Tag Archives: Restaurant

Laili Restaurant Review

On Friday night Andrew and I ventured into downtown Santa Cruz to catch a movie at the Riverfront Twin. We were planning on seeing 50/50 since we’re Joseph Gordon Levitt fans and Seth Rogen is generally amusing. We eschewed the typical pizza, taqueria, or falafel choices that we usually make and decided to check out a restaurant that’s been around for about a year: Laili. It is located on Cooper Street where I believe there used to be an apothecary, but I’m not certain. They have indoor and outdoor space; we chose to sit outdoors since the weather was nice and indoors was fairly noisy and dark. The patio area is beautiful: ivy growing everywhere, tea lights, etc. The only way you were reminded that you were next to Pacific Ave were the drummers outside of O’Neil’s which quieted down about fifteen minutes after being seated.

 

Afghan Chai

The waitress got our drinks ordered quickly: Andrew ordered a beer (typical) and I ordered a chai (also typical). Our drinks came quickly and then we ordered our appetizers and entrees. The chai was an Afghan chai, sweeter and not as spicy as Indian chai. It was also pinkish in color. I really enjoyed it and it had these beautiful bubbles on top that I really wanted to photograph.

While we were enjoying our beverages, a waitress came by and tried to give us someone else’s entrees. Then another waitress came by and dropped off an appetizer that we didn’t order, but we couldn’t exactly remember the names of what we ordered so we started eating it anyway. The Pumpkin Boranee is stewed pumpkin, qurut yogurt, mint, and garlic. It was a very pretty dish that sounded good, but the texture of the stewed pumpkin was slimy and stringy.

Pumpkin Boranee

Next came the appetizers that we did order: the Silk Road Plate and the Pumpkin Bolani. The Silk Road Plate was a selection of hummus, tabbouleh, babaghanoush, and cucumber yogurt dip with “naan”. Their idea of naan was not typical of the naan that I’ve had: it was simply a flour tortilla grilled, completely tasteless and not naan. The hummus was good and the pumpkin bolani was absolutely delicious, crispy on the outside and sweet, spicy pumpkin on the inside. Along with our appetizers, we ordered a prawn salad with arugula, fennel, seasonal fruits, and pomegranate vinaigrette. This was a completely overpriced salad with (18 dollars) with about six prawns, the pomegranate vinaigrette that did not taste of pomegranate at all, and maybe about three strawberries.  Total disappointment.

 

For our entrees, I ordered Chicken Kabob and Andrew ordered Anar Chicken. The chicken kabob was moist and tender unlike a lot of chicken kabobs that I’ve had. It was served with saffron rice, steamed vegetables that were overcooked and undercooked (a definite low point in the meal), and several different chutneys that really helped add flavor to the meat which was slightly bland. The Anar Chicken was a half roasted chicken with pomegranate sauce, roasted potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Andrew said it was very good.
 Anar Chicken with Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Kabob with Saffron Rice

The service was definitely off. They tried to serve us food that wasn’t ours, served us food that wasn’t ours which we ate anyway, and there was nearly forty-five minutes between being served our apps and being served our entrees. The staff were friendly when they did stop by, but they were simultaneously overattentive and not attentive enough. Overall, the food was good, the service mediocre, and definitely overpriced for the amount of food and quality of that food.

Weddings, Gardens, and Aquaman?

I found these on my computer and realized that I had not shared them yet on my blog. They are on Facebook, but not in my blog. They are not things that I have cooked, so that is probably why they have not made it over here, but they are things that I have eaten so they deserve a place here.

One set of pictures is from the Concord Farmer’s Market. Concord is a city near Walnut Creek in the East Bay (east of Oakland, up the 680). My friends Cindy and Eric live in Clayton which is outside of Concord. We were visiting up there and in between painting a garden shed and attending a fantastic wedding reception in Emeryville, we went to the farmer’s market to enjoy tamales, berries, and gelato.

