Wangfujing

When in Beijing, eat Peking duck.

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This was at Quan Ju De, one of the restaurants popular for its Peking duck (another popular one down the street is Da Dong Roast Duck). I walked in without realizing that a) it was a three to four storey restaurant, b) there would be a line for the elevator, c) there would be a large waiting room for customers to get called their number, and d) there would be another 50 min wait until the duck could be served after being seated. Basically, it’s super popular and the experience leading up to the actual food felt quite unusual to me, like I was waiting to see a general practitioner in a hospital.

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I don’t usually enjoy eating ‘exotic’ things like liver but I actually quite enjoyed this one. The duck itself was, needless to say, great. Was totally stuffed after that feast so we spent some time walking along Wangfujing street, which included looking at more food…

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Wangfujing snack street has some interesting sights like live scorpions but that aside, I find it a little too crowded to want to come back here.

Sweet Beijing

It was on my last day of Beijing that I tried the ubiquitous yogurt milk and Mongolian yogurt ice cream. Now I need to find a way to import them to Brunei cause I am absolutely hooked!

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On the same day, I tried the Wuyutea matcha soft serve that perpetually attracts a line at its Wangfujing branch. I love the strong powdery matcha taste but my soft serve was half melted by the time I finished snapping a picture of it ūüė¶

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Crazy that I crammed so much sugary stuff in one day but it was a now-or-never situation! The only other sugary stuff I consumed the other day was san xiong di bubble milk tea at Coco’s (Wangfujing) under Izzah’s recommendations. It had tapioca pearls, pudding and red bean, mmm.

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Round Up of Favourite Eats

Now that I’ve graduated, I thought it would be apt for me to do a¬†round up of my favourite eats in Berkeley with links to older posts referencing these places! Since I’m limiting myself to just the city of Berkeley, some of the listed places¬†aren’t totally great but they’re my go-to places when a particular craving strikes due to their accessibility/cost.

Chinese

Great China: One of the fancier Chinese restaurants in Berkeley. Expect old Asian families and higher price tags for regular entrees (in terms of taste they beat other Chinese restaurants in the city). Great lunch specials and definitely the place to go if you like walnut shrimps.

Happy Valley: Yangzhou Fried Rice Рpretty much the only thing I get here.

Japanese

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Kirala:  Supposed to be one of best Japanese restaurants in East Bay. There are two branches Рone on Southside and another on Northside, which is more like a takeout place. In terms of value for money, I like the buy one get one deal for purchases above USD 10 from the branch on Northside (see posts here and here).

CU Sushi:¬†The only restaurant I’d go to when I’m craving Japanese and don’t want to wander too far from campus or burn a hole in my wallet.

Thai

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Berkeley Thai Temple: Hands down the best Thai food in the city. Rich yellow chicken curry, beef noodle soup, mango sticky rice Рhave them all for your Sunday brunch like I did here and here.

Bangkok:¬†A fan of their duck fried rice and pineapple fried rice, as well as their lunch specials. Like most other Thai restaurants in Berkeley, they stay open pretty late which is great for late night hunger pangs if you’re in Northside. The alternative on Southside is –

Thai Basil: The mention of Thai Basil would automatically conjure up images of Pad Thai in the minds of Berkeley students.

Pizza

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Cheeseboard:¬†Who knew vegetarian pizza could taste so good?! I always want a slice whenever I walk past this place. Flavours change everyday so just like Ici’s, it can be a huge hit or simply okay (as in above average¬†but not overwhelmingly awesome).

Sliver:¬†Similar to Cheeseboard but closer to campus. Somehow I enjoy Cheeseboard slices more…

Zachary’s:¬†The place to go if you’re into Chicago deep dish pizza!

Indian

Mount Everest:¬†I don’t eat Indian food very often but this is my go-to place for Indian curries and momos such as these.

Mexican

El Burro Picante: Cheap tacos!

