Archive for the ‘Eating Out’ Category

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers, Berkeley

Our Sunday trek to get ramen turned into a burger meal. Santouka – you fail. Barney’s, you win! Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers has been a Berkeley favorite for both burger and hipster enthusiasts alike. The first time I went in college, I didn’t really care about ‘gourmet burgers.’ Back then, McDonalds was good enough (hey, it still is, I’m just saying). But now I can definitely appreciate a well made, high quality burger.

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The weird thing about this restaurant is that it doesn’t face Shattuck. If you drive down Shattuck looking for it, you’re bound to see Crepevine instead and think Barney’s no longer exists. It’s hidden behind Crepevine towards the small street between Barney’s and Andronico’s.

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The inside is very no nonsense – walls covered in awards, gleaming silver counter tops, wooden tables and chairs.

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We started with the famous vegetable basket, which are basically deep fried veggies – onions, zucchini, and fat mushrooms. The outside is crunchy, and the veggies taste very fresh. The mushrooms are so big and hearty it’s like eating crunchy steak. That’s how meaty they are! Another plus? The batter is thick enough so that you don’t bite into a scalding hot oily mess.

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The chili cheese fries were nothing to write home about – skinny fries with bean chili and cheese that wasn’t particularly compelling.

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Behold my delicious Santa Fe burger! This is a definite must – thick beef patty covered in lots of grilled jalapeno and onion, all on a soft sesame bun. The jalapenos are HOT! They leave the seeds in, and these are fresh jalapenos, not pickled ones. I couldn’t stop marvelling how spicy and drool worthy my burger was. So far one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

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Kyung’s burger was not quite as oozingly greasy (darn!) but was very tasty – he had the blackened burger, which had a very robustly spiced meat patty that had a slight kick to it. It was covered in cajun seasoning and made the patty look red.

So far in burger month, Barney’s is far and away the winner.

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers
1600 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
510-849-2827

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Bob’s Big Boy, Norco

When Kyung was a wee youngster, he used to love going to Bob’s Big Boy, a small hamburger joint in SoCal. The joint became lowkey for a while, but in the last couple years has reappeared all around SoCal and seems to now be referred to as ‘Big Boy.’ I didn’t go to the original one in Burbank, but I did get to try the one in Norco. After going, I think I want to try the original. The Norco one was pretty disappointing for a restaurant that’s supposed to have a lot of history, including having local classic car meets. This Norco location was full of families and SUVs.

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The inside is very diner like, and since it was a few days post Christmas, the place was still very festive with Christmas lights.

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The staff wasn’t especially friendly, and they were hard to flag down at times. I kind of expected a cheery ‘hello honey’ that you always get at family diners, but I guess this was probably more similar to Denny’s.

Since we were at a diner, I ordered a Oreo milkshake. It was decent, but the whipped cream was too much and the oreo was skimpy.

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I ordered the ‘Big Boy’ which is ‘the original Double-Decker Hamburger’ and is what they are famous for. It tasted and looked exactly like a giant Big Mac.

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Maybe the two SoCal founders of McDonald’s and Bob’s Big Boy were friends at some point? I don’t know. The burger was decent, with sauce that tasted just like the Big Mac’s secret sauce, but it was unnerving, since if I wanted something like this I could get it for cheaper and faster at MCD.

Kyung ordered a chili burger, which was served open face and tasted almost like a giant sloppy joe.

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It felt like eating a hamburger swimming inside of chili, instead of a chili burger.

I probably won’t eat Bob’s Big Boy again, except at the original Burbank location, so that I can see if that place is as historical as it seems to be. And, maybe it’ll taste better!

Bob’s Big Boy
3521 Hamner Avenue
Norco , California 92860
(951)280-3388

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Bullshead, SF

Today was an adventure to West Portal in SF in search of a tasty cheeseburger. Danimal suggested we try Bullshead, a neighborhood favorite.

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It’s a small restaurant tucked into a busy street corner next to the end of a rail line. Amidst honking cars and the dinner crowd, it’s a small oasis.

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The staff was friendly, and our food came out quickly. The only weird thing, though they were very discreet about it, was that it seemed that their drains had gotten clogged during the normal business day. Someone came in with a giant pump, and was mopping the ground. Someone else came with two large unopened bottles of Drano. I briefly thought about how gross this was while the food was being prepared, but I soon forgot about it when our appetizer came – we ordered buffalo wings and those wings were so good! Crispy on the outside (slightly tasted like it was fried in peanut oil), and soft and moist meat inside. Ranch and hot sauce were both served on the side, so you weren’t forced to eat spicy if you didn’t want to!

