My uncle recently treated the family to dinner at Hui An Garden. The restaurant has been in a strange transition over the past few months. I heard a manager from Jasmine took over the restaurant when it was still Fu An Garden but that didn’t fare well. Then it was recently re branded Hui An Garden with another manager from Jasmine. My family knows the manager and made reservations for a dinner celebration over the weekend.
I usually celebrate Thanksgiving in San Diego and host a dinner at my place for friends & family who don’t have a place to go. But this year my mom wanted all of us to drive to Los Angeles so she could treat everyone to a Thanksgiving dinner at a seafood restaurant. I’ve seen Top Island Seafood Restaurant a few times when I was in San Gabriel but never had a chance to try them out. So we trekked it to Los Angeles Thanksgiving Thursday to spend a very traditional holiday at a Chinese seafood restaurant (note irony and humor in that).
My mom and I have different tastes in food. She will proclaim that so-and-so is THE BEST whatever restaurant in town while I’ll say ‘eh, it’s alright’ after I try the place. China Max is that place for me. My mom and uncle think China Max is the preferred place to eat when it comes to Chinese food.
She wanted to treat FratB to dinner when she was in town some time ago. I think she gets a kick of seeing him wide eyed when trying new dishes (and his mastery of using chopsticks). I had suggested meeting at Pearl restaurant but she scoffed and said she didn’t like the food at Pearl. Continue reading CHINA MAX – SAN DIEGO, CA
PEARL CHINESE CUISINE
Sis and I have nothing in common except for the fact that we both hate Lifu because mom loves a dog more than her daughters. I’m kidding (right?). When the two of us crave a particular food, we CRAVE IT BAD. It’s like two hungry chipmunks hunting for a nut. Pearl Chinese Cuisine has a nice two course peking duck dish that sis really likes. Not sure how many people order a two course peking duck to go but whatever. These chipmunks wanted their nut. Continue reading Pearl Chinese Cuisine – San Diego, CA
FIVE STAR SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
My mom’s sense of food is pretty nonchalant. She likes food but doesn’t go all bananas about it. I don’t understand how we are related. Her restaurant suggestions usually goes like this ‘I will take you to great restaurant in LA but I do not know the name of it so do not ask mommy any more questions’.
I was in LA some time ago and mom suggested Five Star Seafood as she said they have a great $1.99/lb seafood deal. True to form, she didn’t know the name of the restaurant. She thought it was called “Newport or something”.
Continue reading Five Star Seafood Restaurant – San Gabriel, CA
I recently came back from a 4 day trip to SF with the guy. He knows how much I love the Bay Area and one of my best friends and cousin lives there now. So it was really nice of MG to plan a fun getaway for us. Besides, it was ‘kinda’ of an anniversary for us so hey, even better right.
My cousin that lives in Berkeley recommended the W Hotel in the Financial District. She thought that I would like the hotel b/c it’s cool & hip. I’ve never stayed at a W Hotel before and the reviews on the place were positive.
So we flew into OAK airport b/c the fares were a bit cheaper and the airport is a lot less busy than SFO. And we pretty much used Uber, a personal taxi service of sorts, for most of our transportation needs.
I was going to do a series of posts from the trip but figured to do one long one w/ pics to document the eating adventures MG took me on while on the trip. He pretty much took the liberty to find places for us to explore and eat which was awesome (b/c I’m usually such a planning freak so to have someone else take the helms was a relief). And for the first time ever in my life, there wasn’t a schedule to follow. Or an itinerary to abide by. MG and I both agreed that THIS is the meaning of a vacation for us. And I loved that.
So the hotel was great. I remember in the past (long time ago), when I stayed in SF in hotels, the rooms were tiny. So The W was no exception. But whatever – I was there to spend time w/ someone, to catch up w/ friends, explore the city, and EAT. And look what the hotel surprised us with:
There’s almost too much to write about so I’m listing the stuff I remember we did during the trip (helps me write a bit better if I list it out somehow)…
We arrived mid afternoon to SF and I was just hungry. MG and I told each other that we really want to get ‘down and dirty’ and try as many small Asian restaurants in Chinatown as possible. So the I’ve-never-written-one-review Yelp master (that would be MG) found what appeared to be a great hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant for us to try out. He figured it wouldn’t be *that* far of a walk.