La Burrita; I went through a phase when I was constantly craving their quesadillas, with sour cream and guacamole please. One of the places that remain open till quite late too.

Cancun: Best nachos in town but with a pretty hefty price tag.

Mediterranean

Razan’s Organic Cafe:¬†This was the place where I discovered how much I love falafel, tahini and hummus. I like their Jordanian wrap and their hot sauces. See here.

Korean 

Generally I prefer heading over to Oakland for Korean food on Friday nights or weekends but here are some in Berkeley that I go to

Spoon:¬†Probably the best Korean restaurant in Berkeley itself but unfortunately is not too convenient to get to without a car¬†(see here). Then that leaves me with –

Kimchi Garden: For days when I feel like I need soft tofu soup (soondubu) right then and there, I walk over to Asian Ghetto.

Brunch

Cafe M: There is NOTHING that I do not like at this place. Love their benedicts, omelets, french toast, fresh pressed juice, etc.

Bette’s Oceanview Diner:¬†I generally find their dishes too buttery for my liking but their fluffy souffle pancakes are definitely one of a kind.

La Note: Probably the best place for brunch in downtown Berkeley. Lots of girls love this place and the decor probably has something to do with it too.

Crepevine: I like the variety of food. They have benedicts, omelets, sandwiches, pasta, salads and of course, crepes. They have some interesting fusion savoury crepes and I really like their Santorini crepe for dessert.

Ice cream

Almare: Absolutely in love with their gelato. I can never have enough of their pistachio, but other favourites include almond with caramelized fig, tiramisu and straciatella

Ici’s:¬†Well made ice cream which attracts long lines on Friday to Sunday nights. Flavour changes daily so sometimes their¬†flavours¬†can be a real hit or just okay, but never a miss.

Baked Goodies

Masse’s: Just go and eat their cakes. More here.

Sheng Kee:¬†For days when I’m craving Asian bread and buns, and when I only feel like spending a couple bucks for lunch.

Milk Tea

I can’t judge for the quality of tapioca pearls since I don’t order them so these are just based on regular milk tea flavours (yes, I am that boring)

Sharetea, Purplekow: Depending on where I am on campus.

Asha Tea House: A pretty hip place with minimalist design. I liked their matcha latte a lot at one point.

Quickly:¬†When I don’t want to spend more than three bucks on milk tea.

Coffee

I don’t usually drink coffee, but when I do it’s got to be at –

Philz Coffee: I love Philz, especially their Mocha Tesora and Iced Mint Mojito.

Pretty sure I am missing out some cuisines and other good eats but I think this should be comprehensive enough ūüôā

Final Food Adventures in San Francisco

As it turns out, I ended up postponing my food exploration to non-touristy areas in San Francisco to my last few weeks in the Bay Area. After my finals, I got the chance to explore some Vietnamese / Thai food in Tenderloin as well as some popular eateries at Richmond / Sunset.

I have always heard things about Tenderloin Рabout how I should avoid accidentally walking into Tenderloin, especially in the evenings, because of safety reasons. After finding out that Little Saigon was in Tenderloin, I simply thought to myself that I had to check out this place at least once. I have also never had banh mi before so I thought, why not? My friend and I went to Saigon Sandwich, a small place where you can supposedly find the best banh mi in San Francisco.

Roast Pork Banh Mi @ Saigon Sandwich, Tenderloin, SF

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This is evidently a go-to lunch place for a lot of people working in the area. I’m not surprised, considering how you only need to spend¬†$3.75 to fill yourself up – a steal in the city. My friend and I shared a roast pork banh mi and it was really delicious. I liked the baguette, the crunchy carrots and not to mention their sauce! Unfortunately, our eating experience was interrupted by a scary looking homeless person who kept knocking on the glass window we were sitting by. He was quite relentless and I was honestly scared but after awhile he left to bother some other customers waiting in line…

We then hopped to a Thai restaurant that Felicia absolutely loves called Zen Yai Thai. She had been evangelizing their mini boat noodles and after trying them, I don’t blame here for it. Their tom yum broth was pretty amazing and I also really enjoyed the broth in the our second boat noodle, which supposedly is made from curdled blood.

