Friday, May 29, 2009

What Happened to Tillie's?

Does anyone know why Tillie's on Webster Street is still closed? My first thought was that something happened to the owner? The diner shut down prior to Christmas, where the festive decorations were everywhere inside and on each table. Later on, when I was driving around Webster and Santa Clara right around Valentine's Day and saw the owner of Tillie's walking outside the restaurant to his car. The man did not appear to have health problems and he was strong enough to carry a large box outside to the car. So now when you pass by the diner, it is still closed, but the Christmas decorations are gone. I thought the diner was making money since it was always packed for breakfasts and on the weekends.

I will be sad if Tillie's does not re-open. Webster Street is in dire need of a good diner with a family atmosphere.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pasta Pelican

Pasta Pelican is difficult to find and not a lot of activity going on around the restaurant. Since Chevy's is gone and that other Cajun/Creole restaurant was burned down, this area of the Marina Village along the Oakland Estuary is scenic, but lacking in personality. The views across the Estuary from Pasta Pelican reminds me of Newport Beach without the snooty attitude and much less property values.

The food of Pasta Pelican sounds delicious from the menu, but once it comes to the table, the flavors lacked in many dimensions. The flavor profiles were simple with little appeal. I ordered a portobello mushroom as a starter where it was topped with tomatoes, basil and cheese. It looked awesome when the server brought it to the table. I was excited to taste it since portobello mushrooms can be substituted for beef and has a distinctive, meaty flavor and texture. The mushroom appetizer was palatable, but there was no wow factor to it. The mushroom had some taste to it, but there was too much melted cheese on top where is buried all the other ingredients. The green salad the mushroom sat on top of, tasted better than the mushroom. I then moved on to a ravioli dish with a creamy, red sauce. The sauce was alright, you really had to work your taste buds to enjoy the sauce. The pasta, however, was a step above Chef Boyardee from a can. It was sad. A decent dish that tasted better than the ravioli, is no longer on the menu. Only people in the know, or if the wait staff is nice enough to inform you, is the curry chicken and pasta dish. The noodles were fettuccine noodles with a creamy, curry sauce with chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. At least the sauce had some depth to it and made you want to eat another bite. The fettuccine alfredo dish was also a bad choice. The sauce was not traditional style and had some spice to it, but not in a good way. The execution was poor and I barely touched the dish even though there was a huge portion that came out of the kitchen. I was intrigued by their pizzas, but I will make another visit to check it out. One positive item about this restaurant is their fresh garlic sauce for the bread. It is fresh, aromatic and flavorful. This is the only flavorful and free item on the menu.

This is a family friendly establishment. The water views were amazing and it's pretty to see the lights across the Estuary from Oakland. The food portions are large, but the flavors are absent.
This restaurant would make a great place for drinks and light finger foods.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kai's Restaurant

One Friday night I had a craving for sushi and Japanese food. I knew Yume was a long waiting list and Kamakura was the same. I was too lazy to drive over to Angelfish on Bay Farm and so I decided to eat at Kai's Restaurant on Park Street. I heard several positive opinions of Kai's food, so I wasn't worried about going in.

The interiors were pleasant inside with colorful kimonos and mounted Japanese paper in frames. The floor was a nice tile or stone floor with various colors of gold, black and browns. Once you get over the cafeteria style seating, the dining room is a casual and comfortable area. It was interesting staring at the black tile wall at the back, since it was checkered with gloss and matte tiles.

The drinks ordered for the table was hot green tea and cold sake. The woman who served us was the owner of the restaurant. Unfortunately, she was not knowledgeable about the sake selection and asked if we wanted hot or cold sake. She failed to ask if we wanted sweet or dry, and milky or clear. The group didn't know what sake to order and left it to the owner where she brought out a milky white, cold, unfiltered sake. It was a sweet sake and did not sit well with me. I am not a fan of milky sake to begin with, but did not want to spoil other people's enjoyment of the beverage.

Food wise, my group wanted to order sushi, but there was none to be found on the menu. The food selection was varied, but the menu didn't have sushi or sashimi. It appeared the kitchen specialized in making rolls and teriyaki. In the end, the food that was ordered for the table was age dashi, karaage, deep fried soft shell crab and two rolls. The first dish that came out from the kitchen was age dashi with the sauce. The sauce was very light and slight in flavor. The age dashi didn't have the traditional bonito flakes on the tofu and was not served in the sauce, the sauce was on the side. The age dashi was fine, the tofu cubes were fluffy and light, unusual for this dish, but a welcomed surprise. The deep fried crab soft shell crab was brought to the table as whole pieces. It was a bit difficult to eat because the first bite was the legs which somewhat freaks me out. The taste of the crab was good and the sauce was mayonnaise, sesame oil and soy sauce. The karaage and the two rolls came out to the table last. Everyone was shocked to see the amount of sauce on the rolls. One of the rolls was unagi on top with fake crab in the middle with avocado. The roll was difficult to manage because the unagi kept on falling off when you picked up a slice. The sauce on the unagi was too sweet and thick in viscosity. The chicken karaage tasted good at first when the meat was hot, but after it cooled down, there was a strong taste of oil and not so much of chicken. The chicken was palatable to eat, but it was a boring dish. This was the only dish that did not have a sauce. The other roll was full of raw fish of hamachi, salmon and maguro that sat in a heavy mayonnaise and soy sauce mixture. The smell of the roll of the raw fish did not smell fresh. I first questioned the smell because it was a strong odor which isn't a good sign for fresh fish. Each bite I took from the roll, I could smell the fish. I then thought to myself and hoped that I was not going to get sick from poorly handled uncooked seafood. After two pieces, I stopped. I could not eat any more food even though I was still hungry. Just looking at the table and the food, it was not appetizing and so I put my chopsticks down and was done for the night.