Well, needless to say, we took a nice, scary walk thru what’s called the Tenderloin. We were just following google maps so what the heck did we know. We figured after about 10 min that the Tenderloin was NOT in same direction as Chinatown. Let’s just say, with each block further into Tenderloin, it got seedier and seedier and seedier. MG grabbed my hand a few times to cross the street to avoid some ‘sketchy’ people. When I texted my very good friend Peanut and sis about ‘where the f*ck are we right now’ they both responded with ‘You’re in the Tenderloin?!!! Nooo!!!’
Regardless, I was hell bent on finding this Vietnamese restaurant b/c I didn’t just walk 25 min thru sketchtown for nothin’. Here’s the amazing food we had:
717 Ellis St
(between Larkin St & Polk St)
San Francisco, CA 94109
– Chargrilled beef and pork; fried shrimp paste cake
– Shrimp and Pork Salad
– Meatball soup
– Total $23.60
The fried shrimp paste cake was THE most amazing thing. I’ve had several versions here in San Diego but NOTHING compares to what I had that afternoon. The shrimp cake was fried perfectly in some sort of panko breading and the filling was so yummy.
The shrimp/pork salad was a generous portion and tasted amazingly fresh with all the abundance of crisp mint in the salad.
Meatball soup was ok – nothing incredible – but it hit the spot (right in my belly) that afternoon.
I would say that this was the best meal for me during the trip.
101 Spear St.
This is probably the most famous dim sum place in SF. When sis used to work in SF, she would take me here every time I would visit her. It’s REALLY fancy AND really EXPENSIVE. I swear they sell dim sum by the piece or by the pair. They even sell peking duck skin bundled in the warm man-tou buns (and again, by the piece!). You can tell they’re a fancy dim sum place by their fancy teapot (see above pic). Sis swears by their chili sauce (which MG, Peanut and I all found ‘meh’). You can find their chili sauce being sold at 99 Ranch as well.
I believe they have 2 locations and the one we visited was the one close to the Embarcadero. It gets incredibly busy during lunch and although we were fortunate to get a table pretty quickly, they sat us in the way back where the dim sum carts didn’t flow easily. So we pretty much got stuck w/ the ‘all things fried’ cart over and over again. So we really didn’t get to try alot of their stuff b/c we were frustrated and it was sooo hot in the back. The worst part wasn’t the $86 bill for a party of 3 people for an early dim sum meal. Instead, the worst part was that we all left HUNGRY! Who spends that much on dim sum and leaves hungry 🙁
The Ferry Terminal:
I don’t remember visiting the Ferry Terminal when I’ve visited SF in the past. But Peanut took us here after dim sum and it was really fun. I feel in love with these mushrooms that were being sold by one of the vendors. Truly one of of the most beautiful colors and presentation I’ve seen in a mushroom collaboration.
– Views from the Ferry terminal
I don’t think I could have asked for the weather to be any more perfect. It was so beautiful during our trip. Every Uber driver would comment that it’s usually over cast or gloomy this time of year but that we lucked out with the weather on this trip.
1230 Grant Ave
(at Broadway St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill
MG found this place and thought it would be a great place to try out. It’s a TINY itty bitty restaurant. We didn’t realize it was pertinent to make reservations but the woman who answered the phone said if we get there around 530p, we could probably get a table within 45 min or so.
– gratis pickled cucumber salad; Root beer for MG and glass of house red for me
– Deep fried salmon roll $9.00
This came out lightening fast (which isn’t always a good sign in my opinion). It was a small portion and the salmon tasted a bit smoked to me. It was fried nicely but there wasn’t anything memorable about this dish to me. I appreciated that it was low carb though 🙂
– Scallop appetizer special $14.00
This came highly recommended from yelpers and our waitress. There were 3 decent sized scallops and the presentation was spectacular. But I cannot remember what the sauces were. Being a true scallop fanatic , I wasn’t too impressed with this dish. The scallop tasted ok but I wouldn’t order this dish again.
