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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little Mad Fish is Fresh Fish

I have tried a lot of Japanese places around the south bay, and when my wife and I were at Pacific Commons in Fremont, we noticed a new little place, Little Mad Fish next to the fish taco place. We went in saw the familiar japanese/fremont, CA style decor. Nice, clean, subtle colors, and small, but adequately sized tables. I tried the chicken katsu with curry. I have never had (or heard of) that combintation before, and it tasted pretty much as it sounds. I liked it, but I think I prefer the usual BBQ-style dipping sauce over the curry. I had the standard deep-fried cali rolls, they were good, not great.
As with most of the places at Pacific Commons, this is mainly a lunch place, but it does have table service, so it is a step up from the other eateries around. Certainly a better experience than the other asian themed retaurant (PF Changs, skip it, go to Sunnyvale, see my previous blog entry for more info on that one). It is pretty cheap, and I guess you get what you pay for. What they lack in taste, is made up for in service. Our water and hot tea were always being refilled, and I like that. Hard to eat rice with a dry mouth. Had enough to take home for lunch the next day, and it tasted the same as it did the day before. That either means it was made really well, or loaded with oil (preservative).
If you are in the area, and need maki roll fix, check it out, but I wouldn't make a special trip for it.

It's a's a cafe....its Erik's Delicafe!

Okay, another one my my fav Milpitas food establishments, also known to many-a-Milpitian, is Erik's Delicafe in the recently re-developed Safeway Shopping Center in the heart of the City. There are many locations around the Bay Area, and I have only been to a few of them, but if the great, simple experience one gets from dining at this branch is any indication of the others, you'll be safe eating at any of them. I have been going to Erik's in Milpitas since I used to live there (for more on my take on Milpitas, check out my La Milpa blog entry), and the nice folks there have never failed to provide with a simple, easy lunch that didn't empty by wallet.

Since it IS a Deli, it naturally caters to the lunch crowd, and, since I don't work in the area, I only get to visit on weekends, but there is never 1 or 2 parties in line at a time. The dining area is spacious and I always get a great seat next to the old stove (see pic, non-functioning). Again, it may be a different story altogether during the work week, but weekends have to be the best. I usually get the half sandwich/half salad combo for like $6, and a drink for another $2 or something. The portions are rediculous for what you pay, I sometimes skip dinner I am so full! My personal recommendation is the Chicken Pesto sandwich, which has a warm chicken breast, that kick-ass green pesto sauce, sprouts, and a melted slice of cheese on a roll....awesome. I ususally just get a green salad with ranch and a lemonade to drink. It never fails to satisfy. Less than $20 for two people for lunch with no wait....I mean come on!

They do have a few other great items on the menu, but I would not recommend going there too often, as I could see where it would get a little old. I like to keep my visits to about once a month. Life is all about moderation, and Erik knows this, whoever he is.
-Tom W Tell

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Sitara Indian Buffet Santa Clara

I have wanting Indian food for a long time, so I convinced my usual dining partners to try a place nearby. We had a recommendation for New Sitara on the corner of Lawrence Expressway and Homestead in Santa Clara. We went for dinner, which was an unassuming buffet with a decent sampling of traditional Indian foods. The decor and mood music has some thought, but mostly I think they wanted to hide the theme of whatever restaurant was there before, perhaps a Dennys/Lyons/Carrows type of place, judging by the architecture. There was no wait at all, which I love, especialy on a Friday night.

We were seated immediately, brought water, and were checked up on regularly to make sure we were doing okay. The staff didn't pester us, didn't offer any real help, and we did have to ask for the Naan, which is supposed to come free to everyone. Typical service for a buffet, actually. We had better service from the other nice folks in the buffet line with us, who kindly explained what it was we were looking at when they noticed we weren't sure what everything was. The ice cream machine was out-of-order, the soda fountain was basic, and we did not recieve free Chai Tea, as I had been told we would.

It is conveniently located across the street from the new
Kaiser Hospital, just in case the heavy spices don't agree with your digestive tract. I think my stomach came close to having a disagreement with the food, but, luckily, my stomach won and I was okay. My wife's stomach apparently had a weaker agrument for the flavor, as things did not 'sit well' with her. No regurgitation action, but more of an 'expedited' digestion. For your first timers out there, I suggest taking it easy on the spicy stuff and load up more in the rice and Naan (soft bread). As a growing Curry lover, I enjoyed most of everything I sampled. Not sure what the names of everything was, but in the end, my plate was a mix of yellow, green, orange, and brown sauces, if that helps. I made a big rice bedding on my plate and poured a little of each over it, and it worked out great for me. I tried the 2 desert servings, but didn't care for them. By all means try them, just don't take too much.

For the 3 of us, the bill totaled $42 with tip. A little too much for what we got, I think, but at least we will know what to expect from future dining experiences. We will not be visiting this establishment again, as I believe there is better food/service/prices elsewhere in the south bay. This may be my first non-positive review. Feels kind of wierd, but I have to be honest if this blog is to be real. And you know I keeps it rrreeaallll......
-Tom W Tell

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Best Thai food not in Thailand - Krung Thai San Jose!

