Recipe: Fried Catfish and Quinoa: A Juxtaposition

30 04 2010

B&C has been, so far, solely interested in food that other people make.  Specifically, East Bay restaurants that serve food that I purchase from them.  It’s a good relationship: drive, eat, pay, write.  But perhaps it’s time for B&C to evolve to discuss some home cooking too, no?

I’m not a great cook, it’s true.  In fact, I (we) typically don’t cook anything terribly exciting on any kind of a regular basis.  Boyfriend gets a bit upset when I say this, but I’d argue for the most part that it’s true.  I’ll concede, also, that he’s a better cook than I.  Moving on.  When we do make an effort, and we’re successful, why not blog about it?  This is a food blog isn’t it?

The inspiration for tonight’s meal came from Food Maxx.  Yes I shop there; it actually is a lot cheaper than Safeway.  I just pretend like the floor is tile instead of concrete, like the arrangement is such that it does not weave me through the store as though I could not navigate it alone, and that select other patrons don’t have tear drop tattoos.  Actually, the inspiration for this meal came because I’m cheap and because of baby seals.  One of those two you probably already knew.  I will explain the other.  The dudes who club baby seals for a living up in Canada are fisherman in the off-season (or vice-versa).  The Humane Society of the US tells me this (amongst other people), and also tells me that if I don’t buy the seafood they farm in the off-season, then they’re not supported as well to be clubbing seals come seal time.  In short, I try not to buy Canadian seafood.

This ruled out the salmon I typically go for – damn you Canada.  There were some salmon steaks farmed in the US, some cod, and, alas, some catfish nuggets.  And while I raise a skeptical eyebrow at seafood that’s gone on sale, I have no current qualms with inherently cheap seafood.  Do I like catfish?  I’m not sure, I can’t remember ever having it.  Are the “nuggets” so cheap because they’re crappy?  Dunno, but they look pretty normal.  $3/pound is quite convincing.  Catfish nuggets it is.

And while we usually grill our fishies in a spoonful of olive oil, or sometimes with a light sprinkling of marinade, we decided that these nuggets were begging to be crumbed and fried.  We’ve never really done this; here’s what Kane* came up with:

  • The package told us to soak the fish in milk for 15 minutes.  I thought for sure this was going to be a “made you do it!”-type prank, but we did it anyway.  I have no idea how this contributed to our dinner.
  • In a plastic container, Kane mixed flour, corn meal, mashed up Breton wheat crackers, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • He then drained the milk from the fish and placed the fish in the container.
  • Sealing the container, he proceeded to shake it vigorously to make sure all the nuggets were covered with breading.

We ran out of vegetable oil, so he fried these sad fish nuggets in half veggie half olive oil.  Redneck portion of our dinner out of the way, I had been all the while dutifully preparing the more cultured, college-educated half of our dinner in the meantime.

Quinoa is a actually a seed, though you cook it pretty much exactly like rice.  It turns into little fluffy balls of yum that taste sort of like brown rice.  It is typically eaten in place of rice or couscous and is very high in protein and other good stuff.  We were first introduced to it in a vegan cooking class, and so as far as I’m concerned, it’s sort of hippie, trendy food.  But, they sell it at Trader Joe’s (no surprise), so I appeased my tie-dyed heart and bought a box a few weeks ago.  I cooked some up for tonight’s feast to go hand in hand with our breaded and fried fish nuggets.  I’m a modern city girl and I do what I want in the kitchen.  No rules hold me back!

Steam up a pre-cut package of broccoli/carrots/snow peas and we’ve almost canceled out the harm of the deep fried fish.  I know that’s not how it works, but I don’t care.  Our conclusion was this surprisingly delicious meal:

Fried catfish nuggets

Fried catfish nuggets - yum!

Quinoa, veggies, fried catfish

Behold - Bohemian Bumpkin: Quinoa and vegetables with fried catfish nuggets.

Quinoa, veggies, fried catfish

Up close and personal.

