Thursday, October 8

Napa Trip 2015 - Morimoto Napa

Morimoto Napa has not changed much at all since my first visit in 2013. Many of my opinions are the same as 2 years ago as the restaurant's food remains consistently enjoyable. You can see my previous blog post for a more detail description.

The bakery out front has been replaced with a sake bar which looks like this.

The dining room still bears an earthy theme with decorative branches and tree stump tables.

The menu remains the same and that's a good thing.
 ($8) Salmon Skin Roll
($5) Avocado Roll
We start with two rolls that are standard to every sushi restaurant, the salmon skin roll and avocado roll. Both of these were delicious. The rice was soft and sticky yet you can feel the individual grains.

 ($19) Rock shrimp tempura in wasabi aioli (whitish color) and spicy kochujang sauce (orange color)
These balls of shrimp don't sound or look like much until you taste them. If the wasabi in the aioli is fresh like it is used in other dishes at this restaurant, then it's an added bonus to the already mild spice level and creamy coating on the rock shrimp in the foreground. It was still bested by the kochujang rock shrimp which was an interesting salty, spicy, creamy flavor on crispy tempura and sweet meaty shrimp.

($29) Toro tartare

The toro tartare is a hit again. Another must have.
From left to right:

1) nori - the best sauce. Tastes like seasoned seaweed
2) fresh wasabi
3) sour cream
4) chives
5) avocado
6) rice crispy balls
The best combination is 1 with 6

($28) Sea Urchin Carbonara lunch set (soup not pictured)

This was also another must have from our last visit. Good as usual and there's nothing wrong with that!

($32) Spicy chirashi bowl

Last time we go the regular chirashi bowl which contained a generous helping of sashimi, tamago, and vegetables on top of that same well made sushi rice. This time, I ordered the spicy version which does not have the veggies, and is topped with house made kochujang sauce. Both versions of the chirashi bowl were good but I favor the non-spicy version more because it showcases the flavor of the fish better. 

That's it for lunch at Morimoto Napa. Next up is dinner at Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller.

Tuesday, October 6

Rubio's Coastal Grill - Cupertino

Rubio's Coastal Grill, well known for it's fish taco and coastal Mexican influenced seafood, opened a new location in Cupertino in early September. It is on De Anza Blvd. across from Noodles and Co which opened last year. The restaurant is in a plaza next to Boudin SF and Philz Coffee. Altogether Rubio's seems very fitting for this neighborhood.

The California based company has redesigned its interior and the Cupertino location, the first new restaurant the company has opened in 5 years, will be one of the first to showcase this redesign. I always love good seafood so let's dig in shall we?

($4.50) Sangria with mandarin orange pieces. 
Even though this was a bottled sangria and it tasted rather light, I still enjoyed it and was glad to have a light glass of alcohol with my meal.

A clean and bright counter dining area with exposed bulbs. Informational posters were displayed in store showing Rubio's sustainable sourcing policies and highlighting their fresh ingredients.

($8.99) Cilantro Lime Sea Bass in a bowl with pico de gallo, black beans, guacamole, and chipotle sauce on citrus rice
I enjoyed this limited time special dish. The cilantro lime sauce on the fish and the chipotle sauce on the rice was flavorful. Everything was well balanced and felt healthy. The sea bass was a tad overcooked, although nothing too bad.

($10.49) Cabo Plate with grilled shrimp burrito, The Original Fish Taco, chips and pinto beans

Classic Grilled Shrimp Burrito
This burrito with grilled shrimp in each bite, pinto beans, Mexican rice, and salsa was tasty. I'm not sure I would pay $8.29 for the burrito alone but in the Cabo plate, it's a good deal and made the whole plate filling but with a variety of flavors.

The Original Fish Taco
Normally this taco is $2.99 by itself. It contains a piece of battered fish with white sauce and cabbage. It's very good and the batter is crunchy and flavorful. On Tuesdays, the taco is $1.50 after 2:30PM. I would totally come back and eat a few.

What I really enjoyed was the wide selection of salsa and hot sauces at the condiment bar. Here's a sample of everything. On the left, at roughly the 9:00 and 11:00 positions are the two Diablo sauces which come in squeeze bottles. The red one is the spiciest but the green one is amazing! Definitely make sure you add some sauces to your dish.

($1.50 each) Churro
These were a little oily but came out nice and warm with cinnamon sugar goodness. Not a bad way to end the meal.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill
20688 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014 

Disclaimer: I received free vouchers to dine at Rubio's in Cupertino in exchange for a post. The opinions in this post are my own.

Friday, October 2

Napa Trip 2015 - AirBnB, Madonna Estate Winery, Artesa Winery, The Model Bakery, Bouchon Bakery

Do you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation?

Last weekend, we took a group trip to Napa for the weekend. The AirBnB house our group stayed at had 5 bedrooms and 3 full baths in a great suburban neighborhood with lots of space. In the bathroom hung this picture which I felt is so fitting to my new life as a full time corporate employee, part time food writer, and now full time mother...But if you were here to read about motherhood rants, there's plenty of mommy blogs for your reading. Let's get to travel, food, and wine.

We went to the Oxbow Public Market in the morning to grab breakfast which included this very popular breakfast sandwich from The Model Bakery. The line to place the order was not long but it took a while to receive the sandwich. This is their signature regular breakfast sandwich on their fresh made English muffin. Quite possibly the best English muffin I've ever had - soft and with melty cheese and eggs. I think this sandwich is $6.95.

($7.95) chipotle breakfast sandwich on multigrain. It has eggs, cheese, avocado, and bacon. There's more flavor in this sandwich than the regular but the bread isn't as great. I should have stuck with the English muffin.

