2 03 2014

I’ve done this before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. A few weeks ago, I found myself wandering about the Embarcadero in search of food around 3pm. I wanted to see the newly remodeled Fog City Diner, so, starved, we walked down to their location across from Pier 23. For some unknown and seemingly unnecessary reason, they do not serve food between 2.30 and 4.30pm. I find that this happens to me on vacation a lot — arriving at a restaurant “between meals”. So irritating.

cheeseburger from hillstone ($19)

cheeseburger from hillstone ($19)

Now what? Well, a short stroll north down the Embarcadero is Hillstone. I’ve seen it many times before — it has a nice umbrella-covered outdoor patio and peaceful location on the west side of the street. And they’re open at 3pm for lunch or dinner or whatever you want to call it. They will give you food at 3pm if you give them money. Perfect.

The inside is large, open, and has built-in booths and dark wood accents. It has kind of an upscale lodge-y feel to it, which reminds me of a steakhouse. And while it’s not a steakhouse per se, it does have a similar menu that includes burgers, chicken, fish, ribs, and, indeed, steaks. While the atmosphere was nice, and the menu certainly looked good, my general feeling was that it seemed pretty ordinary-suburban. There is nothing wrong with this — it just didn’t particularly wow me with the special flair that is so common at SF restaurants.

house made veggie burger from hillstone ($19)

house made veggie burger from hillstone ($19)

We certainly did have an enjoyable meal, however. I had wanted to try a variety of the appetizers that looked delicious (house-smoked salmon, oak-grilled artichokes, spinach and artichoke dip, emerald kale salad…), but opted for the house-made veggie burger ($19) instead. My quest to try every veggie burger everywhere (and subsequently rank them, obviously) and my insatiable desire for french fries won out.

a closer look at that veggie burger

a closer look at that veggie burger

The veggie burger at Hillstone has beets in it, as evidenced by the red hue of the patty. Otherwise, I can’t tell you what else it’s made of, just that it’s good. My companion had a regular (meat) burger ($19), which he also thought was good. The fries were yummy, and the service was attentive. The whole experience was just fine, though I wouldn’t put either the restaurant or the veggie burger at the top of my list of favorites. So while I won’t be jumping to return, I will keep it in mind for the future — it’s always nice to know your options, especially for larger parties and outdoor seating.

Le Bernardin

6 08 2013

Last month I went to New York City. While in Manhattan for five days, my food-loving friend, Jon, and I agreed to go to at least one world-class super schmancy restaurant and spend a ridiculous sum of money on food. Mission accomplished: we went to Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. Please let me describe to you the most expensive meal I have ever eaten.

Inside Le Bernardin -- from website le-bernardin.com

Inside Le Bernardin — from website le-bernardin.com

Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant. Their motto is “the fish is the star of the plate”, which, imho, could use some work, but they seem to be doing fine even with a sorta cheesy tagline. In 2009, Le Bernardin was voted 15th best restaurant in the world in the Restaurant magazine Top 50. Le Bernardin is one of only seven restaurants in New York awarded three Michelin stars, and is the restaurant which has held four stars from The New York Times for the longest period of time, having earned the ranking in early 1986. In 2013, Zagats ranked it the #1 restaurant in New York City*.

Needless to say, our hopes were high.

Hopes = High

Hopes = High

You can order a la carte or you can order a tasting menu. As I didn’t feel up to making all kinds of decisions, we ordered the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu. $150 each. BAM. Or $241 if you were to get wine pairing, which we did not. (Just FYI, the alternate Chef’s Tasting Menu is $195 per person, or $333 with wine pairing. Good lord.)

Our tasting menu included five dinner courses, two dessert courses, and complimentary bread, appetizer, and additional dessert. I was thinking I may make it out of there still hungry due to the nature of the uber-fanciness (and hence small plates of food), but I was wrong. We were totally stuffed when we left. Here’s how it went down. I will be descriptive; prepare your scroll wheel.

We started with a glass of Reisling each. It was delicous, one of the best I’ve ever had. It was $13 a glass, which isn’t nearly as outrageously priced as the food, really. We each ended up having two glasses over the course of the meal (insert cash register “cha-ching” noise).


Complimentary Appetizer: A trio of tasties including an oyster, a lobster bite, and a shot of warm gazpacho puree. I don’t typically like oysters. But when it’s some fraction of my $150 meal, I’m not going to pass it up. It was surprisingly delicious. It was very tender, not chewy and upsetting like they normally are, and it was in some sort of broth that made it very savory and delicious. The lobster was in a nice butter sauce, and the gazpacho was also quite good.

