Friday, August 1, 2008

Shopping Mall Restaurants

Lots of restaurants in Alameda are located in shopping malls. The four major shopping areas are Marina Village in the West End, Bridgeport Center in Fernside, Alameda Towne Centre by the beach and Harbor Bay Landing on Bay Farm Island. Shopping malls are a smart strategy for restaurant owners since people tend to gather at these locations. The similarities of all these malls is that grocery stores are the anchors of these developments.

Marina Village has a lot of fast food restaurants. Very few fast food chains wow me in regards to taste and quality. Unfortunately, none of the fast food establishments in this mall are really worth eating unless you are on a tight budget, need something quick and have low expectations. The best dining establishment at this development is Angela's. Angela's serves a wide range of food with a Mediterranean flare. The dipping sauce is robust in flavor with strong food compositions of garlic and cilantro. If one is on a date, I do not recommend trying the sauce unless both parties consume it. One of my favorite dishes here is their osso bucco. The meat is tender and falls off the bone. The meat is flavorful and the red wine reduction sauce compliments the meat without over powering the natural taste. The ravioli and other pasta dishes are always solid choices. The ingredients are consistently fresh. The dessert at times feels limited to me, but you cannot go wrong with the chocolate cake. The cake is moist with a rich chocolate taste. One restaurant that I have not figured out yet is Sushi & Smoothie. First of all, the combination of sushi with a smoothie does not sound appetizing. If the smoothie has milk products as its base, milk and raw fish may not digest well in your stomach. The occasions that I have ordered sushi here, I have bought the prepackaged sushi. Another time, the sushi was made to order. Regardless if the food was made fresh when ordered or prepackaged, I found the flavors of the sushi to be dull. The flavors of the ingredients were not distinct and everything was bland. Perhaps, the sushi was too cold from the refrigerator when I tasted it? Maybe I should try the smoothie by itself. When L & L Hawaiian BBQ came into the mall, I was excited because I wanted to taste their version of kahlua pig. The food is palatable, but a lot of their meals lack flavor. The kahlua pig was tender, but it was no where near the flavor combinations of kahlua pig I tasted in Hawaii. Furthermore, I am not a fan of eating hot macaroni salad that should be served cold. Even the Japanese inspired food that is on their menu does not taste like Japanese food. The food is bland and it feels like there was not a lot of thought put into the dishes.

For some reason, a majority of the food establishments at the Bridgeport Center are fast food chains. Why? The main attraction to the development is Nob Hill Foods which is more of an upscale grocery store compared to Lucky's and Safeway. One has to wonder why the developer selected fast food instead of decent, casual dining in the complex (especially when the view of the Estuary is gorgeous?) Nonetheless, one place that is intriguing me is the Cheese Steak Shop, Inc. I reviewed their menu and the food sounds very tempting. I have not had an opportunity to taste their food. The prices seem very reasonable, but the decorum is a bit stark.

Harbor Bay Landing on Bay Farm Island is a combination of restaurants, offices and a Safeway. The most popular restaurant is Angelfish. Angelfish serves fresh sushi and has the best Ahi Tuna Salad in Alameda. The lettuce is fresh and crisp, the ahi is the right color and texture and the dressing is light with Asian fusion components. The food is always consistently good. The service however, can be a miss. The service staff at times do not know the menu and food products, and other times they are not knowledgeable about the sake selections and tasting notes. When you come here, you come for the food and not for the service. For a water view, Cafe Enrico is right on the lagoon. The food here is casual and predictable. There is nothing special about the food and the if you seat inside, the space is dark. Best to get a sandwich or hamburger. The food at El Caballo Mexican Restaurant serves large portions. The ingredients are fresh and the menu is fairly predictable at a Mexican Restaurant. The food is decent. Harbor View Chinese Restaurant serves typical Chinese dishes known to Americans. The food is good and its quick service.

Alameda Towne Centre has a new name that goes along with the new facade of the development. I still call the mall South Shore and will probably continue to call it the same name until I move out of the area. Currently, the mall is going through major changes right now. The old places of the Velvet Grill and Creamery and Taco Bell are out. New restaurants are slowing coming into the mall. Applebee's has been here for a while and it does not appear to be slowing down. The place is always busy regardless of what time it is. The difficult part about Applebee's is ordering healthy food. Lots of food on the menu is deep fried. I have tasted a few of their salads and they do not taste good. That is probably the reason most of the customers order food that tastes good which is probably bad for them. The saving grace is that Applebee's decreased their food portions when they slightly dropped menu prices. A safe bet is ordering a grilled steak. Luckily, the cooks know how to properly grill a steak. If you are seeking out a diner that has a 1970s feel combined with Little House on the Prairie furnishings than you do not want to miss South Shore Cafe. The cafe is not in the mall per se, but is located on the north western portion of the parking lot (across from Office Max.) Once you go inside, it is a bit of a trip going back in time. The decorum is outdated and there are a lot of frilly hand made looking window dressings and homely knick knacks everywhere. The clientele are seniors. The energy is very low and there is not a lot of noise in the room. The food was okay, not great, but the prices were inexpensive. You would come here for the low prices and not necessarily for the ambiance or food quality. The newest restaurant in the mall is Zeytini's. They serve Greek food with pizzas and salads. The interiors of this establishment is quite nice. Big over sized benches and back rests with a beautiful Italian color scheme. Food wise, the kitchen staff is very green and still needs help in creating quality products. The spanokopita was generously filled with spinach. The feta cheese, pine nuts and flaky puffed pastry, made the appetizer a pleasure to eat. The babaganoush, however was not as successful. There was too much garlic in the dish and overwhelmed the eggplant which was almost non-existent in flavor. The Greek Salad had a great presentation, but fell short on taste. The salad lacked the robust flavors of a typical Greek Salad. I think the salad dressing was the cause of the lack of flavor along with not serving good quality calamata olives. The Italian Pizza had the most problems of the entire meal. First of all, the pizza appeared as if it was made by an elementary school kid. The quantity of the sausage was scant, there was too much cheese on the pizza and the other ingredients were missing. The pizza had a lot of grease coming off of the crust and the oil separated from the cheese. The best bet is to have a drink in the outdoor dining area and wait a few months when the kitchen has worked out the kinks.

Since there will be many more attractions still to come at Alameda Towne Centre, an update will be necessary in the near future.