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Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mijori Japanese Restaurant - Oakland, CA

posted by snekse
Whenever we travel to California, one of our "TO DO" items is to gorge ourselves with sushi. When it costs about half as much as it does in the Midwest, you can afford to do so.

Since Mikado on Grand has closed, we had to search out a new regular spot. If you are looking for the best sushi in the Bay Area, at least several prominent chefs agree the place to go is Sushi Sam's Edomata in San Mateo. However, the proper way to experience Sushi Sam's is to get the chef's menu, so be prepared to shell out $50-$100/person.

Since we weren't looking to spend that kind of money, we looked for alternatives. Usually our second choice for sushi in the East Bay is Sushi House in Alameda. We were looking to try something new though, so we searched Yelp to seek the wisdom of the masses. And I learned a valuable lesson in doing so. Read the reviews - don't just look at the average score. It saved us from being very disappointed.

Two of the highest rated sushi restaurants in the east bay are rated high for good reasons, but did not fit our needs. Coach Sushi buys itself a 4 1/2 star rating because they offer bottomless sake for $3.50. Yume Restaurant got rave reviews, but the entire restaurant only seats 12 people and no more than 3 people per party. The one that did seem to fit our needs was Mijori.

It's a bit odd that we've never tried this place since it's about 2 blocks down from where Mikado used to be. I can't really say if this would have become our regular spot if we had tried it, but I think it might now become our regular spot. The prices are reasonable, the food is good and the atmosphere is kid friendly without being overly kid friendly - if that makes any sense.

I wish I could say they had the best sushi in town, but I think Sushi House had a little better quality sushi and I certainly think Sushi Japan here in Omaha has better fish. I think there's just so much competition for fish in the Bay Area that it might be hard to get your hands on the best. I did think they had some of the best tonkatsu I've ever had, and their tempura was also very good. The gyoza was a bit lacking in crunch and flavor, but I think that was about the only fault I found in the food. I was also happy to see some less common Japanese dishes on the menu, such as nabemono.

The only other downsides I can think of would be the seating and service during busy times. And my guess is they're busy most of the time. We visited on Wednesday at 6 pm. We made it just before the rush. By 7:00 there was a wait list at least 3 parties deep. This rush impacted our service. Getting our bill, TOGO boxes and paying took more time than what I'd consider acceptable. And because they try to maximize their seating, there are some tight fits between tables that result in waiters wiping your table with their butt cheeks as they take orders from the table next to you. Not really a huge deal to me, but if you don't like a little derrière with your nigiri, you might want to sit at the bar.

Rating: 87

Mijori Japanese Restaurant
3260 Grand Avenue (MAP)
(Grand Ave./Lake Merritt)
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 465-8854

Photos of Mijori Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Yelp Reviews
Mijori Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Taqueria Ramiro & Sons - Alameda, CA

posted by snekse
With the Cinco de Mayo celebrations come and gone, I thought I'd throw out a taqueria challenge. One of the things I hear most often from people who move to Omaha from California is the lack of a good taqueria or taco truck. Just the low key, Mexican street food that really hits the spot in a way restaurant food just never can.

One of our favorite spots to hit in the bay area is Taqueria Ramiro & Sons in Alameda. It's a small spot with a heavy lunch crowd. The decor is minimal, but the food is awesome. The principle differences I've found between the burritos in California versus the ones found in the Midwest are:
  1. The size. You got jipped if your burrito was less than 7" or 8" long. On the same token, it should also be thick. The combination of the two means it should also be heavy.
  2. The wetness. Burritos are not wraps. Steam that $@*|<#?. I should not be able to easily peel open my burrito because the tortilla should be glued to itself. If I find unmelted cheese in yet another Midwest burrito, so help me...
  3. The money shot. The meat should be tender and juicy. By the end, you should have juice dripping down your chin. This is usually the result of long, slow braising while listening to tracks by Barry White and Al Green.

And this mentions nothing about the low prices, the lack of cheddar cheese, and the hand-chopped-to-order carnitas found at Taqueria Ramiro & Sons. All of which I think add to an extra special taqueria.

So here's my challenge: Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me where I can find an outstanding taqueria in Omaha. Bonus points if it's west of 72nd. Double bonus points if it's west of 120th. If you can tell us of one west of 168th, give yourself as many bonus points as you want because you're a liar.