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We were super excited to try the burgers after the good wings. This place is known for their buffalo burgers, so of course we had to order it. This place is also known for having lots of meat, and you can order burgers in many several types and sizes (1/3 lb or 1/2 lb, turkey, beef, 100% organic beef, and buffalo). There are also chicken and fish burgers for the non red meat eaters.

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At this point anticipation was high!

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My 1/3 lb buffalo meat cheeseburger was delicious – slightly pink in the middle, thick patty, thick cheddar slice melted, and fresh tomatoes and lettuce. The french fries were bland, but it was probably intentional so that you could salt them yourselves.

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Kyung’s garlic burger was covered in so much garlic that you can still smell it hours later. He ordered the 1/2 lb buffalo burger with onion rings. The onion rings were so good – thick and crispy. I put one of them in my burger and it made my burger even better!

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Danimal’s Hawaiian was large and super juicy; halfway through it fell apart but he was definitely enjoying the burger. He had always been meaning to order the burger his last few visits, and this time he did and it was worth the wait!

A great find in a cool neighborhood.

BullsHead Restaurant
840 Ulloa St
San Francisco, CA 94127
(415) 665-4350

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Tommy’s

New year new diet? No, not me. Back to blogging though. January will be burger month. Mmm.

LA is known for having some of the best junk food around. Home of the chili dog, kogi truck, fat pastrami sandwiches, you name it. First stop on this burger train? Tommy’s! And it’s not just any Tommy’s. Make sure it’s the Tommy’s with the shack in its logo. Apparently there are imitations.

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What’s so special about Tommy’s you say? Big fat chili burgers. Oooh yes.

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These burgers are so …thick. Thick but soft buns, fat piece of meat patty covered in melted cheese and topped with pickles, tomato, and a healthy topping of chili. The chili isn’t spicy, but it’s well-spiced. Now imagine that with chili cheese fries on the side. Fat fries covered in hot chili.

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The restaurant itself is typical fast food stop – but the colors remind me of In-n-Out!

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I think this burger month is starting out delicious!

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Original Tommy’s Hamburgers
Corona
2280 Compton Ave.
951.272.9381
Drive-thru/Dining Room
Sun-Thur: Open 9AM-11PM / Fri-Sat: Open 9AM-12AM

Tamago to Watashi in Shinjuku

When Kyung and I first started dating, he would randomly cook me omurice. I had no idea what it was before him, so it seemed fitting that while in Tokyo we would search for omurice. And search we did! We found it in the MyLord restaurant megamall that is part of the Odakyu mall, which also happens to rest on top of the Shinjuku station. And it’s pronounced ‘milord’ not ‘my lord’. The restaurant we went to was called ‘Tamago to Watashi’ and had a catchy sign.

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Now, before seeing this restaurant, I always thought omurice was basically just an omelet filled with rice (usually cooked with other little bits of meat and veggies). Here, it was that and more – everything came in unique sauces.

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Since they didn’t have an English menu, and the descriptive fake foods weren’t descriptive enough, we blindly ordered. I ordered omurice in a thick, dark curry like sauce filled with chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes. The omurice was delicious (thin layer of egg crepe covering hot seasoned rice), and it went well with the thick curry sauce. Some of the chunks of veggies didn’t taste very fresh, but that’s okay, the rest of it more than made up for it.

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Kyung ordered another mystery dish with came with a red sauce and a large slice of what looked similar to Canadian ham. The omurice was tangy with the sauce, and pretty satisfying as well.

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This makes me appreciate omurice even more! Now at home when Kyung makes it I’ll probably make some thick curry sauce to go with it. It’s so tasty!

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Donuts in Tokyo

I love donuts. It goes to figure we would look for donuts while in Tokyo. Before heading over, I was curious to see if there was any difference. In a nut shell, they are less sweet than their American counterparts, and have different presentation and flavors. Overall though, I think I prefer the super junky donuts of the US, but for variety I’d go to Japan.

First up is Doughnut Plant. This isn’t a Japanese chain, it actually started in New York, but it is prominently displayed in several subway stations, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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I tried the pumpkin cake doughnut, the apple cinnamon glazed donut, and the kinako glazed donut. The pumpkin and kinako ones were fails. No flavor, strange after tastes. The apple cinnamon one tasted the most like what I would expect a fatty donut back home to taste like – it was moist, cinnamony, and soft.

Next up is Mister Donut, which apparently wasn’t always an Asian company but became a predominantly one when an Asian company bought the franchise/chain. These donut shops are all over Tokyo. We went to the one in Akihabara.

