Daughter Thai: Celebrating Thai Cuisine

Daughter Thai opened up about four months ago in Montclair Village in Oakland. I dined there once in December shortly after they opened and was pleasantly surprised by the space, the food, and the ambience. I found it to be a typical Montclair crowd, which is family friendly. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since and yesterday was the perfect evening to go as the restaurant was celebrating the Thai New Year.

Daughter Thai was decorated with multi colored pennant flags on the inside and outside of the restaurant. They also had carnival games, music, and dancing. Even the staff was festive wearing costumes and makeup in celebration of the New Year.  

Before we ordered, one of the staff came by with a tray of fried grasshoppers and fried worms, a Thai street food. At first I passed thinking to myself, “I have to pay to eat grasshoppers and worms? Shouldn’t someone pay me?”  
After second thought, I called her back. This is an exotic specialty and an opportunity. I bought the grasshoppers. My friend wasn’t brave enough to try, so I ate all three. I’m not sure how to describe them. They were just crunchy and didn’t really go down easily. It was sort of like eating a pumpkin seed shell. I’m glad I tried it as it will be an unforgettable experience.  
One of the dishes we ordered was the Southern Fish Curry or “Gang Thai Pla.” It is described as a pickled fish stew in tumeric, lemongrass, and exotic herbs with squash, eggplant, and green beans served with crispy pork belly and vermicelli noodles. When I ordered it, the waiter seemed to discourage ordering it by disclosing that this was a very authentic Thai dish that is very spicy and very fishy. We like authentic, spicy, and fishy, so we went with it.  It ended up that my friend liked it and I didn’t. She did prefer eating the stew with rice instead of the noodles that came with it. It had a funk to it and the fermentation was too pungent for my taste.
We also ordered the Chef’s Secret Menu which was Thai Herbed Chicken & Rice or “Khao Mok Gai.” It is something that is not always on their menu. It includes herbed chicken with fragrant yellow rice, potato stuffed roti, and bone broth. This was a perfect dish for my friend and I to share. I thought it was delicious and a great combination platter.  
I also have some recommendations from my first visit to Daughter Thai. I enjoyed the Tom Kha, which is coconut soup with mushrooms, tomato, cabbage, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, and green onions. It had an excellent balance of flavors. 
The Ahi Scoops are pan seared sesame crusted Ahi tuna, cucumber, seaweed salad, crispy yam, dill, lemongrass, and chili lime. This is not a Thai dish to me, but it is one you want to make sure you order.
Although I have not eaten everything from the Daughter Thai menu, I already have a favorite. The crab fried rice is bomb. It’s got Dungeness crab meat, twice cooked rice, cage free egg, onion, tomato, and cilantro. It’s a simple dish that I could eat all the time.
If you enjoy Thai food, make your way to Daughter Thai in Montclair Village. They have some of the best and authentic Thai food in the Bay Area.  Happy Thai New Year!

Teni East Kitchen: Fresh California Burmese

Teni East Kitchen is a newish Burmese restaurant located in North Oakland that opened this past May.  With a focus on Burmese, it has a California twist.  I had my first lunch here in October and went back for dinner in November. It can be fun to be one of the first to discover a new restaurant, but I also think that there is great benefit to give a restaurant some time to work out any recipes or kinks.  
During my two visits, I sampled a good variety of the menu and want to highlight my favorites. The pea shoot salad was quite extraordinary. I loved the use of fresh raw pea shoots with peanuts, shallots, chickpeas, garlic, lime, and fish sauce. The fresh ingredients plus the variation of textures made this an absolute winner.  


I enjoyed the roti with curry dip. It is very similar to Malaysian roti which incorporates fluffy layers that soak up the spiced sauce.


The cumin pork belly had a pleasantly surprising preparation. The pork belly is sliced thin and wok tossed with fresh basil, shallots, and spices. It had an abundance of flavor.


The restaurant serves a coconut rice which is really tasty and goes well with the entrees I had. The rice is soft and fluffy, but has a hint of creaminess. If you aren’t opposed to coconut, I highly recommend it.


My favorite dish at Teni East Kitchen is the crispy spicy catfish with tamarind and dried shrimp relish. This is the one dish responsible for my return visit and future visits. With the catfish perfectly battered and deep fried and spiced, I just can’t get enough of this dish.  


All you need is to save a little room for dessert at the end your meal. The only offering is ice cream and your flavor choices are ube (purple yam), buko (young coconut), pistachio, coffee, and chocolate.  


Overall, I would consider Teni East Kitchen as one of my new favorite spots. The restaurant space is very warm and inviting and the food is excellent. It’s a place I can dine at for a casual weekday dinner or a celebratory dinner. I might even order the catfish as “take out.”  

Follow me on Instagram @510foodie to see what I’m eating next.

