Friday, April 24, 2009

mom's tired of feeding our monkey asses!

a couple days after our easter feast, M's family decided to pick up some mexicano for a nice takeout dinner. we were anticipating awesomeness simply because of CA's proximity to the 'co, but i was skeptical of the authenticity of the place because that's just my nature. i accompanied M's step-dad and brother so i could pick out some veg options and a couple of tacos for M. when we walked in, i instantly knew taqueria real surely was the re-al deal.

the taqueria was simple, clean, and full of standard, restaurant-issue square tables. the menu was posted on a lightboard behind the counter with pictures and descriptions next to each item for los gringos. awesome. the cold case, free of any decoration, was stacked with mexican, cane-sugared coca-colas, flan, and energy drinks. there were four 7-eleven-style, glass-doored fridges along one wall which weren't even 1/4 full of various flavors of jarritos, beer, and other soft drinks. i could tell the food was going to be the shit.

R ordered two gigante burritos for the chicken and one beef. they were truly enormous and fed three teenage boys and two adults. from what i could tell, they were stuffed with the typical whole pinto beans, meat of choice, tomato, and some type of sauce. i think perhaps there was cheese, as well. i assumed that since there wasn't a grain of rice leftover that the burritos were satisfactory.

i tried the ceviche which was awesome. i don't know what type of white fish they used, but it was extremely tender. i thought it was better than guaymas'!! it was so perfectly salty, citrusy, and refreshing. A+

i also got a sopita with just beans, lettuce, and cotija. it was good. the sopa itself was thick, and more of a walled coaster shape than i've had before, but it was good. i must say, el asadero's veg sopitas really are the best and simplest around.

R also ordered a beef quesadilla for good measure. M said it was the shit. boy does he love enchiladas even though he never gets them because tacos are his first love.

lastly i ordered one taco al pastor and one taco de carnitas as a tasting for M. he said they were great. like great great. rivaling el asadero great! i think the house salsas played a part in his opinion, too. the salsa verde and roja were rich, flavorful, and the perfect garnish for every bite.

taqueria real was, is, a little gem hidden away in a strip mall in bel marin keys. we will be back as soon as we get to novato. and M finishes his in-n-out 3x3.

Taqueria Real on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kan Zamen

about a week ago i went down to san francisco to hang out with family and meet up with a friend that i hadn't seen since last august. the day happened to be quite blustery, making our walk to upper haight from a bar off divisadero quite perilous. K led us to a cozy hookah bar on haight called Kan Zamen. the dark door opened up to quite a large dining room with a (shoju-)stocked bar and elevated area with pillowed banquettes. we decided to sit at the low tables to enjoy some tasties.

we decided on the "maza plus" combination, meaning we could choose three cold and two hot maza (appetizer dishes) from the list of about 10-12 options. we placed our order and sat back to survey our surroundings.

the bar was pretty interesting. they only served shoju "cocktails" since, i'm assuming, they don't have a full liquor license. beer, wine, and shoju...they had shoju mojitos, cosmos, all sorts of desperate libations on the chalkboard. also, if you want to smoke, you have to sit at the bar. sigh.

i ordered a "middle eastern tea" not quite knowing what to expect. i figured it would be dark and strong...much like their coffee. what i got was a lovely glass mug of loose, black tea with some refreshing mint leaves floating on top. it was delicious and lightly sweetened to perfection. i want to make this at home. now i just need to invest in some glass mugs so i don't burn my finger tips off. yowza!

service was extremely attentive (filling water glasses several times) and quick. we were only chatting for several minutes by the time the first plates came out. clockwise from top, we ordered hummus, babaghanous, cold cucumber/yogurt salad, hot lentils, and falafel.

the hummus was M's favorite...garlicky and earthy as a hummus should be. the babaghanous was excellent, too...completely lacking that bitter flavor eggplant gets when prepared improperly. the texture was nice, not mush, and smoky. it's making me want to throw a couple of whole, oiled eggplants into my oven right now!

the cucumber salad was BOMB. tart, chilly yogurt spiced up with garlic, salt, lemon, dill, awesome, and a dash of omg. i love tzaziki and all, but this was more of a salad with bigger chunks of cucumber. i loved every bite and mixed it with everything. i couldn't get this simple dish out of my head all week, and the past couple of days i've made my own version with bay shrimp in the mix for dinner. major holy ess when i added a little bit of cap'n kipp's hot sauce.

