Sherman's Food Adventures: September 2019

BK's Bistro

To be honest, I really didn't have a whole lot planned in terms of food for my 2 days in Fremont.  It was mainly just to visit with relatives and hang out.  But I did have one request - to have Dim Sum at BK's Bistro.  Why?  Well, first of all, I didn't want to go to Mayflower for the 10th time and second, I needed to load up on Chinese food before the next part of the road trip.  However, I did have some lined up for LA...  Whatever the case, I wanted Chinese comfort food before all of the roadside diners I would encounter later.

We couldn't get anymore comforting than some congee, so we started with the Sliced Chicken Congee.  Now as you can see, congee isn't the sexiest thing to take pictures of.  If you put white-on-white, it just looks washed out.  Pictures aside, the congee was solid though albeit not as thick as I would've liked.  Despite this, there was still good viscosity and proper seasoning.  The chicken plentiful and tender.  A solid start to the meal.  Next, the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll was pretty good as well.  Sporting a medium-thick rice noodle, the roll didn't eat as dense as it appeared.  The noodle was soft with some elasticity.  Inside, the large whole shrimp were meaty with a sweet snap.  There was plenty of sesame oil in the marinade for the shrimp.

The same thing could be said about the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) as the filling consisted of whole shrimp.  I had 2 of them and neither had smaller chunks of shrimp, they were all whole.  In fact, there was very little shrimp mousse binding the filling together (which made it rather loose).  Again, the sesame oil really came through.  It could be a bit strong for some people, but I enjoyed it.  One thing that could've been better was the dumpling wrapper as most of them were ripped.  That was due to the fact they were soft and too wet.  As for the Siu Mai (Shrimp & Pork Dumplings), they were well-executed.  Also a bit loose, the filling consisted of bouncy chunks of pork and whole shrimp.  There was a minor porkiness to it combined with the sweetness of the marinade.

Normally, I go on and on about Xiao Long Bao not being very good at Cantonese restaurants.  That is usually true because they do not specialize in this dish, but the ones here were decent.  Although the dumpling skin was on the thicker side, it was still delicate enough to not be overly doughy.  Inside, there was actually a good amount of soup, albeit too sweet and one note.  The pork filling was crumbly and loose, but tender.  Either it is a Bay Area thing or they do it differently at BK's, the XO Daikon Cake was a greasy mess.  Normally, I find the daikon cake cubed and deep fried, then tossed in XO sauce.  Here, it was panfried haphazardly and then doused with XO sauce (too much of the oil).  This was tasty with tender daikon cake and briny XO, but far too oily.

One of the stranger dishes was the Mango Shrimp Spring Roll.  Not only was there mango in the roll itself, the wrapper was much thinner and not as crispy as the typical spring roll wrapper.  Texturally, that wasn't all that appealing.  Inside, the theme of whole shrimp continued with an excellent filling.  It had much less sesame oil, which was a good thing (due to the addition of mango), yet at the same time had a bouncy texture.  We thought the mango was too sweet and totally dominated the flavour profile.  For the kiddies, they wanted the Steamed Spareribs with Rice Noodle.  Good choice as the spareribs were tender and well-seasoned.  They retained a meatiness and there was plenty of garlic.  However, it looked like they merely plopped on top an order of spareribs (in the shape of the original plate).

The kids also wanted the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice wrapped in lotus leaves) and of course we ordered it.  It came as 2 medium-sized portions cut in half by scissors.  Inside, the sticky rice was a little on the drier side, but that didn't make or break the dish.  In fact, the equal amount of ground pork filling helped add the necessary moisture and flavoring for the dish.  To get some veggies into our diets, we ordered the Stir-Fried Water Spinach with fermented tofu.  This was expertly prepared where the wok hei was strong enough to cook the vegetable through without softening up the hollow stalks.  This also helped produce aroma from the fermented tofu, garlic and peppers.  The result was a texturally pleasing dish with the right amount of seasoning.

Onto 2 similarly shaped items, we were served the Wu Gock (Deep Fried Taro Dumplings) and Ham Siu Gock (Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings).   Sporting a relatively thin layer of mashed taro, the wu gock were not oily and plenty crispy.  Inside, the filling consisted of ground pork, shiitake and cilantro.  I thought it was probably a bit too saucy as it was spilling out.  The pork was tender and not overly fatty, but I wasn't sure cilantro was needed here as it was overwhelming.  The same filling was found in the ham siu gock and yes the same issues existed.  I did like the glutinous rice flour shell as it was semi-thick and sticky with a crunchy exterior.  It also wasn't too greasy.

