty from the addition of bacon.  I got a baked potato and it was soft and fluffy where they weren't shy with the butter and bacon bits. So as you can see, the menu ain't complicated.  But do one thing and do it right which is House of Prime Rib in a nutshell.  I would totally do this again.

The Good:
- Does one thing and does it right
- It may seem expensive, but it is worth it

The Bad:
- Not particularly great for someone who doesn't like prime rib 
- The kid's portion was as large as the city cut (if you were comparing prices)


Cockscomb

Dining at restaurants located mainly in Fremont and one in Dublin generally does not give a good overview of the best Bay Area eats.  However, we were visiting family and it wasn't as if we were all going to drive an hour into San Francisco for food.  Things were about to change though as we were moving into the Marriott Marquis for 4 nights.  This way, we were near better restaurants or at the very least, more choice.  After checking in, we made our way down 4th over to Cockscomb (of Chris Cosentino fame).  I've been to his now closed Incanto in Hayes Valley, so I was curious what was in store for his newer spot.

We started things off with the Charcuterie Platter consisting of chicken liver pate, pork and pistachio terrine, prosciutto, gherkins, pickled onions and grainy mustard with toasted bread.  As simple as this appeared, we dusted this off quickly because it was delicious.  We enjoyed that the pate and terrine were lightly seasoned where we could still taste the natural flavors.  The sprinkle of fleur de sel helped with the seasoning.  The thick-sliced prosciutto was appealingly chewy and salty.  Toasted up crunchy and nutty, the bread was an excellent compliment to the platter.  We also got the Deviled Eggs topped with crispy chicken skin.  These were a nice little bite with a smooth yolk filling that was Earthy and only slightly spicy with the chili on top.

For our mains, I went for the Italian Dip featuring a meatball patty and provolone sandwiched in between a loaf of bread.  It was cut in half and plated in Mama Cosentino's famous marinara sauce.  I really liked the sauce since it was bright, tart and flavorful.  It went well with the succulent and well-spiced patty and soft bread.  This was definitely a nice take on a meatball sandwich.  My son went for the Grilled Cheese sporting country ham with a fried duck egg and honey drizzled on top.  The ample amount of taleggio cheese was melty and the ham provided a good saltiness which was counterbalanced by the honey.  He ended up dipping his sandwich in the duck yolk which made things even more rich.

Viv opted for the "Ham" Burger made with 6-day brined pork which was juicy and flavorful (with natural meat taste).  I thought the pickles made the burger as it provided a tangy crunch which brought things to life.  Add in sweet caramelized grilled onions and creamy gruyere cheese, this was one decadent sammie.  On the side were crispy house potatoes fried in beef tallow and accompanied by a killer lemon, horseradish & smoked ailoi.  It was tart with plenty of punch.  As a side, we got the Duck Fat Cauliflower which was seared aggressively on the flat top.  As such, it was smoky and full of caramelization as well as activation of the duck fat.  There was a noted spice from the chili and plenty of armoatics from the garlic.  The mint added a certain brightness.

Lastly, we got the fried Pig's Ears with herbs and lime.  These were only slightly crispy since they were sliced up pretty thick.  Hence, the fatty and gelatinous texture of the pig's ear were still there.  The basil and mint announced themselves while the squeeze of lime brightened up what was heavy snack.  Now if you thought we finished all this food, you give us way too much credit!  Even though we didn't finish, it was tempting since the food was on point and sufficiently interesting.  Pricing was fair IMO and the service was solid.

The Good:
- Great service
- Solid eats
- Fair pricing

The Bad:
- Food is not light, but that's why it was good too!

Din Ding Dumpling House

We swore to stay away from Chinese food while we were down in the Bay Area since the stuff we get at home in Vancouver is pretty much the gold standard in North American (in our opinion).  However, it is difficult to stay away as we crave comfort food and often get tired from eating non-Asian cuisine.  So when we had to take out my cousin for dinner since she hosted us for 3 days, we chose a Shanghainese joint out in Fremont.  Besides, I think we used up all of their toilet paper and bottled water...  LOL.  The whole gang ended up at dinner including her sister with husband and kids as well as their parents.  For that reason, we ordered a lot of food!

