Far East Bay itinerary help

(Jeane) #5

We regularly visit friends out in Pleasanton. There’s some good places opening up out in CCCty.

Not a fan of Koi Palace, mostly because I loathe their ordering system and the crowds make me itchy. Only a couple of dishes stood out for us (the Chong fun, pan-fried rice noodle rolls in spicy XO sauce, and the Dan Tat) while some were simply awful, like the Chan bei gau, spicy spinach dough steamed scallop dumplings, the spicy crispy chicken wings, and the Portuguese custard passionfruit tarts. Note the char siu bau filling is made with some five spice, so you may like this or not.

We tend to gravitate towards Lee Garden, which has dropped a level from where they were, but still does a tolerable job on weekends - DO NOT go on weekdays; they serve a much-abbreviated menu with little variety. Their char siu sou, baked char siu in pastry, is very good, as is the lo mai gai, glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. But the Dan Tat and the fried chicken wings, both of which were once outstanding even compared to Yank Sing, are now cheapened and we avoid them.

Oasis Grille/Pleasanton and Coco Cabana/Dublin are siblings with slightly different emphasis. Oasis does excellent grilled lamb chops and the pumpkin borani is killer. Their mantu is also excellent. Nice little patio, cute smaller side dining rooms make this a lively but not ear-splitting experience. CCabana, OTOH, is hellishly noisy when full (to the point where it’s unpleasant to be indoors) and more geared to small plates and drinks. We haven’t been back in a while (just too busy lately) but were very fond of their beef sliders and tomato coconut soup. The Cabana Wings are also very tasty. Skip the guacamole, the coconut shrimp, the albondigas–good but ordinary, altho the flatbread is a tasty side starch to order. If you like fresh-fried doughnuts, the pan dulce was very good and big enough to share.

Lokanta/Pleasanton is one of our favorite Turkish restaurants. We were referred there by our Turkish friends (who also sent us to Tarla Grill/Napa, which is a TERRIFIC place). Lokanta makes a lovely beet salad and the very best yoghurt dessert (yoghurt cheese drizzled with honey) of any Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant in the Bay Area.

Pasta’s Trattoria/Pleasanton is an oddity. Forno Vecchio is more authentically Italian. Pasta’s is actually a steakhouse; there’s more steak and seafood on the menu than there is pizza or even pasta. Their prix fixe is one of the better bargains in the EBay. Decent lobster tail and good rib-eye available on the prix fixe, which is remarkable in itself. Skip the mixed grill which was horrible, and the soups are bland. But the salads, even the side salads on an entree, were uniformly excellent: fresh lettuces, lightly and properly dressed. Have sorbet for dessert, nothing else is done well.

De La Torre’s is the old-fashioned Italian place. Some things they do quite well while others are still caught in the 1960’s. But if you love chicken liver spaghetti and wonder why you can’t find it anywhere any longer, this is where you can find it - and the serving is massive. It defeated even my spouse, and that’s not easy. They do a decent job on simple fish dishes and usually (not always, but usually) produce a cake-like cobbler that is delightful.

Casa Orinda is where you go for sweetbreads and perfectly fried chicken. The prime rib special (certain days only, I think) is also good, equal to Townhouse/Oakland’s unadvertised beauty. They are very old fashioned and have no intention of changing. The sweetbreads come one way, and one way only. You can split it but that’s as far as creativity goes. You can get the fried chicken all white or all dark, for a $4 upcharge; otherwise it’s mixed pieces that are big. You need to be 18 yrs old to finish the whole plate or you’ll take chicken home for lunch tomorrow. Desserts vary in sweetness but are usually good if not great. A plus for using Hagen Daz as their standard a la mode.

We have not found anything in WCreek that we liked, but of course there are some interesting new places about to open we have our eye on. Until then, we eat in Concord (fast cheap corporate lunches) or Lafayette (we live in Oakland). We enjoyed Rustic Tavern/Lafayette, a simple “locals bistro” place with a tasty simple burger and some very good fish dishes. Metro Lafayette has that great outdoor patio, but their food has never lived up to the decor. Artisan Bistro used to be our favorite but they have really slipped lately, not sure where chef Marquez’s head is these days.

