I Dream of Sushi

I recently met my BFF at Angel Fish in Alameda for dinner. Sushi is always a good choice on a hot day and Alameda is usually a bit cooler as well. My BFF has been a regular at Angel Fish for almost two decades. Every time I have dined at Angel Fish, I have enjoyed it very much. Come to think of it, it is one of my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurants, even though it is not my neighborhood. The fish is always fresh and the prices are reasonable.

So first I have to admit I was late for dinner. My BFF had already gotten us seats at the sushi bar and ordered some nigiri at happy hour prices. From 5pm- 6pm, there are some specials, so she ordered the hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), and maguro (red tuna). I was so delayed that she had to eat my portion. It was fine by me as I wouldn’t want raw fish sitting too long. When I arrived, I ordered my own serving of salmon. It was fresh and delicious as expected.
It was my first time having agemono. I loved everything about these deep fried tempura lobster bites. With a splash of lemon, I’m in heaven. One of the best things about Angel Fish is that it doesn’t always have to be about the raw items. They have a nice variety of cooked items that are unique and creative.
We ordered amaebi which I did not photograph. It’s not my favorite item, but I do like consuming the crispy fried shrimp head. Toro is one of the most expensive fish. When this fatty tuna belly is available at Angel Fish, you really should get it. It was so buttery, it melted in my mouth.  
Some other patrons ordered the cha soba so we decided we would share this as well. Cold noodles are a perfect choice on a hot evening. To enjoy this dish, you would dip soba noodles and seaweed into a sauce where you would first mix in minced daikon, green onions, and a quail egg.
One of my favorite things to eat is an unagi hand roll. With the added texture of cucumber and avocado, this is the perfect bite to me.  
Although Chef Taka still had a few pieces of uni out, he purposefully opened up a brand new box of uni for us. The opening of this box of imported uni from Japan really made our day.  
The uni was elegantly placed on top of a shiso leaf and rice and came with crispy roasted seaweed on the side.
In front of me in the sushi case was tamago that I had been eyeing throughout the course of the evening. I was relaying my limited experience and enjoyment of tamago. Typically, not a favorite of my BFF, we decided we would try it. We learned that Chef Taka makes this deliciousness every other day.

It was a great light dinner and we decided we would start dining at Angel Fish together once a month. I’m already dreaming about it.

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Bluefin: When you can’t decide between Japanese and Thai food

Last week my family decided they wanted to go out to dinner. There was a lot of debate over what to eat. My mom had been in the mood for Japanese food lately and hadn’t gotten her fix. I was thinking Laotian or Thai food. My sister in law had suggested a restaurant in Alameda called Bluefin that serves both Japanese and Thai food. We all agreed to give it a try.
We ordered the fried chicken wings to share. They were cooked to a beautiful golden color and were crispy and flavorful. I enjoyed the fried herb that complemented it.  
I ordered the sake sashimi appetizer. When it came out there were some oohs and ahhs. It was very fresh and presentation was on point. I think I ate all five pieces in under sixty seconds.  
My brother and mother like cooked sushi, so they ordered a four sushi rolls: 1) The Dancing Roll is a California roll topped with BBQ eel. 2) The Lion King Roll is a California roll topped with salmon and baked with a special sauce. 3) The Bluefin Bomb has tuna, salmon, avocado, asparagus, scallions topped with a spicy sauce. 4) The Lobster Tempura roll has crusty fried lobster with avocado, masago, asparagus, and special sauce. These all were presented in a bamboo sushi boat.  
My sister in law wanted Thai food and ordered the Papaya Salad which has green papaya with prawns, tomatoes, peanuts, and a spicy lime dressing. I thought this was really fresh tasting.
I ordered the Tom Kha which is a Thai soup with coconut milk. My “bowl” runneth over with chicken, mushrooms, tomato, onion, lime leaves me galangal, and lemongrass. It was a large bowl that I couldn’t finish in one sitting. I ended up having it for lunch the next day and it was still delicious.  
One of my nieces ordered the Teriyaki Beef dinner. Bluefin knows their teriyaki. The beef was cooked a perfect medium rare and the flavor had the right amount of sweetness. It was laid on top of cabbage, carrots, and broccoli.  
My other niece wanted udon. We got her the tempura udon with the tempura on the side so that everyone could indulge in the fried goodness.
I definitely had a good overall experience at Bluefin. It’s easy to find parking, the staff are really nice, presentation is awesome, and their was a great variety of food that was quite enjoyable. I don’t know why the Yelp reviews are mediocre.  I would add an additional star.  I thought the chefs were able to conquer Japanese and Thai cuisines very well. I personally would go back to Bluefin to try more of both cuisines.  

Check Please Bay Area Viewing Party

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have likely seen or heard of the PBS show “Check Please, Bay Area.” This is the television show where three Bay Area residents review their favorite restaurant. Each of the three people have the opportunity to dine at the restaurants that the other two choose. They come together on the show to talk about the three restaurants. “Check Please, Bay Area” is now in its twelfth season. The original show was launched in Chicago. One episode even featured Barack Obama, as one of the diners, when he was just a State Senator.

