Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kingdom of Dumpling in San Francisco

Soup Dumplings to Beat the Cold and Rain
1713 Taraval St. (between 27th and 28th Avenues), San Francisco
Outer Sunset neighborhood
PH: 415.566.6143
Open Tues. to Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; closed Monday
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

When I visited the relatively new Dumpling Kitchen a few weeks ago in my continuing search for good Shanghai soup dumplings, I mentioned the more widely known Kingdom of Dumpling was just up the street on Taraval.

My friend Kim, who's a vegetarian, commented on the post about vegetarian soup dumplings, and that got me curious about whether such a thing existed. We noticed a vegetarian dumpling on the menu for Kingdom of Dumpling, so we made plans to check it out one rainy and cold weekend (we've been having a lot of that lately in the Bay Area).

The rain meant there probably wouldn't be the typical crowds hanging out outside the restaurant, which actually has a very non-descript entrance. Even the sign looks a little tired, and even more gray in the rain.

Still, we arrived just as the restaurant opened and got one of the tiny two-tops near the entrance. This place is so small it would qualify as a dive if it wasn't so well-known and thoroughly written up by various publications. Kim and I studied the menu, looking for the vegetarian options. (I still knew I would try the Shanghai soup dumplings, aka xiao lung bao, made typically of pork and filled with actual soup.) Kim is a vegetarian, mostly because she doesn't like the flavor of meats.

I recommended the Green Chives Pancakes ($5.95) because I love the aroma of chives. Kim and I discussed why not more Western dishes incorporated chives other than in baked potatoes because I love chives. The pancakes actually came out differently than what I recalled growing up because I remember them more flat and filled more with chives-infused dough. But instead Kingdom of Dumplings version looked like filled pita breads.

Still, these were incredibly fresh and tasty, although a bit difficult to eat without making a mess. These were actually two pancakes cut in half, so the whole order looked like a lot. I appreciated how the kitchen sends out the orders once it's done because these pancakes were piping hot.

So Kim and I discussed getting the vegetarian dumplings, which aren't a vegetarian version of Shanghai soup dumplings because we learned there's only one way to make xiao lung baos and they can't make it vegetarian. I suggested the vegetarian dumplings, but Kim noticed the Shrimp Dumplings with Green Chives ($6.95) and wanted to try that instead.

These dumplings, which don't have the soup in them, came as a dozen all squished onto a tiny platter. They're not the prettiest, but they were very hearty. The shrimp inside was fresh and a nice bite-size compared to some places where you're searching for the shrimp. And of course, we both love chives so didn't mind them in these dumplings.

Finally, the main event, the Shanghai Soup Dumplings ($4.95). This one order comes with just six in the bamboo steamer, which was fine since I was primarily eating this. Kim did try a couple because she wanted to experience the idea of soup in a dumpling, I'll get to her reaction in a bit.

As for me, I enjoyed them. Kim asked how they compared with Dumpling Kitchen, whose xiao lung bao were so delicious they're still on my mind. But after trying Kingdom of Dumpling, it's difficult to compare because they're quite different than Dumpling Kitchen's version. It's like when people ask me if San Francisco is better than New York to live, and having lived in both cities, I always say each city is good for its own reasons.

Kingdom of Dumpling's xiao lung bao aren't as pretty as Dumpling Kitchen's, but the skin is a nice thin texture and the soup is tasty with a lot of depth. Dumpling Kitchen's soup was more herbal and aromatic, while Kingdom of Dumpling's version is more rich. One thing's for sure, these dumplings are amazing for the cold weather.

Kim, on the other hand, thought the soup dumplings filled with pork tasted like bratwurst. Keep in mind, Kim's from the Midwest. She said the pork had a sharp taste that reminded her of bratwurst, but I told her I thought the sharp flavor she tasted may be the slight vinegar flavor in the soup. It's kind of hard to tell when you each everything all in one bite.

There's actually a lot to eat for a vegetarian, if you think about how we ordered the chives pancakes, could have ordered the vegetarian dumplings and ordered a tray of this Garlic String Beans ($6.95). The beans were vibrant green and looked like it was stir-fried in a kind of bean paste. The actual beans weren't crunchy, but they had a lot of flavor.

We had a lot to eat and left very satisfied, especially since for lunch we had a lot of food for a reasonable price. Despite the rain outside, people kept coming looking for a table. While Dumpling Kitchen down the street has a larger menu and bigger space, I can see why people keep coming to the tiny Kingdom of Dumpling. It's freshly made dishes and satisfying soup dumplings will make you leave feeling filled and warmed.

Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (fresh from the kitchen)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Kingdom of Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fro-Yo Rankings: The Loving Cup in San Francisco

With the recent cold snap we've been having around the Bay Area, it's probably hard to read about frozen yogurt. But that's the thing about living here. The micro-climates just keep a changin'.

Last weekend it was warm enough to explore the neighborhoods and get some fro-yo. I have to thank reader Missee, who commented recently in my post about Fraiche to say I should try this place called The Loving Cup in the city.

I'd never heard of the Loving Cup, but mostly because I think it's more known for its rice pudding, and because it's in the Russian Hill/Polk Gulch neighborhood, which I rarely venture out to because I'm not an antiques freak. ;-)

Walking in, it has the feel of an old-time candy store, and you see the display case filled with large bowls of rice pudding of an assortment of flavors. (Who knew you could make so many flavors for rice pudding.) Actually, gourmet rice pudding was a hot thing for awhile a couple of years ago. But I wasn't here for the rice pudding (and I couldn't imagine getting both pudding and yogurt), so I turned my attention to the frozen yogurt.

Loving Cup helps you with the ordering by organizing the steps and the ingredients. You start with the base (vanilla or chocolate) and then start adding on, with fruits (usually frozen during this time of year) and the typical assortment of toppings using cookies, crackers, nuts, grains, and candy.

I picked a vanilla froyo and asked for blueberries and raspberry. What I didn't realize was that Loving Cup blends the fruit into the yogurt, so each cup is "lovingly" made to your order creating a new yogurt flavor. I didn't realize this because then I wouldn't have mixed those two fruits together. I just thought the blue and the red would look pretty as toppings against a white vanilla yogurt. So that's how I ended up with the cup that looks like the above, and old bubble gum looking frozen yogurt. This is the medium size.

I gave my fro-yo a try, and right off the taste was not the slightly tart fro-yo of recent craze. Too bad because I'm more partial to the partly tart fro-yo because then you know you're eating a flavor. This one tasted almost bland, and with the combination of the fruits, I think it created this odd almost bubble gum texture. The fro-yo was thick, but I wouldn't say creamy. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I wasn't a fan.

Loving Cup seems like a fun idea, and I saw people coming in and instead of mixing in fruits getting chocolate ganache dripped on top, and that's probably more a favorite that creating your own fruit flavor. Maybe next time I might go for the rice pudding.

Single Guy’s Fro-yo Rankings:

1. Red Mango, Palo Alto
2. Pinkberry, Southern California and San Jose
3. Fraiche, Palo Alto and San Francisco
4. Mr. Green Bubble, Oakland
5. Tuttimelon, San Francisco
6. YoCup, San Francisco
7. Icebee, San Francisco
8. Yoppi, San Francisco
9. Jubili, San Francisco
10. Tutti Frutti, Oakland
11. SoGreen, San Francisco
12. Yogurt Harmony, Berkeley
13. Creations, Berkeley
14. Cultivé Frozen Yogurt, San Francisco
15. The Loving Cup, San Francisco
16. Yogen Früz, San Francisco

The Loving Cup, 2356 Polk St., San Francisco. PH: 415.440.6900.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Food Podcasts to Go

I was probably one of the few people around who didn't have the ubiquitous white earpods coming out of my ears, listening to music. That's because I never owned an iPod. My feeling was, hey, I already have enough to carry, what with my cellphone and camera (you know I got to shoot those pictures) and sometimes my sunglasses. I couldn't imagine carrying a music player, too.

Then Apple came out with the iPhone and that would have solved the whole issue of carrying my cellphone and a music player (and in some cases my camera), but I had a Verizon cellphone and didn't want to make the switch to AT&T. So you know what happened last month, right? After years of rumors and anticipation, Verizon finally was allowed to sell the iPhone and I ordered mine right away.

Now I love my iPhone, especially since my Web surfing is much faster than on my previous Blackberry. But more importantly, I now can play my music from my iTunes and I've started watching podcasts.

I'm a real visual guy, so I don't just download podcasts to listen to. I'm looking only for video podcasts, where I can actually watch something as I wait for the bus or BART. So I've been hunting down food podcasts, in particular. I haven't seen a whole lot, but here are some of my favorites. (You can search these titles in iTunes under podcasts.)

1. Epicurious: Food and Drink. A food media institution, Epicurious offers up fundamental "how-to" video podcasts. Even though these podcasts are four years old, and they're not offering up new ones, the information is still relevant. Learn the basics about how to temper chocolate or make creme anglais. Don't know what's "creme anglais?" Then download the podcast.