If you are seeking fresh, raw seafood and sashimi, do not come to Kai's. If you are hungry for teriyaki and rolls, than the food is mediocre. I would not recommend this restaurant, but the owners are very nice and genuine, their personalities make up the deficiencies in the food.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Feel Good Bakery...Not So Good for Wallet

It was a warm and sunny Saturday around Alameda. I felt festive and excited since Spring is here and the long days are coming. While driving around town, I decided to make a quick detour to the Marketplace on Park Street. Inside, I noticed the fresh seafood counter, Pucci was gone and asked where they relocated. I was informed by the owner of Pappo and owner of Culina that Pucci moved inside the Encinal Market.

I then walked around the different food counters and glazed over the tempting desserts at Feel Good Bakery. I am extremely familiar with their products and have been a customer over the years since they first opened. Out of hunger or a need for a decadent dessert for that evening, I decided to buy two strawberry tarts, one plain croissant and one chocolate croissant. When the cashier gave me the grand total for my four items, I was in total shock. I first thought the cashier made a mistake and then inquired about the breakdown of the food items. The cute, adorable little strawberry tart which was a two-bite dessert at most, was $5. For $5, I could have purchased one container of strawberries and the ready to make custard for four for the same price. The plain croissant was $2.50 and the chocolate one was $3. Paying $15.50 before taxes for two tarts and two croissants I thought was a bit steep considering the quantity and size of the goods. Nonetheless, I still paid for the desserts, took them home and ate them.

The croissants were tasty and flaky. I slightly warmed them in the toaster oven before serving. I am a believer that croissants should be consumed fresh and warm. When I took my first bite of the strawberry tart, I savored the flavors in my mouth. The custard was creamy with a consistent texture and the berries were sweet and flavorful. The tart was overall a very tasty treat. I would buy the tart again in a heart beat if the size of the tart is larger or less in price.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Within the last decade, Vietnamese food has certainly increased in popularity in the Bay Area. One great example of the explosive demand for Vietnamese food is the Slanted Door in San Francisco. The restaurant was originally located in the Mission District. The food was delicious, fresh and creative. The restaurant then became a huge success and the owners decided to move out of the Mission and eventually settled at the Embarcadero, Ferry Building. Even though the restaurant has been located in the Ferry Terminal for a few years now, there is still a long waiting list to get a table.

Alameda has three Vietnamese Restaurants: The Mint Leaf, Dragon Rouge and the new restaurant that took over Cafe Le's space. The three restaurants all have different vibes about them. The Mint Leaf is clean, simple and organic. Dragon Rouge is colorful, sophisticated and edgy. And lastly, Tu Tai 2 is the new kid on the block.

I've had only pleasant experiences at The Mint Leaf. The room is zen-like with the etched glass of bamboo shoots and leaves. The colors of green and brown are relaxing and reminds me of a "green" space or a spa. This is the only nice space in the Marina Village that feels relaxing. The other restaurants in the shopping center feel more like a cafeteria. The food is delicious and comes with varying degrees of hot sauces. The red, hot sauce was much too spicy for me to enjoy. I was perspiring from tasting the heat of the sauce. Pho soups were large in size and had plenty of noodles, bean sprouts and fresh basil to consume. The broth of the soup was tasty and had great flavor components. The meat dishes were also delicious. I was happy to see that the meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Plus, the vinegar sauce for the meats and rice adds extra flavor and dimension to the dish. Overall, I would recommend this establishment. The prices are not expensive and the service is knowledgeable about the menu. The food portions are generous and you get your money's worth.

Dragon Rouge serves good food and the prices reflect it. I love Bo Luc Lac which is tender cubes of beef quickly stir fryed with vegetables. The meat was flavorful and juicy. The onions and other vegetables were cooked perfectly, al dente. I was amazed how fast the food was prepared, it was less than five minutes to cook one entree. Wow! The interiors of the space is modern with Asian themes, however, someone could mistake it for a bordello type of restaurant with all of the red interiors. I am content with the food, but the prices are a tad high for what you get. I ordered one entree and one side order of steamed rice with no alcohol or drinks. The bill was over $18 which did not include tip. The prices for lunch items seem less expensive and appears to be better deals than the dinner menu. I recommend this restaurant, however, keep tabs on the spending.

A new Vietnamese restaurant in town has taken over Cafe Le's old space. I wonder what the new owner has in store since the previous owner could not make the restaurant profitable. I guess time will tell. I see a grand opening sign in front of the building. The last time I commented on this space was when the painters were changing the color in front of the building. Tu Tai 2 is the new restaurant. The interiors are lighter and brighter to improve the darkness of the room. There are no windows in the space. The new owner has decored the dining room with lots of large fountains of Asian styled Buddha statues and bonsai trees. I noticed the prices of their dishes were less expensive than Dragon Rouge. The menu is quite large with lots of options. I hope they can make a success with the restaurant. The time I tasted their food, it was simple and basic. The food was fine and nothing sexy to report. It was tame, watered down Vietnamese food. I will try other dishes to check out their cooking style.