Season 12, episode 7 aired this past Thursday and featured two East Bay restaurants. The first was Monkey King Pub and Grub in Alameda. They describe the restaurant as Asian fusion food. From the food pictures, it looks more like Chinese American party food. Either way, the food looks awesome and I can’t wait to give it a try.

The second restaurant featured on the show was Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in Saint Helena.  The farm to table restaurant has an array of fresh and comfort food that has me wanting to make the drive up to Napa County.

The final restaurant featured on this episode is the reason behind this blog post.  I was watching the screening of “Check Please, Bay Area” at Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland. They were hosting a viewing party and my BFF found out about it and bought us tickets. The ticket included entrance, two drink tickets, and light nosh.

As soon as we arrived, we went to the bar to select our first drink. We went with the boozy slushy of the day which was a Grapefruit and Gin cocktail. It was sour, which I am a fan. The umbrella in the drink was a prediction of a fun evening to come.

The waitstaff began passing out appetizers. Fried chicken sliders were the first to come out and when it reached our table there was just one left. I insisted my BFF take it. Another tray of sliders came from another direction and they were all gone right as it reached me. I was thinking I might completely miss out on the sliders. “Light nosh” might be zero nosh for me. I decided to alert one of the waitstaff and she apologized and said she would return with some more.  

There were actually two types of sliders, fried chicken sliders and the burger sliders. They were both delicious and included homemade pickles. 
We also had egg salad on rye toast topped with fried chicken skin. These were mini versions of the popular open faced sandwich they normally serve on the menu.
Pickled shrimp crostini were also passed. I was surprised that the flavors were subtle.
I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the tempura fried mushrooms, but they were a bit greasy.
There was also a smoked fish display with bagel chips, cream cheese and all the fixings. I suspect this is similar to the “smoked fish tower” that is on their menu.

The food kept coming out and there was never going to be a shortage of sliders. Light nosh was actually heavy nosh. I was full before the show started.  

The owner May Seto Wasem made a speech and introduced Rene, the diner who nominated the restaurant to be on the television show. We all then watched the show together as it aired for the first time.  

It was a great show and a fun evening. I suspect that with the fame of Grand Lake Kitchen being on tv, there might be longer wait times. I would recommend avoiding weekends.

Alameda’s Pacific Lighthouse for Dim Sum

This is my first post for 2017 and I thought I would share the New Year’s resolutions I made for myself.  The first one is to purge and organize. The second one is to try some new sports for exercise. And my third New Year’s resolution is to eat more dim sum. I took my grandma out of Assisted Living on New Year’s Eve to “Yum Cha,” or “Drink Tea,” aka eat dim sum, and she was happy about it.

It was my first visit to the new upscale Chinese restaurant in Alameda called Pacific Lighthouse to have dim sum. The Yelp reviews haven’t been too favorable, but I wanted to give it a fair assessment. It’s not unusual to have a wait for dim sum and not wanting my 99 year old grandma to wait, we arrived before the noon rush.  

Pacific Lighthouse is located by the marina with great harbor views if you are lucky to get a window seat. We had a table in the center of the restaurant under the golden chandelier. We ordered many of the basic dim sum items such as these:

Pork dumpling

Shrimp dumpling

Daikon cake


Shrimp rice roll


Steamed chicken feet


Steamed pork buns

 

In general, these dim sum items should taste the same whether you get them from one restaurant or another. I base the quality by the freshness of ingredients, the temperature which tells me if it just came out of the steamer or if it’s been sitting in a cart for awhile, and cooking time which can affect the texture.  Their homemade hot sauce was also on point.


We also tried some additional dim sum that I don’t always get to order or eat.  We picked up some delicious steamed black bean pork spareribs over rice noodles. The overflowing sauce made it quite easy to slurp down the noodles. I also liked that it came with taro pieces and black olives.


This was my first time trying the daikon pastry. It’s similar to eating steamed daikon but this is wrapped in a warm pastry shell. I liked the crispy outer shell and having a savory soft filling inside.


Pacific Lighthouse serves a sweet custard bun which I haven’t had since I was in Canada. This one oozes a melting custard. The version here when opened looked oily, but it was quite delicious. You can watch my video on Instagram at @510foodie.
I enjoyed my visit to Pacific Lighthouse and would definitely make a return trip. It’s nice to have another East Bay restaurant serving dim sum to add to the repertoire.  