– SOOO cramped
The tables are soooo crammed together. That’s a pic of MG’s elbows and his neighbor’s left side of her body. I didn’t want to use the restroom during the meal b/c I’m pretty sure I would have rubbed my butt in either MG’s or the neighbor’s face trying to shimmy outta that small space between the two tables.
– Flat Iron steak with wasabi noodles $18.00
We had done our research on this dish and thought the noodles in all the pics looked so good. The portion size of this dish was generous for the price. The steak was prepared a nice medium but we both found the steak a bit bland. And the wasabi noodles – yeah – looked delicious but tasted just ‘ok’. There’s something about stir frying fat chubby udon noodles that always gets me happy but the flavors in this entire dish didn’t really do it for me.
– Grilled sea bass with garlic ginger soy $26.00
Chilean sea bass is my MOST favorite fish in the ENTIRE world. But it’s been hard to find incredible CSB over the years (they were over-caught for quite some time so I believe there was a ban on the CSB). The sea bass here was grilled nicely but I was confused with whether this was Chilean or maybe another version of another sea bass? Just tasted a bit different.
As you can see, I have a crazy obsession w/ these fat chubby udon noodles. I couldn’t take enough pics to show my sis and friends. But the same decision applied to the noodles in this dish – it was just ‘ok’.
– Logo in place mat and Total $87.10
We probably ordered and ate in about 1 hour. The turn over here is remarkably fast. I wouldn’t suggest this place for a romantic dinner at all. I was disappointed w/ the food but the overall experience of trying a new restaurant and spending time w/ MG well makes this night memorable.
– Dish towels at Nordstroms
I thank God for my children every day. without them i’d never have known how well red wine complements chicken nuggets
You drink too much. you cuss too much. you have questionable morals. you’re everything i wanted in a friend
The first quote reminds me of my best friend in LA, sis, and cousin.
The second quote makes me think of my friend Peanut (I texted her that night and we both laughed so hard BUT we are both SO cheap that there’s no need to explain to one another that we’re not buying these towels)
Dosa On Fillmore
1700 Fillmore St
(between Post St & Sutter St)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Neighborhoods: Japantown, Lower Pacific Heights
I don’t eat Indian food all that much but MG heard great things about this place from one of his work friends. It’s located in Japantown which in itself is WEIRD (never seen an Indian restaurant in any Japantown before). But the interior of this restaurant is beautiful and modern.
I won’t write too much about the food here b/c I don’t remember much of it and found the food to be a bit too much for me.
– Tincho Spritzer $9.00 and gratis papadum
MG ordered the Tincho which tasted like a mojito. He was real proud that he was the only man in the entire restaurant to have ordered this drink (three women at the bar were holding the exact same drink in their hands).
– Chicken and Eggplant $18.00
The eggplant was more of a mixture than actual pieces of eggplants in the dish. The chicken consisted of white and dark meat. This was pretty much the only dish on the menu that had something with chicken in it (and that wasn’t a dosa). The dish was just ‘ok’ to me – again, I don’t eat Indian food often – so this particular style of Indian food wasn’t something I’m used to.
– Chile and Garlic Dosa $12.00
Savory rice & lentil crepe, all served w/ fresh coconut & tomato chutneys & sambar, a flavorful lentil dipping soup made w/ vegetables & spices. Portion size of a large plate.
Yeah – so I think MG and I thought this would taste like a stuffed crepe. It came out HUGE and both our eyes widened in excitement.
He liked the spiciness and the general flavor of this dosa. But all I tasted were the mashed potatoes and he felt the same way.
– left overs we didn’t take home; total $44.11
$44.11 for lunch for two people is too much. Or maybe everything in SF is super expensive for lunch? I mean we just spent $86 something at Dim Sum right. Oh well.
It was fun to explore Japantown afterwards though.
631 Kearny St
(between Commercial St & Clay St)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Finally. Our last meal of the trip. R&G was highly recommended to me by sis and closest cousin of ours. They said ‘R&G has *THE* best salt/pepper fried fresh crab in the WORLD’.