the lentils were great, too. they were mother-effing-i-just-burned-my-mouth hot (just the way i like my food!), satisfying, and full of that umami heartiness. i shoveled spoonfuls of this with that cucumber salad on many-a-bite of freshly grilled, steamy pita.

the falafel were good, yet somewhat forgettable compared to the lentils and cucumber dishes. they were crispy, hot, and playfully green with parsley. cracking one open was like staring straight into the door of the irish emigrant on st patty's day.

we all loved every last bite of food and convinced ourselves that we needed to try a couple more. M and K savored the spicy sausage which really looked like a sliced beef hot dog that was sizzled with green onions. i have no idea what it was or where it came from, but both M and K said that it was the shit and way better than a dizzog. my choice was the rice and yellow lentil combo served with a tomato salad and cucumber yogurt. if i knew from the get that the cucumber salad was the truth, i would've ordered the rice&lentil dish all for myself. it was spicy and laced with fenugreek seed. holy crap. so good.

we were all stuffed beyond belief, and including tip, we got out of there for $55. that sounds like a pretty hefty check, but M also had a couple beers, and all three of us basically ate a really early dinner/latelate lunch and had to roll out of there.

if i lived in sf, i would return, but since sf is but a place for vacations and family visits, there are so many other places to try that i probably won't be back for a while. le sigh!

Kan Zaman on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


ah, the hotly-anticipated (maybe just in my world?) moshimoshi sushi spot in ballard! this old fisherman's warehouse's windows were papered over for months and months with the promise of "moshimoshi sushi, opening winter 2009." with the addition of shiku to ballard's sushi roster, i was wondering what aspect of japanese fare moshimoshi would provide.

i was hoping to catch mm's happy hour, but i was dining with a visiting minor...not gonna fly. instead, we ate dinner after picking him up from the airport! "perfect. he loves sushi. this is going to be great," i schemed.

i apologize for the poor picture quality. i forgot my phone in the car and had to use a blackberry with its flash and extreme over exposure.

the setting is nice. simple, bamboo tables, long banquettes facing chairs. lovely stoneware. clean. simple. japanese. i would even say spa-esque.

the best part is the central cherry tree. this picture does it no justice, but it's basically a giant tree with twinkling, pink cherry blossoms dangling over the bar. it's stunning.

we started with the octopus sunomono, which was awesome. just the right amount of vinegar, briny seaweed, and tender octopus. mmm. definitely one to add to the list of tentacled delights around town. after much prodding, we got out 17 year old companion to try it. his words: "not that bad," which, when translated from teenager, means "the shit."

T ordered the vegetable tempura which came with the usual suspects: lotus root, carrot, kabucha, onion, mushroom, shiso, spring onion, eggplant. i didn't have any, but T said it was tasty time.

M and I tried the seafood tempura, which included ebi (shrimp), scallop, crab leg (shelled), and two kinds of fish that i've now forgotten. i thought it was alright. i wasn't a big fan of the batter, which i found to be a little soft. i love a somewhat untraditional take on tempura with soda water + rice flour + panko for extra crispiness. one of the fish was on the skunky side, but i didn't mind the flavor. i think the main problem was that everything lacked salt. also, i felt like it was a travesty to eat crab like that. i like my crab cold. but i know M enjoyed every bit of that plate.

our sushi included a california (for our californian), spider, and moshimoshi roll. the cali roll was nice. just what your would expect. the spider was good, though mashiko's absolutely kills this one. moshimoshi, see also: more flavor.

the moshimoshi roll included "king crab, cucumber, shiso, & umeboshi plum wrapped in seared sea scallop," or so the menu promised. i love pickled umeboshi, so i thought the house namesake was right up my alley. plus, i'm pretty committed to trying restaurant specialties because they're usually where the chef can show off her creativity. anyhow, the roll did had some scallop on top, but it was more like chopped scallop that was lightly passed over by a pastry torch. not exactly wrapped. not exactly seared. oh well. overall i thought it was fine. it just lacked flavor, buzz word if you didn't notice. M said it was gross because the plum didn't belong. i didn't find the umeboshi so offensive, as much as overall flavorless.

sigh. moshimoshi, i had such high hopes for you. i do want to try their happy hour, which sounds like some nice small plates, but again, i know what i like and were i like it (see: mashiko's and maneki).