Some smaller appies hit the table first including the sliced Beef Shank and the Marinated Cucumbers.  They warned us that these were small dishes, but for us, they were big enough and well-priced for the portion-size.  Firm and pleasantly chewy, the beef shank was still tender and had a nice rebound.  It was on the drier side, but it wasn't a deal-breaker.  There was enough flavor in the form of soy, star anise and sweetness.  They didn't look like much, but the cucumbers were money.  Crunchy and bright, they were lightly sweet and mildly salty.  They were so good, the kiddies ate them as well.  Not my son, but the younger kids at the table.

For me, I had to get the Spicy Tripe and it was a good decision.  Sliced thin, but still exhibiting an appealing chewy rebound, the tripe was nicely gelatinized.  It was tossed in enough chili oil for some spiciness without being overwhelming.  There was an equal amount of sweetness and saltiness as well.  We ended up with 5 steamers of the Xiao Long Bao since all of the kiddies love dumplings.  These were generally good with a thin dumpling skin and loads of soup on the inside.  I found there was a lack of elasticity though as the skin would break too easily.  The pork filling was a bit gritty, but still moist and tender.  As for the soup, it was sweet with lots of meat flavor.

To get our veggies for the meal and really for our trip as we had been clearly eating too much meat and fried food...  So we got the Stir-Fried String Beans, Stir-Fried Ong Choy and Stir-Fried Shanghai Bak Choy.  My favourite of the bunch was the string beans since they were oil-blanched just enough that they were cooked, but still remained crunchy.  They were also lightly seasoned which was a good thing.  The ong choy was crunchy and also lightly salted where the natural flavors were preserved as well as the garlic coming though.  As expected, the Shanghai bak choy was more watery due since it lets out moisture when stir-fried.  They were still crunchy though.

Onto some carbs, we had the House Special Fried Rice and the Chicken Stir-Fried Noodles.  The fried rice was a mix of beef, chicken, shrimp and frozen veggies.  I found that it was dry and nutty which meant the rice wasn't too wet to begin with and the wok heat was sufficient for caramelization.  The shrimp was cold-water crunchy, but the beef was beyond chewy.  I couldn't break it down and had to spit it out.  As for the fried noodles, they were pretty good being slippery and al dente while not overly greasy.  There was enough wok heat to keep the moisture to a minimum where the dish ate well with tender juilienned pork and crunchy cabbage.

For the kiddies, we got a few orders of the Beef Soup Noodles and they were pretty much forgettable.  Let's start with the one positive, the noodles.  Much like the stir-fried noodles, these were chewy and al dente.  However, the soup was rather bland and it didn't taste like there was any depth to it (ie. meat flavor).  Furthermore, the beef was very dry and chewy.  It was lean to begin with and the way they prepared it didn't help matters much.  On the other hand, the Spicy Beef Soup Noodles was remarkably better.  First of all, the soup was impactfully spicy despite lacking body.  The noodles were just as good as the previous bowl and the beef tendons were the right texture.

For me, I really wanted to try the Ja Jeun Mein (Noodles with Meat Sauce) and they were respectable.  Consisting of the on point noodles as well, the sauce on top was flavorful and rich.  There was enough of it to coat the noodles and provide enough seasoning.  It was savory with some some sweetness.  The cucumbers were fresh and provided a nice crunch.  The only thing I could fault the dish was that the sauce was a touch greasy.  One item I could've done without was the Spicy Wontons.  I thought the filling was terrible being mushy and bland.  The sauce itself had a good vinegariness, but it wasn't balanced.  There was no spice and not enough soy to counteract the tartness.  Overall, I would echo my aunt's assessment of the place, "acceptably average".  Does the job, but not particularly memorable.

