Top 10 chomps of 2011

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2011 has been a year of some delicious and some not so delicious chomps.  From tapas in Spain to roasted guinea pig in Peru to Korean burritos.  I've had some spectacular tasting meals at Joel Robuchon and Arzak.  I got to get close to El Bulli greatness at Tickets as well as reminisce with some nostalgic childhood chomps.

Here are my 2011 Top 10 Chomps (in no particular order):

Braised Duck Leg with "thick"egg noodles (dry) at Hai Ky Mi Gia (San Francisco, California).  So familiar to my Chinese roots, but still so different.  Simplistic, but satisfying.

Check out the original post on Hai Ky Mi Gia ( HERE)

Roasted Lamb at El Albergue (Ollytantambo, Peru).  I came to Peru excited to try alpaca, but came back wowed by this lamb dish.  Totally knocked Evvia's lamb off its pedestal in my eyes.

 Check out the original post on El Albergue ( HERE)
Cinnamon sugar cookie at Anthony's Cookies (San Francisco, California).  As a closet cookie monster, my matter-a-factly, no hestitation, without a blink of an eye cookie order is almost always a chocolate cookie.  Even now,this cinnamon sugar cookie makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  A box of these is a favorite gift of mine to give.

 Check out the original post on Anthony's Cookies ( HERE)

Fried chicken at Addendum (Yountville, California).  After years of dreaming of Keller Fried Chicken and a first time disappointment, I've finally got to experience real KFC.  Perfectly crispy batter with the most tender juicy meat.

  Check out the original post on Addendum ( HERE)
Mixed chicken and lamb platter at the 53rd and 6th cart (New York, New York).  Is it the rice?  Is it the chicken?  Is it the white sauce? The red sauce?  Whatever it is, the taste of it is worth the aftermath of the morning after.

  Check out the original post on 53rd and 6th Halal cart ( HERE)

The cheese plate at Quimet i Quimet (Barcelona, Spain).  A little bit of cheese, a little bit of jelly, then another bite of another cheese.  I've never been one to be in awe of a cheese plate, but this one puts all the any starred restaurant's cheese plates I've had put together to shame.  In other words, eat your heart out Gary Danko.

  Check out the original post on Quimet i Quimet ( HERE)

The bread cart at Joel Robuchon (Las Vegas, Nevada).  Nothing could have prepared me for the pure excitement I felt when this beautiful bread cart rolled right up to my table.  Like a giddy schoolgirl, I squealed with delight each time I picked out a piece of bread.

  Check out the original post on Joel Robuchon ( HERE)

Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) burrito at Curry Up Now (San Mateo, California).  Two of my food loves all rolled into one tasty package.  One of the few acceptable fusion items in my book.  For some reason, it just works.   So good, I went back two weeks in a row to eat it.

  Check out the original post on Curry Up Now ( HERE)

Baked scallop topped with breadcrumbs at Paco Meraglo (Barcelona, Spain).

  Check out the original post on Paco Mergalo ( HERE)

Grilled baby squid with runny egg at El Quim (Barcelona, Spain).   A little luck and patience will get you a seat in the hottest spot in La Boqueria.  THE signature dish, this baby squid is fried up in their own ink served up with a side of  runny eggs.

  Check out the original post on El Quim ( HERE)

Wishing you many chomps
and a
Happy New Year!


