Suggestion Box

San Francisco Bay Area


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Copyright © 2004-2018 All rights reserved.
Supplemental Yelp Reviews and More

For complete list of reviews, go to this Yelp profile (


[Dish du Jour]
[Local Treats]


[Persian – Saffron (Part 2)]
[Chinese – Bolansa Dessert (Part 2)]
[Macanese – Macau Bistro (Part 2)]
[Portuguese – Padaria Popular Bakery (Part 2)]


[Persian Fesenjan Restaurants]
[Mexican Mole Restaurants]
[Chinese/Vietnamese Clay Pot Rice Restaurants]
[Indian Chaat Restaurants]
[Neighborhood Restaurants]
[Macanese Restaurants]
[Custard Tart Bakeries/Restaurants]


[Asian – Chinese]
[Asian – Indian]
[Asian – Japanese]
[Asian – Macanese]
[Asian – Vietnamese]
[European – British]
[European – French]
[European – Portuguese]
[European – Spanish]
[Latin American – Mexican]
[Middle Eastern – Persian]
[North American – American]

Starters – Dish du Jour

Yelp may not be perfect, but it has inspired many people to share their personal reviews of businesses (guess we have to thank Amazon for this rating trend). As a foodie, I want to focus on San Francisco Bay Area restaurants that could use a little bit of publicity (I see no compelling reason to write one more positive review of a popular establishment). Freed from the space limitations on Yelp, I can expand on any subject here on this Web page.

Value Add

Until I encountered the discount takeout menu at Saffron (San Jose), I’d never thought about this business strategy. So who should do it? Well, it would only make sense for dishes that are regularly priced at $10 or more—and if normal portions are more than generous. Some restaurants already cut down on portion size—ostensibly to fit into the container—so they might as well be honest and reduce the price. After all, food to go does not require service or use of a table. So why don’t they pass the savings on to the customers? Discount takeout made sense when gas was $2 per gallon; it makes sense now more than ever.

What Price Service

Is customer service a lost art in America? Be courteous and be helpful. Is that too much to ask? What a lot of employees don’t realize is that customer service (or tech support in the technology sector) is just another product. A company may not explicitly bill customers for it, but customer service is no different from any other product. Bad service reflects badly on a company and sometimes makes a bigger impression than anything else.

It never ceases to amaze me how someone who is not a people person ends up dealing with customers in person or over the phone. And with Web sites like Yelp, Chowhound, and others, restaurant owners must know what customers think of their service. So if service doesn’t improve, what does it say about the owner? Customer service extends to the Internet these days. I was disappointed—but not surprised—that I never received an e-mail response from Lisa’s Tea Treasures (Campbell, Menlo Park, San Jose). Don’t display a contact form or publish an e-mail address if you have no intention of answering your e-mail.

Tipping Point

Instead of the recommended 15- to 20-percent gratuity, diners should just go with 20 percent. If you have trouble moving north of 15 percent, check out Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” (Henry Holt and Co./Metropolitan Books).

Last Supper

The survival rate in the restaurant business is notoriously low. I hope all the places I reviewed will be around five years from now.

Some Recognition

Congratulations to Saigon Sandwich (San Francisco), which was one of the places mentioned in Esquire’s ( “The Best Sandwiches in America” article in February 2008. I went there years ago when banh mi, the Vietnamese submarine sandwich on French baguette, was relatively new to the Bay Area.

Goodbye Tapioca, Hello Sago

I was never a fan of bubble tea, the Taiwanese craze that made its way to the U.S. in the 1990s. Now I hear sago has replaced tapioca pearls as the preferred tea fillers (yawn).

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Reviews – Persian – Saffron (Part 2)

May 2008

About Saffron: According to a nearby Persian restaurant, the family that owns Saffron has been operating the small grocery store next-door for years before taking over the space once occupied by Shamshiri Kabab House. Someday when they redevelop this desolate strip mall—and they will—we hope Saffron and its grocery store will stick around. (History buffs should note that Dick’s Center was the location of one of the most successful minority-owned supermarket chains in the Bay Area. San Jose’s historical society [] should make plans to preserve that sign.)