Strawberries and blackberries. I’m lamenting the end of blackberry season.

Chicken tamale with salsa verde and crema.

Pork tamale with salsa verde and crema

I did not get any gelato pictures. It was tasty, especially on an incredibly hot day.

Later we walked around Cindy’s garden and admired the artwork, such as the sculpture that I have dubbed aquaman.

He’s some sort of mermaid fish dude. My friend Eric made him while he was in art school.

The rest of their backyard is made up of trees, a vegetable garden, a green house, and a number of fruit trees. It’s really impressive for a suburban backyard. I miss having my garden. We have yet to start on our new one here in Santa Cruz. It was the one nice thing about our apartment back in Santa Clara.

The rest of the day was spent at a friend’s wedding. I had never met the person whose wedding it was. Isn’t that always awkward? Congratulations on one of the biggest moments in your life, it’s so nice to meet you. So I did what any self-respecting, awkward individual does, I drank a lot of wine and ate chicken heads.

Why yes the bride on top of the cake is about beat the groom. And yes this was a beautiful cake, but unfortunately it did not taste as good as it looked. It was like one of those Safeway bakery cakes if you had left it out on the counter for a couple days and then some sort of cake Bunnicula came by and stole its cakey essence.

That didn’t make any sense. I’ve been up since two in the morning, ever since my neighbor woke me up to chanting to the full moon.

The rest of the meal was fairly traditional Chinese wedding food (I think) with the exception of my favorite dish of the night: the lobster thermidor. For once, I actually enjoyed lobster. Plus, the view from this restaurant (located on the Emeryville wharf) was fantastic.

The view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline from Hong Kong East Ocean restaurant.

An assortment of bbq meats including char siu pork (one of my favorite things on this planet, especially when put into a steamed bun).

Some sort of seafood salad in a crispy noodle bowl.

Some sort of crab croquette claw thing. It’s like a tribble ate a crab and then was deep fried. The batter around the outside (tribble flesh) was disgusting, but crab claw was alright.

The “not” shark fin soup. Fake shark fin soup. I took about one bite of it and couldn’t eat the rest.

Abalone and mushrooms. I’m skeptical that this was real abalone, but whatever it was it was one of the better dishes of the night.

I believe this was lobster thermidor. Whatever it was it was absolutely incredible, especially after three or four glasses of wine. Best dish of the night and the only time I have ever enjoyed lobster. Of course it would be a French dish at a Chinese restaurant.

The chicken head that I hate. Not bad.

 

 

Silver Spur Restaurant Review

The Silver Spur is essentially across the street from our house in Santa Cruz. It is a quaint looking place with a Western decor reminiscent of my grandparent’s living room, minus the shag carpeting. Andrew and I heard good things about it from a couple of locals who have lived in the area for over twenty years, plus the line out the door every Saturday is another good sign.

Breakfast seems to be a battle ground in Santa Cruz, restaurants fighting for a place as the best restaurant. There are few restaurants that serve dinner in town that can hold a candle to the cuisine served at breakfast, according to most of the locals anyway. I have found that most of the breakfast restaurants in town are incredibly overrated: Walnut Cafe, Zachary’s Restaurant, Hoffman’s Bakery, and Cafe Brazil being the most notable examples. They each have something that I enjoy, but overall I have never been wowed. There is only one place in town that I believe serves a perfect breakfast: Kelly’s Bakery. Kelly’s Bakery is the only restaurant, and I mean the only restaurant, I have ever been to that serves satisfactory poached eggs. Every other restaurant serves them with at least a quarter cup of water still in the cup with them. The perfect breakfast at Kelly’s Bakery is two perfectly poached eggs nestled atop toasted slices of Francese bread baked in house with smoked salmon and sliced avocado. Amazing.

