Eating our way thru the Bay…area that is.

Last weekend, Dan and I went up to San Fransisco to attend the wedding of one of my good friends from high school. Lovely lovely…(^_^)…interesting even what with the fire alarms going off (not during the ceremony, thankfully)! There’s something surreal about being at a Chinese style reception and hearing the mostly-Asian crowd singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi at the top of their lungs.

Since this is a review blog…food review from our weekend!!! I have to apologize that I don’t have pictures of the actual food save 1 item. We did have a camera but we just were so caught up in seeing old friends and having fun that we never really broke out the camera. =/ Instead, you’ll have to make do with the pictures I found on the intarwebs.

Chili's - Chipotle Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger

Chili’s at the LAX Airport – Chipotle Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger:

What a huge burger! The chipotle added a nice subtle kick. The bleu cheese was quite potent and sometimes overpowered the burger depending on how much was in the bite. The burger patty was moist. The bacon was thick and crispy. A fantastic burger that satiated my hungry tummy. Oh and yummy crisp fries that weren’t all air. This is a 4 1/2 NOM burger.

After check-in at the beautiful Hotel Sofitel San Francisco Bay, Dan and I paid a visit to their bar. Their specialty drinks were a bit unusual, using freshly made juices and organic herbs like basil. They had an avocado martini which I did not try. Instead, I opted to go with the dark n’ stormy – fresh ginger soda and rum. Supposedly, it’s a common drink in the Caribbean. Tasty, especially if you are fan of ginger. I also tried a mango drink that I liked even better as all I could taste was the mango. Dangerous! I just wish I could remember what went into it…bitters, I think.

For breakfast, we met up with some friends at the restaurant at the hotel, Bay 223. I had the cinnamon butter french toast with a side of applewood smoked bacon ($18). Dan opted for the steak and eggs ($22). My french toast was good but I wish it had more cinnamon on it as I could barely taste it. The bacon, on the hand, was perfect – cooked to a nice crisp. I tried a bite of Dan’s steak. I prefer my meat to be cooked medium rare/medium so his well-done steak was cooked too well for me but it was still moist and tender. We had unlimited refills on orange juice and coffee was delivered in a french press. The service was impeccable. We never had to ask for anything. Though the food was good, I found the prices to be expensive for what we got.  (3 1/2 NOMs)

After the ceremony, a group of us hung out at the bar again. We ordered some fried calamari and the Mediterranean platter (hummus, tzatziki and an olive tapenade with pita bread) to nosh on while we killed time till the reception. The calamari was disappointing as the pieces were tiny and half the basket seemed to be batter flakes. The platter, however, was not. The tzatziki was not your typical kind; instead of yogurt, they used cottage cheese as the base. It was nice as it added a good texture. The olive tapenade was excellent, if you like olives. The hummus was thick and fresh; it still had a little bit of a grainy texture from the beans and a strong garlic flavor. (3 NOMs)

The reception was at Zen Peninsula, a Chinese family restaurant in Millbrae. In case some of you aren’t familiar with Chinese weddings, it’s basically one giant food fest. You are seated at a large table with a lazy susan and the waiters bring dish after dish after dish after…well, you get the idea.

Anyways, when we got there, my first impression of the place was that it was bright and clean inside. There were the usual fish tanks, nicely stocked with lobsters, prawns and various fish. They had set up an open bar in the back across from the tanks. On the other side of the room was an appetizer station dishing out vegetable egg rolls and these little buns with bbq pork…not char siu bao (steamed) but baked/fried. The egg rolls were perfectly fried – crispy and not oily. I liked the buns more – moist filling and the bun was almost cake-pastry like.

On to the entreés:
Now, not everything looked like this (the chicken wasn’t a whole one) and there weren’t as many walnuts on the shrimp dish plate. But yes, this is what we got.

Barbeque platter with suckling pig – There was a nice arrangement of various parts of the pig, thinly sliced on the plate with a side of jellyfish. On the sides were pieces of pork belly and some other part I’m not familiar with but had before. In the middle was a section of pork with the skin still on, perfectly fried to a crisp. It was all tasty and none of the meat was dry. I enjoyed the jellyfish, something I don’t get to have often. It looks a bit unappetizing (Dan described it as looking like snot), but don’t let it deter you from trying it. The texture is similar to soft cartilage and the flavor light.

Stir-fried calamari and scallops over greens – The scallops were cooked perfectly and seemed fresh – buttery texture and no fishy flavor. I don’t recall trying the calamari since I had calamari earlier. The greens were sugar snap peas. Cooked lightly, they were still crunchy which was a nice contrast to the buttery scallops.

