March 16, 2008

Good Service & Good Value

So it's the tax season and I won't say why I had to get up at 6AM one day to get on the road to Sacramento... However that story went, I decided to give myself a break to take a walk in Old Sacramento, since I was done with my business by 8:30AM!

It was very quiet and nice in the old town while all the shops were closed and only a few people were walking around. Monte and I took a stroll around, sat by the Sacramento river for a while. Shops were opening up one by one, we window shopped for a while, got a few recommendations of restaurants from a toy shop owner for lunch. (I love toy shops, the old fashion kind though, where you can find all kinds of wood puzzles and games.)

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I picked Rio City by the river for lunch. The price is very reasonable and service was very good. Both my server Ashley with her trainee were wonderful. They're attentive, alert but also gave me enough space to read my paper since I was dining alone. She gave good recommendations toward both wine and lunch.

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I had a baked Cambozola appetizer, similar to the baked goat cheese that I served, but it's a cheese that made from gorgonzola and camembert cheese. As for lunch I had a special seafood pasta which offered a very generous portion for the price! And what I found interesting was the shrimp. They cut it in some way that the shrimp is straight and not curved after cooked! If you know my history, then you know I didn't have any professional training before, therefore I'll have to find out from some of my chef friends how they did that!? As for dessert, I was already too full. However it was that feeling of, "I just need that little sweet." Therefore I asked for a biscotti and an espresso. Just perfect! FYI, they have free refill for espresso!

February 29, 2008

The worst meal ever!

Another new challenge/surprise or whatever you want to call it. Everyday is always something new. This time...the freezer broke down on a Friday, last Friday...great! Sometime I really feel like I'm in one of those reality shows, well in fact; I AM in a reality show, just not being broadcasted.

Thanks to my buddy Chris, from Maria Seafood on College Ave! Called him at 10:30PM, told him about my situation and he offered some space in his freezer for me. The rest, of course all in my own house and Simon, my manager's house.

Since it's over the weekend, there's nothing much I could do or shop for. I finally found a replacement and scheduled to pick it up on last Tue. Chris even loaned me his truck! Another buddy of mine, Dave, who's kind enough to replace my Japanese maple for me after it was stolen the first time...oh well, his was also stolen after 6 months it was replaced; took a day off and helped me picked up the freezer from Morgan HIll.

We left the restaurant in late morning, took us longer than we thought for the whole process. By the time we were ready to leave Morgan Hill, it was already past 2PM. Poor Dave hadn't eaten anything for the whole day, so we decided to stop at Milpitas, where all the Chinese restaurants are. Most of the restaurants had already closed after lunch hour by the time we got there. Finally we walked into this one and...

It was a self-serving restaurant, and it was supposed to be a very famous one in Taiwan(I don't want to mention the name here since I'm not writing anything good.) I had heard of it and had been meaning to try it. So I was glad they have one in this restaurant mall. First I was standing at the cash register for almost 10 mins trying to place an order. There were people acknowledged my presence, just no one took my order!? Finally someone came, but when I tried to ask them couple questions about the food, all he could do was just to point at a picture on the wall and told me "that's how the food is, looks like that picture." ("Ok..." I thought.) I still ordered a few dishes:

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So first was a satay beef noodle. The beef was marinated in baking soda for so long, that yes the beef was very tender, but totally tasteless. (This is an old trick, but if you use good and high quality meat, and cook it right, please don't use baking soda! It'd kill the texture and the taste of a good piece of beef!) If it wasn't the satay sauce, I'm sure I would be tasting the bitterness from the baking soda. The noodle was fine, but the sauce and the beef... I only had one bite.

Then it was supposed to be an oyster omelet type of dish. I know the Taiwanese version was probably serve with some rice flour while the ChowZhou version, a province in China; only stir fry it with egg and green onion. I actually had the ChowZhou version served at my restaurant before and it was featured in one of the food magazines! This one that I ordered, again I only had one bite. There was so much rice flour in it that it just tasted like glue and I couldn't taste any of the oyster at all! And for the sauce, I really had no idea of what that orange looking thing is!

For this brown soupy noodle, while it was supposed to be hairy fine noodle in their special sauce, just looking at it, I thought it somewhat looked like shark's fin soup. Not until I put my spoon in and scoped a spoonful in my mouth, other than corn starch with soy, I really didn't know what was that!?

The fried fermented tofu was the best of all if I may say. Of course it didn't get the texture of the really good fermented one like you could get in a Shanghainese restaurant. At least for this dish, I had two bites!

The last one was a side order of porkchop. Since it was only $3.50 for a side order of porkchop, I thought why not? This was the time to remind myself again how important it was to cook with good ingredients! All pork that I use at the restaurant are good grade and porkloin with high quality. This porkchop that I tasted, I couldn't even tell if it was the oil, the meat or the oil and the meat. I got a mouth full of grease and fat, that I was ready to spit it out.

Another thing was filthy dishes! We asked for couple bowls to split our dishes, even there were only 2 other tables, I guess if it's self-serve, we just got to serve ourselves. We're told to get our own utensils at some corner. They were all plastic and the bowls were oily. Later the day, Dave told me he was very surprised I didn't just walk out already(he knows me well in this one!) while I was standing for so long just to get someone's attention to place orders. Well, I would have usually but he looked like he was going to die from hunger, and I felt really bad since he helped me and I hadn't fed him anything the entire day so far. Now I know, even if he's going to faint half way to another restaurant, I would chance it next time!