We also did not care for the Peasant & Pear/Danville, but we went for lunch. The sandwiches were massively bread and more bread, but if one is a carb-loader I guess it would be okay, the fillings were tasty (what one could taste of them). The salads were sloppy and overdressed. The one real winner was a prickly pear crème brulee. The other desserts were pedestrian but the creme brulee was really exceptional, and a lovely unexpected pink color!

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#6

Thanks for the discussion about Pamir-- Lethe2020’s description of the Buranee Badenjan and aush soup sold me, and these dishes, with a side of bread, were as good as expected! I noticed that the bread both here and at De Afghanan is drier than Turkish pide. Is that typical of Aghani bread?

A special, lamb shank with rice, was also excellent. The rice was very fluffy, which the owner said they achieve by par-boiling it and then cooking it for another two hours. He said their style of rice is typical of West Afghanistan, and that other parts of the country go for a less fluffy texture.

I wasn’t took keen on the torshee (pickles) which were kind of one note with vinegar.

They were out of the dessert we wanted, so the owner offered to comp us one of their two new desserts, an “apple pie” or a tiramisu. Skeptical, we got the “apple pie.” It was not at all what we expected, and we enjoyed it. The bottom of the pan has rounds of pie crust, and it’s topped with baked apples, crushed pistachios, hints of rose water, a drizzle of saffron syrup, and ice cream I’m not mis-remembering.

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#7

Hi hyperbowler,
I have not yet been able to try yet, but my friends like Kanishka’s Gastro Pub in Walnut Creek.
It may be worth a try when in that part of the world.

http://kanishkasgastropub.com/

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(Eric M. Hall) #8

Hi there, sorry to have seen this so late.

The Chennai Grill is worth going to. Not as exact in their spicing as Anjappar Chettinad, but better portions.
Koi Palace is a known quantity, pretty darn good for what it is.
Pamir is a nice place, not that gutsy in its execution, the Afghan places in Fremont were better (DeAfghan Kabob House, Salang Pass).

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(Eric) #9

Please check out Cafe Taiwan in Pleasanton. I never really make it out there but am curious about it.

I went to an Indian place out there that was pretty good but can’t remember the name. One of our number was Indian-born and seemed pretty happy with it.

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#10

Thanks for recommendations, and please keep the discussion going-- I’m done house sitting, but eat in that area several times a year.

Mixed Grain continued to be fantastic. They have a familial connection to Bowl’d and Ohgane. Everything I’ve had there has been vibrant and fresh, from the banchan to the main dishes. Most restaurants replace banchan upon request, but they’re the only place in memory that asked if I wanted more of anything. Their tteokbokki 떡볶이, go beyond simple bar snack and have a good sauce, fish cake, vegetables, and a boiled egg.

I also stopped at, and would recommend, Taste of Sing-Ma in Pleasanton.

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#11

A review in Diablo Magazine got me excited about Gan, a Korean inspired Pleasanton restaurant. Anyone tried it? It’s helmed by Peter Jee Oh Chung, a chef that’s worked everywhere from Michael Minna to À Côté?

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#12

Do you like craft beer? My daughter owns a really great craft beer bar in Dublin called Three Sheets. Really worth a visit if I do say so myself. They don’t serve food but have very good food trucks almost every evening.

BTW, we’ve been to the Afghani place I. Dublin and it was very good. Staff really friendly too.

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#13

Came back to this thread since I am going to be in that area next week. The Peasant & The Pear pales compare to New American places in the city or Oakland. This observation is based on a dinner a few years ago. I still remember my pork chop. Overcooked and oversalted. I don’t remember the other dishes other than not being impressed by them. And pretty expensive for the quality.

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#14

Whoa, they claim to have some Bengali influenced dishes. That’s uncommon around here, only at Bongos in Fremont and a South Bay caterer. I’ll try to check them out in January, when I’ll be housesitting in the area for a few days.

Thanks, @Midlife Three Sheets looks like a good pick if we’re meeting up with friends.

Dang, lots of places don’t do dinner on Sunday night (Mixed Grain, TW Burmese Gourmet, and Gan).