Two more solid dishes arrived next in the Phoenix Talons (Steamed Chicken Feet) and Bean Curd Skin Rolls.  Cut lengthwise, the chicken feet were done just right.  I found that the deep fry was aggressive enough to create a certain chewiness on the exterior that gave way to tender skin and cartilage underneath.  There was more than enough seasoning to create an impact being sweet and garlicky.  I also thought the deep fry on the bean curd skin to be perfect as the colour and texture were on point.  The chewiness of the skin was a nice balance to the tender and bouncy pieces of pork.  Unlike some versions, there was just enough starch-thickened watered-down oyster sauce.

Ending things off, we had the BBQ Pork Buns and some more Baked BBQ Pork Buns to go.  Soft and fluffy with just the slightest chewiness on the exterior, the BBQ pork buns sported plenty of filling.  The sliced BBQ pork was mostly lean while sauced in a sweet and sticky glaze.  As for the baked buns, it sported a sweet sugary topping that was delicately crispy.  The bun itself could've been lighter and airy though.  Inside, the filling was the same as the steamed buns.  Overall, the dim sum at BK's Bistro was solid and in my opinion, better than the Mayflower.  Of course this is subjective, but at the very least, it was a good injection of Cantonese comfort food before all of the burgers and sandwiches we were to consume in the next 2 weeks.

The Good:
- Solid dim sum
- Okay service
- Good selection

The Bad:
- Limited seating, busy during peak times
- Some items were definitely better than others

Bravas Bar de Tapas

So making the journey from Crescent City to Fremont wasn't exactly the shortest drive we could've planned.  Furthermore, taking detours to see the giant redwoods made for even a longer day.  However, with no reason to add another stop to our already long road trip, we had to do what we had to do.  Our original plan was to stop in Berkeley for some dinner before the short jaunt over to Fremont (where my cousins live).  That changed suddenly when we exited in Healdsburg to use the washroom.  This ended up with a visit to Bravas Bar de Tapas for dinner!

After ordering some sangrias (only for the adults!), we got down to the food starting with the Patatas Bravas with spicy tomato sauce and aioli.  Consisting of medium-sized chunks of fried potatoes, this was a nice start to the meal.  Viv thought the potatoes were fried too much, but I didn't mind them as they sported a firmly crunchy exterior.  Although, I did agree with her that the potatoes as a whole were too dense.  The aioli was creamy and garlicky while the tomato sauce was rather sweet.  The kids really loved the Creamy Chicken Croquetas as they were lightly crispy on the outside.  Inside, the filling was indeed creamy with small pieces of ham.  The combination of the ham and gruyere cheese made this robust and bordering on salty.

One of the more surprising dishes was the Fried Eggplant Chips with truffle honey and rosemary.  They didn't resemble a vegetable in anyway.  So much so, the kids thought they were pretty good!  Evenly crispy with very little eggplant texture, these did live up to the "chip" in its description.  Due to the honey, the chips ate rather sweet with the earthiness of truffle and woodsiness of the rosemary.  Another vegetable that we ordered was the Asparagus with black garlic aioli, crispy jamon and preserved lemon.  Sometimes, veggies don't get enough appreciation but these were very good.  Charred with a smokiness while still not overdone, the asparagus were well-seasoned.  The earthiness from the black garlic and saltiness of the jamon packed a punch.  Bitterness of the preserved lemon rind provided good balance.

Served as little sandwiches (Bocadillos), the duck meatballs were fantastic.  They were large and meaty without being dense nor dry.  We enjoyed how they were almost crumbly without falling apart.  The duck gaminess really came through in an appealing manner which was aided by the lightly sweet tomato sofrito with onions.  To brighten things up, there was a green olive tapenade as well.  Staying with the meats, we had the Skirt Steak with valdeon cheese butter, smashed fingerlings, red onion marmalade and mustard seed.  Prepared medium-rare (but closer to rare), the steak was beautifully tender.  It was rested properly where the juices stayed within.  Loved the sharp aromatics of the blue cheese as it soaked into the tender potatoes.