The combination was really quite good.  We had no idea.  Maybe that made it taste better: we were sort of out on a limb and thinking it probably wasn’t going to work out.  You can’t go wrong with the veggies, those are foolproof.  The quinoa was cooked pretty much perfectly; I didn’t run into my typical rice problem of having too much water and/or burning it.  The little nuggets fried up really well and looked a lot like chicken, though I assure you they were not.  I dipped mine in mayonnaise, like the low-rent gal that I am, Kane slathered his in ketchup like a ten year old.  I dabbled soy sauce on my quinoa, Kane took out the teriyaki sauce.  Yep, we were all over the place.  What’s important though, is that we were successfully scattered in our dinner choices.  High fives all around.

*Beware blog readers, The Boyfriend has been named!





Katsu Restaurant

25 04 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 5/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes please
___________

Katsu RestaurantKatsu is a tiny, unassuming restaurant in the increasingly decrepit Lucky’s shopping center across the boulevard from Castro Village.  I probably would have never seen it, so I’m glad my uncle recommended it to me.  I’m glad to have finally found another Japanese restaurant near my house that’s worth going to.

At first I was slightly alarmed – Katsu was by no means booming on a Saturday night.  You can’t see in very well from the outside due to drawn blinds, but it looked like no one was in there when we pulled up.  That wasn’t true, there were half a dozen tables filled, but it was by no means full.  This made me a bit sad, especially after eating the food – the place is good, why not more people?  I can only assume it’s one of two reasons: location and/or advertising.  The location is pretty poor (that shopping center is on its death bed) and I have no idea if they advertise, I was just assuming they don’t.  Fortunately, word of mouth and quality food speak loudly enough, so they’re still in business.

Katsu Restaurant

The inside of Katsu Restaurant in Castro Valley.

The service the other night wasn’t great, but it got better as the night went on.  I was initially dismayed at how long they took to take our order, and the fact that we were missing napkins through the first two courses of our meal.  But, the food was brought out in a timely manner, and the waitress was appalled and apologetic when she realized that we had somehow been served without receiving napkins.  So, strikes dismissed.  I would not say the service was enthusiastic, but it was adequate and our waters were refilled often.  Hence, I gave them an average rating.

Now the food, that’s where Katsu shines.  And since that’s what I’m there for, I was pleased with my Katsu experience.  The food’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.  Nigiri sushi and Sushi rolls will run you around $4 each, though the selection is excellent.  The lunch meals top out at around $8, so that’s probably the most economical time to eat there.  Dinner combinations were right around $14/plate, while some other dinner meals were even more (some were less, too).  The boyfriend and I each tried a different dinner combo – they all looked really good. I ordered combo A: sashimi and tempura; he ordered combo M: sushi and salmon.  The combinations included miso soup, salad, rice, and dessert.

Katsu Restaurant

Combination A at Katsu Restaurant: Tempura and Sashimi.

They start you out with a complimentary, tiny bowl of edamame, which I love.  Then they bring out your pre-dinner dishes one by one – first soup, then salad.  Their miso was excellent, and the salad has that tangy mayo-based dressing that I love.  Then came the main courses; we each received our mains on their own plates, and a separate bowl of rice.  My tempura was crispy and delicious, and included a variety of veggies and two shrimp.  My sashimi was all tuna and it may have been the best sashimi I’ve ever had.  Including anything I had in Japan (though, to be fair, we weren’t eating at fancy places in Japan).  It was tender, mild yet delicious, and almost melted in your mouth.  And they provided a relatively good amount of it – I was expecting only about half of what they served.

Tuna Sashimi

Tuna sashimi at Katsu Restaurant in Castro Valley.

Boyfriend’s salmon was teriyaki, though the menu didn’t mention that (not that he minded).  It was a tiny slab of fish, deliciously marinated and grilled.  It was extremely tasty.  His sushi plate was also quite good – he got a tiny order of California roll next to three pieces of sushi which I believe were maguro (tuna), mackerel, and shrimp (pretty obvious on that one).

Sushi

Combination M: Salmon teriyaki and sushi at Katsu

Sushi plate

Close up of the sushi plate from Combination M at Katsu Restaurant.