The Good:
- Acceptably-average
- Okay portions

The Bad:
- A little pricey for this class of restaurant
- Service is spotty

Taqueria Los Pericos

Originally, we were planning to visit the Gilroy Outlets while in the Bay Area, but we were unaware of a new location that was closer.  Staying at my cousin's house in Union City, it was only a short 30 minute drive to the Livermore Premium Outlets.  We ended up going right when it opened to score a parking spot and to escape the craziness (much like all of the other premium outlets).   After a snack at one of the food trucks, we were still hungry from the shopping, so we headed over to nearby Dublin for some Mexican eats at Taqueria Los Pericos.

Before we got our eats, we helped ourselves (a few times, LOL) to the complimentary Tortilla Chips and the accompanying condiment bar.  Although somewhat greasy, the chips were light and crispy.  It went well with the fresh and bright salsa which was only mildly spicy due to the conservative amount of finely diced chili peppers.  I personally loved the tomatillo sauce as it was also bright with a light level of spice and tartness.  For my daughter, she had the small Quesadilla with chicken, sour cream, guacamole and salsa.  Normally, she doesn't finish her food, but she dusted this one off quickly due to the generous amount of tender chicken, bright salsa and fresh guacamole.

My son had some of the Tacos consisting of chicken, beef and beef tongue.  We were not impressed with any of them since they sauced them for us.  Not sure why they did that since all of them became mushy and wet.  The chicken and beef were okay since they were dry enough to accept the sauces, but the overly wet lengua combined with the sauce became very messy and impossible to eat in one piece.  I wished they had finished off the tongue on the flattop.  Viv and I shared the Wet Super Burrito consisting of chicken, beans, rice, sour cream, cheese and salsa topped with more cheese and salsa roja.  This was good since the amount of meat was also generous while the ingredients were fresh.  Loved the bright, tangy and mildly spicy sauce as well.  This was probably the best item we had and it was definitely worth the money.  However, the tacos were sub-par.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Good burrito

The Bad:
- Sloppy tacos

Mingala Restaurant

Usually, when one thinks of Burmese food and the Bay Area, the name Burma Superstar is always the obvious choice.  Make no mistake, I really do want to visit the place and maybe one day I will.  It just hasn't been convenient for us to do so.  But back to my point, no one thinks of Mingala Restaurant located in Fremont (except those who live there...).  It was somewhat of a random choice by my uncle when we all met up for dinner.  Looking over the menu, it seemed more like a mish mash of Burmese, Thai and Malay dishes.  

As such, we got a little of everything to start including the Laphat Thoke (Burmese Tea Leaf Salad) consisting of tea leaves, fried lentils, peanuts, chili, tomatoes, cabbage, sesame seeds and dried shrimp.  Okay, I'm not a tea leaf salad expert, but I found this one a bit bland and lacking in crunch.  With that being said, it wasn't bad though.  There was still some tea leaf essence to go with the brininess of the dried shrimp.  Next, I sampled the Pork Rib Soup which was lightly seasoned, but was meaty due to the tender pork ribs and also Earthy due to the shiitake mushrooms.

Moving onto the Roti Pratha, I found it to be a little dense, but this type of roti tends to be that way.  Maybe, they could've spun it looser or with more space between sections.  It could've been crispier and less greasy as well.  The side of curry sauce was mild, yet aromatic and successfully flavored the roti.  One of my favourite dishes was the Belachan Ong Choy with dried shrimp paste, garlic and ginger.  There was plenty of wok heat that lead to the caramelization of the ingredients.  This meant the brininess of the shrimp paste was super impactful as well as the garlic and ginger.  Furthermore, there was a smoky sweetness from the stir-fry.

