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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.

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Entries in Fusion (14)

Thursday
Jul302009

Bushi-Tei Bistro

My cousin Kim and his wife Adrienne (proud Kiwis and new residents of the South Bay) were up in the city tonight to catch a show at the Fillmore. Gomez, an English band, apparently has a hit single called The Theme Song from Grey's Anatomy or something close to that. (Note: Kim was a fan way before they sold out.) Anyway, it wasn't my cup of espresso, but I was still happy to join for a pre-show dinner nearby. We decided on Bushi-Tei Bistro, one of my dad's new Japantown staples.

Bushi-Tei Bistro is a casual offshoot of the fancier Bushi-Tei 2 blocks away. Opened earlier this year, the bistro offers a taste of chef Seiji Wakabayashi's French-Japanese-Californian fusion style in a cheaper, more accessible package. The main Bushi-Tei has received some acclaim, including 3 stars and a Rising Star Chef award for Chef Waka from the Chronicle. The bistro has gotten a less enthusiastic welcome (at least based on some mediocre Yelp reviews, and the relatively empty dining room). Still, I find it to be a reliable Japantown option that offers legitimate cooking at a pretty low price.

The menu is split into some appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, and entrees (with pictures!). You enter from just inside the mall, near Juban and Suzu. I guess the location is best described as "under" Over the Bridge (the restaurant). As this was a family affair, we naturally decided to share everything.

 

CRAB SALAD - crab meat tossed with shungiku "chrysanthemum leaf" -$9.80First up was this crab salad. The chrysanthemum leaf is popular in HK cuisine, but is basically always served cooked. Here, it lends a refreshing, slightly herbal tone. The amount of crab meat was generous.

 

CUCUMBER & GRAVLAX - home cured herb marinated salmon, cucumber spaghetti, crème fraiche - $9.80Here, crisp strings of cucumber are wrapped in cured salmon. The fish has a light flavor with a very pleasant, smooth texture.

 

GYOZA - pan-fried vegetable potstickers, tomatillo sauce - $9.80I swear, some things you will only find in San Francisco. I've never seen tomatillos paired with anything Asian at all, and it's used quite effectively here in place of a typical gyoza sauce. The flavor isn't too far off from the green tomatillo salsa you'd find in your local tacqueria, and the combination with gyoza is an interesting twist.

 

COCONUT OYSTER - fried coconut oysters, corn relish, curried tartar - $9.80Probably the best photo of the bunch, but the least succesful dish. While the oysters were nicely crisp, they were slightly dry on the inside. I don't recall any significant flavor contribution from the corn relish or the curry, and I would have had no idea that coconut was even involved.

 

SHRIMP CAKE - choppped shrimp & crispy vegetables, citrus beurre-blanc sauce - $9.80This one is a little tough to peg. I'd say it's best described as a cross between a Thai fish cake (tod mun) and a typical Western crab cake. The result is pretty tasty - it has the texture of tod mun with a shrimpy, buttery flavor.

 

CAPELLI D'ANGELO - angel hair pasta with tomato, garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil - $10.80No fusion involved here, but Bushi-Tei Bistro turns out some pretty good pastas. This capellini pomodoro has perfectly al dente noodles, a nice tomato flavor, and zero sogginess.

 

FETTUCCINE - flat thick pasta with mushroom, bolognaise chicken, and arugula - $10.80A tomato-less twist on your typical bolognese, this has Jap-Ital written all over it. Moist, flavorful ground chicken complements the fettuccine nicely. Kim says he liked this 15 times more than the other pasta. (To be fair, the rest of us thought both were good and pretty incomparable.)

 

SCALLOP - sauteed hotate scallops with kiwi vinaigrette - $16.80This one was a bit of a letdown. These "scallop scallops" were well-cooked and tender, but nothing spectacular. The kiwi vinaigrette gave it a bit of tang which I did not enjoy much. I've realized I'm not much of a kiwi fan in general (the fruit, not the people).