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I ordered a chocolate dip crueller which was sliced in half and filled with light creme, and a strawberry cake donut. The strawberry cake donut was pretty flavorless as well, but the crueller was delicious – the chocolate was perfectly hardened and had the right crunch when biting into that and the soft donut filled with creme that wasn’t too sweet. A good afternoon treat!

Here’s a better shot of the entire counter:

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Okay, for something a little less donut looking but still a donut, we went to a bake shop called Kimuraya. This was in the Matsuya Ginza shopping mall on one of the bottom floors. We ordered a curry bun, and an azuki (red bean) bun.

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The curry bun was delicious, even when cold. Kyung and I each ordered one, and it came in a deep fried bun filled with fragrant and delicious curry with bits of meat.

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The azuki bun was even more delicious – chock full of red bean that was not overly sweet, in a deep fried soft bun covered in sugar. I love eating these azuki ‘donuts’ and I eat them at home all the time too!

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Daily Ice Cream Ration

One of the things I’ve been known to do on each trip somewhere is to have that one thing that I do – whether it’s to look for a certain store, buy a certain item, or eat a certain food only. In the past some examples have been to only drink pineapple juice when ordering at a restaurant, or always buying a Gucci bag when visiting New York (I broke this streak the last time I went to NY, I think I’m getting soft). This trip my thing has been to have a nightly ice cream snack from the AmPm across the street. A quick look into my daily indulgence –
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On the first night I went a little overboard and bought a bunch of things, one of which was sweet potato pie haagen dazs. It was very tasty! The way it was packaged was really awesome too – crumble on top!
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I also got rum raisin on another night, but that was kind of a fail. Slight rum flavor, with raisin chunks, but overall pretty bland. I didn’t eat it in favor of eating the other one, which is a ice cream sandwich encased in a wafer outside, and with a thin layer of chocolate inside. That one was really good! I ended up eating a few other variations of it (green tea with azuki – red bean – layer, and then another vanilla one with a chocolate wafer outside and a crispy chocolate layer inside).
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One thing you may have noticed on this particular ice cream wrapper are the notations of 80 kcal. I don’t know if that’s for one sandwich, or half of it, or a quarter. What I have noticed though, is that people here, especially girls, are very concerned with calories and being thin. It’s a little unfortunate, because everyone here is already so thin, and while I’m sure they can’t be thin without such care when eating, it’s a little sobering that what I thought was an American obsession is actually elsewhere as well. Life is so short, is it really worth all the obsessing? After we die, I doubt people will paint us as ‘oh, that fat person.’

Anyway, besides my nightly ritual, I also sometimes ate ice cream at breakfast.

This particular strawberry parfait was gross. It tasted like cheap strawberry and vanilla ice cream.photo (1)

This one is very very good though – Lotte brand chocolate mochi. Thin mochi skin that was soft, and delicious chocolate ice cream inside. Yummers.
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I’m a little sad that once I head back to the States I can’t do my daily ritual anymore. There isn’t a convenience store down the street that I can walk to at all hours (and feel safe doing it). Maybe it’s better for my health!

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Santouka Ramen – Shibuya

You may be a little surprised to hear that Santouka can actually be found in California – yup, there’s one in San Jose. I haven’t tried that one yet, though I’ve heard of it. Kyung’s coworker suggested we go to one of the originals in Shibuya, so today after visiting a friend, we walked down the street to find this restaurant.

The restaurant is small and cozy, and moves up vertically for seating. We sat on the second floor in front of the open ramen bar and ordered the special pork cheek ramen (what they are known for) and the miso ramen. We also ordered a side of gyoza.
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The ramen was made swiftly, and also came with a random side of rice log. I can’t really describe it better than it was literally a log of rice with some sesame on top.
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Kyung’s pork cheek ramen was amazing – the broth was so thick it was like pork and butter flavored porridge, and the pork cheek meat was so tender and melted in your mouth. This was the best ramen I have ever had.
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My ramen was great but not stellar. I ordered the miso which came with soft pieces of pork that was slightly fatty in a good way (but not as tender as the cheek). The broth was hearty but not quite as satisfyingly thick as Kyung’s.
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I did like the gyoza a lot though – it wasn’t overly fried and came with a very light skin and tasty but dainty filling of meat.
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Santouka is definitely the best ramen here so far, and we’re eager to try the one back home (though I doubt it would match the flavors and preparation and FUN of the one here.