Memo to Saffron: In the meantime, what Saffron should do is leave a stack of the takeout menus in the lobbies of eBay and The PruneYard Plaza Hotel. Though some drivers find it annoying, Saffron should also consider leaving windshield flyers (English menu with map) in the PruneYard parking lot. Pet peeve: Every retail business should have a Web site nowadays, especially when you can get one for free from Microsoft or Google.

About rice: Starch is a staple all over the world. In many countries, the starch of choice is rice. For people in Latin America, the Caribbean, parts of Africa, and the southern half of Asia (from Japan to Turkey), rice is eaten with every meal. Although it’s not a staple in Europe, there are at least two culinary standouts starring this global grain: Italian risotto and Spanish paella. The lesser-known arroz de mariscos is a kind of Portuguese paella (rice is almost always served with meat dishes in Portugal).

Almost all American rice dishes come from Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole cuisines: jambalaya, dirty rice, and those served with rice such as gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp Creole, and, of course, red beans and rice. Then there’s a South Carolina baked rice dish called chicken perloo (from a Gullah/Geechee recipe?).

It’s safe to say no one takes the preparation and presentation of rice more seriously than the Persians and Japanese. The fluffy, saffron-steamed Persian rice is called chelow when served with kebabs and stews or polow when cooked with meats, fruits, or vegetables. While Italians are known for their love of pasta, they’re not the only ones who favor alternative sources of starch. In sheer numbers, the people in northern China enjoy noodles and bread, not rice, in their diet, and north Indians prefer bread. All those fad diets that tried to demonize bread, pasta, and rice were rightly doomed.

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Reviews – Chinese – Bolansa Dessert (Part 2)

May 2008

About Bolansa Dessert: Hui Lau Shan ( is a chain of “healthy dessert” cafes based in Hong Kong. Like McDonald’s in the U.S., the restaurant bears the founder’s name (Hui being his last name). A few years ago, franchise cafes opened stateside under the name “Creations Dessert House,” including one in Milpitas. Then in 2006, the Milpitas branch was reborn as Bolansa Dessert and is no longer affiliated with the Hong Kong chain. The first Creations Dessert House ( is still in business in San Francisco. The name “Bo-lan-sa” is possibly a loose transliteration of the original Chinese name, purposely close enough to recall “Hui Lau Shan” perhaps. Oh, you won’t find this information on Bolansa Dessert’s own Web site because it’s still incomplete two years later!

Digression: You can still read all four 2006 reviews of the Milpitas HLS on Yelp. HLS is not the only import franchise of noshes in the Bay Area: Goldilocks Bakeshop (Philippines), Kee Wah Bakery (Hong Kong), and Sheng Kee Bakery (Taiwan) are all here, just to name a few. The latest entry is Japan’s Beard Papa’s ( with six branches in the Bay Area to date. Regrettably, it doesn’t appear Auguste Fauchon’s ( gourmet shop/brasserie and Lord Stow’s Bakery ( will make it to the Bay Area.

It’s clear from the comments posted on Yelp that most Bolansa Dessert patrons have never tried the clay pot menu, or they are not aware of this option—it’s a shame either way (only one of the 60 previous reviewers referred to its clay pot dishes). If we hadn’t received a tip about this place, we would’ve walked right by it, writing it off as another one of those tapioca-happy juice joints and nothing more. Good word of month might be sufficient to save an indie movie; a restaurant needs to be more proactive. Business was slow when we visited both times on a Friday night in January and March.

Memo to Bolansa Dessert: If the owner wouldn’t consider changing the restaurant’s English name—Bolansa sounds more Filipino/Malaysian than anything else (if you didn’t know the HLS connection), and desserts really aren’t the restaurant’s strong suit—he or she should at least promote the clay pot menu better (certainly during the fall and winter months) and maybe add some clay pot/dessert combo specials. A little synergy might help increase sales of both dessert and non-dessert items.

