Jun 1, 2008

On Food

Over the years, I've realized novelty is one of the things that drives interests more than almost anything else. I tend to lose interest as things get repetitive, and the initial excitement and awe of fine dining has faded a little. I find it rarer and rarer to find a restaurant worth ranting and raving about, and even less inspired to actually blog about it when I do. That's not to say I haven't had any good meals lately. I have (Cyrus was particularly amazing, more interesting than the famed French Laundry), but I find that since I don't blog about it, it just tends to be another experience that fades from memory.

I'm finding that in the past couple of years, I'm prefectly satisfied by the everyday, done well. And more and more I'm finding it's the company that makes the meal, and when that's the focus (rather than the food), I try not to pull out the fat camera in the middle of the conversation. That solid bowl of pho or ramen could be the perfect meal with the right person. It's no 5 hour tasting menu, but something you could do every day for the rest of your life.

Anyways, for the sake of trying to record some of the nicer meals in the past few weeks:


A surprisingly standout meal, especially after finding that this was opened by the same people as the thorougly unimpressive YYZ. I had checked out YYZ quite a few years ago, when the Canadian dollar was substantially weaker, and still thought it delivered nothing special for what it cost. Lucien however, executed its fusiony ideas from various cuisines deftly. Asian and mexican/spanish influences were at the forefront, but not obnoxiously so.

The Berkshire pork belly with clams, cuttlefish, kimchee, toasted barley and a slow poached egg was to die for. On paper it sounds almost like a Korean horror movie, a slab of jiggly meat, bright red and spicy and sour, with that hint of rank fermented vegetable and fishy seafood. In practice it was perfect. The pork was slightly sweet and buttery, melting in your mouth like a good Shanghainese pork shoulder. The "kimchee" itself was entirely untraditional. Rich and spicy, with a hint of tang, but with no vinegary taste or odor whatsoever, I could have just chowed down with that on white rice for a week. The egg was perfectly done, the rich orange was soft and gelatinous, but not runny at all.

I only tasted the king crab and scallop, with heirloom carrots, coconut, black bean and toasted corn. Again, although it sounds like something they'd serve at a fancy taqueria, it was definitely raised way beyond.

The roast squab soto with rice noodles, bean sprout sambal, lobster tofu was interesting, but not as outstanding. The portion of squab was small, the breast was decent, but the leg was a perfect morsel, deboned, crispy on the outside, and buttery on the inside. The rice noodles were a little sticky, and the lobster tofu on the salty side. Not quite a perfect implementation, but both were creative enough that I didn't feel like this was asian food done poorly and served with a high price tag.

I've already wrote too much, but Alberta bison striploin with hominy, sarsaprilla, poblano, treviso, queso fresco was very good. Seared on the outside, bright red on the inside, juicy and tasty on the inside, and the grits on the side had rave reviews too. It simply blew away the bison short ribs I had later that week at Celestin.

Overall, the service was attentive, and someone who looked like either a manager or owner (I wasn't too chatty) was around to help out the wait staff and check on diners.


I've been meaning to try Celestin, since I saw this article in Toronto Life years ago. Finally got to try it, and although it was good, it wasn't outstanding in any particular way. One complaint is that the meal, which was just some appetizers and mains, and not a tasting menu, still took over two hours. Click on the pictures for a description.


This little izakaya in a random strip mall is one of those things you'd never find if someone didn't bring you there, especially as a tourist. The inside wasn't too fancy. On one side were some stalls with the traditional low tables where you sit on futons, a cabinet was lined with bottle of shochu with namecards on them. There were Japanese men drinking and dining in Japanese. On the other side there were some more normal tables. A couple of harried waitresses rushed around to take orders, specials were on a board, written in Japanese.

We were there for the ramen and the Sapporo draft. The ramen was decent. I think the best in the Bay area compares better, but I had no complaints. The side dishes were pretty good too. Deep fried chicken, stewed pork, hamachi collar, gyoza. I've forgotten the other half the dishes by now. Although none were spectacular "you must try this dishes", they were very good, it's one of those places that you could easily call a regular hang out. And we were there hanging out with the people I'd hang out with forever if I could.

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