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Monday, October 19, 2009

Cadillac Crossovers at Santana Row

.....with a cooking demonstration?!? This is a funky marketing idea, having a cooking demonstration to get people to test drive the new Cadillac SUV/Non-SUV. Anyway, check it out:

On Saturday , October 24 and Sunday, October 25 at Santana Row in San Jose, Cadillac and our partners at Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazine are teaming up to let people experience the all-new Cadillac SRX in a more relaxed, personal environment and we'd like to invite you to join us.

The event is open from 10-7 on Saturday and 10-6 on Sunday and includes test drives of the new SRX along with its competition (Lexus RX350, Mercedes GLK and BMW X5) as well as cooking demonstrations from celebrity Chef Emily Luchetti of Farallon and Waterbar. Chef demonstrations will take place at 11:00AM, 1:30PM and 4:00PM.

You (and your readers) can find more information, including images and video, and register in advance (although it is not mandatory) at: (warning: site is very slow)

If you are interested, we will have a senior representative from Cadillac on hand to answer your questions.

This will no doubt be a very crowded, pretentious, and showy event, as most Santana Rows events are. Weather permitting, I may just see some of my readers there!

-Tom W Tell

Jasmine Thai, the one next to the liquor store!

Always up for finding and interesting alternatives for Thai food in San Jose, I am never one to judge a restaurant by its location. Take Jasmine Thai at 1710 Berryessa Rd, for example. Yes, it is in a cheesy neighborhood strip mall, they dont have a website, but the flavor and service you get in just so worth it. I have visited and commented about many-a-decent Thai place, and always comparing them to Krung Thai (the best in the world). Jasmine Thai comes in second for several reasons.

When I first visit a Thai resaturant, I tend to order items similar to those I normally get at Krung, to make an even comparison. Some may say that this rules out an establishments feature dish, but, with my analytical background, it is really the only way to really compare food. The food at Jasmine Thai is great, both in freshness and quality. It was a Sunday night, and it was not that busy. Perhaps 3 other couples (locals, no doubt) visited during our time there. From what I could see, there was a cook in the back, and one waitress, and she did a fantastic job attending to our every need.

The only reason it places second to Krung, was the atmosphere, and furnishings. Krung has a lot of cool Thai decor, and comfortable surroundings. Jasmine Thai was in a strip mall, and did have the appearance of a lunchtime favorite (take out booth, thin napkins, easy in/out layout).

The prices were great, and they even held a birthday cake for us (oh, yeah, we were there for a birthday!), and provided paper plates and plastic eating utensils. Overall, it was a great experience, and if even if you are not in the mood for Thai, do yourself a favor and visit JasmineThai!

-Tom W. Tell

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chaat Cafe - Just Do it!

My dining partners were just in the mood for Indian food this weekend, ya know!? It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, I am so glad I live in the south bay were the options for middle eastern food abound! We stopped by Chaat Cafe on Blossom Hill Road, among all the chain restaurants and tax prep offices, on a recommendation from a member of our party. It has an ordinary strip-mall type storefront, and decent, but not mind=blown interior decor. We grabbed a laminated menu, found a table, and picked a few items that sounded good.

All of us in our party (about 5 total) enjoy spicy food, so we got a sampling of a few different plates: tandoori chicken, and some other stuff, I forgot to note what we got, terrible for a foosiast, I know, maybe next time. All you need to know is that everything was great. I tried a little of each plate, and I can not say any of it was bad. I had 2 plate fulls myself with probably 3 whole Naan bread pieces for the delicious sauces.

The service was fine, the prices unbeatable, and food fantastic. Not everyone can take this kind of food, hardcore american food eaters should slowly work there way over from chinese to japanese, then to thai, then to Chaat Cafe! It is kind of far for me to eat there on a regular basis, but I think I would if closer. I will defintiely go back when the craving arises again!

-Tom W Tell

Grill 'Em (if you know how and/or feel like it)

Recently visited Grill 'Em on south Bascom Ave in San Jose for a birthday event. After hearing a few open-ended stories about how neat and cool it was, I was anxious to try it out for myself. As you may be able to guess from the title and picture, it is a pay-us-for-the-food-but-cook-it-yourself kind of place. You can get the same kind of experience and some Korean BBQ Buffet houses on El Camino Real, Juicy Burger, Fuddruckers, and buffets that allow you to create your own flavor.

My dining partner, who normally prefers seafood or vegetarian style cuisine but makes exceptions for me, arrived a little early, so we got a chance to hang out and soak the place in. It really has a bar/pub atmosphere about it, with a small outdoor seating areas for smokers (and there are quite a few here, I guess not suprisingly), and very few windows, if any, to let in natural light. The decor is cool, with art works of local landmarks on the walls flancking the dining area. The is a large, prominant bar with plenty of neon, and the service is down-home. The main focus, obviously is the large open grill and hood assembly on which the steaks are cooked. All the spices and toppings are on a small table behind the grill, along with easy to read instructions on how to cook meat. Even with the large, clear print sign, I found it funny to see how many other people dining there that night did not follow them!

I was suprised to learn that only a small portion of the menu actually features food that you can cook yourself. All the burgers, chicken, and the like are prepared by the pros in the kitchen. This confused me a bit at first, since the draw of the place is getting to grill your own stuff, but when I saw how many people ignored the instructions, it's probably a good idea they hand the more complicated stuff.

All of us a the party sampled each others steaks, and found that the easist thing to screw up is the seasoning, too much or too little really affects the outcome of the meat. I think the best thing that came off the grill from our group was the garlic bread, which they allow you to throw on with everything else. I like my g-bread nice and crispy, and that is exactly how we made it. I believe this place take some practice to get right, and I will go back to try it again.

We had a party of about 10, and there were a few mix-ups with the orders, but managment were kind enough to adjust the bill and provide some freebies to offset them. The prices were reasonable and the service adequate. I recommend anyone who eats meat in the south bay to try it, and let me know if there are other places that do this also!

-Tom W Tell

Friday, July 31, 2009

Gilroy Garlic Festival 2009

For those of you have never been to the World Famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, I can sum it up in three words: Hot, stinky, and HOT!