 

TONKATSU - breaded kurobuta pork cutlet - $16.80Bushi-Tei is very strong with pork items, and this tonkatsu is a perfect example. The meat is moist and very tender, and has just the right amount of fat. At the same time, the breading is fairly light and grease-free. They also have a sauteed pork loin dish that is very good.

Not pictured are a pair of desserts that were better than expected - a substantial, not-too-sweet cheesecake creatively paired with some sorbet and chantilly cream, and a nice crisp apple tart.

Bushi-Tei is also a great lunch option, as they offer a bunch of good rice and noodle dishes, including a great katsu-don and supposedly pretty good ramen. It is definitely on my short list of places to grab a bite if I need something in Japantown. Hopefully, business will pick up - the place has a decent number of seats, and I've never seen it more than 30% full. The food is solid, and let's be honest... the options in Japantown are pretty limited if you're not throwing down for Ino, Kappa, or Kiss.

Saturday
Aug132005

La Compagnie des Comptoirs

It was Monday, and our week of amazing eats was all set to begin. My dad's longtime friend Alain had something to do in Marseille, so he took the chance to meet us for lunch before he drove down. We decided to go check out Avignon for the day. Avignon is somewhat reknowned for its theater community, and it just so happened that a theater festival was taking place the week we were there. The walled city was quite crowded indeed, with huge groups of stage troupes and tourists alike, as well as fliers plastered on every imaginable surface for the countless plays being performed.

 

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We ended up eating at La Compagnie des Comptoirs, a beautiful restaurant tucked away to the side of the main road. It's a new place opened by the Pourcel brothers, chefs of Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (which we'd visit later in the trip). La Compagnie des Comptoirs is a semi-chain of restaurants, with I believe 5 or 6 locations around Europe. Their slogan is "pour découvrir autrement les saveurs des suds" which translates roughly to "to otherwise discover the savors of the south(s)." The concept seems to be a sort of fusion cuisine that combines Mediterranean flavors and ingredients with those from European colonies and other exotic places.

The branch in Avignon is very new, and it shows. A seemingly small building from the outside, the compound is quite big and very modern on the inside. As you walk in, you pass a trendy green-lit bar on your left, at which point you see the door to the interior courtyard, where all the lunch seatings are. The place is simply beautiful - quiet, serene, and bright. The menu is interesting, if a bit gimmicky. It's divided into categories of classic preparations and flavors influenced by Asia. So interestingly enough, this will be the only meal filed under "Fusion" from the trip. :)

pressed tuna brandade, romaine with parmesan, beets - 14 euros This sounded interesting, but it kinda ended up being a fancy tuna sandwich, and not the greatest one at that. The bread was a bit too chewy, and the salad was a bit overdressed.

braised jarret de beouf salad with mustard ice cream - 13 euros My dad's jarret de boeuf was more successful. It tasted kinda like a Chinese-style beef sausage. The mustard ice cream, which started melting a bit, became more like a cold mustard dressing.

calamari a la plancha, espagnole of vegetables, lemon confit vinaigrette - 24 euros Calamari two meals in a row may seem like much, but I wanted to check out how they did this non-fried calamari. I'm glad I went with this. This is was the first time I'd ever tried calamari in whole pieces like this. They were sliced halfway into rings. The squid was cooked very well - tender on the inside with some slight browning at the edges. There was a tad too much lemon vinaigrette, but it was fine as long as I didn't drench the squid in the sauce.

apricot tart with homemade vanilla ice cream and mojito shot - 11 euros This simple apricot tart was a special. We saw one going by to another table and it smelled and looked delicious, so a bunch of us ended up getting it. The tart was wonderful, with a nice, cakey texture and an intense apricot aroma and flavor. The ice cream was delicious too. The "mojito" was pretty gross though - it was like drinking sugar straight up.

berry tiramisu with pistachio They finished by throwing us this freebie of berry tiramisu topped with pistachio. I'm not really sure what made it a tiramisu exactly, but it was good. Light, creamy, and refreshing. While the food here wasn't up to par compared with what we'd be eating in the next few days (well, the prices weren't either), the restaurant itself is worth a visit for lunch. The dishes were a bit overcomplicated, but still pretty good, and sitting outside was a wonderful experience. Dinner at Oustau de Baumanière is up next - my first 2 star meal...