My birthday in Los Angeles

I feel a little behind in blogging, partly because I skipped last week and partly because I wanted to share some of the things I ate on my birthday, which was exactly a month ago today. My best friend and I spent my birthday in Los Angeles and aside from traffic, it was perfect.We started the morning with donuts. Sidecar Donuts originally opened in Costa Mesa and opened its second shop in Santa Monica which is where we went. I was charged from friends well in advance to get the Country Ham and Egg donut. The plump savory donut was filled with a poached egg, ham, and a house made basil hollandaise sauce. Sharing half felt lighter than I expected and was like eating a soft airy sandwich. 

We also enjoyed a salty caramel donut which had a nice caramel glaze and topped with sea salt. The lemon donut gave us the texture of cake similar to what you would get from an old fashioned. I was happily satisfied with my 1.5 donuts.

From there we made our way to the Getty Villa in Malibu. It has been about two decades since I had last visited this museum tucked away off Pacific Coast Highway. The Greek and Roman art is housed in the incredible re-creation of a Roman country house. We spent a few hours exploring the architecture, the antiquities, and the gardens. The museum is free, but you need to make reservations in advance.

Since we were still on the west side of town, we made our way to Venice Beach to grab a bite and geocache. We wanted something light for lunch so we discovered Poke Poke. We both got poke bowls, a Hawaiian delicacy. Poke bowls are actually quite popular these days. It’s a pretty healthy option, especially next to Muscle Beach. The original flavor at Poke Poke has ahi tuna marinated in onions, green onions, shoyu, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. I substituted the ahi tuna for salmon and got it over rice.  
We spent some time geocaching not only in Venice Beach, but also in Santa Monica. After quite a bit of walking, birthday drinks were calling my name at Shutters on the Beach. The hotel bar here is very popular, but we were lucky and got a table within a few minutes. With a blender in tow, we ordered pina coladas. Something about pina coladas make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Dinner reservations were for Hinoki and the Bird, which is located in Century City. The restaurant has a cool vibe and the cuisine labeled as American has a Japanese twist.  
The food is served family style, so we shared several plates. We started with the kale salad which includes both raw and crispy kale, spiced cashews, pecorino cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette. I loved the duo of prepared kale.
We ordered the Jidori chicken dumplings. There were five pan fried dumplings stuck together which is something I have never seen before. Crispy and succulent, I could keep eating this deliciousness.
I usually go for anything with uni in it. The uni carbonara with guanciale and pecorino was no exception. The creaminess and depth in flavor of this dish left me extremely pleased.
The crispy suckling pig was served with accoutrements like butter lettuce, a variety of herbs, and sauces. It’s meant to be eaten like a wrap or a taco which I found to be fun. The pork was moist with crispy skin.  
One side dish we ordered was the sake steamed mushrooms with sea salt and soy sauce. This was cooked and served in parchment paper which prominently infuses the flavors in the mushrooms.  
The other side dish we ordered were the brussels sprouts with lemon and furikake. These were a generous portion and could not have been roasted any better.
For dessert, my best friend eyed the mochi green tea affrogato. It was cool to watch the server prepare the matcha from a powder and water with a brush.  
We also ordered matcha donuts which were warm and fluffy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the sauce that came with it.
The restaurant also provided a complimentary dessert to wish me a Happy Birthday!
I had an incredible birthday dinner at Hinoki and the Bird which made my already awesome day even more special. Thanks Jeannette!

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

Agave Uptown:  I Just Can’t Get Enough

I haven’t been this excited about a new restaurant opening in Oakland in a long time. Serving cuisine from Oaxaca (pronounced WA-HA-KA), Mexico, Agave Uptown is a beautiful place that brings happiness to my soul. Within the month that Agave Uptown has been open, I have eaten there four times. I just can’t get enough! 
Named after the plant used to produce tequila, Agave Uptown has a bar shaking up cocktails centered on the distilled beverage. Mezcal is the smokey cousin to tequila, which is a Oaxacan specialty and one that their bartenders focus on. If you aren’t big into mezcal like me, just ask to substitute tequila.

Having eaten through about a third of the menu at Agave Uptown, I will recommend my highlights. First off, I suggest eating with a group so you can explore more of the menu. 

What is better than a bowl of chips and salsa is an endless bowl of chips and salsa. The light crispy chips and homemade salsas go well with cocktails and gives everyone at the table time to figure out what they want to order.

Go ahead and add guacamole to the mix as you can trust you are getting guacamole made from experts here. It’s always nice to have more things to dip those chips in.

I have tried two of the salads and one just blows the other out of the water. The Agave salad is a mix of petite romaine hearts, avocado, queso fresco, pumpkin seeds, heirloom tomatoes, red and orange peppers, onions, cilantro, and chipotle vinaigrette. The mix of grilled peppers and onions add a nuttiness that match well with the freshness of everything else.
It’s hard to find a good ceviche, but look no further than Agave Uptown. The fish which has been marinated in lime juice and onion is a classic and simplistic dish that offers a fresh and clean taste. They also provide a generous portion which is perfect for sharing.