I have a few times before, each time with about the same experience. It is held during late July in Gilroy, which means its about 15 degress hotter than the south bay. This year was no exception, and now I associate all things garlic with sweating profusely. Last year my car got scratched in the dirtly-as-all-hell parking lot, so this year we cruised the nearby residential area for a shady spot on the street. We lucked out a bit, and it was only about a half mile from the entrance, hallelujah. Entrance fee was $12, not bad for such a popular event. They had all the same stuff, garlic this-and-that (fries, bread, sausage, chicken, corn, ice cream, shaved ice, and about a dozen other items), some local arts/crafts vendors (I just skip those areas now, all the same crap, sorry local artists!), and live country music (yee-hah).

I was going to skip it this year, but was talked into going with some family/friends, and had an okay time. I went, had my dripping garlic bread, some coke, and a lot of perspiration. Fun for a few hours. Some advice: take Monterey Rd for a long as you can to avoid 101 at all costs; take your own water and an umbrella for shade. Next year, who knows, I hear they are already planning an emphasis on green and sustainable living, should be fun for a few more hours.

-Tom W Tell

Tao Tao, eeehh, s'okay

Murhpy Ave in Sunnyvale is a great spot to visit when you live on the north side of the south bay, its kind of like the original Santana Row. The City does have plans to give the place a makeover (and it does need it), but with their other downtown redevelopment budgetary problems, I don't think its going to be anytime soon. In the mean time, there still many cool places to visit along this stretch of narrow, walkable street. A few weeks ago, I visited Dish-Dash, and it renewed my interest in Murphy Ave. After all, I did have my wedding reception at the Historic Del Monte Building, but never really went back, not sure why. Anyhow, my dining partner and I were in the mood for Chinese food, and there are several places on Murphy that would have sufficed, so we picked the first one we saw. Tao Tao looks new, and was very busy, so we went in a got a table immediately.

We were seated quickly, that is a plus for me, since I HATE waiting for food ever since that day. The interior is sparsely decorated, but clean. There were still hooks on the walls, as if the decorations were either just taken down or not put up yet, not sure which. The stylish interior architecture made up for lack of decor. Since the place was teeming with activity, it took me a while to notice that it was about 20 minutes before someone actually took our order. The manager actually came by to see to us, "Okay, are you ready?," was how we were greeted. It was in a hurried, rude tone, that I thought was strange coming from a manager who should be all about customer service? Since we had already thoroughly studied the menus, I quickly rattled off our order, and he snatched the menus out of my hands without hestitation and rushed off without even a "Thank You" or "Very good sir..." nothing.

The food came out one plate a a time (we got 4 total) and was not the best I have ever had. Since the place was new to us, we decided to play it safe with veggie fried rice, honey-walunt prawns, lemon chicken, and some eggrolls to start. They were all satisfactory, good but not great. The water was refilled several times very promptly, another plus.

Overall, the pluses (quick seating, ample water, neat interior) came out even with the minuses (rude staff, spread out food, so-so flavor) to make this place hard to recommend. I like to refer my readers to places I would enjoy eating at, and this place is not one of them. Our bill came to around $40, and we took some home for lunch the next day, which was just as average after a microwave blast. Not sure what Tao Tao means, but it certainly does not have any resemblance to Tao in Vegas!

-Tom W Tell

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cherry Sushi Now Open......again

I was saddended one evening when I drove by one of my fav sushi restaurants to find it had closed! Cherry Sushi in Santa Clara had been a reliable alternative for great japanese food for quite a while for my dining partner and I. It was always a few bucks more than the 'economy' sushi places we frequently visit, but it was always fantastic. So, when they closed, it was a shock.

Every time I drove by this location since, I would slow down to see if they had re-opened. They were closed down for a good 2 months, when, to my pleasant suprise, they were open again! We were actually headed in the direction of Chocolate Sushi/Tofu House in Sunnyvale (which is their sister restaurant), when I flipped a U and pulled into to the parking lot to see what happened.

We were seated promptly, as usual, and was welcomed back by our very courteous waiter, who recognized us a previous patrons. We came to learn that the kitchen had experienced a fire, and they had to close to clean up. I saw no evidence of fire damage, other than the updated window treatments, new lighting fixures, and new wall paint. If one didn't know better, they could have easliy been closed to just do a remodel! The great oil painting of the bowl of cherries was not damaged and still adorns the entryway. I did not see the giant glass cherry sculpture that previously sat on the front counter.... would be a shame it if broke?
The food was just as fantastic as before. Everything is good, from the rolls, to the bentos, to the fish...its just all good. They even brought us some complimentary edamame this time. You can't go wrong here, but I recommend trying their spicy chicken, it's especially good (like buffalo chicken, only more tasty). Sure, they charge a few more bucks for their plates, but it is SOOO worth it.

Do yourself a favor and eat here, even if it means going out of your way!

-Tom W Tell

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Milpitas Blush will Freeze Your Insides

Heard about the Milpitas Blush grand opening on Yelp! and decided to drop by after my Cheesesteak lunch across the parking lot. I heard it was orignally free at the opening, then it was buy-one-get-one-free, then it became a raffle ticket. I was one of the first 300 visitors, so I got to enter the raffle (haven't heard back yet...not holding my breath...never win those things). The place seems to be following the trend of other frozen yogurt places (Pinkberry, Red Mango, YogoTango), which is a great trend. Big flat panels on the walls which have the menu, and one devoted to their twitter postings for visitors to read (not sure what the point of that is, since you already there....).

The staff was VERY nice, we even got ice water brought to our table while we were eating our mango/strawberry mix with bluberries and strawberries (lover of fruity deserts!) They had their Ipod mounted on the wall, showing the info of the music that was playing over the soundsystem, which was cool, but could I change the music if I didn't like it? I should have asked....

Great fro-yo, great service, average price, convenient location. Just hope not too many of these places popup; it would be as shame to have this trend played out.

-Tom W Tell

Cheesesteak at, well, The Cheesesteak Shop!

The Cheesesteak Shop is just a great lunch place. I can't remember the last time I had Cheesesteak, but this is how I remember it! I just get mine with onions, no peppers, and side of onion rings (I gave up french fries about 18 months ago) and a coke. It was about 1pm this Saturday, and I just walked right up to the counter and ordered! The sandwich was ready in about 5 minutes (maybe less) and it was great! Just enough grease oozing out to be moist, but not all over my hands.

I believe this place moved in after the Safeway remodel, so it is still new and clean. The decor is not groundbreaking, and they have the mandatory giant-menu-on-the-wall and the days SJ Merc on the wall to read while you wait. The completely uncreative name says it all, you get cheesesteak, and not much else....and I wouldn't have it any other way!

-Tom W Tell

Dish Dash is Bad-Ass

My dining partner had visited this place in Sunnyvale (on Murphy Ave) for a office/lunch thing awhile ago and said is was cool. Longing for something good after what happened recently, we went for it. All I knew was that it was mediterranean, I did not how COOL it was!

Murphy Ave in Sunnyvale (for those that don't know) is the original intimate retail dining/shopping experience (before Mt View's Castro St or Santana Row), and its always buzzing on weekends. Many good places to eat, drink, and just hang out, especially during the summer months, when you can take advantage of the outdoor seating. Since summer is not quite in full swing for us here in the South Bay (still quite chilly at night) we decided to go for an inside table.

Dish-Dash is right right on the end of Murhpy Ave, so it can't be any closer to the abundant mall parking across Washington St. We put our name in (about a 30 min wait) and strolled around a bit, and nowhere else was as busy as Dish-Dash. That is usually a good sign, so I was okay with the half-hour wait. We came back just in time and was shown to our nice raised table near the bar area (see pic). The decor was spot-on; imagine tasteful mediterranean, and thats it. Cool dim accent lighting all over, great color pallete for the walls and ceiling, and one room had a neat hanging material in the ceiling to give it a tent-like feel (see other pic). Our waiter was EXTREMELY friendly and courteous, even when we completely butchered the names of the dishes!

I ordered the chicken dish, which had onions and spices baked inside a fried/breaded outer wrap. Oddly, it was swimming in a yogurt sauce, which was a little too pungent for my taste. I did my best to keep it out of the rest of the dish, but some made it in, and sadly overpowered the rest of the dish. Could have done without the yogurt sauce, thanks. They didn't have hot tea, but did put some mint leaves in hot water for us, which was a nice alternative. It was somewhat new to me, but I can say it was good for my first time.

The two of us got our of there for less than $50, including tip, which is reasonable considering the great service, interesting food, and fun atmosphere. I like places that attract many different types of people, from local to foreign, old and young, hi-tech and lo-tech. Makes me feel apart of something. Do yourself a favor, eat here!
-Tom W Tell

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ariake Sushi - This Space (should be) for Lease

After many years or reliable food, service, and prices, Ariake Sushi on Blossom Hill Road (sorry, they have no website) has been removed from my list of places to eat when in south San Jose. True, there is seldom a wait and have a very nicely decorated interior, but the recent downward spiral of the whole experience is just sad.

I review a lot of Japanese food restaruants, and some do it right, some don't. This place no longer does. It is especially sad when you find a place like this in an area that is overrun with national chains stores and overpriced average/barely edible food. Ariake was a haven for south San Jose residents and shoppers alike who needed a semi-authentic sushi place to call their own. And it was that, for several years. Often, it can be blamed on a change in ownership, and I am not sure if that is the case here, but something definitely has happened.

Last night, I dined here after a several-month lapse in visits, mainly due to some apprehension on the side of my dining partners since our last few visits were so-so. I stuck with an assortment of rolls, which came out VERY slowly during the course of our visit, when we requested they come out before the bentos. They were okay, not as good as Sen-Dai or Tofu House/Chocolate Sushi, or even as they used to be here. Water glasses were left empty for some time before we could get refills (HUGE mistake). The place was not extremely busy, but the service seemed unorganized.

The kicker was in the seafood sampler platter. It comes with an assortment of deep fried fish pieces, which were semi-edible. A few of the pieces were either fried oysters, clams, or some type of muscle, which was absolutley disgusting. I sampled a small piece and could barely swallow. Even my dining partners, who love that kind of stuff, could not eat them. My stomach was churning all night to digest it!!

Fellow foosiasts that have offered their opinions have said the same thing. I give this place 6 more months before they close down. They have a great space next to Wells Fargo, someone will pick it up quick I am sure.

-Tom W Tell

Friday, June 12, 2009

Test Mobile Blog

This is stray mobile blog from my handheld device in preparation for
my Food and Music Festival experiment yee ha!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poor House Bistro is the Bomb-Stro

Finally convinced my usual dining partner to join me in checking out the Poor House Bistro near the arena in downtown SJ. Being that the SJFR global corporate headquarters is located downtown, there are some restaurants that we get referred to over and over again. PHB is one of them. We had recieved their cool ad coupons the in the mail and had seen their promos in the Wave and Metro, and this place has been on my 'to-do' list for some time.

We attended the SoFA SubZero festival last night, so it was a perfect time to visit. This is what I love about being a foosiast/food blogger. We loved it. Live blues/rock music! Not a huge crowd! Great (I mean GREAT) New Orleans style food! Cool old-house-turned-local-eatery vibe! We shared the red beans and rice plate (just right), the BBQ shrimp plate (OMG), and a cup of shrimp gumbo (spicy!). They come with bread and a cornbread muffin for dipping in the incredible sauce as you eat. The food was just and I remembered it from our trip to NOLA earlier this year.

Do yourself a favor and eat here. The only minor grievance I have is the prices. A few dollars to high if you ask me, but it's hard to complain when the food and atmosphere (complete with grungy bikers and downtown politicos) is so right. The 2 of us got out of there for $33 very full AND satisfied. That included drinks, and there's no need for a tip, since it's all self serve.
-Tom W Tell

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Panera Bread BAD

SO SORRY PANERA......I gave a shameless plug for your free offer, and I was disappointed in what I got. Wanting to support my own recommendations, I visited the Panera Bread on Coleman Ave near Target and nicely asked about the free samples. I was given a piece of stale bagel and dixie-cup sized frozen lemonade. The rest of my lunch was $10, which included the new strawberry-poppyseed salad (okay, okay, the salad was very refreshing...a mix of sweet, sour, salty...and colorful!) and the chicken chipotle sandwich (also good, lots of melted cheese and a little spicy...a nice compliment to the salad). It was good, but still, should have been around $7.

