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Kensington Ice Cream & Shai's Deli

rworange | May 27, 2006 03:03 AM

Sheesh! If Kensington isn’t the hardest place to find, I don’t know what is.

I thought I could hook onto Arlington Avenue easily from Solano and after driving up and down and not finding it I had to go back to Mapquest. That futile drive up Solano resulted in lunch instead at Zachary’s for the first time … ick, ick, ick, ick. It really IS as bad as everyone says. Ick. No wonder people like Lanesplitter. Zachary’s dulls the taste buds. Ick. It was a slice of the thin crust though. Still, ick.

So Mapquest tells me to take Moeser off of San Pablo (where Baskin Robbins is). I hit the only mountain in the Bay Area. The road narrows. I’m still climbing. Just when I’m thinking this can’t be right and am cursing out Mapquest … at last, Arlington … and I don’t even want to talk about trying to find my way out. Somehow I wound up near Monterrey Market.

Kensington Ice Cream Parlor

They serve Bud’s Ice Cream … it seams every flavor Bud makes. This is good since I really like some of Bud’s holiday flavors and now know where to satisfy a craving without commiting to a half gallon. They have a few sundaes and some simple sandwiches. The lady who owns the place is Asian and I’m vaguely remembering some sort of simple hot Chinese dish for a special that day, something along the lines of chow mien. The no-frills looking store is attached to the side of Ace Hardware.

Shai's Deli

Shai’s seems like a nice neighborhood place. I really liked the enthusiasm of one of the owners. It seems like a quirky little place that reminded me in terms of atmosphere of small East Coast Delis. The deli leans toward Mid-Eastern.

They are also heavy on the sampling. Try this, try that. They had a nice whole poached salmon but I went for the sesame chicken drumstick (Shai's has a bit of an eclectic selection).

It seems that catering is the main focus of this Deli. The deli items seem be what is on their catering menu. The chicken leg was fine, a little chewy and it had a gaminess to it. At first I didn’t like this, but for some reason I thought, that’s not a bad thing … different, but not bad. It sort of reminded me of some of the chicken at delis in Chinatown.

The mashed potatoes were different and would have been perfect for that poached salmon. They looked good, yet the texture was gluey-ish. The potatoes were mixed with yogurt, dill, caramelized onion and a little bit of butter. There was a lovely smell of dill which was the predominant taste along with a yogurt tang. As I said, they would have been a great complement to the salmon.

I heard that soup was the thing here and I got samples of the two soups of the day. One was a black bean minestrone (?). It was some sort of soup along that line where black beans are not usual. It had some interesting seasoning, but I went with the mushroom potato soup with crushed tortilla chips.

Yep. That’s right. Sort of a Jewish tortilla soup. Yah know, tortillas aren’t bad in potato soup. They give the soup texture. It was a nice potato soup with a few slices of mushroom … and not over-salted.

I lost my bearings here and turned down a piece of Semifreddi bread with the soup. Could have had it with butter or hummus. The owner showed me this great hummus plate he was making for a party that night. Very creative cut-out veggies on top making it look like a mosaic. In fact it seems like being in someone’s catering kitchen rather than a deli.

The link to the website below, hardly covers everything mentioned on the catering menu brochure.

It says their menus are from around the world: French, Cajun, Persian, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Hawaiian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern.

It also seems like this may be a place that caters for a reasonable price. Looking on the website FAQ it says “Yes, we can give you tips on cutting china and linen costs”. Free corkage if you provide your own wine. No cake cutting fee if you bring your own cake.

The $20 & $25 per person menus are listed on the web site. In the brochure they mention that they can set up buffet stations which include: pasta, sushi, taco, falafel and carving station. Some of the hot dishes are stuffed mushrooms, lasagna, moussaka, polenta bake, chili rellenos, chicken on skewers with Thai peanut sauce, Duck a l’orange and Moroccan lamb or chicken stew.

Can you see why I may have lost my bearing and had trouble focusing?

Food-wise in reminded me a bit of Tangerine on Solano, a take-out option that is a slight step up from a market deli like Berkeley Bowl or Andronicus. I wouldn’t make a special trip, but if I lived in the immediate area it seems like a good option.

Actually Kensington has a market that I want to check out.

It turns out Arlington Baking Company does have a bakery and is located next door to Shai’s. I need to stop there again. On my visit it was the end of the day and I’m a little unclear about the bread. They might be selling some bread from the Bread Garden. Very nice looking Challah, but it was reserved for customers. I bought a baguette and the bag it came in had the name of the Bread Garden printed on it. It might be worth the ride up that mountain if a source of Bread Garden bread in near me.

Link: http://www.shais.com/

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