Monday, May 31, 2010

B & K Asian Kitchen - Fresno

Yay..I was excited for the chance to check out Laotian food. Never had it before so there was no expectation.

The restaurant was pretty easy to find. Though I was expecting it to be part of a strip mall. But it was a stand alone on a gravel parking lot surround it.

When we walked in I was again surprised by the inside. It was low ceiling with empty space in the middle with like six tables on the right hand side of the room and a few more on the left hand side. We were quickly seated even though the waitress was trying to clear a dirty table nearby.

Enough about the establishment. I don't care much for the appearance. It could be served on a hut if the food is good that's all I care. I ordered Kao poun, hubby got phad lad na and we're going to share lop. The lady (owner ?) asked whether we want the lop with beef, chicken or pork. She said it depends on how we liked it. After a few more questions, she finally asked us whether we had it before. And when we said no. She sounded surprised and was probably wondering how the hell we got there.

When my kao poun arrived I was pleasantly surprised. I kinda expected some sort of curry with noodle. But the type of noodle was slightly bigger than I had in mind. One slurp into the curry broth I decided I like this. It's very similar to an Indonesian curry that is usually served with chayote.

Hubby's phad lad na was smaller than expected. It was good but was darker than usual and didn't have the typical smoky flavor that usually comes with stir fry noodle. Nonetheless, he still enjoyed it to the last bite.

The lop was the one dish I have been dying to try ever since I read the review on Yelp. It was a pile of shredded beef on one side and chunks of cut cabbage on the other. If I didn't taste it I would think it's spicy like the typical Thai salad that are served with cabbage. The cabbage serves as a 'cooling' condiment to your burning tongue and mouth. But this lop even though we ordered as spicy wasn't really spicy at all. I guess Laotion food in general are more mild compare to the neighbor Thai. The tripe on the lop wasn't even intimidating at all even to hubby that usually didn't touch tripe. Lop was supposedly served with either rice or sticky rice but we didn't get any of those. It was okay eaten by itself, not too salty.

B & K Asian Kitchen
1276 N 1st Street, Fresno, CA 93703  (559) 237-3918

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Caught - Harlan Coben

This is an amazing book. The plot was sooo twisted that I wouldn't have guessed it. The climax was all saved for the last chapter. When I was wowed by the revelation. But that's not it. When I thought that was it..another more interesting thing came up.

So far I have read three of Harlan Coben's book. The Woods, Hold Tight and Caught. All of them were very well written. But this one is exceptional.

Okay, let me get to the story line a bit. Wendy Tynes was a TV reporter. Her TV showed Dan Mercer as he came to a house to meet a girl. The problem was the girl was underage. Dan Mercer later on was prosecuted but the case wasn't strong enough so he was released. The day after Dan Mercer was found murdered. By then Wendy wasn't so sure anymore whether Dan was guilty of what he was charged. Flooded by curiosity and guilt, Wendy started digging in to find out more.

I can only tell you so much. Read yourself and find out. Believe me, if you like suspense and thriller. You won't be disappointed with this one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cao Nguyen Restaurant - San Jose

Noodle is my fave food for weekend. So this weekend I'm checking out a new place. Found this restaurant on Yelp and surprisingly we actually missed it the first time we were in the area. Well, looking at the name later on we realize that this place is a restaurant and not just a pho/noodle house joint.

Anyhow, since we were there for noodle. I ordered #29 Mi Trieu Chao which is the egg yellow noodle with soup on the side. Hubby got #27 mi Cao Nguyen also in egg  yellow noodle with soup on the side. We love our yellow noodle dry. Rice noodle (hu tieu) on the other side (in my opinion) is best served with soup. We also ordered egg roll.

Our egg roll was freshly prepared. I hate going to those pho place that prepare the egg roll ahead of time so they're all luke warm or worst room temperature when served. They have to be piping hot just came out of the wok. Egg roll served on bed of greens mixture (lettuce and mints). Unfortunately  I should say that their egg roll could not beat the Pho Binh's egg roll. So for egg roll crave we still have to go to Pho Binh in Sunnyvale.

My mi trieu chao was pretty  with squid, char siu, fish cake and prawn with sprinkle of green onion and chives. The condiments was generous to accompany the tiny amount of noodle it came with. I guess I shouldn't complain but I felt that for $6.75 I should have gotten bigger serving especially considering the location on King Rd.

Hubby's mi Cao Nguyen had red sauce topping on it. The red sauce was some sort of minced meat sauce. Hubby complaint that too bad the prawn was just blanched instead of deep fried. He was still in deep love with the noodle we had last week at Truong Thanh Milpitas. The prawn cracker served with the noodle didn't budge him a little bit. He took a bite and declared against it. I took a bite and thought they totally needed to work on it. It's plain bland !

I don't think we will be going back unless we were in the area. For dry noodle we still think Truong Thanh was way better. And if we don't feel like going to Milpitas, most likely we will just go to China Chen downtown.