To be fair, it was during a busy lunch hour, but hey, isn't that what where a sandwich place makes its $$? Good food, but your marketing ploy has backfired, at least on this prominent foosiast.

Check it out, y'all!! I always like to pass on offers for free promo food!
Panera Bread Bakery-Cafes Invite Customers to Enjoy the Warmth of Summer with Samples of its New Chopped Cobb Salad and Returning Summer Favorites

WHAT: On Thursday, June 11, 2009, San Jose-area Panera Bread bakery-cafes are inviting customers to celebrate the taste of summer with free samples of its new Chopped Cobb Salad, beloved Strawberry Poppyseed Salad and refreshing frozen drinks, all inspired by the season's freshest ingredients.

Panera's newest addition, the Chopped Cobb Salad, is a clear example of the bakery-cafe's approach to developing new menu items. This flavorful salad is a hybrid of a traditional Cobb and a Chopped salad. This salad features all-natural, antibiotic-free pepper-mustard chicken, Applewood-smoked bacon, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, fresh tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and crisp romaine lettuce tossed with an herb vinaigrette dressing.

Panera's beloved Strawberry Poppyseed Salad also returns to bakery-cafes this summer. Made with freshly-picked romaine lettuce, crunchy pecans, fat-free reduced sugar Poppyseed dressing and an assortment of fresh fruit, the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad is a refreshingly lighter choice for the warm weather months.Panera Bread has also developed several enticing frozen beverages for those looking to beat the summer heat. Samples of the Low-fat Strawberry Smoothie, Frozen Lemonade and Frozen Mocha will also be available.
WHO: Participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes
WHEN: Thursday, June 11, 2009 (6 a.m. to 9 p.m.).
WHERE: Panera Bread bakery-cafes in San Jose

-Tom W Tell

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great American Food and Music Festival-UPDATE

UPDATE: It just didn't sound right to me (see first line of my pre-event blog below); how can they serve such a selection of food to so many people? Well, I hate to say it, but I should have gone with my instincts. If you have not already read the scathing comments left on the event listing on Yelp! or the comments left on this blog posting, the event was a disaster. If this event were about anything but comfort food, an all-out riot would have broken out. I personally waited in line for 4.5 hours before I realized that the New York original Buffalo Wings were not going to happen for me. If they ever hold this event again......DO NOT EVEN THINK OF GOING!

I am sooo sorry for promoting this event. The silver lining was Guy Fieri's food presentation and book signing, he and his production crew are genuinely entertaining bunch (I watched all their antics while standing in line)

The Great American Food and Music Festival will be taking place on June 13, the Shoreline Amphitheater?? I have been to many concerts there in Mt View, but a food festival? With the Food Networks Bobby Flay and Guy F hamming it up, it should be a foosiasts dream. I have never bought tickets to a food festival before, but the event promo's look "out-of-bounds."

I already got tickets for the cheap seats (acutally, they're general admission lawn seating) and can't wait to try some the food I have seen from around the country. I am glad it is not all about the Food Network and their cheesy TV show hosts, but more about promotion of the independently owned restaurants (at least it seems).

I will be blogging via mobile, so as to let my readers know how it is as it happens!

-Tom W Tell

Sunday, May 31, 2009

'Foodies' dissed by Anthony Bourdain!

I know I have said this in previous blog postings, but I have to state again that the reason my posts have been fewer and further between lately is that, due to the current economic situation, my dining partner and I are on a strict food budget. Not to sound defensive, but I have recieved many inquiries as to future and current reviews. Until things pick up, I can not reliably predict when/where I will be able to review new restaurants.

Ok, since I am not the one to spew BS wholeheartedly, I must confess I have had several great dining adventures since my last posting, but they were such socially significant events, honestly, my purpose was to enjoy the experience, not review a restaurant.

Do not be discouraged!! I will soon begin my foosiast ramblings again....and they will be in greater numbers! To take the place of my normal "do yourself a favor and eat here" advise, I wanted to discuss something that made me think recently.

As I have also stated previously, the Food Network has been the main inspiration for this blog. So many great shows can be found for foosiasts, but look to the Travel Channel for one that combines food, traveling, culture, and general snobishness into one. Anthony Bourdain hosts the show No Reservations. Mr. Bourdain is a chef who travels and comments on the people and experiences he has, with the central theme being, of course, food.

I have seen several episodes and enjoy them very much, but one comment he made during the eposide on Vietnam really made me think. Vietnam and the cuisine was the focus, but he was also looking for a place to live, and stopped by one location that he liked, but was near an establishment that gave cooking classes to 'foodies'. Now, I've heard of attending food demonstrations while traveling, but it sounded like these were a type of people he definitely could not stand. I have never actually attended an advertised 'free cooking demonstration' or the like while traveling, as I always thought, "I can look up that recipe later, right now I am here to travel.....not sit in class!" It just seemed odd that someone who travels for a living to sample food would have such a dislike for those who are doing basically the same thing.

I do consider Mr Bourdain an expert in food reviewing, and hope to distance this blog from those people that he dislikes so. With his blessing, the foosiast moniker can be something bigger, better, and more sustainable than the played out 'foodie' label.

-Tom W Tell

Monday, May 11, 2009

Heavens Dog is a Yummy Fusion

If the title of this blog entry is confusing to you, read on. First off, I only occasionaly venture out of the south bay on foosiast excursions, but, when dining while out and about, I like to bring my readers along for the ride. Last Monday night, I had a meeting at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commision building on Market St between 7th & 8th and I took my dining partner along, as I had a feeling it would be a late dinner. It was raining that night, and we decided that we would duck into any place we found on our way back to the parking garage.

