Thursday, August 20, 2009

HENRY'S BERKELEY - Upscale Bar Food

We needed to meet my youngest at school the other day (she's in her third year at Boalt School of Law, so you know she needed a break!) and Henry's was close to campus so we thought we'd give it a try. Neither my BH nor I had been there before, and so it's facelift was lost on us, but what the heck, the menu looked interesting.

Since Henry's is an actual bar, we ordered drinks. I have become a huge fan of mixology, and am most always game to try a new concoction. So I ordered the Hot Flash which was a blend of Heiradura Reposado with muddled cilantro, mint and lime juice. The rim of the glass was covered with a jalapeno sugar that made for a serious kick when mixed with the drink, which was itself a twist on a mojito, but much much better. My BH had the Gossip Girl (I know I know) a pleasant blending of Bacardi light & dark with coconut, cranberry, orange juice & pineapple. It was pretty good, but in my opinion not as incredibly unique as mine.

The waiter was really busy, seemed to be the only staff there for lunch. I was a tad annoyed that he failed to let me know in advance they were out of the quesadillas. I had my heart set on the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Quesadillas, and would have preferred not to get in that mindset only to be disappointed. That said, I soon settled on what seemed an even better choice, a dish called the Angry Mac & Cheese which was a macaroni and cheese, with sambal olek (which if you were completely in the dark as I was, is an Indonesian chile sauce) tomato, and scallions. When it came, the macaroni was covered in a spicy, creamy, tomato sauce that had a really well blended flavoring. It was hot, and even after the jalapeno drink, I loved this dish. I love my spices and this hit that hot-wanting-spot!

We also ordered their sweet potato fries, which I found really well seasoned. I've tried this new "fry" varietal at several different restaurants and this one was the best I've had by far. Moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, they were a real treat.

My BH had the Seafood Corn Soup and a Burger, both were satisfactory, but nothing special. He's had better burgers elsewhere, but the patty was cooked properly and it wasn't drowned in bun. Our daughter had the Orriechiete Pasta which she enjoyed. I'd say the food is mostly good, but it is still a sports bar. I would definitely choose to eat here again, but I wouldn't go out of my way for the food. The drinks, however, were another story indeed....

Henry's Berkeley
2600 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

Price: Reasonable - Moderately Expensive
Dining time: probably could get out in an hour, service was overwhelmed when I was there last.
Table size: Adequate for food served

EVERETT & JONES - Classic BBQ in an Oakland Institution

Or maybe anwhere else. But you all already knew that. So I won't do the sell you on the BBQ speech. What I will do is let you know that I've discovered a nice little treat there. Something a bit healthier than straight BBQ ribs or chicken, with all the flavor and heat of the original.

The ribs are amazing, and so is the BBQ chicken, but with all the potato salad and the cornbread, they're not exactly diet food. But a friend of mine (our PFC) showed me a little trick. They've got something here they call the BBQ chicken salad and if one orders a bit of hot sauce, along with the standard bit of dressing (I like Ranch with the BBQ sauce) it's a hot, tasty, treat without the calories of a full plate of Bar-b-que. So that's my little tip. It's become a lunchtime staple.

However, if you would prefer the standard fare, E&J still serves up the most amazing, well-cooked and delicious ribs anywhere on the planet. They may not be the only style, and some prefer the dryer kind of ribs, but none are better, and their hot sauce is HOT!

As always, Bon Appetit!

Everett & Jones
126 Broadway (2nd Street)
Oakland, CA 94617

Price: Inexpensive - Reasonable
Dining time: this totally depends on service, which while really friendly can be slow, probably because ribs take such a long time to prepare, and if they run out right after you arrive, the next batch can be awhile. Still a great place for lunch, so if you care, ask before being seated.
Table size: More than adequate for food served.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SIAM BAY - Authentic Thai done to perfection

Siam Bay is an inexpensive, authentic option for outstanding Thai cuisine here in Oakland. It sits unassumingly next door to the incredibly popular (and I think relatively mediocre) Le Cheval. The food at Siam Bay is exceedingly fresh, and it's owner is always on the lookout to please his customers.

They serve a really nice buffet daily. It is all you can eat, and features a variety of standard dishes, including Curry Chicken (a lovely soft yellowy curry with plenty of chicken and potato chunks), a Thai hot mussell dish, aptly titled "Siam Bay Mussells" and a fried fish in Tamarind sauce.

The buffet is kept warm on a standard cafeteria steam table, but the dishes are replenished constantly (which is necessary because the buffet is popular and items can go very quickly). But it has been my experience that when an item disappears, a fresh replacement entree is placed in its stead within minutes.

In addition to the dishes mentioned above, there is a standard salad offering, with house dressing, and a self-serve Tom Yum soup that varies greatly in flavor, but is usually quite tasty. In addition to these touches, there is always a Pad Thai and a vegetarian dish or two, along with a large serving dish of plain white rice. A dessert can also be had, which is generally a rice pudding-like dish or a banana pudding. The consistency of the rice dish is not quite as thick as a pudding, perhaps more like a really thick soup. Maybe porridge? It's traditional, and if you like that sort of thing, also tasty.
The buffet is the staple of my BH, and it was mine for the first year we ate here, except for occasional forays into their Tom Kha soups. I prefer the one with shrimp, but both Tom Kha Gai (chicken) and Tom Kha Goong (Shrimp) are excellent. If you want a Tom Kha, this is the place to order this dish. Both soups are much better here than at Champa Garden.
After almost a year of watching our PFC eat one or the other of his favorite dishes, both of which he has specially prepared for him by the owner, I decided to jump in and try them. I think one of them may not even be on the menu, or if it is now, it wasn't always. But should you like spicy Thai food, both are excellent. The first is an excellent Beef Salad. Simply delicious. The meat is moist and the spices perfection. We like it hot though, so we always have him lay it on.

Same with the Garlic Shrimp. It is essentially a platter of perfectly cooked shrimp (still moist, never overdone) and fresh broccoli, smothered in a perfectly fiery hot sauce. When I am being extra good, I skip the brown rice and just sop the sauce up with the broccoli. These dishes are both spicy and not for the faint of heart. But the owner will make them for you if you ask, and it's well worth the trip.
Bon Appetit!
Siam Bay - Authentic Thai - Old Oakland
1009 Clay St(between 10th St & 11th St) Oakland, CA 94607(510) 452-1499
Price: Inexpensive
Dining Time: easily done in an hour
Table size: adequate