Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Barrel Room

This week we went to The Barrel Room, a restaurant/wine bar/wine retailer. Since Briana is not drinking due to being knocked up (again), and Steve is an ignoramus (still), we invited our friends (and wine aficionados) Cory and Alice to join us for dinner and explain wine to us. Turns out it comes from grapes! Who knew?!

The Barrel Room is currently specializing in food and wines from Spain & Portugal, but apparently they switch it up every so often and do a different region. So they may have a totally different menu and wine list if/when you go check it out. 

Our waiter/sommelier/manager seemed very knowledgeable and passionate about wine, and was happy to recommend flights (they do wine flights!) for all of us (except Briana) to try.  

The night we were there they had about 20 different flights to choose from with three wines each. Cory had the Spanish Garnachas, Alice got the Obscure Spanish Whites, Steve tried the Riojas, and Briana had East Bay MUD.

Everyone liked all the wines, and the little hand written labels were a thoughtful touch. Well done Barrel Room!

Dates stuffed with goat cheese and marcona almonds. They were good, but not amazing. They complemented the wine nicely, and they kinda look like giant coffee beans.

Jamon, rosemary, arugula and manchego flatbread. The flatbread was nice and crispy, and the arugula seemed fresh and didn't wilt like you would expect it to sitting on top of hot bread. Everyone enjoyed it, but we weren't fighting over the last piece or anything.

The sauteed prawns with saffron rice and frisee were probably our least favorite dish. Not bad, just kind of bland.

The paella with chorizo, prawns, and chicken was also surprisingly flavorless. To be fair this dish was supposed to have chicken, but we were told when we ordered that they were out of chicken so they added more prawns. We can't imagine that it would be made much better with the addition of chicken, but there it is. Also, where's the chorizo? So it was basically just prawns and rice.

The sauteed green beans, pearl onions, and cherry tomatoes were OUT OF CONTROL DELICIOUS! We found ourselves spooning the sauce onto some of the other dishes because it was so good. Such a simple dish, but the flavor was so rich and light at the same time. We're not sure what was in the amazing tart sauce, but this was the standout dish. 

Tri-tip steak with chimichuri, fingerling potatoes, and green beans. This was really good, but maybe not $26 good? The sauce was tangy and the steak was tender, but split between four people, it wasn't a lot of food. But if the main complaint is that there isn't enough, that probably means we liked it a lot.

Peanut butter cookie / chocolate ice cream sandwich. Tasted exactly like it looks, and that ain't bad. We split this bad boy four ways, and it was the perfect amount of dessert, although Briana would have preferred a flight of ice cream sandwiches.

The space is small, but they've managed to fit in a retail wine shop, a wine bar, and a restaurant without it feeling cramped. The staff was very warm and friendly and their enthusiasm for wine and food is undeniable. The wine was great, the food was mostly good and occasionally great. We came away feeling like we would definitely come back, especially when Barrel Room shifts focus to a different area of the world.

Special thanks to Alice and Cory for joining us on this review and going sharezies on all the food. You guys get 6 Sabuys every time.

Barrel Room, you get a generous 4 Sabuys (think about those ice cream flights).

Next stop: Pucquio

Friday, November 14, 2014

High Peaks Kitchen

We're back! Our brief hiatus turned into a pretty extended absence. Sorry about that! We're gonna try and keep it steady this time. 

Quite a few restaurants have opened and closed in the three years since we did our last post, so we're backtracking a bit. Our first stop: High Peaks Kitchen! 

Here's their charming mission statement from the High Peaks Kitchen Website
The High Peaks Kitchen is a family and employee owned business. Having been exiled from Tibet, all of our team members have experience in diverse culinary backgrounds from our upbringing in India. This is how High Peaks Kitchen came to serve Indian foods.
You may recognize this location since it used to be Currylicious. If it's possible, this spot has become even more currylicious than it was before. 

Before: Currylicious offered affordable Indian food in an informal setting
After: High Peaks Kitchen offers affordable Indian food in an informal setting

SO MUCH HAS CHANGED! OK, now on to the food.

Veggie samosa. We were pleasantly surprised by the seasoning on these. They had more coriander than the average samosa. Other than that, they were pretty standard. Samosas are always good. 

One thing that stood out on the menu was "garlic cheese naan". We had never seen that before, so we had to try it. We asked our waiter if this was an authentic Indian dish and what kind of special Indian cheese they used. He laughed and informed us that "We don't eat this in India. Americans just love cheese, it's mozzarella." He's not wrong, we loved it! USA! USA! 

 Yellow Daal Tadka. This was fine. It's just a lot of one thing. Don't get us wrong though, we ate all of it.

 Chicken Tikka Masala is another one of those dishes that's always delicious. Goes great with super-authentic garlic cheese naan!