2. Jamie's Ministry of Food Recipes. You know one person I search for by name is Jamie Oliver, and sure enough he offers a whole slew of cooking demo under this series name. Even though this series is from 2008 and it doesn't look like he's producing any new ones, there's enough in his archives to keep you busy watching for awhile. Plus, this is the Naked Chef, so come on, you can be sure to be entertained by his style and food knowledge. And really, because podcasts are often less than 10 minutes, he sticks to the cooking and does less shtick. (Not that I ever minded Oliver's shtick.)

3. Market Kitchen Recipes from the Good Food Channel. I admit I have a thing for the English accent (um, didn't you just read my post about Jamie Oliver?), so I was excited to discover this collection of video podcasts created by this British food channel. And not only are these cooking demos interesting to watch, there are tons to download, more than three years worth of viewing. So I'm going through them for awhile. A variety of British chefs buy ingredients at the popular farmers market called Borough Market and cook right at the market outside. This is a well produced series with some interesting recipes.

4. Simply Ming. Chef Ming Tsai's "Simply Ming" TV series is always educational to watch. But when I did a search under his name, just this one episode is offered up as a video podcast. It's pretty much a TV episode turned into a podcast. But it's still entertaining to watch Chef Ming on location in Beijing.

5. What's This Food? This is a new video podcast featuring Daniel Delaney, who's a young entrepreneur who has created several interesting Web-based food programming through Now he's started this podcast where he talks about a particular food ingredient, most times unusual or something you might not be familiar with, and then he shares a quick recipe using that ingredient. Like with all his video productions, Delaney's "What's This Food?" is pretty slick, and Delaney has that quirky personality (with the accompanying spikey hair) to keep it entertaining.

So do you watch any particular video podcast? Got any recommendations for me to download?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Southie Sandwich Shop in Oakland

Restaurant-Quality Sammies
6311 College Ave., Oakland
Rockridge neighborhood
PH: 510.654.0100
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

The people behind the popular Rockridge restaurant Wood Tavern is tapping into the casual dining trend, opening about two weeks ago an upscale sandwich shop right next door.

Southie isn’t your typical sammie shop where you place an order and wait for your name to be called. Instead, it’s pretty much a sit-down restaurant with seating and servers, but with a more casual vibe. There are lots of two-seaters around the edge of the spot and a marble bar around the sandwich counter.

I visited yesterday on the President’s Day holiday, looking for some lunch. The place was quiet when I arrived around 11:30 a.m., but curious passers-by checking out the new spot eventually filled the place.

The menu changes daily, and on this day there was one soup option, five sandwiches (including a vegetarian option made of marinated beets and fennel) and three salads. Southie also offers a small selection of wine and beer.

In its early stage, Southie seems to have created a lot of buzz for its pulled pork sandwich, called the Pulled Piggie ($9) and its Dungeness Crab Roll (sold for a whopping $18), and both seem to be on the menu on a regular basis. One thing that’s not on the menu is Wood Tavern’s popular pastrami sandwich, which stays with the mothership only (Wood Tavern is also open for lunch on most days).

I ended up ordering something just as good as pastrami, corned beef ($10). The sandwich came on a Acme roll with potato chips. Southie builds its corned beef sandwich with lots of corned beef and combined with emmenthaler cheese, bacon-braised cabbage, and Dijon mustard. I also detected hints of horseradish.

The corned beef was tender and moist, which meant it was also messy to eat. But in a good way. Sometimes corned beef can be salty, but Southie’s version had just the right balance of salt, giving it enough flavor but not annoyingly so. I enjoyed the sandwich and everything added into it to make it a complete package.

Maybe because I sat near the open kitchen, watching the guys building the sandwiches, that I felt warm even during the cold weather we’ve been having lately. So I ordered the ice cream sandwich from the dessert menu ($4). The sandwich is made using a chocolate chip cookie and house-made vanilla ice cream.

The ice cream sandwich was OK. The cookie part had a really compressed texture, and a bit on the sweet side, and the vanilla ice cream was thick and almost was like soft cheese than ice cream.

The prices for Southie’s sandwiches are on the high end, mostly because you’re paying for a restaurant experience. But from the first bite, you can’t deny the quality of the ingredients and the smart combination of flavors. For me, it’s an added benefit that Southie is near my Rockridge neighborhood, and it’s a nice easy alternative for times when I can’t get a table at Wood Tavern.