One of my favorite items was the Octopus with fingerlings, smoked paprika and olives.  The large tentacle couldn't have been anymore tender while still maintaining a pleasant bite.  It was nicely charred and well-seasoned.  However, the smokiness and earthiness of the paprika really came through.  The charred lemon on the side really brought things to life with a smoky brightness.  We ended off with the Original BFC Fried Chicken with DC mumbo sauce, garlic toast and kale, manchego and fennel salad.  The fried half chicken was firmly crunchy (although the batter was a bit dry) with moist meat inside.  Combined with the sauce, it almost ate like Korean fried chicken.  Interestingly, the best part was the baby kale salad as it was dressed with lime and boasted a bevy of cheese.  Overall, Bravas Bar was a surprise as we randomly chose it as our dinner destination after we exited the highway to find a washroom.  Food was good and service was attentive.

The Good:
- Generally solid eats
- Fair pricing
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Fried chicken was good but the batter was dry and a touch mealy

Log Cabin Diner

Convenience is often not a consideration when it comes to foodies.  You know, will travel far and wide for food regardless of the distance and cost.  Well, that is not really practical when on a road trip.  This is especially true when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.  When we had just finished visiting the Trees of Mystery, there weren't a whole lot of choices for eats nearby.  We definitely didn't want to do the tourist trap across the street, so we drove a bit further down the road to Log Cabin Diner.  This little unassuming spot doesn't serve up gourmet eats, but that didn't matter to us.  We just needed solid eats for the road.

Simple and inexpensive, the menu provided the basics including my Bacon Cheeseburger made with a 1/3 lb beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and mayo.  For what it was worth, the burger was solid.  The beef patty was cooked just enough where it wasn't dry while sporting a caramelized sear.  All of the ingredients were super fresh and the bacon was crispy.  I found the bun to be appealingly firm that it held everything together.  On the side, the krinkle cut fries were fried up golden and crispy.  My son's Ham and Cheese Melt was equally well-prepared.  The sourdough bread was cooked on the flattop until golden brown and crunchy.  Inside, there was plenty of melty cheese as well as seared slices of ham.  That was important as it reduced the amount of moisture and also caramelized the ham.

For Viv, she went for the Toasted Club with bacon, ham, turkey, Swiss, lettuce, tomato and mayo.  Again, this wasn't a complex food item, but they constructed it with care.  The bread was toasted just right as it held up the the wet ingredients.  There was more than enough for impact and the produce was fresh.  Even the side salad sported supremely fresh veggies (there was more sandwich on the plate, I removed it to put the salad on it).  My daughter wasn't really all that hungry and ended up with a bowl of Chicken Rice Soup.  It was rather thick and ate like a gumbo more than a soup.  No matter, it was flavourful with plenty of rice and tender chicken.  As you can see, the food at Log Cabin Diner was pretty basic.  However, it was good for what it was.  Combine this with super friendly people and reasonable prices, this makes for a great stop for anyone in the area needed food. 

The Good:
- Cheap
- Simple but well-prepared eats
- Super friendly people, they let us feed the emus out back!

The Bad:
- That wasn't a soup...


SeaQuake Brewing

A long time ago, Viv and I stayed over in Crescent City on our way back home from the Bay Area.  I remembered that we had eaten at some random Chinese restaurant on US-101 and it sucked balls.  Well, it was our fault for doing so!  This time around, we were not going to do that again.  Originally, I had planned on visiting Chart House, but once again, like restaurants in Coos Bay, it was not open for dinner on a Tuesday.  As a backup plan, we made the short 10 minute walk to the newish SeaQuake Brewing down the street from where we were staying.

The place was absolutely hopping for a Tuesday night and luckily I called ahead of time to put my name on the waiting list.  Things got off to a strong start with the Calamari served with both tomato and tartar sauce.  Featuring large strips of tender squid (that still had a good amount of bite left) coated in crunchy panko breading, the whole thing ate well and it went fast.  We thought the tomato sauce was too sweet though.  Normally, a Caesar Salad isn't anything exciting to talk about but this one was pretty tasty.  First of all, it was a large portion for $7.00.  Second, the flavours were impactful without being salty.  Huge hits of buttery garlickiness from the crunchy croutons.  The massive amount of cheese on top didn't hurt things either.