Sushi Sam's Japanese Restaurant

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I was really excited to try Sushi Sam's since I had been meaning to come here for a while, but never wanted to wait.  I suggest coming here before 6:30 to avoid the crowds, especially if you want to sit at the bar.
I'm a huge fan of the white board in sushi restaurants, which usually displays the daily fish specials.  I ordered almost all the sushi exclusively from this board. 
Baby Lobster.  Topped with sliced almonds and stuffed with a mix of spicy mayo and tobiko.  My first time having baby lobster sushi.  I was expecting something sweet and tender, but the meat was firm.
Fresh scallop.  I ordered this scallop from the white board so I'm not sure if I had ordered the regular scallop it would have come unseasoned.  This one was prepared with yuzu and soy sauce.  I was a little disappointed because I enjoy the sweetness of scallops and the sauce seemed to overpower that.
Special salmon.  Lightly seared with a dollap of grated daikon.  Lacked that deep fatty and salty taste of salmon.  A little disappointing since sake (salmon) is one of my favorite sushis.
Fresh blue shrimp.  I never had this before and the shrimp was definitely a light tint of blue.  The texture was more chewy than any other shrimp sushi I've had.  Not sure if that's how it was supposed to be.
Freshly fried shrimp heads.  A proper sushi spot gives you the shrimp heads if you order any shrimp sushi.  Probably some of the better shrimp heads I've had.
Fresh octopus.  Lightly chewy and dusted with way too much ume powder.  Ume is a Japanese sour plum.  All I could taste was ume. 
Agedashi oysters.  Came with four small oysters.  A lot better than I expected.
White king salmon.  Again, hard to taste the fish because the sauce put onto was a sesame oil and soy sauce blend.
Kurabota.  Braised pork.  This dish was pretty average for me.  I've had it multiple times before at other restaurants.  While it was decent here, I've had better where the meat just falls apart with an ever so gentle tug of a chopstick.
Chawan mushi.  This Japanese steamed egg custard is one of my standard orders when I see it on the menu, but unfortunately this one was overcooked.
Butterfish sushi.  This fish should be light and buttery tasting, but I couldn't taste it because there was too much yuzu soy sauce on it.
Cockle clam sushi.  Slightly chewy and sweet, but not as chewy as mirugai (geoduck)
Miso cod sushi.  First time I've ever seen miso cod as a sushi.  Usually it comes as a hot dish.  This cod was lightly seared with miso dressing and topped with a kiwi.  I'm not sure what was going on with the kiwi or what it added to it, flavor wise.  Not a big fan of this.
Needlefish.  A very mild light flavored fish with a leaf of peppery shiso layered under it. 
Lotus root tempura.  This dish came out totally different than I had expected.  I was picturing thinly sliced lotus root in tempura batter.  Instead, it was a slice of lotus root stuffed with minced pork.  The tempura batter was too thick and greasy, but I did like the extra crunch the lotus root gave.
Fresh uni with tama (quail egg).  I decided to order one with a quail egg and one without so I could taste both.  A good sign of a sushi restaurant is their uni.  It should never taste like ammonia which is SO common in most sushi spots.  Uni should be creamy like custard and slightly sweet.  Sushi Sam's passed the test.
Yaki onigiri.  Lightly grilled rice ball.  This is a must order for me when I eat sushi or at an izakaya.  I liked how the soy sauce was mixed into the rice instead of just brushed on the outside of the rice ball.  It could have been grilled a little longer for some more crunch.

Overall, I really wanted to love this place, but I left pretty disappointed.  This place has such a huge following for their sushi and I just couldn't figure out what was so great.  Most of the fish seemed exciting, but the flavors were overpowered by the special sauces.

Address:                        Sushi Sam's Edomata
                                              218 E 3rd Ave
                                              San Mateo, CA

Type:                         Japanese/sushi/casual

Popular chomps:    Sam's roll
                                               all sushi

Chomp worthy:      nothing


Pizzeria Delfina

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Pizzeria Delfina is one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  The pizza here is amazing and probably my favorite pies in the city.  The other dishes deserve some love as well.  I've never had a bad dish here.

The mozzarella ball.  Often a regular item on the menu, but often switched with the burrata (which is my absolute favorite).  Its served with buttery, toasted bread and a small handful of argula salad, which gives it a bite.  The cheese is so buttery and creamy that is a must order everytime I eat here.
Chili lime salt corn on the cob.  This dish is a seasonal menu and seem to appear on the menu during the summertime.  The sweet fresh corn with has a hint of spiciness and tartness.
Fried pig ears. The slightly crispy and chewy texture of this dish makes eating these ears addicting!  Don't forget the lime squeeze.
Chilled tripe.  This is the first time I've ever had tripe served cold.  Honestly, I wasn't sure if I would even like it.  The chili oil and the lemon squeeze does this dish wonders.  Its actually refreshingly tasty.

Also, its good to know that both locations often serve different items so make sure you check online for the daily menus for each.

Address:                        Pizzeria Delfina
                                              3611 18th St.
                                              San Francisco, CA  

Type:                                Italian/pizza/casual

Popular chomps:    burrata or mozzarella ball
                                               Margarita pizza
                                               chili lime salt corn
                                                tricolor salad

Chomp worthy:      burrata or mozzarella ball
                                              chilled tripe
                                              fried pig's ears 


Pho King

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Pho King is one of the top 5 pho spots debated amongst people who have lived in the East Bay. 
Pho #1 with eye of round steak, well done flank, fat brisket, soft tendon & tripe.  The pho broth here is a little more cloudy here and it has a sweeter taste (more anise). 
Again, ALWAYS ask for the beef on the side so you can dip it into the soup, otherwise the meat comes out too well done.
Since I'm not a fan of pho here, I ordered the bun bo hue, which is a popular dish here as well.  This spicy beef soup (I asked for extra spicy) had a really good balance of flavor.  Bun bo hue should be both spicy and slightly sour.  It provides the best comfort soup on a really cold winter day.  Along with round thick white noodles, bun bo hue comes with slices of beef, meatballs, pork knuckle, and beef blood cubes.  The bun bo hue here is probably the best bun bo hue I've had in Oakland.