Because Southie offers a limited menu and I only visited once, this is just a mini review and I’m not giving it my regular rating system. But you can probably guess that I’ll be back for Southie’s sandwiches soon.

Southie on Urbanspoon

Wood Tavern visits:
"Front Row Dining at Chef's Counter"
"Pure Pastrami Bliss"
"A Year Later it's still a hot spot in Oakland"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Test Kitchen: Throwdown's Shrimp and Grits Recipe

My Test Kitchen feature went on hold when I was renovating my kitchen. But after my renovations was complete, I got to work on the recipe you all wanted me to try from Bobby Flay's "Throwdown!" Cookbook.

The cookbook, featuring recipes and stories from the popular Food Network "Throwdown!" series, includes recipes from both Chef Flay and the challenger. When I created the poll using recipes from the book last December, I said I would make the recipe of the throwdown winner for the food item chosen in the poll.

So the winner was the Shrimp & Grits throwdown, with 40% of the votes, compared to Cioppino (25%), gingerbread cupcake (17%) and pumpkin pie (would have been great for the holidays, but only 17%).

The winner of the Shrimp & Grits throwdown was Joe Barnett, who is actually an amateur chef. He doesn't even own a restaurant, like Flay's typical challengers. So pretty impressive that Barnett's recipe beat a restaurant chef like Bobby Flay.

So here's how it went when I followed Barnett's recipe in the kitchen.

Actually, what also kept me from jumping right into making the shrimp and grits recipe was that it called for shrimp stock, and that's not easy to find. So that meant I had to make it myself (the cookbook gives a recipe), but I had to gather up some shrimp shells, which meant I had to eat some shrimp in order to make stock to make a shrimp recipe. I know, crazy. Making seafood stock is pretty easy, it's just getting all the shrimp shells. But after making the stock, I actually liked it and I think I'd make it again (this time I'm saving up the shrimp shells in the freezer.) The stock includes celery, carrots, a bay leaf, white wine, a tomato and of course, the shrimp shells. The tomato gives the stock a nice pinkish color like the shrimp.

Once I got my stock in hand, I started to make the recipe, which includes a special sauce. I started by making a roux of butter and flour, and then cooked it until it got to a tan color. Then I added some of the shrimp stock and heavy cream. Yep, this recipe is not helping my cholesterol. At. All. The sauce, after it thickens, gets finished off with some Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
Then I focused on making grits, which was the first time I made grits. The recipe says to make sure to use quick-cooking grits, but not instant. And it calls for a whole lot of cheese. The cheese was a yellow extra sharp cheddar, and it was hard to find extra sharp cheddar that was yellow. So I ended up getting yellow sharp cheddar that happened to be organic. I needed to shred 1.5 cups.

I cooked the grits with more shrimp stock and then added in butter and the cheese. The grits get a pinkish color after adding in a tablespoon of tomato paste. And yes, more heavy cream went into the grits to give it a creamy texture. Then I seasoned it with salt to taste. Even though I just used 1.5 cups of grits, that made a big pot of grits.

For the shrimp, I simply had to marinade it with Cajun sauce, Italian seasoning, sweet paprika and salt and pepper. Then I just had to cook it in a pan with butter.

This was a pound of shrimp and it really filled up my skillet. Once the shrimp was cooked, I just had to pull together the dish with the grits and sauce. But the recipe also called for a bit of country ham to sprinkle on top. I didn't really understand what country ham meant, so I just bought whatever sugar-coated ham I could get for a small amount, because it was really just a garnish.

Here's the finished dish with the creamy grits, piled on with the spicy shrimp and topped off with the cubes of country ham and the drizzling of the sauce. This actually doesn't look like the photo in the book because in the photo the sauce had a more red color. I'm not sure how that happened because the heavy cream softens the look of the sauce. Maybe he used more oil. Anywho, he was able to win however he did the recipe.

The recipe is kind of long, even though it's from an amateur. So I was lazy about typing it here. But the Food Network had a version of the recipe (not exactly word for word like the cookbook, for example it substitutes the shrimp stock for regular chicken stock, but it's nearly identical) on its website, so I was able to pick it up and reprinted it here.

Shrimp and Grits (courtesy of the Food Network website)



  • 1 1/2 pounds (26-30 count) Wild Georgia Shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (recommended: Tone's Louisiana Cajun seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (recommended: Knorr)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 cup quick grits (recommended: Quaker)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar


  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Texas Pete)
  • 1 slice sugar-cured country ham


First, peel and devein the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning, paprika, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the shrimp to coat well and set the shrimp aside.

