Friday, February 7, 2014

Potlatch restaurant guide

A taste of the Potlatch restaurant guide has been up on the web for some time now. I think the rest of it will go up after it's finished being laid out; in the meantime, for potential amusement, here are the writeups to some of my favorite, and not so favorite, restaurants elsewhere in the area.


Sonoma Chicken Coop: Popular small local chain that still serves its signature dish of robustly tender rotisserie chicken with either a light chipotle bbq sauce or the weirdly yuppified, but actually really good, choices of red wine or vinaigrette, poured over it. But they’ve vastly expanded the menu over the years: sandwiches, pasta plates, dinner salads, California-style pizza ...

Back a Yard: Caribbean food with counter service, inexpensive. Specializes in jerk-style chicken wings, which I find magnificent. The jerk seasoning is not too strong or misjudged, just enough to flavor the thoroughly-cooked but not dry chicken. A thimble of wet sweet/spicy sauce on the side completes the offering. Kind of odd, sweet, collard greens, but reasonably tasty.

Mezcal: This is a Mexican restaurant, not Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex, which is what “Mexican” usually means up north, including elsewhere on this guide. These folks come from Oaxaca and they cook like it. The enchiladas, for instance, come with the fillings on the side, and they carefully distinguish between enchiladas proper and three other similar dishes with different sauces. If it doesn’t have enchilada sauce, it’s not an enchilada, but something else. If you want to try the sauces first, they come with the chips.

K.zzang: Tiny Korean lunch place with a tiny menu and metal chopsticks. There’s a few specials, but the emphasis on the menu is a choice of entrĂ©e, plus the usual vast mix of Korean side dishes, either separately in a bento box or all together in a bowl. With the separates, the meat is on a bed of cabbage, and everything’s good, even the cold fried tofu strips, though it sounds awful. Very fast service.

La Victoria: This was my go-to taqueria when I was working at San Jose State. Fast, inexpensive, and good service. The offerings aren’t as elaborate as Iguana around the corner, but if you just want a plain burrito, I find this place better and more flavorful. It’s more flavorful still if you try just a little of the orange sauce (named for its color, not its flavor), a seriously spicy mayo doled out in squeeze bottles which the staff watch over as if they were valuable library books being loaned out.

Sa By Thai: Connoisseurs of Thai restaurants insist that this is the best Thai food anywhere in San Jose. I find it an excellent little place: a clean, neat restaurant serving clean, neat Sinicized Thai food. The meat is hefty and lean, the vegetables crisp and strong, and the sauce flavorful without being strongly spicy.


Extremely basic Chinese steam table, probably at its least inedible at the height of lunch hour. The chow mein noodles are like thick ropes.

Old line pizza and beer joint. Thinnish but soggy crust; lots of Velveeta-like cheese. Definitely only for people who like it that way.

In a city with good Italian restaurants, there’s no reason on earth to come here unless you’re feeding a party of undiscriminating children and enjoy the publike atmosphere. The pasta is overcooked and the food just generally low-grade.

The dishes are small, light textured, and peculiar – the Mongolian beef is in a gentle broth unlike any other Mongolian I’ve ever had – and the prices not low. The service is kind of oblivious. The menu has one of my all-time favorite typos: “All dishes are served with steamed ice.”

One of the cheap fast places on student row. This one serves cheesesteaks – mostly elaborate things with weird add-ons – plus a few items of Korean food. I didn’t claim to understand the connection until I tried an order of bulgogi, Korean bbq. Unlike anything I’ve had at an actual Korean place, it tasted like the meat & mushrooms & onions part of the filling of a cheesesteak.

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