Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thai Food

Thai food is actually quite popular in the bay area, but only three Thai restaurants exist in Alameda. Pad thai and curries with coconut milk is what Americans usually know about thai food. Curry comes in different colors of green, yellow and red and varies in degrees of heat.

I recently went to the Thai Place on Webster Street. This restaurant has a new owner and management and not to be confused with the previous owner and chef that held the same name. The shrimp and tofu pad thai was decent and lite of flavor. I only wished for more tofu in the dish as well as a stronger taste in the sauce. The dish also needed more fresh lime wedges to give it a tartness on your taste buds. The other dish I tasted was the green curry with bamboo shoots, chicken and red bell peppers. Green curry was the mild curry which was cooled with the coconut milk. The vegetables were fresh with the exception of the bamboo shoots, I think the shoots came out of a can. The dish was palatable and was better than the pad thai. I would come back to this restaurant and order other food than the pad thai.

My favorite Thai restaurant on the island is Amarin Thai Cuisine on Park Street. The menu has more variety as well as better quality food. The flavor profiles are not watered down compared to their competitors and it also has a more authentic flare to it. Their curries are very good with varied heat, spice levels to choose from. The vegetables selections in their curry dishes make sense and compliment the seafood or meats. Their pad thai was great with lots of peanuts on top. There is not a bad dish at this restaurant. I believe the chef has put a lot of thought into the menu with the ingredients and flavor combinations.

Toomie's Thai Restaurant is a popular spot. I was surprised to see the number of customers one day when I had lunch there. Their pad thai was very good and full of flavors. Their varieties of curries were amazing with different heat, spice levels. Red is the hottest, green was second and yellow was the most mild. I had a green curry dish. The meat in the curry dish was over cooked and the chicken was tough and chewy. The sauce had coconut milk which lightened some of the heat of the dish, but the bamboo shoots were limp and did not add any value to the flavors. Their hot and sour soup had a wonderful broth of lemongrass. The soup was not too spicy with fresh vegetables, and the seafood was perfectly cooked. I would come back for the soup.

The new spot on Park Street is King of Thai Noodle. The place was a former Mexican Taqueria and the interiors have not changed much since it was a German bakery even before the burrito joint. The menu was long and extensive with noodles, curries, rolls and stir fry dishes. I tasted the spring rolls which were deep fried with vegetables inside. The sauce was tangy and fruity with an apricot color to it. The sauce was slightly sweet and complimented the roll. I then ordered a green curry with chicken and vegetables. Green is the hottest curry of the restaurant. (Yellow is the mildest and red is medium heat.) The curry was amazing and not mouth scorching because the coconut milk canceled the heat of the dish. The dish was aromatic and full of flavor. The other entree was a pork and eggplant stir fry dish with thai chillies and basil. The sauce was smokey in flavor and all of the components of the ingredients came out. The dish was great. The Thai beer, Singha is a light lager beer. I highly recommend this restaurant. Another positive of this place is that it stays open until one AM in the morning. Look out La Pinata since this place serves great food and is a competitor with you for the late night crowd.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Hola amigos! Taquerias, taco wagons and Mexican restaurants have sprouted around the bay area. Dependent upon what you are looking for, Alameda offers a good variety of Mexican food establishments. If you are looking for great tacos, I recommend Taqueria Calafia on Webster Street. If you are in the mood for a burrito, the best place is Alameda Taqueria on Park Street. If you don't know what you want, but you are hungry for Mexican than there are only three places that serve a wide variety of food La Pinata 3, Acapulco and Otaez.

Taqueria Calafia serves awesome tacos. I don't order tacos anywhere else because I have been disappointed too many times at other establishments. This is the place to be. The fish tacos are the best, deep fried with a special creamy cheese sauce. The carne asada is also good. They use good quality beef and don't give you the grizzle like most places do. The pork (carnitas) tacos with the verde sauce is tender and full of flavor. The chicken tacos are shredded and tasty, but this is the least ordered taco for me. The space can be busy during lunch time, especially when the Farmer's Market is going on.