We came around the corner onto Mission and found this cool little place tucked in between a hotel/condo building and the parking garage. The sign was simple 'heavens dog.' The name doesn't really tell you what kind of food they serve, so we had no idea what to expect....thats the fun part about being a foosiast!! It is a quiet, dimly lit, and tastefully decorated chinese style restaurant that features an impressive bar (see pic) and hip urbanites enjoying life (making sure you notice them enjoying it).

Having no preconceptions on how or what the food would be like, we glanced through the menu to find the creative takes on some familiar chinese dishes. My dining partner and I split 3 dishes, that night we opted for the florida shrimp (awesome), spicy chicken (killer), dan dan mein noodles (kick-a$$), with some jasmine rice (rice-y). They boast using local organic suppliers for their ingredients, and, my god, the flavors were like no other. This is not the chinese food you normally have (at least not on a San Jose medium priced food budget). We know a little about getting complementary dishes, and the spicy/tangy/mild flavors of eahc of our dishes just went sooo well together. Even our hot tea (chrysanthemum) was actual flower bulbs in hot water - it was like drinking the flower. Awesome.
Having thoroughly enjoyed everything so far, we went for it for desert. We ordered the chocolate something. I know this is amatuer, but I can't remember the name of it, but I will NEVER forget the taste. I came with a bitter white sauce, that our server confirmed was indeed a sour cream sauce. Sour cream with chocolate for desert...who the f thinks if this sutff?? The mix of very sweet with very sour was like nothing I've had.

The 'heaven' reference I definitely get, not sure how the 'dog' fits in (I will NOT make the crude reference to K9 eating some countries). Dear readers, I emplore you, experience this place once in your life, maybe twice, and let me know what the connection is!

-Tom W Tell

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Don't Skip the Pita Pit

Having our global headquaters located in downtown San Jose, and with so many options these days for lunch in the area, it is a joy to attempt to try each of them during my work breaks. It was Cinco de Mayo, and, like everyone else, I was in the mood for Mexican food. I didn't have a lot of time, so I just thought I would walk over to Baja Fresh on the Paseo de San Antonio and grab a quick steak Burrito Ultimo. Unfortunately, everyone else working downtown had the same idea. Fortunately, it made me decide to finally try out the Pita Pit on 2nd Street.

I had been told to try this place several times, and I know what pita bread is, but I was exactly sure what to expect. Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the uber-cool graphics of huge food characters all over the wall (see pic). The place is small, but, lucky for me, everyone else was out looking for Mexican flavors that day. There were only 2 people working the place, which was fine; a cashier and a food preparer. The menu is rather extensive, and was a little daunting given the plethora of combinations an choices available. I went for the wheat pita, and the cashier kindly pointed me to even more choices in the days specials. The buffalo chicken caught my eye, so I went for it. I then was handed over to the food prep area, where I was allowed to choose anything else I wanted on it.
It is like Togos or Subway where you tell the preparer what you want or don't want, any they make it to order. I like this, but it takes a little of blame off the preparer, because if you don't like it, well, it's your own fault!
Fortunately, as a professional foosiast, I am very in tune with my taste buds. I tried to match other buffalo chicken sandwiches I've enjoyed, with some veggies and ranch dressing and swiss cheese. What made it different, was simply the fact that it was wrapped in pita bread. It was a nice change, but I think this particular sandwich is better served on a bun.
The service was fine, the price great, and the choices plentiful. My total order with the drink/chips combo came out to around $7, which was way less than I expected. I do recommend visiting this establishment, I know I will, and with so many choices, never getting the same thing twice!
On a side, SJFR would like to thank Jatbar, for their great south bay foosiast website, and their help and encouragement. In the mood for food research while listening to your Ipod? Well, there's and app for that, and if you can stand it, their Hall of Shame provides lots of, um, extra-protein-related fun!
-Tom W Tell

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Global HQ

There comes a time in every foosiast's life when he or she must stand up for themselves, espcially when that he or she publishes a food blog in the south San Francisco bay area (San Jose). In promoting this little blog, I have have had a few requests to provide proof that I am really based in San Jose, not just a blogger out to get a market share.

I have decided to share the picture posted here are proof of the legitamacy of this site. Although the exact eaddress and contact information can not be listed here, I am sure any reader will find this picture as proof enough. Having a global headquarters in downtown San Jose (California, not Costa Rica) is really the only way one can truely administer a site about San Jose restaurants, as it is the heart of the Silicon Valley.

By the way, I have noticed lately that my top level corner office overlooking Cesar Chavez Park has become quite lonely since the economy has slowed down, yet our office lease rate has stayed the same. Anyone have suggestions on cheap office near some great restaurants? (Sorry Specialtys, but Pete's Coffee is the only reason I visit your place so often!)

-Tom W Tell

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen......Foosiast

Loyal readers (Libby) doing my rigorous research for my ever expanding food blog empire, I came across this interesting little statement. It is basically trying to explain the difference between a 'chowhound' and a 'foodie'. Although its a nice try to put a definition to these made-up phrases, they are still that...made-up phrases! True that new words and lingo are evolving as fast as technology will allow and are typically coined by those that invent them (googling, tweet, thumbdrive, etc), I could not find anywhere that identified where the term 'foodie' came from. I believe it is a short form of the phrase 'food blogger' or 'food enthusiast'. Foodie just rolls of the tongue doesn't it? It could just as easily have been 'foogger' or 'foosiast'. In fact, that is what I am going to call my self from now on....a foosiast. This could be mistaken for Foo-Fighters fan, but I am sure if it is used in the correct context the meaning will be clear. As for foogger, well, it just too close to that other word.

Now, I realize that is just trying to convince prospective contributors to join their site and be called a 'chowhound' (which is a clever name BTW), but disrespecting like me in the process is just not fool.....I mean cool. Sorry for the rant, now for a food review.....

My eating partner and fellow foosiast found ourselves at Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara this past Sunday afternoon, partly visiting a family member who had just gotten a job there, but mostly to get out of the ridiculous heat. Avoiding the mall food court whenever possible (Panda Express is always safe, though, hard to go wrong there), we ventured away from the mall, down Stevens Creek Blvd, where the eating options come fast and furious. We decided to play it safe and visit the quaint japanese restaurant Ariake, which is almost in the intersection with Lawrence Expressway. There is a sushi bar (not open for lunch), a single unisex bathroom, about 10 tables, and great cheap , no frills japanese food.