And keep in mind, this is the search for a great taqueria, not a Mexican restaurant. How can you tell the difference? Count the menu items. If you have to count, it's not a taqueria. It should basically just be tacos, burritos - pick your filling.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Omaha doesn't have great Mexican food or that Omaha doesn't have a great taqueria; I'm just saying I haven't found them yet. So clue me in and quit hoarding all of the chicharrones for yourself.

Taqueria's in Omaha
A Foodie's Week in San Francisco
Taqueria Ramiro & Sons on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Napa Valley Grille - Yountville (Napa)

posted by snekse
When looking for a place to have lunch in Napa, I tried to find a place that was low key, reasonably priced, and conveniently located. I also tend to give preferential consideration to restaurants that I've never been to and that provide an online reservation option - bonus points if it's through OpenTable.com. In addition, I will almost never consider eating somewhere that doesn't provide a sample menu on their website. If a restaurant doesn't have a website, I assume it doesn't truly exist.

With all that in mind, our only real choices for the southern Napa/Yountville area were Mustard's, Brix, and The Napa Valley Grille. Since we've been to Mustard's and Brix seemed neither low key nor reasonably priced, our minds were set on The Napa Valley Grille. After looking at their menu, our stomachs concurred. Seeing such items as Parsnip & Maple Soup, a 1/2 Pound "Kobe" Burger, and a Dungeness Crab Melt - their menu sounded intriguing and delicious. And since we were going to The French Laundry that evening, our wallets appreciated the slight reprieve.

When we arrived, the first thing that struck me was the location. Not the strategically placed tourist trap situated at a main intersection of Hwy29 & Madison St. location, but the actual physical structure. It is a beautiful stone building with simple but elegant lines and very aesthetic dimensions. I'm a bit of a naive architect buff, so I can be easily awed at times, but I think dimension is an oft-overlooked aspect of design. The inside of the building was well done, but reminded me a bit of a Perkins.

We were the first table of the day, so we were well attended to by our genuinely nice, but overly enthusiastic server. We were presented with some addictively good bread with a dipping plate of olive oil & a generous amount of balsamic vinegar. I swear balsamic vinegar is my other blood type. [Note from the proof reader and wife: There was a lot of balsamic on the plate because I asked for it, if you look at the picture of the 'dipping plate' the waitress wanted to do it in the reverse - tons of EVOO and barely any balsamic. However, I know my husband and I know his other blood type. ;) ]

To start with, we ordered the "Harvest Platter" because it's impossible to find an antipasto platter in Omaha, let alone one that matches the looks of this one. I'm glad we did, because it ended up being the favorite item we ordered. There's just something about the simplicity and freshness of a quality antipasto that makes it hard to top. The standouts of this platter would probably be the dried beef, the caper berry and oddly enough, the stone ground mustard which was relatively mild, yet flavorful and seemed to have a slightly fruity or flowery undertone.

I wish I could bestow the same praise on our main courses, but I wasn't as impressed with that portion of our meal. Nothing we had was necessarily bad (though the Eggs Monterey wasn't far off), but nothing we had was all that extraordinary. It's been a month now since we've eaten there and the only entree I can vividly recall is the Dungeness Crab Melt, which tasted of buttered toast and crab, which was served with some darn tasty fries that tasted just like Pik-Nik Original Shoestring Potatoes. Yes, the ones in the can. Yum.

The fact that I didn't find the food sublime, however, doesn't mean that I wouldn't recommend the place. Given the location, quality of the ingredients, and the creativity that goes into their dishes, I think the Napa Valley Grille is an almost perfect spot to stop for lunch. Is there better food to be had in the area? Most definitely, but after you've been to Bouchon, Tra Vigne and all of the other high end spots, try slumming it with the tourists at the Napa Valley Grille (as much as you can slum it in Yountville). I'd say my only hesitation towards returning would be due to the fact that I'd like to find and try some of the other less expensive eateries that do as good of a job as this place does on delivering good food for a good value.

Rating: 84

Napa Valley Grille - Make a Reservation
Yountville, CA (Highway 29 at Madison ~ Washington Square)

6795 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: 707.944.8686

Hours of Operation
Lunch & Dinner
  Mon - Thurs 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
  Friday & Saturday 11:30 am - 10:00 pm
  Sunday 11:00 am - 9:30 pm
Sunday Brunch
  11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Napa Valley Grille on Urbanspoon

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