Honey walnut prawns – This dish comprises of prawn tails cooked in a light mayo sauce and garnished with honey covered walnuts. This is a great dish to order as it’s not too exotic for those with a less adventurous palette. I am not a big fan of mayo and sometimes restaurants will be heavy-handed. In this case, the cooks were not; there was enough sauce to coat the prawns but no more than that.

Braised shark’s fin soup with shredded chicken – I had never had shark fin soup before so this was a treat. I was a little disconcerted as it’s well known, the inhumane way some fishermen harvest shark fins. But since it was served, I went ahead and tried it. The soup was thick, like syrup.  The flavor was rich, like a meaty broth that overcame the flavor of the shredded chicken pieces. As for the shark fin itself…um…I’m not sure if it is like tofu and takes on other flavors or if it was masked.

Braised sliced abalone and shitake mushroom – I am not sure if I’ve ever had abalone before. This dish comprised of a large whole shitake mushroom and a thin slice of abalone. The abalone, like other shellfish, when cooked correctly, had a buttery texture though it had a stronger flavor than scallops. As a lover of mushrooms, I thoroughly enjoyed the shitake.

Stir-fried lobster with ginger and scallion – I’m not sure what they mean by stir-fried because this dish didn’t look like what I thought. I was expecting pieces of lobster meat with chunks of ginger and scallion. Instead, whole lobsters segmented into manageable pieces showed up, heads included. Dan thought this dish was too fishy but I thought it was fine. The lobster was a little overcooked as the piece I had bordered on rubbery.

Green tea chicken – This dish involved part of a roasted chicken, skin and bone included, cleaved into segments. Moist with a nice crispy skin, I’m not sure where the green tea came in. It’s a common dish you’ll find at restaurants like this, popular among the patrons.

Honey smoke sea bass – By this point, I was full so i don’t know if that influenced my opinion of this dish. I took one bite and deemed it too fish-flavored for my liking. Given my penchant for preferring sushi as my method of consuming fish, any slight bit of fishy flavor ruins dishes like this for me.

Stir-fried E-fu noodle – A simple dish, egg-noodles stir-fried. The noodles were good, not rubbery but not undercooked either and they had a nice flavor.

Yang Chow fried rice – I was stuffed silly by the time this dish came around. Sad as it looked really appetizing. Fluffy rice fried with shrimp, minced bbq pork, and vegetables, the few bites I managed to take were delicious. I wish I could have taken this back to the hotel for a midnight snack.

Dual wedding dessert – This involved a red bean-filled pastry, a puff pastry, and wedding cupcakes (the couple went with cupcakes instead of cake). All were delicious. The cupcake I tried was the most memorable. Rich chocolate with a coffee frosting, this was moist and delectable.

Red bean dessert soup – I opted out of trying this as if I ate anymore, I would be ill.

I give this wedding feast 4 NOMs.  As for everything else about the wedding, this Catty Critic had a ton of fun and is overjoyed for the newlyweds. Hope they have a 5 NOM life together!

The next morning we headed into the city to meet up with some other friends. We rendezvoused at Pier 39 and had lunch at Eagle Cafe. I had a bite of the crab cake appetizer which was very good. The crab tasted fresh; it was nicely fried and had a rich flavor even without sauce. I ordered their famous crab salad sandwich with garlic fries. Dan went for the fried shrimp with garlic fries. Since there was a mix up (our waitress was a bit lost or overwhelmed or something), I noshed on his fries while I waited for my lunch to arrive. A lot of times, garlic fries means fries with some garlic powder. These fries had minced garlic. The fries themselves were shoestring style so they were a little too thin; steak fries would have been a better choice of cut, especially to scoop up those yummy pieces of garlic. When my food arrived, the sandwich was quite huge. The crab salad was delicious. Like the crab cake, there was fresh crab and great flavor. It wasn’t too wet which signaled to me that this wasn’t prepared too early and left to sit out. The ratio of filling to bread was great and fresh romaine and tomatoes were included.  Eagle Cafe gets 3 1/2 NOMs.

Well, that concludes the culinary aspect of our trip!

I’ve got some other reviews to catch up. We watched “No Country for Old Men” last night and are watching “The Dark Knight” on Friday (in IMAX!!) so I’ll have to post reviews for those. And I have yet to see “Hellboy 2”; we are hoping to do so sometime this weekend.

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