Silver Spur is on the same level with Zachary’s Restaurant for me. It is better than Walnut Cafe and Hoffman’s Bakery, while not as good as Kelly’s Bakery. I ordered a Two Egg Combo with poached eggs, two biscuits, home fries, and three chicken apple sausages with limitless coffee. Andrew ordered three slices of French toast, two scrambled eggs (well done, sigh), and bacon with Early Grey tea. The coffee was good and there were limitless free refills. The eggs were still in too much water. Really is it too much to ask for that they drain their eggs before serving them to you? The home fries could have been crispier, but they were tender and there were no bell peppers, which makes me incredibly happy. The sausage was generic, but tasty. The biscuits were the standout for me. They were light, fluffy, and tangy served with apricot preserves. Andrew enjoyed his French toast, eggs, and bacon.

Overall, I would go back to the Silver Spur and I would also try them for lunch some time. Their service was good (a rarity among breakfast restaurants in Santa Cruz) and their facilities were clean.

The Best Restaurants Are Always in Strip Malls

I’ve realized living in the San Jose area that the best restaurants are in the most run-down looking strip malls next to the dumpiest donut shops and porn stores that you can find. Yas Restaurant is no exception to this. Located in Maple Leaf Plaza on Saratoga (at Williams) it is in the same shopping center as a medical marijuana clinic, a donut shop, and an excellent burrito place. The exterior leaves a lot to be desired. It is incredibly non-descript with the exception of a blue and white striped awning. If I didn’t know it was a restaurant I would have assumed it was a strip club. All the windows have blinds. The doors do not have windows. It is made of white cinder blocks. Frank Lloyd Wright did not design this building.

The interior is not much better. The walls are a pept0bismal pink, the color of the bed pans I used to make barbie doll houses out of as a child. Our white table cloth was dirty. Food stains. This was not starting off on the right foot. The blinds were those folding mini-blinds that I hated as a child. Those off-white spotty kinds that never work. Ugh.

They start you off with free lavash bread and a shy, stuttering gorgeous waitress with a heavy Iranian accent. She was perfectly attentive, answering our questions freely, but probably had not expected us to have so many. The lavash bread was good for lavash bread. I personally find it a little dry and uninteresting.

For appetizers we ordered Ash-E Reshteh, which their menu describes as a “Traditional Persian soup. A combination of herbs, vegetables, lentils, garbanzo beans, and noodles”, and Falafel. I found it creamy and full flavored. The yogurt swirl in the soup added a sophisticated, aesthetically pleasing touch. I thought the yogurt taste would be overwhelming as I tend to find yogurt, but it added a necessary amount of tang and creaminess. I only had a small cup and I would have loved the entire bowl. The falafel were very hot and fresh. They were a little dry because we ordered them without the yogurt sauce. They had a great, freshly made herby flavor. Another excellent dish.

For the main dishes, we ordered Shireen Polo and Kabab Barreh. Their menu describes Shireen Polo as “Orange peels, almond, pistachio, and saffron rice syrup fixed with basmati rice with chicken”.  I found the dark meat chicken pieces, which were on the bone, as incredibly tender, juicy, and flavorful. The sauce was a tomato based sauce, but I could not taste any tomato only the spices that they used, which I liked. The rice they served with it was a little on the sweet side, but it was fluffy and fragrant with the additional texture of pistachios and almonds.

Restaurant Reviews

As a recent traitor to omnivorism and convert to cooking vegan, I feel very lucky to live in an area with as many options as Santa Cruz has. Going out to eat is not difficult, it’s not as easy as it was before, but it’s definitely do-able and delicious. There are a couple restaurants in Santa Cruz that are purely vegetarian/vegan: Saturn Cafe, Malabar/Asian Rose, Charlie Hong Kong (I think, though I’m not 100%), Alfresco, and Dharmas.  There is also Black China Bakery which has a great variety of fine vegan desserts. I have only been once to the actual bakery, but they sell their desserts at some local grocery stores and coffee houses. Many of the restaurants have a large variety of vegetarian items.