Thursday
Jul212005

The House

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So my mom and I were again looking for a place to eat dinner the other night. We decided on The House, a restaurant I pass by all the time while going to Mo's. I went to The House many many years ago, and more recently (but still a long time ago) I also tried the bigger but now closed House over in the Sunset. I'd say that the original House on Grant was one of the earlier fusion restaurants - they started doing it way in the beginning, back when Oritalia was on Fillmore I think. Years later, I still remember House's delicious garlic noodles. The restaurant hasn't changed at all from what I can tell. The dining room is clean, simple and modern, not to mention rather small. We got a table near the window with a good amount of natural light still coming in.

blue lake bean tempura with pickled ginger soy - $7.5 My mom was all over this dish - bean tempura is one of her favorite dishes, I think. The beans here were big, crisp, and meaty. They were maybe a touch greasy, but that's really nitpicking.

deep-fried chicken liver with baby greens - $8 This sounded better than it tasted. For some reason, I sort of half-expected an overbattered mess, which luckily these livers were not. They were tasty with that familiar livery texture, but not mindblowing. The accompanying salad was just okay.

vegetarian wasabi house noodles with tofu, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, I forget what else... - $? So the garlic noodles I remember have now become wasabi house noodles, which are usually served with something else - on the night we went, it was flatiron steak (listed at $17; I'm sure our vegetarian one was less). The waiter told us making a vegetarian version would be no problem, so my mom opted for this. Now I'll be honest: I didn't really taste any wasabi in these noodles. That didn't matter though, because these noodles were awesome, and they could have called it whatever they wanted and I'd still have eaten them. These noodles just had a wonderful texture and substance to them that made them slightly chewy and delicious. I'll definitely order this with the steak next time...

grilled ahi tuna (rare) with spicy mustard aioli - $21 Lucky for me, my mom's noodles didn't win the dinner. My ahi tuna totally stole the show, considering we went in expecting great noodles. As you can see, the menu description totally does not do this dish justice. Other than mustard aioli, the tuna was surrounded by rings of two more flavors - some chili oil, and also some kind of lemon-infused oil. The mixture of the aioli, the chili, and the citrus, PLUS the roe, created a delicious dressing for the tuna (which itself was moist, nicely seasoned and cooked just right). Combined with rice, this was almost like eating a really good maki. The simple spinach and fried vermicelli were just icing on the cake. I wiped this plate completely clean, as did the guy eating next to us who ordered the same thing.

apple crumb pie a la mode - $7.5 We asked the waiter to suggest a dessert, and he said the apple crumb pie was the best hands down. It was very good indeed, piping hot and very crumby, with a good ratio of apple to crust. It's good to see The House still doing well after so long. I'll definitely be back.
Tuesday
Dec142004

Fusion

Don't worry guys, I'm just fine. I had 2 research papers due yesterday so I was kinda out of commission. Anyway, earlier in the semester Dave brought me to Fusion (his parents' restaurant) again. They were having a wine pairing event (I didn't drink any of the wine) and we got to tag along. I was impressed on my last visit to Fusion. Nice place, especially considering it's middle-of-nowhereness in East Longmeadow.

petite risotto croquette, asiago-roasted pepper salsa, toasted pignoli

tuna wontons, tossed with chinese mustard sauce & chili oil

plantain crusted scallops on potato gaufrettes with a mango-guava champagne butter Everything was coming out as a set menu for everyone there. Since we were with the owners, we could get unlimited seconds of anything, which was a... bonus. The risotto croquette for example wasn't that big of a serving for everyone else. We kinda just got a plate of them and shared it. Pretty good - texture was a bit on the cakey side. Maybe the risotto was undercooked slightly. The tuna wontons were great, and addictive. Rare tuna on the inside, with a slightly tangy sauce. We got a few extra plates of this stuff. The scallops were pretty good, but I found the sauce a bit too sweet. I like their regular menu scallops better.