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#15

Diable Magazine had a list of their Top 100 best dishes and it covers many places in the Far East Bay.

Any opinions on those places/dishes or reports on recent restaurant experiences in the area? I’m going to be in the area for several days, and am mainly looking for cheap eats, and of course anything cool that’s not too common in SF.

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#16

I like Gan. Didn’t try the beef cheeks though and only had one brunch. But modern Korean is not common AFAIK.

Some less mainstream stuff that may interest you- I haven’t been to any of these:
Little Dipper Shabu Shabu, the individual hot pot place from Fremont has a new branch in Dublin if you feel like having your own pot for hot pot.

Tandoori Pizza in Dublin- Indian pizza

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#17

hits with following dishes @tri valley eateries
Tri Valley Bistro, Pleasanton
-ceviche (15) using orange roughy, incredible
Lokanta, Pleasanton
-seafood fritteria
Broderick (Walnut Creek). Rustic Tavern (Lafayette)
-fabulous medium rare hamburgers
Kyber Pass Kabob, Dublin
-Chapli Kabab
Falafel Town House of Mediterrean, Dublin
-lamb shawarma plate
very reasonable pricing on most dishes
Wayne’s Sushi Bistro, Pleasanton
-Omakase, 14 pieces, reasonable, very fresh (39.99)

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#18

Thanks for the suggestions! This was my third time spending a week plus in the Far East Bay and I was pleased with the variety of interesting eats.

  • Gan (Pleasanton) : the best meal I’ve had in the Far East Bay, a place deserving of more media attention. Creative, interesting Korean influenced flavors, good service, you name it. We started with a round of dishes that are listed as side dishes. The crispy rice cake was like a fusion of dolsot, iron pot, bibimbap and nigiri rice. The soft grains in the center held together without stickiness, and the outer crust was crisp without be hard or oily. Braised broccoli rabe was contrasted to deep fried cannellini beans, which were crunchy like cereal and absent of a soft starchy interior. Kim chi was flavored with fish sauce and no dried shrimp, and had a good balance of crunch and fermenty flavors. They did a great job on the seared duck breast, leaving enough fully rendered skin to season each forkful. Kimchee butter sauce noodles rich, but paired well with the duck and the portion size helped keep them from getting out of control. Beef cheeks were hearty and savory, fully enjoyable, but probably a conservative bet compared to some of the other interesting items on the menu. Our dessert, Hotteok topped with pumpkin mousse was fantastic, and even without the topping, the warm toasty flavors of the sweet rice pancake would have been a good finale.

  • Farmer’s Almanac (Danville) : we had a stellar brunch that starred … hush puppies, in which green onions infused their flavor into the coarse cornmeal dough. We also enjoyed Pumpkin Soup with grilled grapes, brown butter, peppers, radish, and cress; a juicy sausage; a sausage, eggs, and grits plate.

  • Sichuan House (Walnut Creek) (San Ramon) : the influence of China Village on the menu was clear, and made it easy to order for friends who’d not been to either restaurant before. The West Sichuan Style Spicy Fish Fillet Soup, large sesame pancake, hot and cold salad (“double skin” liang zhang pi), spicy charred stir fried cabbage, and 20 spice pork shoulder were comparable to versions I’ve had at China village, though the cabbage dish was sweeter and a bit less charred.

  • Mixed Grain (Korean, Walnut Creek) owned by the same people that run Bowl’d, Spoon, etc. The food matches the quality of their other locations and the vegetables and the overall feeling of the food is lighter. The banchan have bright flavors, kale was my favorite. The spicy rice cakes were great-- a generous amount of fish cakes, egg, and vegetables and he sauce wasn’t gloopy or watery.

  • Kanishka’s Gastro Pub (Walnut Creek) We opted for some of the more fun items-- chicken tikka masala “poutine”, which married crisp seasoned fries to a spicy sauce; and cauliflower tacos, which were huge and flavored with what I believe was a coconut chutney. The Hakka noodle wraps were less successful, both in terms of holding together, the overuse of Sriracha, and not improving on a plate of hakka noodles.

  • Gotta Eatta Pita (Danville) they continue to be some of my favorite falafel-- crisp, flavorful, and lots of toppings to choose from. Salad bowls are better falafel vehicles than the pitas, which are house made, but have fluffy white bread-like interiors and a similar taste.

