Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Huynh - Vietnamese in the Creek

I've been craving decent Vietnamese food for the past few months, ever since reading A Cook's Tour for bookclub. That was the only chapter that literally had me salivating. So after having disappointing Vietnamese in Oregon, a post for a later time, I was glad to be back in the Bay Area where my all time favorite, Tu Lan, resides.

Alas, today I was in the suburban East Bay and so my choices were limited. We headed out to Downtown Walnut Creek and hit Huynh for lunch. We walked in around 1 pm and the restaurant was more than half full, mostly business lunch types, but also a couple of women friends having lunch and catching up and a couple Persian men discussing thier families. The decor is great, greenish bamboo wallpaper, dark woods, a glass (?) wall with green trees painted on it, and a beautiful wine wall in the bar that I would like to incorporate into my imaginary house one day.

I suspect the two people who worked there were the owners, she would take orders and refill water glasses, he would bring out the food. But you didn't get the feel of a typical mom and pop ethnic restaurant, it was definitely a step above. Tablecloths, plastic chopsticks, and with every serving of food, new plates were laid out. Cute square plates at that, made me want to go shopping at Pier 1.

We ordered the imperial rolls ($7 for 3) and they were every bit as flavorful as imperial rolls should be. There was a side of pickled jicama, carrots, and lettuce that we nibbled on. Our neighboring table had ordered the spring rolls and they were HUGE! I'd have problems fitting that in my mouth. Next time, I'm ordering those.
My companion ordered the chicken curry with yellow rice ($9). I'm not sure what the yellow rice is, maybe a curry rice? I don't think it's saffron. It was delicious, full of flavor, but not overly spicy. There were carrots and potatoes and plenty of sauce. Not to shabby on the chicken portion either for lunch, although I would hope for dinner it would be a slightly larger portion.
I ordered the Brown Rice Clay Pot ($11). I couldn't finish all of it, it was filled with zucchini, green beans, mushrooms, onion, chicken and shrimp. Initially, I didn't think it had much flavor but as I dug deeper into the pot the sweetness of the rice and veggie mixture started to come out. Delicious.

Does it beat Tu Lan? For atmosphere and cleanliness absolutely! I'd say it's a tie for tastiness and obviously slightly higher in price, but this is the Creek and priciness is a given. It is certainly better than the Walnut Creek outpost of Le Cheval and I will be returning.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chow SF - Home cooking in the Castro

Last night I met a good friend for dinner in the Castro. My default comfort food spot there is Home, which is conveniently across Market from Chow, but he insisted on Chow, which led me to believe there is a hot waiter there or just a better gay scene.
I'd eaten at the one in Lafayette before and left with a stomache ache and completely disappointed, because how hard is it to get spaghetti right?
But as this is the city and competition is stiffer I'd hoped for a better result.
I was not disappointed.

I had the short ribs which come in 3 sizes, small through large. I asked how many ribs per serving size and was told it was by weight, although not what the specific weights were. I opted for medium, he got a large. Our food was on the table less than 4 minutes later. Took me by surprise, but I was hungry and dug in.

My medium was two pieces, and left me still wanting more food. His large seemed substantially bigger, and for $2 more well worth it. The meat was tender, fell off the bone easily and was delicious. The mashed potatoes could have been more sizable, and althought they were supposedly mushroom flavored I saw nor tasted the funghi in my potatoes.

I got the chocolate cake for dessert, it was warm and I didn't share. But it was very dense and with the chocolate sauce on top, very rich. But just mediocre in flavor.

Service was quick, the restaurant was busy and it was considerably better than it's suburban outpost. But next time I'm sticking to Home and it's awesome mac and cheese or pot roast.