Good for a group is the Tlayuda aka Oaxacan pizza. Think of this as a gigantic tostada. The crust is like a tortilla cracker and is covered with so much goodness including chorizo which was the topping of choice.  

I have enjoyed three different types of tacos at Uptown Agave – Rocky’s chicken, shrimp, and fish. All were excellent, so it really is a matter of preference. However, if you want something a little different, the seafood tacos are topped with cabbage, mango, and avocado giving you somewhat of a tropical taste.
I had Cecina for the first time and it was delicious. The pork is marinated in a Oaxacan adobo mixture. The flavor has a familiar taste of vinegar that I am accustomed to in Filipino adobo. The meat is uniquely sliced thin and then grilled to perfection. The specialty comes with rice, black bean paste, and tortillas.  
The domain of Uptown Agave would be the Mole Negro de Oaxaca. I enjoyed the chicken variety and it was to die for. Apparently, Mrs. Diaz, Chef Octavio’s mother makes the famous mole at her shop, Case de Mole in Healdsburg and they use it at Agave Uptown. The mole is slow cooked with Chilhuacle chiles and twenty other secret ingredients.  
I often have trouble leaving room for dessert at restaurants where I want to eat everything. But if you have a small gap left for something sweet, I recommend the tequila ice cream with fresh berries. It’s fairly light and definitely pleasurable.  
On my way out on one visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Diaz. I was not only drawn to the chef behind the fabulous food, but his friendly and down to earth nature. He even sent me and my friends home with a container of mole.  

So what did I do with the mole? I finally cooked some chicken in bacon fat. I then heated the mole and poured it over the chicken. I can pat myself on the back because I was taken back to Oaxaca in my own home. Thanks Chef Diaz and Mrs. Diaz! I’ll be visiting you both soon!

Easy to Make Jerk Chicken Wings

It has been two years since I joined the cooking club “Foodies by the Bay.” The theme last night was Jamaican cuisine. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Jamaican food is jerk chicken. Since I love chicken wings, I decided to make jerk chicken wings.   
I stopped by Minto Jamaican Market in North Oakland this past Friday after work. I was looking for a jerk spice rub and found an imported bottle of Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning in a bottle. It is more like a paste and the ingredients include Jamaican scallions, salt, hot peppers, pimento, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme, garlic, vinegar, spices, and vegetable oil. My experience with jerk chicken is that it could be really spicy, so I bought mild.
The instructions on the bottle said to use 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of chicken. I massaged 6 tablespoons of seasoning into the 4 pounds of chicken wings. I then transferred the chicken into a gallon size Ziploc bag and left it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 
Grilling is probably the ideal way to make jerk chicken, but I used the oven for ease.  When it was time to cook, I spread the wings onto a large pan and baked them in a preheated oven of 400 degrees. After 25 minutes, I turned the wings over and cooked for another 20 minutes. The sauce had caramelized and left golden crispy patches onto the chicken wings.
The party (including our host pictured below) agreed it was one of the top dishes of the evening and wanted to know what sauce I used. I highly recommend Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. I made the right decision to use the mild sauce because it was still quite spicy. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made and the results are juicy and mouth watering goodness that packs a punch.  Yeh Mon!

Mashup: Burmese and BBQ

Less than two weeks old, Burma Bear is the latest takeout lunch spot to open in Uptown Oakland. Across the street from my work, my arms are wide open to welcome Burma Bear to the neighborhood. The Chef and Grillmaster is Hubert Lim, aka Burma Bear, who brings a mix of Burmese food and BBQ to our palettes.  

It’s a pretty simple menu. You choose a meat (protein) and a side. I chose baby back ribs and biryani rice. The saucy ribs had been rubbed with loads of aromatic spices and had a spicy kick to it. They were tender and delicious. The rice complemented the ribs very well.  

My colleague chose the kalua pulled pork and the garlic noodles. The shredded pork was moist, but cooked with BBQ sauce it leaves some crispy bits which is nice. 

I really enjoyed the garlic noodles as well. The taste of garlic and butter in the thin noodles are well balanced and light.

Tea leaf salad is a very popular Burmese dish. The one from Burma Bear doesn’t have the same effect I get when I eat it at other Burmese restaurants. All the ingredients are already mixed together and this version comes with iceberg lettuce, rather than cabbage. You can choose a tea leaf salad made with kale if that is your thing. Overall, the tea leaf salad was disappointing compared to others I have eaten.  

I am ecstatic to have Burma Bear around to bring diversity to the Uptown area and a fun mashup of Burmese and BBQ. The small storefront offers a few spots to eat, but I prefer takeout anyways. On a nice day, you can order Burma Bear and eat at Snow Park. Another shop is located in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco.