Ippudo: In My Own Eyes

Ippudo Berkeley opened up in late July and I posted a blog about my friend’s experience on opening day. People waited three hours to get a bowl of ramen at Ippudo. After almost two months since opening, lines can still get quite long especially with school in session. Here’s my account of a recent visit with another friend to Ippudo. After waiting thirty five minutes in line outside, we were led inside and seated.

We started out with Ippudo buns. You can order the soft pillowy buns with either chicken, pork belly, or vegetables. Our buns were spread with mayonnaise and had a thick slice of tender pork belly in a tangy glaze. Biting into these were soft and heavenly.


We were debating whether to get the chicken kara-age or the fried chicken wings. The waitress recommended the chicken kara-age. The flavor was subtle and the chicken did not have much of a coating to give it a textural component. It fell flat and I was disappointed in my waitress.


The ramen came in three flavors and you have a choice of how firm you want your noodles. I was drawn to the description of the Akamaru Modern which is a more bold translation of the original pork broth with thin noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork belly chashu, cabbage, and sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I added a soft boiled egg and requested my noodles to be bari kata, which means firm. The flavors of my ramen broth and noodle texture were very much prepared to my liking.


My friend loves spicy so she ordered the Karaka Spicy which has the original “Tonkotsu” (pork) broth with an added kick, thin noodles with Ippudo’s special blend of hot spices, topped with pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. She ordered hers kata which is al dente. The bowl suited her as well.

In our minds, we still thought we made a bad choice with the chicken kara-age, so we decided we would go ahead and order the fried chicken wings. The chicken wings are glazed in a black pepper sauce. Unfortunately, the wings didn’t meet our expectations either.

  
I would definitely return to Ippudo for the buns and ramen if the wait isn’t too long. The prices are a bit high for a bowl of ramen, but it’s worth it to satisfy a craving now and then.

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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.

Chino: Chinese Transformed

The word for Chinese in Spanish is Chino. That may or may not be apropos for the name of a Chinese restaurant located in the Mission district of San Francisco. My BFF and I went there for lunch a few months ago. I got a good energetic vibe as I walked into Chino. It was bright, hip, and not a typical Chinese restaurant (host is not a young Chinese female).

We were seated and I was excited by the decor and the fun environment. I loved the colorful plastic chopsticks. If xiao lung bao, Shanghai soup dumplings are on a menu, there is no question that I have to order them. The ones at Chino were pretty good. The dumpling skin was a little on the thick side, but sometimes they have to be in order to ensure the dumpling doesn’t get punctured and the soup spills out.
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One of my BFF’s favorite type of dumpling are the wontons in chili oil so we ordered them. These were filled with shrimp and they were quite good. The little bit of heat elevates these dumplings immensely. Although I didn’t see any Chinese employees, their dumpling master is a native of Shanghai.
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If you go to a typical dumpling house, you will not find bao de chicharon, aka pork belly sliders with avocado salsa and pickled onions. You will definitely find it on the Chino menu and they were delicious.
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When I saw cold sesame noodles on the menu, I was immediately reminded of the popular dish eaten by New Yorkers. This is not something I have seen on Bay Area menus. This version had cucumber, mushrooms, and summer squash. It didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I did enjoy the vegetables.
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We shared a matcha green tea soft serve for dessert. The soft serve is made using Straus Cream and was topped with fruity pebbles. The colors defined the restaurant. I actually loved the smoothness of the soft serve and the matcha flavor was awesome. This was my favorite thing at Chino.
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Chino just screams fun and I’d like to go back with a few more people in order to try a larger variety of food. I would also want to make it dinner and see what their cocktail menu is all about.

Chino is located at 3198 – 16th Street (cross street is Guerrero Street) in San Francisco.

London Calling: Borough Market

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I arrived in London yesterday at 7am. I was told that Saturdays were the best day to visit Borough Market, so after checking into our hotel, we took the Tube to get there. Borough Market is full of artisanal foods. Vendors were selling their homemade products such as cheese, breads, and cured meats.
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A bread shop called Bread Ahead was promoting that they had the best donuts in the Country. It would be our first donut in the UK. They offered two flavors which were vanilla and orange cardamom. I had to try the orange cardamom. It was a nice airy donut filled with delicious scented cream.
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Another stall called Roast was selling sandwiches with their freshly roasted meats. We were watching them carve meats and put together sandwiches and they looked so good. My friend and I decided to share the pork belly, crackling and applesauce sandwich. The pork was tender and flavorful and was well complimented with the applesauce. Some parts of the crackling were really crisp, but other parts were a bit too hard. I enjoyed it well enough.
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I was looking forward to some fresh summer farmer’s market fruits. We tasted some really good cherries and decided to buy some fruit to take back to the hotel. We settled on the three red fruit- cherries, strawberries, and raspberries from Chegworth Farms.
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It was raining and I felt somewhere between Pike’s Place in Seattle and the Ferry Building in San Francisco. For a first stop, Borough Market was a good one.