Tom Yum Boat Noodle @ Zen Yai Thai, Tenderloin, SF

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Beef (or Pork?) Boat Noodle @ Zen Yai Thai, Tenderloin, SF

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Excellent broth and noodles for $2.50 each and as Felicia recommended, get many different combos of boat noodles to share with your friends.

I got to try more Chinese food in the Richmond and Sunset area – more notably, Shanghai Dumpling King and San Tung Chicken Restaurant. Shanghai Dumpling King¬†is kind of known for their¬†xiao long baos¬†(soup dumplings) but unfortunately it fell short of my¬†expectations. I was initially a little put off by how red and raw the meat filling looked but it ended up tasting fine. However, I thought it didn’t have very much soup at all. Perhaps I was unlucky enough to get a mediocre batch of xiao long baos.

San Tung  Chicken Restaurant, on the contrary, lived up to my expectations. My friends and I had their shrimp and leek dumplings, sauteed Chinese long beans, and of course, their popular dry fried chicken wings. All of them were really great but too bad I was too hungry to even remember to take pictures before we devoured the food.

 

Burma Superstar

It was only during my last few weeks in the Bay Area that I got to explore Inner Richmond in San Francisco. Under many friends’ recommendations, I grabbed my birthday dinner¬†at Burma Superstar! This birthday girl was fortunate because she was seated immediately but shortly after, a line developed outside the restaurant’s entrance. Tip: Go on a weekday before 6PM to beat the crowd.

The items on the menu weren’t any surprise to me because I have dined at a Burma Superstar in Oakland as well as a similar establishment in Berkeley called Rangoon Super Stars, both located along Telegraph Ave. I absolutely enjoyed the salads at both establishments and since my friends claimed that the ones here were better, I ended up ordering the same things.

Rainbow Salad

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Tea Leaf Salad

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The Rainbow Salad consists of 22 food ingredients including fresh noodles, papaya, crispy wonton skins and tofu. The Tea Leaf Salad, as its name implies, has tea leafs in it and the flavor definitely stands out in a good way. I believe it was featured in the Food Network too. As you can probably tell from the pictures, they are more interesting and flavorful than your average spinach or kale salad. Personally, I preferred the Rainbow Salad but they¬†were both excellent dishes. I would definitely recommend these dishes to anyone who hasn’t tried them before. Their coconut rice is pretty good too and it basically reminded me of the rice in nasi lemak in Brunei.

I asked the servers if they had any special treats for birthday girls and they brought out two scoops of lychee sorbet with a lit candle on top, yay! And as if that amount of sugar wasn’t enough for the day, I walked over to Schubert’s Bakery to get myself a slice of their popular Swedish Princess.

Beautiful cakes at Schubert’s Bakery

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No pictures of the actual slice that I got but the Swedish Princess is basically a layered cake with raspberry and custard filling, topped with icing that looked like fondant. It was definitely one of the best mousse cakes I have had but I still have a soft spot for the cakes at Masse’s Pastries in Berkeley.

The World’s My Oyster

More like oyster’s my world.

On our way for a fabulous ladies day out at Napa Valley, a friend suggested we made a stop at Hog Island Oyster for lunch.¬†After Hog Island Oyster, there’s no way I can be satisfied with oysters served at hotel buffets anymore – both a blessing and a curse.

Raw Oysters including Hog Island Kumamoto

Fresh Oysters

 

Baked Oysters
Baked Oysters

The oysters are incredibly fresh and heavenly, both the raw and baked. I particularly liked the ones baked with delightfully sinful amount of butter and herbs. Their clam chowder is pretty different from your average chowder in that its consistency is more like that of  thin soup. Still pretty darn good though!