Our group was large and the only winery near us with the most affordable tasting fee and allowed us to bring outside food for a picnic was Madonna Estates. The tasting fee is $15 per person and we had a private tasting with just our group in a large room. We tasted 5 great wines. I bought a bottle of their crisp sweet Gewurztraminer although the Dolcetto was nice too.

We stopped by Frati Gelato Cafe by the riverwalk and I had an affogato with vanilla gelato. Refreshing!

And of course no trip to Napa is complete without a stop for Bouchon Bakery's famous gigantic macarons. I bought a box of all 8 flavors at $3.50 each. Fig was the seasonal flavor but Raspberry was my favorite.

Artesa Winery is really beautiful and scenic and crowded as heck. We managed to take a few shots by this gorgeous waterfall though.

Up next: Lunch at Morimoto Napa and dinner at Ad Hoc

Sunday, September 27

Groupon deals for Paint Nite and Glass Blowing Classes - San Jose

 This is a short fun post about my experiences with Groupon class deals. The first is Paint Nite and the second is glass blowing class at the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI). Both of these were held in San Jose.

Paint Nite was held at The Blue Chip Sports Bar on First Street. The Groupon cost $45 (I think it's $25 now) and you get an instructor-led painting class with all the supplies and your painting. You pay for your own wine or drinks. The class takes 2 hours or more if it runs over or you want to stay and touch up your painting. Here's my painting. It's not the best but I had fun painting it. The instructor was great and she breaks down the steps in an easy to follow way. My friends and I had time to chat with each other over through the gaps between our easels. No one really walks away with a painting so horrendous that it can't be displayed at home. I'm hanging this one up in my office.

The same group of friends and I also bought a Groupon for glass blowing class. It cost $89 and the regular price of the class is $180. Above are demo pieces of glass work at BAGI (Bay Area Glass Institute) near Japantown downtown. There are classes for all of these options and more. Around the holidays there is a glass ornament class. 

The instructor dips the hot glass into the first color at the bottom of the vase, then the second color for the top of it.

Blowing the glass to form a bubble for the bowl

Widening the opening of the hot glass

The instructor spins out the bowl so it forms that wide rim

The glass has cooled down to the blue color I wanted and I'm stamping the BAGI logo at the bottom. After this, it goes into the oven to anneal for 30ish hours(?) before I can pick it up.

Photo by Tran
Here's my bowl! I love it. Maybe I'll put candy in it or the remote controls for my TV, who knows! Options are limitless.

Sure it's a $45 painting and a $89 glass bowl which are pricey. But the experiences were really worth it to me. Rather than spending almost that much on food and drinks at a bar with friends, I got to hang out with them doing something that I will probably remember for a long time. For me, the experiences were worth it. I particularly loved the glass blowing class because I really can't do that at home and I am so happy with how the bowl turned out.

Tuesday, September 22

Pre-Opening Party for Curry Up Now - San Jose

I received an invite to attend Curry Up Now's pre-opening party. Every food and drink item in this post was complimentary. I will not review service because it was also a training event for their new staff and hiccups are to be expected. This post will show some of their food and drink offerings.

Grand Opening is on Thursday 9/24/15

Curry Up Now started out as a food truck and has expanded to 3 brick and mortar locations, 5 trucks, a catering business, and a bar. Their latest location is in San Jose off Zanker Road. It's in a small retail strip below an apartment complex. The location is spacious. Parking is limited to a few spots out front, in the garage, and the rest is street parking which is hard to find.

($3) Mango Lassi, also available was Rose Lassi

($8.25) Deconstructed Chicken Samosa
Lots of chickpeas, chutneys, and mini samosas. This thing is much larger than expected and I enjoyed it. One of the chutneys has a very distinct taste so it might not be for those who don't like spices and herbs.

($8) Dynamite Tangra Wings
smothered in Indian-Chinese spicy sauce and dusted with ghost chili powder. That ghost chili powder will really get you. But if you let it cool a bit and rub the powder around in the rest of the hot sauce, it's not as spicy with some white rice.

($9.50) Sexy Fries
Indian inspired poutine (but it doesn't have gravy) with sweet potato criss-cut fries and lamb dopiaza. The lamb is quite good and it's the same one that comes in the Thali dish. I personally enjoy sweet potato fries vs regular. I wish the cheese was a melty kind and that there was some sort of gravy or more sauce. Otherwise this is just fries underneath a scoop of lamb.

($6) Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits
Chopped up naan with tikka masala dip. Tasty but not worth the price. No meat in the sauce.

($13) Thali with Meat Sweats option for $1 extra
Turmeric flavored brown rice was dry. It comes with butter chicken, ground beef keema, and lamb dopiaza (same as on top of the fries) which was all good. There's also a side of some strongly salty and sour eggplant(?) pickle which I hate but I see it served at all Indian restaurants. Someone explain to me what this is and how it's eaten (top left in small bowl). Naan was rather oily and not quite authentic but still tasty.

($9.50) Tikka Masala burrito
Whole wheat tortilla, turmeric and fenugreek white rice, chicken tikka masala with onions. This burrito really says fusion food truck - something wrapped and convenient. It was good and filling, I would order again.

($6) Hot Balls on Ice
Gulab Jamun (those sweet milk balls in syrup you often see at Indian restaurants) and kulfi ice cream. This ice cream had a strong pistachio taste. Very strong. The gulab jamun was good but I wasn't a fan of the ice cream.

Half of the restaurant is a bar called Mortar and Pestle. It's a full bar with beer, wine, and spirits. 

($14) Green Isaac's Special
Bombay Sapphire Gin, coconut water, Demerara and LN2. I don't recognize those last two ingredients. rum and liquid nitrogen?! This drink is too strong. Phil agrees. This isn't just a female opinion. The drink is so strong. I guess if you can get wasted for $14 then it's a good deal for you.

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