The Longevity Peach

It’s been a long weekend. Friday night after work, I went to the San Francisco Giants Game. (Woohoo! It was the first of a three game sweep of the LA Dodgers that takes the Giants to the Postseason.) Saturday was a 14-hour fun filled day of geocaching in Yolo County. This morning, I ran 9 miles, took a quick nap, got a mani/pedi, and the evening concluded with the birthday party of the century that I have been planning, my grandma’s birthday. That means I am tired and you get a quick and dirty blog.

photo by Debbie Yee


Tonight about eighty friends and family members celebrated my grandmother’s 99th birthday with a dinner banquet at East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Alameda. This is really one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the East Bay. When I am asked for a recommendation for Chinese food, I have suggested East Ocean many times. They have good quality food and service. They’re also good for dim sum. 

We had an excellent nine course meal not including the three desserts. We ended the meal with the longevity peach. This is a traditional dessert served at Chinese birthday celebrations because it represents immortality. It’s shaped like a peach and filled with sweet lotus seed paste. 99 years is a long life, but we are still counting.

photo by Murphy Lau

Alameda Theatre: Watch the Warriors Play

Tonight’s Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Playoff Game 7 is going to be an epic battle. Tickets for this basketball game are going for at least $400 at “Roaracle Arena.” If you are looking for a seat to watch the game with hundreds of other excited Warriors fans, I have got an almost free alternative.  

Starting at 10:30am, you can pick up two entry tickets for the Warriors watch party at the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex. Not only do you get to watch the game on a large movie theater screen, you can eat and be merry. Tickets are technically free, but they ask for a $1 donation to benefit the Warriors Community Foundation. If you are learning about this from me, please consider donating $2!  
I have attended two watch parties and they have been really fun. There is a lot of excitement, but it is still laid back. They have an MC that goes around and asks trivia questions after the first and third quarters. My eight year old niece won a rally towel!  
They also sell raffle tickets to benefit the Warriors Community Foundation and during half time, they raffle off prizes that have included bobble heads, coolers, movie tickets, etc. At one party, they had a DJ that would play music during commercials which makes the viewing party seamless. 

So there are a few important things you want to know about eating and drinking at the watch party. You can certainly get snacks at the concession stand. Whenever I go to the movies, I look for the kids pack which includes a small amount of popcorn, a soft drink, and candy. At the Alameda Theater, the kids pack is $5.
One of the best features about watching the game here is that you can purchase food and drinks from the attached Cinema Grill, get a reserved ticket and your food will be delivered to you at your seat. On one occasion, my friend and I had eaten at the Cinema Grill before the game started and were given reserved tickets.  
We shared two types of chicken wings – spicy and sweet and sour. The chicken wings were organic and both flavors were excellent.
We also had the Godfather Pizza which had toppings of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, fennel, and arugula. The thin crust pizza was almost cracker like and the multiple toppings offered great flavor and texture.  
They also offer a full service bar, so you can also have beer, wine, cider, or cocktails. For a movie theater, this is as gourmet as you can get. Between the entertainment, the food and drink, and all the excitement, Alameda Theatre and Cineplex offers an awesome venue to watch the Golden State Warriors play ball!

Featuring Lithuanian Cuisine in Alameda

Mama Papa Lithuania claims to be the only restaurant serving Lithuanian food on the West Coast. If this is true, I am feeling very fortunate that it happens to be located in the 510. Located on Park Street in Alameda, Mama Papa Lithuania is a destination to explore Northern European cuisine.  

I had lunch there with a group of friends so we sampled quite a few dishes. We started the meal with some fried Lithuanian rye bread. This black bread is fried in oil and rubbed with a garlicky paste. Apparently it is a best selling snack in Lithuania. The rye bread is very dense and it was the flavor of the garlic that made it shine for me.
  
I really enjoyed the cucumber salad which is mixed in a yogurt dill sauce and tossed with green onions. I found it to be very refreshing and loved the dill flavor.
 We each had our own soup. Some of us got the cream of mushroom soup and others got the borscht with mushroom. The mushroom soup was the perfect balance of broth and cream. The flavors brought on by the mushrooms and onions made it heavenly and I loved it.

 The borscht was a mix of beet and chicken broth and contained vegetables. This soup was topped with a dollop of sour cream. I have had Russian borscht before and thought this version was superior. 
 We ordered some potato pancakes with and without meat. These were probably my least favorite items which was a surprise since I really like potato pancakes in general. I didn’t like the consistency of the potatoes and it felt a little greasy.  
 The flour dumplings were pretty awesome. These traditional Lithuanian dumplings are handmade and stuffed with various fillings. We got the flour dumplings with potato and cheese filling which were soft pillows of goodness.  
Our waitress recommended their best seller, the stuffed cabbage rolls. The outside of the roll is cabbage and the inside is stuffed with seasoned ground pork and rice. The dish is served with boiled potatoes and dill pickles and made complete with their homemade sauce. It was nice to include this in our variety so we could have some additional protein.
  The flavors of Lithuanian cuisine is fairly mild. Some commonalities in the dishes I found are potatoes, dill, and sour cream. I pretty much enjoy those ingredients so I will be back. Next time it should be dinner so I can wash the food down with some Lithuanian beer.