Falling more and more in love with Thai food over the past few years, I was lucky enough to be exposed to Krung Thai on Winchester Boulevard in San Jose early on. First time I went, I will never forget attempting to try something 'safe'....sweet and sour chicken. Wish I knew then what I know was the strangest tasting S&S I've ever had, not like the chinese variety at all! Once accustomed to the flavors of Thai food, one can really start testing out new dishes, and I have really gone deep into the menu, only to find it gets better and better.

I recently dined at
Krung Thai for a relatives birthday party, as this has become a popular destination for family get togethers (all can agree the food is bomb). Even though only 1/3 of the people showed up that night (5 instead of 15), the waiter insisted is was no problem to seperate the tables that were put together earlier when the reservations were made. We brought our own cake, again, no problem for them to store it in their refridgerator and bring it out later with paper plates and plastic serving utencils. I can't say enough about the servers here, they are friendly, to the point, and never hover over you. I've had similar Thai food dishes in Bangkok, Thailand, and I am truly sorry Bangkok, but it did not compare. Maybe Krung Thai isn't truly authentic, but it is by no means fusion. I am one of those gringos who likes the American-ized versions of other cultures dishes.

With 5 people, we got out of their for $78, tip included, with some to take home. The prices are great, the food is great, its close to authentic, its american, it is what locals know but don't want others to. Yeah, thats why I am raving about it on my blog....
-Tom W Tell

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunnyvale History, Chinese Fusion, PF Changs!

I visit a lot of national-chain type restaurants, I don't know if that's good for a self-proclaimed food blogger, but it's my opinion that ALL dining establishments get a chance. Sure, they have better marketing and corporate backing, but they have to run their shop just like the mom-and-pops do, with managers, food servers, dishwashers, accounting, etc., just like others.

Last night, we visited the
PF Changs branch in Sunnyvale, at the corner of El Camino Real and Mathilda (in the Cherry Orchard shopping center), as we have many times before. As usual, the service was outstanding, the food above average, and the atmosphere a mix of social and private (not sure how they do that, I am sure it's the lighting). Our waiters name was Ryan, and I gave a tip more than I usually would because of how attentive he was. This branch was the first in the south bay, and is still be best. The others just can't match this one, probably superior management. Downtown San Jose is okay, but should be better considering the location (and SJ Redevelopment Agency sponsorship!); the newest branch at Pacific Commons in Fremont can be skipped altogether, not sure what happened there.

I was able to make a reservation, which I have learned is absolutely neccesary for this place on a weekend night unless you have 2 hours to kill. Parking is a nightmare, but always make a first pass drive-by the front of the restaurant, you sometimes find a motorists pot-of-gold (a parking space). If you don't get a spot, cruise past the $6 valet service, and continue around to the parking area at the Cherry Orchard apartments.

Browsing through the menu, anyone can quickly find things they like and don't like. Although most items are prepared better than you or anyone you know can do at home, the only items I recommend staying away from is the curry dishes (they put a strange lime flavoring in it and it just doesn't seem right). We usually get fried crab wontons for apps, a noodle, a chicken or beef, and a seafood dish with brown rice. The ginger peach decaf hot tea goes well with anything. We splurged last night and got the fried banana spring roll/ice cream for desert, well worth it. We always have enough to take home to reheat for lunch the next day, so when you get the bill, think of it as though you are paying for to 2 meals. The two of us got out of there for $55 total
(so actually, 4 meals!)

Asian-fusion cooking is not authentic, not very healthy, and can be pricey. But I can't get enough of it! Americans love comfort food, and it's not a sin, just don't fill your gut with this stuff everyday. So, if you are in the mood, have some extra $$, and have the foresight to call ahead, do youself a favor and check this place out. If you get there early enough, you can even check out a piece of south bay living history at the Cherry Orchard fruit market, in use since

Coming soon....recent recommendations......
Poor House Bistro, Billy Berks

-Tom W Tell

Monday, February 9, 2009

Regular Dining Spots - La Milpa

Milpitas is a great place, don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Sure, it has traffic, no real night life, and that God-awful smell at certain times of the year, but honestly, what City doesn't? As a former resident of this small town nestled snuggly in between San Jose and Fremont, I can say I have tried most eateries in the area. La Milpa is known to locals mostly, and is frequently by families and......well, mostly just families who want to get together. Just like most small town mom-and-pop restaurants, you wont find their website, they don't really advertise, and no one outside the immediate vicinity knows about it. But that is what makes it special for those who do...