This weekend Andrew and I got food from Yan Flower, Zachary’s, the Falafel House, and Sitar. Ugh, that’s a lot of eating out, but we almost always cook. On Friday night we got food at Yan Flower before going to see Robin Hood.  Before this weekend Andrew was convinced that there was no Chinese food restaurant that was better than competent. I told him that Yan Flower was pretty good compared to all others in Santa Cruz and therefore could possibly be considered “good”.  We got hot tea, vegetable potstickers, white steamed rice, salty and chilli pepper tofu, and Andrew got Mongolian Lamb. The potstickers were very good, but a little hot (as in temperature) and I almost burned my mouth. The rice was actually good for steamed rice: fluffy and tender. The salty and chilli pepper tofu was fried tofu, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions. It was not as salty or spicy as I remember it, but the tofu texture was great. Andrew described it as “egg like” and he enjoyed it as much as he could enjoy tofu. He said the Mongolian Lamb was very good as well.

After taking the night to recover from the mediocrity that was Robin Hood (or Gladiator 2010: Time Travel to The Dark Ages), Andrew and I got breakfast at Zachary’s. Zachary’s is an insanely popular breakfast venue on the main drag downtown. It usually would be insanely crowded at 9am on a Saturday, but we were lucky due to the craptastic weather that we are experiencing mid-May.

I got coffee with soy milk, tofu scramble with avocado, vegan home fries, and oatmeal molasses bread. They make their breads in house and they are all amazing, but oatmeal molasses is my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the bread with the avocado spread on it and the home fries were tasty. Tofu scramble just isn’t my thing and this had a rotting garlic scent to it. Andrew enjoyed his scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes with Earl Grey Tea.

Later that day we went to check out the Greek Festival in downtown Santa Cruz. There wasn’t anything to it this year: just a bunch of different food booths. This was mostly desserts with a gyro place and another place where you could get souvlaki. There was no falafel which was what Andrew was looking for. Instead we ended up going to the Falafel House on Walnut Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. The Falafel House is a Syrian/Middle Eastern restaurant. I got the vegetarian combo platter which consisted of baba ghanoush, pita bread, taboulleh salad, falafel, and hummus. Now, I fucked up. I ate the regular yogurt sauce on the falafel instead of the vegan tahini sauce. I didn’t know that they were going to put the yogurt sauce on the falafel and I didn’t feel like bothering them to change it.

I enjoyed the falafel, hummus, and pita bread. I liked the baba ghanoush as well which surprised me since I don’t like eggplant. I definitely think I make better hummus though. I didn’t like the taboulleh salad too much, but I still tried to eat it and it wasn’t wretched. I think I don’t like taboulleh. Another great thing about the Falafel House is the fact that they are always playing Syrian MTV or some other music video channel. Oh and they’re onion rings are amazing.

Today we went out for lunch/dinner instead of cooking because we were bummed after the Sharks losing the first game of the conference finals. Andrew got pizza at Pizza My Heart (a local San Francisco Bay Area chain that began in Capitola). My favorite slice at PMH is pesto. It was the first thing with pesto that I ever liked and converted me to a pesto lover. Screw you campus dining halls for making me afraid of pesto for so long.

At Sitar, I got Chana Masala (vegan chickpea/garbanzo bean curry), vegan naan, basmat rice, ice berg lettuce crap in a compartment, and raita (which I didn’t eat since it’s made with yogurt). The chana masal had wonderful texture: thick sauce, creamy garbanzo beans, melt in your mouth pieces of onion, but it the curry could have been spicier. The rice was a good texture and the naan was good.

Seafood Lasagne

While this is not something I cooked it definitely looks and tastes delicious. My boyfriend and I went to Stagnaro’s Seafood Grill last night on the wharf. They specialize in Italian seafood dishes. I got the seafood lasagne.

It had spinach, shrimp, and white fish with a red sauce and an alfredo sauce. I don’t like cooked greens, so the spinach was a little hard for me to eat, but I managed.