Minami Sushi

11 07 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: One  ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure.
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Three words: Japanese power ballads. I should end my review there, right? I feel like that’s enough to get anyone over to this small sushi restaurant in the Greenhouse Marketplace Shopping Center at Washington and Lewelling in San Leandro.

But let’s consider that you maybe think of running out of restaurants that boast Japanese power ballads. In that case, there’s the food.

On a Saturday night Minami has decent patronage, which is always a good sign. The menu selection is good: there is a huge appetizer list, lots of donburi bowls, sashimi plates, sushi rolls, and a huge list of gourmet sushi rolls (I love these; think deep fried sushi rolls). This is, of course, in addition to dinner selections (tempura, teriyaki, katsu), udon noodle bowls, bento boxes and dinner combinations.

The menu was almost too large for such a small place, but one thing that did strike me on their menu (since most Japanese restaurants have a similar selection) was the half-and-half dinner combso. I love being able to have a taste of everything, and I often Mr. Burns Disease* when checking out Japanese menus because I just can’t decide. This combo helped me out, and the Boyfriend and I both ordered it.

salads

Seaweed and green salad.

The half-half dinner combo includes seaweed salad, regular salad, a small bowl of udon soup and a small order (a half order, to be exact) of one of their sushi bowls. Brilliant. Not that this is wholly original, really, but it’s still nice to see a good combo available. K ordered the Spicy Donburi and I the assorted raw fish over rice (Chirashi, it’s called) for our final course; the remainder of our meals were the same.

udon

Dueling udons.

sushi bowl

Spicy tuna sushi bowl.

sashimi

Sashimi bowl.

Everything was great. I love whatever salad dressing they use at Japanese restaurants, so good. The udon was delicious and the tiny sushi bowls were yummm. K loves his spicy tuna, and this was a pretty good one (although he idealizes the one from Luna such that it’s always the basis of comparison). My sashimi was delicious and I was really struggling to finish.

dinner

Sashimi bowl and udon soup for half-half dinner combo at Minami.

Additional points were that the service was lightning quick and that Minami is next door to San Leandro’s Loard’s Ice Cream, which is a wholly different experience from my normal Castro Valley location. More on that another time.

*This is a phrase we use in our house to mean that there are too many options or things happening at once to make a decision or move forward. We verbified** a condition that has kept Mr. Burns from the Simpsons alive past any reasonable age — he has so many ailments that they are all fighting to kill him at once. See video clip below for further medical clarification.

**Case in point, I’m verbifying the word verb.

Minami Sushi on Urbanspoon





Paradiso

29 06 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: One  ♦   Will I Return?:  Si, Per Favore!
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Ok, you live in the East Bay, but not really in the exciting parts like Oakland or Berkeley. You’re sorta stuck in the Fremont/Hayward/San Leandro no-man’s land of the East Bay*. There are plenty of places to eat, but most of them aren’t particularly exciting. Enter Paradiso.

Like Hayward’s Buon Appetito and a handful of other places around this stretch of land, Paradiso is an oasis of culinary delight. With classy decor, an upscale menu, and service that will put a smile on your face (as well as a hearty amount of water in your glass), Paradiso is a welcome pleasure.

Inside Paradiso: the counter that surrounds the kitchen.

Inside Paradiso

What I loved most about Paradiso, after being wowed by the stunning interior, is the menu. I suppose the selections are nothing terribly unexpected in an Italian restaurant, but I was excited to see how different they were from Buon Appetito, my go-to classy/delicious Italian restaurant in the East Bay. While BA offers dish after dish of (fabulous) pasta, Paradiso changes it up with hearty variety of appetizers, Italian style thin-crust pizza, and a large selection of meaty mains. While we were (unfortunately) trying to keep our budget down on this particular Paradiso trip, we did not have the good fortune to experience any of the starters or salads. But what we did try was enough to keep us coming back.