Next, make your grits. In a medium saucepan, bring water, chicken bouillon cubes and 2 tablespoons butter to a boil. Slowly add the grits, whisking often with wire whisk for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, cream, and cheese. Keep whisking for another 2 or 3 minutes until the grits become creamy. Don't skimp on the butter and the cream, folks.

Now saute the shrimp. In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add in the spice-coated shrimp, and cook only until they're just done and tender. Don't overcook. Remove the shrimp from the saute pan and set them aside in a bowl. You can taste 1 or 2, to see if they're okay.

The roux is next. With all those wonderful drippings from the shrimp in the saute pan, add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stir with a wooden spatula to make a roux. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until roux reaches a medium-tan color, then slowly add the chicken stock and heavy whipping cream. Whisk together and cook for 2 minutes, then whisk in Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Set aside.

And last, a little country ham. Cook 1 center slice of cured country ham in a saute pan, and cut into cubes.

To serve, and this is the best part-place a few heaping spoonfuls of steaming cheese grits onto a place, top with several sizzling shrimp. Drizzle that wonderful roux sauce over top of the shrimp, and sprinkle on a few cubes of country ham.

My tips and warnings about this recipe:
  1. Remember to save all your shrimp shells, because you'll need it to make shrimp stock, which I feel is a vital part of the recipe.
  2. The recipe calls for a lot of ingredients for the sauce, but you end up just drizzling a bit, so don't worry about making too much of it.

Ease of cooking: Other than having to make my own shrimp stock, it was pretty easy going through the steps. I think the hardest part was finding all the ingredients like the right type of Cajun seasoning. But shrimp is always easy and fast to make.

Taste: The shrimp, of course, tasted great and a bit spicy with the Cajun seasoning. But I felt the grits could have been creamier. Not sure if I didn't have enough stock or if I let it sit too long, but it didn't have enough liquid in the texture compared to amazing grits I've had at restaurants. the Sauce tasted OK, but it didn't add anything, IMHO, to the overall taste of the dish. And I really didn't get the sprinkling of country ham.

Overall Grade: B because while everything tasted OK, it wasn't necessarily amazing and it was a lot of steps to do just to make one dish. I think I would have been happy with just making the grits and shrimp without the sauce or country ham. The shrimp was good by itself.

Don't forget to vote for the next Test Kitchen poll at the upper right column when I tackle the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook by the esteemed French Laundry chef and owner Thomas Keller.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco

When I need to replenish my tea supply, one of my regular stops is Red Blossom Tea Company in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown.

I'm not sure why I've never featured this tea institution found right on the touristy Grant Avenue. The tea is solid here, of the highest quality and generally in the most traditional forms. And since Imperial Tea House closed down its original Chinatown location and headed to its posh Ferry Building store, Red Blossom has taken over the role as premium tea vendor in this neighborhood.

There are several tea shops along Grant Avenue offering tea tastings to the tourists, but I find the people at Red Blossom gives the best educational experience. When I visited recently (during the Chinese New Year festivities), it was crowded with tea tasters.

I've noted that I'm a big fan of blended teas, but Red Blossom isn't the spot for me to quench that thirst. Instead, I come here for my pure teas, especially the oolong. Red Blossom offers some of the best oolong from Taiwan, which is home to some of the premium oolong producers. The tea descriptions do talk about a variety of flavors, but oftentimes that comes from hints of flavors from the specific tea leaves. Still, there are a few tea blends, but I wouldn't say Red Blossom goes crazy with the blended flavors. (And most of the flavors are found in the herbal section, which is actually non-caffeinated, non-tea teas known as tisanes.)

While Red Blossom offers a lot of authentic teas and tea ware, way in the back of the store you'll find a traditional herbalist section where roots and herbs and special teas are concocted to improve your health.

The prices are a bit high, but you pay for the quality. And I find the people there always patient to explain their teas or make recommendations. If you're a regular tea drinker, you should make Red Blossom one of your regular suppliers.

Red Blossom Tea Company, 831 Grant Ave., San Francisco. PH: 415.395.0868.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nettie’s Crab Shack in San Francisco

Urban Crab Feed for the Season
2032 Union St., San Francisco
Cow Hollow/Marina
PH: 415.409.0300
Open Mon., 11 a.m.-–3 p.m., Wed.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

In the Bay Area, we’re in the midst of a normal Dungeness crab season, which might sound unspectacular. But after a couple of years of late starts and scarce crabs, I’d take normal any year.