The food was nothing to write home (or a blog post) about, but it was totally tasty basic Indian stuff, and the prices are great. The staff was incredibly warm and friendly, and there is a huge menu with lots of vegetarian options.

And they've got a cherry pie that'll kill ya!

Sorry! Wrong peaks. They do not serve cherry pie. 

We give High Peaks Kitchen 3.5 Sabuys:

Next stop: The Barrel Room

Monday, December 19, 2011

Guest Chef

One of our commenters alerted us to this brand new restaurant that just opened between Rikyu and our least favorite restaurant, The Burrito Shop. Guest Chef is a unique concept, this is from their website:

"Guest Chef is a fully equipped restaurant and kitchen incubator. If you have a specialty dish, a novel cuisine, or an experimental take on a classic, come and showcase your culinary skills to an audience of eager diners. Schedule your two week run and Guest Chef will become YOUR restaurant."

We went on December 17th, 2011. The chef that night was Paul Skrentny of Paul's Paella

Brussel sprouts with bacon AND prosciutto. This had a high meat to veggies ratio. We noticed Paul cutting the brussel sprouts straight off the stalk; you could taste the freshness. We love bacon (AND prosciutto) but sometimes dishes like this can be heavy or greasy. The sprouts were so lightly cooked and crispy that the whole thing seemed more like a salad than a pork soup.

Scotch eggs. These were amazing! It's a hard-boiled quail egg, wrapped inside chicken-basil sausage, dredged in Panko breadcrumbs, (wrapped in an enigma) and then deep-fried. It came with some kind of pink sauce that looked like thousand island dressing, but it wasn't. Whatever it was, we liked it a lot. Go eat these.

Chicken and chorizo paella. We figured the paella would be good, since it's kind of Paul's thing, and it was. Great seasonings, perfectly cooked rice, tangy olives, and bright green peas. It tasted as delicious as it looks. And it comes with a (non-edible) doily!

Flan. This was the only desert on the menu, and we didn't actually order it. Our neighbors at the table next to ours (who we struck up a conversation with during dinner) were too full to eat theirs and insisted that we try it (and take a picture). We're not huge flan fans but as flans go, this one was not too sweet and had a delicate consistency. We wouldn't say it was "flantastic" but it was certainly "fladequate".

The kitchen crew. That's Paul in the center. If you can make it to Guest Chef before January 1st, these guys will make you some awesome paella. If you go after that it will probably be completely different.

The restaurant itself is small and cozy with nice exposed wood beams in the ceiling. Service was great, and we're looking forward to trying Guest Chef again the next time there's an interesting sounding chef. We hope it's as yummy the next time as it was on our first trip! And no, we will not be going back every two weeks to review it whenever the chef changes.

We give Guest Chef (and Paul's Paella) 4 sabuys.

Next stop: Cactus Taqueria Twin Peaks Kitchen High Peaks Kitchen


We ate at Oliveto in august with our good friends Peter and Christa, but got too busy this fall (see previous post) to write about it. So, without further ado...

Grilled Sardinian-style sausage with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and mint. With roasted Jimmy Nardello peppers and frisee salad. The sausage had interesting spices and the three parts all complemented each other.

Burrata cheese with Early Girl tomato mamellata, arugula, and charcoal-grilled crostino. We liked this.

Charcoal-grilled prime flatiron steak with Yellow Romano beans, Parmesan sformatino, and Yellow Finn potatoes. The sformatino is the little bit poking out from behind the potatoes on the left. It is like a cheese flan.

Tortelli of roasted pork with Early Girl tomato-vodka brodo. It was delicious, but tiny. You can fit 100 of these tortelli on the head of a pin.

Charcoal-grilled pork porterhouse with fresh Cranverry beans, oven-roasted Early Girl tomatoes, and pork sugo. This was a little smokier and gamier than we would have liked.

Pappardelle rosse with San Marano tomato-braised beef shoulder, hot pepper, and  oregano. Also tiny. Picture taken at 1000X magnification.

We have had great meals at Oliveto in the past but this wasn't one of them. Considering the crazy high prices, you expect it to blow your mind, but our minds were unblown. Oliveto gets three sabuys.

Next Stop: Guest Chef

Been gone for a while

So, we haven't posted in a few months because we've had... er... some other stuff going on. For the next 4.5 months the tiny person above will be attending all our reviews and Steve will be drinking for two (or three). We will try to get back to posting more regularly... until around May 30th.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Market Hall

We thought Market Hall was going to be an epic review since there are so many stores in there that serve food. But it turns out there are only three places in Market Hall that actually qualify as "restaurants" according to the rules of our blog.