Complimentary Appetizer

Complimentary Appetizer


First Course: Tuna - layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette, chives, and extra virgin olive oil. This was really like a tuna carpaccio-type thing — the tuna was raw. It looks weird, but it was delicious. Big faux pas for a such a fancy restaurant, however — when we sat down, the waiter asked if we had any dietary restrictions. I explained that I didn’t eat meat other than seafood. And so, when we ordered the tasting menu, I didn’t make a point to say “no foie gras” on this particular dish.

When they delivered the plates, they recited the ingredients to us again. Since our waiter had a strong accent (French?), I didn’t entirely understand him. “Did he say foie gras?” I asked Jon after the waiter had left. Yes, he definitely did. I flagged down a waiter and told them this. They apologized profusely and took my plate. They returned it a few minutes later with no foie gras. Normally, I’m totally forgiving to wait staff, mistakes, etc., and I almost never send anything back. But when I’m paying this much, I expect more. At least they corrected it quickly and didn’t serve me any other non-seafood meat.



Second Course: Scallop – barely cooked scallop, brown butter dashi. This was delicious. They say you cook a scallop for two hours or two minutes, otherwise it’s super tough. This was a very, very tender and flavorful scallop, and the waiter said it was cooked for two minutes. My only wish was that I had had ten of them instead of one.



Third Course: Lobster – pan-roasted lobster, charred baby leeks, sea bean and mango salad, lobster-lemongrass broth. This was definitely good, but not as good as I expected, oddly. I guess I don’t have a lot of lobster experience, but this dish didn’t totally blow me away like some of the others. The leek was really good though.




Fourth Course: Monkfish – pan-roasted monkfish, tarragon scented pea puree, morels, Armagnac-black pepper sauce. This one was definitely yummy. The pea puree beneath the fish was very flavorful. The fish was very tender and meat-y.



Fifth Course: Striped Bass – wild striped bass, Bhutanese red rice, green papaya salad, ginger-red wine sauce. Good lord this one was tasty. That Bhutanese rice was amazing. So much so that when the waiter came over, we asked, “What is this rice?!” like the middle-class turds that we are. It was delicious. And the bass was as rich and tender as I’ve ever had.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

They put my sea bass in a  different sauce since the regular sauce was beef-based. Thanks guys.

They put my sea bass in a different sauce since the regular sauce was beef-based. Thanks guys.

First Dessert: Raspberry - olive oil emulsion, swiss meringue, raspberry sorbet. Let me decode: this was a scoop of raspberry sorbet, a couple syrup-y raspberries, some raspberry foam stuff, and a couple pieces of raspberry meringue all in a tiny bowl with a gigantic rim and in a pool of olive oil. That’s right, olive oil. Jon was not a fan of this dish, particularly the olive oil. I really liked all the flavors (even the olive oil was fine); the raspberry-ness of the sorbet was very intense. I thought the whole thing was a nice, light, and refreshing after dinner dish.



Giant-rimmed plate/bowl!

Giant-rimmed plate/bowl!

Second Dessert: Dark Chocolate Parfait – candied Marcona almonds, dulce de leche, milk sorbet. Now, I wouldn’t have been quite as excited about the previous dessert if it hadn’t been followed by this one. Chocolate! Absolutely necessary. This dessert was great. The candied almond-covered thing is the parfait — like a dense chocolate mousse. The ice cream was amazing — how was it just milk flavored? The scattered brownie bites, caramel syrup, and candied almonds made the whole thing super interesting and dynamic.

Parfait and friends

Parfait and friends

Third (Apology) Dessert: Chocolate Popcorn – Madagascan chocolate ganache, candied peanuts, popcorn ice cream. To apologize for messing up my tuna carpaccio, they gave us yet another dessert. They must know me. Apology accepted. This was also delicious and extremely rich and smooth.



Complimentary Dessert: Last but not least was the complimentary dessert (we obv hadn’t had enough dessert already), which was an assortment of bite-sized sweets. We ate them carefully in a strategic order, trying to save the best one for last. They were cute and fun and tasty and a nice end to our billion dollar meal.

Complimentary dessert

Complimentary dessert

The whole meal took about an hour and a half, and I was actually a bit nervous through it. I was always just mildly self-conscious that I wasn’t going to know some protocol or do something inappropriate, so I was a bit more sweaty-armpitted than normal. But, we made it through.

