Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Last but definitely not least

China Express

I did it! I've managed to eat my way through every Chinese restaurant in Marin, with the finale being lunch at China Express in Novato yesterday. I was greeted by a most enthusiastic young man who said that he and his parents run the place. And he proceeded to tell me who cooked which dishes. And he sometimes makes the crab ragoon. Not only that but EVERYTHING is made fresh, nothing comes from cans. He was quite rightly proud.

Prawn and vegetables box

The offerings under the glass mostly had chicken in them, and when he found out that I'm only eating fish/seafood and vegetables, he asked if I liked shrimp, and would I like a freshly made shrimp dish made just for me for the same lunch special price? That was an offer I couldn't refuse. He asked how spicy I liked things, and I indicated mild. So I got the beautiful result pictured above. It was really very good! This is a VERY casual place, mostly take out with a few mismatched chairs out front, where I sat. I watched a delivery of FRESH chow mein noodles go by. No wonder these taste so good! I loved that there was a variety of vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and bok choy, cooked nicely in a little garlic sauce to a perfect crisp-tender. The family is so thoughtful too.

Insect repellant

There was a broken down old car that parked right in front of me, with a tired, elderly man inside. The woman inside came out and was so kind to him, offering assistance. I could partly overhear the conversation. I was touched. And they also took care for their customers enjoying meals outside by burning some incense just outside the door to drive away any pesky insects. Yes, I asked what it (what's in the above photo) was. I would enjoy lunch or take out here again in a heartbeat.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Shelter Bay

Maybe it's the crispness in the air, the beautiful apples glistening in the market or I've been away from home too much. I just couldn't rouse myself for an outing last evening. Besides, I had lots of leftovers (from all those generous portions at restaurants!) and haven't been using my deck as much as in times past. Dad had a companion, Glen, for the evening so I chose to stay at home and enjoy my deck.

Shelter Bay

So I sat there snapping photos, watching the dogs being walked and listening to the drone of the small single engine seaplanes overhead. I wondered what the people passing by on the path though of the barnyard noises coming from my open door. I've become slightly addicted to FarmVille on Facebook, and my 'animals' were braying and clucking in the background. You know that's a very educational little game. However, the creators COULD really inject a little more reality into it... you have to mortgage the farm to the bank to buy seed, blights happen, regulators tell you to widen the area between the animals and ground crops, etc. Those were the kind of musings I was having in the fall evening without something else demanding attention.

Left overs

So I had some leftover rice that I covered with some seaweed sprinkles, and had an assortment of other things from fridge and a crab cake from Molly Stone's.

Close up of Left overs

Leaning in I took a good whiff of the smell of deliciousness. Mmmm. I could enjoy some more peaceful nights like this!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lunch is good too

Corte Madera Cafe

I've always had breakfast at the Corte Madera Cafe, it was high time to try it for lunch. And on such a lovely fall day, and it so near the charming old town area.

Iced Chai

I noted after tasting my Iced Chai that this place has consistently made drinks good enough for me to take extra note. This was delicious!

Veggie Burger - Bocca patty

The lunch menu is quite simple with sandwiches, salads and burgers, and of course the breakfast offerings still available. I thought to try their veggie burger with fries, which is made with a Bocca patty. It was great. I liked the fresh Kaiser bun and the little extra crispness of something added to the french fries. The salads I observed passing by looked fresh and generous. Corte Madera Cafe is worth a visit for a casual and delicious lunch as well as breakfast.

Gazebo in Park near Old Corte Madera Square

It was such a beautiful day that I had to capture a couple views of the outside near the restaurant. There is a lovely small park and gazebo near the larger parking lot. I also noticed that the end of the parking lot is near some charming boutiques and shops that I had previously thought were fairly inaccessible up the windy hill. Now that's a cool find!

Old Corte Madera Square

Across the street is a charming bus stop with a sign letting you know that this is "Old Corte Madera Square". The browning of the leaves is about as much as we get in this mostly sunny, sometimes rainy area as far as showing the fall turning.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0

Previously reviewed:
May 27, 2008
September 18, 2006

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

French Food in Marin

Looks like I have only two more restaurants to review that are primarily French! If I've missed something, please leave me a comment. A votre santé!

French restaurants I've visited -

Corte Madera
Champagne French Bakery Cafe

Cafe Z Epicerie

Left Bank

Mill Valley
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
La Boulange

Marche aux Fleurs

San Anselmo
Bistro 330

San Rafael
Le Chalet Basque Restaurant

Le Garage

Still on my list -

Mill Valley
El Paseo Restaurant

La Boulange

Although I wouldn't call most of these restaurants 'French', they do serve a very French food - Crepes! Some only serve crepes at brunch, so check the menus before choosing where to go.