For the kiddies and carb-lovers, we had the Pad Thai prepared with shrimp.  This was average in my books due to the omission of pickled turnip and pressed tofu.  I found the flavours to be one note with a slight tang and mostly sweetness.  There was a lack of smokiness from intense wok heat and the aggressive tartness from tamarind.  Textures were on point though with chewy noodles and crunchy sprouts and meaty shrimp.  Looking rather dark, the Hokkien Noodles were doused in an alarming amount of dark soy.  However, the dish ate a lot better than it appeared with muted sweetness and surprisingly mild saltiness.  The dish was a bit wet where the noodles were soft though.

Our last 2 dishes were the Hainanese Chicken and Ying Yang Noodles.  The chicken was a bit more firm that I would've liked, but it was still tender and succulent.  It was mildly seasoned where the condiments did their thing.  As for the noodles, they were saucy as expected with creamy egg sauce along with shrimp, squid, chicken and choy sum.  Despite the mess of moisture, the noodles were still fine while the ingredients were properly prepared.  In general, the meal as a whole was pleasant, yet could've used some tweaks here and there.  Whatever the case, Mingala does the job as a neighbourhood restaurant.

The Good:
- Lots of choice on the menu
- Fairly good service
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- A bit disjointed without a focus

Hyack Sushi

Suffice to say, it isn't very hard to find a Japanese restaurant whether it be in Downtown Vancouver or a suburb like New West.  So when Hyack Sushi opened up across from the New West Skytrain station, I wasn't even aware of it.  However, with a tasting, I was about to find out if there was anything different.  I mention this as it has become increasingly clear that there needs to be something special for a Japanese restaurant to stand out among the sea of choices in the Lower Mainland.

Our first bite was a Deep Fried Poached Egg sauced with some spicy mayo.  This delicate creation was coated with panko and fried perfectly.  It was crispy and surprisingly not greasy on the outside.  Once past the crunchy shell, the egg in the middle was still appealingly runny and soft.  This was a textural delight where everything was done right.  The spicy mayo added just enough creamy punch for the silky egg.  Next up, we sampled some Aburi Nigiri consisting of salmon bomb (in the middle), ika, ebi, salmon, tuna and hotategai.  These were neatly-prepared and lightly torched.  Ingredients were fresh and textures were on point as well.  The rice was nicely chewy, but for me at least, the aburi could've been more caramelized (especially when there was sauce).

As a bonus, we also had the Aburi Salmon Oshi (which seems to be all the rage ever since Miku/Minami started the trend awhile back).  This was also neatly arranged and prepared.  There was a smoky flavour in addition to the natural essence of the activated salmon fat due to the torching.  The sauces were a bit much, but it certainly didn't eat as such.  Since the rice was served warm, it was softer and more moist.  Resembling a seafood salad, the Spicy Chirashi Don would be as such if one opted not to eat the side of rice.  For me, it isn't a charashi don without it, so after mixing the sweet gochujang dressing with the greens and slices of salmon and tuna (along with diced tako), it was a pleasant concoction.  The rice was nicely chewy and stood up to the sauce.

Probably the most interesting dish was the Gyu-Katsu featuring a panko coated and fried piece of rare beef.  One could technically eat it the way it was served, but ideally, we were supplied a small grill where we could cook it to our liking.  Even after the sear on both sides, the panko coating remained crispy.  Inside, the beef was meaty and tender.  Also on the plate was yam fries and pickled cabbage.  On the side, we were served house-made tonkatsu sauce, sesame and teriyaki sauce.  Lastly, we tried their Christmas Special consisting of Miso Sablefish atop lentils and mint yogurt, Chawan Mushi, Sablefish Miso and rice.  This was my favourite dish where the sablefish was prepared masterfully.  It was marinated just enough without compromising the buttery flakiness of the fish.  The chawan mushi was silky and not watery.  In a sea of Japanese restaurants, Hyack Sushi attempts to be a little bit different mixed in with the familiar.  Not bad for the burbs.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Beyond the ordinary dishes
- Fairly solid eats
- Spacious

The Bad:
- A little pricey