Milpitians (yes, thats people from Milpitas) have pride in their community and do their best to keep an identity seperate from San Jose. And what a perfect way to do it but to keep their secret mexican food heaven to themselves. There was an article in the Metro a while back, praising Milpitas's diverse selection of food types, from Ethiopian to Mexican to Indian and everything in between. And although I agree with that statement, diversity for diversity's sake is not enough. As I stated earlier, I have tried most dining spots in Milpitas, and honeslty, most are not that good, even those that typically are (El Torrito, Red Lobster; please avoid the branches in Milpitas) In future postings, I will no doubt address other great eating establishments in Milpitas, but enough already, lets talk about La Milpa!
-Tom W. Tell

Great authentic Mexican food and friendly prompt service at a good price is all you get at La Milpa, and what else can one ask for? There is rarely a wait, unless you go during peak lunch or dinner hours, even then it is never more than a few minutes. The place is very bright, the tables/chairs are not very special, and the decor is unique and fun to look at, but will not distract you from your main purpose of the visit. I am a gringo, so I usually order a 'Small Combination' place and pick a standard enchilada, taco, burrito, taquitos, or tostada mix. Everything is good, so don't worry about getting something you wont eat. I don't like to overeat, but you can't help it here! Whatever space is left on your plate around your main selection is filled in with beans, rice, and salad; and it is all good. They don't have fancy drinks or great appetizers, but again, it helps you keep your focus on what is important - your main dish. I always leave full and satisfied, and sometimes have some left over to take home to have the next day. If you are on some type of diet thing, they have a few options for you, but I just don't think its right. If you really want to watch what you eat, stay home and cook for yourself- Please enjoy what La Milpa has to offer.

Two people can get out of their for under around $25. There is plenty of parking, not hard to find, and is completly unassuming, exaclty the way Milpitians like it. Just google La Milpa Milpitas for directions, you'll be glad you did.
-Tom W. Tell

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Regular dining spots - Red Robin

I live in the northern part of San Jose, between Milpitas and Santa Clara, near Alviso. Kind of far from the action, so my local dining options are limited. During the week, I don't like to drive far to get food. A regular reliable dining spot is Red Robin - Rivermark Shopping Center (

Just a national chain burger place really, so why do I go there regularly? First, its good, its cheap, there is NEVER a wait to get a table, 5 minutes at most on weekends. I know what your thinking: "How could any self respecting food blogger promote a place like that?" Folks, this is not your usual hoidy-toidy-you-have-to-spend-$100-or-more-to-have-a-decent-meal food blog. I seriously recommend this local branch is you are in the area and don't have a lot of time.

From a health perspective, it's not the best place if you are counting calories, unless you haven't eaten all day and you need 2,000 calories in one sitting. I get a side salad instead of french fries (no extra charge), no appetizer, and a water to drink. That makes me feel better about having a Bleu Ribbon Burger (#1), a Whiskey River BBQ Burger (#2), or a Jamaican Jerk'd Chicken Burger (#3). For the health freaks who choose to dine at a burger chain, such as my wife and frequent eating partner, they have Boca/veggie burger patties, turkey burgers, and fish burgers. You can check out all the rest of their grub on their website (and also pre-calculate your calorie intake before you go!)

The atmosphere is typical, but not over the top. There is a lot of familys with small kids bouncing about, but not so much that it disrupts your meal. The hosts and waiters are kids themselves, but always conduct themselves professionally and with prompt service, kudos to the management/HR staff for their screening process. As parking is usually a pain in the a*# at Rivermark Plaza, walking around there is kind of cool anyway.

My wife and I can ususally get out of there for around $20, which is not much more that you would pay for 2 at the Baja Fresh or Yo-Yo Sushi nearby.
-Tom W. Tell

San Jose Food Blog Intro

This blog is being created to share with others my various experiences with dining out in the San Jose /San Francisco Bay Area of California. Why? Why does anyone start a blog? Hard to say exactly, but here are a few reasons that come to mind:

  • I enjoy eating out, and do it A LOT

  • I enjoy visiting new places and tasting new kinds of food

  • I love to judge people and places anonymously

What better way to share with others our experiences that through the web? The best dining recommendations come by word of mouth. They can be extremely subjective, as everyone has their own distinctive tastes, likes, and dislikes. That being said, I can not guarantee that your experience (or anyone elses) will be similar to mine. I can promise that the opinions expressed here will be honest, unbiased, and unadulterated. There are several other good resources to get dining information on the web for the San Jose area, some of which I use regularly myself to find new places (,,,, etc). I will undoubtedly be posting my reviews of these other sites here as well (hint: some are kickass, some just a waste of oxygen).

My main goal is to help others find new and fun places to eat out in the San Jose / San Francisco Bay Area. Although I am based in San Jose and primarily dine out in the South Bay vicinity, I venture out from time to time searching for good eats. I strongly encourage anyone visiting here to leave comments, whether they are positive, negative, blasphemous, or whatever.

Like many other (hopefully) working San Jose residents, I eat out mostly on or near the weekends, for special events, and out of necessity (no food left at home and too lazy cook!). From this day forward, I vow to document each and every eating establishment I visit, and offer as much useful information I can.

Cheers and happy dining!

-Tom W. Tell