Gastronomic Fight Club SM

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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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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Korea House - Santa Clara, CA

posted by snekse
I'm a big fan of Korean food. I became a bigger fan after eating at Korea House near San Jose. I've only eaten at a handful of places, so my exposure to the cuisine is a bit limited. Almost all of them have been good, but never have I been to one that executed as well as Korea House.

Now I'm sure there are debates that rage on about what makes a great Korean restaurant. Is it how well they prepare the star dishes found in every restaurant, such as Bulgogi, Galbi and Bibimbap? Or is it the lesser known dishes that you can't find at most other restaurants? Or is it the Banchan - those addictive side dishes that come out in swarms and keep coming as you ask? And if so, is it because of the sheer number of different dishes that crowd your table, or is it because this place does Kimchi better than that place?

I'd argue all of the above in almost equal importance. How disappointed would you be if there was no Banchan? And is it worth going to a place that can't deliver good Bulgogi? And I'd also argue that a place that doesn't have some harder to find dishes probably doesn't make the easy to find dishes as well as other places in town.

So where does Korea House fall into this spectrum? I'd say they lean on their Banchan. Some of the best and most interesting I've had so far; not to mention the most. And even the common side dishes tasted better than I'm used to. The menu also had several dishes that I've never seen before, mostly of the seafood variety. Of the classics, I can't say they blew me away, but they were no worse than I'd find elsewhere, so as a whole, that puts them a notch above every other Korean restaurant I've been to so far. So that puts it in both the top and bottom 5 :-)

Rating: 87

Korea House
Santa Clara, CA (El Camino Real/San Tomas Expy)

2430 El Camino Real (MAP)
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 249-0808

Korean Side Dish (Banchan) Recipes
The characteristics of Korean food
Yelp Reviews
Korea House on Urbanspoon

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