Even though I originally thought the portions seemed small, we were quite full at the end.  I suppose all the small plates add up to make a good amount for a meal.  After we were done, we also received a scoop of ice cream, which was a nice touch (and prevented me from going to Loard’s after, which was both good and bad…).  I chose rainbow sherbet and boyfriend ordered green tea.  I was unaware that green tea ice cream actually tastes like green tea.  And it’s not gross either.  Katsu, good work, I will be back to see you again soon.

Ice cream

Green tea ice cream and rainbow sherbet at Katsu Restaurant.

Also see this review on Urbanspoon.com:
Katsu Restaurant on Urbanspoon





Jay’s Fish & Chips

20 04 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality:4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  I’d love to
___________

Jay's Fish & Chip Shop, HaywardHow many times have I passed Jay’s?  Well, it’s on Foothill Boulevard in Hayward just off Highway 238, so I’ll say probably about, oh, 900 times in the past few months.  The building that Jay’s occupies is just next to the Walgreen’s at the corner of Grove Way and used to be a variety of other restaurants over the years, as Hayward establishments are wont to do.  Notably, I remember a Chinese restaurant; my mom says it was an all-you-can-eat buffet*, though I have no recollection of eating there.  No matter, Jay’s is now the big cheese and I was pleasantly surprised by what we found inside.

I’m not trying to be rude when I say that the exterior is a standard run-down Hayward restaurant.  It’s old, it’s not particularly nice, and the pink paint job over the 70’s rock facade is only a marginal improvement.  It’s the kind of place you pass a million times and never really notice.  All this had led me to expect a teeny tiny, grubby, grease hole inside and I was only hoping that the food would be tolerable.  Since they don’t have a website, I had to rely on the folks at yelp.com to help me out with evaluations, and, though it’s a veritable freak show over there, I did get an idea that most people think the place is at least decent.

Upon entering Jay’s, I was pleasantly surprised.  The place isn’t a palace, but it’s cleaner than a doctor’s office (I had my check-up today, so I know first hand) and the amenities are more than adequate.  Tables, chairs, a front counter with posted menu, modest decorations.  I do not require fancy, but I enjoy clean and hospitable, Jay’s certainly is.  I was totally happy eating there; nothing wrong with this place at all.

Jay's Fish & Chips, Hayward

The interior of Jay's Fish & Chips in Hayward.

I like fish and chips, and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience them in the proper British-owned countries from which they hail.  I won’t say I’m an expert, but I’ll say that I have certain expectations when it comes to both fish and their chips.  I think the menu at Jay’s goes above and beyond what a standard shop offers – but not so far beyond that I thought they needed to reign it in at all.  They generally keep it in the family, offering five different types of fish and four other seafood that can be mixed and matched within a fish and chips combo, or ordered by themselves.  Their selection of side orders pretty much seems to include anything that can be bulk purchased at Costco** or thrown into a deep fryer, which is impressive if for no other reason than their dedication to stocking all things breaded and frozen.  I’m sure these items are as delicious as they are bad for you, but we didn’t have any this time so I can’t verify the former just yet.

Front counter and menu at Jay's in Hayward.

Front counter and menu at Jay's Fish & Chips in Hayward.

Other than the deep fryer, they also use the grill to offer grilled fish or chicken (if you feel that your arteries deserve better), BBQ Korean beef and ribs, and ham-/fish-/chicken burgers.  They also have a couple special plates: teriyaki chicken or salmon with rice and a salad for $7/$10, respectively, and one or two other things hand written on signs posted near the menu.  I think they have really good choices, firstly regarding selection for the main thing they offer (fish & chips), and then also for variations on those offerings to include some variety and healthier options.  In the way of full vegetarian fare, a non-meat-eater will be stuck in the deep fryer with the cheese sticks and fried zucchini, etc., so if you don’t at least eat the fishes, I’d recommend moseying on by.

