Ill be in the East Bay this weekend to visit my son at UC to help him celebrate his 21st bday...well hit Chez Panisse to do that properly (!?!), but will devote most other meal slots to Asian (for sentimental reasons, well claim a couple of stools at the lunch counter of Henrys Hunan...its quite a floor show and its free, and the food isnt terrible). As a former El Cerritovian and EB mag editor, I have a pretty good idea of where to go, but would like a few pointers. Ive surfed the 18,000 or so postings on the board dating back to Spring 2000 to do some catch up.
1) Well hit China Village for sure, at least a couple of times. In fact, I have already called Mr. Yao to set up our Thurs. dinner (which will be a shameful miniature copy of yalls Feldman Fest, but for only four folks). Have read all the CV posts and examined the photos with a magnifying glass and am getting revved up for some good chow there. But, are there any other ideas that have not made it onto the board? I only saw one mention of the Sichuan classic twice-cooked pork which is served up real nice at NYCs Grand Sichuan International, but there you must emphasize that you want the Chinese version made with fatty belly pork, otherwise you get an insipid dish of who-knows-what. I gather you must do the same at CV, but any other comments on this dish? Any other menu tips not posted? Seems like Ive read much about 5-6 dishes, and then little about a few others, and then nothing else...just my observation. With 100 items on the good menu, itd be interesting to see a broader spectrum of comments...
2) Saw a thread about fatty bacon with preserved mustard greens or with taro from several months (a year?) back. I remember a very modest place on 8th in Oakland (cant remember the name, but its on what I remember as the main block of activity on the street, I imagine Webster is one of the cross streets) that served a claypot dish with this bacon, dried bean curd skin and some sort of greens. I thought it was quite good. Any other thoughts on finding a really good dose of a dish like this. Saw a mention of the Gold Medal, but there must be others...maybe Ill just go back to the place Ive had it before several times. When I get back, Ill report on the experience and put a name to the face...
3) My doc would kill me (or at least my own root causes for his recommendations might), but I am tempted to search for a local, retail source for Niman Ranch guanciale. Their website lists a couple of places that offer a full range of their products, but I am a bit leery of that statement. I read a post here that suggested that Berkeley Bowl has reduced their NR offerings, and they are one of the supposed NR complete sources. Maybe the meat market on College under Oliveto? Cafe Rouge on 4th Street? Anyone have a lead on that?
4) We used to like Viks, but I always felt the food was fairly one-dimensional...cheap, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Yes, its always fun to wait in line for a long time to order, then fight like a buzzard to find a place to sit--both always enhance any dining experience--but maybe the food itself does not live up to the level of these character-enhancing pleasures? I am thinking the Udupi Palace on University might offer slightly more nuanced food with a wider variety of choices...we can always get it to go, then sit out front on the sidewalk. Any updates on Viks vs. Udupi? Other, better S. Indian in E. Bay? My son is a fish-eating vegetarian, and loves dosai, etc.
5) I will probably help him augment his kitchen battery. Any place perhaps cheaper than Sur la Table to pick up decent sheet pans and so on?
6) Hell probably know where to go, but what about morning cappuccino? I used to be a Peets fan, but imagine there are better places...South Berkeley, N. Oakland?
7) Was there ever a consensus on custard tarts in Oakland? The name Ruby King pops out as one recommended place...others?
(Ill file a report upon my return...if the plane can get off the ground at Oakland International.)