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Restaurants & Bars 6

First Bite at Prima Taste (San Jose)

Melanie Wong | Apr 23, 200511:55 PM

Friday night I stopped by Prima Taste on my way back to the City. The restaurant has been open for one and a half months. It was slammed at 7:30pm, but a table opened up for me quickly.

Seated by the window showing off the kitchen, I had a good view of the cooks manning the satay and roti stations and the one cutting the cooked chickens displayed on a rack. The rotis are the thin, crepe-like style, rather than layered. The chickens looked particularly good, whole with heads on, in three styles: Hainan, soy sauce and crispy. I waited a long time before ordering, wanting to observe a chicken order prepped to see the degree of doneness. But after a few minutes and sending away my waiter three times, I tried something else. Eventually the cook assembled a chicken rice plate, and when he turned the half to remove the backbone, I could see that it was properly red at the bone unlike some of the other nonya restauarants locally.

The menu has extensive descriptions of the dishes and glossy pictures of many of them. Use of Prima Taste's mixes and curry pastes are noted frequently and part of the pitch. Even now I'm still not sure what possessed me to order it, but I started with the Laksa Ravioli ($8.75). The chicken ravioli themselves were decent with good pasta and undersalted filling, but the sauce was mostly bland coconut milk with a single capsicum note unaccompanied by any other flavor intricacies. The ravioli were heaped over a mound of watery and bland eggplant pulp mixed with a dice of raw, hard and unripe tomato. According to the menu, the green chiffonade is basil, but the taste and aroma was more mint-like and I thought it might be laksa leaf (rau ram). I found myself wishing I could add some grated parmesan to it. Even cracked black pepper would have helped.

To diversify my risk, I'd also ordered a half-size Fish Head Curry (seasonal price, $11.00) and Steamed Rice ($1.00). To his credit, my waiter tried to talk me out of it, saying it was a very big serving and I'd ordered too much. I was extremely disappointed when I lifted the lid of the claypot to see a salmon head staring back at me. While the type of fish is not specified in the menu description, the fish in the picture of the dish is not salmon. The dish also had asian eggplant, fresh tomato wedges, fresh pineapple, long beans, circles of jalapeno, and spring onions. The menu description mentioned ladyfingers or okra. When I called my waiter over to ask for the missing ladyfingers, he said that they were sold out of okra. The curry sauce was on the weak side and lacking in intense spicy aroma. Again, it had one singular hot pepper note with little roundness or depth accompanying it. It had absorbed little taste of the fish and vice versa. The flavor of the salmon was too strong for the Prima Taste curry mix used in this dish.

The one thing I found satisfactory was the Bo Bo Cha Cha ($2.95). I had the cold version, it's also available hot.

Prima Taste USA
1701 Lundy Ave., #100
(corner of Murphy, across from USPS)
San Jose



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