After trying for Saturday lunch DAT reservations for six at Campton Place (no space), the Terrace at the Ritz-Carlton (they only take groups of up to five for DAT -- what the !?!), and Kyo-ya (closed for Sat lunch though the DAT says they serve lunch daily), we finally ended up lunching at Farallon, where most of us have tried a few times before and myself even for a DAT two years ago. The place was packed but the service was still reasonable -- not great but okay. The lunch was as expected -- the pumpkin? soup had a surprising kick to it and was quite good, the mahi-mahi on polenta was rich and absolutely delicious, and the silken cake was a bit too heavy and just so-so. Overall we all felt it was a simple and good meal, and a great deal for $20. Personally I'd prefer something a bit more innovative, though.
For dinner three of us decided to go cheap and casual and tried Spices! II based on the raves from the recent Chowdown. We had the numbing spicy beef tendon, the chicken with red oil, the marinated cucumber, the crispy salty duck, the numbing spicy conch, and the tofu with peanuts, to share, plus a foo-foo fruity drink each.
The word that best described the Spices! II meal was SALTY! Personally I love salt, but the salt levels on almost every single dish was ridiculous. The tendon, chicken, and conch were especially salty -- it was really difficult to eat after a while. My two partners, neither of which are big rice eaters, both had to get two bowls of rice each to deal with the salt levels.
The cucumbers were really garlicky, which was fine with me since I adore garlic, but my partners were turned off by its one dimension. The tendon and conch tasted almost exactly the same and were just barely spicy. The chicken was somewhat spicier but mostly tasted of salt. The salty duck wasn't that salty considering that the other dishes were just as salty, but it wasn't especially memorable given that it didn't taste unique (e.g., different from salty). Only the tofu actually tasted like a dish meant to be eaten normally.
I'd like to think that our dishes were super-salty since they were snack dishes, but to tell the truth we were pretty disappointed in this place. We really want to like it since it's a fun atmosphere and serves a lot of cool snack food that we remember from Taiwan like pig ear, and we liked the foo-foo drinks. I'd probably give it one more try in the desperate hope that it was an off night, but based on my experience I wouldn't recommend it.
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