Sunday, February 26, 2006


Seppo and I went to a new-to-us Korean Restaurant on Wednesday night. It's called Ohgane and it's located at 3915 Broadway in Oakland, near 40th Street.

Suffice it to say that this is probably my new favorite Korean restaurant. Seppo and I both feel strangely guilty about pulling Sahn Maru from its current first place ranking, but this is a great all around restaurant. Sahn Maru is definitely more homey and cozy, and has a strong "family-run" vibe and friendliness. This restaurant is clearly less homey, but the decor is pretty nice (the murals are fairly impressive) and everything looks squeaky clean. They served us 12 banchan dishes in addition to our entrees and appetizer. The banchan had a nice variety of textures, colors, and spici-/nonspiciness, and included some dishes which I never see in other Korean restaurants.

The galbi we tried was much more tender than anywhere else in the Bay Area (at least that I can recall). There was some miscommunication such that they brought us the meat cooked in the kitchen instead of having us cook it at the table, but it was no big deal. The bindaeduk (Seppo's favorite appetizer, which is a fried mung bean paste-based pancake with vegetable bits and/or a little meat) was cooked as well as the ones as Sahn Maru, which to date had been the best ones we had had. The dumpling rice cake soup was also really good, with a rich broth and lightly cooked rice cakes with good bite. They served not only lettuce but seasoned perilla leaves (I LOVE these!!!!) and wasabi-infused turnip slices to use to wrap up the meat & rice.

I could find nothing to criticize, except that it took them a while to give us the check. However, there are little buzzers at each table which indicate to the waitstaff you want service (sort of like the flight attendant call button) if you really feel neglected and need them to come by.

All in all, I give it a thumbs up and would definitely return again. If it weren't for the fact that I feel a weird personal attachment to Sahn Maru, I'd declare this once and for all my favorite and never go anywhere else again for bbq + soups. (There are some specialty places, like for fried chicken, tofu stew, oxtail soup, jjajjangmyun, and grilled pork, that I would still go to.) This place is especially great for large groups as it is frickin' huge. But it was great for just the two of us too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Essential Flax Seed Bread

This is the bread I have stocked up at work to make my turkey sandwiches with. Check out the crazy ingredient list:

Sprouted Organic Whole Wheat Berries, Filtered Water, Wheat Gluten, Sprouted Organic Whole Flax Seeds, Soy Fiber, Organic Dates, Fresh Yeast, Organic Raisins, Soy Based Lecithin, Sea Salt, Cultured Wheat.

The nutritional info is pretty insane too. Note that the info is for 2 slices of bread per serving.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Athena Grill

I went to Athena Grill today with Alan L. It's a surprisingly high quality, casual Greek restaurant in the midst of a seemingly unending (but clearly, this is an incorrect observation) strip of business park after business park.

I had the lamb souvlaki sandwich with Greek style fries (turns out these are just thinner cut in one direction tossed in some parsley), with a little eggplant-y dip for the fries. It was delicious. Today, we were blessed with a particularly beautiful day, so we sat outside and got caught up while munching on the tasty food. Well, when we weren't interrupted with a constant flow of emergency SMSs which led to a lot of laptop & phone time for Alan, which led to a lot of chatting with some random old dude who went to CalTech once upon a time and recognized my MIT ring. Heh.

The prices were reasonable, and I appreciated the touches like the eggplant dip rather than something like ketchup for the fries (apparently, the proprietor specifically formulated the dip to replace ketchup because she thought it would be healthier and less tacky, as well as more Greek) and the complimentary bread & pita served with hummus for each table. The owner was very pleasant and clearly had a lot of pride in her restaurant. Her baklava was delicious as well, with plenty of honey, nuts, and layer after layer of crispy phyllo. Yum.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Our neighbors across the street run a BBQ stand at the local farmer's market. Today, we got the ribs, but in the past, we've gotten the tri-tip, as well. Pork ribs, not beef ribs, to be sure.

They've got a trailer that attaches to a little van, that's basically a BBQ/smoker combo. It's huge, and that's good, because their business has been steadily growing.

Their meats are well smoked - no doubt about that. When meat's smoked, the smoke reacts with the meat to turn it a bright pink - not an "underdone" pink, but rather, a distinctively bright pink on the outside, that indicates how far the smoke has penetrated the meat. Their pink layer, whatever the official name of the thing is, is quite deep, and their meat definitely has a strong, smokey flavor.

Their sauce is distinctly tomato-y, but today, had a slight kick, which was pleasant. No flavor was particularly overwhelming, but today's sample was a bit saltier than it's been previously.