Cao Nguyen Restaurant
2549 S King Road, San Jose, CA 95128   (408) 270-9610

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bolansa Dessert - Milpitas

It's not on our plan that day to check out a dessert place. But since we were high on chilli and mouth burning from killer tom yum soup (Thai Cafe next door) so we stopped by to grab a cool drink. The sound of mango, coconut milk and jelly all together drove me to pick this dessert. We walked in and placed the order. It wasn't cheap at $4.25 a pop. But I guess you need to charge that amount to run a business. The place wasn't busy with like 2 tables occupied but it was early evening.

We got our order in 5 minutes and walked back to our car to enjoy it. Outside weather was getting chilly from the strong breeze. Not exactly accomodating to enjoy cold dessert.

One sip into the dessert, I have reached heaven and back. It was SOOOO good. I was sure it wasn't the burning lips that made me said that. But the combination of sweet mango and rich creamy coconut milk just hit the spot. I'd say this beat Jamba Juice ten times. The jelly was soft and not too sweet. All in all they complement each other. With that price, it's hard to go too often but we'll be back.

I checked their website but the menu was still under construction. They do have quite an extensive menu.

Bolansa Dessert
680 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA  (408) 433 3328

Thai Cafe - Milpitas

Originally we were coming here for lunch. But turned out that they're not open on Saturday afternoon for lunch. It only opens from 5-11 on Saturday. So we went to other place instead and came back for dinner.

Hubby ordered N8. Chiang Mai curry noodle soup aka kao soy (khao soy) which is yellow noodle with chicken on rich creamy curry. I ordered N11. Tom yum noodle soup which is hot spicy noodle soup with minced pork, fish ball and crushed peanuts. The waitress asked us how spicy we wanted the soup and hubby said hot and added Thai hot. She told him that Thai hot is the maximum level of spiciness. Being challenged I too said the same thing.

My tom yum looked spicy with red fiery broth. I tooked a sip and confirmed that. It was good but not as I expected. The broth had enough heat and tasty but it was a bit oily for my taste. I prefer a lighter broth so I could slurp it. It's too bad that they don't just let us customize it to our own taste like the one at the Thai Temple.

Hubby's kao soy looked very similar to the one we had at Thai Express SF and the taste was pretty good. I didn't quite remember what type of noodle they used at Thai Express but this one here was a medium size yellow noodle. The curry came with 2 big chunk of chicken and hubby had to take them out on a separate plate to shred the meat and put it back in the curry. That was a bit setback for him. I don't remember he did that at another place.

All in all it was good experience for us. We'll be back for more. One thing though this place is not a regular Thai restaurant. When they asked for the level of spiciness they actually meant it. So be very careful not to asked for the Thai hot level unless you're ready for it. We learnt our lesson that day. I came out of the restaurant having a chilli high.

Thai Cafe
692 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA  (408) 955 9992

Truong Thanh Restaurant - Milpitas

The visit was unplanned. We were going to another restaurant a couple of doors down but turned out that the restaurant wasn't opened for lunch. So we looked around the area and decided on this one after checking out the menu outside.

When we walked in there were two tables occupied. I guess it wasn't really lunch time yet. The other table was just finishing their meal and was about to leave. We were looking at the menu when the young man there brought us our hot tea even before we ordered. Awesome. I decided on #11 hu tieu ba nam sadec (kho). It's a dry rice noodle with jumbo prawn and pork loin with soup on the side. Hubby decided on #17 mi thai dac biet (kho). It's a Thai style yellow noodle with crispy jumbo prawn with soup on the side.

After the young man took our order, he came back a minute later asking us if we would like bean sprout and whether we want it cooked. Sure, cooked it's better with dry noodle. I liked that they actually asked because it would be a waste to just provide the bean sprout and people don't eat them. I've seen so many times at pho joints where plates and plates of bean sprout left untouched.

Finally our order came. They smelled wonderful. Hubby's one had smell of lemon grass, very refreshing. His jumbo prawn was really crispy and went very well with the sauce that covered it. I couldn't quite determined what's in the sauce. It's like a combination of onion, lemon grass and chilli, maybe ? But it wasn't spicy at all. It was just fragrant and tasty. The sauce kinda reminded me of the Singaporean mee pok chilli. Yum..

Mine was almost the similar style but the jumbo prawn wasn't fried and I also had slice of char siu pork. When the bowl came it was covered with minced meat sauce and top of with celery, green onion and prawn. I couldn't see the noodle underneath it. Then slowly I mixed everything together to get the sauce in the noodle. And voila I'm ready to attack. The minced meat sauce was good. It's almost like having rice noodle with bolognese sauce minus the tomato sauce. ha..ha..

When we finally left, the place was almost full. We'll be back to check out other dishes on the menu.

Truong Thanh Restaurant
680 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 383 0886

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Banh Xeo Tao Ngo - San Jose

I don't know when this business started operating. We found out last week when we happened to drive pass Senter road. Curious about it, we made time and stopped by on Saturday afternoon. The place was smaller than it looked outside. Most of them were occupied. Everybody on the table seemed to be done eating and waiting for something. Who knows what they're waiting for. The vibe wasn't right. We seldom go to a restaurant where people are more interested in guests that are coming in than the food in front of them. I already knew that it's going to take a while for our food because service wasn't going smooth.