We also shared a La Carne Pizza sporting pepperoni, salami, bacon and sausage.  This thing was covered with ooey gooey cheese.  Either there wasn't any tomato sauce or there wasn't much of it because all we could see was thick layer of cheese.  On top of that, there was so much meat that we could've made a sandwich with.  As such, this thing ate very hearty and had loads of salt and spice.  Lastly, the crust was medium-thick and not dense.  The kids split a Mac n' Cheese and it was plenty cheesy as well.  The sauce was a bit thin though, yet still tasted good.  Loved the addition of bacon in the cooking process as it was smoky and salty.  Noodles could've been less cooked.

Viv and I shared the Burger and it was prepared medium.  The patty was so large, it was wider than the soft brioche bun.  It was nicely seared on the outside and moist on the inside.  Big beef flavour.  Loved the sweet onion jam as it added plenty of punch.  Fresh tomato completed this good burger.  The side of parm fries were a little overfried, hence losing most of the remaining potato texture.  We also shared a Flight consisting of Guava, Mango Cider, Citra, Blonde, Pale Ale and Lime Sour.  My favourite had to be the lime sour as it was tangy and helped cut through the greasy and salty food we were eating.  The citra was on the same track except being more refreshing than sour.  So we weren't expecting solid eats on our stop at Crescent City, but thankfully we stumbled upon SeaQuake as it was actually good.  If you are ever passing through, give it a try.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Good brews
- Relaxed casual setting

The Bad:
- Wait can be long
- For some reason, the inside seating was much pretty warm, sitting outside was better, but then got pretty cold

Blue Heron

So our original plan was to eat at Monkey Business just past Spinreel ATV where we had a blast navigating the sand dunes.  Well, the place is closed on Tuesdays, so scratch that.  Next up was Front Street Provisioners...  Not open until 3:00pm.  Fine, look up a few more places and nope, they are just not open on Mondays and Tuesdays!  So we did the unthinkable.  Eat at a nearby random restaurant in Coos Bay.  Right on the main thoroughfare, Blue Heron Bistro was just that place.  Sporting eclectic decor and German cuisine, it seemed like an interesting enough spot for lunch.

As such, we went for some of the more well-known German dishes including the one that is actually Austrian in origin - Wiener Schntizel.  With medium-thick breading, the schnitzel was crunchy while pork tenderloin was not overwhelmed.  Even though it wasn't exactly juicy, the pork was still tender and not dried out.  We felt the sour cream mushroom gravy was probably a bit too tart, yet at the same time, it was flavourful and had a nice viscosity.  Sporting the same gravy, the Sauerbraten worked much better with it due to the inherent tanginess of the marinade.  The beef tenderloin was soft and tender and was aided by the ample amount of gravy.  On the side, the large helping of garlic mash was robust, yet smooth at the same time (some nice chunks in there too).

For myself, I had the Bratwurst with potato pancake, sauerkraut and a trio of mustards.  This was not a complex dish, but probably the best of the German offerings we tried.  The pork and veal sausage was nicely textured being tender and smooth with a rebound.  I loved the crunchy potato pancake topped with apple sauce and sour cream.  Even the sauerkraut was tasty where it was tangy with some pork hock bits.  Viv had the only non-German dish (Fish & Chips) and it was a miss in her books.  The fish was not particularly hot in the middle (although it was cooked through) and the batter was a bit greasy.  She liked how it was crunchy though.

We added a Clam Chowder partly because we were on the coast and isn't that what people eat when they are near water?  Yah, makes no sense, especially in a German restaurant.  Whatever the case, it wasn't bad being creamy and rich.  Lots of bacon in it which meant there was a salty smokiness to the chowder as well as a fatty silkiness.  The clams were definitely there, but we could've used more brininess.  As a bonus, we got a slice of the Chocolate Cake for paying in cash.  This was really good where the cake was moist and definitely chocolatey.  It wasn't overly sweet but the frosting definitely made up for that.  So there you have it, for a random restaurant, this did the trick and it wasn't too expensive.  Some hits and misses, yet a whole lot better than grabbing fast food.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Nice people
- Interesting menu and decor

The Bad:
- Some hits and misses
- Restaurant could use some cleaning


Matt's BBQ

With the unpredictable traffic that often afflicts Tacoma, we were stuck in the parking lot aka I-5 near the Tacoma Dome.  It wasn't even rush hour!  That severely delayed our arrival time in Portland which meant our eating plans would have to change.  Originally, I wanted to hit up Tasty & Daughters, but showing up during the dinner rush would mean no table for us!  So we went to plan B and hit up Matt's BBQ conveniently located in a food cart pod out on Mississippi Ave.  Beyond the threat of running out of meat, the place fit our schedule as it was casual and allowed my daughter to get her ramen fix while we went for BBQ.

