Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chinese Banquet at Ocean City Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA

We went to a banquet thrown as a holiday party by some friend's of Giao's parents. We didn't enjoy the food all that much because most of it was salty and fried. We can't give a truly accurate review of the restaurant, however, because we wouldn't have ordered any of these things, had the choice been ours.

Various Battered and Fried Fishy Things
Salty, greasy and fishy.

Shark Fin Soup
A little bland and very gelatinous.

Shrimp with Chinese Mayo, Walnuts and Brocolli
These are just too mayo-y and because Chinese mayo is sweet, it's just not really a good ingredient for use with shrimp, in our opinion.

Seafood Bird's Nest
This was one of the highlights of the meal, as it was not fried. It contained various types of seafood, one of which we had no idea what it was (the red).

Well, you can't go wrong with lobster. We ate a lot of this.

Fried Scallops and Squid
Far too salty. And again, fried.

Roast Chicken with Shrimp Chips
This was juicy and tasty and one of the better dishes of the night.

This was strangely sweet, but not terrible.

Fried Rice
Food: 0
Decor: 0
Service: 0

Ocean City Restaurant
234 N 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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Lunch at Giao's Parents' House, Radnor, PA

Salmon and Tuna Sashimi
Giao's parents picked up some sushi-grade fish and we looked up how to cut it properly for sashimi. I think we did a pretty good job.



Seaweed Salad

Prawn Wontons
These were from Costco and were quite good. They were tender and contained very little filler.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Great Tapas at Amada, Philadelphia, PA

Giao's sister suggested this great tapas place in Philly and we went with Giao's parents. We were getting a reservation on short notice, but they could accommodate at the bar. We were seated at a sort of strange table that was very high off the ground, on very high, backless stools. We had very good posture over dinner. There were so many options that we decided to go with what was effectively a communal tasting menu of tapas, all chosen by the chef. The cost was $45 per person, with $20 per person for the wine pairing. Overall, it was a great meal for a good price. We were stuffed at the end of the meal and had to take some of it home. The decor was clean, yet warm, with a couple of missteps. They had a display of things for sale at the front, but had decided to paint the prices in white on the fixture, which was distracting, and for some reason they decided to hang the prosciutto from the ceiling still in its plastic wrapping. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable. Also, the plating was beautiful.

Warm Flatbread with Tuna
This was a tasty little bread course that we thought was a tapas, but was actually just the bread, that would be replenished throughout the night.

Thinly Sliced Ham with Caper Berries, Cornichons and Mustard
Salty and sweet in that meaty sort of way. Yum. Sorry for the terrible picture.

Blue Cheese with Apples and Figs
A very tasty cheese which was nice with the apple.

Bread with Tomato
This was the only dish we weren't so hot on, but not because it was not good, just because it was not particularly interesting.

Goat Cheese Toasts with Roasted Veggies
The eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes were sweet and were a nice contrast to the tart creaminess of the goat cheese.

Spinach and Cheese Empanadas with Plaintain Crust
The crust added an element of nutty sweetness to the dish that was unexpected and delicious.

Grilled Flatbread with Shrimp and Chickpea Puree
This was sort of like a pizza and was quite good. Giao's mom loved it. We didn't really taste the chickpea thogh.

Crab Stuffed Roasted Peppers with Almonds
The almonds were a little overkill, but this hot dish was satisfying in a way that only crab can be.

Lamb Meatballs in a Truffle Cream Sauce
So good. The sauce was full of truffle flavor and the meatballs were so tender, I don't know how they stayed together.

These were one of the highlights of the night. They were perfectly seasoned and so simple.

Bean Salad
This was the only true stinker of the night. No one really liked this and we didn't finish it. It was just sort of blah and beany.

Sauteed Wild Mushrooms
This simple dish was also quite good. The spritz of lemon cut through the earthiness of the mushrooms quite well.

Chicken with Egg and Potatoes
This was the most tender chicken we have ever had. It must have been cooked sous-vide. And not only was it tender, it was flavorful.

Goat-Cheese Stuffed, Crusted Lamb Chops with Romesco Sauce
The lamb chops were tender and the goat cheese was good, but the crust was unnecessary. These would have been much better with a nice sear instead of the crust.

Food: 2
Decor: 2
Service: 1

217 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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Snack at Pod, Philadelphia, PA

Giao had always heard about Pod ever since it opened on the campus of his old alma mater, Penn, but never had a chance to visit it on his infrequent visits to Philly. We dropped in on it while Giao was showing Alexis his old stomping grounds.

The interior is pretty striking, opening up to an active bar area with a large red hard foam structure, which served as both couch and table. It was much more comfortable then is looked. But the choatic and connected nature of it often brought other parties uncomfortable close. Stairs lead down to the main dining area, in which everything was white. The sushi bar was a modern take on the sushi boat, with a conveyor belt transporting covered sushi plates 360 degrees around the chefs. We aren't fans of sushi that isn't made to order, but we weren't planning to eat sushi in Philly anyway. The name of the restaurant comes from three tables that can seat about 10 people and are enclosed in a cylinder with a window around eye level when seated. You can control the colors of the lights within your pod with a control panel. This feature caused much shrieks of joy from a what looked like a child birthday party. The much ballyhoed bathrooms failed to please us, Giao felt that the ergonomics were off, while Alexis found it cramped.