We decided to split a six piece mixed fish plate (chips included) and requested two pieces each of cod, salmon, and sole for our order.  I would like to mention that mix and match is one of the most awesome concepts ever and I’m extremely glad that Jay’s has applied it to their fish dishes.  I love to choose my own fate in all the variety that I desire.  They also sell beer in a refrigerator and soda on tap (no free refills, boo!) which is very reasonably priced.  If we had all three been hungrier, this six piece meal would not have sufficed, though I would have been fine with a three piece meal to myself had I been a bit more empty-stomached.  But for our hunger levels, the six-piecer was just fine.  Six pieces of fish, chips, a soda, and a beer for just under $18.  Not too shabby.

It arrived at our table promptly, and it looked…well, it looked fried, what can I say.  I’m used to being overwhelmed with the amount of french fries at typical F&C places, and this isn’t how Jay’s does it.  Jay’s gives you fish over a very modest amount of very generously salted chips, and that’s that.  The fries are the kind we call “steak” fries, I believe – the fat kind that are about an inch wide and hold salt like a little boat.  I am not biased against any kind of fries, and for that matter, any form of potato, so I was pleased with these chips.  The fish is very well breaded, and you have a choice of regular beer batter or corn meal batter, which is pretty neat.  I’d be curious to try the latter, but we just went with the traditional since it was our first time.

Fish n Chips

Our 6-piece mixed fish and chips order at Jay's Fish & Chips in Hayward. The chips are under there somewhere.

The consensus was that it was all quite good.  Surprise: deep fried things are tasty.  Seriously though, it is very possible to screw up fish and chips though it might seem foolproof, and I was happy with what Jay’s cooked up.  Cod is the standard fish in “fish and chips” and theirs was certainly good.  It was mom’s favorite, especially with an added gallon of vinegar.  The salmon took a bit of getting used to, but was also quite good, especially generously slathered in the heavenly tartar-type sauce they provide.  The sole was my favorite as it was very flaky and buttery-tasting, and was also great with some vinegar.  The boyfriend thought it was a tie – he liked all the fish and thought they were all good in different ways.  He’s so PC, you know?

The little Korean ladies behind the counter weren’t terribly talkative, but they keep a clean shop and know how to cook up some good fishies, so kudos to them.  Though I try to moderate my intake of entirely deep fried meals, I have a feeling we’ll be back to see Jay in no time.

Empty plates

See? We cleaned our plates at Jay's.

*I suppose this is redundant.

**I really have no idea if they get their stuff from Costco specifically, I didn’t even try the potato salad, macaroni salad, or coleslaw to which I am referring with this comment.





Taqueria Azteca

16 04 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 5/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  If I’m in the area
___________

Taqueria AztecaThis taqueria is tucked away on Amador Plaza Road in Dublin, just across the street from Target.  And actually, it’s not really “tucked” anywhere – it’s right on the road for all to see as they drive by, though you do have to be on Amador Plaza Road to see it – it’s not on the main Boulevard.  Azteca is in an unassuming commercial string of buildings, plain stucco, gently slopipng roofs; nice but not elaborate.  Our trip to the nearby Target had suffered due to extreme hunger grumpiness, so we needed a place nearby and we had no time for arguing.  Azteca did it’s duty in this regard.

Taqueria Azteca is your typical taqueria: order at the counter, proceed to the chips/salsa bar, then to the plastic booth seating.  The walls have colorful murals and the room is ringed with tiny bottles perched on a shelf just below the ceiling.  It’s not fancy, but it’s cute enough.

Taqueria Azteca Interior

The interior of Taqueria Azteca in Dublin, CA.

The place was pretty empty when we were there but that’s what we get for eating at 3pm.  Thank goodness they were even open or else we would have had a crisis on our hands.  The menu was standard Mexican, but one thing struck my eyeballs – they have veggie burritos.  Burritos plural; they have multiple options for vegetarian burritos!  This is unheard of, really, and I was excited.