It was slow Sunday lunch day, so it was only us and 1 other couple I believe, and the service was fantastic. Not overly nosey, and just witty enough to be pleasant. The menu isn't spectacular, the food not delectible, but we are on a budget and were hungry. We got exactly what we wanted. We got out of there for less than $25 for two, including 2 orders of rolls for appetizer, and 2 lunch bentos.

I consider it a foosiast victory when you are seek out a meal that fits the situation, and Ariake did just that, and isn't that what great eating is all about?

-Tom W Tell

Friday, April 17, 2009

Slow Economy = Healthier Eating?

I hate to follow trends or borrow played-out sentiments, but I have to admit, although not homeless, I too have felt the effects of the slow economy. Followers of this blog will notice that my San Jose Food Review's have been few and far between this month. My dining partner and I have resovled to eating-in more often, at least 5 times per week. Contrary to recent articles, I think this it's healthier. Most of my reviews are on the lower end of the $$ scale anyway, but we have also tried to visit those establishments that are kind to the light-pocketed.

During these times, we tend to go with what we know; reliable eats such as Baja Fresh,
Red Robin, Erics Deli, La Milpa, have all been visited this month, each with great food and service as usual. In order to offset some of the losses of the downturn, I have began posting some of my collectible items on Ebay (a whole 'nother story, not appropriate for this audience!) that will hopefully bring in some extra $$ to fund future food adventures.

Stay positive!

-Tom W Tell

On a side note, I would love to hear your thoughts on
Foodbuzz, as I am considering joining this group, but it will mean some sacrifices on my end. Thanks foodies!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chocolate Sushi, as sweet as it gets!

I have been a long time patron of Chocolate Sushi in Sunnyvale, since even before they added the ultra-cheesy "Tofu House" to their name. I am not sure if the ownership changed, or if that was a marketing scheme, but the sushi I had come to know and love certainly has not changed. I visited last night with some fellow foodies, as we were in the mood (once again) for some really good japanese food. As usual, there was no wait to be seated, the wait staff was as courteuous as could be, and the food was ecsquisite. As with our last visit, around 2 weeks ago, the owner/manager (I think) came to our table to make sure we were enjoying our night. My wife gave her kind praising of the meal, and, unexpectedly the owner repsonded with a (somewhat stereotypical) japanese-accented "aaahhhh, thank you sooo much! It is always good to hear customers enjoying our food!" He gave a traditional bow to our table and moved along. Very nice touch to our experience.

A few things have changed that I should mention. When the Tofu House moniker was added, a decent selection of Korean dishes/soups were added to the menu. Although not a particular fan of Korean food (or soup dinners in general), I was suprised when we tried some on our previous visit, and found myself enjoying most of the meal. The bento box menu items have also been reduced, and I sometimes get a Katsu item, which can be ordered, just not as a part of the bento. Maybe it could be added if asked nicely, but I was fine with the other usual selections (teriyaki, tempura, a couple of sushi rolls, and agadashi). Other than that, not much else is different. The interior still has a kick-ass theme, big HDTV's for lucky guests facing the right way to enjoy (last night they had on ESPN, which was showing a college basketball slam dunk competition.....sweet!).

Okay, I always finish my review the the price. This place is, and has always been, on the upper end of japanese cuisine. Hence, you will pay more here. For 3 of us, with 2 plates of appetizers, and 3 bentos, the total was $60. Defintiely more than you would pay at
Sen-Dai or Sushi-O , but one must respect the effort and expense it takes to create such an enjoyed dining experience.
As a side note, if anyone reading this knows why the heck they called it "Chocolate Sushi" to beign with, please let me know. I always forget to ask when we go!!
-Tom W Tell

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Boiled Crawfish in the Dirty South, Y'all!

Just came back from a week long trip to New Orleans, LA (otherwise known at the Dirty South), visiting my brother, who has been working out of Louisiana for 10 years, but never visited New Orleans. The only southern City I've ever visited before now was Orlando, FL (Disney World) a few times, so this was my first REAL immersion into the southern environment, and, more importantly, the food.

As a religious watcher of the
Food Network (the real insipration for this blog), I have become somewhat familiar with what southern food is. I had tried Shrimp Gumbo, Jambalaya, and such before, but I had no idea what the real deal was like. As a semi-pro foodie, it is my solemn duty to be honest about my exeriences, even if you the reader may never visit or have the same experience. During my few days in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, I learned that crawfish can be served a million different ways, much like chicken is in the rest of the country. I saw every type of meal with an option for a crawfish substitution. I can't tell you how many signs I saw advertising 'Boiled Crawfish - $2.79/lb, Live - $1.79/lb'. If you don't know, they look like little lobsters (see pic), but has a little less flavor. I loved them in the dishes I got; it was a nice departure from shrimp. The overall service was great, depending on the price range, you know, southern least for food. Can't say much for the cab drivers.

Since none of us had actually visited New Orleans before, we had to go by the 2 travel guidebooks I checked out from the library (Frommers and Eyewitness Travel). Both were great resources and did us no wrong with their recommendations. A couple of places were small, locals only types, with way too long of a wait, no matter how good the food was. Plus, their were severe thunderstorms almost every night that week, and we didn't feel like standing out in the rain for food we new nothing about. Sorry, readers, but even the best of us have breaking points. On more then 1 occaision, I feel we were suckered into some non-authentic places.

If you don't know the difference between a Cajun and a Creole, a Crawdad from a Crawfish, or a streetcar from a cablecar, just know this - New Orleans is more then just great food (although enjoying a beignets and cafe au lait at
Cafe du Monde is an experience hard to describe, but should be had by all). I went for the food, but left with a greater respect and understanding of life in the south. I wont get into Katrina, the French Quarter, or above ground can read about that in any of the guidebooks. Instead, I simply want to impart upon my readers the enhanced experience one gets when an open food-mind is kept in the middle of this exotic place.