Corte Madera
Champagne French Bakery Cafe

Cafe Z Epicerie

Valley Grove Cafe

Mill Valley
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
Piazza d'Angelo
Rain Tree Cafe

Hamilton Cafe
Mary's Place

San Anselmo
Easy Street Cafe

San Rafael
International House of Pancakes
Joe's Cafe

Il Piccolo Cafe Specialita Italiane
Murry Circle

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Rain Tree Cafe

I had a lovely breakfast of crepes at the Rain Tree Cafe in Mill Valley the other day. There is a nice selection of both sweet and savory. The waitstaff was prompt and friendly and I was able to have a nice breakfast and still arrive at work on time!

Florentine Crepe

The crepes come with your choice of salad or potatoes. I felt more in an American breakfast mood and chose the potatoes.

Florentine Crepe sliced

The crepe I chose was a Florentine which of course had spinach, but also onion and jack cheese. It was a little change of pace to start the day and quite enjoyable!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0

Previously reviewed:
July 9, 2009
March 15, 2009
September 7, 2007
March 7, 2007

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Good place to talk


I traveled south yesterday for a business lunch in Palo Alto. I did a little research to find somewhere that would have a good chance for tasty food, and also have an atmosphere conducive to actually carrying on a conversation. This combination was found at Taipan.

Tea & Condiments

The restaurant was clean and well-appointed. Quickly after ordering, some elegantly presented condiments and tea came to the table.

Veal Chops with honey sauce

Pieter found the Veal Chops with honey sauce an attractive choice. I tried a piece and like Pieter, found it rather hard to get the soft meat off the bones with the long, bone colored Chinese chopsticks. Once off, the sauce had the perfect touch and the meat was pretty tender. There were some more sinewy parts which bound the tender meat to the bones. Overall a pretty and tasty dish.

Eggplant with Scallops in Hot Garlic Sauce

Michael's dish was billed as "Eggplant with Sallops in Hot Garlic Sauce". Michael was rather disappointed in his dish as it was neither garlicy or spicy. He gave it a "B". I tasted a little too, and the ingredients were fresh and it was taken off the stove at the perfect point. However I had to agree that it was certainly not as billed, hot and with garlic.

Walnut Prawns

The dish I ordered, Walnut Prawns actually came out first, to oohs and ahhs from the table. The presentation was perfect! It was also totally delicious. Plump flash fried prawns in a sweet white sauce with candied walnuts on a bed of crisp rice noodles. I think it occurred as too sweet to my companions so neither tried it. Actually, the description was absent, other than the title, so I actually had a different walnut and prawn dish in mind which is wok fried. This one was certainly deluxe though. There are Chinese places that are even better with the food, however this was a good choice for a business conversation and better than average Chinese food.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 7

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh for some Irish comfort

The Mayflower Pub

Yesterday a very nail biting period of waiting for a refi to go through ended with a more than two hour sigh-ning session before a notary next door to The Mayflower Pub in San Rafael. Naturally that is where I celebrated the future forward 4.75% with Dad.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Poor Dad has had a period of liquid diet due to some mouth bruising from new denture work. So he chose the smooth and creamy Cream of Broccoli soup. He loved every spoonful.

Chicken Pot Pie

I declared it a 'holiday' and so ordered a most delicious Chicken Pot Pie which was accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy and carrots and peas. What delicious comfort food! Service was prompt and friendly. There is live Celtic music here every Tuesday night as well.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 1
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 9/21/2009

Previously reviewed:
April 12, 2007

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Way to Start Your Day

Sausalito Bakery & Cafe

Not only were the staff at Sausalito Bakery & Cafe bright and pleasant in the morning, but so were their customers! The gentleman ahead of me in line was a case in point. He pointed out the mysterious fog in a layer over the city, and described how much more mysterious it looked at 3 a.m. when it was still rather dark, and above the fog layer the tips of the skyscrapers had lights flickering at the top like jewels. A very pretty image on the day of the fall equinox.

Vegetable Frittata and Fruit Salad

I tried their vegetarian frittata, and a 'small!' fruit salad on the side, and a big warm mocha. The frittata was oozing liquid slightly, but it was very good indeed. The refrigerated case was right in front of me, and it looked like a still painting with a huge bowl of beautiful fruit and tray of colorful grilled vegetables at the ready.

Sausalito water view

Then I imbibed of the view outside. The happiness quotient was filled! I could start my day!

Old ship in Sausalito Harbor

Then I drove a bit further south to turn around, and had to put the hazard lights on and leap out to take this photo of the tall old ship sailing in the harbor. Oh what a beautiful day!