The Boyfriend ordered his classic go-to: Pizza Margherita. I swear the man could live off that particular breed of pizza-pie, and he nearly does live off the ingredients (cheese and bread can make a nearly unending variety of foods, I have discovered). This pie was thin, crispy, and generously covered with a surprisingly exceptional mozzarella cheese. He enjoyed it; I looked on with envy until he gave me a slice.

Pizza Margherita a la Paradiso

I ordered what (I believe) was one of their specials that night: mushroom risotto. I love risotto. It’s fabulous. But, while I’ve never cooked the stuff, I find that it takes a bit of finesse and is easy to muck up. If the restaurant doesn’t seem up to it by one measure or another, I will often go for a more reliably good dish (pasta, for example). The vibe at Paradiso was giving me all the right signs, so I went for it. And I was rewarded greatly. This risotto was cooked perfectly. It was not too soft, yet not too al dente. It had the right consistency (kinda like oatmeal) and the taste was fabulous. Score one for Paradiso.

Risotto!

I’d love to go back to try some of their salads, the calamari appetizer, and perhaps one of their pastas or another pizza. (Although if there is risotto again, I make no guarantees that I won’t be sweet talked into having that.) They also have a small bar that’s super cute and tucked away in the rear of the entry area. Paradiso is definitely a gem worth visiting.

Paradiso's bar

*Incidentally, Hayward is known as the “Heart of the Bay”. My mom calls it “The Armpit of the Bay”. I guess the glass can be half empty or half full, eh?

Paradiso on Urbanspoon





Sylantro

27 02 2011
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  Surely
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SylantroSan Leandro in the house, what, what! I don’t know why I type things like that sometimes. This is my first San Leandro post, I guess I’m excited. And Sylantro is definitely something to get excited about — do you like Vietnamese food? It’s not my favorite, but it hits the spot sometimes. And fortunately, Sylantro did not disappoint.

I would not have guessed that such a nice place would be hidden away in a dilapidated strip mall on Manor Boulevard in San Leandro. Even pictures of the place on Yelp were hard pressed to convince me that it was ok. But, Boyfriend’s mom was in the mood for Vietnamese, so that’s where we went.

Sylantro interior

Sylantro as you walk in.

Sylantro Restaurant

Sylantro Restaurant view from the very back table.

This place was great. Aside from aforementioned crappy strip mall surroundings, this restaurant was spacious, nicely decorated and well-lit, and had really nice service. The people who worked there were kind and helpful and answered all of our ridiculous white people questions about pronunciations and food preparation.They really went above and beyond when our server actually demonstrated how to prepare our spring rolls using the materials given (dry rice paper, a rice-paper-shaped bowl of hot water to dip the rice paper in, filler for the spring rolls, and sauce; it was far more complex that I would have imagined).

Spring Roll Fixings

Spring roll fixings including dry rice paper and water bowl in the back.

Chicken

Close-up of the chicken in the spring roll dish.

The menu was extremely extensive and is listed on their website, a fact which automatically warms my heart and puts a smile on my face. Ah, a website. For a small local business. Who would have thought?

Sylantro offers a variety of spring rolls for appetizers (they are quite fun to put together at the table), a handful of crazy types of salads, noodle soups (including the Vietnamese specialty, Pho — pronounced “fuh” like in the word fun), rice bowls, rice plates, and a whole lot of a la carte dinner dishes like at a Chinese place, but not Chinese. Dishes ranged from around $7-$10 each and there is a large section on the menu for vegetarian meals.

Pho

Pho from Sylantro

The rest of the food we ordered was great and, again, the service really sticks out in my mind. Apparently they’re doing well; this is the second location they’ve opened, said our server who may also have been the owner. Definitely highly recommended for local Vietnamese food in the East Bay; a great find!

Vietnamese food

Chicken dish from Sylantro.

Tofu noodles

Tofu Noodle dish from Sylantro.

Sylantro on Urbanspoon








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