Categotry Archives: restaurants

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Chez Panisse

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San Francisco Bay Area is the birthplace of “California cuisine,” a style of cuisine emphasizing on high-quality locally-grown organic sustainable ingredients. The cuisine tends to be light and is considered healthy as it mainly features abundant fresh fruits and vegetables. If you visit the Bay Area and plan to visit a place where California cuisine began, Chez Panisse will be a good choice. The founder of the restaurant, Alice Waters, is a famous American chef and is one of the pioneers of the concept of California cuisine. The restaurant creates best meals possible from French recipes and also from only the freshest and finest ingredients available from local Californian farmers.

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Located only a few blocks away from the campus of University of California at Berkeley, California, the restaurant consistently ranks among the best in the world. The Café is upstairs and has a la carte meals such as pastas and pizzas. The Café has a casual ambience with an open kitchen, grill and wood-burning oven. The Restaurant is downstairs and offers a fixed dinner menu that consists of 3-4 courses. The menu changes daily depending on the availability of the locally-sourced fresh ingredients that mostly are seasonal. Reservations are essential since the restaurant’s size is small. I would recommend a casually elegant dress code for the restaurant.

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We had a dinner at Chez Panisse Restaurant (downstairs) together with our daughter. Children are allowed as long as they don’t disturb other restaurant guests. The service was good, as expected. After every plate, the server came to refill our water glasses, replace our utensils with new ones, and provide warm bread and butter for our enjoyment between plates. I had to restrain myself from eating too much bread because it was so delicious.

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The weekend dinner menus are slightly different from the weekday ones, both in terms of the food and the price. We went there on a weekday evening, so the menu was a bit less expensive and also less elaborate. Our dinner started with a very fresh salad appetizer: Sheep’s milk ricotta and roasted fennel salad with house-cured coppa.

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We came there at the right timing. That night, they served black cod fish and quail for main entrées. We both really love those ingredients. First entrée: Pan-fried Bolinas black cod with wild nettles and artichoke caponata. The grilled fish was fabulous. It’s cooked just perfectly (not overcooked). The fish was delicately tender, moist, and buttery smooth.

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Second entrée: Wolfe Ranch quail with grilled potatoes and radicchio, wild mushrooms, and pounded sage. The quail was nicely roasted with seasoned crispy skin. It was astonishingly tender and juicy. Very delicious! The served vegetables were a perfect combination and cooked into perfection.

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Dessert: Crepes Suzette. It was light and not too sugary. The crepes was just okay for me, perhaps because I’m not a big fan of orange/tangerine that was used for the sauce.

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Our dinner was concluded with a cup of hot tea and a complimentary plate of petite fours, containing chocolate-covered nuts and lemon cookies. They tasted good, though not too special.

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I highly recommend this place. Our overall dinner at Chez Panisse was great. One downside is that the place is small, so packed that we could clearly hear next table’s conversation. Every dish was simple and elegant. Undoubtedly, the freshness of the used ingredients was outstanding. The highlight of our dinner was the quail. Best fresh ingredients prepared by experienced chefs really make a huge difference!

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-5525

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Le Bernardin

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Le Bernardine

The intention of this blog is for describing our LAST fine dining experience at Le Bernardin when we still lived in NYC. Yes, it IS true that we moved from NYC to San Francisco Bay Area last month. Moving was not easy for us since we had a toddler that needed constant attention. We spent about two months for packing, finding a new apartment, moving to the new place, and unpacking. Even till now, we are still not completely settled down yet. Due to this reason, I can have an excuse for the long time of no new postings. :-)

Le Bernardine

To make a reservation at Le Bernardin was not easy. I fruitlessly tried couple times before. Since I knew I had to move to California soon, I made the reservation early ahead of time.  We got a very early dinner which worked very well with our schedule and my lil S’ bed time. Thanks to our best friend M and her family, who babysitted S during that evening. Without her help, our dinner plan would not be as memorable as it was.

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For amuse bouche, we had cold crab meat with crispy wonton paper. It was light, cold and refreshing, simply a perfect way to start a meal.

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First course, layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna served on top of  foie gras and toasted baguette, topped with shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil. This course was my favorite. It was truly outstanding. I don’t eat raw fish often, but I couldn’t pass on this dish. The combination of rich and creamy foie gras, fresh paper-thin tuna, and the crispiness of the toasted baguette created a very complex but wonderful flavor. Bravo, Eric Ripert! What an incredible dish!