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 12/1/2008

Previously reviewed:
February 7, 2007

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Authentic as I know of

El Palmar

I tried El Palmar in San Rafael for dinner yesterday evening. I had passed it when in the area before, but there is something about bars on the windows that makes one feel unsafe. And I don't really think the area is unsafe, it's just in an industrial area that is rather deserted after normal business hours, so I'm supposing that this makes places with big glass windows a little more vulnerable. It was worth the stop.

Chips & Salsa

EVERYONE in the restaurant was speaking Spanish. Fluently. I took that as a sign of authenticity. The woman who took my order and served me was so sweet, and translated some of the menu, naturally it was in Spanish for the most part. And we had a cute interaction were I would ask her what "x" meant, and after responding she would point to something like a canister of straws and ask me what the English word was. She let me sample the red agua fresca which she said was made from a red flower called Jamaica. It was rather sweet, and it seemed similar to hibiscus. There were chips given me immediately, and there was a clean, well-stocked salsa bar to choose the accompaniment.

Shrimp Tacos

I ordered shrimp tacos. The plate was beautiful. There was style in the twist of the orange, the countertwist of the tomato and the artful arrangement of fresh avocado slices. And oh, the beans had flavor! The rice had flavor! The refried beans were creamy, and the rice had flecks of vegetables in it. The shrimp reminded me of the little brine shrimp that are served on tomato halves in Belgium or Holland. Small but with big flavor, and lots of them. I loved my tacos, and although I'm no judge of authenticity of Mexican food since I've never eaten in Mexico, the whole experience felt authentic somehow. It is a little hole in the wall, but well worth finding and enjoying.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 1
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 5/5/2009

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Japanese Flavors in Marin

I finished the list, and then a new Japanese restaurant opened. It's great that we have so many options for Japanese food in Marin. "Fusion" in this group seems to mean 'serves more than one cuisine' rather than the actual fusion of the dishes. At any rate, I've updated the list!

Japanese and related Fusion

Corte Madera
Pacific Catch - Fusion

King of the Roll
Sushi Ko

Mill Valley
Ino Sushi
May Lee's - Fusion
Robata Grill & Sushi
Sushi Gourmet
Tsukiji Sushi

Masa's Sushi & Appetizer Bar
Neo Tataki - Fusion
Sushi Holic
Taki Japanese Restaurant

San Anselmo
Sushi 69

San Rafael
Fujiyama Restaurant & Sushi Bar
King of the Roll II - Fusion
Mikado Sushi
Sushi Boat Restaurant
Umi Sushi & Grill
Yu Shang Restaurant & Sushi Bar - Fusion

Sushi Ran
Sweet Ginger

Ginza Sushi

Japanese Restaurants reviewed elsewhere...

San Francisco
Ai Sushi
Delica rf1
Japanese Tea Garden (A nice place to enjoy Japanese Tea)
Shabu House
Sozai Restaurant & Sake Lounge
Sushi Bistro

San Franciso's Japantown
Kushi Tsuru
Mifune Udon
On the Bridge
Sanuki Udon

Sonoma County
Boat House Sushi

East Bay

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lunch special

Bayside Cafe

Dropped in to a breakfast and lunch place on the northern edge of Sausalito, Bayside Cafe. The same cheerful crew were there, 'watering' the patrons then taking orders and delivering promptly and with a genuine smile.

Clam Chowder

I ordered strictly off their specials whiteboard that is right next to the entrance. First up was the clam chowder. It had a great balance of creaminess and clam flavor. I enjoyed my cup!

Fish & Chips

Next up was the Fish & Chips special. The fish were slightly greasy, but still fresh and good. The fries were in large wedges which was great as there was a lot of potato flavor without as much oil used. The cole slaw was wonderful! Fresh crisp slivers of cabbage and carrots with mayonnaise very sparingly used so that it had flavor, but was not heavy with dressing. I'll definitely keep coming back.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 1
Noncritical: 3
Last inspected: 6/9/2009

Previously reviewed:
January 25, 2009
April 20, 2008
June 2o, 20o7
November 20, 2006

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Country Basque French experience

Le Chalet Basque

We've had some gloriously sunny days this week, so much so that I have hope that my green tomatoes will eventually turn red. On one of those beautiful days, I meandered towards China Camp on North San Pedro Road in San Rafael to visit Le Chalet Basque. Being off the beaten path gives this place extra charm as it is very quiet for sitting outside under the awning in the front of the restaurant.

