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!

Drip Line: West Oakland

Last week I attended a dinner with fifteen other Bay Area social media bloggers and influencers at a new coffee shop and restaurant called Drip Line. Drip Line is located in a part of town that I honestly don’t frequent without a purpose, West Oakland. Chef Nora Dunning has created a menu that reflects a fusion of her Singapore roots and her Northern California home. We all got to sample five dishes.
Kaya toast is a popular Singapore breakfast, and at Drip Line, this dish is elevated a few ways. Using house made brioche, it comes with a side of pandan infused coconut butter and a coddled egg with chives and soy sauce. With the recent popularity of adding an egg to any dish and making it sexy, I think coddled eggs may be trending next. And the best part of the Kaya toast is that amazing butter.
Gado Gado is an Indonesian dish that mixes together multiple ingredients with a sauce. We had ours with a variety of fresh, local, seasonal vegetables, red quinoa, root chips, a poached egg, peanut sambal, and lime. I especially enjoyed the textures that the small amount of red quinoa and the homemade root chips provided. 

Shrimp and grits at Drip Line is influenced by Chef Nora and her husband who is originally from the South. The creamy coconut grits are complemented with sambal shrimp, a fried egg, and micro herbs. This was one of my favorite dishes, but too rich not to share.  

It appears that most Asian cultures have some form of chicken and rice plate. This one infuses California to it with a tumeric brown rice and an Asian pear herb and fennel salad. The boneless chicken thighs also cooked with a honey glaze that adds an overall sweetness. The bone broth can be poured on the plate or drank separately.  
Laksa was a treat as this was the first time it was being served at Drip Line. This version of laksa included rice noodles, tofu puffs, tempeh, asparagus, pea sprouts, mint, cilantro, sambal, lime, and curried broth. The depth of flavor runs deep in this bowl of laksa.
Drip Line resides within walking distance to the neighboring Fusebox and Brown Sugar Kitchen which gives new purpose to frequent West Oakland.  They’re open M-F from 7am-5pm.  

La Estacion: Awesome First Meal in Puerto Rico

I’m trying to end 2016 with a bang. My friend and I decided that we both needed some fun and relaxation so we planned a trip to warm Puerto Rico. This would be my second time to Puerto Rico, but it’s been almost a decade since my last visit. I have never been to Fajardo, which is the small city we would be staying at. It’s located where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet. We spent the afternoon having a pina colada and a snack and trying to get acclimated around El Conquistador, the large resort we were staying at.   
It was time to find a place to have dinner so it was a good thing that I struck up a conversation with an employee while riding up on the funicular from the beach to the hotel. We wanted local food so he suggested an offsite restaurant across the resort called La Estacion. Not only is the resort large, but it isn’t well lit so we would have to pay a driver $10 each way to take us. As my BFF always says “YOLO,” (You Only Live Once).  

The menu at La Estacion had a good variety of appetizers and entrees and meats and seafood. It seemed to specialize in BBQ, but not quite the same definition as what we are used to in the mainland. We had outdoor seating and we could smell the lovely scent of grillIng meats and seafood. After discussing the menu with my friend, we decided on ordering a few things. We would get the ceviche which is mahi mahi marinated in local citrus, onions, chilies, and fresh herbs. It came with arepa de coco, which is Puerto Rican bread with a hint of coconut flavor. The ceviche was fresh and delicious and a good match for the tasty fry bread.
My friend and I both like chicken wings so we ordered the Caribbean chicken wings. I think we were expecting something more like jerked chicken, but these were great. The chicken wings had a nice honey glaze with a subtle coconut flavor. It was paired with three sauces – tabasco-like, spicy passion fruit, and ranch. My favorite was the spicy ranch which was a mix and spicy and sweet.
I was eyeing the churrasco for an entree which is a sofrito marinated skirt steak, grilled with a guava BBQ sauce, and topped with a cilantro lime chimichurri. It came with a cole slaw and sweet corn bread. The meat was tender and flavorful. Every bite blew me away. This was also a generous portion so we were glad we only ordered one entree.
We were quite full but shared the tembleque for dessert. Tembleque is a coconut based dessert resembling a pudding topped with toasted coconut and a hint of chili flakes. We were able to scoop clean this light dessert.  
The meal at La Estacion was wonderful and it was just the first stop. I am looking forward to eating my way through Puerto Rico.  

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.