If you do get to visit, here are a few places we found that I recommend:
Muriel's, Zea's, and Randolph's at the Nottoway Plantation. Sorry I don't have more pic's for y'all (damn, now I'm saying it!) but I had to save the memory card for historic sites and 300 year old oak trees.

-Tom W Tell

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sandella's Flatbread......Flat-BAD!

I don't normally review lunch outings, but, as a serious food blogger, I must be open to these kinds of things. Also, I normally don't eat out for lunch, as I am a hardcore brown-bagger (ok, I use a cold/hot zip-up lunch bag), which has saved me loads of $$ during the years. On nice days, like we have been having lately, I just can't help getting outside. Downtown San Jose has a lot more food choices these days, and I have taken it upon myself to give them a chance.

This week, I wanted to play it safe and go for Baja Fresh on the Paseo de San Antonio, between 1st and 2nd St. On the way, I noticed an interesting looking place I hadn't heard of before,
Sandella's Flatbread Cafe . Not too many people inside, looked clean, what the heck? The counter person was very nice and answered all of the ordering questions with a smile...I went with the Turkey-Pesto roll with a bag of chips.

Okay, I guess I am a little spoiled on the Eric's Deli pesto sandwiches (see my previous post on the Milpitas location), because what this places calls pesto sauce is mayonaisse with some green food coloring added. It was horrible and ruined and otherwise fine turkey/salad roll. Many passers-by had the same idea I did, walking by several times before going inside. I am learning that the look of a place is as important for business as the quality of the food. I am not sure how long this place has been open, but it will not last with food like that. I realize that this is part of a chain, with a preset menu of food items to serve, but pride needs to be taken in your food. San Jose food adventurers are nothing to f#*k with when it comes to downtown!!!

Again, good service, clean, under $10, and absolutely awful food. I am so sorry, Baja Fresh, I will never pass you by again!

-Tom W Tell

Monday, March 16, 2009

99 (Chicken) Bottles of beer on the wall....

As a follow up to a previous blog posting, I paid a visit to 99 Chicken in Santa Clara, next to a (former) favorite Sushi spot near El Camino and Scott Blvd. Having eaten in this tiny strip mall many times before and passing by it without giving it so much as a second look, I was suprised to have gotten a glorious recommendation recently for it. I was told that this place had amazing fried chicken with all kinds of free side dishes and extras. This recommendation came from a reliable source (good food adventure tips come from other food adventurers!), so naturally my curiosity was piqued.

It actually took a second visit to actually go in and eat, as my first attempt the day before was thwarted by an unruly lunch crowd that I was just not in the mood to deal with at the time. Tried again the next day, and was pleased to find the early dinner crowd was much lighter. True to form, this place was a typical long, narrow, and intimate m&p (mom-and-pop) food joint with lots of nationalistic Korean flags, beer advertisements, and, of course, photos of past diners plastered over every available square inch of wall space! Now, I have seen this decorating technique before, normally commemorating a birthday or some other type of special event at the establishment, but these seemed to just be regular people enjoying their food. Strange, I thought, but then I thought "Why not??" Okay, it made me think differently about something I'd seen before, and thats part of food adventuring, right?

I think it was the owners wife that sat us and gave a 10 second de-briefing on how the place works: study the menu and place your food/drink order. There is indeed lots of free stuff, including a 'salad bar' (complete with lettuce and your choice of 3 toppings, the minimum amount to be called a salad bar I think), self serve white rice, a hot tea dispenser, and refill-your-own-water station. I guess this all cuts down on the back and forth between the waiter (owners wife) and the diners. Instead, people fight amongst themselves for drinks and side-dishes. Okay, I didn't actually see a fight, but it was fun noticing how people timed their trips and positioned themselves strategically to take advantage of the next open spot.

Beer is common to have with fried chicken, and although I don't drink the nasty stuff myself, I notice just about everyone enjoying a cold bottle, or 2, or a 40-ounce, with their dinner. The sexy Korean beer posters made it hard to resist...then I remembered what it actually tastes like.

They have plenty of Korean dishes, but I came for the fried chicken. As suggested, I got the sampler plate for myself and dining guest. It comes with about 8 pieces (drumsticks and wings), 2 pieces each with 4 different flavorings. 2 were plain, with no sauce or flavoring (my favorite), 2 came drenched in a sweet & sour sauce, 2 with a spicier sauce, and 2 with just a honey coating. It was fried chicken. What else did I expect? I was expecting a melt in your mouth, one-of-a-kind experience, I guess....but it was just fried chicken.

The comparison to KFC is obvious, and I hate to do it, but I have to say, as far as the fried chicken itself goes, is not much different. KFC has special flavorings, too, although the pieces are not as fresh. Does it really matter with fried chicken? It has been a while since I have had chicken prepared this way, and I forgot just how greasy it is. I can see why this is more of a lunch place, and I think it would be better had mid-day, instead of just before bed, as you will want to let this stuff digest before stomach was growling all night. Lets just say I 'paid for it' the next day with a slight nauseous feeling most of the day.

The experience was fun, and was around $20 for both of us. Although the plain pieces were my personal favorite, if you visit, go for something unique. Also, on my way to the restroom, I noticed also that there was a special, neon lit room for a what looked like a private a party. I may try to get that next time with some friends.

-Tom W Tell

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sun has not's just Sen Dai!!

Finally found the highly praised Sen Dai on North Abel St in Milpitas. You may reacall from my previous posting about my visit to Sushi Mamoru on Main St that this was the place I was actually looking for. If you didn't catch that post, I was referred to Sun Dei by a Milpitas resident and fellow food adventurer, only to forget the name and exact location of the place; ended up on Main St instead of Abel St, has a so-so experience; continued my search; found Sen Dai. Sun Dei is a mom-and-pop japanese food restaurant in Milpitas that is a local favorite for Milpitians. As a former resident of Milpitas, I was suprised I had not heard of it before.

