Akaihana

21 11 2009
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 1/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: One   ♦   Will I Return?: Maybe, but leaning toward not likely.

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Akaihana Japanese Restaurant is at 22560 Foothill Boulevard, right in the beating heart of downtown Hayward.  And by “beating heart” I really mean the barely breathing clogged artery that is central Hayward, written with all the love of a long-time local.  This place used to be Ichiban, which was a highly famed Japanese joint in the area during its heyday about 20 years ago.  As I understand it, Ichiban became a bit less popular over the years and then changed over to Akaihana sometime in the recent past (last 2 years?).  And from what I can tell, this change has yet to add a spark of life to Hayward’s Japanese culinary needs.

Essentially, the decor hasn’t changed since Ichiban, though I was certainly no expert on the layout of the old place.  Upon entering it appears to be just a simple, hole-in-the-wall Japanese place that could easily be “the best kept secret in Hayward” or “adventures in food longevity”, it’s just too soon to tell at this point.  The menu is decent: the layout could use some help but that seems to be the norm at many small, local, non-chain restaurants in my experience.  The food selection seems pretty standard, with sushi rolls, sashimi and soups filling the more traditional roles along with the standard “American” choices of teriyaki chicken and tempura.

Sushi bar at Akaihana.

Right from the start the service was slow.  Then, meeting our waitress, we realized that the service was also going to be a bit surly.  Ok, well, not a good selling point, but we’d certainly put up with it if the food were decent.  My mom and I ordered dinner boxes, I had the teriyaki salmon and tuna sashimi, she had teriyaki salmon and chicken.  My boyfriend ordered a  spicy tuna tempura roll, and mom’s boyfriend went all traditional with a bowl of chicken soba.

The outcome was a bit odd. After the soba finally arrived (it was the last dish and it took an inordinate amount of time to exit the kitchen) we all weighed in on our choices.  The salmon and sashimi were good, and the delicious tuna roll tasted curiously like lumpia, which I found to be an excellent – if odd – surprise.  The teriyaki chicken on the other hand was chewy and gristly (as reported by mom) while the soba was inedible to mom’s boyfriend.  And did I mention the service was a bit slow?

The miso soup was good, which is often a criteria that I will use to solely judge a Japanese restaurant.  The tea kettles were plastic, which was a mortal sin and, frankly, an insult to mom’s boyfriend who is half Japanese.  The sushi chef was characteristically friendly.  The temperature swung wildly in the room during the course of (waiting for) our meal.  So as you can see, the experience was pretty much the definition of “hit or miss”.  I would say that the few dishes that were decent were worth getting if you end up in the restaurant, though I would probably not seek them out again for my local Japanese-food-related needs.  So, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exactly a place to rave about either.

On a partially related note, there was a fine local Hayward resident posted outside the restaurant, apparently as a “greeter”, who we had the fortune to avoid-eye-contact-with on the way out of the establishment.  I would probably refrain from saying anything about him if I feared he may stumble upon this blog, but since I’m fairly certain that he’s not a technological sort of fellow, I will tell you that my Missed Connections personal ad to him might go something like this:

“You: semi-homeless, rudely rambling, possibly schizophrenic, Caucasian male crouched on the sidewalk outside Akaihana

Me: educated, well dressed, blond female leaving Akaihana with group of three other people

I think we should be together.  You clearly demonstrated that you care for me; you were speaking directly to me as we walked by on our way back to the car, even though I couldn’t really understand what you were saying.  At least you were probably speaking to me – you may have been trying to start a fight with my mom’s boyfriend.  But no matter, we are clearly a good couple.  I have change in my pocket and you probably want that.  You obviously have great public speaking skills and that is something that I really need help with.  I know I ignored you but that is because I have had really bad experiences being burned (figuratively and literally) by partially homeless and/or medically insane persons that I’ve met on the street at night.  But I realize now that I need to look beyond the past because you have something real to offer me and we made a true connection the other night.  Please give me a second chance.  Next time, if you follow me to my car or reach out to grab me as I walk by, I will know you have read this letter and you forgive me.  I hope we can be together.”*

*Yeah, I got carried away with that, I know.  But do you think he will call?