Alameda Taqueria has tasty burritos. The burritos are huge and is large enough for two people. You get a lot of options for the tortilla which is nice. My favorite burrito is the carne asada. The meat sauce is flavorful with unique spices that say Mexican, but it's not overwhelming. The other ingredients are fresh which is the reason why I keep on coming back. Even though a burrito is multi-layered, you can taste each unique ingredient and feel good about eating it. The food is extremely satisfying. The taqueria is a little on the small side and a bit dark unless you eat by the front door. I have a tendency to get my food to go and eat it at home or at an A's game.

If you are on the West Side of Alameda than Otaez is a great place to eat. They offer a large selection of food. The portions are big and you get your money's worth. The salsas are fresh and at times can be spicy. My favorite appetizer is the empanadas, dough on the outside with vegetables, meat and cheese in the inside. Great entrees are the fish dishes since they are fresh and less heavy compared to the chile rellenos and tamales. The combination plates are good too, but you have to be hungry to enjoy them. When the restaurant is really busy, than service can be a bit slow.

La Pinata 3 is the party place. The wait may be long for a table, but the food and atmosphere is worth it. Come on a weekend night and the restaurant is a party. Every dining room is full, the tequila bar is always packed and everyone appears to have a good time. Once you are seated, the wait staff is quick and works through the labyrinth of tables. The tortilla chips are warm and the salsa is mild and fresh. The quality and taste of the food is similar to Otaez. The deep fried fish is good, but it's the sauces that make the difference. The garlic and butter sauce is really tasty. The red sauce is also good with a kick of peppers and spices. The fajitas are decent, but the kitchen has a tendency to over cook the vegetables. The end result is that the vegetables are limp and soggy. Portions at this place are quite large and two entrees could serve four people. The combination plates are decent, but nothing really stands out from the menu. The chile rellenos taste good and one is not left with a bloating sensation afterwards. (This actually has happened to me a few times at a certain Mexican restaurant.) What I have noticed is that people who don't want to wait for a table here, walk down the street to Juanita's. The menu at Juanita's is the same as in La Pinata and Otaez, but with food is made with less authenticity.

Acapulco is probably the least favorite of mine of the three major Mexican restaurants. The main dining room is dark, there are no windows and the bench seats are old and torn apart. The food is palatable, but there isn't a lot of taste difference between this place and La Pinata and Otaez. However, this restaurant markets itself as a family run and operated establishment. The margaritas are good, but not as special compared to La Pinata.

I have eaten at other Mexican restaurants not mentioned and found them to be non memorable. Please check the older postings of Park Street and West End for other Mexican places.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Remember when sushi was red hot in the 1980's from the movie Valley Girl with Nicholas Cage. Sushi during that time was hip, cool and expensive. Over twenty years later, sushi has not lost its cache. Sushi is still popular and it has matured a long way since the typical futomaki. I think a lot of people started to eat sushi because it was trendy and wanted to find out what all the fuss was. And I also think some people were completely turned off by the idea of eating raw fish and were more prone to eating teriyaki instead. Sushi is an art form of precise knife skills and showcasing talent that most people don't appreciate or even know about. Cutting a piece of fish the right way can make a huge difference between melt in your mouth or chewy. Alameda has a few sushi restaurants (much less than the number of Chinese restaurants in town), but I can only recommend three.

Yume on Park Street. The reason why I enjoy Yume and continue to go back is their small space with intimate customer service and details. The sushi chef Hideaki is a master of the knife. He was superb skills and the texture of the fish is tender and flavorful. The assortment of fish and shell fish is always fresh and at times he has rare shell fish that the other restaurants don't have. Their tonkatsu is great to eat if the wife is cooking the dish that day. ( I have been there when there was no frying allowed.) This restaurant doesn't serve teriyaki or tempura and mainly focuses on fresh fish and their natural flavors. A bit more expensive than other Japanese restaurants, but the attention to detail and quality make up for the increase in price.