So to get more of the season’s best, I visited Nettie’s Crab Shack in the city’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. In the heart of the ritzy Union Street, Nettie’s has a popular patio seating where diners munch on fresh, local seafood. I’ve also been meaning to check out its Sunday crab feed since Nettie’s opened a few years ago.

I recruited my friend Ken and we dropped in on a Sunday morning. The patio was already packed, but I was happy to sit inside the nearly empty restaurant, which still has a lot of natural light.

The décor is New England crab shack, but more Martha Stewart than Old Bay. Because it was Sunday, and Nettie’s was serving up a brunch menu, both Ken and I ordered Bloody Marys. The Bloody Mary had less tomato flavor and a lot of spice, so I can’t say it’s one of the best in town.

Looking over the menu, I was tempted by some of the brunch items, but I was set on Dungeness crab. I was disappointed to find out Nettie’s no longer offered its crab feed (which previously included a salad, whole crab, potatoes, corn and dessert for $38 and then later $45). Instead, the whole crab is listed under the seasonal fish “off the boat” section where you order a fish item at market price and get the choice of two sides.

Ken and I stuck with our goals and we both ordered a whole Dungeness crab each (on this day selling for $36). Our waitress came by with plastic bibs, and I passed on it because I’m pretty careful with my crab eating, but Ken was proud to wear his and was happy to model it, too.

The whole crab can be roasted or steamed, and we both got ours roasted. The crab came out in a bucket, already chopped into pieces. To me, it’s technically not a whole crab because the top shell was gone and with it probably any crab butter found under it. What were served up were the prime parts, which were the claws and legs with parts of the body.

The crab was roasted with a spice rub that was on the salty side. I actually would have been happy with a simple crab with just some butter and garlic, but I still enjoyed my whole crab because the meat was fresh and sweet. And I love it when the meat comes out easily in whole pieces; makes cracking and eating it so much easier.

For my sides, I ordered the tangy slaw and roasted potatoes, a nice large serving that was fresh and filling. Ken got the potatoes as well, but went with the lentils, which he enjoyed.

Everything was a lot for brunch, but we couldn’t stop without dessert especially since there was butterscotch ($5) pudding on the menu. Ken ordered it first, so I went with the Meyer lemon coconut meringue tart ($8).

I tried a bit of Ken’s butterscotch pudding, which was nicely presented with cookie crumbles. The pudding was a bit pale and lacked a strong butterscotch flavor.

My lemon tart didn’t have a distinct flavor, but I did like the pastry shell, which was very flakey.

The service was really attentive and friendly, even as more people flowed into the restaurant, tired of waiting for a seat at the patio. The vibe seems fun, with a lot of families coming into the large dining area. And for me, I never leave crabby after eating Dungeness crab, especially on a sunny day in the Marina.

Single guy rating: 3 stars (fresh from the sea)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Nettie's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Checking a Food Truck in Burbank

On Friday I had to fly down to Burbank for work. My company has offices down there, and occasionally I go down and interact with the rest of my team members. The last few times I went down, my co-workers would talk up all these food trucks that would park outside their building. But every time I was down there, the trucks would never be there.

Finally this time there were a few trucks, specifically an Indian food truck and a Cuban food truck. (There was also a truck selling women's clothing -- only in LA!) I ended up trying the Cuban truck, which was called No Jodas. (BTW, I took these photos with my new iPhone from Verizon.)

The truck looked pretty slick, and had a variety of sandwiches and sides for the picking. Of course, my favorite is always the Cubana pressed sandwich, but my co-worker Tammy ordered that and I thought maybe I should try something different, and next to the Cubana in the menu was something called a Medianoches. (All the sandwiches were $7.)

The Medianoches is pretty much a Cubana, with pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles, and a No Jodas special sauce. The only difference is that it's made with a Cuban sweet bread, which was kind of interesting. The sandwich looked really flat and was pretty big. I liked it but didn't love it. Something about the pork seemed like it needed more flavor or something.

Tammy liked her Cubana, which was on regular baguette but also pressed. She also felt the pork had a gamey flavor.

Another co-worker, Bonnie, ordered the vegetarian sandwich that was also on the sweet bread and stuffed with avocado, cilantro and onions and the No Jodas sauce. I didn't think that would be filling but Bonnie said it she liked it.

While I wanted more flavor in my sandwich from No Jodas, I'm still jealous that my co-workers in Burbank get the variety of food trucks for lunch while hardly any food trucks park near my office in Oakland. I guess I just have to fly down to Burbank again to try out other food trucks.