Menu on the wall

The menu at Taqueria Azteca in Dublin, CA

The first option was just a standard veggie burrito: cheese and whole beans, rice, salsa, and, curiously, a slice of jack cheese.  Upgrades to this include, in addition to the above fillings: #7 with steamed veggies (broccoli, cabbage, squash, zucchini), #8 with steamed russet potatoes, and #9 with peas and lentils.  How about that for deviating from the norm?!  I didn’t even pay much mind to the rest of the menu at the time, though upon further inspection of my photographs, they appear to offer regular burritos (optional in a bowl burrito), meat dishes (chicken breast, carne asada, chile verde, carnitas, chorizo, etc), tacos, chicken soup, taco salad, tostadas, enchiladas, tortas, menudo, nachos, and combo or a la carte dishes (tamales, chile relleno, enchiladas, etc).  It doesn’t appear as though they’ve forgotten anything; they sell it all.

While you wait for your meal, you have free reign at the tortilla chip and salsa bar adjacent the counter.  While not extravagant, the chips are home made and delicious and there are a variety of choices of fresh salsa.  When our food arrived, I think I was a teeny bit disappointed, but mostly because I had been way too excited about my burrito.  Relinquishing to my love for vegetables (can one relinquish to a love for vegetables?), I ordered the #7 burrito with broccoli, cabbage, squash, and zucchini.  It also had rice, beans, and I thought it was supposed to have cheese, though I detected none.  It was good, but it wasn’t great.  I thought I’d love a burrito with all those veggies in it, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.  Standard fatty/greasy Mexican food is probably tastier to the tongue – but mine was no doubt healthier!  I’m not sure if it was a fault in burrito creation, or in the fabrication of said burrito in my mind while I ordered it.

Burrito

Veggie burrito #7 - beans, rice, broccoli, zucchini, squash, and cabbage from Taqueria Azteca in Dublin, CA.

The boyfriend ordered his beloved and highly coveted nachos*, and enjoyed them. They sure looked good, I’ll tell you that.  The chips, oddly, did not appear to be the same deliciously thick and flaky ones offered with the salsa bar – I’m not sure if they were the same but just fried again or if they actually use different chips.  The guac wasn’t my favorite, but the cheese was well-dispersed, and the salsa was fresh tasting.

Nachos

Nachos sans meat at Taqueria Azteca in Dublin, CA.

His final evaluation was that he enjoyed the nachos, and that he would order them again, but he probably wouldn’t run to friends to recommend that they try these particular nachos.  I think that’s a fair conclusion.

Tortilla chips

Tortilla chips are free and so delicious at Taqueria Azteca in Dublin, CA.

Azteca is good for a bite if you’re in the area: authentic menu, clean seating area, good food, and GREAT prices – did I mention that both of our meals together with a soda and unlimited chips and salsa was $11?  Yeah, not too bad.  Hence why value is so good on my summary at the top.  I’d go again if not just to try another one of those veggie burritos…I think I’d go for the peas and lentils next time, sounds interesting!

*We’ve done a lot of traveling – nachos are the first thing to be made poorly in Mexican restaurants abroad, though everything else on the menu is quick to follow.





A Slice of New York (Pizza)

12 04 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: N/A   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
___________

The front of A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.Ok, how many pizza shops are called New York Pizza?  Seriously, it took me 5 minutes to find this one on Google because even typing “New York Pizza San Jose” into the search comes up with more hits than and oldies radio station.  I realize that many restaurants sell New York style pizza.  Use. A. Different. Name.

I suppose I should apologize to A Slice of NY Pizza for that rant, they deserved it no more than the hordes of other pizza places of the same name.  One of which, mind you, I’ve already reviewed.  But these two are not related, thankfully, despite a flash of panic when we arrived to pick up this latest pie.  Two of our friends who live in San Jose recommended (read: demanded) that we try this pizza place.  And unlike all the other “New York Pizza”s out there, this one is actually called A Slice of New York Pizza, though the distinguishing forewords are in such tiny print on their sign that no one but the hummingbirds are aware of it*.

Apparently this place is sort of legendary.  My friend tells me that lunch is a mob scene during the week and there’s often a line down the sidewalk for a slice.  We were fortunate enough to order take away early on a Saturday evening and avoid that nonsense, but the people speak loud and clear: they love this place.  The company’s site backs it up too – under the general information on the site they list a heaping handful of awards they’ve received.