And then they gave us the bill.

Final tally: $380. $150 each for dinner, $26 each in wine = $352 + tax. Then we had to obviously pay 20% tip on that, so we were up to $460. And since Jon is trying to empty his Chinese bank account, we paid in cash like pathetic drug dealers. Good drug dealers would have paid in c-notes. We paid in twenties. Good show, Hayward, good show. Anyway, they couldn’t kick us out ’cause we were leaving anyway, so we took our leave of the most expensive dinner I’ve ever had, and moseyed back to our hotel like it ain’t no thang.

My final conclusions are that it was good. It was really good. I’m glad we went. I’m glad we spent all that money for a (nearly) once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was fun and exciting and interesting. And the food was good. But. I live in SF. We have damn good food here. I would say, in my totally unprofessional opinion, that our billion dollar dinner at Le Bernardin could be easily rivaled in quality and taste by any number of restaurants in SF for about a third of the price. Which is a conclusion that might irritate some people after paying so much, but since there was no way for me to really know than to try it, I’m happy that I did. Now I’ll happily go back to my Wayfare Tavern, The House, The Corner Store, and State Bird Provisions, thankyouverymuch.

*All stats per the Wikipedia page.

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

Pacific Catch

7 07 2013

If you find yourself in the Richmond district, I hope you brought a jacket. And a good mood. Because it’s undoubtedly cloudy, possibly misty, and at least 20 degrees colder than the rest of the City. Welcome to the dreary side of the City.

Teeny complimentary appetizer -- so cute!

Teeny complimentary appetizer — so cute!

They do have food over here, however — apparently people here need to eat too. There are a few names that come up time and again if you ask around for what’s good in the Richmond, and Pacific Catch is one of them. I tried it. It was good.

It was more Japanese-y than I had expected. I thought it was just a seafood place, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a whole section of the menu for Hawaiian Poke, sushi rolls, and rice bowls in addition to fish ‘n chips, tacos, and sandwiches. The selection looked good. I only tried a few things, but enjoyed them all such that I would return to try more.

Traditional Poke was recommended to us by our server. Very tasty!

Traditional Poke was recommended to us by our server. Very tasty!

Firecracker Salmon roll, I believe... also good.

Firecracker Salmon roll, I believe… also good.

Starter salad -- signature miso dressing is money.

Starter salad — signature miso dressing is money.

I ate these things.

I ate these things.

Pacific Catch 9th Ave on Urbanspoon

Lake Chalet

7 08 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: A Few  ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes!

Happy Birthday to me… this is where I chose to spend my birthday this year with my family. Where’s a nice place that’s close to Hayward (my fam lives in Hayward), not too terribly expensive (I’m not that kind of birthday girl) and has food that all four of my super picky fams will enjoy (sorry guys, you know it’s kinda true)? The Lake Chalet.

For Mom: Lake Chalet is classy and upscale with nice views of the lake and outdoor seating. For Dad: It’s got a “normal” seafood/steak menu with things that are just short of the “art food” he so dreads. For Sister: The bar is nice and serves cutesy drinks, and the delicious-sounding choices on the menu make it difficult for her to choose though she’ll probably be happy with whatever she gets.

And for me: it’s a nice place with good service and good food. There. Birthday done.

This particular Tuesday evening in July was one of the very few “hot” days we’ve gotten here in the SF Bay this year. The outdoor seating was in full swing, and while we had reservations, there was still going to be a 45 minute wait to be seated outside. Between the prospect of evening mosquitoes and suspecting that the cold would creep in as the night went on, I choose to sit inside at our reserved table (much to mom’s dismay I’m sure, but she kept on smiling since it was my birthday*).

Still with lake views, we took our seats at one of the many inside tables — the Lake Chalet is a huge facility with multiple dining areas, banquet facilities, a gondola dock, a gift shop, and two full bars (three if the outdoor seating is in effect). Perusing the menu, mom insisted that we order an appetizer. Who am I to object? We enjoyed their calamari which was crispy and delicious, along with a few of their signature cocktails.