Angel Fish on Bay Farm. The most important item for me is their tuna salad. This salad is awesome with fresh ahi tuna, along with fresh lettuce, fish roe and an amazing Japanese salad dressing with sesame and soy sauce flavors. The crispy chips that come with the salad also brings texture and salt to the dish that compliments the flavors. Angel Fish also has good sushi and they are inventive with a wide selection of rolls. Their teriyaki is good, but when I come here I usually focus on the sushi and rolls. The tempura tastes good. One can never go wrong with deep fried vegetables. Their eggplant dish with miso on top is too sweet to devour. The dish tastes good for a few bites and then the sugary taste becomes overwhelming and less enticing. Another good dish is their lamb chops. The meat is tender, full of flavor and is comforting. The lamb chops does not have the flavor combinations of Japanese food per se, but it is satisfying. This is a good place to take the family out for a good dinner.

Kamakura has a more welcoming touch compared to Angel Fish. You will see Faith moving from table to table and greeting customers as well as informing them about the sake and food products. The menu is quite extensive and has a wide arrangement from sukiyaki, donburi, karaage, udon, soba and the regular fair of teriyaki, sushi, tempura and rolls. The fish here is fresh and tastes good, but it feels the food comes out more of a production line from the sushi chefs. The teriyaki is decent and the flavors predictable, but the salmon teriyaki is over cooked and dry. The food overall is good and it's a great spot for large parties.

The reason why I did not recommend the other sushi restaurants is because the establishments lacked flavor, taste profiles, quality or personality. I have eaten several times at other venues of Kobe Ya, Yokohama and Katsu Sushi and found them to be palatable, but lackluster. I was pleasantly surprised to read the comment from a reader about Sushi House. Who ever you are, I have to agree with your comment about the food and restaurant. Sushi House has a great location, with water views of the beach and bay, but the food took second place.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Everyone enjoys eating pizza. Pizza is a complete meal. You have dairy products (cheese), meat, vegetable toppings, bread and fruit (tomatoes.) What more could you ask, they even make dessert pizzas of chocolate and marshmallows. Over the years, pizzas have become more personalized due to options of soy cheese, weight watcher's and a variety of crusts. Fortunately for Alamedans, there are a lot of options for pizza.

For some reason, a fair number of pizza establishments are located on or around Park Street, here is the list: A-Town Pizza, New York Pizza, Bowser's Pizza, Linguini's Cafe, Barceluna, Tomatina and Village Cafe. I cannot say that I have tasted pizza at every single restaurant that is listed. However, I will say that the pizza joints that I continue to return to are: Mountain Mike's, Round Table and Little Caesar's (if I am really tight on money and hungry for a pepperoni pizza.)

I was excited to taste the pizza at Barceluna because I was curious to see if they would put a Spanish spin on it. They didn't. The pizza I ordered was pepperoni and vegetables. The flavor of the pizza was minimal and the crust was very thin which I do like, but there was something missing. The flavor, texture and ingredients lacked satisfaction. I would not recommend ordering a pizza here until they figure out a better solution for taste or get help in cooking with the wood oven.

Pizza at Zeytini's was a fiasco. 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. I know the restaurant is fairly new and it needs time to work out the kitchen staff. I will wait a while and return to see if they worked on their execution.

Tomatina did not have palatable pizza when I went there. The menu made the pizza sound awesome, but I was disappointed by the flavors and texture. The pizza was soggy in the middle and the cheese slipped away from the crust. Salads and pasta dishes are recommended instead.

The pizza at New York Pizza was palatable. I ordered a combination pizza and it was full of vegetables and meat. The crust was good and chewy, but not soggy. It was a decent pizza, but not memorable.

The sole pizza place on Bay Farm Island is La Val's. I heard from the teenage grapevine that is where all the high school kids hang out on the weekends. This age group appears to enjoy their food.

In all honesty, after Luciano's closed down, the pizza selection for me has been bleak. After all, Luciano had the best wood oven, thin crusted pizza in terms of quality and taste. Lucien (the owner) only used fresh and high quality ingredients. The other places do the same, but the flavor combinations and crust, aren't the same. I am hoping I can find a great, consistent pizza!