Chicken Dumplings with Sweet Mustard Aioli
These dumplings were strangely dense, but not bad. The sauce was interesting and delicious.

Food: 1
Decor: 2
Service: 1

3636 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Snack at Fisher's In Reading Street Market, Philadelphia, PA

Soft Buttered Pretzel $1.50
Apparently Philly is known for soft pretzels. And they should be, as this one, warm out of the oven, was soft and chewy and good.

Fisher's Soft Pretzels
Reading Terminal Market
Philadelphia, PA

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Giao's Nephew's One Month Old Ceremony

We flew back to Philly to meet my nephew. My sister decided to celebrate her one-month old with a traditional ceremony. The ceremony is to welcome and feed the spirits that will protect the baby.

The table as laid out for the spirits. The pig is facing the door, so that's why it's all askew. Surrounding it are rice, the desserts described below and tea.

20 pound whole roasted pig.

Pho - Great broth, and Giao loaded his bowl up with tendon.

The pig after being chopped up. The skin was amazing and crunchy, while the meat was nice and moist.

KFC Chicken
Though not Vietnamese dish, it was a welcome addition for those less adventurous at the table. And of course we always love any fried chicken.

Tossed Salad with a Homemade Vinaigrette

Glutinous Rice with Sweet Beans and Coconut Milk
This tasted better than it looked.

We aren't totally sure what these were, but it tasted like mochi filled with red bean paste, all in a sweet syrup. This was far too sweet for our tastes.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gigantic Prime Rib at The Prime Rib, Philadelphia

We went to The Prime Rib with Giao's parents in Philly the night we got in. Alexis was warned that the meat was enormous, but she didn't quite believe it. The decor of the place is decidedly 80s with black being the primary color and gigantic flowers being the primary design element. It was a throwback, but a kind of funny one. Alexis' camera was on the fritz, and Giao left his in the car, so iPhone time:

Greenberg Potato Skins - $8
Surprisingly delicious and earthy.

Main Lobster Bisque - $9
Very flavorful, if a bit thick.

Roast Prime Rib - $42
The biggest piece of Prime Rib we've ever eaten (and Giao did finish it). Basically it's sliced at the width of a full bone. The first bite is pure heaven.

Creamed Spinach - $7
They make an incredible creamed spinach, very fresh tasting and smooth, but without much cream.

Food: 2
Decor: 1
Service: 2

The Prime Rib
1701 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 772-1701

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Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Cucumber Logs

We had a ton of cream cheese in the house because Alexis had purchased a large tub from Costco around Thanksgiving. She was determined not to let it go to waste and thus set about to create enough recipes to use up the cream cheese before it went bad. This was the last one.

-2 cups cream cheese
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-1 handful fresh tarragon, minced
-8 oz smoked salmon, minced
-pepper to taste
-2 english cucumbers, halved and seeded

Mix everything except the cucumbers and put into a ziploc bag. Cut off one of the tips and pipe the cream cheese mixture into the seeded cucumber logs.

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Breakfast at Willow Creek Grill, SFO

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Croissant Breakfast Sandwich $8
Filling, but not very good.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dinner at SPQR, San Francisco, CA

We'd been dying to try SPQR, Nate Appleman's new restaurant. However, we are lazy and since they don't take reservations we didn't want to go all the way over there only to find out it would be a very long wait. We finally got our butts over to the neighborhood and gave it a try and were pleasantly surprised to be seated immediately, albeit in a very tiny alcove in the front window.

We found the staff friendly and knowledgeable, the decor warm and inviting and the food good for sure, but not as good as A16. SPQR also boasts an interesting list of all Italian wines and since we know pretty much nothing about Italian wines, we found the waitress' advice to be quite helpful.

The extensive antipasti menu was divided into three sections: cold, hot and fried and was priced at $7 for 1, $18 for 3 and $28 for 5. We ordered 3, as shown below.

20 month San Daniele Prosciutto and Gaeta olives
The proscuitto was a bit thick in the cut, but was very tasty. The olives were surprisingly soft, but good.

Mozzarella Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato Sauce
These were a little bit disappointing just because the thing we love most about A16 is the mozzerella. These were strangely watery when you bit into them, but they were not bad by any standards. We certainly finished eating them.

Crispy Sweetbreads with Celery Salad
These were tender and the brightness of the dressing really cut through the richness of the sweetbreads.

Bucatini with Seafood $13
There wasn't a ton of seafood in the dish, but we weren't expecting that much, as the price was relatively low. The seafood that was on the plate was fresh and tasty, and the pasta was nicely al dente.

Whole Fried Chicken with Lemon and Salsa Verde $19
We rarely order chicken in restaurants, but this just sounded great. And it was. This was the star of the meal. The meat was juicy and well seasoned, the skin was crispy (and not breaded at all) and the accompaniments were delicious and cut through the fat.

Panino with Caramelized Milk, Pears, Shaved Chocolate and Sea Salt $7
I love Appleman's use of salt in desserts. It adds a complexity that you don't often see in desserts. This was an interesting idea for the dish and the middle was great, but the crusts were a little dry.

1911 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Too New for Health Code Violations

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