Genji: Grilling up Lunch

I have never been to Japan, but I would imagine that there would be a lot of eateries like Genji Japanese Restaurant that service busy office workers. Apparently, the restaurant recently moved from Downtown Oakland to Uptown Oakland, making it really easy for me to get to Monday through Friday. There are some food items already prepared that you can grab and go, but they also have a menu of items that are made to order.  You can choose to eat at one of their tables or take away.

 On my first visit, I picked up a side of seaweed salad and a side of cucumber wedges from the refrigerator. I brought it up to the friendly cashier and placed an order for an una-q which were five pieces of unagi (eel) sushi roll. It was a light and enjoyable lunch. I would skip the cucumber wedges in the future as it was bland even with the sauce.  

My coworkers got the unagi teriyaki from the grill which equates to two pieces of eel over rice.  All their teriyaki grill plates come with a side of edamame and a slaw. The charbroiled eel was delicate and flavorful and the rice was cooked to perfection.  
On another visit, I ordered the chicken teriyaki. I have been in search of a good chicken teriyaki for a long time and have found it here at Genji. They grill up Mary’s free range chicken and coats it with a delicious teriyaki sauce.  

One of my colleagues splurged and got the Angus rib eye teriyaki. She ordered it medium well. It was cooked through which I normally do not like. I like my beef cooked medium rare. I had a piece of her steak and was shocked how good it was. The flavor of the teriyaki sauce just disguised how cooked it was. She absolutely loved her plate.

My other colleague was looking for a lighter plate so she got shrimp teriyaki. The shrimps were fresh and plump. It is great that Genji has the variety of grill options so you can order what you are in the mood for. Now that I have done my taste test, I would likely alternate between the unagi teriyaki and the chicken teriyaki in the future.


Burger Month at Belcampo

August is burger month for Belcampo, a 5 year old meat company based in Oakland and run by Anya Fernald. Belcampo is a corporation that includes a farm, a processing plant, butcher shops, and restaurants that together supply sustainable and organic meat. The Belcampo farm is located up North in Gazelle, California and the butcher shops and restaurants are located in Larkspur, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.  
There was a period of time in my past where I only ate grass fed beef. Generally, I enjoyed the taste of corn fed beef more because it was more fatty and flavorful. I think when beef is grounded for burgers, grass fed beef tastes better so I was excited about burger month at Belcampo.

During burger month, Belcampo has been offering promotions to bring in more customers and create awareness. I introduced a friend in Los Angeles to the BOGO week where if you bought one burger, you would get the second one free. My friends participated in the offer and enjoyed their burgers. One review I received was “moovelous!” Another review was “freaking delicious!”  

Photo by Christy Smith

For a company based in Oakland, it’s unfortunate that there is no Belcampo butcher shop and restaurant very close to me. I didn’t want the month of August to go by and not get a chance to get a burger deal. Today was the last day for a 100 Day Dry-Aged Burger, Fries, and a Drink for $15 deal. They were marketing the special for burger connoisseurs so I went for the challenge. 

I drove out to Larkspur with a friend. My 1/2 lb burger was a blend of Wagyu and Angus meat with Raclette cheese, watercress, and caramelized onions on a sesame seed bun. My medium rare burger was served to me on a wooden platter with French fries. It was then spritzed with 100-proof whiskey in front of my eyes. This burger was definitely well thought out, including the use of watercress that provides a peppery bite. The burger was rich, juicy, and full of flavor.  

My friend ordered the Belcampo burger which is their standard 1/2 lb grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, butter lettuce, house-made sauce. Cooked a perfect medium rare, she ate every bite as well.  
There are still ten days left for burger month and I’m excited to hear what specials Belcampo will offer next. You’ll have to follow them on Facebook to find out. Rumor has it that Belcampo will open a shop in Jack London Square in Oakland, but no date has been identified.

Dumpling Empire: A Taste of Shanghai

photo by Donna Hui

It was this photo from my friend @cwpiequeen that lured me to try Dumpling Empire, located in South San Francisco. This is a dish of green onion pancake, a popular savory snack from Shanghai. When the batter is cooked, it turns into thin flakey layers filled with a depth of onion flavor. I don’t get to eat them often, but the green onion pancake here was cooked to a perfect crispy golden brown that could conquer any empire.  
The small restaurant is called Dumpling Empire, so of course I had to have some dumplings. Shanghai soup dumplings or xiao lung bao are filled with pork and soup and are my favorite kind of dumplings in the whole wide world. These were pretty solid as only one was missing soup. Having experienced making these before, there is a high level of difficulty in cooking xiao lung bao. The burst of broth always gives me a heavenly feeling.

The second dumplings I tried were the Shanghai pan fried soup dumplings. They had the similar meat and soup filling of the xiao lung bao, but the outer layer was a doughy bun that was pan fried. I thought the inside of the dough was slightly undercooked and it was not crisp enough on the outside. I would likely skip these next time, but there is a list of 21 additional dumplings on their menu.  

I also ordered the mustard green noodle soup which includes hand made noodles with thinly chopped mustard greens and pork. I enjoyed the fresh chewy noodles and the subtle infusion of the mustard greens in the entire bowl. The simplicity and the flavors of this bowl brought back memories of when I visited Shanghai.

I made a special trip out to Dumpling Empire and thought it was worth it. If you happen to be near the San Francisco Airport (SFO), I highly recommend making your way to Dumpling Empire for a taste of Shanghai.

Imperfect Produce: I Eat Ugly

My BFF introduced me to a company called Imperfect Produce based in Emeryville that offers fruits and vegetables subscriptions. The produce they offer does not meet the gold standard set by grocery stores because of the way they look. The fresh fruits and vegetables may have cosmetic defects compared to their siblings. They could be irregular shaped or have spots on the outside, which does not negatively impact the flavor of the produce.  Sometimes they can even taste better!

Why wouldn’t I just want to have perfect produce? Buying into imperfect produce allows you to save about 30% compared to the grocery store. It also allows you to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing food waste and water usage. It’s a win-win situation. For me personally, it allows me to afford organic fruits and vegetables as it is not always an option I want to pay for when I shop at the market.  

I went online and customized my first box and it included organic cantaloupe, peaches, plums, pears, grapefruit, tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, and potatoes.  
The first evening I had my box I cooked up some of the vegetables. After peeling and chopping the vegetables, I could not tell they were “rejects.” Could you?
My first box was heavy on fruit by choice. I found that they were perfectly sweet and juicy. Two colleagues standing several feet away could smell the aroma of my peach that I bit into. Later in the week with my abundance of plums and peaches, I bought some puff pastry dough and made a weight watcher friendly dessert. 
Imperfect Produce serves and delivers to the East Bay and has select drop-off spots in San Francisco, Lafayette, and Concord/Walnut Creek. You can also pick up from their warehouse located in Emeryville which is what I did. The best advantage for my BFF is that she gets her box of fruits and vegetables delivered to her door and doesn’t have to step foot into a grocery store.  This way she has more time to travel, geocache, and blog.
With my Imperfect Produce subscription, I am not only incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my nutritional diet, but I am having fun with it. It’s like playing a creative game of Chopped.  Imperfect Produce is a beautiful thing!