French Onion Soup

The stock of the French Onion Soup Gratinee is definitely not vegetarian, but ooh la la what a wonderful flavor the chef creates with this simple French classic. I would drive out here again just to have it.

Clams in garlic sauce with linguine

The meal's main dish was the Steamed Clams in Garlic Broth with Linguine. You must like garlic to enjoy this dish, as it was in generous portion. And it was wonderful. The linguine was wrapped in a lovely clam/garlic/parsley flavor. And was glad I didn't have to go to any meetings after lunch! It was a very enjoyable, leisurely lunch which I expect to repeat again.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 3/19/2009

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Custom built burgers in Corte Madera

The Counter

The new burger place, replacing the old McDonald's in Corte Madera Towne Center has opened. It is called "The Counter" and it's been so busy I didn't see a way in until a couple days ago. There are greeters outside the door that orient you to the concept and guide you to a seat inside. Since the ordering is a little more complex, and hopefully rewarding, its a good thing that they get you oriented.

Half & Half

Thinking it would be nice to try their 'half-and-half', which has several choices of combination, I decided to order the half fries, half onion strings combo. Little did I know it would be enough for a family of 4! I didn't eat even half of this and I credit this dish with making me feel sick after I left, continuing through to the following morning. It was just too grease-laden. The onion strings were a vehicle for transporting oil soaked deep fried batter to your mouth. And the exceptionally slow service also figured in to me over indulging in these. This dish took a long time to come out, and the by the time my burger came out (it seemed like a VERY long time) these were totally cold. The fries and burger need to be served close to the same time! This dish was served with ranch dressing and barbecue sause as dips, and the barbecue sauce was rather good with it.

Custom Built Veggie Burger

To place the burger part of the order you are given a clipboard with lots of choices to tick off with one of the pencils in a box at your table. I chose a veggie burger in a honey wheat bun, with Guyere cheese, mixed baby greens, tomatoes, carrot strings and grilled onions. The grilled onions were actually caramelized and very good. In fact, just ordering a heaping plate of these would have been a better option! The burger is served with a knife, guess why? I'm supposing because with all the toppings, and the softness of the veggie patty, you can't really eat it in your hands. I picked up the burger gently and the soft, crumbly veggie patty flung off chunks of itself onto my plate. I didn't even get one bite. I ate the rest with my knife and fork. The veggie patty itself tasted good. The bun wasn't anything to write home about, so I also just ate half of it. Overall, I don't think the food and experience were consistent with a $16.79 + tip price for the above pictured food plus an iced tea.

Restaurant Inspection Results

The Counter has not yet been inspected.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Long popular Chinese near the cinema

Combo King

The Northgate Mall in San Rafael has been undergoing significant architectural changes. The Food Court was completely taken down and moved to the other side of the mall, and the food vendors are just starting to come back. Long popular in the mall, Combo King was the first restaurant to open in the new food court. At $7.49, their three-item combo plate is what gives the place its name.

Combo Plate

I tried the Vegetable Chow Mein, Egg Foo Young and String Beans with Prawns. All was tasty and fresh, and the service was friendly and prompt. This is a great spot to grab a quick bite before the movies, or a lunch when on a shopping expedition. It's not a destination place, however when it was in its other spot with a lot of competition, I always observed a line here where other places (besides McDonalds for some reason) were not busy in the least.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Combo King has not yet been inspected.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gigantic burritos in Novato

Mi Pueblo

Although I thought I only had a handful of restaurants left to review, when I counted up the number of Mexican restaurants I've yet to try.. it came to 19. That's more than a handful. So I'm putting emphasis for a bit on trying some of these. I meandered first to Novato, where I found Taqueria Mi Pueblo, which was chock full of people, while many of the other restaurants in old town were rather quiet. That's a good indicator. (It was a little cool for people to be outside).

Chips & Salsa

What friendly staff. They oriented me, sat me at a table and smiled a lot. Before I knew it, there were the crispest warm chips and red salsa with a hint of heat in front of me to nibble. Good start!

Burrito Vegetariano Mas

I surveyed the menu, and decided to try the Burrito Vegetariano Mas, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. It was huge! And the other burritos flying by were gigantic too. Everything was fresh and well mixed. There was a nice red sauce covering the burrito. Unfortunately, I realized that I'm not fond of steamed vegetables in a burrito. The broccoli, cauliflower and carrot were steamed and it made the burrito rather watery-tasting and diluted the flavor. I could tell that the ingredients were high quality. It would have been better had the vegetables been grilled so that the flavors were intensified. Even so, I enjoyed as much as I could and thought that next time I'll have to try the seafood as everything that went by, and the happy faces on the customers gave me the impression that other menu items are top notch.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 6/17/2009

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