There must be some way to get those Cisco employees in here. It’s hard enough competing with Milpitas Square. How about happy hour specials? Engineers love to make a dessert run in the late afternoon. Staying with the Asian theme, the owner might expand the menu to include mochi ice cream from Japan ( or Hawaii ( and kulfi, a solid, frozen milk dessert from South Asia. And since Bolansa Dessert is no longer stuck with the “healthy” concept, it should serve frozen custard (,, This East Coast/Midwest specialty, available only at Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt Co. locally, is neither ice cream nor yogurt—and better than both.

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Reviews – Macanese – Macau Bistro (Part 2)

May 2008

About Macau: A Portuguese colony until the very end of the last century (the Portuguese first settled here in 1557), Macau has been in the shadow of neighboring Hong Kong since the mid-19th century. Though both Hong Kong and Macau were European colonies for a long time—over 150 and 100 (officially) years, respectively—they never lost their Chinese identity. While Hong Kong became one of the world’s largest economies and a financial center after the 1970s, provincial Macau played Peoria to Hong Kong’s Manhattan.

Everything changed after 1999. With Las Vegas casinos racing to open Las Vegas-sized gambling palaces—this enclave had a small and somewhat seedy gaming industry before—Macau is becoming the Las Vegas of the East. Indeed, Macau surpassed Las Vegas in gaming revenue in 2006, a remarkable feat in such a short time (and to think Macau used to bill itself as the “Monaco of the East”). Even the name of the new casino district, the Cotai Strip, echoes the Las Vegas Strip. This explains why Newsweek, The New York Times, and ABC filed stories on the former Portuguese colony recently.

About Macanese cuisine: A fusion of sorts between Portuguese and Cantonese, Macanese cuisine is Chinese cooking with such non-traditional ingredients as salt cod (bacalhau), pork chops, rabbits, chili sauce (piri-piri), saffron, and breadcrumbs. Or you can think of it as adapting Portuguese recipes for the Chinese kitchen. You might wonder why Hong Kong never developed any Anglo-Chinese fusion cuisine. I’m not being facetious when I say that food is not part of the former British Empire’s legacy. If I’m not mistaken, the only colonial “dish” that is part of Hong Kong’s culinary repertoire is the condensed milk sandwich.

Unlike a classical cuisine that features a rich library of time-honored recipes and techniques, Macanese food is relatively informal and rustic. Examples include the aforementioned pork chop roll, Guia Hill baked rice and spareribs, and a tart that’s like a cross between the Portuguese pastel de nata and Chinese egg tart (which itself may be of English or Portuguese origin). Some Macanese recipes were only developed in the last 50 years. Classically trained Chinese chefs have nothing to fear from a young upstart like this modern fusion cuisine. Let’s put it this way, you won’t be able to find too many Macanese cookbooks. One suspects, however, the upscale restaurants inside those American casinos will help shape the future of Macanese cuisine—the same way their Las Vegas counterparts have transformed Sin City’s dining scene.

By the way, Café Tai Lei Loi Kei claims to be the birthplace of the bone-in pork chop bun. You can read its review in Macau Business magazine ( The late Andrew Stow ( was the man who created the tart mashup. Macau Business recently wrote about his legacy ( Lest they move these articles around, you can always use your Internet search engine to look for certain keywords on the site For your information, these 2007 articles are titled “Pork Chop Buns” and “State of the Tart.”

FYI: To make the first part of this review fit on Yelp, I had to remove a couple of lines: Macau’s two islands are now connected after recent land reclamation, and that episode of “The Amazing Race” aired in April 2007. So now you know.

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Reviews – Portuguese – Padaria Popular Bakery (Part 2)

May 2008

About Madeira Islands and the Azores: Madeira Islands and the Azores are like Portugal’s Hawaii. But there is one key difference between these archipelagoes in the Atlantic and America’s 50th state. When the Portuguese claimed these islands in the 15th century, they were uninhabited. Madeira is now a popular vacation spot for Europeans. Known for its dessert wine, Madeira also has the distinction as the first colonized territory during Europe’s Age of Discovery, an imperial spree that ended with the dissolution of numerous colonies in the last 50 years. The Azores, on the other hand, are not quite the tourist destination like Hawaii, Majorca, or, for that matter, Madeira.