  • Pho Huynh Hiep 6 - Kevin’s Noodle House (Walnut Creek) inexpensive, tasty Chicken Pho, a bit heavy on the MSG. Accompanied by bean sprouts, cilantro, and jalapeños.

  • TW Burmese Gourmet (San Ramon) The food was inexpensive, and on par with many of the Burmese places scattered around the bay. Ginger salad looked heavy on the lettuce, but was well-matched to the copious amount of pickled ginger. The fish in the mohinga had broken down, leaving a coarse chowder with fish flavor and crunchy wafers for texture. We were the only diners there— they don’t have filler Thai and Northern Chinese items, and the server said it’s been tough to attract San Ramon with Burmese food.

  • Lokanta (Pleasanton) The food was okay, not great. Moussaka was well structured and the best prepared of the items. Complimentary bread was weird-- the brown crust flaked off, like the top of dutch crunch and the insides were pretty bland. Flaming Halloumi cheese was good— more melty than I’ve been able to achieve on a grill. It was paired with a slice of rockhard pear and an unripe tomato that sopped up all the unburned brandy. Lamb burger needed more seasoning or to be cooked less than medium-well.

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#19

A couple of months ago I really wanted to show up for their 1 year celebration prie fix (not that I am a prie fix person generally) a week after a brunch there, but just couldn’t invent a good reason to visit Pleasanton in short succession. Glad to hear that their dinner menu sounds even more creative/ impressive.

When I visited during a weekend lunch, the restaurant wasn’t crowded. Were they doing good business while you were there? This is one of those places that, like you said, deserve more attention, but probably receive relatively little because of their location.

Kimchi butter sauce? How did it taste like?

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#20

Don’t know if you still are doing housesitting around here. But the folks behind La Costanera in HMB and Peradita in Emeryville Public Market now has a Peruvian restaurant in Lafayette called Barranco.

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#21

Thanks, I’ll add that to the list for upcoming visit to the far east bay.

Anyone try Curry Kona? Notable items at vegan Baagan? How is April 8?

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#22

Hiroshi Ramen in Walnut Creek has had lines out the door in the past, so we checked it out today. I’m no ramen expert, but found the ramen lacking.

image

Lotus root with cod roe— the mayo cod roe mix was a dead ringer for taramosalata , and went great with crisp lotus root.

We got two ramens based on the tonkotsu broth. The broth had plenty of umami and salt, but was weak and lacked any pork flavor. The Hiroshi Tonkotsu lacked heavy emulsification, but I liked the braised pork belly. The Tantanmen, advertised as spicy, wasn’t spicy, and any potential depth of flavor was bogged down by an overuse of tahini. The half of soft boiled egg was creamy in both bowls, but it appears to be pre-prepared—- it was unpleasantly cold in the Tantanmen.

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#23

Hung’s kitchen closed a while back, so I tried April 8 in San Ramon this week. Taiwanese and Japanese snacks fill most of the menu. It’s nice to see an indendent business amidst the chains throughout the strip mall.

The batter of their Jian bing, a folded crepe spread with egg, scallions, and black sesame seeds is made from wheat flour, and is less hearty than ones made with the traditional mung bean flour. But the gluten added enough stretchiness to hold tight around the stack of crispy wontons I chose as my filling. I would definitely get this again – –this isn’t as complex as Taichi Jian Bing’s version, but it beats a recent version I had at Boiling Beijing, which was too dry and had unevenly applied sauces.

Buns, which had a hard time unsticking from their paper, come with pickled cabbage (suan cai). The crispy chicken was pretty good

Salt and pepper tofu was greaseless and custardy inside, but the salt and pepper (and garlic) elements failed to season the crust.

Minced beef noodles were pretty basic. The ground beef needed more seasoning.

For one dollar, you can get eggs cooked in the pork belly cooking liquid. Very tasty, I wish I’d brought a few home.

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(Gary Soup) #24

The Altamiranos also own Parada in Walnut Creek, Mochica and Piqueo in San Francisco, and the Sanguchon food truck. Busy folks they are.

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