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SF: Chez Panisse (in Berkeley, CA) (June 2013)

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Authors: Monte
Exec Chef: Alice Waters
Website: http://www.chezpanisse.com/about/

Date: June 29, 2013

I’d been here only once beforehand, it was several years ago with two of my best friends from growing up. It was amazing then, and I fondly remember their baked alaska with strawberry ice cream as being my favorite dessert ever. The meringue was so soft and chewy like a marshmallow, and I had never in my life liked strawberry ice cream before but Chez Panisse’s made me have that Ratatouille moment where my eyes glistened and I was mentally transported to a sunny field of strawberries. ¬†These memories had built really high expectations that I had to keep curbing, the giddy kid in me to be undoubtedly disappointed unless I gave him reality checks.

Luckily, it was a great experience. Alice Water’s pioneering of local organic food has always been admirable and I never fully appreciated it until I moved to New York. The fresh ingredients truly shine and make the dining experience a thoughtful one.

Click here to see the amazing food!

SF: Hachi Ju Hachi (in Saratoga, CA) (Feb. 2013)

March 13, 2013 2 comments

I love Hachi Ju Hachi. There are a couple restaurants that make me feel instantly at home the moment I step into the dining room, and Hachi Ju Hachi is one of them. It’s not just the clean and neat decor, or the increasingly numerous handwritten notes on the walls of the restaurant from former customers (if you order the kaiseki, you literally get to leave your mark on the restaurant – my sister somehow wrote on the ceiling).

What makes Hachi Ju Hachi wonderful is the food and the chef. It’s like stepping in my grandma’s kitchen, if my grandma cooked badass Japanese home-style cooking and had a wonderful sense of humor that made me feel at ease. Chef Suzuki-San is always in the kitchen with a bright smile plastered onto his face and has a fantastic sense of humor that just makes you feel like you’re part of the family. And he serves fantastic food that reveals an underlying intensity about food that hides well behind his friendly grin.

This isn’t an izakaya or a sushi bar (although there is hakozushi (boxed style sushi)). It’s much closer to kaiseki a la carte, with actual kaiseki options available if you call ahead. On my most recent trip I didn’t try the Kaiseki, but we did order a ton of the dishes and a lot of them kept me floating on a blissful cloud 9 made of great flavors. Let’s get to the food:

Eggplant deep fried with grated mountain yam and seaweed

20130223_192518Oops my chopsticks got to this dish before the camera did. I don’t know how that happened. The eggplant was slightly sweet and salty, and I loved the milky texture of the grated mountain yam.

Click here to see the other dishes!