I visited here on a Saturday for lunch. The decription I got was pretty much dead-on. The dining area is about the size of my bedroom, with a cheesy exterior, but clean and orderly interior. As the place had just opened for lunch that day, there was only 1 other couple dining there, so we were seated immediately, a BIG plus++. They have a choice of regular open area dining tables, a bar, or the traditional stick-your-legs-through-a-hole-in-the-floor type of table. I have had this experience before and I cannot say I enjoy it, but it makes you feel like you are really experiencing something authentic. We decided to site at one, but it was really just a table with a bench that you had to step over to sit down on. Close enough! Our service was prompt, and our waitress was not pushy or snappy, very easy going, another plus+. We ordered some usual stuff, as I have found that trying something new on your first visit to a resaturant sometimes gives me a bad impression if I don't like what I ordered (I may not have liked that dish anywhere). We played it safe in order to make a sensible comparision to other recent japanese lunch spots (you know, Cali Rolls, Bento Box).

The food was adequate, and surely of better quality that I expected from the out of the way lunch spot (I noticed they are open for dinner, too, but all the recommendations I got was to go at lunch...not sure why?) Our water and hot tea was refilled constantly, another big plus++! Our bill was just over $20 for 2 people with some left over to take home for lunch the next day. The real reason to visit here it the great service and low prices for a tasty meal. The day I visited, there was a 1:1 ratio of employees to can't beat that.

This will be a regulary dining spot for us from now on, and if you find yoursefl food-adventuring in Milpitas, Sun Dai needs to be on your list!

-Tom W Tell

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sushi-O is now Sushi-N-O

So many a delectable japanese meal have I had at Sushi-O-Sushi in on El Camino and Bowers in Santa Clara; so much so that I just realized last night that I had been taking it for granted. As a usual quick and moderately priced dinner meeting place for my wife and I and occaisonally a friend or family member, Sushi-O was a place that became our fall-back in case we couldn't decide where we wanted to go. It was always good, had good service, and didn't emtpy the wallet. What happened to the good old days(see pic)?

Those days are over, as, just last night, we may very well have had our last meal there. I don't if they changed owners, management, or just wait staff, but it has definitely fallen off. I should have known something was a-miss when we showed up around 7pm with only 1 other person waiting for a table. We were seated promptly, which is unusual. I had become accustomed to the 15-20 minute wait during dinner hour, as it was worth it for great eats.

Our waitress broke the first rule.....NEVER LEAVE ME THIRSTY. She brought the hot tea on time, but did not get us water until we asked for the 3rd time. Unacceptable. The place was not that busy, and she was not new, as she served everything else properly (Japanese food comes in a bunch of small, 'cute' food dishes instead a few big ones, and they get placed in front of you slowly and one-by-one). All of my party's glass went dry 3 times and we had to ask each time for a refill. I call it the first rule because it is the most important...who can enjoy a meal with a dry mouth? Our appetizer rolls were tasty, but came out with the rest of the meal, that is rule number 2.....SERVE THE APPETIZER BEFORE THE MAIN COURSE, AS IT IN AN APPETIZER. Now, I can't prove this was our servers fault, as the sushi chefs may have been backed up, slow, or asleep. But, she may have left them sitting for awhile.

The food itself was good, but somehow not as good as it usually is. I believe they rasied the prices too, as the bill with tip was $50; usually not more than $40 for 3 people. I am always sorry to see this happen, but it takes only 1 bad dining experience to ruin a reputation.

On a side note, I did get a recommendation for the place 2 doors down from Sushi-O, that serves some bomb fried chicken, called 99 Chicken. I think we are going there tonight, and will post my impression tommorrow.

-Tom W Tell

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mels Drive-In, San Francisco - Near Sony Metreon

Okay, I know this isnt really a 'San Jose' food review, but I had to share my experience here. Whenever I am in San Francisco with a group, and its late, and we need to eat, Mels Drive-In always comes up first. If you don't know or haven't heard, it is modeled after the hang-out in American Graffiti. It is a fantastic place to get american soul-food, any time of day or night. Even though that usually means burgers, fries, and coke and/or shake, I usually get a turkey or chicken sandwich. I have cut french fries out of my diet completely due to their fat content, milkshakes due to the cholestrol in milk, and burgers I only have at Red Robin occaisionally. None of these factors affected my dining experience at all.

It was about 12:30am, and we had not had dinner yet, so about 5 of us ended up here over this past weekend. We came hungry, and left full and satisfied. There are several locations in SF, but my experience has been pretty much the same at all of them. Good food, cheap, and open all hours.

If you relate to things visually like I do, they have some great
website pics to help you find it.

-Tom W Tell

Sushi through a hole in the wall - Sushi Mamoru!

I got a recommendation recently from an acquaintence for a japanese restaurant in Milpitas, one I had not heard of before. On the night I went looking for it, I couldn't quite remember the specifics (location or name). All I had to go from was that I knew it was in Milpitas around the Main St/Abel St area, and it was bomb. So off I went!! I could have sworn he said Main St, right next to a bar. Well, I found one, right next to a pool hall on Main St, called Sushi Mamoru. The name didn't ring any bells, but I was almost sure this was it. It was described as "kind-of a hole in the wall" from the outside. And here it was!

The windows are totally blacked out, with huge cheesy neon signs in the front, but once you are inside, the place is actually pretty swank. Typical black and red decor, and they have a few cook-in-front-of you tables too. A mandatory Karaoke station is also prominent. As we were the only ones there (kind of strange for a Thursday night dinner hour) we got immediate service. Only 1 other couple came in while were there, so we had the whole place was practically to ourselves.

The food was not bad, not great. We got a few rolls for apps, and they were not the best I have ever had, but not the worst either. The Cali rolls were alright but the crunchy rolls were way too crunchy for me. I got a bento with teriyaki steak, again, not the best I've ever had. Not enough sauce, and the steak was a little raw for my taste as well. We did get constant refills on water and hot tea, which it always a plus.

The bill came out to less then $30, so at least we didn't get scalped! You could try their website, but it wont be much help, as it is still under construction. This place really downgraded my acquaintence for food recommendations. I found out later that it was indeed the wrong place, that I should have been looking on Abel Street for a place called Sun Dai. After checking yelp, I can see that I was way off in my recollections. My acquiantenace may still have a chance to redeem himself.

Even though I have yet to try Sun Dai, it HAS to be better then Mamoru. I will add this to my list of restaurants to try.

-Tom W Tell