For dinner, we had a variety of foods at the table. Mom went with Luis’ Chopped Chicken Salad, Dad had the Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib, Sister got the Whole Roasted Cracked Crab, Boyfriend got an Ahi Tuna Burger with Fries, and I ordered the Roasted Sea Bass. It was quite a feast, please, enjoy with us:

Everyone enjoyed their meal thoroughly… I heard some rumblings from Dad regarding the short rib, but I don’t remember the issue. Perhaps the polenta wasn’t very flavorful? Sister’s crab was good but hardly “deconstructed to help with ease of eating” per the menu’s promises; there was still much wrenching and shiny-fingered picking to be had. My sea bass was wonderful, and Boyfriend’s ahi burger was great.

For dessert Mom grabbed some creme brulee and sister and I split a chocolate molten cake that was as heavenly as a birthday dessert should be. If nothing else, go for the molten cake.

Overall the evening was merry, the service was attentive (they even catered to our repeated whimsical moves back and forth from the patio to the indoor seating area), and the food was really good. I love the Lake Chalet and I’d highly recommend it.

*Which is funny, shouldn’t it be the mom who gets what they want on their kids’ birthday? I mean, she was really doing all the work that day. Although I guess I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Find Lake Chalet on Zagat.com here

Lake Chalet on Urbanspoon

Art’s Crab Shak

28 05 2011
Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Unlikely
neon sign

Hayward Fishery neon sign.

Art’s Crab Shak, formerly the Hayward Fishery, can be found at the corner of Foothill and C Street in Hayward. The Hayward Fishery was an establishment from my childhood and was immensely popular locally. I don’t know when it changed hands, but it seems different than I remember from when I was a kid (granted, that was a long time ago), and, in short, I wasn’t terribly impressed. Let’s discuss.

A bit of confusion stems from the signage — they still maintain the “Hayward Fishery” neon outside (which is awesome, btw, see the thumbnail pic) and have both restaurant names scattered throughout different parts of the restaurant. Not sure what that’s about. The Fishery used to have a front area that was sort of like a covered patio, but had walls and felt more permanent but not totally like a part of the building. It had wood slatted floors, permanent tables and a sort of tarpaulin roof, if I recall correctly (which I may not). Anyway, at Art’s, this area was like a fossilized relic of what was previously there. It had weathered the storms of disuse, but not in a way I really wanted to see. It’s sort of a sad disused area that’s just sloppy and derelict now. And it’s the first part you walk through when you enter Art’s. Sigh.


Confusing signage.

After making our way through the wasteland of an entry and into the proper foyer, we waited for someone to seat us. The foyer used to be a market of sorts, I believe, that had various seafoods for sale behind a series of refrigerated countertops; picture the Seafood area at Safeway but in a souvenir store. Maybe it still works like this in the day; but it was closed in the evening when we were there. Adjacent the foyer is a teeny tiny bar that seems to still be in use; a few stray stools allow a very limited amount of bar seating.


Art's foyer.

We were seated in the main dining area. The decor in this place is almost indescribable. I typically start “writing” blog posts in my head while I’m in a restaurant, but I was at a loss in Art’s. Ok: 60’s style fake veneer dark wood tabletops; padded chairs that were somewhat mismatched throughout the dining area; dark wood paneling halfway up the wall, trimmed green; turquoise paint for the rest of the wall height with odd sea-themed decor such as giant fake fish scattered around the walls. Dingy tile ceiling; scattered ceiling fans. I don’t think anyone else in there cared, but I found it depressing and a bit sad.

art's crab shak

Inside Art's Crab Shak, Hayward.

art's crab shak

Inside Art's, Hayward.

Menu has a variety of items ranging from casual to fancy-ish seafood, and priced quite high in some cases. Which may be good; you don’t exactly want to each cheap seafood. Crab is, assumingly, a specialty, but I hate eating things that require manual labor to consume, so I stuck with a fork and knife dish. Though all kinds of other people were eating the crab — yet another mildly appalling spectacle here at Art’s. Watching people slurp and drip and crack crab with greasy mouths and shiny fingers is probably one of the more sickening things that I am easily able to view in my daily life. I don’t like it; it’s gross.

Fish dinner

Fish dinner.

tuna melt

Tuna melt.

The food we ordered was actually decent, however. It was heart-attack food (at least mine was), but it was not bad. Fried sole with asparagus and hollandaise sauce (how could it be bad with hollandaise sauce) and a side of fries and veggies. Can’t say I was hungry after. The Caesar salad was mediocre, and boyfriend’s tuna melt was diner-good. The service was friendly, but seemed understaffed. We could not get any face time with our smiley waitress. Too bad. I don’t feel like I will return.