Takashi: A Chicago Find

I had never heard of Chef Takashi before my recent trip to Chicago. My friend and I were looking for places to eat in Chicago and first found “Slurping Turtle,” a restaurant of Takashi’s, which specializes in noodles. The menu didn’t “wow” us, but then we found the restaurant of his namesake. That was enough for me to make an Open Table reservation for this Japanese and French inspired restaurant.
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My friend and I arrived to find a really cute, upscale restaurant. As we reviewed the menu, we decided on sharing two appetizers and two entrees. The appetizers of our choice were the corn chowder and the soy ginger caramel pork belly. The soup came out first and was enjoyable with a nice, sweet flavor and was comforting to the palette.
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The pork belly arrived with a pickled daikon salad and steamed buns that were meant to create open faced sandwiches. The pork belly was incredibly good, cooked with a sweet flavor of hoisin sauce that melted in my mouth. Oh, I wanted more.
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One of our entrees was the sautéed west coast sea bass. The fish came with a ratatouille on a bed of white beans. The fish was cooked very delicately with a crispy skin.
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Our other entree was the seared loin of veal. We got three pieces of veal each prepared on top of something different. We had a gratin of onion and zucchini couscous, asparagus, and bacon preserved lemon-caper brown butter. I haven’t had veal in a long time, but this was likely the best preparation I have had.
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My friend and I were quite full and ended up foregoing dessert. To be honest, we thought the choices were unattractive and slim. It was okay, because we enjoyed everything we ate.

As we were leaving, I saw copies of Chef Takashi’s cookbook, “Noodles”. As I flipped through it, I found that his recipe for the pork belly was in it. I asked the host if they had any autographed copies. The host responded that the Chef was there and could sign it. I ended up being able to meet him and have a photo with him. He was extremely nice and gracious. I am now a huge fan.
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First Fridays: Food Scene

My BFF and her sister invited me to go with them to Oakland Art Murmur. This event is held every first Friday of the month around Downtown Oakland. We walked into various businesses, including coffee shops and bars that have set up the work of local artists. There were several galleries in the area that I have never been to. Walking through this made us pretty hungry.

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My BFF’s sister introduced us to her friend’s food stand located close to Koreana Market on Telegraph Ave. Tai of Simply Garlic sells garlic noodles and vegan spring rolls. It looks like the noodles are prepared in advance and heated up on a small propane operated grill. By the time we got to the front of the line, the rolls were sold out. We ordered two plates of garlic noodles to share. Garlic noodles are one of my favorite things to eat so it’s nice to know there is place where I can occasionally access good ones.

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We walked a few feet away to another street vendor called Powered by Pork making pork tacos. We got some pork belly tacos to share.

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At the time, I thought the tacos were just average. Having just done a little more research, I’m impressed with Powered by Pork. It’s clearly run by one guy and on his bike. I didn’t even notice the bike when I was there. I feel like I might need to try this guys passion again.

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There were lots of people around downtown walking around. We decided to head back towards Quarter Pound Giant Burgers. We weren’t going for burgers, but to look at the retro classic cars all lined up in their parking lot.

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And across the street, we discovered “the Eatup,” a place where food trucks gather in one place. “The Eatup” happens every Friday evening from 6:30-11:00 on 21st Street and Telegraph Ave.

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The most attractive truck to us was Sam’s Chowder Mobile that travels all the way from Half Moon Bay. We split the pricey lobster roll and an order of french fries with bay seasoning. The fries were too salty for me, but the roll was awesome as expected.

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I had a fun evening and rediscovered how cool and hip Oakland can be. If you haven’t been to First Fridays in Oakland, what are you waiting for? Art is supported by good food. Next one is August 3rd.

Revel in Seattle

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My last meal on this trip to the Pacific Northwest was brunch at a trendy place called Revel in Seattle. It’s about three miles away from Downtown in an area called Fremont. Revel serves Korean fusion food. My friend and I sat at the kitchen counter where food was also being plated. This gave us a great view of the chefs in action.

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I wasn’t planning to have a cocktail, but the Kimchi Bloody Mary was calling to me. I asked the waitress what she thought of it and she said it was really good. Why not? It was my last day of vacation. It was a pretty drink that came with an olive and Chinese long beans. The drink was lined with Korean chili powder as well. I’m glad I had it because it was really tasty and packed a punch.

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My friend and I decided to share two dishes. I ordered the Revel ramen with pork belly and kimchi. The ramen had a good consistency, the pork belly was sliced thin and melts in your mouth, the kimchi was a good balance of spice, and the broth was flavorful and comforting. It also came with a perfect soft boiled egg.

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My friend ordered the short ribs and eggs, arugula, chimichurri, and rice. I was watching the chefs throw marinated short ribs on the grill and slice them. I also had a great view of them constantly fry up perfect pairs of eggs in pans. I was anxiously awaiting this rice bowl. The flavor of the beef was spot on and the runny yolk mixed with the rice sent me home. I thought the chimichurri sauce gave it a pretty green color as well as a hint of tartness. It also had me thinking rice and beef make for a good breakfast.

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After traveling for a week, this was such a great meal to end my vacation. Revel transcends Asian comfort food into hip and cool.