The restaurants we reviewed are: 
  1. The Pasta Shop
  2. Market Hall Bakery 
  3. Peaberry's Coffee and Tea
So we figured we could do all three in one trip. 

We will not be reviewing Market Hall Produce, or either of the butchers as they don't prepare food onsite. We will also not be reviewing Bloomies Flowers, sorry vegetarians!

The Pasta Shop

The Pasta Shop has fresh cut pasta, a deli counter, cheese counter, and a large selection of scoopable salads and other prepared foods.

We knew we were going to have pastries for dessert, so we opted for a light lunch. From top to bottom of the stack in the above left photo:
  1. Indian cauliflower - Briana thought this one was bland and gross. Steve found it bland but not that gross. Not a ringing endorsement. It sounded so promising! 
  2. Quinoa salad with sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, red onions, and green peppers-  We both liked this one a lot. The texture was interesting, and the tomatoes were tart.
  3. Avocado salad with corn and lettuce - Another winner. Very fresh and light tasting. A great choice for a hot day (which it was).
  4. Meatballs in marinara sauce - How do you mess up a classic like this? The texture was just wrong, like they used bubble gum instead of bread or something. The sauce was also very Boyardeesque (TM).
  5. Picante Tuna Salad - This one was also great. Pretty similar to the avocado salad, but with tuna, and a teeny tiny hint of spiciness.
We give the Pasta Shop three Sabuys. The dishes we tried all could have used a little more flavor, but enough of them were good that we feel OK recommending this place. We probably only tried about a tenth of the things they sell in the salad section alone, so we know we're missing a lot of stuff here, for example, the pasta that the store is named after.

Market Hall Bakery


From front to back:
  1. Shortbread - Shortbread is shortbread. Briana loves it, no matter what. Steve is not a big fan. If you like plain old boring shortbread, you'll like this. 
  2. Chocolate mint crinkle - Steve LOVED this. Briana is not a big chocolate lover, but Steve loves chocolate... he loves it long time. We both agreed this cookie has a great texture, with a crispy, crinkly outside, and gooey, fudgy innards. The mint keeps the chocolate from being too overwhelming. 
  3. Carrot cake - Both of us generally love carrot cake, and we were excited about this one because it has so much icing (which everyone knows is the best part). But something was just a little off. The icing didn't have the awesome creamcheesiness that EVERY OTHER CARROT CAKE has.
We've eaten a lot of baked goods from this place, and went out of our way to try some new things this trip. Some of them weren't that great (we're looking at you, carrot cake) but everything else we've eaten there has been delicious. Their brioche, scones, tarts, morning buns, and tres leches cake (to name a few) are all stellar. So we're giving Market Hall Bakery 4 Sabuys based on previous experience. 

Peaberry's Coffee and Tea


It's a cafe. They serve coffee. Steve had a cappuccino, and Briana had a cup of plain ol' boring coffee. They were both fine. You can see from the photo that they do cool stuff with the foam, and IF you can find a table outside, it's a great place to sit and sip on a nice day. Sometimes though, people hog up all the chairs and won't move for hours no matter how close you stand and mouth-breathe on them.

Peaberry's gets 3.5 Sabuys.

And that's it folks! WE DID IT!

Next stop: Oliveto

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Becky's Chinese

We had never been to Becky's Chinese, but we've always been intrigued by their decor. While the interior design may be somewhat modern and unique, the menu is classic "Americanized Chinese" cuisine, and sometimes the classics are all you really want:

We did this one by the book; we ordered all our favorite, predictable dishes:

 Spring rolls! Tasted like... spring rolls. Note to the vegetarians: these had meat in them (but we don't think it said so on the menu), so be sure to ask for the vegetarian spring rolls if you don't want meat.

Steve thought they were average, Briana thought they were sub par. Served with sweet and sour sauce (also just OK).
 Mushu Pork! No surprises here, except that they roll them up for you at the table, Benihana style. But they only roll your first one, and then you're on your own. These were also unremarkable, and as usual: not enough plum sauce. THEY NEVER GIVE YOU ENOUGH PLUM SAUCE!
 General Chao's (Tso's/Cho's/Zhao's) Chicken! This was actually pretty great. Spicy, with crispy breading, and less sweet than at a lot of places. Quite salty though, so be ready for that.
 Good to know.
Also good to know: Becky's does not supply each table with it's own soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil. In our opinion, this should be illegal. We've talked before about the holy trinity of Chinese condiments. HOWEVER, if you ask for them at Becky's, they not only bring the holy trinity, but also spicy mustard sauce, which is a nice bonus. And that's... good to know.

We give Becky's Chinese 2.5 Sabuys. What can we say? It's a Chinese restaurant that's a lot like a lot of other Chinese restaurants. The food was fine, but we probably won't be coming back.

Next stop: Market Hall Eatstravaganza!