And both girls swore up and down that it’s worth going to R&G just for this. MG was meeting my youngest cousin for the first time that night and Peanut was joining us as well. So he wanted to take everyone for a memorable Chinese dinner and what’s better than dining w/ 3 hungry chicks with big appetites (Peanut eats like a horse even though she’s tiny like a squirrel).
– Hot & Sour Soup $14 (bowl); Salmon fried eggrolls $6.50
Cousin wanted the hot and sour soup – I normally wouldn’t order this at a Chinese restaurant just because I think most versions taste the same. And for $14?!! Are you kidding me. Way too expensive. And yep – it tasted pretty much like every other generic hot and sour soup I’ve had elsewhere (not that this is a bad thing – but just that for $14 I would have personally ordered something else).
And the salmon fried eggrolls – just two little eggrolls with salmon and avocado. Yes – low carb – but at $3.25/each – are you kidding me. Each person had 1/2 a roll.
– Lychee Martini
– Live Crab with Salt & Pepper (Market Price)
THIS is the dish we were all waiting to try. I don’t know the actual price of this though b/c I didn’t see a copy of the receipt but I think it was about $40 for a nice size crab.
Unfortunately, this was definitely NOT the best salt & pepper crab I’ve ever had. The batter was indeed crunchy but where’s the salt, where’s the garlic, where’s the spicy chili, where’s the green onion? This was just crab and crunchy batter.
A dish like this is a great gauge to see what others consider to be THE BEST dish of anything. I recently met MG and his friends at a Mexican place that the friends SWORE was THE best Mexican restaurant in San Diego. Needless to say, I left that meal thinking ‘ok, wellll, NOW I know these guys have horrible tastes in Mexican food’.
Sooo, needless to say, NOW I know NOT to trust sis and cousin with their recs on salt & pepper crab 🙂 (I kid , I kid…)
– Water spinach
This was over cooked and pretty bad. There wasn’t enough garlic to save this dish. The vegetable tasted old – so maybe it wasn’t overcooked as it was just old vegetable.
– Peking Duck $34 (whole duck)
This was the other dish that everyone heard such great things about (thanks sis and cousin, AGAIN). You can get 1/2 an order but MG opted to order the whole duck for the table.
Hands down, one of THE worst peking ducks I’ve ever had. 1) for $34, it should come with a second course (duck bone soup, lettuce cups, etc).; 2) the duck skin was SOGGY and NOT crispy at all; 3) the entire duck was greasy greasy greasy; and 4) the duck meat looked strangely gray and unappetizing.
Peking duck is coveted at a table b/c we are always fighting for a piece of duck skin, a hot man-tou bun, and crispy scallions to put together to make that perfect duck skin sandwich. But here, there was still half a duck left by the end of the meal. No one could (or wanted) to finish it.
– Honey walnut shrimp $18.00
You know how disappointing the peking duck must have been if MG insisted on ordering this dish for the table (after trying to finish the duck). I think he felt bad that maybe we hadn’t eaten enough and my cousin in the beginning had mentioned that she liked this dish.
This was an ok dish. Have you noticed that most places charge an arm and leg for this dish? Is it b/c they use fresh shrimp? Has the price of mayo gone up in the last few years? Are the walnuts basked in some imported warm Roman honey syrup or something? I don’t get it.
The shrimp tasted alright and the batter was crispy. But it was an incredibly ‘heavy’ dish to end the night with – especially after having the salt & pepper crab and the peking duck. I was excited to try this dish but only managed to have maybe 1.5 shrimp before I waved the white flag (b/c I was full, not b/c the dish was terrible).
Service was ok. I believe it’s a 3 level restaurant and we were seated in the basement level. Our reservation was at 8:30p – that was the earliest reso we could get calling two days in advance so be keen on that if you plan on visiting them.
Would I go back to R&G – I think so but definitely not to retry any of these dishes. They have a large menu and I’m hoping maybe it’s worth another visit (if I’m ever in the area again!) . I wanted so bad to try their Steamed Clam with Eggs (it’s fresh clams baked in a chawanmushi custard) but they didn’t have it available that night.