Ninety percent of the Azores’ population lives on four of the nine islands: Sao Miguel, Terceira, Faial, and Pico. Most residents are descendants of the Portuguese who emigrated from the Algarve and Minho regions on the mainland. While Madeirans emigrated to Hawaii during the late 19th century, Azoreans have been coming to California off and on since the Gold Rush.

About Portuguese bakeries: These Bay Area bakeries are all mom-and-pop operations, so they definitely deserve your support. One of them used to have a stand at a local farmers’ market (, Perhaps they will all show up at a market near you in the future. As you can imagine, these bakeries are also in the wholesale business. You’ll find their products at these independent stores in the South Bay.

Memo to Portuguese bakeries: Conspicuously missing from the above list is The Milk Pail Market ( in Mountain View. This open-air market seems tailor-made for local bakeries. Santa Clara’s Neto’s Sausage Co. ( should also be a wholesale customer. And what about these popular supermarket chains?

A lot of these stores have a history of doing business with local bakeries. Indeed, you’ll find artisan breads of all kinds: French, Italian, Greek, and Jewish. So why not Portuguese? Trader Joe’s is an especially good fit because of its international flair.

Portuguese bakeries shouldn’t forget about all those Brazilians, Indians (from Goa state), and Hawaiians living in the Bay Area. There’s no shortage of Indian markets in Silicon Valley. Some of them might be interested to carry Portuguese products. The Bay Area’s Hawaiian population may not rival the one in Las Vegas, but any store that stocks Hawaiian items should be open to Portuguese baked goods from local sources (San Mateo’s landmark Takahashi Market [], for example, is selling sweet bread from a Connecticut bakery!). The same may be true of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (, the restaurant chain with locations in the Bay Area.

There’s one more option available to bakeries: mail-order business over the Internet.

About custard tarts: Europeans ate some kind of custard tart in the Middle Ages, especially in the British Isles. By the 18th century, a custard tart called pastel de nata (“cream pastry”) was created in Lisbon. Fast-forward to 1940s Hong Kong, where the Chinese egg tart was born. This baby’s lineage is reportedly English or Portuguese—though no one can say for certain (never mind the Chinese have been making egg puddings for a while). Then in 1990, Englishman Andrew Stow started selling his own custard tart creation in neighboring Macau. Its top is caramelized a la crème brulee, giving it a different look from the U.K. and Hong Kong predecessors.

After opening franchises in parts of Asia, Lord Stow’s Bakery ( has spawned many imitators. Indeed, when you see “Portuguese egg tart” on a menu, it is probably not pastel de nata and may not even be a close reproduction of Stow’s creation (it’s like every version of tiramisu is a little different). For a small business that began in a place not too many people have heard of, it’s rather interesting that the late Stow’s name is mentioned in two Wikipedia articles.

Oddly enough, his name is not referenced in the article on English custard tarts.

It just goes to show Wikipedia is often inconsistent, not to mention potentially manipulated and sometimes poorly written. You can also read the recent “State of the Tart” article in Macau Business magazine. It talks about Stow’s legacy and the battle between Lord Stow’s Bakery and competitors who want to promote (finally) the Portuguese nata ( in that part of the world.

Like most Bay Area foodies, I’ve had my share of the Hong Kong-style egg tart. And I had a chance to sample six tarts at Stow’s Macau bakery in 1999 (you can never eat just one). If Popular Bakery’s nata is indicative of what you get in Portugal, then I’d say the Portuguese tart is slightly sweeter and thicker than the two Asian concoctions. In the final analysis, I like them all—whether they represent Portugal, Hong Kong, or Macau. Now where can we find authentic English custard tarts in the Bay Area? Lisa’s Tea Treasures ( in Campbell, Menlo Park, and San Jose?

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Surveys – Persian Fesenjan Restaurants

Read the review of Saffron at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Mexican Mole Restaurants

Read the review of La Penita at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Chinese/Vietnamese Clay Pot Rice Restaurants

Read the review of Bolansa Dessert at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Indian Chaat Restaurants

Read the review of Chaat Paradise at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Neighborhood Restaurants

Read the review of Twist Café at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Macanese Restaurants

Read the review of Macau Bistro at and then cast your vote.

