June 2008


yume rules

Although I have been to Yume many times, it is sometimes hard to go there. I believe that Yume has one of the best sushi in the east bay. There is better sushi in the city but for the price and convenience of driving to Alameda, Yume is a clear choice. From what I heard, Hideki-san used to be a sushi chef at a very trendy and busy sushi restaurant in San Francisco. He then retired from sushi making, only to miss it dearly. He then sought out to find the smallest restaurant space so that he could open up his own sushi-ya and continue to make delicious sushi while his wife waited on the patrons. What was once a small bar that fits 8 (I think), and 2 tables that could fit 4 each, has whittled down to just one table that fits four, to just 1 table that fits 2, for a restaurant that only seats 10 at once.

What is even more surprising is that there was always a rule that you could not bring parties of 4 our more. So if Courtney and I wanted to bring another couple to Yume, it was forbidden. You could bring just 1 friend with you for a total of 3 people. Now that has changed as well. Yume now has a new sign outside their entryway which clearly states that they ONLY accept parties of 3 BEFORE 5:30pm. Given that Yume only opens at 5pm, one only has a 30 minute window to eat with 2 of your friends. I even tried to get a seat at 6pm but was turned away when I clearly had a party of 3.

They are also clear about no seat trickery. I have heard stories of people trying to act as if 2 separate parties of 2 meet up by “accident”. Hideki-san will have none of that. I also heard of someone who brought a friend and then found out that his wife wanted to join them. The person asked Hideki-san if it was okay for his wife to join him seeing that there was plenty of room at the bar, and Hideki-san said it was against the rules. However he did allow the patron to then swap places with his wife so that the party remained just 2 people.

If you can get past the strict rules and want fresh sushi, then check it out.

Yume Sushi in Alameda. Look for the small placard next to a non-descript entryway leading to stairs.

Cool zoetrope run at camera speed on 2 turntables. Found on neatorama.com

Came across this awesome site. As soon as I thought of a great opening title sequence, this place had it. Really, really cool stuff.

http://www.artofthetitle.com/

ao sen

There are a plethora of Vietnamese places in Oakland. Most are good and a few are great, but there have only been a handful that really stand out from the rest.

Danang was one of those restaurants that compels you to go weekly to either fulfill your craving of your favorite dish, or to fulfill your curiosity of the next delicious dish on the menu. Unfortunately it changed owners and is no longer the same restaurant.

I’ve been searching around for the next Danang and Ao Sen comes really close and even exceeds in places. This is the type of joint you would normally drive by and never notice. It doesn’t pride itself in advertisements or tries to stand out to entice the passer by. It doesn’t need to. The many times I have since been there, it has always been busy with a mostly Vietnamese clientele. The energy there is amazing. It is one of the few places that I’ve been that you can close your eyes, and then open them and transport yourself away from the hustle and bustle of Oakland. Not all oasis is made of sand and surf, this one happens to be anise and fish sauce.

ao sen

The pho is really good. It is in par with all the other pho houses around, though it is not their stand out. I will still go there if I am craving pho, but it is the other dishes that make Ao Sen truly set it apart from the standard fare. The pho has a great base with it not being too oily. The anise broth isn’t overwhelming, yet has that spiciness that is not spicy in the scoville scale, but spicy as in spiced. Not only do you get the typical been sprouts, lime, and basil, but you also get saw-leaf herb.

grilled pork chop with baked egg

The highlight of Ao Sen is really the bun and rice dishes. You have all the standard bun, though you can also get the bun cha hanoi, which is a sort of deconstructed bun with all the ingredients of the bun set aside separately by vegetables, the noodles, then the meat in the nuoc mam sauce. You then mix all the ingredients in your mouth and have the instant gratification of all the different tastes and textures churning in your mouth. The rice plates all have broken rice and small touches that set it apart. The pork is always tender and juicy and the shrimp is plump and not burnt or dry. I’m not a huge fan of the baked egg, but it is still tasty. Small touches, such as a pearl onion in the nuoc mam, pork rind croutons sprinkled over the pork chop, the hot oil, the side of pho broth that makes you wish you had enough appetite for both pho and rice plates, all contribute to Ao Sen being my favorite Vietnamese restaurant now. Go there, go there now. It is the type of place that you can visit weekly, and if you are crazy, maybe daily.

BTW, get the Vietnamese ice coffee. Although it doesn’t come with the drip and comes pre-mixed, it is super strong and you still need to wait for the ice to melt to drink without causing caffeine jitters.

A while back I went to a restaurant in LA called Macau Street. There they specialize in Macau style cooking, sort of Chinese cuisine with a Portuguese twist. While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, my wife asked the waiter a question. There were two items of interest, one was duck chin with soy sauce and the other was soy sauce duck chin. He replied that the soy sauce duck chin was a typo and actually it was duck tongue. So she ordered the duck chin. I’m still not sure what she was thinking but what turned out to be duck chin was actually the lower bottom half of the bill. If you’ve ever had really bad Chinese liquor, the kind that smells really bad and comes in a clay bottle, it tastes like it was marinating in that and dirty water. There really isn’t a lot of meat when it comes to the duck chin, and what little there is you have to pick through with your fingers and teeth of the bone like thing that I think was the trachea. Duck-tastic!

Macau Street Duck chin

Duck Tongue snacks from China

Long story short… another friend of mine recently got back from a trip to China and brought back these single packaged morsels. This is authentic Chinese duck tongue. It’s scary how happy the comic duck looks in the packaging. Anyways, I opened one up. Firstly it was covered with what seemed like vaseline. It had a gelatin like sheen that if you squeeze it between your fingers hard enough it would shoot out like a rubber band. All in all the taste wasn’t that bad. It was like a really compressed vienna sausage. The hard part to eat was actually the texture. After you get through the oily marinate, it is like biting into a soft stick of pasta, only in the center is cartilaginous crunchiness, the type that you feel like you are biting into a knuckle. It wasn’t pleasant and I wouldn’t eat it again, but I can now say that I have had both duck chin and duck tongue.

cool little video.