The tri-tip was good - not blow-your-socks-off good, but definitely tasty. My recollection was that the meat was a little on the dry side, maybe from having been cooked a touch too hot.

It's a little hit-and-miss - sometimes, like today, the seasoning's a touch off - too salty today, for sure. But other times, the meat is really, really good - on par with way more established places like Everett & Jones, or Doug's.

I'm really glad to see they're getting more business. They're friendly people, working hard, and it's clear that on top of being busy, this is fun, for them.

I'd say go to E&J for the spectacular sweet potatoes, go to Doug's for the best balanced and most consistent meat, but that Your Friendly Backyard Barbeque is a worthy contender. Give 'em another season to iron out some inconsistencies, and they may be the only BBQ place I need to go.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Last night, Seppo and I met one of his coworkers for dinner in Emeryville at Bucci's.

I think they bill themselves as modern Italian cuisine. I think that fits pretty well. They did a lot of little details very well, very cleanly. The olives, bread, and olive oil that came before dinner were all quite excellent. The olive oil in particular was so fragrant and fruity, quite remarkable.

I don't feel up to an extensive review, but suffice it to say that I had a grilled rib eye steak that I think was in every way the best rib eye steak I've ever had. It wasn't something that made me want to fall to my knees and weep or anything, but it certainly hit all the right notes for what I want in a steak. It was perfectly done, halfway between a warm and cool pink almost all the way through, quite tender, while maintaining a bit of a satisfying meaty chew, the grill marks lending a nice robust [read: carcinogenic] flavor, and the accompanying sauce adding a really welcome and complementary touch of brightness and tinge of sweetness. The mushroom and arugula salad that came with it was, in a word, fantastic.

I ordered the steak because I didn't feel like having pasta last night, and just sort of expected to have "steak" which is almost always pretty good, but sometimes fairly average, and also sort of unsurprising in most ways. This steak quite surpassed that.

I'd go back for the steak alone. The ambience was quite nice as well. The service staff was quite nice and efficient and dignified, without being either too friendly or too offputting. Just a great balance.

They really do get the small details quite right. Still, something about the restaurant or menu keeps me from making any definitive recommendation to someone else one way or the other, but I did enjoy this one visit quite a bit.

Crossroads Café

Klay, Seppo, and I met for dinner in San Francisco at Crossroads Café which is tucked away on Delancey, off Brannan. It's a quiet little cul-de-sac that you'd never suspect was there, especially so close to the bay and to Pacbell Park.

There are books, magazines, and newspapers aplenty to browse while eating. The seats vary from comfy leather couches and coffee tables to standard chairs and tables. I've been there twice now and I never feel rushed. The food is good, the coffee is good, the tea is good, and they offer the craziest deal on a high tea that I've ever seen. :D

In addition, it is run by the Delancy Street Foundation.
What Does the Delancey Street Foundation Do?

The Delancey Street Foundation is a residential education center where drug addicts, criminals and the homeless learn to lead productive, crime-free lives. It has been called the most successful rehabilitation project in the United States.

The foundation runs at no cost to the taxpayer or client. They earn revenue by operating more than 20 businesses, including the Delancey Street Restaurant and Café and the Delancey Street Moving Company. These "training schools" not only generate income, they teach residents marketable skills and inculcate in them habits of self-control and self-discipline.

Each resident spends up to four years at the facility and must pass equivalency exams to obtain a high school diploma in order to graduate. They also need to line up a job and a place to live. Silbert likes to see each of her students graduate with three marketable skills to ensure their job success.

Silbert reports that 65 percent of the organization's operating costs are paid for by revenue from its businesses. She originally rejected foundation money, fearing it would deter from the participants' feeling that their survival depended on the success of the businesses. Today, the organization receives more than ten million dollars from private donations every year.

Silbert and Delancey Street are always facing new challenges. Today, offenders are often third-generation criminals. Silbert used to tell clients that their parents wanted a better life for them. Since participants' parents are often criminals as well, the draw to go back to the streets can be strong. Fortunately, after more than 30 years, Mimi Silbert isn't about to give up.
from PBS's The New Heroes.

I think this is gonna become the regular hangout that we are looking for.

ETA: It looks like the Delancey Street Restaurant, which is located very close to the cafe and just across the street from the unfortunate La Suite on Embarcadero, is also run by the same Delancey Street Foundation. And as can be seen in the review, people seem to love it. AND it's cheap, even with the exact same bay/bridge view. Yay! I am so going there.