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Surveys – Custard Tart Bakeries/Restaurants (English/Portuguese/Chinese/Macanese)

Read the review of Padaria Popular Bakery at and then cast your vote.

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Recipes – Asian – Chinese

  • Chinese clay pot rice ( [July 2004 article by Picky Eater],,,

  • Won ton noodle soup/wonton noodle soup (,,,,,

  • Rice noodle roll (,,

  • Hong Kong egg tart (,,,,,,

  • Tofu pudding/dofu fa (

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Recipes – Asian – Indian

  • Chaat (,

  • Samosa (,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Pakora/bhajia (,,, [2007 article/recipe],,,,,

  • Bonda/batata vada (,,

  • Vada pav (,,,

  • Puri/poori (,,,,,,,

  • Bhatura/bhatoora (,

  • Pani puri (,,,,

  • Dahi puri/dahi papdi chaat (,,

  • Bhatura cholle/chana bhatura (,,

  • Roti (,,,,,,,

  • Chapati (,,,,,,,,,

  • Paratha (,,,,,

  • Dosa (,,,,,,,,,

  • Idli/idly (,,,

  • Bhel puri/bhelpuri (,,,,,

  • Dhokla (,,,,

  • Kulfi (,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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Recipes – Asian – Japanese

  • Mochi ice cream (,,,

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Recipes – Asian – Macanese

  • Pork chop bun (

  • Coloane fried rice noodles (?)

  • Guia Hill baked rice and spareribs (see Portuguese duck rice below)

  • Ginger milk (

  • Macanese egg tart (,,,

  • Bacalhau Macau (

  • Macau clay pot rice/Portuguese duck rice (

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Recipes – Asian – Vietnamese

  • Vietnamese clay pot rice/com tay cam (,,

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Recipes – European – British

  • Welsh rarebit/Welsh rabbit (,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • English custard tart (,,,,, [January 2006 post], [August 2006 recipe])

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Recipes – European – French

  • Croque-monsieur (,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Croissant cordon bleu (, [see Other Types section],,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Crepe (,,,,,,, [2007 article/recipe],,,,,,,

  • Pot-au-feu/French boiled dinner (,,,,,,,,, [2007 article/recipe],,

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Recipes – European – Portuguese

  • Bolinhos de bacalhau/pasteis de bacalhau (,,,,

  • Peixinhos da horta (

  • Bifanas de porco (,

  • Arroz de pato/Portuguese duck rice (,,,

  • Cozido a Portuguesa/Portuguese boiled dinner (,,,

  • Pastel de nata (,,,,,,

  • Queijada (

  • Massa sovada/Portuguese sweet bread (,,,,,,

  • Broa/Portuguese cornbread (,,,,,,,,

  • Pao de milho/Portuguese cornbread (

  • Papo-seco/Portuguese crusty roll (?)

  • Malasada/malassada/filhose (,,,,,,

  • Arroz doce/Portuguese rice pudding (,,,,,, [2004 article/recipe],

  • Pudim de pao/Portuguese bread pudding (

  • Pao-de-lo/Portuguese sponge cake (

  • Biscoito/Portuguese biscuit (,

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Recipes – European – Spanish

  • Spanish cocido/Spanish boiled dinner (,,,,,,,,

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Recipes – Latin American – Mexican

  • Mole (,,,,,,,,,,, [2006 article/recipe],,,,,,

  • Mexican cocido de res (

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Recipes – Middle Eastern – Persian

  • Chelow kabab/chelo kebab (,,,,,,,,

  • Fesenjan (,,,,,,,,,, [2004 article/recipe],,

  • Ghormeh sabzi (,,,,,,,

  • Baqala polow/baghali polo/Persian rice with fava beans (,,,,,

  • Chelow/chelo/polow/polo/Persian rice (,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Tah-dig/tah-deeg/Persian crusty rice (,,,,,,,,

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Recipes – North American – American

  • Frozen custard (, [2007 taste test by Ed Levine],, [American Egg Board],,,

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