Address:                        Pho King
                                              638 International Blvd.
                                              Oakland, Ca  

Type:                                Vietnamese/casual

Popular chomps:  pho
                                              bun bo hue
                                              bun rieu

Chomp worthy:       bun bo hue


Bob's Donuts

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Open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, Bob's Donuts is a well loved San Francisco favorite.  The key to this place is that looks are deceiving.  Walking in it seems like its desolate and the donut might be stale from the lack of turnover, but don't let that fool you.  Bob's has some of the freshest, fluffiest donuts in town. 
#78 on 2011 SF's 7x7 top 100 things to eat
Again, looking at this simple apple fritter, it seems like it would be hard and dry. 
Peering inside, this apple fritter is supper fluffy and delicious.  Seriously, one of the best apple fritters I've had in my life ( and I've had a lot). 

Address:                       Bob's Donuts
                                             1621 Polk St.
                                              San Francisco, CA  

Type:                               American/snacks/casual

Popular chomps:   apple fritter

Chomp worthy:       apple fritter

Random facts:       open 24 hrs
                                Apple Fritter is #78 on 2011 7x7 Top 100 things to eat


Blue Barn Gourmet

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This is probably one of my favorite salads in San Francisco.  I'm always on the lookout for a salad spot that replicates my beloved Sprout Cafe in Palo Alto, but nothing comes close.  Blue Barn in the Marina district seems to appease my salad cravings.  I've always found the lettuce to topping ratio to be very good.  While all the salads and sandwiches are really good, the spicy ahi tuna is my usual here.  It has pretty much everything I love - ahi tuna, avocado, soba noodles, pieces of mango, all tossed in a miso-ginger vinaigrette.
Blue Barn also does a solid caesar salad (chicken is an add on), but the best part is it includes avocado!  This place is really popular, especially on the weekends.  I'd suggest calling in for a to go order, otherwise, you'll be waiting a while.

Address:                           Blue Barn Gourmet
                                                 2105 Chestnut St.
                                                 San Francisco, CA
Type:                                   American/casual

Popular chomps:    all the salads, sandwiches

Chomp worthy:         caesar salad with chicken
                                                spicy ahi tuna salad      


John's Snack & Deli

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John's Snack & Deli is one of those places you can try if you're lucky enough to make it out this way Monday through Friday.  Its a convenience store that doubles as a Korean mini restaurant. 

The menu changes slightly each day, but the kimchi burrito is a consistent menu item.
They make their kim bap or korean sushi, as I like to call it, fresh and in store.  The vegetables inside aren't as pickle tasting as I like.  Also, it isn't rolled as tightly and tends to fall apart when you pick it up.
kimchi burrito - #15 on 2011 SF Foodie's 92
The kimchi burrito.  Pretty mild in the spice level and the meat is pretty tender and flavorful.  If only the burrito was rolled a little tighter...

Address:                            John's Snack & Deli
                                                 40 Battery St.
                                                 San Francisco, CA
Type:                                   Korean

Popular chomps:     kimchi burrito
                                                  kim bap

Chompworthy:         kimchi burrito

Random facts:         The kimchi burrito is #15 on 2011 SF Foodie's 92 list


Muracci's Japanese Curry

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The original location of Muracci's Japanese Curry and probably one of the most popular Japanese curry spots in San Francisco.  This has been on my must eats list for a while, but unfortunately for me its only open Monday through Friday during work hours.  This tiny curry spot does have a couple spots to eat at, but most people seem to do the to go option.

Curry Pan with three flavors to choose from:  Beef, Chicken, and Veggie with two heat levels - mild and hot.
Of course, having waiting a couple years to finally be able to eat here, I picked up all three curry pans.  These curry pans are house made.  A nice light crust with fluffy bread envelope a slightly spicy curry sauce filling.  A little more bread to filling ratio that I would have liked.

#16 Katsu curry on 2011 7x7 Top 100 things to eat
I ordered the katsu (pork) curry (HOT).  I didn't really care for the pickled cabbage (not pickley enough) and wished there was more fukujinzuke pickle (red pickles).  As for the actual katsu curry, the curry is well made and tasty. The katsu has a thicker crust so it stays crispy in the curry and the pork is really tender. Yum!

Address:                             Murarcci's Japanese Curry
                                                   307 Kearny St.
                                                   San Francisco, CA 
Type:                                    Japanese/casual

Popular chomps:      katsu curry
                                                  curry pan

Chomp worthy:        katsu curry

Random facts:         They have a Los Altos location which IS open on Saturdays and offers croquette on                               their menu
                                  katsu curry is #16 on 2011 7x7 Top 100 Things to Eat