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Second course, peekytoe crab salad, spiced mango sauce and daikon nage. The fresh crab and the mango sauce gave a nice compliment to each other. A subtle yet very exciting dish.

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Third course, pan roasted monkfish, sea bean, white asparagus, in a light bearnaise scented broth. First, taragon puree was poured alongside the fish, and then the broth was poured over the dish. Then, another waiter came drizzling a hollandaise sauce on it. The fish was cooked in perfection, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The béarnaise scented broth added a nice flavor to the monkfish.

Le BernardineFourth course, baked wild striped bass, baby carrot, herb salad, miso-butter sauce. The tasty miso-butter sauce gave a nice pungency to the fresh baked striped bass. However, I would rather pick a different fish other than a wild striped bass.

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Fifth course, bread crusted red snapper, saffron, smoked sweet paprika sauce. I loved the crunchiness of the skin. The fish was cooked very well. And the saffron gave a nice touch to the pasta. The sauce was very bold. Well, I am not a paprika lover.

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Sixth course, Greek yogurt pannacota served with strawberry rhubarb and basil. It is a bite-sized dessert you will love. It has a little flavor of everything. It was light and very thirst-quenching.  I really wished I had more. :-)

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Seventh course, maralumi milk chocolate parfait topped with liquid apricot and ginger caramel. This second dessert was a bit heavier compared to the first one. The combination of the acidity in liquid apricot flavor and the sweetness in the chocolate parfait paired perfectly.

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And I am lucky to get next dessert, passion fruit parfait over graham cracker crust and white chocolate. I think this is what everybody will get when they celebrate their birthdays here.

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Petite four to conclude our meal. The mini pistachio macaron was my favorite. We very much enjoyed the dinner. It was our first “seafood” tasting menu and the food exceeded our expectation. I will definitely go back again to Le Bernardin next time. Kudos to chef Eric Ripert.

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Quote from Eric Ripert: “Cooking is a holistic process of planning, preparing, dining and sharing food. I place food at the center of our humanity, as it nourishes not only our physical bodies but also our emotional and spiritual lives. Food is truly a cultural phenomenon that informs our traditions and our relationship with the earth. I genuinely believe that food connects us all.”

Le Benardin
155 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

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Kafe Batan Waru, Bali

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Ubud, Bali, has an incredible variety of places to eat. It is fascinating to uncover local Indonesian cuisines in Ubud. One of Ubud’s most popular Indonesian restaurants is Kafe Batan Waru. We heard so many good reviews about Batan Waru. So, we decided to have a dinner there.

The restaurant opens until midnight. Because I had to take care of my precious S until she was asleep, Batan Waru was an excellent choice for us for a late dinner. The place is cozy and atmospheric at night, decorated with artistic paintings and ornaments. The entrance is lit with candles. The modern Balinese dining area has a very inviting and relaxing ambiance. Simply a great place to eat, drink and chat the night away.

Yun’s favorite: Ayam panggang rica rica and A’s favorite: Ayam rica rica

Tum Ayam, variety of chili and red rice

Ayam panggang Bali

The ambitious menu has many selections of traditional dishes. A very much likes their Ayam Rica Rica, which is claimed to be Batan Waru’s favorite. It is grilled boneless chicken shimmered in Manadonese chili, shiitake mushroom and coconut milk sauce. I looove their special menu of the day, Ayam Panggang Rica Rica. It is similar to what A had, but with half grilled chicken and then served with coconut milk, mixed with herbs on top of the chicken.  I came back again to Batan Waru later that month to order the same dish. Unfortunately, it was no longer on their menu.

Kafe Batan Waru
Dewi Sita Street
Ubud, Bali

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Mozaic, Bali

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A and I finally got the chance to go to Mozaic Restaurant in Ubud, Bali for a nice fine dining. Yay! In our recent trip to Bali, we stayed at a nearby villa at Ubud, and Shiori’s nanny joined our trip as well. So, we took advantage of this situation to celebrate our sixth anniversary privately.

Clockwise from top left: dining room, Gougeres, table setting at the dining room, lounge area

Chris Salan, the owner and chef at Mozaic, previously worked as a head chef at Thomas Keller’s French Bistro Restaurant at Napa Valley, California before he decided to return to Indonesia, where his wife originally comes from. Now he has developed his own cuisine style. He creates a cuisine with a perfect balance between Indonesian flavors using western cooking techniques. His commitment to use local produce and fresh ingredients brings Mozaic into one of the world’s famous restaurants. Mozaic is included in the list of the 100 best restaurants in the world in the 2009 San Pellegrino Guide and is recognized as one of the top 10 best restaurant in Asia in the 2009 Miele Guide.