On a random side note, our hotel randomly gave us a free sample of ramen. Behold. Even the ramen that comes prepacked is still better looking and tasting than the stuff we get back at home!
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Torafugu Tei – Ginza

I’ve eaten fugu fish and it’s been 5 hours and I’m still alive so I think that’s a good sign. Right!?

Kyung wanted to try fugu fish before we left Tokyo. Since our vacation days are winding down and we only have 48 hours or so left here, we scrambled to find a restaurant that prepared fugu fish. Fugu is not one of those fish you can find by just randomly stumbling into a sushi restaurant. According to Wikipedia, only a few places can legally prepare fugu fish, since the fish is so deadly if it’s not prepared properly. We asked around, and it seemed that even the locals didn’t know where to go really. I did some searching on Google and found a Yelp like local review tool for Tokyo called SunnyPages. From here I found reviews for a place called Torafugu Tei, a chain in Tokyo that specializes in fugu fish only.

We dashed into a cab in the rain and made it to the restaurant. The restaurant is inside what looks to be an office building, so from the outside you can’t really tell there’s a restaurant inside (though the office like building is on a street with many restaurants). We walked into the building and found the restaurant, which is split across several floors. We sat one floor below the main entrance, and you get to sit in a traditional dining room where just your party is ensconced in a small wooden room where you take your shoes off, and you sit around a table with an electric table top heat conductor in the middle. Very high tech!

We stared at the menu and decided to order the set course #1.
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Our first course was fugu skin sashimi that came in a citrusy ponzo sauce.
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The skin was thick and had a texture similar to cold pork belly. It was very refreshing with the light sauce and had a similar flavor to many starter sashimi dishes you would get at a restaurant that is Michelin rated. So far so good!

Second course was actual fugu sashimi, thinly slivered and arranged on a plate in the traditional fugu preparation style, which is a chrysanthemum (the flower for death). It came with a hint of lemon, more ponzu sauce, and various flavored greens like green onion.
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This dish was very refreshing as well. After I ate it, my inner cheeks started getting a weird tingly/itchy feeling that lasted for about 10 minutes. I kept stretching my jaws to get rid of the feeling. Kind of weird.

Next course was the deep fried fugu. The coating was very well seasoned, and the crispy texture of the outside complemented the soft and creamy fish inside. The only thing that was a bit bothersome was the fact that the fish was complete with bone, so you didn’t want to crunch into your fish too hard.
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After that was the fugu soup (like hot pot). This part was very shocking – we received large pieces of raw fugu that were STILL MOVING. See twitching fish here!

We boiled the fugu pieces with various light veggies like tofu, mushrooms, and cabbage shabu shabu style.
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The broth didn’t end up having too much flavor, unfortunately.
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We later took the soup and made rice porridge with it – that was yummy. We mixed in additional ingredients.
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The porridge came out much more flavorful and hearty. We added rice, raw eggs, seaweed, salt, and soy sauce. There was also pickled ume (plum) and daikon to add additional flavor (I loved the ume but not so much the daikon; Kyung gave me all his pickles).
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We ended with a simple slice of canteloupe.

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The simplicity and familiarity of the fruit after having such an exotic and unusual meal was a stark contrast. The meal was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and while we were a bit worried about the poison, clearly we’re still here!

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Cobara Hetta – Akihabara

Would you believe there is Indian food in Tokyo? Not a lot of it, but enough to pique Kyung and I’s interest. Since we’re from Indian food heaven in Silicon Valley, how good could Indian food in Japan really be? While shopping in the major shopping mall Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara we decided to find out.

First, this Indian restaurant has fake food outside so you can see what you’re potentially ordering!
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Not something you see at home. In fact, you’re lucky if your menu even describes what you’re getting!

We ordered bhatura (unfortunately, does not come with cholle or channa), garlic naan, daal, and spicy chicken curry.
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The food was actually surprisingly really good! The food was prepared by Indian folks for one, and the food was pretty authentic tasting except for the fact that the spices were toned down a lot and the sauces were slightly more watery/thin than the Indian food at home. My daal had chunks of spinach and tomatoes in it, and was pretty satisfying. The bhatura was thick and fried just right. The garlic naan was very garlicky, and had the proper flavor and texture. The chicken curry was not that spicy, and didn’t come with as much chicken chunks as you’d expect, but Kyung ate all of it and was very satisfied with it.

That wasn’t all. We HAD to order the dessert when we saw CHOCOLATE NAAN.
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Naan filled with thick melty chocolate that was rich but not too sweet, and accompanied with vanilla ice cream with raspberry chunks. Wow. This is one of the best desserts I’ve had in Japan yet. We need this back home!

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