Petit Crenn: One for the Books

Women and girls all over the Country were disappointed this week that the highest and hardest glass ceiling did not break. In the restaurant industry, women are continuing to fight this battle. Just a few weeks ago, Michelin Stars were announced and some observations were made that Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn’s fine dining restaurant in San Francisco should have received three stars, the highest rating. Dominque would have been the first female chef to earn that accolade, but it did not happen and the restaurant remains with two stars.
My good friend from New York came to visit two weeks ago and took me out for a birthday meal. We thought about Atelier Crenn, but with a price tag of $298 per person, we opted for Dominque’s other restaurant Petit Crenn in Hayes Valley in San Francisco. The restaurant is focused on seafood and vegetables. The preparations were very French, but with a California freshness.  

The menu is a set menu that is served family style and here is what we had that evening:

Complimentary Gruyere gougeres with pickled onion gelee


Shigoku oyster and heirloom tomatoes.


Tartine of grilled mussels


Fluke, grilled squash, and gnocchi with mushrooms


Little gem salad


Poached pear galette


Mignardises


I appreciated that the food at Petit Crenn was delicious, innovative, and on the lighter side.  I was filled by the end. The presentation contributed to the overall experience that I will savor. The meal is one for the books. 
Women like Hillary and Dominique are indeed breaking glass ceilings, being role models, and fighting for equality. I found this Ted Talk with Dominque Crenn on her experience and how she measures success, and I continue to be inspired.

Great China: Celebrating the End of a Year

My friends invited me to their family Chinese New Year celebration on Friday to close out the lunar year. I was available to attend as my family was not celebrating until Sunday. I gladly accepted and was excited about dining at Great China in Berkeley as it was on my list to try. They have a reputation for serving one of the best Peking ducks around.
 
From reviewing the menu, I assessed that the majority of the cuisine was mostly from the Northern region of China. With a large menu to choose from, we narrowed it down to eleven dishes for our table of seven adults and two children.  
All in all, I thought the food was pretty good. There were definitely some highlights. Of course, we ordered the Peking duck. The kitchen delicately cuts the skin and meat from the bone and removes the fat before presenting it on a platter with thin pancakes, scallions, and plum sauce. It was light and lovely. 
 There were a few dishes we ordered that were new to me. One was called Double Skin which has mung bean noodles, carrots, cucumber, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, onions, mushroom, and pork. The waiter mixed everything together table side. It was a very interesting dish with loads of ingredients and flavors. I enjoyed Double Skin very much. 
 Ant Climbed the Tree is not the name of a story or poem, but a dish categorized as a seafood plate at Great China. It includes glass noodles (like the ones used in the Korean dish jaepchae), shrimp, green peppers, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. Even with its funny name, you can’t ignore its deliciousness.  

  
We ordered the potstickers for the kids, but I did try one. I thought it was plump, juicy, and one of the best I’ve ever had.  

  
One final dish I’ll highlight is the garlic fried rice. It was simple, but I absolutely loved the flavor and the perfect consistency of the rice.
  I really enjoyed about half the dishes and the rest were okay. I would return to Great China with a large party and probably order the items above and some additional new dishes to try.  

Soup du Jour: Vietnamese Style

I recently heard about Cafe Kim Thuy, a Vietnamese restaurant in East Oakland. What is different about Cafe Kim Thuy is that they specialize in one noodle soup each day of the week. I went on a Friday when they were serving Bun Cha Ca, a fish cake noodle soup popular in Da Nang. I had never had Bun Cha Ca so I was both wary and excited at the same time.  
When my noodle soup arrived, so did the fragrance. At this point, I was very excited. This Bun Cha Ca had five different types of fish. There was fish filet, fish balls, and three different homemade fish cakes which offered a great variety of textures. I especially enjoyed biting into one of the cone shaped fish cakes that oozed a sweet fish roe. The rice noodles were slippery and perfect, while the broth was amazing and flavorful.  The bowl was infused with various herbs and comforting to the soul. 

 I also had their fried chicken wings as a starter. It came with fried onion rings which tasted fake and unnecessary. The wings though were tasty dipped in sweet Thai chili sauce.  
 The soup alone has me interested in visiting on the other days of the week. Here’s their menu:

  • Monday: Bun Moe (Ground pork and mushroom noodle soup)
  • Tuesday: Bun Rieu (Crab paste noodle soup)
  • Wednesday: Bun Mam (Fermented fish noodle soup)
  • Thursday: Bun Bo Hue (Spicy beef noodle soup)
  • Friday: Bun Cha Ca (Fish cake noodle soup)
  • Saturday: Bo Kho (Curry noodle soup)
  • Sunday: Closed

I believe my next visit will be a Tuesday!