Clockwise from top left: table setting, dim light of our table, Mozaic’s garden

As we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated in the lounge area and served with their amuse bouche, gougeres stuffed with black truffle cream. After a few minutes of waiting, they brought us into a walkway that leads to a beautiful garden with a unique setting and elegance touched. We were very fortunate at that time to have a nice weather so that we could experience a dinner in the restaurant’s outdoor garden. I personally loved the ambiance and the garden setting dinner. We must say that it was the most romantic garden dinner experience we’ve ever had. Happy 6th anniversary, my dear A! Thanks for giving me eighteen years full of love, laugh and happiness since our first date.

We decided to order two different menus so that we could explore the different types of food Chef Salan created. A decided to have the Discovery Menu, focusing on fresh seasonal Indonesia ingredients and flavors prepared with western cooking techniques of preparation and presentation. While I had the Surprise Menu, consisting of six surprise dishes composed of only the finest, rarest and the most precious ingredients available.

The traditional Indonesian spices used for the Discovery Menu: (clockwise from top left) mango; lemongrass; ginger, turmeric and galangal; fresh bread; kluwek and lime

Pictures of the various dishes that A and I had are included below.

Y: Crab meat with avocado, orange, mustard and cream
A: Fresh king prawn tartare, basa gede creme fraiche and bumbu kuning emulsion

Y: Oyster with seaweed
A: Mixed of tropical flavors served with ice cream

Y: Soft shell crab, sea bream, scallops served with black truffle foam and crispy tempeh
A: Confied seabass fillet, curry meuniere, eggplant caviar, cardamom reduction and fresh curry leaf

Y: Foie gras with tart apple sorbet, sesame foam, and hot and sour sauce
A: Balinese spiced rabbit tortellini in a broth of kluwek nut, oyster mushroom and fresh galangal

Y: Pigeon with pea sauce, parmesan foam and asparagus served under chives sauce
A: Low temperature milk fed veal loin, kaffir lime dressing and spiced almond fennel salad

Y: Ginger flower sorbet served with fresh strawberry and strawberry soup
A: Mango gelato, mango salad, olive powder and green basil

Y: White chocolate mouse with orange rosemary served with black olive sorbet and black olive marmalade
A: Seasonal apples baked in a caramelized phyllo, ras-el-hanout gelle and chili lemongrass ice cream

Petite four for two: Truffle chocolates

This time I won’t talk about details of each food. I will let the pictures tell the story and also let your imagination run wild. Hehe. Hopefully, this can attract you to also go there to experience a nice dinner at Mozaic. Please do let me know if you do that!

The Discovery Menu really surprised me. I love what A had, especially the Balinese spiced rabbit tortellini in a broth of kluwek nut. Wow! It blew me away. The kluwek flavor gave a slight taste that works perfectly with tortellini. It was something that never crossed my mind to mix pasta with traditional Indonesian spices such as kluwek.

We also loved their warm bread rolls, especially the seaweed and green tea rolls, which were served with salted butter. If we were not about to have six course dishes, we would probably eat more bread that evening.

At the end of the meal, both of us agreed that the Mozaic dinner was truly a nice anniversary celebration for us. The food met our expectations. The ambiance was remarkable. The garden was an outstanding place to celebrate our special moment.

MOZAIC
Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, Gianyar — Bali
Indonesia

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My Food Journey in Manado

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Early this month, A and I visited Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi province, mainly for its world famous diving. Manado’s local food, also known as Minahasan food, was also an interest to us. Manadonese food is very famous throughout Indonesia for two things. First, the flavor of choice is very, very hot and spicy. People in Manado will likely not go for a strike when fuel costs increase, but it is very unlikely for them to stay quiet when chili prices increase. Second, Minahasan people eat absolutely anything with legs, except tables and chairs for sure. Exotic meat choices include dogs, fruit bats, forest rats, cats, snakes. So, be prepared with what you’ll see in a Minahasan restaurant, or for more bizarre sights, in a butcher section at a Minahasan market.

Because of the distant location of our hotel from Manado city, we came down to the city only twice. So, due to the very limited time we got, we sadly must narrow down the list of food we wanted to explore in Manado.