Pizza slices and pizza makers inside A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

My impressions?  First: the facility is small, there’s virtually no place to eat there (some stools inside and minimal patio seating outside when it’s not rainy/windy), and they don’t deliver.  The shop is not fancy; it’s a run-of-the-mill pizza place smooshed into an old strip mall with junk stapled all over the walls, and a small flock of people scurrying around at light speeds behind the counter.  Nothing special here.  Second: the pizza didn’t look great, I’ll be honest.  The toppings looked a little sparse (too much sauce showing through the cheese upon first glance), the crust looked a little limp, and the pizza box wasn’t even personalized (come on guys, show us your big shots, don’t just tell us!).  Not that any of these thing really matter, necessarily, after you’ve had a bite, but still, the lead up was throwing me off a bit.  Third: It’s not cheap.  Granted, the pizzas are large, but you pay for the hype and, hopefully, the quality, which always makes me wonder which is driving the price up more.

Generic pizza box from A Slice of New York Pizza, San Jose.

When we finally sat down to eat our dinner, I found that I enjoyed it a lot.  We ordered two larges (18-inchers, a good size), one with mushrooms, basil, and garlic, and the other with pesto and cheese.  When we ordered the pesto and cheese one, I think they took that to mean extra cheese (which we didn’t really mean, but I see the cause for confusion), which turned out to be a fabulous choice.  I love that phrase – “extra cheese”.  That’s basically how much cheese I always want.  Never normal cheese, standard cheese, or just plain cheese.  Extra cheese for me please, I love cheese.

Pesto Pizza

Pesto and cheese pizza from A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

I think I’ve made my point on cheese.  The pesto was good, and I was happy to see that they used it as a topping over the cheese rather than as the sauce.  Bread, tomato sauce, cheese, more cheese, pesto.  It was a good combination.  The pesto didn’t knock my socks off, but it was enjoyable.  The other pizza may have been my favorite of the two, however, with the thinly sliced mushrooms, sprinkling of fresh basil, and diced garlic cloves.  I tend to be a toppings glutton, so I could have gone for a denser gathering of mushrooms and garlic (and, as you might guess, cheese), but I think they did a nice job constructing our pizza.  They tasted good; I would happily order them again.

Mushroom, Garlic, Basil Pizza

Mushroom, Basil, and Garlic pizza from A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

Plus, I like their website.  Not because it’s terribly fancy, but because they include a link to their menu, they ask for feedback, they support charities (toward the bottom of the page), and they have a three-page long FAQ PDF available to answer all your frequently asked pizza-related questions.  And since I did want to know why they don’t have a medium size pizza, this was helpful to me.  I just like a company that is into what they do and puts effort into what they show to their customers.  Good info, guys.  Also, they include tax in all their prices which is, like, one of my favorite things ever that I think should be mandated by law in America like all the other civilized countries in the world.  I guess it’s just sort of a rant-y evening, isn’t it?

*Follow up note: The owner of the restaurant subsequently informed me that the title of the restaurant is actually “A Slice of New York”, they don’t use the word Pizza in their technical business name, though it is on the sign to let you know that’s what they sell.  This post was written prior to that knowledge and I don’t want to change it since this knowledge was found out afterward.  The title of this post was changed, however, to show the word “Pizza” in parens, and this note was added the day after the original post to appease said business owner.

A Slice of New York on Urbanspoon





Buon Appetito

8 04 2010
Atmosphere: 5/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please
___________

Buon Appetito has been one of the classiest Hayward restaurants for some time now.  Amidst all the good things I’ve head over the past many years, this was my first visit.  My conclusion?  It was great.  In short, the menu had many delicious meat-less choices, the decor was exquisite, and the food was very good.  The only problem?  The damn place is on A Street in Hayward.