Hungry Howie’s

10 11 2009
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: First time since 1998  ♦   Will I Return?: Maybe

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Brown and yellow checkers means Hungry Howie's!

Hungry Howie’s is where I choose to begin the ‘broccoli and chocolate’ adventure as it’s a good, solid, established Hayward locale that’s been around the block and back again.  Often overlooked, this tiny take away joint stands proud with its blindingly bright yellow sign along Mission Boulevard, smooshed between the Hayward Plunge (or, as I call it, The Dive) and an ever-faithful 7-Eleven.  I’m not sure how long this particular Howie’s has been in operation, but I am sure that it’s changed since I was a teenager.

Hungry Howie’s was the go-to cheap pizza place in my heyday and it seems to have evolved into a full-blown, semi-classy venue since then. I swear pizzas used to be around $5 when I was 14, and that wasn’t all that long ago.  Ok, maybe it was.  The point is that HH’s is apparently on an upswing and, as a company, has been for the last 30 years. Their website is pretty chic (with flash and everything!) and from their bio it sounds like they’ve been doing something right.

As I said, this stuff was a primary food group for many local high school kids back in the 90′s, and I submit that it has since changed.  Yes they still wave the patented “Flavored Crust” wand over our heads to make our eyes grow wide with wonder (butter cheese crust, you say?).  Yes they’re still in the same relatively undesirable location, no doubt flinching every time the front door bell rings at night.  But they’ve definitely stepped it up a notch, at least as far as my memory serves.

For starters, my large cheese pizza was $9.88, and that was with a discount.  Normally it would have been $10.99 without tax, but I’m so savvy that I finagled a discount in exchange for pick-up instead of delivery.  I may be exaggerating, but I seriously recall a pizza being almost half that price before.  Oh well, they’re more expensive, big deal.  It’s still a reasonable price and the facility was spotless and well-managed, and let’s face it, there’s probably been some inflation since 1997.

pizza

Hungry Howie's cheese pizza, garlic herb crust.

But really, the prime concern is about the quality of the pizza, is it not?  I remember thinking it was great for the price when I was young, but it’s often hard to assign a high value to something you know is cheap.  Plus, my tastes were probably not nearly as mature and refined as they are now (snoot, snoot).  So, the pizza cost more – was it good value and quality?  I give it a “meh”.  It was decent.  Nothing particularly special but certainly not bad.  It was different from how I remember and I think that our pizza on this particular occasion may have been left in the oven just a tad too long.

I won’t be harsh, it tasted good; we were satisfied.  But it was not excellent and, for that price, I probably wouldn’t go back often.  I am thinking about giving it another chance though – maybe we just got a rushed one, maybe I’ll come around to it.  They do offer delivery in a rather generous radius and the flavored crust thing is neat even if it’s a bit of a gimmick.  And, the dude that runs the Hayward one is super nice and appears to know his footing in a pizza kitchen.  So, overall I will say it was decent but nothing to write home about* and reserve full judgment for another day and another post.

*It is, however, clearly something to blog about.





In a Nutshell

6 11 2009

Welcome to my brand new Bay Area Food blog!  I am a native Haywardian who has just been reborn into the Bay for the first time since leaving for college almost ten long years ago.  And guess what?  I like to eat things.  I also like to babble needlessly online.  Lo and behold – the almighty blog exists to which we can all repent our sins!  Or, in my case, rant about excellent Mexican or terrible Thai.  I am here to fulfill all your local restaurant evaluation needs and work out your sarcasm muscles while doing it.

One tiny catch – I am part of a fancy group of people who call themselves pescetarians, though I try hard not to ever use that word for fear of sounding like a jackass.  But, it’s true, I eat dairy and seafood but no birds or mammals.  Why, you ask?  Well, that is a discussion for another day.  For now, just know that I am an equal opportunity restaurant-goer who just doesn’t order or consume any chickens, cows, piggies, or other walkin’, talkin’ animal.

So, that’s me in a nutshell and chatting about what I’m eating will be a piece of cake, easy as pie, smooth as peaches and cream.   Stop on by for a cup of tea anytime you need some comfort words or a completely unqualified opinion about local Bay Area restaurants.








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