We ended up getting The Whole Shebang for 2 sporting beef brisket, pork side ribs, pulled pork, sausage, potato salad, coleslaw, pit beans, white bread and pickles.  The best thing on the platter had to be the beef brisket as it was juicy and tender with a flavorful bark.  Peppery and smoky, the rub made the brisket super tasty even without any BBQ sauce.  The pulled pork was also good being moist and juicy.  It was super tender without any dry stringy portions.  Fatty and meaty, the pork sausage exhibited an appealing snap casing (maybe a bit too greasy).  Not to be outdone, the side of potato salad was fantastic.  Instead of overloading it with useless filler, it mainly consisted of potato and egg.  Therefore, it was simple and clean-tasting.  It was generally smooth with a few chunks here and there.  For an extra $3.00, we also got the Queso Mac n' Cheese.  It was freakin' fantastic!  So cheesy and creamy with a touch of spice.  Also, the noodles were still al dente.

My son had the Sliced Brisket Sandwich which was also good due to the same tender meat.  There was more than enough of it to make it a filling meal.  Loved the bun as they toasted and flattened it.  The result was a crispy exterior that held up to the meat and subsequent sauce.  We had the tangy coleslaw served on the side which brightened up the whole thing when combined.  If you can imagine, the food was pretty straightforward at Matt's, but it was done right.  Loved their take on mac n' cheese too.  Combine that with reasonable prices and a casual setting, then it makes a great place for takeout or a quick meal.

The Good:
- Well-priced
- Juicy smoky meats
- Nice people

The Bad:
- That sausage was a just a bit too greasy
- Didn't like that mango mustard



Musashi's

Here we go again, another Summer vacay and plenty of eating...  However, this time, it would be different as we were planning on doing a long road trip rather than flying.  Our 3 week journey would take us down the Oregon coast to Los Angeles, then to Vegas, Zion, Antelope and Byrce Canyon, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, Kelowna and back.  To start things off, we made a visit to Goose's place so I could pick up some items I ordered.  After that, we made our way to the nearby Musashi's for a quick and relatively healthy lunch.  This was in anticipation of all the other not-so-healthy eats that were on the itinerary!

Much like Fremont Bowl, Musashi's is famous for their Chirashi Don.  My son didn't waste anytime looking at the menu as he made up his mind once he walked into the place.  Although not quite as epic as the one found at Fremont Bowl, the one here was good nonetheless.  It featured tuna, salmon, yellow tail, unagi, red tuna, scallop, shrimp and flying fish roe.  Things were fresh and textures were on point.  This was especially true for the salmon and yellow tail exhibiting buttery textures and sweet flavour.  The rice underneath was chewy and not overly wet not dry.  Very satisfying and well-priced.  For my daughter, she went for the Lunch Assorted Sushi Plate consisting of 1 piece each of tuna, yellow tail, prawn and salmon nigiri as well as 8 pieces of assorted maki.  We found the nigiri to be good where the fish was just as fresh as the chirashi don.  However, the maki was rolled too tightly where the rice was hard and dense.  

Viv ended up with the Special Bento with chicken & beef skewers, sashimi, tamago and grilled veggies.  Once again, the sashimi was solid with ...  The skewers were fairly large with charred marinated meat.  They could've been possibly cooked a little less, but they were not dry either.  Also charred, the veggies were smoky and not overdone.  Impressively constructed, the tamago was buttery soft with just the right amount of sweetness.  For myself, I had the Salmon Kama with rice.  It was cooked perfectly where the meat was buttery and moist.  With a squeeze of lemon, there was enough natural flavours to make a subtle impact.  There was so much rice on the plate, I couldn't finish it.  Overall, we thought Musashi's was decent.  The chirashi don as well as the nigiri were pretty spot on but the maki was actually terrible.  It may have been a one-off, but I'd steer away from the maki sushi personally.

The Good:
- Fish looked and tasted good
- Simple focused menu
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Maki was terrible
- Small place, fills up easily