All in all, it was such a fun, laid back trip. You learn alot about someone when you travel with them. It’s usually a disastrous thing in my humble opinion : how will the guy be as a flying companion, how are you guys going to get along spending THAT many consecutive days together AND in another city, who pays for what, how is he going to get along with one of your best friends and cousin, what if we get into a major fight, OMG – the list goes on and on and on.
But I’m learning, in life, that sometimes you gotta just NOT worry so much. Or over think things. Or panic. Or TRY to do foresee every bad scenario for one thing. It’s easier said than done of course. And I’ve been told all this for quite some time now. But what’s different now is that I’m learning to enjoy the journey and I have someone that I trust, holding my hand, helping me walk thru this journey.
You can give me the eye roll….right….about…now….
I’m smiling thinking about some other ‘tidbits’ I learned about myself and MG over this trip but I’ll share that for another post –
Hope everyone’s Wed is going well so far –
Pearl in Rancho Bernardo has been our ‘go-to’ destination for dim sum and evening to-go meals. I think they have the best non-Convoy-located dim sum in San Diego.
They are located right next to Webb park. And if you’ve never been there, you’ll be amazed to find the cute pond there. My nephews love to see the ducks and turtles that occupy the pond.
Sis usually orders take out from Pearl twice a month or so for dinner. Their new dinner specials are: 1) buy any FOUR dishes, get one free and 2) buy any EIGHT dishes, get two free. Here is the menu (they don’t have a website so this is their faxed version they sent us):
So it’s a good 4 pages of items to choose from. The prices aren’t the best but I think it’s because they have to make up for giving dishes away for the dinner specials.
Sis ordered the following on the last take out :
Not sure why she gets this vegetable fried rice instead of beef or bbq pork fried rice (as it’s the same price). But she likes this fried rice – not too salty and provides a decent amount of veggies for the kids.
I want to say they use trumpet mushrooms for this dish? The chicken is always tender and the snap peas are cooked nicely.
I think this is the name of the dish. It’s more salt and pepper style. Sis and her husband particularly like this dish. Me – not so much. I don’t like ordering anything fried (to-go) from Asian restaurants b/c I always drive home like a crazy person (b/c I’m so concerned the dish will be soggy if I drive home too slow). This dish holds up ok – it’s still a bit crispy when we open the container. But it lacks seasoning. I find it pretty plain.
I thought this was called Shanghai style pork chop on the menu? But I don’t see it on there so I think it’s the pork chops w/ tangy sauce. They recently changed this dish to use pork chops vs pork spareribs. Sis likes this version more as it’s easier to cut for the kids. I don’t like this version more b/c the meat is a lot leaner and tastes dry compared to their original version. If you like sweet tangy sauce, you will like this dish.
Obviously, this isn’t on the dinner special menu. But sis ordered this for me b/c she knows I love peking duck. It’s not cheap at $28.95 but it IS a two-course dish.
The dish comes with : duck skin, shrimp chips, steamed buns, diced duck meat w/ water chestnuts, fresh lettuce, and hoisin sauce.
They put the duck skin over fried shrimp chips. As you can see, it’s a pretty decent amount of duck skin 🙂 We like how a few pieces of skin still have a layer of duck meat underneath. The rest of the meat is diced up w/ water chesnuts and I believe mushrooms and then served in lettuce cups. I think they skimped on this part b/c we only received a small container of the duck meat.
Kids and sis love these little man tau buns. There’s something special about warm mantou – the smell and feel of them just brings nostalgia for me and sis. And Pearl preps them nicely here – plus, they retain their heat and ‘softness’ during the meal.
I’m counting the items she ordered now and realized I forgot to take a pic of the fifth item. It’s the Mince beef with Cilantro soup ($9.50). We both like this soup. It’s made thick w/ egg whites and some corn starch. But we’re both fans of cilantro so this soup is a hit for us.
They comp you the least expensive dish you order. No surprise there. And the portions for the dishes aren’t bad. We usually have left overs for at least another meal so we think it’s worth it.
Pearl Chinese Cuisine
11666 Avena Pl
(at Bernardo Center Dr)
San Diego, CA 92128