roasted duck breast and syrah poached pear, cherry brioche french toast, sangria glaze

goat cheese crusted lamb lolli-pops, nicoise olive tapenade, chartreuse demi glace

chocolate bread pudding martini, vanilla stoli and godiva white chocolate drizzle The duck was the worst dish of the lot... dry and overcooked. The brioche was also dry and a little tasteless. The lamb was MUCH better. Very juicy, and the goat cheese was not overwhelming. It blended well with the gamey flavor. The bread pudding was delicious. I literally ate that thing in like a minute. Hot, doughy, and simple... no extraneous ingredients - just chocolate and vanilla. Mmmm I want more. I think the food along with a wine pairing for each course was $60 or $70, but I'm not sure. Definitely a good deal for everything you get. A couple of the items I'd surely go back for - the wontons and the bread pudding. Of course, it's even better for free... Thanks Dave's parents. :)
Saturday
Dec042004

Cortez

Finally, my last set of photos from San Francisco! Cortez is the new small plates restaurant (the small plates thing sure is really really huge now) from the great people at Bay Bread. I really hope that Bay Bread doesn't get too big for its own good - I'd hate to see the quality decline. I like a lot of their places, such as Chez Nous and even more importantly Galette. Let's hope they can keep up their success. Val was in SF for as a stopover between Taiwan and Boston, so she joined my mom, Keith, and myself for dinner. Cortez came strongly recommended by Auntie Raphaela. The restaurant has a nice, modern and decidedly hip decor (though it doesn't come close to Frisson). I actually recognized that they were playing Thievery Corporation as we sat down, giving the place a cool loungey feel.

"today's crudo" - marinated hamachi

warm summer salad of sweet corn raviolinis, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas & herbed zucchini pur�e - $9

fries with harissa & zaatar spiced aioli - $6 A solid set of appetizers. There are a lot of interesting sounding things on the menu, so it was hard to choose. The hamachi was good - fish was high quality, though nothing special compared to a good sushi joint. It did have a markedly different taste than what you'd expect eating sashimi thanks to the aioli dressing/marinade on it, so it had its own unique twist. The raviolinis were excellent - every ingredient was fresh and bursting with flavor. The peas were particularly crisp and refreshing. Everyone (my mom especially) loved this one. The fries were very good, and are definitely inspired by (probably copied from) the fries over at Chez Nous. The harissa aioli (which they also use at Chez Nous) was the better of the two sauces.

slow baked wild salmon with manila clams, roasted chiodini mushrooms & garlic clam foam - $14

prawns a la plancha with basque pimentos, lemon garlic butter & creamy crab rice - $11

slow cooked chicken breast with gnocchi & chanterell ragu, parsnip pur�e & creamed scallions - $14 Again, good stuff overall. I liked that the salmon was cooked quite rare, giving it a smooth and fatty texture. I think the dish overdoes it a little though on the clams, and the two different flavors end up clashing a bit. The prawns were huge and meaty - a real plus in my book, and matched well with the lemony sauce. The crab rice tasted good, but was slightly too al dente for my taste. The chicken with gnocchi was the class of this group. The chicken was unbelievably tender (it's all breast meat!) and the gnocchi were the perfect starchy complement. Although, I'd have been happy eating either just the chicken or the gnocchi too - both parts of this dish would be strong enough to stand on their own. Really a great combination.

chocolate ginger milkshake shots - $4 for 2

sugar & spice beignets, vahlrona chocolate fondue - $9 The milkshake shots were hard to resist. They're literally shot glasses (okay, maybe double shots), and the flavor changes every day. It's gimmicky, no doubt about it, but fun I guess. I think I would have liked them better if they were just chocolate... I guess I'm a purist like that. The beignets were good but not as good as Piperade's. In retrospect it was a mistake ordering two "spicy" desserts. I've realized I don't really like ginger and whatnot in desserts very much. Overall, I enjoyed the meal. The raviolinis and the chicken were very memorable, and there's a lot of other stuff I want to try on the menu. Not to mention it was my last meal in SF before another long Boston semester...