Waited for around 2 minutes without nobody to acknowledge us, we decided to just go ahead and took a seat ourselves. Finally a man came and brought us the menu. Menu wasn't very intensive. Huge fonts and pictures took up a lot of space. But in all, I think they only offered around 20 items of food and around 10 in drinks. It seemed like their specialty is banh xeo - the Vietnamese crepes. But we weren't in the mood for crepes, so me and hubby each ordered pho and an order of banh khot as appetizer. The man asked whether we would like any drink so we thought hot tea would be fine.

The first thing that came out was the banh khot. Looked like the picture - seven pieces of tinier-than-cup- cakes banh khot came with a platter of green veggies and dipping sauce. We never tried any banh khot before so I couldn't really say whether those were good or not. But judging from the time it took, I guess they were prepared ahead of time. They weren't hot, more like just room temperature. The coconut milk filling in the middle of the banh khot seemed to be a little out of place. But I don't know how they suppose to taste like.

Then my bowl of pho came. One thing I noticed immediately was the black pepper floating on the soup. Then a plate of bean sprout came. But the plate was more for single serving so I was wondering why would they do single serving condiment while my hubby also ordered pho. We waited another 5 minutes and when for sure there was no sign of another bowl coming. I asked the same man that took our order. He said yes he'd check on it. Then another man came with a plate of banh khot AGAIN ! We told him no we already got our banh khot. Then we tried to look for the man that took our order but he wasn't around. The woman instead came half way looking at our table but looked puzzled. The man that took our order finally came and said sorry and then took my hubby's order and said he'd make it faster. By then hubby was mad. He was ready to walk out without his pho.

Finally he did get his bowl of pho. Our pho were pretty much bland. I had to add fish sauce to my bowl and tons of sriracha sauce. For the price of $6.95 (I believe), there wasn't much meat in my bowl. I could live with that if only the broth was more flavorful but this wasn't at all. And the hot tea that we ordered never came at all. We didn't even notice if they charged us for it or not.

The final hit to our experience that day was when hubby went to pay at the cashier. The same man who missed hubby's order was manning the register. He mistaken hubby's $25 as $40 and gave him back more chance than he should. That's it. Being a new place they could have a lot of holes on their services. But making mistakes on register ??? That's big NO NO in any business. I felt bad for them. It's like a bunch of amateurist running a business.

Banh Xeo Tao Ngo Restaurant
2651 Senter Road (in the Senter Plaza), San Jose, CA 95111

Sunday, May 2, 2010

99 Chicken - Santa Clara

Found out about this restaurant quite a while ago. Not having a chance to check out Bonchon in LA made me looking for a local alternative and came across 99 Chicken. Most of the reviews on Yelp were positive. Seriously how could you screw up fried chicken, right ? Anything deep fried in my opinion couldn't go wrong. But some of the reviews did say that the chicken were good but nothing special. Well...if it's nothing special then we could have gone for KFC for that matters. Anyhow a couple of days ago I came to talk about Korean food with a coworker and he also mentioned 99 Chicken. So I was like ..heck..let's give it a try to stop all this guessing.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon around 1:30. There were only two tables occupied the tiny restaurants. We walked in but nobody greeted us and I started to wonder if we should just take a seat ourselves. But then the lady owner came from outside and told us to sit wherever we want. She then came back to our table with the menu. We took a quick look and decided on #6 spicy fried chicken (8 pcs) and kimchee jjigae (spicy kimchee stew).

It took about 15 minutes for our fried chicken platter to arrive. Before that, the same lady invited us to help ourselves at the salad/rice/water/tea bar. The salad consisted of kernel corn, pickled daikon, broccoli, cole slaw, mixed greens. There were also 2 different types of dressing. I am not big on dressing but I tried one anyway and it tasted like homemade asian style dressing - miso perhaps ?

The kimchee jjigae arrived first and I took a taste to it and liked it. I haven't tried any before so I couldn't really compare it. It seemed pretty simple to prepare, just kimchee, pork with little fat, green onion and top with tofu. The broth was flavorful, sweet, sour and goes very well with rice. Probably more appropriate for a cold day. But we didn't care.

The chicken came on a big platter. For some reason I thought the chicken were going to be drumettes but they were drumstick instead. Crispy on the outside but juicy on the inside. The sauce that came with them was sweet, very spicy, sticky and gooey. I am not sure whether the sauce was made extra spicy for us because hubby asked for it that way. I remember the other Yelpers didn't find that spicy chicken to be that spicy. But we felt our lips were burning when we ate there. At that time I wasn't sure whether it was the hot stew or the chicken that was so spicy. Later on we ate our left over chicken and determined that the sauce was the one that burnt our lips. No.. no....they were good because we love spicy food :) I just learnt never to challenge the chef by asking for extra spicy.

99 Chicken
2781 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051  (408) 244-5599