Not long ago, my mom and I talked about different kinds of Soto, a traditional Indonesian soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables. Beef soto and chicken soto are omnipresent in various regions in Muslim-majority Indonesia, but we had never found pork soto. Since the majority of the inhabitants of North Sulawesi are Christians, alcohol and pork are often used in Manadonese cuisine. We unexpectedly found restaurants offering Soto Rusuk on the day we arrived at Manado, which is equivalent to pork soto made from pork ribs. Ahaa! Finally, we found pork soto! We went to Soto Rusuk Ko Petrus, which is famous in Manado, for our late lunch. The taste of the pork soto was beyond our expectation. The soup is very savory and the meat is so tender. If you want extra soup, they can refill it for you for free.

We picked fresh seafood for our first dinner at Manado. There are many seafood restaurants along the Kalasey beach, just south of Manado city. Our friends gave us two restaurant recommendations: City Extra and Ria Rio. We opted for City Extra. Our taxi driver told us that City Extra is popular among government officials. With its location by the beach, the seafood is very fresh, and I am a big fan of fresh seafood. We ordered Grilled Gala Shrimp and Grilled Spicy Grouper. Both were served fresh and very flavorful. The fish was covered with chili paste, reminding me of my mom who is crazy about hot spicy food. In addition to the two main dishes, Sambal Dabu-Dabu, which is a mixture of shallots, tomatoes, limes and various kinds of chilies, was also given as a dipping hot sauce. It was ultra hot.

One general rule of thumb for diving is no flying for at least 12 hours (or 24 hours to be safe) after diving. Consequently, we got one full day to revisit Manado city, to continue our food journey. Our plan was first to go to Wakeke to eat the famous Bubur Tinutuan, but we changed direction. One the way to Wakeke, we were chatting about Minahasan food with our taxi driver, and he said that he knew one restaurant popular for its Ragey (pork satay), which is another popular Minahasan dish. I of course said, “Yes, please bring us there.” Based on the information provided by the driver, the Ragey is good only when it is fresh from the grill. And yes, we were fortunate that, when we arrived at the restaurant, they were still grilling their famous Ragey. I thanked him for taking us to this restaurant, Kios Natasya. The restaurant was packed with local people. Perhaps, we’re the only tourists in the restaurant at that time. The Ragey was really really good. I will definitely return to this restaurant in my next visit to Manado.

The next dish was Bubur Tinutuan. There are many restaurants serving Bubur Tinutuan on the touristy Wakeke Road. Our restaurant of choice was Dego-Dego. In addition to Bubur Tinutuan, Perkedel Ikan Nike (fritter made from tiny fish indigenous to Lake Tondano, called Nike) and Perkedel Jagung (corn fritter) are also their specialties. For me, the taste of Bubur Tinutuan, which is a mixture of rice, yam, pumpkin, vegetables and some spices, was a little odd. Both of us did not really like it. I like the corn fritter very much, and it would taste even better if it was served hot. The fish fritter was very good and we ordered three portions of it. We also ordered Fried Banana, which tasted okay, not very special for Indonesians like us. It was surprising to us to see Manadonese people eating fried bananas with chili paste. Wow! They eat almost anything with chilies, even for fried sweet banana.

Then we ate “es kacang” for dessert at Es Miangas. A and I had different orders. Mine was red beans on ice, whereas A’s was a mix of fruits and red beans on ice. The iced red beans are an all time favorite dish of that restaurant. It was good and absolutely a perfect dessert for red bean lovers.

Our last meal in Manado was seafood at Ria Rio, very close to City Extra, also located along the Kalasey beach. The meal was very interesting. We ordered a 2-kg coconut crab cooked in black pepper sauce. Coconut crab is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, with a taste very similar to lobster and crab meat. Eating a 2 kg of coconut crab is a lot of food. We also ordered a whole Garoupa fish (grouper) cooked in Woku Belanga style, which refers to being cooked inside a pot enriched with various spices such as lemon basil, turmeric leaf, lemon grass, tomato, chili pepper, and lemon. The fish was tasty but blazingly spicy. It was so good that A finished everything in the bowl, including the hot sauce, even though it tasted too spicy for him. He didn’t want to waste anything. Then he got a stomachache the next day. Haha… funny. Our last dinner at Ria Rio gave us a gratifying ending to our trip to Manado.

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