8 05 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:2/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  If I’m in the neighborhood

Fish, period. That’s what they call themselves, punctuation and all. And what’s not to like about Fish.? Unless you’re a true vegetarian. Or you’re allergic to seafood. Or you just don’t like fish.

But I suffer from none of those deterrents, so I liked my fish at Fish. This place is way out of the way for most East Bay folks, nestled into the harbor-y area in the north part of Sausalito, but people around those parts seem to flock to Fish. We happened to be over there with Boyfriend’s mom and were looking for a good place to dine — we were happy to find one.

Fish has mostly… fish. As you might imagine. And they tout the sustainability thing too, which is refreshing. A large signboard in their dining area describes the virtue of sustainability in fishing and their website mentions that they only receive their salmon from “wild, sustainable sources” and never buy farmed fish. And they do use the word “poop” as a reason why farmed fish are bad — kudos to them for that. It takes balls to talk about poo.

Inside Fish. Restaurant

Inside Fish. Restaurant

Inside Fish. Restaurant

Inside Fish. Restaurant

The restaurant is right near the water and overlooks the harbor. The building is nondescript from the outside (we would have never found it without the Yelp app on my phone), but nicely done with high ceilings, polished timber picnic-style tables, and a huge glass wall that faces the ocean. We arrived in time to grab a table and avoid the huge line that formed; apparently this place is quite popular among locals.

Crab dip

Crab dip from Fish. Restaurant

Fish 'n Chips

Fish 'n Chips from Fish. Restaurant

Crab Sandwich

The Crab Roll Sandwich from Fish. Restaurant

The food was very good — we had two orders of Fish ‘n Chips at our table, along with some Crab Dip and a Crab Roll Sandwich. The Dip was fine; I’m not the hugest fan of Crab Dip, so I won’t pretend that I’m a good person to discuss this with. The Crab Roll Sandwich was highly Yelped, and Boyfriend seemed to enjoy it. My Fish ‘n Chips were heavenly though the breading (which was amazing) was a bit much compared to the amount of fish inside. The homemade tartar sauce was spot on.

Fish. Food

Fish. Food

The only real downside to this place was the prices. Everything was around $15-$20 a plate, which was a bit on the high side for an order at the counter chippy*. However, you do get what you pay for, and if I’m paying extra for healthy fish populations that are kept sustainable over time, I suppose that’s fair enough.

Also, they have a tiny counter with fish you can buy to take home, in case you want some real, fresh, sustainable fishiness at home, yum!

*See definition #1.

Claim Jumper

1 07 2010
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure

Claim Jumper FremontAh, American cuisine.  Gotta love it sometimes, even when it threatens to clog your arteries and send you keeling over into your full rack of ribs.  Claim Jumper is a large chain restaurant, which doesn’t usually qualify for the old B&C treatment.  I thought I’d take the time, however, to just say a few words about CJ, since it’s a bit of a special place.

And by special, I mean ridiculous.  The facility is huge.  The menu is huge.  The portions are huge.  The desserts are…you guessed it…huge.  Claim Jumper really is a mockery of normal sized portions of food.  It’s a guideline for overeating and a tribute to gluttony.  Seriously, this place is almost too much.


Small order of Ribs, baked potato, and veggies from Claim Jumper

Somehow though, CJ manages to raise blood pressure and stretch seams with surprising grace.  The place is decorated as an old west steakhouse; it’s not original but it’s well done.  The menu is enormous but plentiful and certainly smile-inducing.  And the portions, while unnecessarily large, are a good value if you take home half of it for lunch tomorrow or fast for the rest of the week.

Claim Jumper Fremont

The cooking area, fully exposed to the seating area, at Claim Jumper Fremont

Basically, it’s not really my style since the food is generally based on quantity and meat, but it’s surprisingly nice, they have a vegetarian section of the menu, and the food is pretty dang good.  If you’re not into the steak and the ribs and the home-style cooking, I’d say gather your friends and theirs and stop by to share a colossal-sized dessert.  The dessert counter–viewable upon arrival in the lobby–showcases only a few of their meal-sized treats including a variety of cheesecakes, the giant eclair, and the “Chocolate Motherload” 6-layer cake.

Dessert counter

Motherload cake in the dessert counter

They also have 4 flavors of mud pie…mocha was absolutely delicious.

Mud Pie

The "No, seriously, get your spoon away from my pie" Mud Pie at Claim Jumper Fremont.

Claim Jumper on Urbanspoon


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