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Protein Style

I don’t always eat burgers – in fact, it’s a rare occurence – but when I do, it’s got to be In N Out.

To those who don’t know, In N Out has a secret menu with some popular items like their Animal Fries (fries topped with their famous sauce and grilled onions) and the Protein Style. Protein Style is basically their burger but wrapped with lettuce leaves instead of the regular burger bun. I got it –

In N Out

 

– and I love it.

The cooked beef patty juxtaposed with the light, fresh lettuce is just heaven in my mouth.

Blue Bottle Baby

Blue Bottle coffee, the beloved baby of many caffeine lovers in San Francisco. After receiving multiple shocked responses from friends who found out I hadn’t tried this famed coffee after nearly four years in the area, I decided that this day had to happen.

New Orleans Iced Coffee @ Blue Bottle, SOMA
New Orleans Iced Coffee

My verdict? I don’t think I’m enough of a coffee connoisseur to appreciate Blue Bottle. My heart has been captured by Philz Coffee – by the refreshing iced mint mojito and the smooth mocha tesora – now and possibly forever.

SF Japantown: Japanese Crepes

When in San Francisco’s Japantown, you have to get yourself a Japanese crepe with gelato if you haven’t already. ¬†The question is, Sophie’s Crepe or Belly Good Cafe?

Green Tea Gelato Crepe @ Sophie’s Crepe, Japantown SF

Honestly, I don’t know. I had gelato crepes from both at too far apart times to be able to recall and compare. All I remember is that¬†they were both different in some aspects but I walked out of the plaza both times an extremely satisfied person. All I can offer are some tips:

Tip One: Save enough space in your stomach for the crepe. Eating a whole crepe after downing an entire bowl of ramen was not a good idea.

Tip Two: Belly Good Cafe makes super kawaii faces on top of the gelato if you consider that a plus (I did!).

Tip Three: Green tea gelato, always.

It still remains one of my big regrets for not having more of these delectable crepes before leaving NorCal so please have them on behalf of me if you can.

Little Eataly

During my family’s visit to the San Francisco Bay Area for my graduation, I decided to take them on a tour around Little Italy in San Francisco so they could have a taste of Italian food that was more authentic than what we could find in our hometown. We stumbled upon Firenze by Night, which turned out to be popular among patrons who approve of the dishes’ authenticity.

A lot of Yelp reviewers rave about their gnocchi which I did not end up ordering because I generally find gnocchi too starchy. Instead, I ordered the Pappardelle ala Toscana which a lot of people reviewed very favourably too. It is basically very wide pasta noodles in rabbit sauce, definitely a deviation from the likes of Chicken Marsala or Frutti di Mare that I frequently order at Italian restaurants. Rabbit sauce sounded interesting to me so I went with it.

Pappardelle ala Toscana @ Firenze by Night, Little Italy SF

Pappardelle Toscana

It was quite a simple dish but not the pasta-I-can-cook-myself kind of simplicity. It was literally fresh egg pasta. And sauce. With bits of rabbit meat. It was a good dish but not overwhelmingly amazing like what I was led to believe. Perhaps my taste in Italian food is less authentic and more American than I thought. I also had a taste of the other dishes that my family ordered which had seafood and I have to say that Firenze by Night does its seafood well. The seafood linguini that my mother ordered as well as the seafood entree my father got were tres fresh and delicious.

Seafood Linguini @ Firenze by Night, Little Italy SF

Overall, Excellent service and better than your average Italian restaurant. However, I would like to believe that there are better Italian restaurants in the same price range somewhere in Little Italy or the city. My family and I actually preferred our experience at Scoma’s Restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf despite the heftier bill (old post here).

As for desserts, we undoubtedly went for gelato. I took my family to Gelataria Naia, a chain that was very popular among my friends before the branch in Berkeley closed down. Somehow, the gelato fell short of what I remembered it to be and I found myself favouring Almare Gelato in Berkeley. Yay to locally owned stores!