Let’s talk for a moment about how I love Hayward.  I’m from Hayward, born and raised.  It seems to me that it does a person no good to walk around all day squawking about how horrible his or her hometown is, especially when he or she currently is residing in said hometown.  I would be continuously disgruntled if, for example, my feathers were ruffled every time the bass on the stereo in the adjacent vehicle was overriding the Regina Spektor playing in my car.   Or, if I were upset by the ever expanding stretch of out-of-business car lots on Mission Boulevard.  Or, if I felt threatened by late night, spontaneous, car-side dance parties at the Chevron station near Jackson Street.  If it bothered me when I am stared down by the patrons at the local Food Maxx, then it would make my life a bit difficult.  Instead, I try to embrace the run down shopping centers, to smile sincerely at the Walgreen’s checker despite his lack of front teeth, and to dodge the folks trying to sell me things outside my neighborhood Lucky store with gusto and without remorse.  And I try to be home, or far from it, before dark.

My point is: A Street sucks.  It’s old, it’s run down, and it’s not nice.  There’s the new Lucky shopping center which, except for aforementioned jerks who are ALWAYS THERE pedaling something outside the front doors (I just want to go shopping, and I thought that would have been fairly clear by the fact that I’ve pulled up to a grocery store*), has added a splash of modernity to this otherwise bereft stretch of downtown.  But the rest of A Street, from Foothill to Hesperian has been getting progressively older and crummier since I was a child.  So to come back to my originally intended point, this is an unexpected place for such a nice restaurant.

Back to the topic at hand.  Once you park your car (lock the doors), trudge up the sidewalk, and open the door to Buon Appetito, you suddenly enter another world.  It’s a world with clean floors, fun Italian music, fresh food, and *gasp!* tablecloths.  It’s a place made for another town, is what it is.  But, alas, Buon Appetito has chosen to grace Hayward with its presence, and for that I am grateful.

Buon Appetito restaurant review, Hayward

Seating area with bar behind inside Buon Appetito in Hayward.

The inside of Buon Appetito looks really great.  Everything is clean and classy, and the newest addition of the bar area makes it a lot more spacious and multi-purpose.  The service is prompt and helpful; our waiter could pronounce all the things on the menu that I asked him about.  The food is made by a chef with (assumingly) actual culinary training.  And it tastes like it too – no alfredo sauce from a jar here.  They know what they’re doing at Buon Appetito.

The bar at Buon Appetito, Hayward.

Since my mom ordered the Ravioli con Pomodoro e Limone: fresh ravioli pasta filled with spinach, Swiss chard, pine nuts & ricotta cheese topped with a lemon cream sauce – which I secretly wanted, I chose the Turtei di Zucca (I pointed to the menu instead of risking trying to pronounce that word): home-made ravioli pasta filled with roasted butternut squash & ricotta cheese topped with a cream sage sauce.  Boyfriend ordered one of the specials: Pasta Rustica, which was ear-shaped pasta with potatoes, onions, and fontina cheese, served crispy (I was intrigued by this, I’ll admit).  Oh yeah, and while you wait, they provide bread slices with heavenly garlic spread:

Complimentary bread with delicious and addicting garlic spread.

My ravioli was very good; I chose the cream sauce (the more popular sauce), though I also had a choice of a browned butter sauce (I wasn’t feeling adventurous).  My mom’s ravioli was also delicious – the cream sauce on this pasta is pure perfection.

Turtei di Zucca in a cream sauce at Buon Appetito in Hayward.

Ravioli con Pomodoro e Limone at Buon Appetito, Hayward.

Boyfriend’s pasta was good – the crispy-ness made it interesting.  Since it was not completely doused in a cream sauce, I didn’t love it quite as much (go figure), but it was good.  And it looked pretty.

Pasta Rustica at Buon Appetito, Hayward.

They offered dessert but we declined, thought I’m sure it would have been good.  The price of the dishes is a bit above the norm for Hayward, our pasta dishes were running on the order of $14 a plate.  So, it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for, and it’s not horribly expensive either.  The meat dishes are a bit more expensive (as meat dishes are wont to be), but the salads are reasonably priced and so are the cocktails, of which a plentiful variety is offered.  I wish they had a happy hour or some early dinner specials to get people in the door before 6pm, but it’s a perfect place for a truly nice dinner in Hayward.

And hey, if you need a contractor, notary, and a lawyer, there’s a one stop shop right across the street.  Gotta love Hayward.

*Oh right, I’m not bitter, I forgot for a second.

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